A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US

Perhaps Derbyshire has been reading the discussion in the comments on the FM series about reforming America.  He nicely expresses what I have said about our dreams of saving the world.

The Election From Hell“, John Derbyshire, National Review Online, 25 August 2008 — Bold emphasis added.  Excerpt:

How  quickly time passes! It has been a mere year and a half since the first candidate debates, and the party conventions are upon us already. Next week, the Democratic-party convention in Denver — “Most Diverse in Party History” boasts the website. The following week, the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul — “Twin Cities Promise Double Fun for GOP.”

Fun? Melancholy spectacles both, in this writer’s opinion, for this is the most disastrously awful choice Americans have ever been offered for the post of chief executive.

 … That these two men are much worse than I thought only became apparent to me at the Saddleback interviews conducted by Baptist minister Rick Warren in front of 5,000 of his parishioners. Here the truth came out. These are not merely two different specimens of mediocrity, as is usual in presidential campaigns; they are two different specimens of love-the-world romantic fantasist.

Perhaps there is at least – I am clutching at straws, dear reader – some tiny element of choice in the fact that McCain and Obama are methodologically different in their desires to spend as much of America’s resources as they can get their hands on to lift up foreign peoples in foreign places. In accordance with their youthful experiences, McCain sees the task in warlike terms: “evil must be defeated.” To Obama it’s more a matter of community organizing: “building public health infrastructure around the world.”

Both men are determined to set this planet to rights, though, and hang the cost. Doesn’t the United States have infinite resources? Of course it does. Eliminator of All Evil, or Welfare Agency to the World; Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper or Albert Schweizer; you just have to choose. Can we afford it? Yes, we can! (That faint sound you hear? That’s the clink-clink of devaluing dollars – just ignore it.)

One hardly knows where to start with this gibberish. With eliminating evil, perhaps.

Warren: How about the issue of evil? … Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?
McCain: Defeat it. … Of course evil must be defeated …

Warren didn’t raise a peep. This is a Christian church? Hasn’t anybody present heard of original sin? The only way to eliminate evil is to eliminate the human race. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that McCain’s policies will have that result, but if it’s the result he intends, he ought to tell us.

Warren: There are 148 million orphans in the world, 148 million kids growing up without Mommies and Dads. … Would you be willing to consider and even commit to doing some kind of emergency plan for orphans like President Bush did with AIDS?
Obama: I think it’s a great idea. … I think that part of our plan though has to be how do we prevent more orphans in the first place and that means that we’re helping to build the public health infrastructure around the world …

Heaven forbid that people in Nigeria, Nauru, Norway, or Nicaragua should build their own clinics and hospitals, without any help from Uncle Sam and his limitless bounty! Heaven forbid they should take care of their own orphans, and we of ours!

But then, as John McCain says: “America’s greatest moral failure has been, throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest.” Except, of course, that nations are supposed to devote themselves to their self-interest, and to nothing else. That’s what sane people want their nation to do. That’s what all the other nations of the world do do.

… I don’t want either of these men in charge of the federal government, neither the crazy old fool nor the simpering sophomore. I don’t want either the moralistic imperialism of John McCain or the welfare-state-to-the world sentimentalism of Barack Obama.

… Even if I wanted either of them, I do not believe, as both candidates apparently do, that our country has the nigh-infinite fiscal resources required to fund their lunatic world-saving schemes. The effort to rid Iraq of evil has cost us working stiffs a trillion dollars so far; say $7,000 a head. Population-wise, the world has 260 Iraqs. So I’m in for two million bucks? John, hate to tell ya, but I don’t have that kind of money. And this is the “conservative” candidate!

What a disaster! What on earth has happened to us? Nothing yet as bad as what will surely happen if either of these two gibbering numbskulls gets his hands on the levers of supreme executive power.  {end excerpt}

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

My Posts about the Candidates

1.  How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other  (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2.  What do blogs do for America?  (26 February 2008) — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. 

3.  A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012  (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

4.  Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay (3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them. 

5.  How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents? (21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

6.  American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties  (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

7.  President Obama, an Muslim apostate?  (2 June 2008) — Nope.

8.  Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?   (6 June 2008) — Weirdness from our next President.

9.  Does America need a charismatic President?   (15 july 2008)

10.  More about charisma, by Don Vandergriff…(#2 in the “getting ready for Obama” series)  (16 July 2008) — About charisma:  know it before you buy it!

11.  Obama might be the shaman that America needs  (17 July 2008) — At what point does criticism of Obama’s charisma and rhetoric become criticism of leadership itself — and blind faith in technocratic solutions so loved by policy nerds?  Michael Knox Beran crosses that line in “Obama, Shaman“, City Journal, Summer 2008.

12.  Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008 — Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.

For interesting articles about the candidates from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.

18 thoughts on “A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US

  1. Never mind these two gibbering numbskulls, the US Constitution doesn’t provide for ANY man getting his hands on the levers of supreme executive power.
    Unfortunately, though, we have allowed the US executive, number two to the congress in the Constitution, to become all-powerful. So instead of having representative law-makers with an executive to execute the laws, and a court to hold them to the Constitution, we have a law-breaker allowed to do his evil deeds by a subservient congress and an abetting supreme court.
    Now two new prospective deciders are telling us what they will decide to do and whom they will do it to. There’s only one constant between them. Most of what they will want to do will involve military force because the urge to wear the commander-in-chief hat is irrepressible, and there are no restraints on murdering foreigners.
    The Iranians are bad and so are the Russians. The Chinese and Pakistanis are up to no good, and the Palestinians can all go to hell. We’ll have to listen to this all over again, from a new source. They want to get involved everywhere even though they hate almost everyone. Well, it’s their (foreigners) own damn fault. They should have had the good sense to have been born in America. Some of them aren’t even Christians, I’ve reliably heard.

    “No man is wise enough to be another man’s master. Each man’s as good as the next — if not a damn sight better.”–Edward Abbey

  2. I must take exception with three points:

    1- I am no longer inclined to give McCain the political time of day that I might have in 2000 if I had been in the country and certainly would have in 2004 if he had distanced himself from “W” rather than doubling down by embracing him so wholeheartedly and publicly… and I completely agree with the silliness of his statements about “evil” and our new Georgian heritage… but what’s most disheartening is that he seems willing to say anything to get this job…

    2- In my opinion, Obama responded tentatively to the proposition that the US should save the world’s orphans (could he or McCain have simply said “forget it”?). I personally think the hardest problem he will face as president is if a crisis arises in Kenya where he legitimately has a personal stake, but he should – and I think would – respond like Michael Dukakis tried to respond to the question about capital punishment if his wife had been raped and murdered: the power of the Presidency is not a personal prerogative and its responsibilities transcend the individual holding the office (and yes, I know Dukakis is against capital punishment, as am I, but I don’t think that was his point when answering the idiotic question…). It is, after all, just an appointed position… a job!

    3- I’m frankly not as worried about Obama’s relative youth and lack of personal experience in matters related to national defense because I think it leaves him more open to a full and fair consideration of all sides of complex and urgent problems… as long as he is willing to weigh all the advice he receives and not simply focus on one point-of-view (read Dick Cheney… and I’m reasonably confident that Joe Biden does not have those pretensions, however pompous and self-assured he might seem at times…).

  3. The NR writer’s points are sound. They amount to this: American political discourse has sunk to new lows.

    He misses the real point, though. Neither of these candidates will do half of what he says he’s going to do. What they say now is for public consumption purely. What they actually do, in a real historical moment, will be guided by wiser minds, like Robert Rubin, Paul Bernanke, Zbigniew Brzezinski and others of that ilk. A better predictor of at least part of a Democratic foreign policy agenda, is the presence of Joe Biden on the ticket, a long-standing supporter of Israel, and America’s corporate interests.

  4. A candidate for dumbest commentary of the election:

    Michelle Obama’s Sad Transformation“, Richard Cohen, Washington Post blog, 26 August 2008 — Excerpt:

    “The transformation of Michelle Obama from a bracingly proud contemporary woman — mother, wife, career woman — into a prime time Betty Crocker was sad to see. This is not to say that she was not up to the task assigned her Monday night. She spoke well and looked swell. … You could watch her hit all her marks, answering, point by point, the uninformed criticism: angry, although mighty privileged, black woman. Never mind that that was a canard. Just as much a canard was the woman who spoke almost entirely of motherhood and wifehood and the incredible greatness of America

    ” … Last night, she gave the standard “Log Cabin” speech expected of nearly all American public figures — born poor, raised in faith, etc. — with nary a mention of race. It was a speech designed to reassure, but it did not do that at all. Politics can sometimes be ugly. In this case, we witnessed how a dynamic woman with a razor-sharp intellect had — for the moment — been lobotomized.”

    She stood up there and gave a commercial, presenting a facade the campaign flacks calculated would appeal to voting Americans. No lobotomy, but fake and insincere. Everybody paying attention knows this, as her speeches have been quite clear who she is and what she believes.

    Fake and insincere is what they believe we want. They are probably correct. We demand that our leaders have the ability to skillfully lie. And in a democracy we get when we want.

    The speech recieved mostly good reviews, so far as I can tell. Reading those, what does she feel for us? What should she feel about us? Contempt?

  5. Building clinics around the world? Isn’t this what Fidel Castro has been talking about since 1959? Gee, all this time I have been in opposition to him, even published anti-Castro posters back in the early 60s and now our candidates for President have the same thing in mind. Could I have been wrong all these years?

    Our medical men, giving them their due, have been doing much in this direction for years, witness Doctors Without Borders. But, can we save the world from itself? The Muslim terrorists have assassinated doctors in clinics in front of their patients, Professors in Universities in front of their students, so I don’t see that we can save the world. Let’s put all the information on the Internet, HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN CLINIC, and save those billions. Half the money (okay, I’m in error by 40%, it’s 90%) the money sent to Africa ends up creating billionaires in each country we send it to, rather than helping the poor and helpless. If there are 148 million orphans around the world (every time I see figures like this, pulled out of thin air, I think of Adriana Huffington and 60 million U.S. children going to bed hungry every night) then who made them orphans and killed off 296 million parents?

    Let’s vote for the Presidential candidate who will build the least number of clinics and orphanages, okay.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I wrote about this here:

    Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay“, 3 March 2008 — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them.

  6. Re “Fake and insincere”

    It’s like a job interview where your asked “what’s your biggest weakness?”. Everybody understands that you are only going to be honest if you don’t want the job. Except that Obama didn’t know how to deal with that question; makes you wonder how many interveiws for real jobs he has had.

  7. With all due respect, what are we doing listening to this guy? Where was he in 1980 when a sitting President told us we were in serious trouble about energy? Cheering on Ronald Reagan, who did nothing about it, while countries such as Brazil and Denmark pursued and achieved energy independence. Not to mention Reagan’s penchant for deficits, which Cheney later used as an excuse to run us further into debt, and treating military spending as a cure for everything. Now he says we need more serious candidates? For shame.

    Foreign aid, like welfare, has always been an easy boogeyman. Our hard earned tax dollars going to people who don’t look like us, don’t live here, dress strangely, believe odd things, and don’t behave well. Scandal! Look up the percentage of the federal government that goes to these African orphanages and such. The yearly total is equal to a few hours of what we are currently urinating into the sands of Mesopotamia. It might also be helpful if the US right wing, and the Catholic Church, were to do more to help people in areas such as Africa limit their population, rather than forbidding the use of any method that does so. There is more money unaccounted for, that simply disappears, in Iraq in one year than we actually spend to assist foreigners in any way. You can look it up.

    We may have two bad choices this year, but you have to pick one. Energy wasted on lament is wasted; indeed, anything wasted in any way is wasted and the method is irrelevant. Had the Republicans chosen to change direction from the oil kleptocracy/Likud approach to world affairs, and big corporate laissez-faire, I’d have considered a candidate such as Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, etc. Instead we got from them someone who admits not understanding economics and who perverts Beach Boy songs into giddy anticipation of bombing other human beings to benefit a foreign country, all the while enjoying a rich lifestyle due to dumping his first wife for a younger heiress. It is to laugh that this person is taken seriously at all as his campaign converges on the Giulianiesque formula of noun, verb, POW.

    I’ll go for the person who cared enough about the US Constitution to teach it, who has pledged among other things to re-evaluate every current executive order in that light, and who has enough common sense to realize we cannot continue our current approach to foreign affairs and energy policy. It is not the best choice… it is simply the better one. And I would caution those out there who think he’s not got the chops to win this thing to think again. Remember the guy is a basketball player. And this is NOT the fourth quarter.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The FM coverage of the election is only concerned with its larger role. As in this post, our selection of these two candidates says much about the state of America’s political machinery — and the citizens who tolerate it.

    I do not understand your point about our 1980’s energy policy. The collapse of oil prices removed any interest in serious energy policy, on the part of either party or the American people (collectively).

    The examples of Brazil and Denmark are not useful for us, anymore than mentioning Saudi Arabia’s energy independence. Brazil has vast biofuel and offshore oil reserves. Tiny Denmark has great wind energy — which works for them ONLY as a tiny nation hooked into the far larger europe energy grid. On a grid basis, intermittents (e.g., solar, wind) face perhaps insurmountable obstacles when they reach 10% of total grid baseload.

  8. Where do you folks get such idiocy? And you FM? Are you paying attention?

    It is official US Policy to end tyranny in the world. Our executive is carrying out that policy: “Coming US Policy: Ending Tyranny in Our World“, M. Simon, posted at Power and Control, 31 July 2005.

    Personally I like that policy. Good for us. Good for the world. YMMV.

    Bush won 2 elections. McCain will win the next. Don’t like it? Then reform the D Party, because the Rs represent the will of the American people. We have a right wing Congress. It is just that some of those on the right have Ds behind their names. Ever hear of Blue Dog Democrats?

    Here are a couple of links that explain the basis of the American “Empire”. I’ll give it to you in one word: Trade.

    Decline and Fall
    Desolation Row

    We conquer any country that interferes with trade and then include them in our trading system. They generally get rich if they apply themselves. Far from being on the decline the American Empire is advancing. Why? We do not believe in mercantile trade but in free trade.

    A study of geopolitics here? Infantilism is more like it.

    BTW the expansion of self government to the rest of the world represents a significant faction of the American polity since its founding. You may not like that faction but to pretend it isn’t traditional is just nuts. The original proponents were the New England traders and manufacturers.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Be careful saying “Where do you folks get such idiocy?” on this site. Some of those who comment are quite sarcastic.

    “McCain will win the next.”
    You can predict the future! Don’t tell us about the election; tell us what the markets will do in November.

    “We have a right wing Congress.”
    If the polls are correct, in January we will have a left-wing Congress.

    “We conquer any country that interferes with trade and then include them in our trading system.”
    You are kidding, right? “Any country”? Russia?

    “It is official US Policy to end tyranny in the world.”

    This is absurd. You article references “The little-noticed legislation passed the House a week ago today as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act.” If go through every piece of paper the US executive and Congress have issued over the past 5 years, you will find we are committed to doing many many things, probably including making the weather nice for everyone, always (or is it Obama who will do that?).

    A better example is our National Security Strategy issued September 2002. From the intro:

    To achieve these goals, the United States will:

    * Champion aspirations for human dignity;
    * strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends;
    * work with others to defuse regional conflicts;
    * prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends, with weapons of mass destruction;
    * ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade;
    * expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy;
    * develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power;
    * and transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

    How nice! That is, so long as China continues lending us the money to fund these good works — or worse, asks us to repay our debts. This program is insane for a country in our condition.

    All together, let’s chant “imperial overstretch”.

  9. “Foreign Aid” aka bribes, has been an American tradition since the beginning. We do it when bribery is cheaper than war. Even St. Jefferson believed in bribes.

    What has been overriding American policy since WW2? Small wars are cheaper than big ones.

    Park American troops where ever there is trouble and keep the peace. It has been in general a very successful policy. The short version: you run your country the way you like (self government preferred) we run the world. Trouble with your neighbors? We can help. Don’t want our help? We will be glad to leave you to your own devices. Don’t cause us trouble.

    Bush and McCain are both proponents of that policy. Don’t like it – then get a national discussion going about the wisdom and success of that policy, not a bunch of “it’s not Constitutional” crap.

    Honestly, I’m dumber after I visited here than before I came.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I am sorry that you are dumber after visiting here. Have you read anything? Your characterizations of my posts bear little resemblence to anything I have written, and often contradict them. Nor do you provide any quotes — or anything — to support them. Nor have you responded in any relevant way to my dozen or so response, many of which include supporting links.

    “then get a national discussion going about the wisdom and success of that policy.”

    Look on the upper right-side meu bar. Each of those links goes to a contents page, each of which has dozens of posts about “the wisdom and success of that policy.” You might start with the section “Military, political, and strategic theory” (49 posts).

    This is my attempt, in a small way, to “a national discussion going” about these things. That is the important aspect, not whether my theories are correct or not.

    “not a bunch of “it’s not Constitutional” crap”

    To what are you referring? There is nothing in this post about the Consitution.

    Note: This has been edited form its original form. The rule here is no personalities. After 7 posts of what are in my opinion inaccurate representations of my views, I posted an intermperate response. This reflects a more appropriate reply.

  10. There is no energy problem. There is a restraint of trade problem: cartels. You break cartels by bringing more product on to the market. We are 20 to 30 years away (due to technology and logistics issues) from making a serious dent in the necessity for oil.

    What can America do if Congress and local Democrats get out of the way? Drill, mine, refine.

    At this point in time energy is a political problem not a geological one.

    Where do you folks get your misinformation? BTW the most misunderstood discipline in war and industry is logistics. You know – arm chair generals study battles, real generals study logistics.

    A good place to start is the history of bomber production in WW2. Start at the mines and work your way forward to aircraft. Or ship production – start with coal and steel production and work your way forward to ships. With an all out focus it took us 5 years to get the production up enough to win the war. Normal rates are 10 to 20 years.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is one of the more interesting comments on this site so far. Worth remembering for the future.

    “There is no energy problem.”

    Links or other references, please, to something (including your own posts) supporting this. There is a large body of evidence that this is not the case. While these experts (including the major energy agencies, the IEA and EIA) might be wrong, I cannot imagine how you can so easily and confidently disregard their work.

    “Where do you folks get your misinformation?”

    From the major sources of information about energy: major academic studies, IEA, EIA, the major energy consulting firms. Which is easily seen by reading some of my 29 posts about peak oil, or the 16 major studies linked to on the FM “reference page” about peak oil (other resources).

  11. FM,

    America is a center right country. We will continue to have a right wing Congress. The number of folks with Ds after their name is not an indication of the direction of policy. Look at the direction of Iraq war funding and tell me why Pelosi couldn’t make her policies stick. Clue – she talks big but didn’t have the votes.

    Really. You may get individual points correct but your understanding of the big picture is inadequate. Woefully.

    Re: Iraq. American optimism on that front is rising. You will note the lag between results on the ground and changes in the electorate runs 6 months to a year.

    And yeah. America is in big trouble. Big economic trouble. A depression is now a couple of quarters with growth in the 1% range. Proof positive that we are falling apart. You might want to look at the water crisis in China. Or the mortgage crisis in China and Europe. The worst is behind us. For them the worst is ahead. And what did the worst do to us? Slowed growth to .5% in one quarter. Boo frickin hoo.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Interesting comments.

    “The number of folks with Ds after their name is not an indication of the direction of policy.”

    Agreed. However, the flushing away of so many moderates in Congress over the past decade means that policial swings might be more extreme than in the past. We will see.

    ” A depression is now a couple of quarters with growth in the 1% range.”

    To what you are referring to in this strange comment? I agree with the minority of economists looking for a severe recession, like 1973-75 or 1980-83. Hardly a depression, but could be painful due to structural changes since then (so many households having minimal liquidity, low savings, high debt, and very high debt payments to income (the Fed’s financial obligations ratio).

    “The worst is behind us.”

    I very much doubt that, as described in the 3 dozen articles about the end of the post-WWII geopolitical and economic regime.

    I esp draw to your attention this: “We have been warned. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime“, 28 November 2007 — Links to 25 warnings we have ignored, from individual experts and major financial institutions.

  12. Yeah. We have past the peak of $20 oil. The world is coming to an end we are doomed. There is enough $100 oil for 100 or 200 years. Minimum.

    I get my information from geologists. The industry sources you cite all make their calculations based on price and current technology. The deal is neither price nor technology stands still.

    You want to know how much oil we have – talk to geologists and engineers. You want to scare yourself shitless talk to politicians and enviro whack jobs.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is mildly interesting, but would be more so if you would provide some sort of reference other than that you “talk to geologists.” The dialog on this site asks for more than this.

    Also, this is an odd comment to post here. The second most read FM post (almost 12,000 views) is “Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off” 8 May 2008. Also, I have been critical of many aspects of the “Peak Oil” community, as seen in this post about The Oil Drum (see “More answers about Peak Oil! (or just better phrased questions)“, 5 November 2007.

  13. Two trillion barrels of oil shale in America. 1.5X that in tar sands in Canada. The Canadians are producing at around $15 to $20 a bbl. And that doesn’t even count the amount we might have in the continental shelf which is not well explored thanks to Congress.

    Yep. Not enough oil. I’m convinced.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is almost an urban legend, discussed at this site (and many others) many times.

    Unconventionals include biofuels, deepsea, polar, bitumen (aka oil sands), kerogen (misleadingly called shale oil), coal-to-liquids, and others.

    Unconventional reserves are not easily comparible to conventionals. Gross numbers of barrel-equivalents have little meaning. Numbers on a net BTU basis (net after extraction costs), would be more useful, but still misleading.

    They are production-constrained, not reserve-constrained, due to their high capital and operating costs, resource requirements (e.g., energy, water) and environmental impacts (each has a different mix of these). Also, they require longer to scale-up than conventional sources. Hence the massive reserves, like kerogen and bitumen, have little relevance.

    To consider the two examples you provide:

    (1) Bitumen (akak “Oil shale”) is mined and extensively processed (requiring major energy input) to become a liquid fuel, in no way comparible to a field like Ghawar. It has taken 20 years to get Alberta’s output to 1 million b/day; their goal for 2020 is 5 million b/day — which might not be feasible due to resource limitations (water, natural gas) and ecological impacts. Neither of these are “political” in any meaningful sense.

    (2) There is no proven large-scale commercially feasible process for mining and refining kerogen (aka “oil shale”), although some are under development. Most estimates show that decades will be required to perfect and scale-up extraction and refining of these reserves — assuming the many problems can be overcome.

  14. The world has been predicting the decline of America for 200+ years. It is always a popular topic. And yet American ingenuity keeps confounding the experts. That has got to suck. For you.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You appear to be making these broad comments without actually reading much on this site. The resulting guesses are not accurate.

    My posts here discuss problems and solutions, always in the context that we will work through these and go to a better future.

    I am not sure what you believe is the alternative, perhaps just telling ourselves how wonderful we are and hoping for the best? That is like driving with your eyes closed.

    As evidence, note these 17 posts which expressly disprove your assertion.

    Or this quote, from a post considering “worst case” scenarios:

    The predominate reaction of the Romans to the death of the Republic was resignation, as seen in the popular philosophies of the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity. How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died? Reform, rebellion, or resignation?

    “There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
    — Marcus Aurelius, in the movie “Gladiator” (2000)

    The coming years might test America more than anything in our past, including the Revolutionary and Civil wars. America might lose both what defines it and what we hold most dear: our Constitution, our vast wealth, and our role as global hegemon.

    This transition will be like a singularity in astrophysics, a point where the rules breakdown – and beyond which we cannot see.

    Such trials appear throughout history. Consider Russia in 1942. Ruled by a madman. Their government had betrayed the hopes of the revolution, killed tens of millions, and reduced the nation to poverty. Most of their generals were dead, their armies were in full retreat, and vast areas were controlled by a ruthless invader.

    The mark of a great people is the ability to carry on when all is lost, including hope. We can learn much from the Russian people’s behavior in WWII. I doubt we will fall into such peril. On the other hand, our situation might be far more complex, with no clear enemy to unify us. But there is no cause for despair.

    People, Ideas, and Hardware. “In that order!” the late Col John R. Boyd, USAF, would thunder at his audiences.

    (1) Our wealth is just things (”hardware”), an inheritance from past generations. What we lose we can work to replace. Our aspirations to global hegemony were revealed as a mirage in Vietnam and Iraqi, lasting less than two generations after WWII.

    (2) Our Constitution is just an idea, inherited from the founders. We created it, and its death will give us the experience to do better with the next version.

    (3) Our culture is a collection of discordant ideas, mixing lofty and base elements in a manner despised by much of the world – an easily understood disgust to anyone watching many of our TV shows and movies, or listening to some of our popular music.

    The Constitution is not America. We are America. We are strong because of our ability to act together, to produce and follow leaders. We are strong due to our openness to other cultures and ability to assimilate their best aspects. We are strong due to our ability to adapt to new circumstances, to roll with defeat and carry on.

    We will be what we want to be. The coming years will reveal what that is.

    “There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.”
    — Maximus Decimus Meridius, in the movie “Gladiator”

  15. From M. Simon’s comment #10: “There is no energy problem. There is a restraint of trade problem: cartels. You break cartels by bringing more product on to the market. We are 20 to 30 years away (due to technology and logistics issues) from making a serious dent in the necessity for oil.”

    This raises an important point, which I discussed in “The three forms of Peak Oil (let’s hope for the benign form“, 23 April 2008:

    Much of this is a question of time scales. A difficult 20 year adaptation period might rate only a footnote in the history books of 2300 (e.g., at Star Fleet Academy). On the other hand, saying that “of course we will adapt” (as many economists do) is a worse than useless insight for us today.

    As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1923:

    “In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestous seasons, they can only tell us that wen the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.”

    Failure to prepare for peak oil might mean ten or even twenty years of slow growth, or worse. A horrible fate for us and our children, however trivial it will look a few centuries from now. The necessary technology will not necessarily appear just because we need it. The “invisible hand” helps those who help themselves.

  16. Back to the subject. The Republican party elected the candidate which has the best chance to win in the current political climate. Do I like him? Not really.
    I’d have to agree the these are two bad candidates. They are very reflective of a mentality of not rocking the boat. I do think we are at a rocky point at both the economic and social level and neither candidate will provide a solution that is workable.

    Someone mentioned deficits and Presidents. If you read the constitution the house and senate are responsable for taxation and spending and are the only bodies who can authorize deficit spending! They deserve the credit or blame.
    Not the President.

  17. M. Simon, I hope you know I agree with many of your conclusions — but strongly disagree with your tone here.

    As a minority pro-Iraqi Freedom supporter here, as well as pretty optimistic about America, I really like the goal of a World Without Dictators, but also think it might be too expensive to pursue as vigorously as a true empire of ‘democracy ideology’ might want.

    But gratuitous insults make me cringe. Are there other Bush-bashing sites so coherent and thoughtful as Fab? Please let me know, I haven’t found them.

    And Bush deserves some serious criticism. A personal pet peeve of mine is that so much Bush-bashing is so shallow that there isn’t anything interesting there. Fab does a good job noting your interesting points, but I don’t think you’re honestly attempting engagement.

    You won’t change Fab’s mind (probably), but good arguments and references might change the minds of less committed. Fab correctly noted the bomber production logistics lead issue — I really don’t know why you didn’t follow up more on that line.

    In my limited view, the anti-drilling Dems are at least correct today that starting to drill now won’t help in the short run, precisely because of the logistics issues. Ditto for new nukes, and most new tech.

    The empire of trade is another interesting issue — China is lending us money, and taking it in the shorts when we devalue, why? Fab never quite answers this, but my own guess is: domestic politics. China’s low value currency support exports (to the US), paid for by US citizens (borrowing from China!), which results in big growth in China, and much higher employment.

    I know a bit of the terrible bank problems in China, but not mortgages. Links?

    I also think the demographic neutron bomb of depopulation is about to hit Japan, and Europe, and Russia & China — far more, and worse, than the US social security boomer crisis coming.

    What are the current capital & operating costs of alternative energies? I suspect your $100/bbl for 100-200 years is true, but with a 4-20 year logistics development lag with lots of fluctuation. ($100 constant 2008 $) But I don’t track the production costs — educating me/ us here would be much more useful than calling readers idiots (even if I am).
    Fabius Maximus replies: Two quick answers.

    About China’s policies. Linking the RMB to the US dollar at a below-market level results in a competitive trade advantage. Note the rapid growth in their exports to Europe (faster than exports to the US).

    Offsetting this is accumuation of US dollar assets (mostly treasury and agency bonds), on which they have and will suffer losses as the RMB/USD moves up to a market level, perhaps 50% higher than today (we can only guess at that number).

    They obviously find this an acceptable trade-off. At the end of the process, when the global economy re-balances (nobody considers the current situation sustainable), they will have a nice industrial plant and a pile of US IOU’s (with losses, but having substantial geopolitical advantage — as creditors usually do).

    About economics of unconventional and alternative energy sources:

    They tend to have far higher costs than conventional sources, and have costs more complex to calculate: capital costs, operating costs, resource requirements (e.g., energy, water — which should be priced ) and environmental impacts. Computing these requires many assumptions. Comparing these is complex, as everyone uses different assumptions and methodologies (e.g., what is the cost of environmental restoration in Alberta?).

    The numbers in the press are in general useless. Most often they are operating costs, ignoring the massive capital costs of most alternatives — like saying that a Pentium chip costs a nickel to produce.

  18. M. Simon i’m as a foreigner i only have a partial disgust for parts of the american culture , as i do for every culture. However, it is the economy that shaped the US culture that is why the representation of American culture is either economic or technological in most cases.

    the constitution being a foundation for a country cannot be easily changed and replaced by a Constitution 2.0 without risking the nation and risking a confrontation with conservative forces,those who oppose change. the stability the current constitution have brought to the US and with the US economy and Military are sources of Trust in the United states. When the foreign policy, media, or government fail , the World always know that the US have a capable economy , stability , powerful military, and a Geographical position that is envied by other nations.

    However , it would be very good if the US adopts a parliamentary system that doesn’t obscure the true representation and will of the people, a real democracy like India , Sweeden , France, Norway, and Germany(a federal country also but with much clearer representative system)

    (2) Our Constitution is just an idea, inherited from the founders. We created it, and its death will give us the experience to do better with the next version.

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