"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.
The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.
Top exporter Saudi Arabia approved sales of 3 million barrels of extra crude to India for August to make up for a loss of shipments from Iran due to a payment dispute, sources with direct knowledge of the sale said on Tuesday.
Iran cut sales for August to pressure Indian refiners into settling $5 billion in debts for oil supplied, after New Delhi failed to find a way around US and UN sanctions that make financing deals with Tehran difficult.
After the talks by Kaplan and Lynch at the sponsors’ breakfast, Francis “Bing” West, who was sitting near me, said he found them wildly over optimistic about the next several decades, which he thinks will be dominated by the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. But let him tell it his own way: “That was insane. The lesson of Libya is, Get a nuclear weapon and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Qaddafi got rid of his nukes and we said, ‘OK, you’re out of there.’”
Pakistan is currently facing a major energy crisis, which some analysts believe may be the worst in its history. It desperately needs Iranian gas and is not shy to say it. “Our dependence on the Iran pipeline is very high. There is no other substitute at present to meet our growing demand for energy” stated Pakistani minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain recently.
Supposedly, the Bush administration attempted to use Musharraf to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear, which is one of several reasons the administration went so easy on his regime. Yeah, yeah, I know, but someone in the big-time thought it might work. Before you blow a gasket, remember that the world is complicated. There are so many complicated international relationships that Washington has no idea how to handle them in concert. Action A makes issue B better but issue C worse. That’s what happens when you have too many fingers in too many pies.
Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?
I’ve occasionally posted some thoughts on the ways in which people’s political beliefs are influenced by their professions, and we’ve also discussed this topic in Chicago Boyz discussion threads. Here is an interesting analysis of political contributions by various industries and interest groups.
Link via a commenter at this post (7/30, 10:45 am), who somehow derived from this data the conclusion that “Brain industries go with Dems. Muscle industries go with Repubs.”
Wandering around a soon-to-be-closed Borders bookstore, I run across a glossy magazine dedicated to the G8 summit in Deauville-France (May 2011). The above is a cell phone photo of the cover. I have no idea who publishes the magazine. There are ads inside for airlines, hotels, cars, public policy institutes and various international businesses and governmental agencies. The US Chamber of Commerce and Eurochambers/The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry are two such examples. Turns out that some of the articles are pretty interesting.
The cover makes me laugh, though. It’s an illustration of various national leaders and their relative small size contrasts with the large conference table. Individual nations, suboordinate yourselves to the glory of the international collective of business and governmental interests!
Maybe I’m getting a tiny bit carried away here. I’ve always had an active imagination thanks to the reading of novels and, well, an inherently busy mind. Yoga, music, meditation, book reading: all of it calms me down. Modern urban – or semi-urban – life is filled with irritating sounds and sirens and sitting in traffic and noisy trains with vaguely scary looking passengers….
So I am going to miss browsing Borders, getting a coffee, and shaking my head at the variety of periodicals. A magazine for everyone and everything. A Special Forces magazine sits right up front along with Mother Jones, Foreign Policy and the Hudson Review. Wait a minute, shouldn’t that one be in the back row?
What do you suppose the existence of a G8 magazine says about our society? Nothing remotely reassuring, I imagine. If debt ceiling drama seems incomprehensible, it’s likely because a certain percentage (not all, to be fair) of our politicos spend considerable amounts of time skimming vapid briefs and dopey position papers while flipping through G8 Magazines as they jet between constituent meetings, summits, conferences and hearings. And that’s their body of knowledge on a given subject.
A recent Bloomberg / Businessweek article on Pakistan provided a pithy summary of a possible energy future for the US in an article titled “Convoys and Patdowns: A day in the office in Pakistan”. The article describes the robberies, violence and general chaos that a business manager faces daily in that country. However, this part might be surprising to readers that would think the Taliban would be a managers’ top concern:
Political violence is not National Foods’ worst problem. “The biggest problem by far is energy”… Demand for electricity in Pakistan is three times supply. President Asif Ali Zardari is trying to attract independent power producers to Pakistan and has big plans to build hydroelectric plants. Companies cannot wait. “We have created a mix of power we get from the grid, and what we can generate using our gas and diesel generators.” Many factory floor, office and bathroom lights are kept off to compensate. Ali often visits the powerhouse, a room at the plant that contains huge German-made diesel generators. Scarcity of fuel is a frequent worry. Bigger companies like Lucky Cement don’t rely on the national grid at all. It started generating its own power in 1996 and can produce 150 megawatts from its plants.
Karachi’s residents have taken to the streets this summer… to protest outages lasting days at a time. “In the morning I assess my workers”… “If I find someone is stressed out because he hasn’t slept all night without electricity… I have to change his shift and give him easier work”.
Electricity is something that most Americans took for granted as reliable and available for a reasonable price for many years. After California’s disastrous “de-regulation” experiments in 2000-1 (check wikipedia where they have a pretty good summary under “California Electricity Crisis“), the citizens of that state at least woke up to the fact that the machinery that delivered reliable and reasonably priced electricity was falling to pieces.
The core of the issue is that to meet future DEMAND for electricity, you have to procure appropriate SUPPLY, and then BRING it to the customer. Given our “NIMBY” culture, and difficult regulatory regime, there has been little incentive to develop new “baseload” generating capacity to procure supplies for the future. In addition, a lack of investment in new transmission lines, which are needed to bring supply to the customer, limits our ability to tap new sources of electrical generation and there is little financial incentive to devise a solution to this issue. As a result, we have a long-simmering problem that will come to a head in various guises over the next 20 or so years.
One more subtle issue, that is little discussed, is that electricity started as a public monopoly, meaning that one company provided you generation, transmission and distribution of power and you paid that company a single payment for doing all those services. While there are many problems with this model (inefficiency and lack of innovation), there were positive elements, mainly that it worked and provided a reliable service to everyone for a reasonable price. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks ago, commenter River, at Ricochet, put up a post with the above title. There’s no point in linking it, since it’s in the Member Feed section which is available only to paying Ricochet members, but I think it’s important enough to excerpt some of it here.
River quotes Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, on the hidden costs of indebtedness:
With the U.S. debt now approaching $14.5 trillion, Americans are watching their elected officials debating whether the debt ceiling should be raised to allow the country to borrow even more money. President Obama has warned that if we don’t borrow more money, the federal government may not be able to make payments to Social Security recipients.
Very little has been written about the psychological effects of the American population living under a mountain of debt, but those effects are very substantial. Chief among them is a sense of being disempowered and anxiety-ridden—both individually and collectively—and, therefore, unable to assert our values here at home, let alone abroad.
I blogged a bit ago about how much the album Lifes Rich Pageant affected me as a young college student. It may help readers to review that post before you go forward with this one. It was sort of like I was holding a meteor or other object that I simply couldn’t identify – I was listening to it and wondering what I had been doing listening to so much crap over the years. The album just took me places I had never been musically and I never looked back from there. Read the rest of this entry »
Behold! The beef grand champions from the Dane County Fair last weekend. They are always purchased by a local supermarket chain, for a pretty nice premium. Congrats to the kids who took the time and energy to do a nice job with these beauties.
Wisconsin can always balance the budget for needed re-distribution spending by immediately withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And think of the Bullet Train, windmill and solar panel jobs sprouting like weeds everywhere for free after the coal industry has been fully deemed illegal by King Obama I.
The GOP just lacks the necessary fantasy life to govern.
One constant refrain from leftists is that non-leftists just don’t have the “courage” to imagine a better world. Leftists actively credit themselves not for actually making the world a better place but for making intense emotional investments in delusional, fantasy utopias such as the communist utopia predicted by Marxism.
It’s childish. Leftists congratulating themselves on their “courage” to fantasize is akin to a geek like me congratulating myself back in the day for the exploits of one of my Dungeons & Dragons characters.
Marxism is just an elaborate roleplaying fantasy for pseudo-intellectuals. It constructs a fantasy about a world in which material equality and the eradication of social classes leads to a society in which only “intellectuals”, i.e., individuals skilled at persuasive communications, would stand out from the individually undifferentiated ”masses”. As Marx himself said, in the future communist utopia, men would be differentiated only by their “innate intellects”. It’s clear what Marx and all his educated followers since thought about their own intellects relative to the rest of population.
For anyone with intellectual pretensions, embracing Marxism doesn’t take courage any more than it takes courage for anyone else to fantasize about winning the lottery and marrying a movie star.
Many of the comments in response to a John Tierney piece about why conservatives avoid grad school are remarkable for their smug, unreflective hostility toward and ignorance about the people they criticize.
A typical comment:
Republican scholar is an oxymoron, by definition the right/conservatives of today are anti-intellectual and have more in common with Maoists than they do with the traditional American conservative movement. And this article in it’s false effort to be fair and balanced refuses to report on what’s real and true. How can those who deny science and academics somehow become 50% of our college faculity?
But a few of the commenters get it:
Many of these comments stink of the closemindedness and lack of tolerance that they claim to despise. Perhaps the pot is calling the kettle black. What sane person would self-select to learn in an environment so intellectually narrow and toxic to dissent?
Needless to say, there are many more comments like the first one above than like the second one.
Comments on the piece have been closed. I wonder why.
I accidentally DVR’d the President’s speech on Sunday night. I didn’t watch the speech itself, because I don’t watch any speeches these days, but I did catch Brian Williams’s (MSNBC) intro to the speech and it was an eye opener. Here’s my transcription of the intro with Williams’s verbal emphasis bolded:
President Obama has requested air time from the television networks tonight to speak from the East Room of the White House and tell the American people that unless the debt ceiling is raised the US will suffer incalculable damage and the economy will default. And in keeping with the back and forth nature of what has become a toxic debate in Washington, two minutes after the Presidents finish we will go to the Speaker of the House.
The “economy will default”? What the hell? And since when is the opposition response considered part of a “toxic” debate?
Note also the phrasing that turns the President’s expected assertions into statements of objective fact. He will “tell the American people that…” instead of something like, “he will make his case to the American people that…”
I can’t decide if this scares me, disgusts me or heartens me. It scares me to see how deep the major media are in the tank for the Democrats. It disgusts me that they continue to use public resources to promote their partisan agenda. However, it heartens me to see how incompetently they go about it.
GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
HOTSPUR:Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
(Shakespeare, King Henry the Fourth)
Yesterday, Andrew Klavan put up a post titled Just Words?, in which he describes Obama in these terms:
The president, in short, has a problem with his mouth: words keep coming out of it that have nothing to do with the truth. He doesn’t even speak plainly. In matters that might be controversial or unpopular, he almost never calls anything by its proper name. He talks about “cutting spending in the tax code” when he means raising taxes; about “making investments” when he means more government spending. And the parts of what he says that can be clearly understood almost never describe his true intentions or his ultimate actions.
During Hillary Clinton’s losing nomination fight against Obama, the Clinton camp famously charged that while Obama’s speeches were impressive, his record was virtually non-existent. “When all is said and done, words aren’t action. They are just words,” the Clintonistas said.
Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to care what his words mean, only how they sound, only what they get him. The answer, then, is yes, when this president speaks, it really is just words.
As I’ve previously observed, a large and increasing proportion of Americans earn their living through the manipulation of words and images–lawyers, writers, entertainers, journalists, professors outside the hard sciences, certain types of consultants. For people in these professions, there is a constant temptation to over-value their own and related activities such that they wind up implicitly believing that nothing really matters but words/images and their deployment; that all other forms of human endeavor are trivial in comparison. Not all people in these fields fall prey to this fallacy (Klavan, after all, is himself a writer) but many do. Obama is the avatar of such people.
Upper left – the state of Illinois building lit up at night. I still remember the building in that movie “Running Scared“. Upper right – glad we have inspectors on duty. Nothing wrong with that shack in the car lot, is there? This lot is on a super heavily trafficked street too. Lower left – I like goodbye kitty. Lower middle – we went to a fantastic Chinese restaurant in the North in the Uptown area and I ate so much I thought I’d explode; they had a great “lazy susan” and kept filling it with food. Lower right – oh Lord, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz…
The debt ceiling debate has dragged on creating frustration and some anxiety about the economic consequences of default. President Obama has even threatened to withhold Social Security checks, claiming there would be no money for payment. Through most of this he has seemed to me to be unserious about the matter and using it chiefly to try to improve his chances for re-election. Fred Barnes has now come up with what I consider a good explanation for his behavior, including the last moment maneuvers yesterday.
First, the trade treaties:
The path to ratification by Congress was greased after President Obama renegotiated trade treaties with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Obama would supply Democratic votes. Republicans were already on board, President Bush having put together the treaties in the first place. It had the look of a done deal.
It wasn’t. In May, the White House suddenly insisted the treaties be accompanied by roughly $1 billion in Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA as it’s known in Washington. Organized labor was demanding TAA funds be set aside for workers whose jobs might be lost as a result of the treaties. Obama took up the cause.
Then there was the oil pipeline from Canada:
The Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast is another win-win issue for Obama, if only he’d embrace it. Canada is America’s leading foreign supplier of oil. The more Canada exports to the United States, the less we’re forced to rely on unfriendly folks in the Middle East and on Latin American countries (Mexico, Venezuela) whose oil production is declining. With the new pipeline, Canada would increase its exports by as much as 700,000 barrels a day. (The United States consumes 10-11 million barrels daily.)
A permit to build the pipeline was requested nearly three years ago by TransCanada. Because it would cross an international border, approval must be granted by the State Department. This was expected to be a snap, particularly after gasoline prices reached $4 a gallon. White House aides thought so, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated she was ready to approve it.
Then the environmental lobby, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, began a campaign against approval, and the Environmental Protection Agency joined in. It criticized the State Department’s first environmental impact statement, which found the pipeline would have little effect on the environment. Clinton buckled, and a second impact statement was ordered. Last month, EPA said the new study was “inadequate.”
Both of these initiatives promised thousands of new jobs and would seem to be helpful to Obama in his quest for a second term. In both cases, a left wing member of his base intervened and his support collapsed.
Now, the debt ceiling:
The Speaker and the President had nearly agreed on a plan that included $800 billion in “revenue enhancements” but did not raise rates. What happened ?
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) office is pushing back against White House claims that the new revenue in the “framework” being discussed in the now defunct negotiations would have been generated by letting current tax rates expire. “That is simply false,” writes Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
In reality, Steel writes, the White House offered a “ceiling” of $800 billion in new revenue over 10 years that would be achieved through comprehensive tax reform (e.g., eliminating loopholes, credits and deductions) in a way that would stimulate economic growth. This would not constitute a tax increase.
Following the release of the Gang of Six proposal, however, the White House then insisted on an additional $400 billion in actual tax increases, for a total of $1.2 trillion in revenue that would become the new “floor” for revenues. Additionally, the administration backed away from several aspects of the tax reform package they had already agreed to, including a protection against tax hikes on small businesses and a guarantee that they would only be three tiers of tax rates, the highest of which would be below 35 percent.
In regard to Social Security, the two sides had agreed on a change in the way the government calculates inflation (the so-called “chain CPI”) that would extend the program’s solvency. However, the White House reneged on a previously agreed-upon solvency target and offered a weaker target that would yield 25 percent less in savings.
What had happened was that the “Gang of Six” report was released and the revenue (tax) increases there looked better to Obama so he reneged on the pending deal with Boehner. There was also considerable discussion that Democrats were furious with him because he had not insisted on tax increases. Revenue from loophole closing was not enough.
No. I think what happened is Congressional Democrats got a whiff of a possible deal where you get entitlement cuts and tax reform, say, next year — which might increase revenue or might not — and they panicked because a) they have a religious belief in raising the taxes. If you don’t have that, you can’t have a deal, so it created a kind of a theological panic.
Obama, it seems, cannot stand up to the rest of his party. He will negotiate but once some interest group objects, he is gone. No deal.
There has never been in a situation in my lifetime where a guy increases the debt by 40%, GDP growth is on the way down, Food Stamps are up, millions more are unemployed — and to accomplish this we spent $4 trillion.
Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, talking to Investors Business Daily about the dismal state of the economy, was asked by the interviewer what advice he would give Obama about job creation. His response:
I’m not sure Obama would understand anything that I’d say, because he’s never really worked a day outside the political or legal area. He doesn’t know how to make a payroll, he doesn’t understand the problems businesses face. I would try to explain that the plight of the businessman is very reactive to Washington. As Washington piles on regulations and mandates, the impact is tremendous. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I just think he has no knowledge of this.
When asked “why don’t more businesses speak out,” Marcus responded:
They are frightened to death — frightened that they will have the IRS or SEC on them. In my 50 years in business, I have never seen executives of major companies who were more intimidated by an administration.
The above two statements do not, IMO, go very well together. A president who establishes a climate of intimidation directed against American citizens is certainly not a good guy.
So, my gut and my right foot have been bothering me since March-ish and over Memorial Day while visiting relatives, I stood up in the hotel and something just popped in my right foot and I said a few choice words. After a couple of weeks, the foot still hurt a bit and my stomach wouldn’t settle down so I went to the doc.
The verdict? My gall bladder was stoning up and I had broken the 3rd, 4th, and 5th metatarsals in my right foot. Crap. So, a week later I’m getting my gall bladder yanked and the foot doc says that while the 3rd metatarsal has healed, he doesn’t think the 4th or 5th will heal on their own and that I will need surgery to put pins in.
Yipee. A summer of two surgeries.
So, yesterday, my left foot began to hurt a little bit and it woke me up hurting worse this morning at 5am. By 8 o’clock it was really aching and my spouse says, “hmmm, sharp pain in joint of big toe? Sounds like a classical presentation of gout.” Unfortunately, my spouse is pretty smart.
My first computer, back in 1982, was an Osborne like the one depicted here — I have fond memories… it had no hard drive, just a 512k floppy, the CP/M operating system, WordStar word processing, green letters on a tiny black screen, no internet hookup — and I managed to co-write a book on the thing!