“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."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Obama naive or a true believer?

President Obama will make this comment tonight in an interview with the Muslim media:

(referring to Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden ) There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.

In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you've built, not what you've destroyed. And what they've been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction.

Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

This is a hearts and minds mission. It is no less a mission than the one GWB took on when he thought he could democratize the Middle East. Unfortunately, there is a growing Muslim fifth column in Europe and their hearts and minds are not concerned with education and health care.

Obama must really be sincere that he can change hearts and minds, and that that my friends is unfortunate.


  1. The pebble in the Muslim shoe, is Israel.
    On that we can all agree, I think.

    How to solve that challenge is the 'nest big thing'.

    As Mr Olmert said, the Israeli State, as currently constituted, will not survive as an aparthied State. He was quite clear on that point.

    It also will not survive as a sectarian State if the Palistinians are included in the mix, sans aparthied policies.

    The Israelis have done what they could to keep the issue of equality of oppoertunity for all the residents of Israeli adminstrated lands from coming to the forefront of public opinion.

    That information 'blackout' is ending. As evidenced by the behaviour of folks in Europe.

    Obama, I think he will look for an equitable solution, quickly. The Arabs will agree to his terms, the Israeli will not.
    There then will end the Israeli 'Special Relationship' with the US.

    The friends of Israel, the most adament of them, misjudged Obama and the American people, just this past November. They are going to misjudge American behaviour and policy, now, as he moves forward.

    He has to show the Muslims a path away from death and destruction, to one of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Israelis have impeded that, for over forty years.

    As Bibi said, he'd lift those impediments to economic equality if elected Prime Ministr of Israel. Will Bibi end the aparthied policies?

    We'll see what we will see.

  2. Looking at the photo, and reading the slogans, and realizing one is looking at the living face of their book, one wonders if living apart isn't the one and only solution.

    Let's see, their book explicitely calls for dhimmitude for the likes of us. This stuff has been going more or less intensely for 1400 years. All of north Africa, which used to be Christian, is now muslim. We read just yesterday of some lonely monastery in Turkey coming under pressure. We look around the world, and the trouble spots are invariably where moslems bump up against some other folk. And then some of us try to pick apart Israel, living on the front lines, Israel, that group their book says to hunt down from behind all the trees. Except for that one tree whose name I forget.

    I don't know what Obama is. Too early to tell, I quess. If he can make dialogue work with such a bunch, he's a bloodly genius.

    "Freedom Go To Hell"

    "Europe Is The Cancer, Islam Is The Answer"

    "Exterminate Those Who Slander Islam"

    Good fences make good neighbors.

  3. During the campaign, Obama endorsed an 80-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050

    On this issue, he must be a true believer and naive, both.

    Energy policy may turn out to be the Achilles' Heel of this administration.

    When a heck of a good solution to much of it lies easily right at hand.

  4. This constant drumbeat of the term "aparthied" is nonsense..

    Israel, as a state is not in any way shape or form an aparthied state.

    It's arab citizens are full citizens, is it perfect? No, is America perfect? no...

    As for the DISPUTED lands that ring Israel?

    The solution is simple...

    Gaza will be absorbed by it's recent historic host EGYPT and the West Bank? the Majority of these arabs will hold confederation with the Original Palestinian state, JORDAN.

    The Jordanians HELD the the west bank from the the end of the British mandate til 1967, 90% of Jordan is palestinian, it's queen? a palio...

    the only thing aparthied abut the situation is the fact that Jordan and and the Palestinian controlled areas have capital punishment laws about selling land to Jews...

    It doesnt matter how many arabs LIVE outside of israel that seek it's destruction...

    125 million a few years ago, now it's 300 million...

    so what?

    the arabs of the disputed territories are NOT israeli citizens, and have NO rights to Jobs INSIDE of Israel..

    the disputed lands of the west bank?


    never was there a modern nation that ever sat on that...

    Israel has withdrawn from the gaza, sinai, lebanon, it has decided to GIVE the squatting arabs of the west bank 97% of thse lands to live as they see fit with the exception of making war on her...

    You may not like my language of using the term "squatting" but it's accurate...

    Refugees were created in 1948 & 1967...

    The arabs stole/abused and ethnically cleansed 600,000 jews of their homes & businesses in 1948 driving them to live in Israel...

    Arabs on the Jewish side of the line in 1948 left/were driven out and in 1967 after the failed arab attempt at another genocide on israel, israel took over the gaza and west bank and many arabs fled again...

    All attempts to give these lands back to egypt and jordan failed since egypt and jordan did not want them back...

    More arabs NOW live in Israel than existed in 1948.

    And now in the middle east 649/650th of the land mass is an aparthied system, its called the arab world, with not one Jew allowed (except for tiny morocco)

    It's actually funny to watch christians in the arab world being exterminated since after all they were complicit in driving out the jews...

    They thought since they were arabs too they would be respected...

    now that's funny...

    The issue aint Israel...

    It's Arabs and Islam...

    that's why as you use a laser on israel to find fault France, England, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium (and most of Europe) is being taken over by these same hoards you support for destroying Israel...

  5. desert rat said...
    The pebble in the Muslim shoe, is Israel.
    On that we can all agree, I think.

    No the pebble in the Muslim shoe?


    Israel is the canary in the mind..

    The issue aint equal rights for muzzies, it's whether you will BOW to Dar Islam...

    Maybe i'll buy a Burka store....

    Everyone say Dhimmihood....

  6. However, the survey reports doubts over US Intelligence estimates that Iran halted its work on nuclear weapons six years ago.

    Well Who Would Have Thunk It--Iran To Have Material For Bomb This Year

  7. Rat: 20 years from now: “The pebble in the Muslim shoe, is Europe. On that we can all agree, I think”. As Mr Euro said, the European continent, as currently constituted, will not survive as an apartheid continent. He was quite clear on that point. Or is that where he’ll draw the line?(doubtful)

  8. "The Era Of Regrettable Events"

    It makes more sense to call Jordan the apartheid state, considering how they treated the 'Palestinians.'

  9. I am no European, slim.

    Their immigration policies are their own to administrate.

    If the Europeans choose to Islamify their societies, that is their choice to make. Far be it for me or US to tell them that they cannot proceed along that path.

    A economicly & militarily allied American Union with a tri-lateral arrangement with the China & Japan would solve most of the challenges facing the US in the next hundred years, in so far a the Middle East or Islam goes.

    A billion people in America, a couple billion Asians, that equals half the world, which ought to be enough, for US.

    Europe could do, whatever.

    You are right, I do not care a hoot about Europe, either.
    Anyone that was important to me, there, left a long time ago.
    The young Swede my daughter befriended, he will be escaping, soon enough.

    If not, my girl will get over it.

  10. The aparthied storyline will not be going away. Nor will calls to boycott Israel and divestiture from companies doing business there.

    The model was South Africa, another 'friend' of Israel, back in the days of aparthied, there.

    Mr Olmert brought the subject up, he is better briefed than ant fiend of Israel, here. So, in the course of things, I believe him, first and other perspectives have to prove themselves, at least to a preponderence of evidence standard.

    The actions taking place in Europe are but a fore taste of what is to come.

    President Obama said that George Mitchell speaks for him.

    An interesting thing about Mitchell that I did not know, he was the Chairman of the Imagineers.
    Head of ABC for almost 3 years, from 2004 to 2007.

    On March 4, 2004, Disney's board of directors, on which he had served since 1995, named him Michael Eisner's replacement as Chairman of the Board after 43% of the company's shares were voted against Eisner's reelection. Mitchell himself received a 25% negative vote, a fact that led dissident Disney shareholders Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold to criticize the appointment of Mitchell, whom they saw as Eisner's puppet. On June 28, 2006, Disney announced that its board had elected one of its members, John Pepper, Jr., former CEO of Procter and Gamble, to replace Mitchell as chairman effective January 1, 2007.

  11. George Mitchell self identifies as an Arab American, another tidbit of knowledge I had not known.

    Mitchell's father, George John Mitchell, was of Irish descent and was a janitor at Colby College and his mother, Mary Saad, was a textile worker who emigrated to the United States from Bkassine, Lebanon at the age of eighteen. Because of his origin, he defined himself as American Arab.

    He speaks for President Obama, no need for him to phone home and check in.

  12. The Race is On to Make Better & Cheaper Electric Car Batteries

    by Michael Graham Richard, Gatineau, Canada on 01.27.09

    Making the 'Holy Grail' Battery
    Donald Sadoway and his students are working hard at MIT to improve battery technology for electric cars. In the past few years, most of the battery R&D has been coming from the portable electronics sector, but now automakers and governments have started to put a lot more resources into batteries designed specifically for vehicles.

    From the CSM:

    The beauty of lithium-ion is there's not one single chemical, but many variants involved. As a result, the race isn't over making a Chevy Volt battery designed to run 40 miles on a single charge that could cost as much as $10,000. Instead engineers hope to create a cell that could last perhaps 80 miles per charge and cost half as much, battery experts say.

    "There aren't any showstoppers," Sadoway says. "We're not asking for light to travel 10 times faster than it can go. We're not asking for science fiction. Most remaining problems involve engineering. So I'm optimistic that these problems that remain can be solved."

    Remember last week's article about possible lithium shortages? Well, Sadoway's lab is also working on developing other battery chemistries that use more "Earth abundant" materials (and that's if hypercapacitors, made primarily with carbon, don't take over in the next decades -- these can be charged & discharged very fast an unlimited number of times).

    Getting Battery Costs Down
    Suba Arunkumar, analyst for market researcher Frost & Sullivan, thinks that when mass-production behings in 2010-2011, battery packs like those of the Chevy Volt could go down to about $200 per kilowatt-hour, from around $600 now.

    Electric cars have existed for a very long time, but unlike fossil fuel-powered cars, they stayed at the pre-Model T stage (no mass production, no economies of scale, no massive R&D). The rate of progress that we've seen in the past 30 should not be a good indicator of how fast things can move in the next decades. It wouldn't be too surprising if we saw more progress in the next 10 years than in the past 100.

    And since electric cars have almost much fewer moving parts and components than gas cars, once the battery costs are low enough, the rest should be fairly inexpensive and require less maintenance.

  13. Last year, judges of Britain's Bad Sex in Fiction Prize voted Updike lifetime achievement honors.

    John Updike Dies

  14. The new fascists open attack on talk radio.

    Free Speech Go To Hell

    First target is Rush. Actually, an honor.

  15. Whatever the difficulty of the mission, Obama's early efforts to reach out and chart a new course on both domestic and foreign policy have been both substantive and symbolic.

    Since becoming president:

    _His first trip to Capitol Hill was to pay a visit not to Democrats in Congress but to opposition Republicans.

    _His first television interview went to Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language satellite TV network.

    _His first cave-in was to dump money for family planning from his giant economic stimulus bill, representing a giveback to Republicans.

    Early Tests

  16. State of Cringe
    January 26, 2009

    Just as Mr. Obama has danced into the oval office, we've arrived at a moment when a lot of people have a hard time imagining the future. This includes especially the mainstream media, which has reached a state of zombification parallel to that of the banks. But even in the mighty blogosphere, with its thousands of voices unconstrained by craven advertisers or pandering managing editors, the view forward dims as a dark and ominous fog rolls over the landscape of possibilities.
    For at least a year several story-lines have been slugging it out inconclusively for supremacy of the Web-waves. The main event has been the Deflationists versus the Inflationists. The first group basically says that so much "money" is being welshed out of existence that it dwarfs the new "money" being shoveled into existence in the form of bail-outs, tarps, and office re-decoration stipends. The Deflationists see the tattered remnants of the consumer credit economy auguring ever deeper into a hole until it is buried so far down that all the back-hoes ever sold will not be able to dig it out. The competing Inflationists say that the massive truckloads of shoveled-in "money" will soon overtake vanishing "wealth" and, in the process, make the US dollar worthless.
    Some of us see both outcomes in sequence: the deflationary "work out" of bad debt currently underway -- of loans that will will never be paid back, of acronymic paper securities revealed as frauds, of "non-performing" contracts entering the swamps of foreclosure, of banks pretending to still exist, of hallucinated "wealth" rushing into the cosmic worm-hole of oblivion -- can only go for so long before everyone who can go broke will go broke. Then, just as we find ourselves a nation of empty pockets, the tsunami of shoveled-in "money" designed to "reboot the consumer" (created not from productive activity but just printed recklessly), will start churning through the "economy," chasing products and commodities that became scarce during the deflationary phase -- and the result is hyper-inflation, the eraser of debt, destroyer of fortunes, and suicide pill of feckless governments.
    I guess the basic difference is that the hardcore Deflationists seem to think that their process can go on forever. The society just gets poorer and poorer until we're back at something like a scene out of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Inflationists see a fork in the road leading to more overt destruction, especially political turmoil as a lot of negative emotion joins the work-out orgy and overwhelms government.
    But in this moment, the week after a new president's inauguration, the deadly fog has rolled in and absolutely everyone dreads what lurks on the other side of it, without being able to discern the path through it. For example, the "bail-out fatigue" being reported suggests that congress may just call a halt to money-shoveling. Where would that leave Mr. Obama's urgent call for "stimulus?" Not to mention further TARP injections for redecorating bank offices.
    I've been skeptical of the "stimulus" as sketched out so far, aimed at refurbishing the infrastructure of Happy Motoring. To me, this is the epitome of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable -- since car-dependency is absolutely the last thing we need to shore up and promote. I haven't heard any talk so far about promoting walkable communities, or any meaningful plan to get serious about fixing passenger rail and integral public transit. Has Mr. Obama's circle lost sight of the fact that we import more than two-thirds of the oil we use, even during the current price hiatus? Or have they forgotten how vulnerable this leaves us to the slightest geopolitical spasm in such stable oil-exporting nations as Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Libya, Algeria, Columbia, Iran, and the Middle East states? And we're going to rescue ourselves by driving cars?
    I know it is difficult for Americans at every level to imagine a different way-of-life, but we'd better start tuning up our imaginations, because endless motoring is not our destiny anymore. The message has not moved from the grassroots up, and so at this perilous stage the message had better come from the top down. Mr. Obama needs to go on TV and tell the American public that were done cruisin' for burgers. He could do that by drastically reviving his stimulus proposal as it currently stands.
    Putting aside whether this "stimulus" represents reckless money-printing in an insolvent society, let's just take it at face-value and ask where the "money" might be better directed:

    -- We have to rehabilitate thousands of downtowns all over the nation to accommodate the new re-scaled edition of local and regional trade that will follow the death of national chain-store retail of the WalMart ilk. Reactivated town centers and Main Streets are indispensable features of walkable communities. The Congress for the New Urbanism ( ought to be consulted on the procedures for accomplishing this and for rehabilitating the traditional neighborhoods connected to our Main Streets.

    -- We have to reform food production (a.k.a. "farming"). Petro-dependent agri-biz will go the same way as the chain stores. Its equations will fail, especially in a credit-strapped society. That piece of the picture is so dire right now, as we prepare for the planting season, that many crops may not be put in for lack of front-money. This portends, at least, much higher food prices at the end of the year, if not outright scarcities and shortages. And the new government wants to gold-plate highway off-ramps instead? Earth to Rahm Emanuel: screw your head back on.

    -- As mentioned above, we have to get passenger rail going again because the airlines are going to die the next time there is an uptick in oil prices, or a spot shortage of oil. Let's not be too grandiose and attempt to build expensive high-speed or mag-lev networks -- certainly not right now -- because they require entirely new track systems. Let's fix those regular tracks already out there, rusting in the rain, or temporarily replaced by bike trails.

    Those are three biggies for moment and enough to keep this society busy for a couple of years. But more to the point of this blog, observers of all stripes are having trouble imagining any way out of our multiple predicaments. All the possible actions tried so far have have seemed absurd. Why even try to prop up inflated house values when the single most crucial need in this sector is for house prices to return to parity with incomes so the shrinking pool of ordinary people still employed can begin to think about buying one? Well, the obvious explanation is that politicians can't bear the pain of watching mass foreclosures and the ruination of families. This is pretty understandable, and it is tragic indeed. Frankly, I don't know of any political narcotic that can mitigate the pain that results from having made poor choices in life -- even if those choices were promoted and reinforced by the mighty ideology of "American Dreaming." Anyway, the foreclosures are well underway now, and perhaps the salient question is how long will the public's fury remain constrained while they hear about Wall Street executives buying $80,000 area rugs? Surely there is a tipping point of collective distress that is not too far from where we're at now.
    In the realm of TARPS and other continued bail-outs aimed at the banks, the car-makers, and a host of other corporate special pleaders, I wonder if we have already reached the saturation point. But opinion on the Web is starkly divided and a prime manifestation is the debate over whether it was a terrible blunder or the right thing to let Lehman Brothers sink into bankruptcy. Both sides make valid arguments, but virtually all the other super-banks right now have lurched to death's door and we have no clear guidance on what we should do about them. Each one is touted as "too big to fail," as well as being interlocked with the others on credit default swaps that would bring them all crashing down if one counter party truly failed. It seems to me that this is what lies at the heart of the present situation. Nobody I've encountered in the sphere of opinion-and-comment thinks that these banks will survive, and this outcome beats a short path to the conclusion that the entire banking system is fatally ill -- leading directly to a super-major crisis of political economy in which the whole reeking, leaking system just crashes. I think this is what lies behind Mr. Obama's appeals for very urgent action.
    But then we're back to square one: nobody, including Mr. O himself, has really proposed a set of actions that have not already been tried in the way of money-shoveling. So this will be a week in which, perhaps, some wise and intrepid figures -- perhaps even the president -- will articulate something we haven't heard before, perhaps even something like bearing our hardships bravely. It'll be a very interesting week, I'm sure.

  17. David, one of my readers, writes in with a question:

    I'm curious about what actually makes a bank too big to fail. My guess is that it is because they are counter-parties to many deals, but would something like a CDS exchange help facilitate "canceling out" these deals?


    The first thing worth saying here is that too big to fail (TBTF) has nothing to do with counterparty risk or credit default swaps or other such arcana of this particular financial crisis. Instead, it's all about the sheer size of a bank's balance sheet -- its assets and liabilities.


    As for credit default swaps, they're derivatives, and therefore zero-sum games. Investors can use them to shunt bank-failure risk elsewhere in the system, but they can't eradicate it.


  18. I'm afraid that President Obama will come to the same conclusions about the Middle East conunundrum that every prior President has reached. There will be no peace in the Middle East. Islam has invested centuries of hate against the Jews. Centuries and a Holy Book.

    Go here to see a hint at the deep seated nature of the problem.

    Arabs and Muslims worldwide read about the demographic time bomb ticking in Europe. They know that time is on their side and are not likely to relent now that a stunning victory appears to be within their grasp.

    Unfortuntely, President Obama seems to believe that his powers of persuasion and logic exceed all that have come before him.

    If you watch the Qadafi clip, you'll see that Muslims believe that Obama is a Muslim. Like everyone else, they have projected their beliefs onto the blank canvas. They have hope. Obama will either disappoint those people or worst case, make them happy. If the latter, you better study up on the book of Revelation.

  19. I guarantee that even a moderate, mild mannered Muslim thinks that a Muslim world would be "a wonderful thing." I suspect that if they think such a world is within their reach, they will redouble their prayers if not their efforts to see that Allah's will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

  20. We're not talking about pluralistic societies here.

  21. Mr. Obama needs to go on TV and tell the American public that we're done cruisin' for burgers.


    The heck with hamburger. The Idaho Spud is back.

    We need bold, firm leadership here.

    New ideas, courageously presented.

    A tax cheat for Secretary of Treasury, groveling on arab tv, that sort of thing.

    If you watch the Qadafi clip, you'll see that Muslims believe that Obama is a Muslim.

    And they might be right.

  22. We have to reform food production (a.k.a. "farming"). Petro-dependent agri-biz will go the same way as the chain stores.

    Long live starvation!

  23. My Senator Crapo, now I'm calling him Crap-O, voted for that Treasury Secretary.

    I'm disgusted. Just what kind of a message does that vote send?

  24. Bob, you were right. He's starting his world apology tour.

  25. Long live starvation!

    Say hello to Ad-36