Saturday, June 25, 2011

President Obama's foreign policy

Henry Kissinger.Image via Wikipedia
I miss the Nixon administration.


Yes, Nixon was a crook, no question about it. And I'm a conservative, and President Nixon definitely wasn't. (Disagree? We can debate that. He was clearly more liberal than his Democrat opponent Kennedy). But along with his sidekick Henry Kissinger, he had an encompassing, completely thought out, foreign policy.

Now, many conservatives didn't care for his policy - it was far too realpolitik for their convictions. And many if not most hated it, because it was a too confrontational to communism. I loved it then, and I love it more now. Look at successive administrations. Ford wasn't in long enough to matter. Carter was completely taken aback when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and never recovered his bearings. Regan made some steps in the right direction and had a brilliant plan vis a vis the Soviets, but couldn't develop a theory for the rest of the world. Bush the elder was on course, I believe, to a comprehensive world policy, but became a one-term President. Clinton may have been the most qualified domestic policy President ever, but seemed largely disinterested in foreign policy, and, let's face it, Madeline Albright was generally clueless. Bush the younger lacked his father's wide-ranging international experience (e.g. CIA, diplomat) and, tied up with terrorism, two wars and debt crisis, didn't really create a policy.

That brings us to the current administration. Even members of President Obama's own party can't explain, much less support, our _______ (whatever you want to call it) in Libya. And what on earth triggered the decision to sell some oil from the strategic reserve? While I don't think for a minute that Hillary Clinton is Henry Kissinger, I do think she is reasonably talented. While our 10 year string of financial profligacy has badly reduced our power and influence, surely we can do far better than this.

I miss the Nixon administration.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Social Security

I'm rarely surprised nowadays.  I've become accustomed to actions that used to shock me, acclimated to statements I would have considered outrageous at some point.

Nonetheless, I was shocked to learn that AARP said they were prepared to negotiate an increase in the age for Social Security eligibility.  That is astonishing hiatuses.  Where does AARP get any standing in this matter?  Who do they think they get to negotiate with?  In a private meeting with, say, the Majority Leader of the Senate?  Some cabinet member?  The President?
Who do they send to negotiate?  On whose behalf?  Mine? 
Have we acceded some Constitutional authority to them?

Isn't this remarkable?
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sustainagility Book Review

A while back, on this blog I mentioned that I had bought a couple of books based on recommendations from individuals I follow on Twitter.  Further, both had been quite different than my expectation, including one that turned out to be about advancing the alternative energy/green tech movement, and that I would post a review about it.
Sustainagility is one of those books.


The tagline is "How Smart Innovation and Agile Companies Will Help Protect Our Future" Authors are Patrick Dixon and Johan Gorecki. Maybe I should have perceived what it is really about - but I didn't. Rather than a business book (my supposition) it is a wide-ranging survey, analysis and set of proposals to reduce global warming.

Let's set up my view of global warming, so that anyone who is interested in the review knows my biases. First, in my view the evidence that the earth is getting warmer is overwhelming. Basically, since the Little Ice Age (approx 1550-1850) the world has gradually, if irregularly, gotten warmer. Second, however, I haven't yet found the evidence that humans have anything to do with causing it very convincing. Much more difficult question. With bones of swamp-dwelling dinosaurs unearthed in Montana, where current winters are still brutal, it's clear that things have been warmer around here before. Third, is it a bad thing? Right now, I doubt it. Drop the temp a few degrees and a lot of land goes out of ag production, putting even more pressure on the currently stretched food supply. And fourth, I'm very much pro nuclear power.

Now, the review. There is a fair amount of presentation of companies that are in the sustainability movement, or produce alternative energy, or equipment for alternative energy. I'll give the authors credit on several things. There is an astonishing amount of data covering an equally astonishing breadth of topics, such as the percentage of home heaters and boilers that will need to be replaced in the next 20 years, projected spending on green tech ($500 billion per year short-term; far more longer term), power potential from ocean current, power production from a single windmill; at what passenger level trains spend less energy per person than is spent traveling in a car.

Each chapter tackles a topic, generally energy use and how to reduce it for cities, ground transportation, future cities, nuclear power, solving the water crisis, etc.

There are so many assertions that I can't imagine how the editor's fact checkers could have done their job :"...satellites show that clouds from a single jet can reduce sunshine over an area of 20,000 square miles at a time...". Examples of how the whole world could save 30-40% of its energy use at zero cost (well actually the paybacks stretch from 10-25 years. One recommendation was to replace current home heat with heat pumps. I had one; they may be efficient but they heat a house so slowly that I hated it.

There were some assertions that I found incredulous, e.g. - "Governments have a habit of making agile decisions when it comes to regulations that are cost -neutral, easy to carry out and enforce..." I don't think there are many Americans who think their government at any level is agile...

OK, all those objections aside, in many ways this is an interesting book. With the U.S. dependence on foreign oil, we should have an open mind to every energy alternative. And the authors were fairly even handed: they had a balanced approach to nuclear power, and they saved their harshest criticism for biofuels, especially ethanol. A subtext of the book is also feeding the planet and they see converting farmland from food use to fuel use as essentially immoral.

Summary: if you are into the green movement - this book is for you. Looking for a business book - not so great.

Friday, June 10, 2011

National Debt & Leadership

Once you realize that we've elected people whose idea of good judgment  is that it is OK to email pictures of their crank to women they've never met in person, you understand why I despair that we will deal with our debt and deficit problem.
Representative Weiner

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

How to get job creation started

I watched Fareed Zakaria tonight being interviewed by John King on CNN. The topic was job creation.


My summary of Zakaria's points were: the Republicans are saying no to any government programs that might help, and President Obama for some inexplicable reason isn't prepared to propose the kind of bold initiatives required to get the unemployed millions back to work.

Mr. Zakaria: I agree. I'll give you some bold proposals to get job creation.

• Approve every outstanding offshore drilling permit, as long as rigs are in place or under construction within the next 180 days. That drilling is exempt from any EPA laws or rulemaking.

• Notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that any plan submitted must be reviewed and approved or disapproved with specific guidance on requirements to be approved within 90 days of submission. Notify all utilities, investment groups etc. that any new nuclear plant that is capitalized and breaks ground in calendar 2011 is exempt from all environmental impact statements and the Environmental Protection Act.

• Similarly, any state, private company, existing railroad, or public-private partnership that wants to develop a high-speed railroad, is exempt from environmental impact statements and the EPA.

Now, I don't think there is a snowball's chance in hell that any of this will happen, but you gotta' dream....

Republicans and Representative Weiner

The Republicans should shut up about Rep. Weiner.  No comments.  Dodge any questions.  Or say "Resign?  That is up to the Representative and the citizens of NY". 
Why?  Frequently in business a company is better off with a severally wounded competitor than a bankrupt competitor.  The assets of a bankrupt competitor may end up in strong hands, creating a stronger, tougher competitor.  Same here.  Weiner is now a non-factor.  Formerly a Lib Democrat attack dog, he is now discredited and completely marginalized.
If he quits, his seat will most certainly be filled with another far-left Dem.  Why push for that?
Republicans should let him stew and be a thorn in the opposition party's side.