Revealing

About every 3 or 4 weeks, Peggy Noonan’s WSJ column has something worthwhile to say.  The September 14 column was one of those times.  Talking about Biden, she cites ‘Whatever it Takes’, Richard Ben Cramer’s history of the 1988 presidential campaign, which she says presages a great deal of what we observe each day of Mr. Biden, and it is suggestive of the origins of the Hunter Biden problems and allegations.

For one thing, Joe Biden has always been obsessed by real estate and fancy houses, and money was always an issue. On a house he would buy a few years into his first Senate term: “The house is gorgeous, an old du Pont mansion in the du Pont neighborhood called Greenville, outside Wilmington. It’s the kind of place a thousand Italian guys died building—hand-carved doorways, a curbing hand-carved grand staircase that Clark Gable could have carried a girl down, a library fit for a Carnegie. . . . And a ballroom—can’t forget the ballroom.” He bid more than he had, “but Biden never let money stand in the way of a deal. He got in the developer’s face and started talking—fast.” He got the house—he always got the houses—and thereafter scrambled to cover its cost.

He wanted it all and had a sharp eye for how to get it. There is a beautiful speech Cramer presents as Mr. Biden’s. He was sitting around a back yard in Wilmington with friends when his sons were young, and Mr. Biden asked, “Where’s your kid going to college?”

His friend said, “Christ, Joe! He’s 8 years old!” Another implied it wasn’t important.

“Lemme tell you something,” Mr. Biden says, with a clenched jaw. “There’s a river of power that flows through this country. . . . Some people—most people—don’t even know the river is there. But it’s there. Some people know about the river, but they can’t get in . . . they only stand at the edge. And some people, a few, get to swim in the river. All the time. They get to swim their whole lives . . . in the river of power. And that river flows from the Ivy League.”

A lot of hungers, resentments and future actions were embedded in that speech by Joe Biden, Syracuse Law, class of ’68. They aren’t the words of an unsophisticated man but of a man who wanted things—houses, power, the glittering prizes—and who can’t always be talked out of them.

For one thing, Joe Biden has always been obsessed by real estate and fancy houses, and money was always an issue. See my related post Harvard and America and the discussion here at Chicago Boyz.

Dumb Company Tricks

WSJ:

When General Motors began outlining plans in 2020 to fully switch to electric vehicles, it didn’t account for one critical factor: Many of the battery minerals needed to fulfill its plans were still in the ground. 

“I remember seeing a report from our raw-materials team at the time saying, ‘There is plenty of lithium out there. There is plenty of nickel’,” said Sham Kunjur, an industrial engineer now in charge of securing the raw materials for GM’s batteries. “We will buy them from the open market.”

GM executives soon came to discover how off the mark those projections were, and now Mr. Kunjur’s 40-person team is scouring the globe for these minerals. 

Of course,  the Biden administration’s energy policy basically does the same kind of assuming, but in their case on the scale of the entire US energy infrastructure.

The CEO of the United States?

In an interview, Elon Musk said he wished we could “just have a normal person as President.”  He also went on to say:

Since the president is effectively the executive officer of the country, it actually matters if they are a good executive officer. It’s not simply a matter of do they share your beliefs. But are they good at getting things done? There are a lot of decisions that need to be made every day. Many of them are unrelated to moral beliefs.”

I certainly agree with Elon about the importance of executive skill in a President–it is an ability that is clearly and sadly missing in Biden, as well as in certain past Presidents.  After all, the President’s primary and constitutionally-defined job is execution, not legislation. Yet operations is something that Biden is clearly not interested in, nor, I believe, was Obama.

Where I disagree with the above Musk passage is that phrase executive officer of the country.  No.  The President is executive officer of the government, not of the country. The government is not the society.  It is an agent of the society.

If statism in this country existed to the level that a US President could truly be said to be the executive officer of the country, then Musk would not have been able to accomplish the things he has accomplished without overwhelming levels of government approval, far about and beyond those approvals he has in fact had to get.  Rinse and repeat for all innovations, whether product or business process.

Indeed, given the role of Congress and that of the judiciary, even a President’s job as executive officer of the country is more analogous to a Chief Operating Officer in the private sector than that of a private-sector CEO.

Worthwhile Reading

Cable news…past and future

The Golden Age of Substack.   Basically, a revitalization of long-form blogging.

Earth Day as a formal religious holiday?  (It strikes me that this fits right in with energy secretary Granholm’s call for electrification of all military vehicles by 2030.  This is so disconnected from any military or technical rationale that it can only be religiously motivated)

Absence of maternal warmth in childhood has some serious long-term implications.

The Golden age of Aerospace:

Aerospace is one of the deepest branches of humanity’s technological tree. It is a telling fact that more countries have produced a nuclear bomb than mass-produced a jet engine. Recent history illustrates how hard it is to build these capabilities. 

China is recruiting former air force pilots from the West.  And see this post about Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks), Joe Biden, and China.  More here.

Black Powder.  Still militarily important, though as an initiator for more-powerful explosives rather than as a primary explosive in its own right.  The US was dependent on one.single.factory to manufacture this substance.  It blew up.

Fiction as simulation:

Much like the way a differential equation can summarize the properties of a pendulum, fictional literature abstracts, summarizes, and compresses complex human relations by selecting only the most relevant elements. This abstracted level of comprehension also enables one to see how these principles apply elsewhere and how they may be generalized…Like mathematics, narrative clarifies understandings of certain generalizable principles that underlie an important aspect of human experience, namely intended human action.

The Electrical Grid and the Gas Network

A recent report from the operators of the PJM Interconnect, the nation’s largest power grid, on the dangers of instability as wind/solar resources are added and plants with predictable/dispatchable output are shut down.  (Since I’m in PJM territory, this got my attention even more than it normally would have.)

Interesting analysis of the peak energy delivery by the US gas pipeline network (coldest days) compared with peak delivery by the electrical system (hottest days)

It strikes me that if the Biden administration…and various states & cities…are successful in reducing home demand for natural gas (initially for gas stoves, then for gas heating), one result will be the fixed costs of the pipelines being amortized over a smaller base of sales, resulting in higher prices–which will flow through into electricity prices and into prices for industrial products whose manufacturing requires gas, including fertilizers.