October 23, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala : A theory of a divided nation. (Jonathan Cohn, October 5, 2012, New Republic)

The borders of the United States contain two different forms of government, based on two different visions of the social contract. In blue America, state government costs more--and it spends more to ensure that everybody can pay for basic necessities such as food, housing, and health care. It invests more heavily in the long-term welfare of its population, with better-funded public schools, subsidized day care, and support for people with disabilities. In some cases, in fact, state lawmakers have decided that the social contract provided by the federal government is not generous enough. It was a blue state that first established universal health insurance and, today, it is a handful of blue states that offer paid family and medical leave.

In the red states, government is cheaper, which means the people who live there pay lower taxes. But they also get a lot less in return. The unemployment checks run out more quickly and the schools generally aren't as good. Assistance with health care, child care, and housing is skimpier, if it exists at all. The result of this divergence is that one half of the country looks more and more like Scandinavia, while the other increasingly resembles a social Darwinist's paradise.

Of course, Scandinavia is an increasingly "Darwinist paradise."

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 PM


US may soon become world's top oil producer (AP, October 23, 2012)

U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

The boom has surprised even the experts.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 PM


Working With the Muslim Brotherhood (ROGER COHEN, 10/23/12, NY Times)

The United States tried Middle Eastern repression in the name of stability for decades: What it got was terrorism-breeding societies of frustrated Arabs under tyrants. (Mohammed Atta came from Cairo.) The Brotherhood narrowly won a free and fair election. If they fail, throw them out next time. That's democracy.

It is time to overcome the "fundamental lack of understanding and communication" of which General Sobhi wrote. That can only happen through working with the real forces of Arab societies rather than "Green Zone" fantasies.

Mitt Romney thinks Obama has been "passive" with the Islamists; aid could be slashed. But when aid is cut off, and American attention turns elsewhere, and future generals start getting their training in Saudi Arabia rather than Kansas, we know the result: Pakistan. That is not where the United States wants Egypt to end up. Turkey is a far better, if imperfect, model, and it is to Turkey and its governing Justice and Development Party that the Brotherhood is looking.

Morsi, who studied in California and breaks into English when impatient with his interpreters, has reached out to the United States from early in the transition -- with trade requests, investment plans, vows to root out corruption, pleas to help get tourism back, and of course requests that aid be maintained. Even with little strategic alternative, America has leverage. It should be used to prod Morsi out of his Brotherhood roots toward the middle where the new Egypt must be forged. He appears ready to compromise.

America's radical policy turnabout in Cairo poses an important question: Why is this engagement with political Islam, even in Salafist form, confined to Egypt? If Washington has discovered by engaging that the long reviled Brotherhood, or at least large swathes of it, may have evolved into centrist pragmatists, what other such discoveries may be made through dialogue rather than confrontation?
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Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM

Trampled By Turtles On Mountain Stage (NPR, October 22, 2012)

The frenetic Minnesota band plays songs from its recent sixth album, Stars and Satellites, in concert. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


The Real Stimulus: Low-Cost Natural Gas : The impact of the U.S. energy revolution is only beginning. It is already providing a foundation for a domestic renaissance in manufacturing. (DANIEL YERGIN, 10/23/12, WSJ)

An unconventional oil and gas revolution is under way in the United States, but its full ramifications are only beginning to be understood. The basic facts are clear enough. Half a decade ago, it was assumed that the U.S. would become a large importer of liquefied natural gas; now the domestic natural gas market is oversupplied, thanks to the ability to produce shale gas through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies. [...]The increase in domestic oil production over the past five years will reduce our oil-import bill this year by about $75 billion. The growth of shale gas will save the U.S. from spending $100 billion a year on imported LNG, which was the likely prospect five years ago.

There is also a geopolitical dimension. The increase in U.S. oil production since 2008 is equivalent to almost 80% of what was Iran's export level before the imposition of sanctions on the Tehran regime. Without the additional oil coming from the surge in U.S. oil output, the Iranian oil sanctions could not have worked as well as they have.

Domestically, growing natural gas supplies provide a foundation for a manufacturing renaissance, at least for industries for which energy is an important feedstock or where energy costs are significant. Chemical companies have been leaving the U.S. for years in the search for lower-cost countries in which to operate. Now they are planning to invest billions of dollars in new factories in this country because of inexpensive and relatively stable natural gas prices. The price of natural gas, which averaged $2.66 per thousand cubic feet in the first nine months of this year, is less than half of what it was five years ago.

This holds out a tantalizing prospect that the U.S. could regain market share among the world's manufacturing exporters. That prospect preoccupies companies around the world, from Europe to China. When I was in China recently I heard much talk about how China's historical advantage in cheap labor (which is becoming less cheap) could in the years ahead be offset by cheap energy in the U.S.

We're also beginning to hear a debate about the U.S. role as an exporter of liquefied natural gas. LNG exports to countries with which the U.S. has free-trade agreements require no government approval. Approvals are needed, however, for exports to a long list of countries with which we have no such agreements, including Japan, Britain, India and many others. But an investment in building export facilities for this trade won't make sense unless producers have the flexibility to ship to diverse destinations as markets change.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


A Bandwidth Breakthrough (DAVID TALBOT, October 23, 2012, Technology Review)

Academic researchers have improved wireless bandwidth by an order of magnitude--not by adding base stations, tapping more spectrum, or cranking up transmitter wattage, but by using algebra to banish the network-clogging task of resending dropped packets.

By providing new ways for mobile devices to solve for missing data, the technology not only eliminates this wasteful process but also can seamlessly weave data streams from Wi-Fi and LTE--a leap forward from other approaches that toggle back and forth. "Any IP network will benefit from this technology," says Sheau Ng, vice president for research and development at NBC Universal.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 AM


George W. Bush Won This Debate (Peter Beinart Oct 23, 2012, Daily Beast)

Barack Obama didn't win tonight's foreign policy debate. Neither did Mitt Romney. George W. Bush did. [...]

Obama, Romney and Bob Schieffer discussed foreign policy almost exclusively through the Bush prism. The focus was on countries where the United States is already at war, or soon could be.

To be sure, Obama and Romney don't want to approach those countries in the same way that Bush did in his first term. We no longer have the money or will to launch ground wars. Today, the preferred options are military training and aid (Afghanistan, Syria), drone strikes (Pakistan, Yemen) and perhaps a full-fledged air war (Iran). But the "war on terror" still largely defined which countries received attention. And as a result, the candidates spent an inordinate amount of time talking about weak, dysfunctional countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria and barely any time talking about fast-growing, increasingly powerful ones like India, Turkey, and Brazil. 

...that W forged binding relationships with India, Indonesia, Brazil, etc. as part of his war effort.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Romney Passed the Test (FRED BARNES, 10/23/12, Weekly Standard)

As the challenger, Romney didn't need to "win" the debate--he only needed to hold his own against Obama's deeper knowledgeable, sharp criticism, and occasional irritation.  And he did.

Romney made a point of not bickering with Obama. He didn't quibble about the administration's failure to give a consistent explanation of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September. His disagreements with Obama on Syria, Afghanistan, terrorism, Egypt, and China were either slight or non-existent.

Putting distance between himself and Obama on policy wasn't his game. Nor was his approach to Monday night's debate especially combative, though he was critical of Obama's "leadership." It was to put himself in the best possible light by offering plans of his own and specific details on every issue.