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excerpt from a Hugh Hewitt interview with Mark Steyn on Apr. 24th/09

 HH: Oh, how interesting. All right, we’ll come back to that. I want to stay on the ruthless theme, though, and turn to President Obama. Today in the New York Times, there are these two sentences: “Mr. Obama and his allies need to discredit the techniques he has banned. Otherwise, in the event of a future terrorist attack, critics may blame his decision to rein in CIA interrogators.” There, Mark Steyn, is the whole explanation for the witch hunt he has launched this week.

MS: Yes, I think that’s likely to happen. I think given that we’re now, we’ve reset the clock to September the 10th. We’re now in a world of legalism. In fact, it’s worse than September 10th, because if you look at some of the decisions that are being taken, we’re effectively extending the protections of the United States Constitution to people who are foreign nationals in foreign countries who’ve never set foot in this country. I think that’s a disaster, but I think you’re right that in a sense, discrediting, discrediting the Bush approach, which has kept America safe for eight years now, I think that has to be part of the calculation just in terms of political protection down the road.

HH: Now I introduced Ed Meese at a Heritage luncheon a couple of hours ago at the Century Plaza Hotel, and when I did that, I paused for a moment to reflect on what a radical break the Obama direction is with American history. When Reagan arrives, he doesn’t attempt to criminalize what Carter did. When W. arrives, he doesn’t attempt to criminalize what Bill Clinton did. It, in fact, he stressed continuity, did not want to look into why we were not ready for 9/11, et cetera, et cetera. This is very different, Mark Steyn, and it’s perilous. The criminalization of past political differences is something that, Mark, the Royalists and the Roundheads for years, but not America.

MS: Right. Yeah, well in the modern era, it’s South Africa after apartheid, or Czechoslovakia after communism. And for some reason, Obama seems attracted to that model rather than simply saying well, we had an election in a two party system, in a continuous Constitutional republic that’s been doing this for two and a third centuries now, and this time instead of Party A winning, Party B winning. He could look at it like that. But as you say, the left has chosen to criminalize politics. It’s not enough to say well, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have a different view of this than we do. That’s not enough. It’s not enough. They’ve got to actually say no, it’s beyond that. Dick Cheney’s opinion, and George W. Bush’s opinion are criminal. And they have to be criminalized. And I think this is horribly damaging. This is horribly damaging in the most basic sense to political stability and to the functioning of a two party system.

HH: It also inevitably is going to wound a lot of people who have no idea they’re in the line of fire. One person who does understand their political peril is Nancy Pelosi. Here is a comment she made earlier today. Listen to this very carefully, America. You can hear furious and ineffective spinning from the Speaker.

NP: At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing that I…that I…that…that I was briefed on in that regard. We were not, I repeat, we…not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some, uh, legislative counsel, the office of legislative counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would, and they further…further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time.

HH: Mark Steyn, she just admitted to being at a briefing wherein interrogation techniques in these OLC memos were discussed. That’s fascinating.

MS: Yes, and it’s the usual Democrat thing, thought, that oh well, it’s like their votes on the war, where effectively as the years went by, they said well, we had no idea what we were voting for. Nancy Pelosi is basically saying now well, I had no idea what I was being told. I had no idea what I was being told. This will lead to people dying. And it may not, they may not die in the United States. They may die in some other city somewhere around the world. But people will die, because we are not able to…the question isn’t really one of waterboarding. It’s a question now of low level officials in suits in Washington, whether they feel they can give honest, legal opinion to the best of their professional knowledge, or whether those memos are going to be dredged up in five, six years time, and they’re going to be in a four year investigation. They’re going to be keeping A list lawyers on the payroll, and they’re going to be in hell. They’re going to lose half a decade of their life trying to dig themselves out of the hole of having given advice to the president of the United States. That is simply ensuring that the president of the United States, in the middle of a war, is not going to receive the best advice.

HH: Mark Steyn, David Ignatius in the Washington Post, no centrist he, yesterday, the New York Times today, what I read to you, are proving up the point that Tim Weiner made in his book, Legacy Of Ashes. When you go after agencies, their behavior changes, and they cripple themselves. And in the middle of a war, I think this is the point you just made, that means we are dismantling the national security in front of our eyes. We’ve got about a minute to break.

MS: Yeah, and I think you’re right. And I think this is the stupidity of the Democrat position. And the reality is that intelligence agencies in France and the United Kingdom and other places do not operate under these constraints, so that the President will be in effect getting more reliable intelligence from foreign intelligence agencies than he’s going to be getting from rear end-covering bureaucrats in his own government.

HH: If they choose to continue to work with us given the highly unpredictable approach that President Obama has adopted. Mark Steyn, www.steynonline.com, America, thank you.

 To read the entire article go HERE

To read Mark’s latest posting on his website “THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS – THE POST-AMERICAN ERA? go HERE

 Posted on Ezra Levant’s website who has been in hounded by the HRC since publishing the Danish Cartoons years ago, and recent author of Shakedown which details the corruption inside the HRC’s of the land. 

Catherine Ford: “liberals… need to read Shakedown”
By Ezra Levant on April 19, 2009 3:42 AM

Catherine Ford, the retired editor and columnist at the Calgary Herald, has reviewed Shakedown in that paper. Ford made a career out of zigging where Calgary zagged — she is a self-described “liberal feminist” in Canada’s most conservative city.

Her review is a mix of flattering praise and political criticism. But given how polar opposite we are philosophically, I’m blown away by how positive her review is.

Just for fun, I did a historical search to see what Ford had written over the years about Alberta’s human rights commission. She’s had mixed things to say about them — she obviously saw their political champions as her fellow travellers, but she was also aware of their abusive tendencies.

Here’s a column she wrote way back in 1992, when the HRC found that a young male driver had the “human right” to pay as little car insurance as a young female driver, actuarial risk statistics be damned. She called the HRC a “horse’s ass”, which sounds about right.

Here’s a more troubling column she wrote in May of 1997, where she approved of using HRCs to rough up people who had an anti-semitic view of history:

Personally, I’m all for harassing the revisionists through whatever tribunals are available, thus exposing them to contempt and showing children that such ignorance is rightfully dealt with through public scorn.

But Ford got that wrong in a big way: it’s not the government’s job to harass people through abusive legal processes, even if they are ignorant, and that’s a terrible lesson in bullying and censorship to teach children. I agree that public scorn is a powerful tool to be used against bigots, but that’s the job of private citizens and newspaper pundits, not the state with its prosecutors, fines and gag orders.

I was pleased to see Ford change her tune later that same year, in this column, where she wrote:

…the continuing efforts to censor the tired rantings of Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zundel [are] so pointless, so wearying, so expensive.

…The proper counterattack is not whining to human rights commissions, but a rigorous program of education for anyone exposed to this garbage, especially children.

That’s a pretty big about-face in seven months — from touting the HRCs’ harassment to calling HRCs an improper approach suitable only for whiners. I’m always leery of her solution: political “education” campaigns by the government. That’s usually just another word for propaganda, but at least kids can ignore their indoctrinators, and their parents can correct them too. It’s far less tyrannical than an abusive HRC with its force of law.

Here’s Ford’s review of Shakedown. Looking over it again right now, I have to say I’m amazed how flattering she is. If I can’t get an arch-lefty like Ford to be truly mad at me, something’s out of synch!

Ezra Levant is a smart man. Ezra Levant has good ideas.

Ezra Levant is a lawyer. Why this triad of competence doesn’t come together in a pivotal book that could be instrumental in addressing the glaring problems of Canadian human rights commissions and tribunals and in changing them is simple: Ezra Levant is also a polemicist.

To the liberal reader, he’s not interested in changing Canada for the better, despite his many convincing arguments, but in expressing his particular skewed version of the country and the institutions charged with hearing the aggrieved.

Levant rants. He doesn’t listen. He wants people on his side, not necessarily on the side of what’s best for everyone, including those Canadians who aren’t big or small-C conservatives.

…Shakedown lays [it] all out — the outrageous decisions made by human rights commissions across the country, the two-facedness of liberals, feminists, gay rights activists, at which Levant takes many gratuitous swipes. Levant, as all good polemicists do, cherry-picks the facts and couches his arguments in language and imagery designed to enrage social conservatives who see such advances as the rights of women and minorities not to be treated as second-class men as an assault on their rightful position at the top of the food chain. In the doing, he also infuriates liberals. That sort of prunes one’s reading audience.

…Shakedown has a solid and compelling foundation–what good is free speech and freedom of the press if any malcontent can cite “hurt feelings” and bring the parties responsible in front of a quasi-judicial, politically appointed panel of amateur judges? Worse, to do so at no cost, not even if the complaint is judged frivolous or without merit? At the very least, anyone wasting taxpayers’ time and money on idiotic complaints should be charged with costs, as is usually the case in real court cases. The spectre of having to pay for your own lawyer to deal with your hissy-fit keeps our courts relatively free of nonsense.

Canadians who want their country to be fair and open to all — liberals to a fault, I guess — need to read Shakedown. They could have been persuaded to do so if the author had chosen to put less of his own ideology into the mix and more of his considerable talents and experience into a book designed to encourage change.

He ends the book with a look at possible reforms. And had fair-minded Canadians encountered more of that earlier in the book, Levant’s cause might be adopted by all of us. He outlines the two schools of thought: the “pruners” and the “weeders,” allying himself with the latter.

…The whole point of trying to convince Canadians of all political leanings to read this book is contained in one of the author’s final statements: “…Canadians now bend over backward to demonstrate our respect for others–both officially, through affirmative action and multiculturalism policies, and unofficially, in the way thirty-three million of us treat our friends, neighbours and co-workers.”

And even a liberal feminist can get onside and applaud that.

 To get Ezra’s book go HERE

To get to his excellent website go HERE

That’ll be your “least read” Canadian news story for April 24th, 2009 . Why do I say “least”? Because this is the only place you’ll find it.

The Fiscal Monitor for February 2009 was released today.

HERE  to read the 34 comments at posting

 

 Also:

Is There Nothing That Obama Can’t Do?

Empty suit for new job at Harvard Law Review – $500

Voting “present” 130 times as state senator – $58,000 a year

Lifting security verification to receive untracable online donations – $30+ million a month

Appointing himself CEO of Mastercard – PRICELESS 

HERE to read the 39 comments recorded at posting

 

Both postings from the Canadian blog from Saskatchewan run by Kate McMillan above beat out the best the US could produce to win the Weblog 2008 Best Conservative Blog. Kate was the only Canadian in the competition.
The self employed commercial artist and mensa member also won the entire Best Canadian Blog in 2007.
From her website Small Dead Animals:

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Disruption vs. Prosecution and the Manchester Plot
April 22, 2009

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

On April 8, British authorities mounted a series of raids in Merseyside, Manchester and Lancashire that resulted in the arrest of 12 men suspected of being involved in a plot to conduct attacks over the Easter holiday weekend. In a press conference the following day, Prime Minister Gordon Brown noted that the men arrested were allegedly involved in “a very big terrorist plot.” British authorities have alleged that those arrested sought to conduct suicide bombing attacks against a list of soft targets that included shopping centers, a train station and a nightclub.

The searches and arrests targeting the suspects purportedly involved in the plot, which was dubbed Operation Pathway, had to be accelerated after Bob Quick, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in charge of terrorism investigations, inadvertently allowed reporters to see a classified document pertaining to the operation as he was entering 10 Downing Street to brief Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on April 8. An embarrassed Quick resigned April 9 over the gaffe.

In spite of the leak, the British authorities were successful in detaining all of the targeted suspects, though the authorities have reportedly not been able to recover explosive material or other bomb-making evidence they were seeking. British authorities arrested 12 suspects, 11 of whom were Pakistani citizens. Smith told British Parliament on April 20 that all 11 of the Pakistani nationals entered the United Kingdom on student visas. The youngest of the Pakistani suspects, who is reportedly still a teenager, was remanded to the custody of British immigration authorities to face deportation proceedings April 9. The rest of the 11 suspects were released by British authorities April 21, though ten reportedly were placed in the custody of immigration officials.

Many of the specific details of the plot have not yet come out, and due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence sources and methods involved in these types of investigations, more details may never be fully divulged now that there will be no criminal trial. However, when viewed in the historical and tactical context of other terror plots and attacks (in the United Kingdom and elsewhere), there are some very interesting conclusions that can be drawn from this series of events and the few facts that have been released to the public so far.

This case also highlights the tension that exists within the counterterrorism community between advocates of strategies to disrupt terrorist attacks and those who want to ensure that terror suspects can be convicted in a court of law.

Targets
Among of the most significant things that have come to light so far regarding the thwarted plot are the alleged targets. According to press reports, the British MI5 surveillance teams assigned to monitor the activities of the purported plotters observed some of them videotaping themselves outside of the Arndale and Trafford shopping centers in Manchester, as well as at St. Ann’s Square, which lies in the center of Manchester’s main shopping district. Other reports suggest that the plotters had also conducted surveillance of Manchester’s Piccadilly train station, an intercity train station that is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom outside London, and Manchester’s Birdcage nightclub.

These targets are significant for several reasons. First, they are all soft targets — that is, targets with very little security. As STRATFOR has pointed out for several years now, since counterterrorism efforts have been stepped up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and as the tactical capability of groups like al Qaeda has been degraded, jihadist operatives have had less success targeting hardened targets and have turned instead to striking soft targets.

While authorities have moved to protect high-value targets, there simply are far too many potential targets to protect them all. Governments are stretched thin just trying to protect important government buildings, bridges, dams, nuclear power plants, airports and mass-transit systems in their jurisdiction. The reality on the ground is that there are not nearly enough resources to protect them all, much less every potential location where people concentrate in large groups — like shopping centers and nightclubs. This means that some targets are unprotected and are therefore, by definition, soft.

The selection of soft targets in this case indicates that the alleged Manchester plotters did not possess the operational capability to strike more strategic, high-value targets. While attacks against soft targets can be tragic and quite bloody, they will not have the same effect as a successful attack on high-value targets such as Parliament, the London Stock Exchange or a nuclear power station.

It is also very interesting that the plotters were purportedly looking to hit soft targets in Manchester and not soft targets in London. London, as the capital and a city that has been the center of several plots and attacks, is generally on a higher alert than the rest of the country and therefore would likely be seen as more difficult to target. Additionally, many of the suspects lived in the Manchester area, and as we have previously discussed, grassroots operatives, who are not as well-trained as their transnational brethren, tend to “think globally and act locally,” meaning that they tend to plan their attacks in familiar places where they are comfortable operating, rather than in strange and potentially more hostile environment.

In addition to targeting locations like shopping centers and the train station, where there were expected to be large crowds over the holiday weekend, the alleged plotters also apparently looked at the Birdcage nightclub, an establishment that is famous for its “flamboyant and spectacular” shows featuring female impersonators. This is a location the alleged plotters likely considered a symbol of Western decadence (like establishments that serve alcohol in Muslim countries).

Flawed Tradecraft
As noted above, the alleged plotters had been under surveillance by MI5. This indicates that their operational security had been compromised, either via human or technical means. Furthermore, the suspects did not appear to possess any surveillance detection capability — or even much situational awareness — as they went out into Manchester to conduct pre-operational surveillance of potential targets while under government surveillance themselves. Furthermore, the suspects’ surveillance techniques appear to have been very rudimentary in that they lacked both cover for action and cover for status while conducting their surveillance operations.

This aspect of the investigation reinforces two very important points that STRATFOR has been making for some time now. First, most militant groups do not provide very good surveillance training and as a result, poor surveillance tradecraft has long proven to be an Achilles’ heel for militants. Second, because of this weakness, countersurveillance operations can be very effective at catching militant operatives when they are most vulnerable — during the surveillance phase of the terrorist attack cycle.

Media reports indicated that during Operation Pathway, British authorities intercepted a series of Internet exchanges between the suspects suggested a terror strike was imminent. Furthermore, among the locations raided April 8 was the Cyber Net Cafe in Cheetham Hill, an establishment where British authorities observed the suspects using computers to communicate. Not only is this electronic surveillance significant in that it allowed the authorities to surmise the approximate timing of the attack, but perhaps just as important, this ability to monitor the suspects’ communications will allow the authorities to identify other militants in the United Kingdom and beyond.

Indeed, in several previous cases related to the United Kingdom, such as the investigations involving the U.S. arrest of Mohammed Junaid Babar and the U.K. arrest of Younis Tsouli, authorities were able to use communications from militant suspects to identify and roll up militant cells in other countries. Therefore, we will not be at all surprised to hear at some point in the future that British authorities were be able use the communications of the recently arrested suspects to tip off authorities in the United States, Canada, other European countries or elsewhere about the militant activities of people the suspects were in contact with.

Links to Pakistan
And speaking of elsewhere, as noted above, 11 of the arrested suspects were Pakistani nationals who entered the U.K. on student visas. At this point it is not exactly clear if the British believe the 11 suspects were radical militants specifically sent to the United Kingdom to conduct attacks or if they arrived without malicious intent and were then radicalized in the Petri dish of Islamist extremism that so rapidly replicates inside the British Muslim community — what we have come to refer to as Londonistan.

Many British lawmakers and media reports have made a huge issue out of the fact that 11 of the alleged plotters entered the United Kingdom on student visas, but even if the suspects were radicals who used student visas as a way to enter the United Kingdom, this is by no means a new tactic as some are reporting. STRATFOR has long discussed the use of student visas, bogus political asylum claims and other forms of immigration fraud that have commonly been used by militants. In fact, there have been numerous prior examples of jihadist operatives using student visas, such as the following:

While Sept. 11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi initially entered the United States on tourist visas, they were approved for M-1 student visas shortly before carrying out their attacks.
Youssef Samir Megahed, who was arrested in possession of an improvised explosive device (IED) in August 2007 and later sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence, was a Kuwaiti engineering student who entered the United States on a student visa.
Mohammed Aatique, a convicted member of the “Virginia Jihad Network” who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy and weapons violations, also entered the United States from Pakistan as an engineering student.
In some ways, connections between the alleged plotters and militant groups in Pakistan such as al Qaeda or the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would be more analytically significant than if they turn out to be grassroots operatives. The operational security, skills and terrorist tradecraft exhibited by the plotters are about what one would expect to see in a grassroots militant organization. This level of sophistication is, however, far less than one would expect from a transnational organization. Therefore, if this was an al Qaeda operation, it shows how far the group has fallen in the past eight years. If it was the TTP, it means that our previous estimate of their operational ability outside of Pakistan was fairly accurate.

Lack of Evidence
To date, the British authorities have not been able to find the explosive material and IED components they were expecting to find. This might mean that the materials may still be hidden somewhere and could be used in a future attack. It is also quite possible, and perhaps more likely, that this lack of evidence is an indication that the plot was not quite as far along as the British authorities believed. Perhaps the references the suspects allegedly made to launching the attack on a bank holiday pertained to a holiday later in the year.

While the plot as described by the British authorities would not have been a significant, strategic threat to the United Kingdom, it could have been quite deadly and could very well have surpassed the July 7, 2005, attacks in terms of final body count. Because of this potential destruction, it is quite possible that the British government decided to err on the side of disruption rather than on the side of prosecution. This is something we have seen in the investigation of several other plots in recent years in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, perhaps most notably in the August 2006 Heathrow plot, in which a cell of operatives was preparing to bomb a series of trans-Atlantic airline flights using liquid explosives.

It is much more difficult to obtain a conviction for a conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism than it is to obtain a conviction for an attack that was successfully conducted. Once the attack is executed, there is no longer much room to wrangle in court over things such as intent or capability. Governments also frequently know things via intelligence they cannot prove to the standards required for a conviction in a court of law.

This was seen in the Heathrow case, where only three of the eight suspects were convicted of the main charges during that trial, which ended in September 2008. (The other five suspects had pled guilty to lesser charges.) During that case there was reportedly some tension between the U.S. and British authorities over when to wrap up the Heathrow plotters — some of the British apparently wanted to wait a while longer to secure more damning evidence, while the Americans were reportedly more interested in ensuring that the plot was disrupted than they were in obtaining convictions. It is likely the same dynamic was at play during the investigation of the Manchester case.

Although Quick’s disclosure did hasten the launch of Operation Pathway by a few hours, it did not significantly alter the timing of the investigation — the British authorities were preparing to execute an array of searches and arrests. From an ethical standpoint (and, not insignificantly in this day and age, a political aspect) it is deemed better by many to disrupt a plot early and risk the terror suspects being acquitted than it is to accidentally allow them to conduct an attack while waiting to gather the evidence required for an ironclad court case. Disruption can have an impact on the success of prosecutions, but in the eyes of a growing number of policymakers, that impact is offset by the lives it saves.

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Article contributed by www.stratfor.com

When renewable is not renewable

It is a silly argument, but environmental politics tends to provoke silly arguments. Of course, hydroelectricity is “renewable.” How could it not be? The power of the sun lifts water from the sea and deposits it as snow in our mountains, where it is stored until released in the warmth of spring. A small fraction of that enormous energy is captured by our turbines and converted to electricity. It happens over and over again, year after year, renewed solely by force of nature, with minimal human intervention, without burning anything, with less greenhouse gas emitted than from a pack of exhaling legislators after a floor debate.

And yet, as it now stands, the Washington Senate says hydropower is not renewable. The House says it is and some environmentalists agree temporarily, even though they believe the law should say it isn’t, because if all renewable power is called “renewable” then we would not invest in “renewables.”

Environmental goals require denial of reality. Under current state and federal law, hydropower captured by our Northwest dams is not “renewable” even if it obviously is, because calling it what it is would counteract efforts to force the Northwest’s electric ratepayers to buy sources of energy in current environmental favor. These sources are notable for their expense and inefficiency, unlikely to attract much investment absent government mandates and subsidies.

It was in 2006 voters approved Initiative 937, which said that all Washington utilities with more than 25,000 customers must obtain 15 percent of their power from “renewable” sources by 2020. But “renewable” was given an intentionally narrow definition. Hydropower, which provides 70 percent of the state’s electricity, was deliberately excluded, except for a bit of added power obtained by recent improvements in dam equipment and operations. If the obviously renewable hydropower was included, then virtually every utility in the region would meet the renewable standard without trying. Since the purpose of the initiative was to force investment in windmills and solar panels, this would not do.

More than two years have passed and it is now possible for the Legislature to amend the initiative. The Senate debated the issue intently, passing SB 5840, which adds some flexibility to the renewable standards. It did not add hydropower, but gave utilities options, like allowing new exotic sources or purchasing renewable power generated in another state. In exchange, it increased the required percentage of renewables slightly.

The bill was in constant flux from the beginning, support waxing or waning depending on current moods and strategies. Then in the House, an amendment was passed declaring hydroelectricity be included in the definition of “renewable.” This change was long sought by conservatives and many utilities, who want to call hydroelectricity what it is — a green source of power. But the amendment passed because environmentally oriented liberals said they wanted the amendment as a “poison pill” — call hydropower renewable, and it automatically makes the bill unacceptable and is likely to kill it in any form not acceptable to the promoters of the narrowest possible definition of “renewable.” The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences, where the hydro-is-renewable amendment is likely to be erased and the bill massaged again to emerge for a yes-or-no vote.

Hydropower is obviously renewable, but calling it that is legislative poison. The state cannot allow semantics to interfere with the effort to cover the plains and bluffs of Eastern Washington with sometimes-turning windmills, intermittently making expensive power that, given a choice, we would neither want nor need. All the while, nearly three-quarters of our electricity will be supplied by falling water. Some people will call it what it is.

Tracy Warner’s column appears Tuesday through Friday. He can be reached at warner@wenworld.com or 665-1163.

It is a silly argument, but environmental politics tends to provoke silly arguments. Of course, hydroelectricity is “renewable.” How could it not be? The power of the sun lifts water from the sea and deposits it as snow in our mountains, where it is stored until released in the warmth of spring. A small fraction of that enormous energy is captured by our turbines and converted to electricity. It happens over and over again, year after year, renewed solely by force of nature, with minimal human intervention, without burning anything, with less greenhouse gas emitted than from a pack of exhaling legislators after a floor debate.

And yet, as it now stands, the Washington Senate says hydropower is not renewable. The House says it is and some environmentalists agree temporarily, even though they believe the law should say it isn’t, because if all renewable power is called “renewable” then we would not invest in “renewables.”

Environmental goals require denial of reality. Under current state and federal law, hydropower captured by our Northwest dams is not “renewable” even if it obviously is, because calling it what it is would counteract efforts to force the Northwest’s electric ratepayers to buy sources of energy in current environmental favor. These sources are notable for their expense and inefficiency, unlikely to attract much investment absent government mandates and subsidies.

It was in 2006 voters approved Initiative 937, which said that all Washington utilities with more than 25,000 customers must obtain 15 percent of their power from “renewable” sources by 2020. But “renewable” was given an intentionally narrow definition. Hydropower, which provides 70 percent of the state’s electricity, was deliberately excluded, except for a bit of added power obtained by recent improvements in dam equipment and operations. If the obviously renewable hydropower was included, then virtually every utility in the region would meet the renewable standard without trying. Since the purpose of the initiative was to force investment in windmills and solar panels, this would not do.

More than two years have passed and it is now possible for the Legislature to amend the initiative. The Senate debated the issue intently, passing SB 5840, which adds some flexibility to the renewable standards. It did not add hydropower, but gave utilities options, like allowing new exotic sources or purchasing renewable power generated in another state. In exchange, it increased the required percentage of renewables slightly.

The bill was in constant flux from the beginning, support waxing or waning depending on current moods and strategies. Then in the House, an amendment was passed declaring hydroelectricity be included in the definition of “renewable.” This change was long sought by conservatives and many utilities, who want to call hydroelectricity what it is — a green source of power. But the amendment passed because environmentally oriented liberals said they wanted the amendment as a “poison pill” — call hydropower renewable, and it automatically makes the bill unacceptable and is likely to kill it in any form not acceptable to the promoters of the narrowest possible definition of “renewable.” The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences, where the hydro-is-renewable amendment is likely to be erased and the bill massaged again to emerge for a yes-or-no vote.

Hydropower is obviously renewable, but calling it that is legislative poison. The state cannot allow semantics to interfere with the effort to cover the plains and bluffs of Eastern Washington with sometimes-turning windmills, intermittently making expensive power that, given a choice, we would neither want nor need. All the while, nearly three-quarters of our electricity will be supplied by falling water. Some people will call it what it is.

Tracy Warner’s column appears Tuesday through Friday. He can be reached at warner@wenworld.com or 665-1163.

This article was searched out and  posted in Kate McMillan’s Small Dead Animals Blog,  voted Best Canadina Blog in 2007 the Weblog Awards.