American Elephants


As The Sun Sinks Slowly in the West, So Does the Solar Industry by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2010, President Obama hailed a Spanish Company, Abengoa, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, and create local employment.

Since then the Spanish company has built two American plants, one in Arizona and one in California, which supply electricity to more than 160,000 homes based on the capacity of the solar thermal plants. Remember that “capacity” is what the plants would provide on perfectly sunny days, and ignoring clouds or rain.

It appears that Abengoa got overambitious, and saddled with debt from its expansion, is scrambling to avoid what would be the biggest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. Abengoa’s American projects in Gila Bend, Arizona, and Barstow, California, still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government. The plants were partly financed by $605 million in federal grants and tax credits, besides the federal loan guarantees. The New York Times adds:

“The whole reason Abengoa Solar had to get the guarantee from the government is that no private lender thought the risk was worth it,” the Institute of Energy Research, a prominent renewables critic that has received financing from the oil industry, said in 2011.

Do note the NYT phrasing, and the “oil industry” link doesn’t seem to lead anywhere at all. Abengoa has legal problems as well from shareholders and creditors, with claims of misleading investors, and against individual executives. The company lost $1.3 billion last year and paid employees late.

They’ve also done projects in Central and South America. In 2007 they established the world’s first commercial solar thermal power plant on the outskirts of Seville. That year their stock hit a record high of €7.39 a share. In November, the share price had fallen below 40 euro cents. It’s now hovering around 71 euro cents.

Meanwhile up north in Maine: from Bloomberg:

Despite long winters, a famously foggy coastline and relatively few solar panels in operation, Maine is emerging as a pivotal U.S. state for determining how consumers will pay for power generated by the sun.

U.S. solar installations have boomed more than 10-fold in the past five years, driven in part by a policy known as net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That’s lowered consumers’ monthly bills, and also cuts into revenue for utilities that still must contend with their own fixed costs — spurring conflict between traditional power companies and solar providers.

The permanent problem with the sun is that sunlight is diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which we recognize as clouds. especially here on the Northwest coast where there is not a speck of blue sky today. Note the lovely photograph of the sun at the top of this post, and — the extensive clouds.

US solar installations have increased by 10-fold in the past five years driven by a federal policy  called net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That has lowered customers’ monthly bills, but the utilities still have their own fixed costs, and it cuts into their revenue.

Maine has proposed replacing net metering with a system that lets utilities sign 20-year contracts with residential solar customers. And instead of paying the retail price, as called for under current policies, utilities would pay rates set by regulators.

Because this is the Twenty First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, the greens are sure there is a technological fix just around the corner, and energy storage will cease to be a problem. But every known rare earth has been tried and found wanting.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall is meant to be a daily use battery. Tesla has announced prices of $3,000 and $3,500, but that does not include the inverter, and with installation it comes to $7,340. It requires about 7.5 kilowatt hours to charge the Powerwall, providing about  5.4 kilowatt hours of power once charged. The Institute for Energy Research found that it would require a payback period of 38 years which is almost 4 times the warranty period of 10 years for the Powerwall. Even if solar power were used to charge the Powerwall the payback period would be 31 years. The obvious problem is that for home use, we require electricity most when the sun has gone down.

The government’s idea was that by stimulating greater consumer demand with subsidies, production would increase and costs would go down, but in the meantime the industry believes that solar is a complete non-starter unless utilities are forced to pay extremely unrealistic prices for solar energy produced by households with solar panels. It’s not just Maine, even in sunny Nevada solar requires huge subsidies.

Progressives are sure that the government can just order utilities to charge less for their services, much like ObamaCare just assumes that hospitals and doctors can be forced to accept less payment for their services and all will be well. Most of the problems with our frighteningly large national debt and yearly deficits are due to the fact that Progressives just don’t understand the free market at all. They only understand the pursuit of power and an ever-larger government.



This May Be The Most Spectacular Failure Of Solar Power Ever by The Elephant's Child

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“Natural” is a ubiquitous word, especially for all things environmental. Wind and solar energy are held in high esteem largely because they are “natural.” Unfortunately, the word doesn’t mean much of anything, you only have to consider its opposite —”unnatural”— to point out how meaningless it is.

But for the environmental movement, natural is a very big deal indeed. We should draw our energy from the wind and the sun, eliminate unnatural chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species, but stop putting animals in cages, and stop eating meat. The word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity. It is not only the world’s largest solar project, it is also known as “the world’s largest outdoor bird fryer.”

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. When I wrote about Ivanpah last November, they were delivering only 40% of their promised electricity, and they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

Now comes news that the Ivanpah solar plant may be forced to shut down. It is not producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if they don’t receive a break from state regulators. PG&E is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems. The extension request is opposed by some consumer groups, who are complaining that the cost of the electricity from the struggling plant is exorbitant. There is no mention in the article of whether or not they got the federal grant to pay off their federal loan. The high-tech power towers just aren’t working as advertised.

The huge array is owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Government subsidy is what brings these projects to fruition and what brings investors who expect to be rewarded by the government subsidies. Over and over, across the world, when taxpayer subsidy is removed, the project shuts down.

In neighboring Nevada I had read recently that when Nevada withdrew the state subsidy, Elon Musk pulled out, but I apparently didn’t save the article.When I consulted Google, the headlines from the articles about Elon Musk and SolarCity are so completely fascinating that I couldn’t resist linking to that page. Do scroll down slowly to get the full picture. The federal government has no business using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers in the business marketplace.

California’s one remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, produces more than twice as much clean, environmentally friendly electricity than all of California’s solar power installations combined. Environmentalists, of course, are trying to shut it down. (click to enlarge)

Diablo(h/t: Steven Hayward@ Powerline)



The Ugly Side of the Environmental Movement, And it’s Deplorable Actions by The Elephant's Child

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Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, “died March 2 in a car wreck the day after being indicted for conspiracy to rig bids on oil and natural gas leases. He will likely be remembered for two things: being a pioneer of the shale gas boom and a possible criminal who, in death, may have eluded a prison sentence. But McClendon may have had one other lasting legacy: he helped hasten the collapse of the coal industry in the United States.”

Between 2007 and 2012, McClendon and his associates contributed around $26 million to the Sierra Club to oppose the building of new coal-fired power plants. McClendon’s motivations were hardly pure; he knew that preventing new coal plants meant more demand for his company’s product, natural gas. And the contributions led to a scandal for the environmental group, whose well-funded “Beyond Coal” campaign has been instrumental in not only preventing new plants, but also shutting down aging ones.

Executive director Michael Brune had a simple explanation for accepting money from a big gas company that was drilling hundreds of wells using hydraulic fracturing: the enemy of our enemy is our friend. “The Sierra Club board of directors … determined that natural gas, while far from ideal as a fuel source, might play a necessary role in helping us reach the clean energy future our children deserve,” Brune wrote in <aref=”http://sierraclub.typepad.com/michaelbrune/2012/02/the-sierra-club-and-natural-gas.html”>a 2012 blog post. “The idea was that we shared at least one common purpose [with Chesapeake]—to move our country away from dirty coal.”

The Sierra Club turned down further contributions from McClendon and his Chesapeake colleagues as it began to worry about the boom in natural gas fracking. That didn’t affect the outcome: McClendon’s philanthropy helped make it very unlikely that any new coal plants will be built in the U.S.—and helped push coal, the backbone of America’s power sector for more than a century, into a sudden and dramatic twilight.

Here’s another excellent example of the rot in the Green movement. If you can get rid of coal as a resource for power generation by claiming that it is the cause of anthropogenic global warming, what’s the big deal if you cause thousands of coal miners to lose their jobs, if you can force the country to depend on your natural gas for their electric power, and make your company and yourself rich by so doing?

The Sierra Club was once a nice organization with the goal of protecting the Sierra Mountains. They sponsored catered pack trips through the Sierras, and publicized Ansel Adams beautiful photography of the Sierras and Yosemite National Park. But at some point they became a leftist political agency under the cover of being a nice environmental club.

But then the coal industry once supplied nearly half of America’s power needs, and kept the cost of power low for American homes and businesses, enabling the prosperous industrial country we live in.  Mr. McClendon is hardly the only person who has been trying to enrich himself and his business by using the fear of a crisis of global warming that has been pushed by so many environmental organizations.

The cheap and affordable energy that coal-fired plants produce cannot be replaced by renewables, no matter how much investors hope it to become fact instead of wishful thinking. Wind is highly intermittent — we had a minor wind storm today that deposited bushels of fir cones and branches on the roof and on the streets (and on the driveway I laboriously swept yesterday) yet there were long periods with no wind at all, and even some blue sky.

Wind energy proponents talk about optimum performance — what a wind farm could produce if all the turbines were turning at the speed that would be produced by a perfect flow of wind. But Mother Nature doesn’t work that way.Wind is intermittent at best, and even shuts down for long periods. When it isn’t blowing at the perfect speed, then the power has to come from somewhere else. Hopes for battery walls ignore the availability and expense of the rare earths required which largely come from China, who has cornered the market and can raise prices as they choose.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will prevent 0.03 degrees of warming by 2100.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity — but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.



Here ‘s Patrick Moore Explaining the Real Facts About CO2 by The Elephant's Child

“Since time immemorial, our climate has been and will always be changing. Patrick Moore explains why “climate change,” far from being a recent human-caused disaster, is, for a myriad of complex reasons, a fact of life on Planet Earth.”

Some scientists saw global temperatures climbing and noticed that at the same time, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was climbing. Big Aha! moment.  But as scientists keep telling us—correlation does not prove causation.

At the beginning of this delusion, climate scientists were not the leading lights in the faculty lounge, but when governments, accepting the UN’s IPCC as the authoritative source on all things climate, started to try to protect us from catastrophic global warming. suddenly there were grants and attention and new equipment for the labs and they began to be interviewed and became important, and the press wallowed in their authoritative utterances. The grants were all for proving the fact that the globe was warming unnaturally because, of the evildoing of humans for drawing fossil fuels from the bosom of the Earth instead of commuting on bicycles as they should.

It was discovered that the thermometer sites on which readings of national temperatures depended were not accurate at all because some idiots had put them right next to the heat vents from air conditioners or where sunlight reflected off concrete walls increasing temperatures abnormally. Then we had “the Pause” when global temperatures as measured by satellites stopped climbing. And they stopped climbing for over 19 years, yet the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere kept increasing. Causation would seem to have gone out the window, but true believers don’t give up easily, and the recipients of  grants and subsidies don’t give up easily either.



Are You a Climate “Denier?” The Left Wants to Send You To Jail For Disagreeing. by The Elephant's Child

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Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Justice Department has “discussed” taking civil legal action against the fossil fuel industry for “denying” the threat of carbon emissions regarding climate change. The Justice Department has sent the case on to the FBI for determination.

During Lynch’s testimony, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said that he believes there are similarities between the tobacco industry’s denial of scientific studies showing the dangers of using tobacco, and companies in the fossil fuel industry denying studies that are alleged to show the threat to the world from carbon emissions. Well, we can’t have people disagreeing with us. We’ll just have to sic the law on them. What is the matter with these people?

Whitehouse, who resides in the far distant realms of Leftism, pointed out that under President Bill Clinton the Justice Department brought and won a civil case against the tobacco industry—but the Obama administration has done nothing to stop the climate change “deniers” from their obnoxious denying.  Good luck with that one.

You expect to prove in a court of law that those computer programs with all their assumptions and guesses about how the climate of the earth actually works are going to overrule the proven science with crony capitalism and genuine fraud? Not going to happen. Their case is very weak, and Mother Nature is not on their side. All the fraud and dishonest behavior has been committed by the climate alarmists, because they see it as their path to a one world government, or something like that—more complete power in any case.

The Left doesn’t like disagreement. You can see someone pop up every so often demanding that something be done. They don’t like free speech, they don’t like the Constitution, they are against anyone owning a gun, and they are against anyone who does not think the Earth is being destroyed in a blaze of heat created by excess carbon dioxide, the benign gas that we exhale with every breath, which acts as a fertilizer for plants and is greening the world, and helping to feed a hungry planet. Generous government grants trump scientific accuracy all too often.

President Obama just gave $500 million of taxpayer’s money to the UN Green Fund—the first chunk of a $3 billion commitment that President Obama personally made at the Paris climate talks, defying Republican objections to the president’s environmental plan. Congress has not authorized any commitment to the United Nation’s “Green Climate Fund,”and President Obama knows that they wouldn’t. But never mind, he’s quite sure that the lawyers can find a way around that tired old constitution, so he can have his way.

State Dept defiant on $500M to UN climate fund: ‘Did Congress authorize the Green Climate Fund? No.’

Asked by Senator Cory Gardner if Congress approved the US State Department to divert $500 million to the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund, Deputy Secretary Heather Higgenbottom says: “Did Congress authorize the Green Climate Fund? No. […] We’ve reviewed the authority and the process under which we can do it, and our lawyers and we have determined that we have the ability to do it, and I pledge to you and to other members we’d be happy to provide that legal analysis and the additional details.”

There’s another federal department that needs swamping out. Under the administration of Barack Obama, federal departments are engaged in figuring out how they can subvert the Constitution, do exactly what they want, and find some legal justification for it — after they’ve followed the directions from the Oval Office. This is not the way our government is supposed to work. Yet in case after case, that’s what is happening.

And for some inexplicable reason, many ordinary folks are furious with “the establishment” (which apparently means anyone who has worked in government) and Republicans for being unable to stop such behavior, and want to elect an “outsider” (someone who has no understanding of how the government is supposed to work) to be in charge rather than someone who is familiar with the problems.

And by the way, there are no climate “deniers.” Most everyone has noticed that there is a constantly changing climate. The true believers simply accept that the cause of climate change is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because that’s what they have been told, or because that’s what pays their salary, or because that’s what gets them big taxpayer subsidies from the government. Not because they are actually familiar with the science in question.



You May Not Disagree With Progressives! by The Elephant's Child

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On February 10, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) held a panel discussion on how to take legal action to implement the environmental activists  agenda through legal action against climate change deniers. They covered topics such as RICO prosecutions, climate torts and the Supreme court’s ‘appalling’ stay of the Clean Power Plan. The session was organized and moderated by Lisa Heinzerling, an attorney brought into the EPA to manage the legal analysis of just how to extend EPA powers beyond the limits of the Clean Air Act.

What Republicans cannot get through their heads is that the Progressives, the Left, are at war “to fight for the world as it should be.”They don’t know very much and they have trouble defending their point of view — and they want the “vast right wing conspiracy” to stop disagreeing and they are willing to put you in prison to make you stop. They believe that utopia is just there, a few steps away, if the damned right wingers would just stop arguing and spoiling everything.

The ACS is a very liberal association of legal progressives that sponsors over 1,ooo sessions a year to promote their agenda and create a network “useful in influencing judges nationwide.” They don’t like conservative “buzzwords” like “originalism” and “strict construction” that use neutral-sounding language that leads to hated conservatism.

Although last to speak, the keynote message was offered by Senator Whitehouse. He supports a federal RICO investigation and prosecution of “deniers.” His was a political screed based exclusively on a presumption of a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change through use of hydrocarbons. He believes the tobacco RICO case is the “roadmap” for prosecution of deniers and he looks forward to the day when the CEOs of the coal, petrochemical and electric power industry are marched before the Senate to confess their crime.

Greens are terrified that cheap coal, oil and natural gas are making renewable fuels uneconomical. Americans are spending less on energy than at any time in recent memory. Wind and solar are barely affordable when oil prices are high.

A California congressman and two other representatives demanded last week that the government investigate Royal Dutch Shell “for deceiving the public about the alleged dangers associated with man-made global warming.”

Don’t laugh, they are serious about this.  Really.

ADDENDUM: I did top this article with a vague picture of potential hangings from an article about ISIS. It has been suggested that nooses are “racist” because lynching.  So I am replacing it with the Inquisition, where a man’s feet are being burned off as he screams because I don’t want to “offend,” because “political correctness.” Go figure.



I Thought Political Correctness Was Simply Annoying, I Didn’t Realize It Was A Major Advance In The Left’s War on American Freedom by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, I got slapped upside the head, and I want to do the same to you. You’ll have to do a bit of reading and listening, but the current political campaign is missing the point, and we need to understand just what the hell is going on.

I began with an article by Dr. Michael Ledeen, who seems to have an inside track to the administration in Iran, so I always pay attention. His article was titled Idiocy AND Ideology? What Really Drives Obama? That’s about where I was, trying to do some armchair psychoanalysis, trying to grasp why Obama was doing what he was doing. (Read the links and watch the video)

The “ideology” part stuck in my mind because I’d just written about political correctness and Michelle Obama’s speech at a Democratic Convention: She said Barack “spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about ‘The world as it is’ and ‘The world as it should be.’ All of us are driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do — that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.” There’s the ideology. But as much as the Left believes in bringing about the world ‘as it should be’— it won’t work. Socialism never works because there is no utopia at the end of fixing the world. We are still ordinary fallible human beings who have trouble getting along and possess all the faults that go along with being human.

Barack Obama really took to his training in the Alinsky method. His trainers said that he was the best student they had ever had, and it all boils down to how to manipulate people into the revolution that will bring about the world as it should be. Utopia—the impossible dream that has captured so many, and has resulted in 700% inflation in Venezuela and no toilet paper. Or for that matter Cuba, with dissidents shot regularly, and all those quaint cars from the 1950s.

Then I came across “The Return of Socialism” by Ben Domenech, who explains where we are right now. The Millennials think Socialism would be dandy, since they have no idea what it is, and really go for the idea of a free college education for all — instead of massive student debt for a college degree that doesn’t seem to be even getting them jobs. They don’t have the background or knowledge to know what Socialism is. Bernie really doesn’t either. He wants us to be like Denmark. But in America  a new Honda Accord costs around $22,000, in Denmark a new Honda Accord costs around $44,000, so most people just don’t have cars.

Next I got another whack to my head from MIT computer genius David Gerlernter: “The Elephant in the Room.” He said that what voters are really angry about is political correctness. I had just written a post on the political correctness of “diversity,” — I’ve been writing about political correctness forever, (more than 72 posts) but I always dismissed it as random stupidity — not a radical war to change the culture.

Who could imagine trying to run the military on “renewable fuels” like wind and solar — because petroleum is politically incorrect — but that is what Obama has ordered the military to do.

The evidence is all there, we’re annoyed, angered, but I’m sure that I’m not the last one that is not putting it all together. But then  I came across this video, from 2012, which I had saved because it is so important—which links it all together. Watch the whole 12 minutes.

There it is: The Frankfurt School at Columbia, where Barack Obama got his undergraduate degree, (the academic records never released). “The Narrative” which is daily attempting to change the way we think and believe. We know the redefinition of words is nonsense, but it is a war on American individual liberty and national freedom infecting every corner of society,  changing American culture right before our eyes, in ways that we do not want it changed! We are at war, and we don’t recognize it.

Marco Rubio spoke out forcefully in New Hampshire about how Obama was trying to transform America. He repeated it three times — forcefully, and meant it. And it’s true. Can’t have that mentioned by a Republican candidate. Marco Rubio was promptly transformed by the leftist media into “a robot,” someone who memorizes his lines and then just mindlessly repeats them. A theme that was repeated in the media endlessly. No. He told an unacceptable truth that directly attacked “The Narrative.” You will be told how to think about that incident. That’s the way it works — you will be bullied into silence.

We have a president who cannot call Islamic terrorism even ‘Islamic’, it becomes ‘violent extremism’. Some agency in the government of Washington state just ruled that all public bathrooms in the state must become open to all sexes. What?

The biggest one, of course, was the Fort Hood massacre when Major Nidal Hasan was clearly observed to be a dangerous jihadist, but nobody could say so because it would be politically incorrect, so 13 people were killed and 32 seriously wounded, not just because Major Hasan could not be called a jihadist because it might offend, but nobody on the Fort Hood military base was allowed to be armed, again because all those weapons might offend. The inability to carry weapons killed a lot of our soldiers in Afghanistan, and at that recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where 4 Marines and 1 sailor were shot, because people might be offended by seeing guns at a military recruiting office.

Our kids are being taught social justice (a nonsense phrase) in high school, they are indoctrinated with the idea that the Earth is endangered (by the natural warming and cooling of the planet). They learn history from Howard Zinn’s little Communist propaganda book that falsely twists everything about American culture into something evil, racist, bigoted, or corrupt.  They cannot write a letter because cursive handwriting is no longer being taught. They are painfully ignorant of history, geography, economics, and professors complain that they are poorly prepared for college, where they will rack up huge student loans to learn about the evils of America, the rape culture, white privilege, women’s studies, more social justice, and the evils of our economic system. Here’s what one business student learned, in business school.

Our founders were well aware of the oppression of a monarch 3,500 miles across the entire Atlantic Ocean, the rights they had as British citizens under the Magna Charta were being denied,and they fought a revolution to be free of it. They devised a form of government that was elected and directed by the people, responsible to the people and left the people free to make of their little country what they would.

It is quite astonishing what a free people and free markets can do. That freedom and those free people are quite frightening to the governments of the world — because allowing such freedom means losing their own power.

Some Americans are hoping the brash huckster from New York will fix what has gone wrong. He has sneered at political correctness, but they misunderstand just who he is. Daniel Greenfield spells it out in To Understand Trump, You Have to Understand New York,” another must read. We tried having a president whose greatest need was to enhance his own ego, and it was painful. Let’s not do that again.

Our culture is being changed right under our noses. We know it’s wrong, that it will lead nowhere, that “The Narrative” is a lie.  Socialism never, never works and has never worked anywhere, yet the Utopian dream lingers. Violent Muslim jihadists are released from Guantanamo to return to the fight because Obama thinks the world believes it to be a place where innocent prisoners are tortured. He believes the Middle East will be more peaceful when the more cosmopolitan Iranians are running the place, and since they care about their families just like we do, they would never actually use nuclear weapons. The world not as it is, they’re fighting for “the world as it should be” but there’s is no utopia at the end of “fixing” the world — just another exercise in futility and ruin for us all. It always ends in misery.




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