“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, July 07, 2009

Obama's Katrina and an America that can't get anything done.

The entire Empire State Building was constructed in one year and 45 days. The Empire State Building came in on time and under budget. It was work for 3300 men during the Great Depression. It cost $40,948,900.

The builders Starrett Bros. & Eken told the owner, Raskob that they could get the job done in eighteen months. When asked during the interview how much equipment they had on hand, Paul Starrett replied, "Not a not a god damned thing. Not even a pick and shovel." Starrett told Raskob: "Gentlemen, this building of yours is going to represent unusual problems. Ordinary building equipment won't be worth a damn on it. We'll buy new stuff, fitted for the job, and at the end sell it and credit you with the difference. That's what we do on every big project. It costs less than renting secondhand stuff, and it's more efficient."

They got the job.

The Empire State Building officially opened on May 1, 1931


James Pinkerton - - July 06, 2009
Obama's Katrina
Make no mistake, the economic crisis and Obama's failure to create real jobs with his stimulus package means we're looking at this president's Katrina.

The economy is shaping up to be Barack Obama's Katrina. If President George W. Bush was blamed for his slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- there was plenty of blame to go around, of course, but the disaster was on Bush's watch--then Obama will get the blame for his slow response to the current recession. The difference, of course, is that Katrina afflicted a city and a few states, while the recession afflicts the whole country.

Unemployment is 9.5 percent and rising fast, certain to go higher than 10 percent. And what is the federal government doing about it? Not much. And so House Republican Leader John Boehner makes a good point when he asks, "Where are the jobs?"

On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said that the Obama administration had "misread" the economic indicators. So what are they likely to do about it? More of the same--which is to say, not much.

The problem the Democrats have--and come to think of it, the country has it, too--is that even if you want to build something, you can't do it. That is, you can't do it without plowing through years' worth of lawyers and environmental-impact-statement-writers, nor without enduring endless hearings and lawsuits where every last NIMBY gets a whack at the project. And so even before this terrible recession, America's capacity actually to build anything--build a highway, build a bullet train, build a power plant -- had been crippled.

So piling on new money does no good, because the old money hasn't been getting spent. Getting spent, that is, on bricks and mortar and technology, as opposed to lawyers and consultants. In the past, "stimulus" was a way to put blue collars and hardhats back to work. Yet now, the only people being stimulated are white-collar lobbyists and litigators.

To be sure, Obama's federal government will spend a lot of money. The feds are asking for $3.5 trillion for fiscal year 2010, and that's not counting the $787 billion "stimulus" package, as well as trillions in funny-money income transfers to big banks--including such improbable "banks" as General Electric, parent company to NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC--through shadowy organizations, such as the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But all that money is pushing the wettest of wet noodles--because governments, surrounded as they are by Greens and NIMBYs, can't do anything.

On May 27, more than three months after President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law, USA Today reported that a grand total of $2 million of stimulus money had spent in Michigan, the hard-hit state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. That works out to 21 cents per Michigander. How much stimulus is that?

And just this morning, The Big Money reports that only $55 billion of the $400 billion in non-tax-break stimulus money has been spent. Jobless Americans might ask: What are you waiting for? Indeed, every American might ask the same question. Because all Americans would benefit from new roads, new train tracks, new windmills--anything at all.

Democrats are starting to notice that the fiscal contraption of government leaks more fuel than it burns. "We're disappointed," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on "FOX News Sunday." We're looking at ways to get the money out more quickly.

Well yes, that would be a good idea. And so Democrats might learn from their own past. Confronted with 25 percent unemployment in March 1933, here's the agenda that Franklin D. Roosevelt set for the country in his first inaugural address:

"Our greatest primary task is to put people to work . . . treating the task as we would treat the emergency of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our national resources."

But of course, it's deeds, not words, that matter, and FDR and the New Deal delivered. In his 1990 book, "Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan" Michael Barone offers one of the best overviews of five decades of recent U.S. history. Barone recounted the effectiveness of the New Deal in combatting unemployment. By January 1934, less than a year after Roosevelt took office, the Civil Works Administration employed 4.25 million people, fully eight percent of the national labor force. In fact, over the entire course of the the Depression, unemployment peaked in the month that Roosevelt came into office.

Was there waste, or fraud, or abuse in all this New Deal spending? Sure. But there was also a huge renaissance in public works around the country, from the Triborough Bridge in New York to the Golden Gate Bridge in California. And New Deal programs such as the Rural Electrification Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority literally lit up (as well as cooled) life for tens of millions of Americans.

Conservatives were horrified, of course, but most Americans cheered. Not only was Roosevelt re-elected three times, but the Democrats kept control of both houses of Congress all during the 30s and well into the 40s. And by the way, during the 30s and 40s, America built up the industries that not only won World War II and the Cold War, but also created the consumer abundance that we enjoyed for decades thereafter.

So something must have gone right for New Deal Democrats.

By contrast, today's Democrats are not really interested in building things. They are demonstrably more interested in bailing out banks, and keeping environmentalists happy. Bankers, of course, deal in intangibles; they make money without regard to where physical goods are manufactured--although bankers know that goods are likely to be cheaper in China, so that's their preference. And the environmentalists, of course, oppose just about everything. Thus we have the "green-green alliance" -- green as in the color of money, and green as in Greenpeace. Together, these allies are working to pastoralize the United States. We can create meadows and forests, but not jobs.

And if that's the goal, so what if unemployment rises? So what if the real economy contracts? That's a small price to pay for elite Democrats, who hold those other, non-productive green objectives closer to their hearts.

Thus the "cap-and-trade" legislation, which passed two weeks ago in the House of Representatives, is a perfect exemplar of the modern Democratic mindset: The green environmentalists are happy, because carbon-based energy production is restricted, and greenback-minded Wall Streeters are happy, too, because traders will make billions trading trillions' worth of funny-money carbon contracts.

But there is a catch: People don't have jobs now, and they won't get them in the future if Obama spends money that doesn't stimulate--and then seeks to choke what remains of the productive economy through environmental regulation.

And that, surely, is that a misreading of what the American people will vote for in 2010 and 2012.

This is Obama's Katrina. You heard it here first.


  1. even if you want to build something, you can't do it. That is, you can't do it without plowing through years' worth of lawyers and environmental-impact-statement-writers, nor without enduring endless hearings and lawsuits where every last NIMBY gets a whack at the project

    I've got a meeting tomorrow to set up the second of two "Neighborhood Meetings" on my dime for the entertainment of my NIMBYs.

    Of course, they weren't NIMBYs some years ago, cause they hadn't moved in here yet.

    Everyone seems to have a voice in my little project but me.

    Well, I'll set the meeting up, and hire a stenographer to take the required notes, but I ain't going. I pissed them off the first time by not going. I'm not going to ruin that by going now.

    The NIMBY effect was mentioned by a guy on Liddy today too.

    A year's delay?

    Call it more like six or eight on some of these projects, and it might not even be a delay, but a cancellation.

    Save The Giant Palouse Worm! Act now!

  2. I hear you Bob. A couple of years ago my township went to set restrictions on septic tanks. The old houses had them and the new chateaus did not. There were quite a few tankers at the meeting objecting to the unfairness and cost and asking where was the evidence that there was a problem.

    It got rowdy and one of the commissioners kept reminding us that he was a lawyer. After he did that four or five times, I reminded him that in our township, there were likely more lawyers than septic tanks.

  3. heh:) And with the septic tanks you got some value for your money.

    I've mentioned dad was city attorney for 13 years, last of the good ones. He couldn't stand the damned city. It all started to go downhill in the 60's, no joke.

    Now we're discussing the rights of cross dressers, I ain't kidding. Even with this better new set council critters.

    I mean, it's an important issue, if you're male, and want to dress like Marilyn Monroe, so it has to be discussed.

    They're also talking about banning smoking in bars, of course.

    The bar owners don't much like the idea, claiming private property rights, and the free market, which can provide smokeless bars on its own, if there is a demand.

    I'm thinking of demanding a bar with a quota system for farmers, who are in a distinct minority in the bars these days. Can this be fair? Surely not, says I.

  4. Hi Friends. like minded.
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  5. Ever wondered why all those county courthouses looked identical? We built one in almost every county during the depression. Real people building real buildings to do the real work of governing (okay, that last one is a little debatable,) but, at least, it DID put people to work.

    Today, we Should be building an ethanol/biodiesel refinery in every county. We could be building an anaerobic digestor for every municipal sewage system. We could be doing many things to free up our energy supplies from the terrorist-supporters, and tyrants.

    BUT, we're not. Yet.

  6. You left out methane capture from solid waste, Rufus.

    And, all your sludge digesters from Maine to San Diego are anaerobic now. I'll quit quibbling.

    Your point is made. We won't be doing anything until at earliest sometime after 2010. Maybe faster after 2012?

    As long as the bureaucracy is led by the Chus and the Browners, squat will get done.

    We'll still be drilling 20 years from now, btw. :-)

  7. Ruins of the Second Gilded Age

    al-Bob's and 'Rat's hometowns represented here.
    (well, close, in al-Bob's case)


    One Audacious MoFo Bridge:
    Across the Great Divide

  8. It is not Katrina, in a reality it is worse, but there are no camera shots of people in distress.

    No puppies in a raft, being pushed by an obese woman in purple spandex.

    Without that, there is no real crisis of conscience

    That America can't seem to get anything done, that DOES predate Team Obamamerica's arrival in DC.

  9. Instead of people refusing rescue, because their pets could not be taken, too ...

    In Phoenix the animal shelters are bursting and the strays roam the streets, abandoned by owners that have lost their homes ... and hope.

    doug's NYTimes photo essay not really catching the wipeout that those empty buildings represent.

    Row upon row of empty lots, bordered by sidewalks and curbs, but unpaved streets, that's one thing that everyone with tenure in the construction business understands.

    The millions of square feet of empty retail space, that is a new part of the mix, here.

  10. Reading the WSJ led me to this cut and paste ... about unbridled intellectualism.

    McNamara, who died yesterday at 93, will go down as a cautionary tale for the ages, and perhaps none more than for the Age of Obama. Whatever else distinguishes JFK's New Frontier or LBJ's Great Society from Barack Obama's "New Foundation," this too is an era of soaring rhetoric, big plans and boundless self-regard, issued by an administration convinced it can apply technocratic, top-down solutions to huge and unpredictable systems -- the banking, auto and health-care industries, for instance, or the climate. These are people deeply impressed by their own smarts, the ones for whom the phrase "the best and the brightest" has been scrubbed of its intended irony.

    When McNamara -- the "Whiz Kid" from Ford -- was first named defense secretary, in December 1960, Time magazine gushed that he "reads widely and well (current choices: The Phenomenon of Man, W.W. Rostow's The Stages of Growth). . . . His mind, says a friend who has seen him in Ann Arbor discussions, 'is a beautiful instrument, ...

    Mr Campbell was not yet being commercially published and Bill Moyers, he had not started at the White House. Together they had not begun preaching the intellectual benefits of secular humanism to the masses.

    Exceptionalism had not yet been displaced by equivalency.

  11. The green shoots are wilting like an un-watered chi-chi-chi-chia dog.

  12. Smoking in interior public spaces is outlawed almost everywhere. If not in Moscow, that is only because ID is so far behind the current cultural curve.

  13. They've been working on that bridge, over the Black Canyon for a long time now. Any number of years, four or five anyway.

  14. Yesterday I was in the Alpharetta and Roswell areas outside Atlanta. Alpharetta appears to be an affluent, recent growth area. Their tight zoning restrictions require commercial development meet a fairly high (and expensive) standard for aesthetics. While this makes for attractive high end development, (some call it sprawl) it places more of a financial burden on commerce. Within a square mile area, I saw a half dozen beautiful new restaurant buildings for sale or lease.

    Later today, I will be visiting a new community being developed along traditional neighborhood development standards. Serenbe, Georgia.

    Little "green, sustainable, enlightened" enclaves like this are springing up all over the country but they're expensive. I think the best value for budget conscious bargain hunters will be the once bustling but now declining little towns throughout the country.

  15. Hard to sell 2,000 pizzas a week, in Serenbe, would be my guess.

  16. If you're looking to relocate

    Camp Verde, AZ. has some positive attributes.

  17. by limiting those property taxes Proposition 13 managed to save people's houses. To the surprise of many prognosticators, the state government did not go out of business. It has continued to expand faster than either its income or population. Between 2003 and 2007, spending grew 31%, compared with a 5% population increase. Today the overall tax burden as percent of state income, according to the Tax Foundation, has risen to the sixth-highest in the nation.

    The media and political pundits refuse to see this gap between the state's budget and its ability to pay as an essential issue. It is. (This is not to say structural reform is not needed. I would support, for example, reforming some of the unintended ill-effects of Proposition 13 that weakened local government and left control of the budget to Sacramento.)

    But the fundamental problem remains. California's economy--once wondrously diverse with aerospace, high-tech, agriculture and international trade--has run aground. Burdened by taxes and ever-growing regulation, the state is routinely rated by executives as having among the worst business climates in the nation. No surprise, then, that California's jobs engine has sputtered, and it may be heading toward 15% unemployment

    Who Killed California's Economy?
    Joel Kotkin

  18. Pope calls for a UN 'with teeth' !

    The Pope has called for reform of the United Nations and financial bodies, giving them the "real teeth" needed to tackle economic and social injustice.

    Benedict XVI said the blind pursuit of profit and economic mismanagement had "wreaked havoc" on the global economy.

    The market, said the Pope, must not become the place where the strong prevail over the weak.

  19. Han Chinese launch revenge attacks on Uighur property

    • Riot police move to break up crowds in Urumqi
    • Hundreds take to the streets wielding sticks and shovels

    Tania Branigan

  20. U.S. and Russia to Reduce Arsenals
    Obama, Medvedev Discuss Cooperation On Missile Defense

    MOSCOW, July 6 -- President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached a preliminary agreement Monday to cut the American and Russian nuclear arsenals by as much as a third while exploring options for cooperation on missile defense.

  21. There's no way one is going to sell 2,000 pizzas there in a month, much less a week. I bet the overhead will be just as bad as bob's 300K idaho restaurant.

    Camp Verde, Az pop abt 9700, may be a little on the small side to sustain a local business. Also, the water situation of the desert southwest is worrisome.

    Thomasville, Ga is one of the most attractive little towns that I've seen so far. Abt 35k people, a great little downtown area. Easy climate, well run city. Down side is median income and streets roll up at 6:00 pm. Columbus, Ga is also an attractive little southern town.

    On the other side of Idaho from bob, Idaho Falls looks like it has potential too. Third largest city in the state w/50K people. Appears to have plenty of water and real estate prices are moderate.

  22. Water in Camp Verde is plentiful, at least for now.

    The I-17 traffic count provides for a higher customer count than is reflected in the population.

    There are also the outlying communities, Lake Montezuma & Cornville, both of which have no services and center their shooping in Camp Verde.

    The 'commercial' population of the three towns may approach 20,000.

    But 2,000 pies a week ... doubt it.
    I have not thought of a pizza parlor, there, as a real money maker. But you could buy yourself a job.

  23. When agriculture was done with animals we needed a small village (general store) about every 6 miles. A small town every fifteen twelve, or fifteen, and a good-sized town every 30 miles.

    Today, farmers farm 560 acres, compared to 160 in earlier times, the rural population is less dense, and everyone is, as a result of the Internal Combustion Engine, within 15 minutes of the "good-sized" town.

    As a result, small towns and villages are a pleasant place to live, but really lousy places to open a business.

  24. Cottonwood, another town a bit more upstream along the Verde, 20 miles of so, is a little more of a 'civic center'

    There's a Walmart, there.

  25. Unless you're looking for a place to "hole up, and die" the minimum requirement for any town is a 4 Year University, or College.

  26. And, as Rat said, you can buy yourself a "decent" job in any town that has a Walmart.

  27. I was nabbed in a speeding trap going down the pass into Verde Valley. Not a sign of the law anywhere on the interstate all the way from Phoenix, then going down into the valley, troopers by the dozen and a bear in the air. By mail, I negotiated down the fine and pleaded no contest. Technically, I was guilty of course. That's the thing we need to remember about the law. No man can keep all of it.

  28. Same thing here, Whit. I see it every day. The troopers hang out a few hundred feet from the State Patrol office, at the bottom of the Lewiston Hill, where there are three different speed limits, and its easy to get going too fast down the hill, and along Highway 95towards the casino, where there are two. Nab people day and night. But you get out a dozen miles from here, you're pretty much on your own, all the way to Boise.

    Big money makers, those speed traps.

  29. We're anxiously awaiting the new opening of the coming SuperWalMart in Clarkston, Washington, just across the river. Right across from Costco, too, which will put the competition to them.

    Hop, skip and a jump over there, and no sales tax on food in Washington. Stay away from buying booze, beer and cigs though, for those go to the local outlets here, or to the Nez Perce. Fight the Man!

  30. Yeah well, the whirled is anxiously awaiting the departure of Michael Jackson's body for the Staple center.

  31. I await it's arrival in Hades.

  32. Marines' beasts of burden are again leading the pack
    Reporting from Bridgeport, Calif.

    -- With 75 pounds of military gear cinched on her furry back, Annie was stubborn the whole way.

    The two Marines assigned to her pushed, pulled and sweet-talked her up the steep, twisting trail on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

    "C'mon, girl, you can make it," Lance Cpl. Chad Campbell whispered in her ear.

    "Only one more hill," promised Lance Cpl. Cameron Cross as he shoved Annie's muscular hindquarters.

    Audio slide show: Packing it in

  33. It is, and AlGoreInc leads the climate Nazis.

    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 33% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-six percent (36%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of –3. Those figures reflect the highest level of strong disapproval measured to date and the lowest level recorded for the overall Approval Index

  34. "David Halberstam, describing McNamara's trips to Saigon, wrote in "The Best and the Brightest" that McNamara, the ultimate technocrat, was "a prisoner of his own background . . . unable, as indeed was the country which sponsored him, to adapt his values and his terms to Vietnamese realities. Since any real indices and truly factual estimates of the war would immediately have shown its bankruptcy, the McNamara trips became part of a vast unwitting and elaborate charade, the institutionalizing and legitimizing of a hopeless lie."

    In Halberstam's judgment, McNamara "did not serve himself or his country well. He was, there is no kinder or gentler word for it, a fool."

  35. Asked by CNN whether Washington had given Israel a green light for such an attack, Obama answered: "Absolutely not."

    In the interview, which was broadcast from Russia, where Obama is on an official visit, he added: "We can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are.

    "What is also true is, it is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities," Obama said

    The JPost

  36. ‘Green light’ for an ‘air raid’ is not enough.

    Posted by Robert Haddick

  37. A little inside baseball at Stratfor:

    The Real Struggle in Iran and Implications for U.S. Dialogue

    By George Friedman

    Speaking of the situation in Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama said June 26, “We don’t yet know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what has happened inside of Iran.” On the surface that is a strange statement, since we know that with minor exceptions, the demonstrations in Tehran lost steam after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for them to end and security forces asserted themselves. By the conventional wisdom, events in Iran represent an oppressive regime crushing a popular rising. If so, it is odd that the U.S. president would raise the question of what has happened in Iran.

    In reality, Obama’s point is well taken. This is because the real struggle in Iran has not yet been settled, nor was it ever about the liberalization of the regime. Rather, it has been about the role of the clergy — particularly the old-guard clergy — in Iranian life, and the future of particular personalities among this clergy.
    Ahmadinejad Against the Clerical Elite

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran his re-election campaign against the old clerical elite, charging them with corruption, luxurious living and running the state for their own benefit rather than that of the people. He particularly targeted Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an extremely senior leader, and his family. Indeed, during the demonstrations, Rafsanjani’s daughter and four other relatives were arrested, held and then released a day later.

    Rafsanjani represents the class of clergy that came to power in 1979. He served as president from 1989-1997, but Ahmadinejad defeated him in 2005. Rafsanjani carries enormous clout within the system as head of the regime’s two most powerful institutions — the Expediency Council, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council and parliament, and the Assembly of Experts, whose powers include oversight of the supreme leader. Forbes has called him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Rafsanjani, in other words, remains at the heart of the post-1979 Iranian establishment.

    Ahmadinejad expressly ran his recent presidential campaign against Rafsanjani, using the latter’s family’s vast wealth to discredit Rafsanjani along with many of the senior clerics who dominate the Iranian political scene. It was not the regime as such that he opposed, but the individuals who currently dominate it. Ahmadinejad wants to retain the regime, but he wants to repopulate the leadership councils with clerics who share his populist values and want to revive the ascetic foundations of the regime. The Iranian president constantly contrasts his own modest lifestyle with the opulence of the current religious leadership.

    Recognizing the threat Ahmadinejad represented to him personally and to the clerical class he belongs to, Rafsanjani fired back at Ahmadinejad, accusing him of having wrecked the economy. At his side were other powerful members of the regime, including Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, who has made no secret of his antipathy toward Ahmadinejad and whose family links to the Shiite holy city of Qom give him substantial leverage. The underlying issue was about the kind of people who ought to be leading the clerical establishment. The battlefield was economic: Ahmadinejad’s charges of financial corruption versus charges of economic mismanagement leveled by Rafsanjani and others.


  38. [...]

    When Ahmadinejad defeated Mir Hossein Mousavi on the night of the election, the clerical elite saw themselves in serious danger. The margin of victory Ahmadinejad claimed might have given him the political clout to challenge their position. Mousavi immediately claimed fraud, and Rafsanjani backed him up. Whatever the motives of those in the streets, the real action was a knife fight between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. By the end of the week, Khamenei decided to end the situation. In essence, he tried to hold things together by ordering the demonstrations to halt while throwing a bone to Rafsanjani and Mousavi by extending a probe into the election irregularities and postponing a partial recount by five days.
    The Struggle Within the Regime

    The key to understanding the situation in Iran is realizing that the past weeks have seen not an uprising against the regime, but a struggle within the regime. Ahmadinejad is not part of the establishment, but rather has been struggling against it, accusing it of having betrayed the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The post-election unrest in Iran therefore was not a matter of a repressive regime suppressing liberals (as in Prague in 1989), but a struggle between two Islamist factions that are each committed to the regime, but opposed to each other.

    The demonstrators certainly included Western-style liberalizing elements, but they also included adherents of senior clerics who wanted to block Ahmadinejad’s re-election. And while Ahmadinejad undoubtedly committed electoral fraud to bulk up his numbers, his ability to commit unlimited fraud was blocked, because very powerful people looking for a chance to bring him down were arrayed against him.

    The situation is even more complex because it is not simply a fight between Ahmadinejad and the clerics, but also a fight among the clerical elite regarding perks and privileges — and Ahmadinejad is himself being used within this infighting. The Iranian president’s populism suits the interests of clerics who oppose Rafsanjani; Ahmadinejad is their battering ram. But as Ahmadinejad increases his power, he could turn on his patrons very quickly. In short, the political situation in Iran is extremely volatile, just not for the reason that the media portrayed.

    Rafsanjani is an extraordinarily powerful figure in the establishment who clearly sees Ahmadinejad and his faction as a mortal threat. Ahmadinejad’s ability to survive the unified opposition of the clergy, election or not, is not at all certain. But the problem is that there is no unified clergy. The supreme leader is clearly trying to find a new political balance while making it clear that public unrest will not be tolerated. Removing “public unrest” (i.e., demonstrations) from the tool kits of both sides may take away one of Rafsanjani’s more effective tools. But ultimately, it actually could benefit him. Should the internal politics move against the Iranian president, it would be Ahmadinejad — who has a substantial public following — who would not be able to have his supporters take to the streets.


  39. Skipping to the end:


    When the West looks at Iran, two concerns are expressed. The first relates to the Iranian nuclear program, and the second relates to Iran’s support for terrorists, particularly Hezbollah. Neither Iranian faction is liable to abandon either, because both make geopolitical sense for Iran and give it regional leverage.

    Tehran’s primary concern is regime survival, and this has two elements. The first is deterring an attack on Iran, while the second is extending Iran’s reach so that such an attack could be countered. There are U.S. troops on both sides of the Islamic Republic, and the United States has expressed hostility to the regime. The Iranians are envisioning a worst-case scenario, assuming the worst possible U.S. intentions, and this will remain true no matter who runs the government.

    We do not believe that Iran is close to obtaining a nuclear weapon, a point we have made frequently. Iran understands that the actual acquisition of a nuclear weapon would lead to immediate U.S. or Israeli attacks. Accordingly, Iran’s ideal position is to be seen as developing nuclear weapons, but not close to having them. This gives Tehran a platform for bargaining without triggering Iran’s destruction, a task at which it has proved sure-footed.

    In addition, Iran has maintained capabilities in Iraq and Lebanon. Should the United States or Israel attack, Iran would thus be able to counter by doing everything possible to destabilize Iraq — bogging down U.S. forces there — while simultaneously using Hezbollah’s global reach to carry out terror attacks. After all, Hezbollah is today’s al Qaeda on steroids. The radical Shiite group’s ability, coupled with that of Iranian intelligence, is substantial.

    We see no likelihood that any Iranian government would abandon this two-pronged strategy without substantial guarantees and concessions from the West. Those would have to include guarantees of noninterference in Iranian affairs. Obama, of course, has been aware of this bedrock condition, which is why he went out of his way before the election to assure Khamenei in a letter that the United States had no intention of interfering.


  40. [...]

    Though Iran did not hesitate to lash out at CNN’s coverage of the protests, the Iranians know that the U.S. government doesn’t control CNN’s coverage. But Tehran takes a slightly different view of the BBC. The Iranians saw the depiction of the demonstrations as a democratic uprising against a repressive regime as a deliberate attempt by British state-run media to inflame the situation. This allowed the Iranians to vigorously blame some foreigner for the unrest without making the United States the primary villain.

    But these minor atmospherics aside, we would make three points. First, there was no democratic uprising of any significance in Iran. Second, there is a major political crisis within the Iranian political elite, the outcome of which probably tilts toward Ahmadinejad but remains uncertain. Third, there will be no change in the substance of Iran’s foreign policy, regardless of the outcome of this fight. The fantasy of a democratic revolution overthrowing the Islamic Republic — and thus solving everyone’s foreign policy problems a la the 1991 Soviet collapse — has passed.

    That means that Obama, as the primary player in Iranian foreign affairs, must now define an Iran policy — particularly given Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s meeting in Washington with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell this Monday. Obama has said that nothing that has happened in Iran makes dialogue impossible, but opening dialogue is easier said than done. The Republicans consistently have opposed an opening to Iran; now they are joined by Democrats, who oppose dialogue with nations they regard as human rights violators. Obama still has room for maneuver, but it is not clear where he thinks he is maneuvering. The Iranians have consistently rejected dialogue if it involves any preconditions. But given the events of the past weeks, and the perceptions about them that have now been locked into the public mind, Obama isn’t going to be able to make many concessions.

    It would appear to us that in this, as in many other things, Obama will be following the Bush strategy — namely, criticizing Iran without actually doing anything about it. And so he goes to Moscow more aware than ever that Russia could cause the United States a great deal of pain if it proceeded with weapons transfers to Iran, a country locked in a political crisis and unlikely to emerge from it in a pleasant state of mind.

  41. I was nabbed in a speeding trap going down the pass into Verde Valley.

    Ambushed. Must be the core of their highway patrol doctrine. Skills learned from the Apache I think. No wonder rat is such a law abiding fella. I've yet to fall victim there, but only through dumb luck.

  42. And it seems we've got ourselves a Costa Rican mediator on that sticky bit of business in Central America.

  43. Either way into that Valley is steep, but the hill on the Flagstaff side is a killer. The semis brakes burn out and they end up runnig over a passenger car before they stopp, happens at least a couple times a year.

    We have all kinds of different types of police on the hard roads.
    State, County, Local, Reservation, Forest Rangers, Game Wardens and then the official Sheriff Posses.
    Search & Rescue. All sanctioned by the State, all of 'em armed to the teeth.

    Forest Rangers seem to have become National Forest Police, they all are packing Glocks, seems to me from casual observation, not at all like the Forest Rangers of my youth.

    But then I do not venture around the backroads without a firearm or two.

    Fish & Game have their own brand of law enforcement officer, as well. Figure that in a pinch they all ride for the State Posse.

    Then we have the air patrols that cruise the freeways at about 3,500 above the ground, lookin' for speeders. Then they radio ahead to a ground unit that pulls ya over.

    The days of cruisin' from Blythe to Goodyear at 120mph are long past.

  44. So there were no insurgents amongst the Iranian demonstrators, especially their leaders.

    Still begs the question why, when the demonstrations were at fever pitch, a series of insurgent events across the minority majority areas, unrelated to the protestors but for the timing, were not instigated?

    If not to sway the outcome then just because we should have, if we could have.

  45. Whose fault is it that you got so hung up on Hersh?

    I tried to tell you any number of times.

    When he's not making up his own stories, hoping to elicit a reaction from somewhere, someone, he's a disinformation outlet. More of the former, less of the latter, but both nonetheless.

    Stop reading him for Christ's sake. Or at least stop taking him seriously.

  46. Speaking of Iran, many of the commentators Here think it's time for a Honduran type action in our own country.

  47. The only thing standing between Obama and certain defeat in the next election is the Republican party.

  48. I fully understand that the US did not develop that insurgency capacity in Iran, despite the reports from See-more.

    The question I have, is why not?

    That is the question that begs an answer.

  49. You are right, duece, can't beat somthin' witn nothin'

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