- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2003

Back to work

“Christmas is over and business is business.”

— Franklin Pierce Adams, 1881-1960, “For the Other 364 Days”

Upstairs in Iraq

Thousands of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing “unofficial issue” dog tags bearing a scriptural passage on one side — “I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go” — and the words “One Nation under God” on the other.

Four weeks ago, the Federalist, touted as the conservative journal of record, launched a national campaign to find sponsors for the “Shield of Strength” tags, which cost $1.10 apiece. Since then, more than 40,000 sponsors have responded and the tags were promptly shipped to the various U.S. military fronts.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. J. Clay writes to the journal from Iraq: “I cannot even begin to count how many soldiers are wearing them. It also has a spiritual camaraderie impact — for example, when you meet another … military member and they have the shield on their ID tags … it bonds you, even though you may not know them.”

Army Ranger Capt. Russell Rippetoe, murdered at a military checkpoint by a suicide bomber, was the first casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The Federalist quotes his father, retired Lt. Col. Joe Rippetoe (disabled after two tours of duty in Vietnam), as saying:

“All the men who served with my son wear the shield around their necks, as do many of the elite 75th rangers. The Shield of Strength is to remind them that when you need help, you look to the man upstairs.”

Weathering space

As a result of another Washington funding dispute, Bruce Mahone, the Aerospace Industries Association’s director of space policy, says the Space Environment Center may have to close its doors in the coming months.

Funding for the center was cut entirely by the Senate and reduced by the House, which could have a “devastating” impact on the U.S. airline industry, astronauts, the power distribution grid, and U.S. military exercises, Mr. Mahone writes.

If the center, jointly operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Air Force, closes, the director says, some or all of the following effects could be expected:

• Harmful radiation to airline passengers: Commercial airlines flying polar routes during intense solar flares are subject to radiation doses as injurious to humans as the low-level radiation from a nuclear blast — equivalent to 100 chest X-rays — which would lead to increased cancer rates among crew and passengers. Ditto for astronauts, except worse.

• Loss of power grids: The nation’s power grid regularly operates at peak capacity. If faced with a voltage spike induced by a magnetic storm, nodes couldn’t handle the surge and would fail.

• Military effects: Solar events and magnetic storms can interrupt or degrade navigational signals and communications and increase interference or false returns to sunward- and poleward-looking radars. Those tracking satellites and other objects risk losing their targets.

Irrational behavior?

Will household appliances soon become too expensive for low-income Americans to afford?

Yes, says Ronald Sutherland, adjunct professor of law at George Mason University and senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Energy Markets. He says an Energy Department office that mandates minimum energy efficiency for appliances is recommending even stricter standards, claiming they will save consumers $150 billion through the year 2050.

But the professor, writing in a Cato Institute study, says Uncle Sam’s estimate is flawed.

“The program will impose a net cost of at least $46.4 billion over the life of the program,” he says, arguing the government study underestimates market-driven efficiency gains and relies on an unrealistic estimate of how much consumers value future energy savings.

The cost will fall disproportionately on low-income households, he says, which will be forced to spend less on basic necessities because the most affordable appliances will be taken off the market.

“Comparatively wealthy consumers purchase about the same appliances they would have purchased in the absence of energy efficiency standards,” he notes. “When poor people must forgo the basic necessities to make long-term investments in energy cost savings, we should be cautious about proclaiming irrational behavior and imposing regulatory costs on that segment of society.”

Fitting end

“Dear Inside the Beltway,” writes reader Larry Pugh.

“I was wondering if the scheduling of the Redskins on Saturday is a reflection that they fit better into the college arena? Hey, they got a college coach.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]m.

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