Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois produced this I believe, and their influence shows.
See the sun rise over her skin
Don't change it
See the sun rise over her skin
Dawn changes everything
And the delta sun
Burns bright and violet
Mississippi and the cotton wool heat
66 a highway speaks
Of deserts dry
Of cool green valleys
Gold and silver veins
Of the shining cities
In this heartland
In this heartland soil
In this heartland
Heaven knows this is a heartland
See the sun rise over her skin
She feels like water in my hand
Freeway like a river cuts through this land
Into the side of love
Like a burning spear
And the poison rain
Brings a flood of fear
Through the ghost-ranch hills
Death valley waters
In the towers of steel
Belief goes on and on
In this heartland
In this heartland soil
In this heartland
Heaven knows this is a heartland
Heaven knows this is a heartland
Heaven's day here in the heartland
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois produced this I believe, and their influence shows.
I was going through various votes for big-subsidy bills such as Energy bills, Farm bills, etc. -- yes, I have a life, why do you ask? -- and I discovered an interesting pattern.
On many of the most disgusting giveaways in recent years to Big Farm, Big Oil, and Big Pharmaceutical, Bush and Obama were perfectly in alignment, whereas McCain was among the few lonely votes against these budget-busting giveaways!
Consider the giveaway to big oil that was the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which Obama voted for and McCain voted against. This was championed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and "McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry."
Or let's consider the giveaway to seniors and Big Pharmaceutical companies that was the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which Bush passed in 2003 and McCain bravely voted against on grounds that it was adding a new budget-busting entitlement. Obama was not yet in the Senate at that time, but he has since made it clear he supports this law, and regards it as insufficient. This despite the following from Wikipedia:
The MMA was signed by President George W. Bush on December 8, 2003, after passing in Congress by a close margin.Read that again -- this new entitlement's cost is nearly three times its initial estimated cost -- and that's just over its first ten-year period!
One month later, the ten-year cost estimate was boosted to $534 billion, up more than $100 billion over the figure presented by the Bush administration during Congressional debate. The inaccurate figure helped secure support from fiscally conservative Republicans who had promised to vote against the bill if it cost more than $400 billion. It was reported that an administration official, Thomas A. Scully, had concealed the higher estimate and threatened to fire Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster if he revealed it. By early 2005, the White House Budget had increased the 10-year estimate to $1.2 trillion.
In fairness, there was a recent proposal to means-test Medicare drug recipients. In a radical move, the proposal was to lessen Medicare drug subsidies for those making over $165,000 a year. $165k a year, in retirement! It is very telling that Obama voted No on this common-sense reform, and McCain voted for it.
Lastly, there is this year's Farm Bill, the most bloated giveaway of all. Obama supported this $300 billion giveaway as a way of appealing to farmers just before the critical Iowa primary, McCain said, and I'm paraphrasing, it's wrong and I don't care if opposing it hurts my political chances. See more here at Donklephant. Oh wait, Obama didn't actually vote for the bill, he just supported it. Isn't that special? Even Bush, who threatened to veto the bill, signed the darn thing when he saw the numbers were against him.
So, if big government giveaways along the lines of Big Spender Bush are your thing, kids, then Obama is your guy! He's willing to come through for every special interest there is, because he's a new and different kind of politician. Meanwhile, poor old tired white guy McCain, the epitome of the evil establishment, is against these ridiculous pork-fests on the basis of the quaint notion that we might not want to bequeath a bankrupt nation to our grandchildren. How benighted of him.
This is yet another example of why McCain is a leader, and Obama is just another iteration of the same old, same old political hack, notwithstanding all his stirring rhetoric.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I think this is an excellent pick, and I admit I didn't expect it -- the McCain campaign did a much better job of keeping their pick secret than did the Obama campaign, because nobody was counting her in the list of the final few candidates.
Here is where I think this choice makes an enormous difference: like McCain, Palin does reform, instead of just talking about it like Obama does.
Just contrast what Palin has done in a mere two years as Alaska's governor to Obama's singular lack of accomplishment as a Senator where his party had the majority! First she defeated the arguably corrupt Democratic governor, Tony Knowles, and since taking office has moved to sideline the corrupt Republican Congressman, Don Young, and his equally corrupt Republican colleage in the Senate, Ted Stevens, who is currently under federal indictment. She refused to accept the appropriations for the infamous bridge to nowhere that those men slipped into the budget via earmarks.
Further, she has worked hard to give oil contracts in Alaska on the merits, resulting in new contracts being awarded to new players and not just the same old companies, such as BP, who corruptly dominated the process for years.
Palin will thrill the pro-life crowd and the pro-gun rights folks who are important parts of the Republican Party with her staunch stance on both. As a Democrat, those stances are less important to me personally, but anything that helps unify the Republican base even more behind McCain is fine by me.
Finally, for all that the Obama campaign has already derided Palin for her lack of experience, her experience contrasts favorably to Obama's! Her career in Alaska politics, at roughly 16 years old, is just a bit longer than Obama's 12-year career in Illinois politics, and as a former Mayor and a current Governor she has lots more executive experience than Obama does, by far, and unlike him she has actually accomplished something with her position beyond pretty speech-making.
Oh yeah, and like most Alaskans she's for drilling off-shore and in ANWR, but as an environmentalist she wants to do it as respectfully of the environment as possible. What's not to like?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.Martin Luther King, Jr.
The American dream, ever a work in progress, is taking a big step forward today. I may be opposed to Barack Obama because of the quality of his ideas, but that makes me no less proud of my country for this long-overdue day having finally arrived.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. The Democrats have moved far too much to the left over the last eight years, beginning with their 2000 standard-bearer Al Gore making a complete 180 degree turn from his anti-Saddam efforts throughout the 1990s as Vice President (see this from 1992!), to his later apologizing to the Saudis for how bad we in the U.S. have been since 9/11. Gore went from a staunch foe of Arab despots to one who apologized to them on bended knee -- all because of the Bush Derangement Syndrome that infected him and far too many in my party.
This movement to the left is why Barack Obama is the nominee of the Democratic Party this year, and not Hillary Clinton. Everyone has had to bend to the new dominance exercised by the MoveOn.org types -- John Kerry and John Edwards, for example, both shucked their tough guy stances as soon as they lost the 2004 election, and moved to renounce their previous "we'll fight the war better than Bush will!" stance in favor of "leave Iraq now, and we never should have been there!"
This is not to say that Bush handled Iraq competently -- he hasn't, and if a Democratic President managed a war as poorly as he did from 2003-2007, the Republicans would have turned on him and at least attempted his impeachment. Just see how they demanded and got Defense Secretary Les Aspin's scalp in 1993 simply for the loss of 19 Army Rangers in Somalia!
But Bush, for all his incompetence, finally managed to come around to the Surge that John McCain had championed since around summer 2003, and much more importantly to the brilliant change in tactics General Petraeus implemented to accompany the rather small increase in troop numbers.
I'd love to see liberal hawks come back to being at the heart of Democratic foreign policy, but it's not going to happen in a Obama Administration. Rather, I think the only chance they have of a comeback is in the event of McCain proving victorious. In that event, maybe, just maybe, the Blue Dog conservative Democrats in Congress will be able to work across party lines with President McCain.
I look forward to that possibility, obviously, since I am an outcast from my own party until that time.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
For some reason, Alex Jones howling at the diminutive Ms. Malkin as though she was the embodiment of pure EEE-VUL reminded me of the following:
Monday, August 25, 2008
Midnight Oil "One Country"
(Jim Moginie/Peter Garrett)
Who'd like to change the world
Who wants to shoot the curl
Who gets to work for bread
Who wants to get ahead
Who hands out equal rights
Who starts and ends that fight
And not rant and rave
Or end up a slave
Who can make hard won gains
Fall like summer rains
Now every man must be
What his life can be
So don't call me the tune, I will walk away
Who wants to please everyone
Who says it all can be done
Still sit up on that fence
No one I've heard of yet
Don't call me baby
Don't talk in maybes
Don't talk like has-beens
Sing it like it should be
Who laughs at their nagging doubts
Lying on a neon shroud, running around
Just got to touch someone
I want to be
So don't call me the tune, I will walk away
One country one
Country one country
Who wants to sit around
Turn it up, turn it down
Only a man can be
What his life can be
We are defenseless
We have a lifeline
Yes, and one time
“You could supply the entire US with the sun power here in a little piece of the Southwest,” says Dan Kabel as he strolls beneath a row of trough-shaped mirrors. Mr. Kabel is chief executive of Acciona Solar Power, which owns the $266 million Nevada Solar One project. “As fossil fuel costs rise, this plant is unaffected. “If America doesn’t do this, if we don’t install many more of these clean solar-power systems, we’ll just end up seeing a lot more fossil-fuel plants instead.”Worth mentioning is the following:
Concentrating solar technology produces electricity for about 17 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), Mehos estimates. But subsidies remain critical to solar thermal development in both the US and Spain, two global hotbeds of CSP development. With the federal investment tax credit, or ITC, costs drop to about 15 cents per kWh – low enough to compete with natural gas.More solar, more wind, more nuclear, says I! Obama is two-for-three on the above (he waffles on nuclear), and McCain three-for-three thankfully.
"We've got a planet to save. Nothing less is at stake other than civilization as we know it today," the California Democrat and speaker of the House told reporters Saturday afternoon in assessing the election and the nominating convention taking place here over the week.Well, Nancy, I am sure you've given up your three-story brick mansion and your private jet because, you know, you wouldn't want to be accused of hypocrisy as well as hysteria!
Oh yes, Nancy apparently doesn't know that natural gas is a fossil fuel!
Hat Tip: Hot Air
Thursday, August 21, 2008
During a short stay in Ghana, which will hold free elections in December, Vodafone had bought a majority stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million (entering a fiercely competitive mobile-phone market) and I’d heard much about 6 percent annual growth, spreading broadband and new high-end cacao ventures.His killer summation is, "Africa Ascendant is not yet a slogan that sells. It will be."
Accra, the capital, is buzzing. Russian hedge funds are investing. New construction abounds. Technology enables people in the capital to text money transfers via mobile phone to poor relatives in the bush.
I don’t think that picture is exceptional these days for Africa, where growth averaged close to 6 percent last year and I sense a fundamental change in attitudes to governance, trade, the private sector and political accountability.
Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When I met Amina she was still in love with this man but her father insisted she marry her cousin from Pakistan, who happened, rather conveniently, to be visiting England. Her father also had a heart condition and used his illness to emotionally blackmail her. Eventually Amina gave way. She sacrificed love to south Asian culture and married Mr Pakistan.
White, liberal eyes reading this article will be astounded to know these things happen in Britain. I am sorry, but they do. And it gets worse.
Amina was repeatedly raped by Mr Pakistan, but her mother told her that a Muslim man has such rights over his wife, and in Islam there is no such thing as marital rape.
I wanted to help Amina. I suggested she divorce her husband and marry her true love but she told me her husband would kill her if she even mentioned divorce. Eventually, she risked everything and escaped to a women's refuge. When she asked for a divorce her husband refused and was supported in this by the Islamic Shariah Council, a powerful all-male outfit controlling women's lives.
So, a new marriage contract is proposed, and the Muslim Council of Britain weighs in:
The new Muslim marriage contract sought to update and develop fiqh, or Muslim personal jurisprudence, by shifting the power balance in a marriage to empower women to trigger divorce, feel safe from rape or abuse, prevent husbands from taking second wives, and set up accommodation separated from a husband's parents.
All common sense, one would have thought. It went further. Witnesses at wedding ceremonies could be women and even non-Muslim, since the Qur'an is gender and faith neutral on this issue. And a Muslim woman does not need a wali, or male guardian (based on Hanafi school of Islamic law, to which the majority of Britain's Muslims adhere).
Had Amina and her husband signed this contract, she would have had every right to escape her miserable marriage, or even marry her first love. For those who need scriptural justification for every step of their life, the Muslim scholars behind this contract provided evidence and shariah-based arguments.
It was all too good to be true. Misogynist, Saudi-trained clerics don't simply stand by and watch their last grip over Muslim family life slip away so easily. First, as expected, came an Arab male cleric with extreme Wahhabi leanings, denouncing the contract as kufr, or non-belief. His rant can be watched on YouTube.
Last Friday, after initially endorsing the new contract, the MCB back-tracked and issued a statement to "clarify" is position. It spoke of "misinterpretation of shariah by those who the MCB had trusted to take the lead" and said: "The MCB rejects the misguided and incorrect assertions made by and ascribed to the Muslim Institute."
This all goes to show that the Tolerance War I've spoken of is internal to many religions, including Islam. Kudos to Ed Husain for fighting the good fight to help modernize and moderate his faith. Unfortunately, the MCB has chosen to stand in the way, showing once again it is not the moderate organization it claims to be. Shades of CAIR here in the United States, but that's a discussion for another time.
Hat Tip: Harry's Place
Now these gents are not Pat Buchanan, who never met a fascist he didn't like and couldn't help admiring how Putin put the smackdown on the Georgians! Rather, they are arguing from a standpoint of grand strategy that it is better for us to engage Russia than to isolate it over what is in the end a minor dust-up on Russia's periphery.
I have real problems with this, because my emotions get caught up in the "big bully Russia beating up small, heroic Georgia" storyline. There's a lot of fundamental truth to that storyline. But grand strategy is not about emotion, it's about a cool, dispassionate 10,000-foot view of what is in a nation's long-term interests.
Forget Putin's thuggery for a moment. It is hard to do so, but let's try to look beyond it just for a moment. Is it desirable for the United States to get into a new Cold War with Russia over a small nation of 4.5 million people? Is it even possible that our relationship with Russia can be salvaged at this point, after our mis-steps and Russia's even more numerous ones?
These are difficult questions to answer, and clearly beyond my pay-grade or, for that matter, Obama's. It's my hope that for all his stirring rhetoric that "we are all Georgians," McCain has some clear-eyed grand strategists (Kissinger, perhaps?) advising him on the bigger grand strategy concerns.
I wish I had something more definitive than that, but I don't.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Put simply, the differences could not be more stark. McCain is an avowed free trader, while I have yet to find a free trade accord that Obama has not opposed! In this respect, he represents a great departure from former President Clinton, who bucked heavy union pressure to get NAFTA passed through Congress.
There has been much activity recently with regard to free trade. CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Accord, was narrowly passed on a party-line vote in 2005 with 217 Congressmen (mostly Republicans) voting for, and 215 (mostly Democratic) Congressmen voting against.
The US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement was signed on April 12, 2006 and is currently being implemented.
Sadly, since my Democrats took over the majority in the House and Senate with the mid-term elections of November 2006, all progress toward further free trade agreements has stalled. Speaker Pelosi has frozen votes on the Colombia Free Trade Accord, and is obviously in no hurry to approve the South Korea-US Free Trade Accord or the Panama Free Trade Accord.
This stance, which Senator Obama sadly champions, is a betrayal of our close friends and allies. In the case of Central America, Panama and Colombia in particular, to oppose the free trade accords with those nations after the decades of hard work they've done to reduce the violence of their various civil wars is just inexplicable. Especially since the Democrats always championed the "soft power" of economic engagement with those nations, in contrast to the hawkish policies of the Reagan 80s they so criticized.
It's all part of a dangerous trend where the U.S, the greatest beneficiary of and champion of free trade, is turning away from that pillar of our success just as the rest of the world is coming around.
Senator Obama can pander to the reactionaries of right and left from Pat Buchanan to Lou Dobbs to Michael Moore all he wants. It's one of the many reasons he's lost my vote, and for his unstinting support of free trade Senator McCain has yet again earned my vote.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Obama's advisor is defense counsel for Panamanian official indicted on charges of murdering an American soldier
Greg Craig, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, is a partner at the big-shot DC law firm Williams & Connolly. There Craig represents Pedro Miguel González.Several paragraphs later, there's this from Obama:
González is president of the Panamanian Legislature and is also under indictment in the U.S. for murdering U.S. Army Sgt. Zak Hernández in 1992.
"Until that situation is resolved, we cannot support any trade agreement with Panama," Obama wrote.
Craig also represents Carlos Sánchez-Berzaín, the Bolivian Defense Minister who has been accused in a federal lawsuit of "crimes against humanity" because of his alleged role in the suppression of labor union riots in 2003 that resulted in the deaths of 67 people.
This would be hilarious, if it were not so serious. In essence, Obama is saying that his advisor gets a pass, and Panama takes the fall, because of this case.
It's just another case of Obama protecting his personal cronies while giving the cold shoulder to this country's vulnerable allies, from Iraq to Colombia to Georgia to Panama.
In Venezuela, Chávez's popularity has plunged, as growing numbers of Venezuelans are suffering from a 30 percent inflation rate, massive corruption and nepotism (about two dozen Chávez relatives hold senior government jobs). They also resent a president who gives away petro-dollars from the country's recent oil bonanza in ego-boosting trips abroad.
In Bolivia and to a lesser extent in Ecuador, opposition forces are displaying growing resistance to these countries leaders' efforts to become presidents for life.
In Argentina, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's populist government lost its aura of invincibility when Congress -- led by her own vice president -- overturned a key government bill to further tax soybean exports. Political winds in Argentina are beginning to blow away from pro-Chávez populism and move toward the center.
And here is his bottom line, which really shows who is shrinking poverty in Latin America (hint, it's not Chavez):
In sheer numbers, Latin America's pragmatic-democratic bloc -- led by Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile -- already accounts for more than 80 percent of the region's economy, and more than 90 percent of its foreign investments.
This falls right in line with Thomas Barnett's observation that, when it comes to shrinking the Gap, foreign direct investment (FDI) is what it's all about. But to get the FDI flowing into your country, you need a) security and b) an investment-friendly environment.
Chavez and his imitators are doing all they can to provide the reverse of the second requirement, and as seen with Chavez's support for FARC in Colombia he is doing his best to ruin the security aspect too. In the end, Chavez is only perpetuating the misery in his country and that of his allies, while the rest of Latin America moves on.
Postscript: All the above is worth considering in light of our Presidential candidates' differing trade proposals for Latin America, to which I'll return shortly.
One thing that jumped out at me in the Yahoo article was how it was the younger generation that was opposed to the installation of the wind turbines, while their literal parents were the ones embracing this new technology in the hopes of building a better economic future for their poor rural communities. In Tom Friedman's lexicon of the "Lexus and the Olive Tree," then, the young embraced the traditional olive tree while their elders embraced the futuristic Lexus. Quite the role-reversal!
The NY Times article focused more on the corrupting influence of Big Wind, showing that even green companies can be as wicked as traditional energy companies. Heh.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I can't speak for my Dad, but I know what attracted me after the fact (given I was born after his assassination) to JFK was his clarion call to serving our great country. The famous quote was, of course, "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country!"
JFK made this call to service in several contexts -- in the fight against Communism; in the fight against racism on behalf of civil rights; in his call to get a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s; and finally in asking young, idealistic Americans to serve all humanity in eradicating poverty via the newly-formed Peace Corps.
It is the fact that JFK called us to serve more than just ourselves, that made him so beloved not only in this country but across the world. Time and again when discussing my country with folks from other parts of the world, whether it's my mother's native Germany, or Russia, or with many colleagues I worked with from India, JFK was brought up favorably, even reverently, in stark contrast to the current crop of politicians in America.
Obama clearly has the JFK style down: the ringing rhetoric, the air of cool, the adoring crowds. The critical thing he lacks is the substance that made JFK more than just a callow, pampered son of a wealthy family.
If I were to boil down Obama's message to its essentials, it would be, "what can America do for you?" Withdrawal from Iraq, sure! Healthcare for all, you got it! Green energy without having to continue any nasty drilling for oil, piece of cake. And don't worry about sacrifice, my fellow Americans, because only the rich will have to do that, and as you're not one of those, you won't have to worry about it. So sayeth Obama.
McCain, by contrast, is all over the "ask what you can do for your country" side of JFK's formulation. He is certain of a bright future for America, but he knows it's going to take more than magical, fluffy bunny thinking to get us there. It's going to require that we all transcend ourselves, that we will have to pull together and work hard, and that some of us may even fall in struggle against our foes, but that this is all well worth it when we serve America's common good. Indeed, McCain explicitly states that "I do not claim to save my country, for I know my country saved me" when he was a POW.
There is a corollary to this, and that is that McCain is far more willing to tick people off than Obama is. Just McCain's own fraught relations with his own Republican Party shows this. Obama tries to portray a world in which everyone is pretty much in agreement, and no one needs to get upset or hurt along the way to the brighter future.
McCain will not mince words for the most part, and if his campaign finance reform efforts ticks off some conservatives, oh well. If his blunt formulation of marriage being between a man and a woman upsets some, well, that's the way it is. Or for that matter if Russia's tender feelings are upset by being labeled the aggressor in Georgia, well, that's just too bad. And I write this as a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality dude, but I respect McCain's character even where I disagree with him.
This may be an inappropriate comparison, but I'm going to make it anyway: think on the friends who've been with you through thick and thin, who you know no matter what you can count on. Are they ones that always tell you're doing okay even when it's clear you're on the wrong track? Or are they ones who make it clear that, while they'll always be there for you, they will call you on your B.S. when necessary?
Obama is that bland sort of friend who will never call you on your stuff for fear of annoying you, and McCain is the warrior on your side who may irritate you, but he will challenge and push you to be better than you are.
That's why McCain has what it takes to be a leader, and Obama manifestly does not.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Actually, Edward Gresser and Mark Dunkelman at the Wall Street Journal borrow one of my better brain-waves about free trade helping fight terror.
The idea I had was this: since our massive military aid packages to Pakistan and Egypt, to name but two countries, have not exactly made us beloved, why not try free trade accords with those countries? We have already done so with Jordan, but I am not aware of any other such accords with Arab and/or Muslim countries.
Gresser and Dunkelman argue along the same lines:
Towels, for example, are Pakistan's top export. Each container full of towels exported to the U.S. brings in enough income to employ about 500 Pakistanis. But while Pakistani towels are subject to a 7.5% tariff, competing towels from the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica -- both of which benefit from the Central American Free Trade Agreement -- come in duty-free.Unlike Senator Obama, I am for free trade along with Senator McCain. We have already made great gains in securing economic and political stability in Central America and Peru with the CAFTA and Peru free trade accords, respectively, and we should do the same with the Muslim world.
Likewise, luggage made in Indonesia is subject to a tariff that can rise to 22%, but competes with tariff-free suitcases manufactured in Mexico. Lebanon, which exports preserved fruits and vegetables, must compete with similar duty-free items exported from Peru.
So who do you think we should begin with, if you agree with the sentiments expressed here? I nominate: Afghanistan and Pakistan (together, as a package deal), Egypt, Iraq and Indonesia. Seems like a good beginning to me.
Specifically, he says:
* Denmark has used its taxes on gasoline to wean itself off foreign oil.The only problem I have with any of the above is that Friedman gives far too little emphasis to the fact that Denmark has only 5 million or so people, and that they are drilling offshore in the North Sea. He mentions that its a small country with North Sea oil, but it's a one-line throwaway.
* It has also used building and efficiency standards to that end.
* Lastly, it has aggressively expanded wind energy, not only domestically, but exporting such technology at a rate four times faster than the rest of its exports.
So I looked up Copenhagen's population on Wikipedia, and Copenhagen turns out to contain 1,835,371 people, or 33.5% of Denmark's total! So of course when your main city has a third of the country's population, you can have advantages in transit efficiency that much bigger countries cannot avail themselves of.
Friedman is dead on about the need for greater energy efficiency in this country. But when he advocates for $10/gallon gas as Denmark has, or using bicycles more to commute in-city as he claims 50% of Copenhagen's residents do, he's ignoring the obvious fact that not every aspect of Denmark's model is going to work here in this vast, sprawling country of ours.
This is very good news from the standpoint of slowing down the rate of growth of future CO2 emissions, since China and India are the fastest growing sources of CO2 emissions, and China has recently passed the U.S. as the number one source of said emissions.
The bad news aspect is that China is getting more serious about this, perhaps, than the U.S. is! I hope this ends up spurring us even harder to push for nuclear, solar and wind energy generation.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
As is so often the case, Heinlein provides indispensable perspective about the news that Prime Minister Tojo of Japan resisted surrendering even after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Those who cling to the untrue doctrine that violence never settles anything would be advised to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Nations and peoples who forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms. -- Robert A. Heinlein
Also worth noting:
It was the violence, the naked force, of the United States that finally gave those favoring peace in the militarist Japanese cabinet the political power to overcome the war camp led by Tojo. Would that we could have settled these issues without the horrific application of such violence, but sadly that just isn't the real world.
The stridency of the writings is remarkable considering they were penned just days after the U.S. atomic bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 200,000 people and posing the threat of the complete destruction of Japan. At the time, Japan had begun arming children, women and the elderly with bamboo spears, in addition to the aircraft and other forces it had marshaled, to defend the homeland against a ground invasion.
I think this is what my former professor George Friedman at Stratfor is trying to get at too. It's uncomfortable for me, because my every instinct screams that Putin is a bloodthirsty ex-KGB thug who has just led his nation to a well-deserved status as a rogue, and damn the strategic considerations.
Bush: Vladimir, I was hoping we'd come out of this discussion with an understanding of at least one point: Why are you so upset about our putting anti-missile systems into places like the Czech Republic? You know that we can't defend Europe against a Russian missile attack.
Putin: George, it's not just about the missiles. It's about your lily-pad bases in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and elsewhere in our near abroad. It's about fomenting those pointless color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. You aren't going to get democracy in these places - it's silly presumption. All you will do is foster the centrifugal forces that threaten to tear apart the Russian Federation. Don't you get it, George? We are only three-quarters Russian, and in a generation we might be only half Russian. We haven't recovered from the beating you gave us in the 1980s. Half of adult male deaths in Russia are due to alcoholism. Our women have 13 abortions for every 10 live births. We're fighting for our life. We are not going to let what remains of Russia be torn to pieces.
Bush: Do you think we can find some kind of common ground over Kosovo?
Putin: That's where you are really playing with fire, George. You are proposing to dismember Serbia to add a province to Greater Albania, and you will set a precedent for every breakaway minority that wants to leave Russia. We can't possibly accept this - and I warn you that if you insist on this dangerous and reckless course of action, we will do precisely the same for disputed territories in the near abroad, starting with South Ossetia. (emphasis mine)
But Spengler was certainly prescient, writing on July 3, 2007, about Russia reacting to a Kosovo declaration of independence by putting down independence-minded republics in its "near abroad." And Russia's notions of strategic necessity certainly have major points of departure from ours.
Spengler has his obsessions with Islam to be aware of, for example he thinks there's no such thing as a "moderate Muslim," but for all that his take is a usefully contrarian perspective to consider. Read the whole thing.
Monday, August 11, 2008
"King Abdullah of Jordan has become the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since the US-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003."
Remember, this is the same King Abdullah, a Sunni Arab, who in 2004 "warned of what he called the potential for a new Shi'ite crescent of governments and movements stretching from Lebanon to Iran."
So it's worth asking what has changed? For one, the Sunni tribes in Anbar province have decisively repudiated the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda. For another, the Iraqi government has shown itself to be very willing to go against Iran by taking down the Shi'ite extremists of the thuggish Mahdi Army.
When even the traditional Sunni ruling elite of the Arab world starts beating a path to an elected Shi'ite Prime Minister steadily gaining power and popularity as the Surge turns things around in Iraq, you know things have changed! After all, it was this same King's father, King Hussein, who among others convinced Pres. George H.W. Bush to abandon the Iraqi Shi'ites to Saddam in 1991 at the conclusion of the first Gulf War.
The democratic empowerment of non-radical Shi'ites not only freaks out Sunnis like King Abdullah and the kleptocratic Saudi royal family, but also the ruling Shi'ite Mullahs of Iran, whose population is largely too young to remember the Shah and only know the repressive rule of the Ayatollah Khameini and company.
All to the good, in my view: the right people are being scared, and the long-oppressed are finally standing on their own, with the invaluable help of the men and women of America's military. It has been a long, bloody road, but a dual victory over both Shi'ite and Sunni extremists is finally coming into view.
Stratfor has been warning for some time now that the Russians were not going to sit still for the steady eastward push of NATO, and would be striking back to preserve their hegemony in what they regard as their "Near Abroad." Unfortunately, they've been proved correct, in spades.
Thomas Barnett weighs in with the following excellent strategic caution:
"Again, you can say, 'Who the hell are these guys!' But a lot of the world says the same about us regarding Southwest Asia (the Middle East)--a place a lot more important strategically to the entire world than the Caucasus. So go easy on that one.
"Also go easy on wanting to ramp up strategic conflict with Russia. It's certainly a familiar emotion for a lot of us over 40, but you have to ask yourself, 'Where are we going with this, given everything else we're trying to achieve right now?'
"Admittedly, Russia does enough bad stuff and Moscow can certainly get itself right back on top of our strategic planning pile, but we're a long ways from that and I don't anticipate that being the ultimate message that Putin seeks to send here.
"Instead, we're going to have to figure out something a whole lot more sophisticated than simply resurrecting the Cold War plot line."
I love Barnett's ability to do the high-level strategic view, because I find it so difficult myself to keep that cool analytical mode going at times like these.
Politically, I think Obama's both sides are at fault sentiments as originally expressed were ridiculous, and his follow-ups not more impressive. McCain always gets tagged as the loose cannon, but his outrage is perfectly justified here, and Russia might want to ask itself if its actions will help elect McCain? Clearly, as per this excellent Tigerhawk post, the Russians prefer Obama even to the extent of seemingly coordinating their statements with him.
The bottom line is this: we certainly are not going to be able to stop Russia from doing what it pleases here, short of a willingness to go to war with them.
Given that we're clearly not going to be doing that, I feel much more confident that a President McCain will show Russia there is a big price to be paid for this sort of behavior. More and more, Obama shows he's looking to step into President Carter's shoes, and that's a movie I saw once before in my lifetime and have no desire to see a second time.
Friday, August 8, 2008
As you just read, the United States treats immigrants differently than the rest of the world does, and that's part of its special magic. I've often thought that the best way of summing it up is this way: immigrants come here and change America, and in turn are changed by America.
Some anecdotal evidence of how this works out over generations, from my own experience and that of my friends, follows.
My parents are both German in ethnicity, my father having been born here and my mother immigrating here on a 1-year work visa for her West German company, eloping with my Dad, and never looking back, despite having parents, five sisters, and two brothers back in Deutschland.
I look around at a lot of my childhood friends and I see similar patterns of their parents being a case of like marrying like:
1. My friend Michael's parents were both of Italian immigrant families, both sets of grandparents having immigrated from Italy.
2. My friend Chris' parents, both Italian in heritage, marry and have Chris and his younger sister.
3. My brother-in-law's parents, both from Irish immigrant families, married and had an even bigger family of six kids.
I have many more such examples, but you get the idea. Fast-forward to my generation, which is tail-end boomer and beginning of Generation X, and the marrying patterns are far different than what I observed in our parents generation:
1. Michael marries a woman who is of mixed Chinese and Korean heritage, who grew up in Texas and has a charming Houston accent, no less!
2. Chris marries Christine, who is Irish-American through and through.
3. My Irish-American brother-in-law ends up happily married to my German-American sister, and have made me the proud Uncle to one niece (my god-daughter) and two nephews.
And me? No marriage yet, alas, but I've seriously dated someone of Italian heritage, another who immigrated from the Philippines in 1973 at age 13, and would have happily dated a good Ethiopian immigrant friend of mine if only she'd ever said yes!
Yes, I know these are anecdotes and therefore statistically value-free, but I'd be willing to bet they are more indicative of the ways things are in these United States than not. Meanwhile, over in Europe to name but one example, are we seeing many Irish marrying Germans, Italians marrying Korean/Chinese, or Italians marrying Irish? Again, I don't have evidence one way or the other, but my sense from hearing about my many German cousins' lives is: not so much.
I really think this is one of the many, many strengths of my country, that we really don't care as much as the rest of the world about matters of ethnicity and religion. And with each generation, we inter-marry more across religious or ethnic lines.
If you're to view it from an evolutionary standpoint, marrying across bloodlines like we're doing here can only strengthen this human race that we are ALL members of.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
So I have to follow Tapper's excellent lead and give credit to Obama for denouncing race-baiting and borderline anti-Semitism by an African-American Democrat in a primary in Tennessee. Obama said, "These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee."
Obama has done the right thing here, at the risk of alienating some of his core supporters, so it's well worth noting.
It raises all the more keenly the question of what this extraordinarily intelligent, educated man was thinking in keeping company with the radical, arguably racist and anti-Semitic Reverend Wright of Trinity United Church for twenty years. Ignorance simply cannot plausibly be Obama's excuse, and the remaining explanation of cynical political calculation lasting two decades disgusts me.
Would that Obama had shown the sort of moral courage with Reverend Wright he has shown today!
This once again proves the utter silliness of Obama's we'll leave no matter what mantra. I know that Prime Minister Maliki seemed to endorse Obama's timetable, but regardless I think Maliki will stop playing politics after the upcoming Iraqi elections are done. If, however, he demands that U.S. troops to leave, we will certainly leave. Contrast that, if you will, to Russia's current war on independent Georgia for the impertinence of trying to act like it really is sovereign over its own territory.
But remember, we're the greatest threat to world peace, behind Israel of course! Western European public opinion, which loves Obama, teaches us this important truth.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This proves again Barnett's point that he's been making for a long while now -- that the war in Iraq has NOT been about stealing oil for the United States -- rather, we've been securing the oil that will be primarily going to other, Asian destinations by destroying the corrupt and murderous Saddam family chokehold on it, and replacing it with a far more transparent, less corrupt democratic government in Iraq. Better for the people of Iraq, definitely, and better for the world.
The thanks for our efforts have, of course, been overwhelming.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
My friends and I in middle and high school were not normal, in that we would spend endless hours discussing the ideas and novels of Heinlein, which were ostensibly science fiction novels but more broadly keen commentaries on just plain folks.
Heinlein lived an extraordinary life, a quintessentially American life, from Iowa farmboy to U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Despite being crippled by pneumonia in his mid-20s, he went on to get a PhD in physics, tried his hand at silver mining, and then finally moved on to his true destiny as science fiction writer par excellence. He also politically moved from being a idealistic socialist in his early days to a libertarian, deeply skeptical of all governments including our own.
I could go on and on forever, but this quote from Heinlein particularly humbles me, inspires me, and shows me how far I have yet to go:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." (emphasis mine)
Heinlein shuffled off this mortal coil in 1989, and without ever having had the honor to meet the man himself I miss him and his astonishing writing still.
Unfortunately, the EU has also taken to making sure the tariff barriers to outside countries go over higher as they integrate more new countries like Poland into the EU itself. In France and Germany, there is ridiculous fears over "Polish plumbers" taking away jobs, so the EU tends to deal with this by making sure tariffs on goods coming from outside the EU are high.
Contrast this with the US, which recently was pushing for a global reduction in tariffs on farm goods, as well as a global reduction on farm subsidies, which in this country overwhelmingly favor the small number of large corporate farms and NOT, as their supporters would have you believe, the small family farms.
In that respect, support for the most 2008 Farm Bill was a vote in favor of a bill where 80% of the money goes to the top 20% wealthiest corporate farm interests. It was more about courting those wealthy farmers in Indiana and Illinois and Iowa than about really helping hard-pressed small farmers. And it certainly wasn't about helping feed people outside of the United States!
Don't take my word for it, Google "Farm Bill 2008" and follow the links and decide for yourself. But here's one essay from economist Greg Mankiw I found instructive:
It it worth noting that McCain voted against this pork-fest, and Obama voted for it.
Similarly, there is a debate in this country over switching to ethanol and away from gasoline as a means to achieving the dual goals of emitting less CO2 and also sending less money to those lovely Saudis, Iranians and Venezuelans who dig us so much. Not to mention just spending less money on filling up one's car!
Brazil has gone from having 3% of their new cars being flex-fuel in 2003, to 70% of their new cars being flex-fuel in 2006! Brazil has done this by investing heavily in cheap, plentiful sugar-based ethanol, so Brazil has now effectively achieved the elusive goal of being energy-independent.
But, because of the corn-growing ethanol lobby here in the U.S., there is a huge tariff on the import of sugar-based ethanol that amounts to 54 cents a gallon! This is not about helping the American consumer -- rather, it is all about protecting the Iowa and Illinois corn ethanol farmers from competition. Again, as with the farm bill, Obama sides with the giveaway for Illinois and Iowa farmers over lower ethanol prices for all Americans. Google "sugar ethanol tariff" for the relevant links.
My point is, and I know I've wandered all over the place in getting here, is that the tariffs and protectionism of the sort favored by both the EU and Senator Obama do NOT favor the customers that are supposedly being protected, nor do they favor the exporters in Africa, Brazil and elsewhere who simply want to get access to the big markets in the EU and the U.S. The best way the U.S. could help African nations grow and prosper is to drop all the ridiculous tariffs we have on the very export goods that African nations send our way.
In this respect, the U.S. is better than the EU, but that's not saying much at all. We still need to be far better than we've been thus far. Sadly, for all his rhetoric Senator Obama stands squarely in the way of lowering tariffs on African goods exported to the U.S., whereas old white Senator McCain has been a staunch opponent of tariffs against foreign goods, and an equally strong foe of the giveaways to the bloated farm lobby here.
This was cross-posted at JackandJillPolitics.com
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Why? Well, maybe because that's what got me thinking about why I think so many of my fellow Democrats are wrong to be so derisive and dismissive of the importance of fighting Al Qaeda. I'm not talking about the loons who think it was all an evil conspiracy planned by Bush from the beginning, and that the Twin Towers had been quietly wired up with explosives day in and day out for the 30-odd months prior to 9/11/2001 without anyone ever noticing.
No, I'm talking about my fellow Democrats who call the Christian rightists in this country the "American Taliban," or the Midwest "Jesusland," while confidently asserting that being in Iraq has only created more terrorists and besides we all brought it on ourselves anyway. If we'd just stop annoying those Muslim extremists by, say, supporting the continued existence of Israel we'd all be better off.
To which I say, "you know, there are startlingly inexpensive and pain-free medical procedures available these days by which you can have your head removed from your posterior! No, really!"
Some points, in no particular order of importance:
* I have never seen American conservatives, religious or otherwise, drop brick walls on gays in the hopes of executing them thereby. Nor have I seen them stone people to death, ever. I HAVE seen Muslim extremists from the Sunni Taliban to the Shi'ite Iranian extremist government do so, just because the victim was alleged to be gay and/or sexually promiscuous heterosexually.
* Even though this is a majority Christian country, new immigrants from India and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia easily and freely are able to build their Hindu temples or Buddhist temples or Muslim mosques here, and then freely and generally without harassment worship as they please. This is NOT the case in Saudi Arabia where, with the exception of the western enclaves for oil workers, there is no religious freedom allowed. And the situation isn't much better in the rest of Osama's proposed Caliphate.
* Compare the foreign enemies list: for the U.S., it comes down to one thing: if you stop just talking about it and actually kill Americans, well then we will do our level best to kill you back, and then some. For Islamic extremists like Al Qaeda or Hezbollah or Hamas, the kill list is as follows:
1. Americans and/or Jooz! (if they're both, all the better)
2. Israeli Jooz
4. The other side of the Hamas/Fatah divide
5. The other side of the Sunni/Shi'ite divide
6. Infidel Westernized Muslims who dig, oh, freedom of conscience, especially women!
7. Infidel Hindus
8. Infidel Buddhists
9. Infidel Chinese
10. Infidel Russians
11. and so on... ad infinitum, ad nauseum
So, I have a lot of crunchy granola and/or New Age and/or self-described pagan friends, and invariably they will get around to how oppressed they are in this country because they don't fit the dominant Christian worldview, and I have to laugh! They can live, work and play as they please, they just might get the occasional odd looks and that's more because they're tattooed and pierced as all get out. But oppressed? Come on! Try telling an Iranian Ba'hai you're oppressed, my friends. Then duck.
The U.S. is the most tolerant nation in a Western civilization of tolerant nations, and it is for that reason among many others why we're number one on the Islamic extremist to-be-killed list.
We're winning the Tolerance War over Al Qaeda and its admirers, and God/Allah/Buddha/Krishna/insert-Supreme-Being-here bless us all! The final surrender of our enemies in this war will not occur with a formal written surrender, but rather when churches are built in downtown Riyadh and gays and uppity women in the Muslim world no longer fear for their lives.
I'm looking forward to that day. In the meantime, I have no fear of right-wing Christian conservatives sawing off my head.
Friday, August 1, 2008
If the follow-through tests on this new technique work out, this could make solar a much bigger and more cost-effective player in competing with nuclear power as an excellent alternative to traditional CO2-emitting energy sources!
To that end, I am trying to find a good apples-to-apples comparison of costs per megawatt hour for nuclear vs. coal vs. solar vs. wind. If any of my massive readership could tease out a good source of that information, I'd be eternally grateful.
I am only now learning about Khosla, which means I must have not been paying much attention since he's a major venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
In the interview, he puts forward the following important points, including many that pricked holes in my own personal preconceptions:
* Hybrids are not a real long-term solution, more a status symbol thing
* Solar thermal plants are cost-effective compared to natural gas-powered ones
* Food prices are going up more because of higher oil prices than biofuels
* Brazil adopted flex-fuel cars in three years! From 3% of new cars in 2003 to 75% of new cars in 2006
* over-regulation hurts: "the bureaucracy in California for permitting is so large that whenever we can, our companies for production move out of state."
I'm not saying he's necessarily right on all of the above, but the man has a proven track record of guessing right on a lot of new technologies through his venture capital firm, whereas I have no such track record. So that argues for giving all of the above a respectful consideration.
What I personally take away from his interview is this: the doom and gloomers are wrong again, and what will get us through the current price and energy disruptions is innovation and risk-taking that produces cheaper, more environmentally effective solutions. In short, capitalism!
Since I am a political geek whether it's an election year or not, I think this argues more in favor of McCain's generally free market, incentives-laden approach to the energy problem than Obama's big-spending government programs. But that's just me. Your mileage may vary.