Tuesday, May 4, 2010

“We’re Number Two!”

Speaking of the United States at the close of the two-day nuclear security summit in Washington, DC, last month, US President Barack Obama acknowledged “…whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower…”

While many of us presumably still like being a dominant military superpower, it seems the President feels it is a burden he is unwilling to bear. The President’s underachieving attitude is echoed by many in his administration, who seem to feel the US is too successful.

Earlier in the same week, the administration’s science czar Dr. John Holdren spoke to aspiring scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Holdren is director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and chairs the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST), making him the top science adviser in the administration.

Holdren, who has argued for the economic “de-development” of America for decades, told the college students that the United States shouldn’t expect to be successful forever.

“We can’t expect to be number one in everything indefinitely,” he said.

In the past, Holdren has argued for a transnational “Planetary Regime” that would assume control of the global economy.

“Should a Law of the Sea be successfully established, it could serve as a model for a future Law of the Atmosphere to regulate the use of airspace, to monitor climate change, and to control atmospheric pollution,” he wrote in 1973. According to Holdren, such a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable, and could have the power to control pollution not only in the atmosphere and oceans, but also in such freshwater bodies as rivers and lakes that cross international boundaries or that discharge into the oceans. “The Regime might also be a logical central agency for regulating all international trade,” he wrote. Dr. Holdren has not yet described how his dream would affect the Jones Act or the US shipbuilding industry, or indeed the rest of the world’s cabotage laws.

Within days of the President and his Chief Scientist explaining why the US should be aiming lower and “sharing the wealth”, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (Territorial Regime?) awarded a $73.6 million dollar, US taxpayer-funded contract to a wholly owned subsidiary of an Italian company, for the construction of a new fisheries survey vessel.

NOAA awarded the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) contract to Marinette Marine Corporation for the construction of the new vessel intended to improve NOAA’s ability to conduct surveys for fish, marine mammals and turtles off the US West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

As we noted in this space in April, Marinette is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Italian enterprise Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. So while the jobs will go to Wisconsin, the profits will go to Trieste, Italy, which, it might be argued, is part of an International, if not yet Planetary, Regime, called the European Union (EU).

According to the EU website, member countries cooperate to ensure “Peace, prosperity and freedom for its 498 million citizens – in a fairer, safer world.” Among other things, the EU promises, “Frontier-free travel and trade…” and cheaper phone calls.

EU citizens were able to take advantage of the cheaper phone calls to talk to their loved ones long-distance last month, as frontier-free travel and trade in the EU was brought to a standstill with the eruption of an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland (EU member since July, 2009).

While the EU felt obligated to ground more than 100,000 flights in areas affected by the dust cloud, US pilots at Alaska Airlines have a tried and true system for navigating volcanic perturbations.

An article in the Wall Street Journal notes that the Seattle-based airline, which encounters volcanic ash in Alaska every couple of years, has developed procedures that minimize disruptions due to volcanic activity.

Computer models predict the trajectory for volcanic ash in Alaska or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. When there’s an eruption, the airline scrambles off-duty pilots in empty airplanes to take temperature and wind measurements at various altitudes. The data help validate satellite projections and computer forecasts.

If Alaska Airlines can’t stay at least 35 miles away from ash, it doesn’t fly, nor does it operate if it’s nighttime and pilots can’t see, or if the airline isn’t sure of the actual winds aloft.

Alaska Airlines puts all 1,400 of its pilots through an ash encounter in recurrent training. In a cockpit simulator, engines suddenly flame out and the “aircraft” loses pressurization. Pilots, wearing smoke goggles and oxygen masks, must figure out how to restart them and return to an airport.

Late last month, Alaska Air Group reported first quarter profits and held the No. 1 spot in on-time performance among the 10 largest US airlines.

“Producing a profit in our seasonally weakest period is particularly noteworthy,” says Bill Ayer, Alaska Air Group’s chairman and chief executive officer. “The last time we reported a significant first-quarter profit was in 1999.”

So US innovation keeps US planes flying over the US. This allows Alaska Airlines to safely continue to make a profit while its competitors might be grounded. We doubt, for example, that EU airlines will be showing much of a profit this year.

Sorry, Mr. President- number one still looks pretty good to us.

Chris Philips , Managing Editor