“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Eighth Day of the Eighth Month of the Eighth Year

Friday, August 8, 2008.

The Dollar
The dollar rose against the Euro, oil prices continue to fall and pending homes sales increased int the United States. This good news has a black lining; the fear of recession.

TOKYO, Aug. 8 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The euro fell to a five-month low against the U.S. dollar and also dropped against the yen Friday in Tokyo on increasing pessimism about the eurozone economy fueled by cautious comments from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on growth outlook.

The euro's fall against the dollar, as well as against the yen, led to increased confidence in the U.S. currency, pushing the dollar to a seven-month high at the upper 109 yen level.

At 5 p.m., the dollar was quoted at 109.84-85 yen against 109.39-49 yen in New York and 109.44-46 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Thursday. It moved between 109.30 yen and 109.95 yen during the day, and most frequently traded at 109.60 yen.

The euro was quoted at $1.5166-5167 and 166.59-63 yen against Thursday's 5 p.m. quotes of $1.5320-5330 and 167.66-76 yen in New York and $1.5465-5467 and 169.26-30 yen in Tokyo.

The single European currency was the main driving force in Tokyo deals, dealers said.

The euro met heavy selling, apparently affected by the ECB's acknowledgement that the eurozone economy has been slowing, the dealers said.
The European economy which usually lags the US in growth and recession is now beginning to show signs of a slowdown. The dollar has traditionally been a good storm haven for wary investors and with gold prices currently in the stratosphere, we could see a flight to dollars as the world feels increasingly economically uneasy. On the other hand, the world markets are so easily spooked and it's hard to say what will happen from one day to the next.


Should The President have Scolded China?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Just hours before flying to Beijing for the Olympics today, US President George Bush used some of his bluntest language yet in publicly pressing China to improve its human rights record.

In a speech in Bangkok on the eve of the Games' opening ceremony, when the eyes of the world will be on Beijing, Bush voiced "firm opposition" to China's detention of dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists.

"The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings," he said in comments likely to anger China's communist leadership.

"We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labour rights not to antagonise China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential," he said.


  1. Prince George's raid prompts call for probe

    "This smacks of something from Nazi Germany," Kovalchik said.

    For once, it's TRUE!

  2. STILL eager to hear your plan for shaping Pakistan's society, Ash.

  3. What part of Florida do you reside, Mr President?

  4. Gates Pushing Plan to Double Afghan Army

    A $20 billion plan would aid the Afghan Army and restructure the military command of U.S. and NATO forces in response to a growing Taliban threat.

  5. The Political Rock Star Helps Another Odd Bird

    Former Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett, now Australia's environment minister, races to the rescue of the Southern Cassowary, a creature that does a fair job of protecting itself.
    As strange birds go, the cassowary has the honorable Mr. Garrett licked. Also extremely tall — it's the world's second largest bird after the ostrich — the cassowary can run up to 30 miles an hour, jump five feet or so, and has a 5-inch claw on its middle toe, with which it can disembowel other creatures. It's listed in the Guinness book of Records as the World's Most Dangerous Bird. Luckily the cassowary is flightless and frugivorous (mostly eating fruits and seeds off the ground), but it's also extremely cranky and will attack if it's provoked, running and lunging with its middle claw extended. It gives a whole new meaning to "flipping the bird".

    Perhaps because its temperament does not invite close encounters, not all that much is known about the cassowary. Among the known unknowns, for example, is the reason it can eat fruits and seeds that are poisonous to other animals. Also unclear is the function of the odd, finlike casque that sits atop its brilliant blue head and neck. Some studies have suggested it's used as a sort of battering ram as the bird belts headlong through the rainforest

  6. off topic...

    Now it's time for Russian chickens to come home to roost...
    Georgia: Russian Planes Shot Down
    1:25pm UK, Friday August 08, 2008
    Georgia claims it has shot down two Russian warplanes as
    violence escalates in the breakaway province of South
    Georgian troops fire rocket missiles at separatists in South Ossetia
    Russia has reportedly sent 150 tanks and armoured vehicles into the territory as what started as a regional conflict
    between Georgia and separatists threatens to build into all-out war.
    The Russian military claims that South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali has been "almost completely destroyed", while
    President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to punish the Georgians if they hurt the province's people.
    It was reported earlier that Georgian artillery shells killed several Russian peacekeepers, while Georgia claimed
    that Russian jets had injured seven people in a bombing raid.
    The UN called for an immediate ceasefire between separatists and the Georgian military.
    The two sides had earlier failed to reach an agreement on a Russia-drafted statement that would have called on
    Georgia and separatists region to halt all bloodshed.
    Mikhail Saakashvili
    View Larger Map
    Witnesses reported seeing intense fire from heavy weapons at different locations skirting Tskhinvali as well as
    hearing heavy fighting coming from the direction of the city.
    The night sky was lit up blue and red by explosions and Georgian forces appeared to be firing Katyusha rockets.
    A spokesman for the separatists said in Moscow that the offensive had caused "deaths and many wounded".
    Skirmishes since the weekend have deepened fears of full-blown conflict in the Caucasus, which is emerging as a
    vital energy transit route and where Russia and the West are vying for influence.
    South Ossetia and a second rebel Georgian region, Abkhazia - both of which
    unilaterally broke away from Georgia at the beginning of the 1990s - enjoy Russian
    political and financial backing.
    Georgia, formerly a Soviet republic, has allied itself with the West and is pushing
    for membership of Nato.
    "These actions will continue until we manage to reach a durable peace because
    people are still in danger," Mr Gurgenidze told a news briefing.
    Mr Saakashvili had earlier offered the separatists an immediate ceasefire following
    fighting in which Georgia said up to 10 of its peacekeepers and civilians had been
    Fighting stopped on Thursday afternoon after Mr Saakashavili said he had
    instructed troops to stop returning fire and Moscow said the two feuding sides
    would hold talks.
    But artillery fire broke out again with nightfall.
    In Georgia, the Russian bear might actually scratch someone.
    Sky's Tim Marshall predicts trouble back in April
    Russian envoy Yuri Popov said Georgia's military operation showed it could not be trusted and that Nato should
    reconsider its plans to grant membership to the ex-Soviet state.
    The Georgian government said it had information about "hundreds of mercenaries, tanks and other equipment"
    entering South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel from Russia. A government official said Russian army units were
    also approaching.
    Russia's Interfax news agency said hundreds of volunteers from Russia and Abkhazia were heading for South
    Ossetia to support the separatists.
    The United Nations and European Union have appealed for calm.
    This is really sad. As a male from Russian and Georgian decent, I am literally quite shocked at the
    events today. \n\nRussia should be ashamed of themselves. How could a small country like Georgia
    ever even have a chance of winning a war against a giant such as Russia. All Georgia wants to do is
    take back its territory which has been a part of Georgia for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. The claim that
    Russia "wants to protect its citizens" is nothing but a farce. Russia issues South Ossetia and Abhazia
    Russian passports only a few years ago so they can use the "citizenship" excuse to bombard
    Georgia. Its obvious that Russia wants to annex South Ossetia and Abhazia so it eventually join the
    Russian Federation. They have no right what so ever. It was their own greed for power that broke up
    the USSR, and now, mile by mile, Russia is trying to take back its lost territory.\n\nNeither Georgians,
    South Ossetians or Abhazians want a war with Russia. They all want to live in peace. STOP T
    Posted By :Alex Report This
    Anyone ever played ghost recon??, no??? well, this is basically the story line going on now.
    Posted By :Mayco Report This
    Russia has masterminded this conflict to punish Georgia for its Western choice, for democracy and
    freedom, for intention to join NATO. As well as to annex a part of independebt state. Do you know
    that few years ago they have given Russian passports to all the residents of the separatist Georgian
    areas? At these minutes under pretext of defending Russian citizens in Sothern Osetia, the armies of
    Russia are heading to Georgia to destroy the state. The West!! Will you be just idly watching how a
    nation is being beaten because they only wanted to be with you, to share the principles of freedom
    and democracy? Will you allow the bold agression and annexation? Recall 1938, how you allowed
    Hitler to annex Checz Moravia. You hoped the agressor would stop after that. No, after Moravia they
    invaded Poland and most of Europe. Now after Georgia, the turn Ukraine will inevitably come. Then
    Baltics. Then you. Putin started restoration of the USSR and war on the USA and the West . Do not
    Posted By :Stan Report This
    I agree with gianni, petrol and gas will rocket now as the suppliers see this as another excuse to keep
    thier massive profits
    Posted By :ian Report This
    Roll up, roll up, you heard it hear first, the PRICE OF OIL and GAS WILL OF COURSE NOW GO
    UP!!! AGAIN...
    Posted By :gianni Report This
    Any form of separatist talk is a slap in the face for Russia who are as tolerant as a grizzly with
    toothache... The Georgians had better get properly organised otherwise it will turn into a never ending
    story. The United Nations will achieve absolutely nothing as they are no longer taken seriously by
    anybody until AFTER the fighting stops...As they have proven time and again... Once again, this
    would be a case for a Rapid Relief Force which SHOULD be organised by the United Nations for just
    such cases as this... Why doesn't Mr. Ki Ban-Moon form such a contingency of neutral but ready-to-
    act peacekeepers... All we get from the United Nations are posthumous condolences and a sweep up
    team... Do something for God's Sake to stop this killing!!
    Posted By :Victor Report This

    Russia, China, the Arab League, Europe, Indian & Pakistan (and more) have supported the fake national movement called palestine...

    it warms my heart when real nationalistic groups take up the same methods to reach their national goals against the very immoral countries that supported and applauded the fake nationalistic group called palestinians..

    these immoral peoples, who have supported suicide bombings, stabbings, ied's, rockets, grenade attacks against Israel and now America are reaping what the sew...

    Is it any wonder that the streets of france burn? that schools in russia are assaulted? that china NOW has it's own islamic revolt? that the arab world is replete with suicide jihadists willing, wanting and enjoying murder and chaos?

    As the near future unfolds, look to the Lebanon example to be normal...

    Spineless immoral people give and support thugs, criminals and murderers all in the GOOD cause of killing Jews (or americas now), these societies will crumble...

    and I will laugh...

    screw you lebanon, france, china, pakistan, arab world, india, africa and others...

    you have unleashed the fucktards against the jews & the west

    now your chickens are going to come home to roost...

    and guess what?

    I'm all out of AID, compassion and pity...

    After your useless peoples kill each other off so that your societies look like gaza and hamas we then can just build walls to keep you inside...

  7. ash sez

    ...ya really think if some high tech survellience chip were planted in our boys ass we'd get some marvelous actionable intel??? naw - the problems really revolve around shaping societies and not marshalling our forces against theirs, but hey, bomb 'em, tis the easy way, and effective, right? look out Iran...

    My good man, intel is not what I am after. Pink mist and hamburger that once was a jihadi decorating a cave wall is.

    You can serve me up all the "root causes" business you want, but in my primitive, uncivilized mind's eye, any dirty cocksucker that was swept up in the immediate military action against al-Qaeda by US in 2001 and 2002 should not be stealing oxygen from this planet anymore.

    Hamdan is al-Qaeda. I don't care if his job was scrubbing latrines. He was part of a secretive, brutal organization that does not get you into the position of driving around the boss man unless you are a true believer.

    I did not bring up Iran, Pakistan or any other country or culture. You did. Personally, I think bombing Iran is stupid. Pakistan - stupider. We can wage total economic warfare against Iran (which we currently are not) with better results than ALCMs and what not. Who knows what the hell to do with Pakistan.

    I just want every knuckledragger that was part of al-Qaeda killed.

    Sorry if that is upsetting, but there are some people you don't try to "shape" unless it is with a shape charge. al-Qaeda is that "some people".

    Hell, even Saint Obama the Rectal Cranial Inverted admits there are "40,000 hard core jihadis we just can't bargain with." There is one thing I agree with him about.

  8. Blogger Doug said...

    STILL eager to hear your plan for shaping Pakistan's society, Ash.

    Invading and Occupying would be counter productive Doug. In fact I have little desire to shape Pakistani society. The best method is to provide a good example, you know, Shining City on a hill, or something like that. Economic incentives can be useful in promoting behavior that we like and a strong defense is useful in protecting our homeland. No, the best defense is not always a good offense.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. brother b-day, it appears our positions are not too far apart. I do, however, have a problem with executing tons of folk based simply on a GI-Joe accusation or on a tattle-tale's word (lots of motives for fingering someone other than actual guilt). It seems you are of the opinion that no POW should be taken, just kill the buggers which is generally a bad warfare practice to adopt.

  11. How can you possibly be THAT full of Sheeite?

    (don't bother answering, I have my beliefs)

  12. WiO: Spineless immoral people give and support thugs, criminals and murderers all in the GOOD cause of killing Jews (or americas now), these societies will crumble...and I will laugh...

    Proverbs 24:[17] Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: [18] Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.

  13. I do, however, have a problem with executing tons of folk based simply on a GI-Joe accusation or on a tattle-tale's word (lots of motives for fingering someone other than actual guilt).

    - ash

    Not only is this not done, but those who are rolled up and subsequently released are financially compensated. (Sure. It's a racket, but what're ya gonna do? Our way of saying, "Ooops. Have a nice day.")

    Nice, gratuitous swipe at GI Joe, though. Would you feel more comfortable perhaps with the NCS?

  14. Charlie Cook:


    The current political climate makes this election look like it should be a gimme putt for Democrats, yet with Obama seen as the only golfer on the green sizing up the shot, Democrats can't be certain that they will nail it.

    One can sense a chorus of "I told you so" about to be shouted from Whitehaven Street NW, where Chez Clinton sits. For a year, Hillary Rodham Clinton warned fellow Democrats that an Obama nomination would distract from the larger sentiment for change and the anger at Bush and the Republican Party.

    Ironically, at the race's outset, many expected a controversial and polarizing Clinton to be the pivot point in this election. Instead, she simply became the alternative to Obama and the beneficiary of the resistance to his overtures and seductions.

    And now the general election appears likely to come down to how Obama wears with voters over time. As Republican pollster Neil Newhouse puts it, "In order to win this election, Obama's challenge seems less that he needs to overcome John McCain; rather, he needs to overcome doubts voters have about himself. This election is clearly more about Barack Obama than it is either about John McCain or even President Bush."

    It's pretty clear that Obama's strength among African-Americans is very durable: He could pull more than 90 percent of the African-American vote and pump up that bloc's turnout to perhaps a quarter higher than in 2004. Similarly, despite predictions that rivalries between African-American and Hispanic leaders and voters and McCain's strengths might allow the GOP to eat into Democratic support among Hispanics, polling shows that Obama is well above the 60 percent that John Kerry received in 2004. And Obama is also doing well with white voters younger than 50.

    The real question is about the "gray whites"--that is, white voters who are 50 or older. If they embrace Obama in meaningful numbers, perhaps one-third or a bit more, he will become the next president. If they decide against him, he will lose.

    The bottom line: It's about Obama.

    Filed under 2008, Charlie Cook - National Journal Column, President

  15. Cato speaks:

    Wrong Then, Too

    by Jerry Taylor

    Jerry Taylor is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

    Added to on August 6, 2008

    Let's not repeat Jimmy Carter's energy mistakes.

    On July 15, 1979, Pres. Jimmy Carter gave a televised address to the nation about America's "crisis of confidence" and how that crisis was feeding "a fundamental threat to American democracy" — reliance on imported oil. It was derided at the time as the "national malaise" speech (Carter never actually used the phrase), and according to legend it was the most politically disastrous speech ever given by a sitting president.

    But rehabilitation is in the air. If only we had listened to Jimmy Carter back then, we are increasingly told, we wouldn't be in the energy mess we're in today.

    Before we get too deep into this revisionist cup, it is worth looking closer at the policy road supposedly not taken. It turns out that much of what Carter proposed was subsequently adopted, and much of what wasn't was unnecessary.

    The first thing President Carter promised was that, "beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 [3.2 billion barrels] — never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation." Oil import volumes indeed stayed below 1977 levels for the next 16 years, but not because of any government policy: Soaring oil prices and a subsequent recession reduced demand for oil. This partially explains why Carter's second promise — to impose oil-import quotas to secure those import reductions — was both unnecessary and (thankfully) quickly forgotten.

    But maybe in 1995, when foreign-oil consumption finally surpassed the 1977 benchmark, President Clinton should have imposed these quotas? No. Few remember that President Eisenhower slapped import quotas on oil back in 1959, and they remained in effect until President Nixon repealed them in 1973. According to oil economists Douglas Bohi and Milton Russell, the quotas forced domestic oil prices significantly above global market prices, enriching domestic oil producers at the expense of domestic consumers. Restricting imports forced U.S. fields to produce more crude than would otherwise have been the case (as a consequence, one might tag it a "drain America first" program).

    President Carter's third promise was to unleash an avalanche of federal subsidies for synthetic fuels, oil-shale development, ethanol, "unconventional gas," and solar power, all of which were to be paid for by a windfall-profit tax. And Carter mostly got his way — for awhile.

    The 1980 Energy Security Act established the Synthetic Fuels Corporation (SFC) to subsidize exotic fossil fuels. The act authorized expenditure of $17 billion, with a goal of bringing about production of 500,000 barrels of oil a day by 1987 and 2 million barrels a day by 1992. It promised another $68 billion once the SFC submitted a "comprehensive strategy" to meet the production targets.

    But by the time the first $100 million — million, not billion — went out the door, all but two SFC projects were cancelled due to cost overruns and technical problems. Congress shut down the SFC in 1985.

    Congress likewise gave Carter all of the solar and other renewable-energy subsidies he wanted. From fiscal years 1979 through 1981, in fact, Carter got more solar-energy subsidy dollars than he asked for. A residential tax credit was put in place for 40 percent of the first $10,000 spent on photovoltaic solar-energy systems. A business tax credit of 15 percent was granted through the end of 1985. A "Solar and Energy Conservation Bank" was established and authorized to spend $3 billion between fiscal years 1981 and 1984 to provide subsidized residential and commercial loans for solar energy and conservation investments.

    Subsequent (Democratic) Congresses, however, cut those appropriations and tax credits back substantially. Would solar power have done better if they hadn't? While it's certainly true that the cost of producing solar-powered electricity fell dramatically during the 1980s, there is little evidence that federal subsidies had much to do with it.

    President Carter even got the ethanol subsidies he wanted. Congress extended the federal excise-tax credits that were scheduled to expire and enacted a new tax credit of 30 to 40 cents per gallon for those who were not subject to the excise tax to begin with. It authorized $1.2 billion to promote conventional and cellulosic ethanol, with a goal of replacing 10 percent of gasoline consumption by 1990. These subsidies, however, proved incapable of making ethanol economically competitive with conventional gasoline. So did massive increases in those subsidies over the course of 29 years.

    To pay for all of this, President Carter got the windfall-profit tax he wanted. But this too proved disappointing; before being abolished in 1988, the tax returned only $40 billion of the $175 billion projected. And analysts at the Congressional Research Service estimate that it reduced domestic oil production by 3 to 6 percent — thus driving up prices — and increased oil imports by 8 to 16 percent.

    Most memorably, however, the president promised to employ both carrots and sticks to force conservation. "I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel," Carter said in that speech. "Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense — I tell you it is an act of patriotism."

    The federal government, in fact, would make sure that you did your part. The president issued an executive order restricting indoor temperatures in non-residential buildings to 78 degrees or warmer in the summer and 65 degrees or cooler in the winter. The administration did little to monitor compliance, however, arguing that the program was "largely self-enforcing."

    Carter promised to mandate a 50 percent reduction in the use of oil for electricity generation. And although the president failed to get his $10 billion coal-conversion plan through Congress, the amount of electricity generated from oil nevertheless declined from 3,283 trillion BTUs in 1979 to 715 trillion BTUs today. Once again, markets accomplished what politicians could not: As oil rose in price, it became more expensive than coal, so generator operators switched over without the government's forcing them to.

    More arresting was President Carter's promise to institute gasoline rationing if Congress gave him the authority and he found it necessary. Congress gave him the authority, but he left office before finding it necessary. And it's a good thing: Only a few years earlier, Nixon had instituted gasoline rationing, and gasoline lines and shortages had promptly followed.

    President Carter's most aggressive stab at conservation, however, involved the U.S. auto fleet. Carter initially suggested giving Detroit more flexibility to meet the mileage standards that had been adopted before he took office, and Congress obliged him in 1980. But in the final months of his administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed raising those standards for passenger vehicles to 48 miles per gallon by 1995. Just three months later, the Reagan administration rescinded the proposal.

    While it's hard to envision what the auto fleet would look like today had that rule been adopted (no car currently for sale in America would meet Carter's standard), we can guess that the roads would be more congested, urban sprawl would be far worse, traffic fatalities would be higher, and ambient air pollution would be greater. Economist Andrew Kleit has explained why in detail. The short version: When people can drive more miles for each gallon of gas they buy, they tend to do just that.

    Soaring domestic demand for oil did not cause the energy crisis of the 1970s, or today's. Neither did disruptions in the supply of oil. Rather, the 1970s price spiral was largely driven by inept monetary policy, whereas today's spike is the consequence of an unanticipated surge in global economic growth, as economist Lutz Kilian argues in a forthcoming paper for the Journal of Economic Literature. Hence, even had we embraced the Carter plan in toto, it would not have made the current price spiral less likely or less steep. For instance, a 48 mpg standard might have reduced global oil consumption from 85 million barrels a day (where it is at present) to 80 million barrels a day, but when there's less consumption, there's also less investment in production. Kilian's summary of the academic literature suggests that, in this hypothetical, 80 million-barrel-a-day world, the global economic surge of 2003 would have caused the exact same price explosion we see today.

    At its most basic level, federal energy policy addresses two questions: Does the government know better than investors which technologies to invest in, and does the government know better than consumers how much energy they'll need? America's experience with Carter's suggestions demonstrates that the government has no advantage in either.

  16. "Should The President have Scolded China?"

    Yes. And do it often.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. "At its most basic level, federal energy policy addresses two questions: Does the government know better than investors which technologies to invest in, and does the government know better than consumers how much energy they'll need? America's experience with Carter's suggestions demonstrates that the government has no advantage in either."

    So why is the Federal government subsidizing oil? And why hasn't even one application for a solar plant on Federal lands been approved?

  19. SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Gold futures fell more than $9 per ounce Monday, with a broad decline in commodities led by a tumble in the price of crude oil sending the metal's prices to their lowest level in almost six weeks.
    Gold for December delivery dropped $9.60 to close at $907.90 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange after trading as low as $903. The contract hasn't seen levels this low since June 25.
    Prices continued lower in electronic trading on Globex, and were last at $902.40 as of 4 p.m. EDT.
    Other metals prices also fell sharply, with platinum futures dropping 5.6% on Nymex.
    "Gold has now decisively stepped into sub-$900 territory as crumbling oil values and fears of a nearer-term Fed response to the rising inflationary pressures bolstered a dollar which had already looked predisposed for incremental gains," said Jon Nadler, a senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers.
    "Analysts who had foreseen a decoupling by gold from crude oil got a rude awakening today when black gold dipped to under $120 and augmented the slide in various commodities," he said in emailed comments.
    And "as the U.S. dollar really did not do much ahead of tomorrow's Fed meeting (anticipating no change in stance by the central bank) today's slippage is clearly (in most part) attributable to the goings-on in oil," he said.

  20. trish, I was referring to what Brother b-day wanted to occur not what actually is occurring.

  21. Metuselah: So why is the Federal government subsidizing oil? And why hasn't even one application for a solar plant on Federal lands been approved?

    Because the two highest federal officials are oil men? Like, duh!

  22. "Because the two highest federal officials are oil men? Like, duh!"

    You're just being Alarmist, Tes. I'm sure there be a good explanation Trish will be providing us with, soon.

  23. Bro D-Day: I just want every knuckledragger that was part of al-Qaeda killed.

    Oh, that would have really been a highlight in the annals of US human rights. Death penalty for OBL's chauffeur. What if we found the doctor who attends to OBL's kidney ailments. "I held the terrorist doctor's arms," one Marine will say, "and the Sergeant caved his face in with the butt of his rifle when he looked like he wanted to strike back." And another private will say, "But I held his feet, so give me glory also!" Behold mighty America, renowned baby smashers, the implacable scourge of chaffeurs and doctors, and torturers of helpless captives. I'm so proud to be a United States citizen under this administration.

  24. Any and all Jihadis should be killed on sight. I don't care who and what they are. Failure to do so is a moral failure as much as it is a political and military failure.

  25. Oil Subsidies in the Dock

    Yesterday, Congress summoned the heads of BP, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, and ExxonMobil to defend the prices they’re charging at the pump and the subsidies they are receiving from the federal government. The former issue is of less interest to me than the latter.

    The main issue is the so-called Section 199 tax credit passed in 2005. The credit is available to all domestic manufacturers - not just to oil and gas companies - and it allows the oil industry to write-off $13.6 billion over ten years that might otherwise be sent to the federal treasury. While a good case could be made to get rid of Section 199 in toto – the feds shouldn’t be in the business of artificially making some business activities more economically attractive than others – limiting that deduction for oil and gas companies and oil and gas companies only will compound the underlying economic distortion and encourage investors to put relatively less money in oil and gas production and more money in other industrial sectors. How is that a good thing with oil prices topping $100 a barrel?

    Oil companies are already paying a staggering tax bill. In 2006, for instance, big-bad ExxonMobil faced an effective tax rate of 44 percent on a profit margin of around 11 percent, a figure that actually understates things because corporate revenues sooner or later find their way to oil company employees, contractors, shareholders, and those who do business with the same, and that revenue is taxed again via the personal income tax.

    “So what?” you ask? Well, the more you tax “Big Oil,” the less return investors will get on money plowed into oil production. The less return on investment, the less investment there will be. Less investment equals less production, and less production equals higher prices. This is fact, not theory. Analysts at the Congressional Research Service report that the 1980 Crude Oil Windfall Profits tax reduced domestic oil production by 3-6 percent and increased oil imports by 8-16 percent for exactly that reason.

    If the Congress were really interested in ending oil and gas subsidies, it could eliminate preferential tax treatment afforded intangible domestic drilling expenses, increase the amortization period for geological and geophysical expenditures from five years to seven, end preferential expensing for equipment used to refine liquid fuels, close the exemption from passive loss limitations for owners of working interests in oil and gas properties, and eliminate accelerated depreciation allowances for small oil producers, natural-gas distribution pipeline investments, and expenditures on dry holes. Such a plan would reduce – rather than compound – economic distortions produced by the tax code and deliver about $8.3 billion for the Treasury over 10 years. Congress is presumably less inclined to offer such a plan because those subsidies are far more important to “Little Oil” than they are to their “Big” brethren, and it’s the former – not the latter – that has most of the political clout in Washington.

    Regardless, if getting rid of subsidies is such a good thing, then why does Congress propose to take those subsidies away with one hand but to reallocate them to the renewable energy business with the other? If renewable energy is economically competitive, it doesn’t need the subsidy, and if it’s not economically competitive now – with energy prices setting records across the board – then what makes anyone think that federal subsidies will make any difference? After all, they never have in the past. Ethanol has been lavished with government subsidy for 30 years, yet ethanol is still about $1.20 per gallon more expensive than conventional gasoline on wholesale markets last week after we adjust for the differential in energy content between the two. Nuclear energy has lived off a plethora of federal subsidies for five decades now, yet rather than being “too cheap to meter,” it’s still more expensive than any other conventional source of electricity once we account for the cost associated with building the reactor. Examples of similar subsidy boondoggles are legion.

    Getting rid of energy subsidies is a fine thing, and Democrats are right to argue that those subsidies are even less warranted at a time when energy prices – and thus, energy profits – are relatively high. Too bad they aren’t serious about translating their rhetoric into legislative reality.

  26. It must be Cato Friday, mat. Cato Friday is my favorite day of the week:

    How Large are Federal Oil Subsidies?

    Yesterday, I co-authored an op-ed with Peter Van Doren on the Democrats’ energy bill scheduled for a vote today in the House. The bill is advertised as an exercise to eliminate the subsidies going to “Big Oil” and to use that money instead to subsidize renewable energy (the fact that “Big Oil” is also in the renewable energy business and will simply find that the federal checks are going to different corporate in-boxes has apparently not occurred to anyone, but I digress). But did the Democrats wipe out all the subsidies, or did they leave some big subsidies behind?

    A lot of people think that the Democrats left a lot of money on the table. Today in the Christian Science Monitor, for example, economist Doug Koplow argues that the biggest subsidy left untouched by Pelosi & Co. relates to the military protection of oil producing facilities and shipping lanes abroad, a mission which costs the taxpayer at least $19 billion a year.

    While the Ds certainly were less than thorough in their anti-oil-subsidy crusade, I’m not so sure that the subsidies are anywhere near as large as many people think.

    Quantifying the national security costs associated with ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of foreign oil is difficult. The Congressional Research Service estimated in 1997 that those costs may be anywhere between $0.5-65 billion, or 1.5 cents to 30 cents per gallon for motor fuel from the Persian Gulf. Agreement about the extent of the military’s “oil mission” is difficult because military and foreign policy expenditures are generally tasked with multiple missions and objectives, and oil security is simply one mission of many. Analysts disagree about how to divide those missions into budgetary terms.

    Debate about the size of the U.S. military’s oil mission and related foreign policy expenses, however, is not particularly relevant to a discussion about whether and to what extent oil companies are subsidized by this kind of thing. From an economic perspective, the key question is whether an elimination of U.S. military and foreign aid expenditures dedicated to “the oil mission” would result in (a) greater corporate expenditures to secure oil from abroad, and/or (b) an increase in the price of oil, and, if so, how much? That is the true measure of the subsidy if it indeed exists. That’s because, if the oil mission provides no value to multinational oil companies or oil consumers - as I maintain - than it is not a subsidy. Measuring the subsidy by the amount of money government spends on the oil mission is at best a measure of how much politicians believe the national security externalities might be. Political assessments may or may not be accurate.

    To be sure, if the termination of the American “oil mission” implied the termination of all military, police, and court services in the region, petroleum extraction investments would become more risky, extraction of oil might decrease, and prices would increase. But remember that oil companies in the Middle-East are creatures of government. So the question is really whether Middle-East governments would produce less oil because the United States ended its oil-related military mission and foreign aid. Or would oil producing states provide – or pay others to provide – military services to replace those previously provided by the United States?

    I strongly suspect that a cessation of U.S. security assistance would be replaced by security expenditures from other parties. First, oil producers will provide for their own security needs as long as the cost of doing so results in greater profits than equivalent investments could yield. Because Middle-Eastern governments typically have nothing of value to trade except oil, they must secure and sell oil to remain viable. Second, given that their economies are so heavily dependent upon oil revenues, Middle-Eastern governments have even more incentive than we do to worry about the security of production facilities, ports, and sea lanes.

    In short, whatever security our presence provides (and many analysts think that our presence actually reduces security) could be provided by other parties were the United States to withdraw. The fact that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait paid for 55 percent of the cost of Operation Desert Storm suggests that keeping the Straits of Hormuz free of trouble is certainly within their means. The same argument applies to Al Qaeda threats to oil production facilities.

    If oil regimes paid for their own military protection and the protection of their own shipping lanes, would U.S. Middle-East military expenditures really go down? The answer might very well be “no” for two very different reasons. First, the U.S. Middle-East military presence stems from our implicit commitment to defend Israel as well as the region from Islamic fundamentalism, and those missions would not likely end simply because Arab oil regimes paid for their own economic security needs. Second, bureaucratic and congressional inertia might leave military expenditures constant regardless of Israeli or petroleum defense needs.

    Thus, U.S. ”oil mission” should not be viewed as a subsidy that lowers oil prices below what they otherwise would be. Instead, the expenditures are a taxpayer-financed gift to oil regimes and the Israeli government that has little, if any, effect on oil prices or corporate profits. Now, I’d be happy to see the oil mission go, but “Big Oil” won’t be any poorer for it.

    posted by Jerry Taylor on 01.18.07 @ 3:54 pm

    Filed Under: Energy, General, Government & Politics, Int'l Economics & Development

    Fri Aug 08, 03:21:00 PM EDT

  27. Any and all Jihadis should be killed on sight. I don't care who and what they are. Failure to do so is a moral failure as much as it is a political and military failure.

    Fri Aug 08, 02:45:00 PM EDT

    Like they wear name tags? Carry their jihadi c.v. with them?

    No, no, no, mat. Everybody's just a farmer, just a student, just a merchant.

  28. "Thus, U.S. "oil mission" should not be viewed as a subsidy that lowers oil prices below what they otherwise would be. Instead, the expenditures are a taxpayer-financed gift to oil regimes and the Israeli government that has little, if any, effect on oil prices or corporate profits."

    LOL. Right. I'd like to see the insurance costs for that oil once US forces withdraw from the region. I'd also like to see how many US oil mafia facilities go unharassed once that happens. Would be very interesting to see how many Persian Gulf US oil mafia wells would then be commercially viable.

  29. "Like they wear name tags? Carry their jihadi c.v. with them?"

    No, like they perform Salat 5 times daily.

  30. They don't wear name tags?

    Fri Aug 08, 03:46:00 PM EDT

    Sadly, we've not been able to sell them on that yet.

  31. Funny bar story:

    There's this SF guy who rounds up the brother of a bad guy he's looking for. The brother can't help him with the whereabouts, but he cultivates him for other information. The brother becomes kind of attached to the SF guy over a couple of days. SF guy then breaks the news that he's got other shit to do and brother can't tag along. At the same time, he doesn't want the brother to find (generate) any trouble after being cut loose.

    So he hands him a red m & m-type candy. "There's a transmitter in here. I'll know where you are."

    Brother nods solemnly and swallows the candy.

    When rumor of your omnipotence preceeds you...

  32. ... so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson -- alongside five Senate Democrats. This "Gang of 10" announced a "sweeping" and "bipartisan" energy plan to break Washington's energy "stalemate." What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

    That's because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast -- putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska's oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

    The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn't have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.

    Sen. Obama was thrilled. He quickly praised the Gang's bipartisan spirit, and warmed up to a possible compromise. Of course, he means removing even the token drilling provisions now in the bill. But he's only too happy for the focus to remain on the Gang's efforts, and in particular on the five Republicans providing his party its fig leaf.

    Equally gleeful was Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, the Senate's most vulnerable Democrat. She had been sweating the energy debate, especially after her vote against more oil-shale production -- a position her Republican opponent, John Kennedy, had used against her to great effect. Yet there she was, chummily standing with the Gang of 10 and boasting that she is working with "five Republicans" to "lower prices at the pump by increasing offshore drilling here at home."

  33. Well, rat, that cat's out of the bag.

  34. Even if it violates a philosophy, isn't it reasonable to tax oil companies benefiting from the massive expenditure we've had on security etc? Hopefully that and Dubai investing here?

  35. So, we would use the oil companies as a collection agent? Afterall, who is going to pay the taxes? The oil companies? Their stock holders? The consumer?

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

  37. Well, what is the fee that the Sauds should pay, they've had Saddam removed from their flank.

    The Israeli should pony up, the suicide funder was removed from the picture.

    The Iranians should send US a check, as well.
    Considering how we've enhanced their position in the region.

    As for the Chinese, the bill isn't even in the mail, let alone a check.

    Or let the consumer in the US pay, to defend Chinese bound oil shipments originating in Venezuela.

  38. WiO: Spineless immoral people give and support thugs, criminals and murderers all in the GOOD cause of killing Jews (or americas now), these societies will crumble...and I will laugh...

    teresita said...Proverbs 24:[17] Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: [18] Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.

    Thanks teresita, but frankly i could give a shit of your attempt to quote my family's proverbs...

    There is a time for love and a TIME to hate...

    Laughing at the destruction of the evil that supports the genocide of the People of Israel is not simply as you put it...

    when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: [18] Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.

    it's is rejoicing when the cult of Baal falls...

    Please T, proof texting selected bits of my Uncle David's writings just make you look stupid

  39. Please T, proof texting selected bits of my Uncle David's writings just make you look stupid

    It wasn't Uncle David wrote the Proverbs, but Cousin Solomon.

  40. teresita said...
    Please T, proof texting selected bits of my Uncle David's writings just make you look stupid

    It wasn't Uncle David wrote the Proverbs, but Cousin Solomon.

    Sorry but that side of MY family I get confused, Uncle David, His son..

    no matter...

    the point still stands, your just cutting and pasting out of context...

    why not study buddhism? i bet that closer to your family tree.