Remember the Rochester Fast Ferry?

Via Wikipedia

About 10 years ago, the City of Rochester invested in a fast ferry service between that city and Toronto. The service ran into cost overruns, fuel fees it couldn’t afford, and maintenance issues almost immediately. Per the Wikipedia article, these problems doomed the service from day 1:

  • Slow progress by the Toronto Port Authority in constructing a permanent ferry terminal in Toronto. The delays in getting even temporary terminal facilities built in Toronto during the spring of 2004 was another reason for forcing a delay in starting the service until mid-June.

  • CATS felt that it was being charged excessive Canadian customs and immigration costs. U.S. port of entry services were being provided in Rochester at no cost to CATS whereas Canadian port of entry services had to be completely covered by the company, resulting in a hidden charge on each ticket price.

  • CATS blamed U.S. customs for not giving approval for the Spirit of Ontario I to carry freight trucks and express cargo, claiming that this altered the original business plan.

  • CATS endured criticism from both nations for a decision to have Spirit of Ontario I registered under the flag of Bahamas, a flag of convenience nation, allegedly for taxation purposes. CATS was able to do this since the vessel was operating in an international service; additionally, since the Spirit of Ontario I was a foreign-built vessel, CATS would have had to pay significant penalties were it to register the vessel in either Canada or the U.S. (particularly the U.S., given the domestic-content restrictions of the Jones Act).

  • Because of the foreign flag registry for Spirit of Ontario I, CATS was required to pay for pilotage services on every crossing (approx. $6000 per crossing). Canadian and U.S. registered vessels are exempt from requiring the services of pilots while navigating on the Great Lakes.

A last-ditch attempt to have a professional ferry company run the service didn’t work, and the ship was sold in 2006. The crossing took just over 2 hours at high speeds – significantly less than the approximately 4 hour drive around the lake. 

Now? The ferry is running between Aarhus and Kalundborg in Denmark, after a 5-year stint running service between Tarifa, Spain and Tangier, Morocco. 

Here’s the current route: 

The boat today: 

Via Wikipedia

And the Spanish route: 

It made the crossing from Europe to Africa in 35 minutes. 

Via Wikipedia

#FTFY, WBEN

Local talk radio station WBEN held an online poll about its listeners the tea party on Wednesday. Here are the results as of mid-morning: 

Big surprise, right? So, I fixed that for them: 

Or this: 

 

 

The New York Double Tyranny

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The “independent” bloc of Republicrats in New York’s useless state Senate has cut a deal with Governor Cuomo to caucus with Democrats after the next election. This all comes on the heels of Cuomo getting smacked around by the left wing of the party for his failure and refusal to support the idea of Democrats being elected to the Senate. The Working Families Party extracted a promise from Cuomo to back a push to regain Democratic control. 

The Senate has really done yeoman’s work expanding its ability to engage in pointless nonsense. Remember Pedro Espada and the Gang of Three and the coup? Remember Malcolm Smith’s feckless “leadership”? Smith later went on to try to run for New York City mayor as a Republican, and the FBI arrested him and a few Republicans for bribery in exchange for a Wilson Pakula. 

Yet another example of electoral fusion leading to inevitable corruption. (A Wilson Pakula is a party’s authorization to allow a non-member to run on that party’s line). 

Why do we need a state Senate again? I mean, rarely does it ever actually debate an issue – same sex marriage was a recent example. But 9 times out of 10, it exists solely as a Republican, upstate balance to downstate liberal Democratic policies. But even that is completely manufactured, through gerrymandering and legislators’ ability to count inmates as members of the local “population”, even though they can’t legally vote. 

The guy who answered this question is now running for state Assembly: 

So, Cuomo is being attacked from the left for being a DINO, and he’s being demonized from the right because WHAT PART OF SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ARGLEBARGLE. He’s trying to accomplish two very difficult things. On the one hand, he’s trying to establish his bona fides as a strong leader who can get things done with people from both parties. On the other, through initiatives like the Buffalo Billion, he’s strengthening his Presidential resume by accomplishing the hitherto unaccomplishable – turning Buffalo around. There’s no “Rochester Billion” or “Binghamton Million” or “Plattsburgh Penny”. Buffalo gets the attention because it has a unique nationwide reputation for being the rust belt’s poster child – the unfixable. Fix Buffalo, and the world is your oyster. 

Long ago, I wrote a series of pieces calling for a non-partisan unicameral legislature for New York based on the Nebraska model. The way in which government conducts itself in Albany is beyond dysfunctional – here we are, in 2014, still bemoaning the dual state tyrannies of bureaucracy and “three men in a room”. Your voice – our voice is not heard in Albany, a place legislators only leave upon death or indictment. Cuomo can point to all the on-time budgets he wants, but that has no practical effect on average families anywhere. That’s grandstanding. How about rolling back some unfunded Albany mandates? How about consolidating the Regents and Common Core testing? How about taking on the tyrannical state authorities once and for all? Let’s consider how the state’s taxes, mandates, and oppressive business environment puts all the counties outside the five boroughs at a distinct nationwide competitive disadvantage? How about running the state as if it’s 2014 and not 1954?

The ongoing Albany sideshow is counterproductive, unless you’re an elected, a staffer, a bureaucrat, or a lobbyist. If the IDC decides to caucus with Democrats, what difference will that really make? 

Albany has done some good things for Buffalo in recent years, but while “Dreadful Donn” Esmonde bemoans a new Bills stadium as yet another example of typical Buffalo “silver bullet” economic development, what the hell do you think the Buffalo Billion is? It’s the platinum bullet, whereby the political elite hands an unprecedented bankroll to the city’s business elite in order to usher in top-down business development. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all in favor of free Albany money to attract Elon Musk’s solar energy company to South Buffalo and whatever else they’re spending the money on. But the real change in Buffalo is going to happen organically, from the grassroots. Buffalo is a palpably different and more hopeful place than it was when I first moved here 13 years ago. There are good things popping up all the time – from the microbrew revolution, microdevelopment and renovations on Buffalo’s West Side, a new focus on developing downtown, a hot real estate market, lower unemployment, and a burgeoning knowledge-based economy. Insofar as the state can enhance and assist these efforts, it should be making every effort to do so. 

The IDC is going to caucus with Democrats in the state Senate? That’s nice, I guess. 

Same as it ever was

Abu Dhabi – Buffalo

Driving home from work yesterday, I saw a plane on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport that looked to be significantly larger than the 737s, A320s, Embraer 190s, and Dash-8s that I usually see living under the approach to runway 23. 

I couldn’t make out its markings, as it was still a few thousand feet in the air, so I cranked up FlightAware and FlightRadar. 

A bad line of thunderstorms was right over Toronto’s Pearson Airport, and I could see many flights were circling on all sides, waiting for the weather to clear. Presumably, this Etihad flight was low enough on fuel after an almost 14 hour flight that it was forced to divert to Buffalo. Etihad is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates.

I wondered how they would handle that – would they fly them on to Buffalo when the plane was fueled and the weather cleared, or would the passengers be given some sort of transit visa and a bus to Toronto? 

I got my answer a little later that evening. They flew a 20 minute flight from Buffalo to Pearson, arriving about 2 1/2 hours later than usual. 

Photo of the Etihad 777 courtesy @my2girls10 on Twitter. 

Good Government

1. The Supreme Court rendered a decision Monday affirming the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal plant emissions under the Clean Air Act. Tightened emissions rules will reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030. Only Democrats support the idea that our air be cleaner and that we not rely so heavily on 19th century technology to generate electricity. Republicans are threatening – again – to shut down the government over this issue, mostly I guess because of how well that went for them in 2013 and the 1990s. 

2. A Republican Congressional candidate in Georgia writes that Islam isn’t really a religion and doesn’t deserve “free exercise” protection under the Constitution. 

3. The Amber Alert everyone got yesterday about a 16 year-old girl from Greece, NY was all bullshit. What a waste of police resources, but at least now you know you have an “alert” function on your phone. 

4. Every politician grandstanding about lapses and misconduct at the VA should look in the goddamn mirror before they bleat on about veterans’ rights and patient care. “Support the Troops” involves more than a easy-peel magnetic yellow ribbon on the back of your Buick, and it means more than just agitating for war every time you see a headscarf. Funding for VA healthcare may have increased year over year, but the system is still woefully underfunded, and congressional Republicans have pledged an oath to not raise taxes, even if it has to do with veterans’ healthcare:  

Today’s lesson is quite simple: after conflicts are over, we need to fully fund the healthcare and medical needs of our veterans. Forever. Even if that means making the political and economic elite pay more in taxes. Even if that means taking politics out of the VA and focusing instead on the welfare of our veterans. That we have politicians and members of the media who need to be reminded of this is a disgrace.

When you go to fight two ground wars in Asia simultaneously, you should plan for the resulting medical care for veterans – especially when you don’t give them body or vehicle armor. 

Who’s more important? Grover Norquist or a sick or disabled vet? 

Stop grandstanding and fund the VA. Take responsibility, as lawmakers and as keepers of the public purse, to make sure that the men and women who fought our wars get all the care they need

5. Keep trotting out Dick Cheney, Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill Kristol to whine about Iraq. It helps to remind us how wrong they were 10 years ago, and to never listen to them again. 

Elaine Altman for State Senate

Elaine Altman is a teacher with 24 years of experience. She’s running for State Senate against Mike Ranzenhofer, a career politician with a weak record. Unfunded Albany mandates and the outright theft of public school funding to help balance Albany’s spendthrift ways, she’s marketing herself with the social media hashtag #sendateachertoAlbany. 

She is advocating for greater investment in public services, fair taxes and fair funding for public education, mandates that support teaching and learning, rather than tests, tests, and more tests. 

The Amherst Democratic Committee is hosting a $25 fundraiser for Altman today from 5:30 – 7:30 at Loughran’s at 4543 Main Street. Anyone who wants to go to Albany to fight for stronger public education is worth a listen. 

Albany in the Weeds

People throw the term “nanny state” around a lot, especially in New York.  People have used the term to describe everything from seat belt laws to motorcycle helmet laws to anti-smoking regulations. 

But to just chalk it all up to the “state” just wanting to make life less fun or free is silly. 

I think that, in most cases, lawmakers who pass these sorts of laws balance the equities and err on the side of the public good. You might not like to wear a seatbelt, but it might save your life. Same with a helmet. You can’t smoke indoors because it’s offensive and harmful to non-smokers. 

But when it comes to medical marijuana, I don’t think that balance is taking place. 

I don’t smoke marijuana, nor do I think it’s a great idea for people to do all the time, just like I don’t smoke cigarettes or think they’re a particularly healthy choice. I don’t ride motorcycles, either. But I do drink alcohol, and even that is unreasonably regulated – you can’t get a brunch mimosa before noon in New York? 

But just because I don’t partake in a certain activity, or think it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it should be banned altogether. 

Other states have over a decade’s worth of experience not only with medical marijuana, but two western states have gone ahead and legalized pot altogether. Colorado is making a killing on pot sales taxes, and the only people getting hurt are the Mexican drug cartels, who have seen the cost of pot plummet. If Washington is too rainy and Colorado too snowy, pot is now legal in Portugal and Paraguay. 

It’s one thing to regulate a harmful drug like cocaine or crystal meth – things that have to be carefully synthesized in a lab – and it’s another to regulate a plant that grows naturally, and is then dried and cured. 

Furthermore, marijuana has distinct and real medicinal purposes. It reduces nausea and enhances appetite for people undergoing chemotherapy, and for anorexics. It reduces eye pressure in glaucoma patients. It can reduce pain, stress, anxiety, and seizures. It is also most effective and fast-acting when smoked. 

But for some reason that I can’t adequately explain, Governor Cuomo is insisting that New York’s medical marijuana laws be restrictive to the point of pointlessness. 22 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws, but City & State explains

New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana program will incorporate three unusual components: a sunset clause, a kill switch and a prohibition on smoking the drug.

All three were included at the insistence of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who demanded a smoking ban during negotiations and repeatedly emphasized the potential risks of legalizing marijuana for patients struggling with severe illnesses. The governor said that the compromise bill “strikes the right balance” between helping those in pain and preventing abuse.

“We also have a fail-safe in the bill, which gives me a great deal of comfort, which basically says the governor can suspend the program at any time on recommendation of either the State Police superintendent or the commissioner of health, if there is a risk to the public health and the public safety,” Cuomo said at a Capitol press conference to announce the agreement.  

I mean, why not require a state Department of Health employee physically to administer the drug each time, while you’re at it? 

New York’s program would cover nearly a dozen diseases—relatively few compared to some states—including cancer, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Huntington’s disease. The drug could also be used to treat severe or chronic pain, severe nausea and severe or persistent muscle spasms.

State Senator Diane Savino, who pushed for a medical marijuana bill, is willing to compromise because something is better than nothing. (Here is a breakdown of each state’s program). She has a point, I suppose, but I agree with Ray Walter

Republican Assemblyman Raymond Walter, who once opposed the bill and is now one of its co-sponsors, said the bill had taken on an ungainly shape with Cuomo’s involvement.

“There’s an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee. I think we have a little bit of a camel at this point,” Walter said. “Well, the governor thinks it’s a better horse,” Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the bill’s sponsor, replied. 

This is a cautious, overly restrictive bill that places New York about 20 years behind the curve – while an improvement over the status quo of being 40 years behind, some accuse the state of being run by communard progressive, and this bill is none of that. 

Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol – many argue that it’s much less harmful. Its ridiculous reputation as a “gateway drug” becomes somewhat less acute when legalized

What the state has is a need for new sources of revenue, and cost savings. Full legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults is the way to go, and I think it will happen in New York in the next decade.  Just like the last century’s Volstead Act, the enforcement and prosecution of anti-marijuana laws is a massive waste of public money and resources, and simply empowers criminal gangs and cartels.  According to an article in Forbes, Colorado will pull in $40 million in taxes from legal marijuana sales in 2014. That doesn’t factor in the savings from no longer having to enforce and prosecute marijuana prohibition laws. Instead, you might get a ticket for smoking in public. 

You would think that a government like New York’s would find the taxes, fees, and licenses downright addictive. 

Thursday Comic Relief

Maybe weather forecasts should always be like this. Jeremy Paxman does the weather on UK nightly program, Newsnight. 

https://vine.co/v/MTAWgqxj3Wh/embed/simple

Kathy Weppner poses with her campaign staff: 

OK Go with incredible optical illusions: 

 

Mick Jagger & David Bowie’s odd video for “Dancin’ in the Streets”, which aired during Live Aid in 1985, excerpts from which are now presented without music: 

Just so you know, if you’re out in public, no one needs your permission to record video of you. 

In Rally, the co-driver calls out pacenotes to the driver, advising him of what’s coming up, letting the driver go as fast as possible. But come on, Samir, you’re breaking the car!

Finally, Philosopher Football (as in soccer), from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here, Germany v. Greece. 

It’s a funny skit, but the genius of Python is this: 

The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside. 

Everybody’s Dancing in a Ring Around the Sun

1,000 jobs for Buffalo. Maybe more.

Not 19th century dirty jobs, but 1,000 jobs that are part of the new green economy. This could be the best news that Buffalo has received in decades, because this is a real thing involving real jobs. SolarCity is buying Silevo. 

Last November, Governor Cuomo announced that the state would build a “hub facility” for high tech and green energy businesses at RiverBend, as part of his “Buffalo Billion” plan. One of the two California companies to locate at RiverBend is “Silevo”, which would join with another company to invest $1.5 billion and locate operations in Buffalo. 

RiverBend is in South Buffalo, located on the site of the former Republic Steel and and Donner Hanna Coke facilities. The city is literally replacing its defunct, dirty industries with clean, green, state-of-the-art ones. At the November presser, Silevo was introduced thusly

Silevo is a California-based company that develops and manufactures silicon solar cells and modules, with an already established manufacturing plant in China. Phase 1 of Silevo’s project, with a $750 million investment which will create at least 475 jobs, involves a 200 megawatt production facility sole establishing its sole North American manufacturing operations at RiverBend.

The state investment of $225 million through Empire State Development would set up the necessary water, sewer, utility, and road infrastructure, as well as 275,000 square feet of building.  The state will also set up the equipment, which would be owned by the SUNY Research Foundation. No money was being paid directly to the companies.   

Zheng Xu, CEO and Founder of Silevo said, “Inspired by the bold leadership and demonstrated commitment of Governor Cuomo, and buoyed by the strong regional infrastructure and highly skilled workforce present in Western New York, Silevo is excited to bring its next phase of high-volume manufacturing operations to the United States with our new location in Buffalo. Working closely with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, we look forward to accelerating innovative and cost-effective solar module technology that will position both Silevo and New York as leaders in driving the next wave of solar adoption in homes and business nationwide.”

 Yesterday, Tesla Motors and SpaceX wunderkind Elon Musk announced that his SolarCity venture was buying Silevo for $350 million

Peter Rive, SolarCity chief technology officer and co-founder, said the $350 million acquisition will lead to a factory in Buffalo, N.Y., and create more than 1,000 jobs within the next two years.

The plant will be “one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world,” according to the post, and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years. Rive said he hopes SolarCity will eventually create several thousand panel-making jobs.

On Twitter, Musk’s personal feed posted “SolarCity to build the world’s largest advanced solar panel factory in upstate New York” with a link to the blog post…

…Until now, SolarCity has purchased its solar panels from other manufacturers. Rive said the acquisition will finally allow the company to make its own photovoltaic panels.

Synergy!  The Buffalo News notes

That initial plant at RiverBend was envisioned to have the annual capacity to produce enough solar panels to generate 200 megawatts of electricity. But SolarCity executives said they were interested in expanding the capacity of that plant to be five times bigger than the original plan.

“At a targeted capacity greater than 1 gigawatt within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity,” SolarCity said.

SolarCity executives said they view the Silevo acquisition as a key step in their efforts to reduce the price of solar energy systems to the point where they can compete with electricity generated from fossil fuels without the lucrative subsidies that now are needed to offset the higher costs of solar panels.

By combining Silevo’s technology, which is more efficient at generating electricity than most other solar panels on the market today, with lower production costs from the economies of scale that come from high-volume production, SolarCity executives said they believe they can make solar systems more affordable.

“What we are trying to address is not the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs, but how we see the future developing,” the blog post said.

“Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed,” said the post.

Chinese companies and manufacturers dominate the global market for solar modules. Silevo and SolarCity intend to challenge that dominance by building the largest module manufacturer in the United States in South Buffalo.  

On the SolarCity company blog

[Silevo] modules have demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost. Our intent is to combine what we believe is fundamentally the best photovoltaic technology with massive economies of scale to achieve a breakthrough in the cost of solar power.

and

Given that there is excess supplier capacity today, this may seem counter-intuitive to some who follow the solar industry. What we are trying to address is not the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs, but how we see the future developing. Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed.

The Buffalo plant’s planned capacity would be large enough to challenge the Chinese market with a superior product

SolarCity’s chairman who is also chief executive of Tesla Motors, said the goal is to produce solar panels capable of generating power “cheaper than coal or fracked gas power.”

Imagine a factory in Buffalo producing something that could render hydrofracking and Tonawanda Coke the NRG Huntley plant obsolete, and 1,000+ jobs, to boot. SolarCity does not yet operate in western New York, but it leases solar systems to homeowners and businesses. 

As solar systems improve in terms of energy production and storage, adoption will grow. SolarCity is setting itself up to dominate the market with a superior system that will save people money and provide sustainable, renewable energy. This is a huge deal for Buffalo and the country.  

Lord, Try to Read Between The Lines

It’s a busy time, mostly thanks to the last couple of weeks of the school year, so this’ll have to do. 

1. Sometimes, when an upstate politician spits hatred at “downstate”, it’s nothing more than a stealthy way to express anti-Semitism. 

2. Pamela Brown is gone. Now, all the excuses are gone. She was given only 2 years to try and do an almost impossible job, so it follows that Carl’s crew should be given an equal period of time to turn everything around. Never forget that Dr. James Williams, who was given 6 years to accomplish little except strife, was the hand-picked choice of the business elites – M&T Bank’s Robert Wilmers paid for the search that landed him. But yeah, they’ve got it all figured out this time

3. We cut most of the cable cord a few months ago, and in that time I’ve watched entire series such as Peep Show, That Mitchell & Webb Look, and Breaking Bad. As good as Breaking Bad was – and the last few episodes are some of the best television I’ve ever seen – I really miss the Botwin family in Weeds. For some reason, (and I’ll admit that season 7 was just farcical), I really enjoyed watching that show and following that family’s misadventures. I just started Orange is the New Black. So far, so good. 

4. If you have SiriusXM, and you’re anywhere near my age, you should check out 70s on 7 on Sundays, (and all this week, I think), because they’re re-playing Casey Kasem era American Top 40 broadcasts. 

5. Hey, remember how going into Iraq was going to stabilize the Middle East and help Israel out, too? How’s that regime-y change-y thing workin’ out for you?

1. “Liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” –  Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, Feb. 13, 2002

2. “The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. … Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally Israel.” – Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., addressing the U.S. Senate, Sept. 12, 2002

3. “If left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well, effects American security.” – Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., addressing the U.S. Senate, Oct. 10, 2002

4. “It’s a slam dunk case” – CIA Director George Tenet told President Bush about evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Dec. 21, 2002

(About two weeks before the decision to invade Iraq was made, Tenet told Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That statement played a monumental role in leading the U.S. to go to war with Iraq.)

5. “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” –Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about weapons of mass destruction in an ABC News interview, March 30, 2003

(Rumsfeld later said those locations were “suspect sites” and were not unequivocally linked to WMDs.)

6. “The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction, as the core reason.” – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, during a “Vanity Fair” interview, May 28, 2003

7. “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.” — Bush, discussing the Iraq war with Christian broadcaster Rev. Pat Robertson, after Robertson told him he should prepare the American people for casualties, March 2003

(Although this statement is disputed – Karl Rove said Bush never said that – Robertson emphatically maintained that Bush said there would be no U.S. casualties in the war. Atotal of 4,486 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2012.)

8. “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . [in] weeks rather than months.” – Vice President Dick Cheney in a “Meet the Press” interview, Sept. 14, 2003

9. “We expected, I expected to find actual usable, chemical or biological weapons after we entered Iraq. But I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.” – British Prime Minister Tony Blair, July 14, 2004

10. “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” – Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

(Withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq did not begin until June 2009.)

11. “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” –President Bush, standing under a “Mission Accomplished” banner duriong a speech on the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier, May 2, 2003

(By May 2007, with U.S. troops still very much involved in Iraq, 55 percent of Americans said they thought the war in Iraq was a mistake.)

12. “Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. To deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think does a great disservice…the progress has been immense.”  – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in an interview with CBS July 22, 2008

13. “The capacity of Iraq’s security forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have made strides toward political accommodation” – President Barack Obama in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 27, 2009

14. “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations and we are ending a war not with a final battle but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement,” – President Barack Obama in a speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dec. 14, 2011

What we did was expel all Sunnis, who had been the dominant political force under Saddam’s Ba’athist regime, from governing, and hand power over to a Shia majority that wasn’t at all inclusive, transparent, or ready to govern all of Iraq. When the Sunni ISIS/ISIL forces overran several cities, the Sunni locals whom the Shia government had oppressed for years greeted them as liberators. The Iraqi forces ran away, the government is unable to maintain control of its territory, and what we left is an unstable country boiling over with sectarian resentment and violence. 

It is as if we killed Tito and let one of the 6 constituent ethnicities or religions in the ex-Yugoslavia be a victor and oppress the other 5, and expect a good result. We all know what happened organically in Yugoslavia between Tito’s 1980 death and the 1990s. 

The Iraq war cost America about $1 trillion, when all is said & done. Just think of what we could have bought here at home for that sum of money. Fund health care? Better schools? Student loan relief? Tax rebate to everyone? It’s mind-boggling what we’ll willingly pay for with very little argument. Over 3,500 lives lost to set up a dysfunctional Shia government about to be overthrown by a ruthless hipster Taliban. 

Too many Americans have already died to “liberate” a country under false pretenses. Too much American treasure has been squandered to accomplish the same thing. Let the Iranians go after ISIS. Say what you want about Iran, but they have a functioning government that is interested in self-preservation, and is therefore someone with whom we can deal, as compared with the feckless Iraqi “government” or the Sunni jihadists overrunning Iraq and Syria in a power vacuum left after a Ba’athist dictatorship was overrun or weakened.  Heckuva job, ‘mrrka. 

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