Question time on the FM website (plus The Week in Review)

Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We — and others reading the FM website — will attempt to answer it in the comments.   All answers welcomed!  This will be the last of these.  The experiement started well, but the questions have tapered off in quality and quantity — and it requires a lot of work.


  1. Questions received so far
  2. Quote of the week, a judge speaks to us from his heart
  3. To start the discussion: articles of interest this week
  4. People are asking questions about COIN. It’s time to trot out the “no true Scotsman fallacy.”

(1)  Questions received so far

Click on the link to go directly to that thread.  Please use the REPLY button when replying to a previous comment, to keep threads together.

  1. Why doesn’t America consider energy independence an issue of vital national importance/security?
  2. Why should we care which sized firms hires more. Of what importance does this have for policy-makers?
  3. Important:  Is there a way to stop The Enemy Expatriation Act?
  4. About the article in the latest Nature:  “Climate policy: Oil’s tipping point has passed“

(2)  Quote of the week, a judge speaks to us from his heart

While, as a member of this Court, I am bound to follow Citizens United, I do not have to agree with the Supreme Court’s decision. And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it.

For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield inordinate power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins; the transition is seamless and overlapping.

In my view, Citizens United has turned the First Amendment’s “open marketplace” of ideas into an auction house for Friedmanian15 corporatists. Freedom of speech is now synonymous with freedom to spend. Speech equals money; money equals democracy. This decidedly was not the view of the constitutional founders, who favored the preeminence of individual interests over those of big business.

— James C. Nelson, Juctice of the Montana Supreme Court, in his dissent in Western Tradition Partnership vs. Attorney General on Montana, paragraph 125 (source here)

(3)  To start the discussion:  articles of interest

We’ll start with some classics:

  1. The world changes; often we are slow to see the changes: “Scott McClellan on the ‘liberal media’”, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 28 May 2008 — I was very slow to see this change.
  2. About the moment America went off the rails, granting corporations the same rights as citizens:  A Short Dialogue on Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley), 22 February 2007 — More good comments here.
  3. Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young“, John Haltiwanger et al, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2010 — It’s not small firms, despite the myth.
  4. One of the most psych experiments, ever:  “The Menace Within“, Romesh Ratnesar, Stanford Magazine, July/August 2011 — “What happened in the basement of the psych building 40 years ago shocked the world. How do the guards, prisoners and researchers in the Stanford Prison Experiment feel about it now?”
  5. The Top 100 Things I’d Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord by Peter Anspach
  6. A pale imitation of the real thing, but still contains some valuable advice:  “How to be a dictator“, Alastair Smith (Prof Politics, NYU), The Economist, 1 January 2012

Some recent articles which deserve attention:

  1. Making stuff up to discredit Keynes:  conservatives claiming that the recovery from the 1920-21 recession vindicates austerity policies.  See Krugman at the New York Times, and “A note on America’s 1920–21 depression as an argument for austerity“, Daniel Kuehn, Cambridge Journal of Economics, January 2012
  2. Iran: The Scientists & the Bomb“, Jeremy Bernstein, New York Review of Books, 20 January 2012
  3. The Israel lobby’s role in American politics“, Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 20 January 2012 — Slowly the truth can be told, if you’re willing to tolerate the smears in retaliation
  4. The predictable aftermath of the anti-CAP smear“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 27 January 2012 — A serious illness exposed in the US foreign policy machinery.
  5. The truth about Ron Paul:  “Paul pursued strategy of publishing controversial newsletters, associates say“, Washington Post, 27 January 2012
  6. Left attempts at McCarthyite tactics:  “Political Activists Gagging Our TV Meteorologists on Climate Issues“, Michael A. Lewis and Anthony Watts, 22 January 2012
  7. State capitalism driving out free-market capitalism:  “Private Inequality“, James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, 30 January 2012
  8. The Caging of America – Why do we lock up so many people?“, Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 30 January 2012
  9. “More rebuttal to the “China will conquor the world’ loons: “The Future of the Yuan”, Sebastian Mallaby and Olin Wethington, Foreign Affairs, 15 December 2011 — “China’s Struggle to Internationalize Its Currency.”  Free copy here.

(4)  People are asking questions about COIN.  It’s time to trot out the “no true Scotsman fallacy.”

“Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors.”
Counterinsurgency, Joint U.S. Army-Marine Corps field Manual 3-24 (2006)

Both Sides of the COIN – Defining War After Afghanistan: “Theory versus Practice“, Christopher Sims (doctoral candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London), Foreign Affairs, January 2012 — Excerpt:

Lastly, it is worth remembering that Afghanistan and Iraq were not the chosen wars of the warrior-intellectuals who came to be counterinsurgency’s greatest champions. A project of nation building in which the central government is neither reflective of nor responsive to the needs of the people is not the desired terrain; Kilcullen, for example, has criticized the decision to invade Iraq. Yet the anthropological potion that he and others created — modern counterinsurgency doctrine — turned out to be a remedy for a seemingly incurable malady. It should not be abandoned because it has not been implemented effectively or homogeneously; it is an invaluable intellectual reservoir that the U.S. military should draw on, adapt, and modify for the future.

30 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website (plus The Week in Review)”

  1. Re: ““Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young“, John Haltiwanger et al, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2010 — It’s not small firms, despite the myth.”

    I fail to see why we should care which sized firm hires more. Of what importance does this have for policy-makers? Should it?

    1. It’s the “small business creates jobs” mythology, used to justify public policy that benefits giant corporations. As a small shiny toy can be used to distract a child.

    2. Ahh, I see. It’s a bait and switch. The big boys claims that the small guys make the jobs and therefore should make policy to help them, then the big boys swoop in on the newly granted benefits. Gotcha.

  2. Is there a way to stop The Enemy Expatriation Act?
    FM Note:

    H.R. 3166: Enemy Expatriation Act of the 112th Congress (2011-2012) — from GovTrack

    A BILL To add engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE: This Act may be cited as the ‘Enemy Expatriation Act’.

    (a) In General- Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481) is amended–

    (1) in subsection (a)–
    (A) in each of paragraphs (1) through (6), by striking ‘or’ at the end;
    (B) in paragraph (7), by striking the period at the end and inserting ‘; or’; and
    (C) by adding at the end the following: ‘(8) engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.’; and

    (2) by adding at the end the following: ‘(c) For purposes of this section, the term ‘hostilities’ means any conflict subject to the laws of war.’.

    1. Of course we can stop this legislation, should we stir ourselves to action. But this is merely another step to codify authority that the President has already granted himself. Reversing the precedents created by the actions of Presidents Bush and Obama will be far more difficult. But not impossible.

    2. Interesting. Many other countries — with impeccable democratic credentials — have paragraphs in their laws that permit a government to revoke the nationality of a person with dual citizenship if he has committed acts that severely damage the interests or the reputation of the country. In practice, this means that courts sometimes have to decide whether a specific act fits the definition.

      Does this new proposal go for such a circumscribed case because some politicians absolutely want to set it in stone? And isn’t it odd (in the current political mood) that it is limited just to acts that are “subject to the laws of war” and not the others, i.e. “terrorism”?

      1. Most countries have procedures to revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens, or for those with dual citizenship. The proposed law goes far beyond those provisions.

        (a) Australia:

        An Australian citizen by birth cannot have their Australian citizenship revoked. Similarly, a person conferred citizenship, after fully disclosing all relevant factors, cannot have their Australian citizenship revoked.

        (b) Israel: “Israel passes law revoking citizenship for spying“, BBC, 29 March 2011 — “Israel’s parliament has passed a law that allows courts to revoke the citizenship of anyone convicted of spying, treason or aiding its enemies. Only people with dual citizenship could be stripped of their Israeli citizenship.”

        (c) The Citizenship Review Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stephanie Zosak, Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights, Sprint 2010 — Departing immigrants.

        (d) Sec. 1481 of the US Code covers “Loss of nationality by native-born or naturalized citizen; voluntary action; burden of proof; presumptions”. Here is a summary from the US Department of State’s website:

        Advice about Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship and Dual Nationality

        The Department of State is responsible for determining the citizenship status of a person located outside the United States … POTENTIALLY EXPATRIATING ACTS

        Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481), as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they perform certain specified acts voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Briefly stated, these acts include:

        1. obtaining naturalization in a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (1) INA);
        2. taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349 (a) (2) INA);
        3. entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (3) INA);
        4. accepting employment with a foreign government if (a) one has the nationality of that foreign state or (b) an oath or declaration of allegiance is required in accepting the position (Sec. 349 (a) (4) INA);
        5. formally renouncing U.S. citizenship before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer outside the United States (sec. 349 (a) (5) INA);
        6. formally renouncing U.S. citizenship within the U.S. (but only under strict, narrow statutory conditions) (Sec. 349 (a) (6) INA);
        7. conviction for an act of treason (Sec. 349 (a) (7) INA).
    3. “The proposed law goes far beyond those provisions.”

      Well, no. As I stated, this kind of provision (even broader) exists in several other democratic countries.


      (2) The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person has done anything seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of—
      ..(a)the United Kingdom, or
      ..(b)a British overseas territory.
      (4) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (2) if he is satisfied that the order would make a person stateless.

      Germany: Basically: you join the armed forces of another country without authorization, you may lose your citizenship.

      Switerland (link goes to Google text in a foreign languagge) — Basically: (in Art 48) you commit an act considered to damage the interests of Switzerland, you may lose your citizenship.

      That is just a sample. My question stands.

    4. I am definitely getting pedantic here, but when I stated that many countries have a clause allowing the government to rescind the nationality of a dual citizen, I really meant this is quite a common occurrence.

      Three more examples:

      Brazil: Basically, a judicial decision can cancel the nationality because of activities “nocuous to the national interest”.

      Spain: Basically, dual citizens lose the Spanish citizenship if they voluntarily join the armed forces or take a governmental charge in another country against the express will of the Spanish government.

      Mexico: Half a dozen cases, including accepting without authorization an official function from a foreign government, or helping a foreign national in a process against Mexico in an international court.

      So again:
      1. Why are US politicians suddenly interested in such a clause?
      2. Why in this particular stipulation? There have been calls in the past to cancel the nationality of some people (e.g. Awlaki), but even then the circumstances would not apply (no armed forces per se, not subject to laws of war).

      As an aside, one should not fall from one extreme of American exceptionalism (the USA are inherently virtuous and have an exceptional worldwide mission) to another (the actions of the USA are unprecedented in their mischievousness).

    5. My guess (emphasis guess) is that Mr. or Ms Guest has devoted more time to googling factoids to support his theory than actually reading the Act or articles about it.

      The provisions of other nations which Guest cites have one thing in common: they refer to revocation of citizenship to those acting in the service of other States. Hence Guest’s repeated emphasis on dual citizenship. For example, the UK law expressly limits itself to people holding dual citizenship.

      The proposed Enemy Expatriation Act goes far beyond that. It’s summary states that:

      Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to include engaging in or purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which U.S. nationals would lose their nationality. Defines “hostilities” as any conflict subject to the laws of war.

      Section 1481 (a) says:

      (a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality

      The proposed Act add the following item to that list (which I gave in a previous comment:

      (8) “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States”

      Defining hostilies as follows:

      (c) For purposes of this section, the term `hostilities’ means any conflict subject to the laws of war.

      Actions of the US government since 9-11 have made it VERY clear that they define “supporting hostilities” very broadly — including verbal or written statements opposing US policy, and that the US is in a permanent “hostilities”, with the battlefield being the entire world — including the US.

      Which violates long-standing legal doctrine that citizenship can be lost only though voluntary acts. This Act means that one never knows what act the US government will define as “supporting hostilities.” Or even what they consider a “hostility”.

    6. Well, the UK and Brazil laws Guest cites above seem to allow revoking citizenship based on the whim of a judge or a minister for actions the deem “harmful” to the national interest. So it would appear that the new scope of the US law is not unprededented in the West and is not even the most extreme wording currently on the books. Does this mean the US law is good news or no news? Not necessarily.

    7. It is correct, according to the provisions that Guest cites above. He provides links to his sources. Do you have a response to these two data points, the UK and Brazil?

  3. I recently read in Nature that Peak Oil is here and that we will see price volitality from here foward. What do your sources have to say about this? Article in Wired

    Also I heard $5 per gallon gas by the summer due to refinery clousures in the North East.

    1. Are you kidding us? You appear to have read the breathless summaries of the article (such as the Wired aricle you cite), not the actual Nature article.

      Summary at the Oxford website:

      Comment piece co-authored by David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University: “In many parts of the world, particularly the United States, continuing debates about the quality of climate-change science and doubts about the scale of negative environmental impacts have held back political action against rising greenhouse-gas emissions. But there is a potentially more persuasive argument for lowering global emissions: the impact of dwindling oil supplies on the economy… Climate change and changes in fossil-fuel production are generally seen as separate phenomena. But they are closely linked. The risk of fossil-fuel supply limitation should be included when considering the uncertainties of future climate change. The approaches needed for tackling the economic impacts of resource scarcity and climate change are the same: moving away from a dependence on fossil-fuel energy sources.”

      The ScienceDaily summary speaks of a “cap” on oil production, not “peak oil”. Also, in the typical fashion of scientists writing opinion articles, it seems to glibly ignore important contrary facts. In this case, that the Saudi Princes claim to have several million barrels/day of excess production capacit. Which remains unused so that oil prices remain near the $100/b they need into order to pay their bills. Just because it’s published in Nature does not mean it’s science.

      For more about the Saudi oil:

    2. “Also I heard $5 per gallon gas by the summer due to refinery clousures in the North East.”

      If you are confident of what you “heard”, make a bet in the futures market. Fortune awaits you!

    3. Peak Oil Crisis Being Compounded by Refinery Closures“,, 26 January 2012 — Opening:

      Here is one more thing for those of us who live in the North Eastern U.S. to start worrying about – the refineries that make our gasoline, diesel, heating oil, etc. are dropping like flies.

      In today’s economy, these refineries are simply losing so much money that their owners who are not major oil companies that make billions from oil production are having put them up for sale or close them down. In recent years we lost refineries in Westville, NJ, and Yorktown, Va. A large refinery in southeastern Pennsylvania was shut down in December as was one in New Jersey. A third large Philadelphia refinery is up for sale and will be closed in July if no buyer can be found.

      Last week we learned that what once was one of the largest refineries in the world (500,000 barrels a day [b/d]), located in the US Virgin Islands and which has been shipping about 200,000 b/d to the U.S.’s east coast will close next month. If you add up the rated capacities of refineries being closed you are looking at something approaching 1.5 million b/d, but as these refineries were not running at capacity or sending their entire product to the northeastern U.S., we are losing more on the order of 800,000 b/d of daily production. If this is not enough several European refineries, another source for gasoline in the U.S., have recently closed down or are up for sale.

      Not sure this was the exact article but it looks pretty close.

      1. So our oil product prices are too low, and US-based refiners cannot operate profitably. Instead we’ll have to import oil products — instead of importing crude oil, refining it, and exporting product. Perhaps it increases oil product prices. Perhaps its doesn’t. It’s not a geopolitical issue, any more than is rising grain prices.

      1. You are exaggerating and misrepresenting the situation, again. More broadly, US GDP is $15 trillion. Prices — foods, various forms of energy, etc — are always changing. Some up, some down. Looking at one in isolation and screaming in excitment is silly.

        For example, like now. The effect of collapsing natural gas prices is far greater than any likely change in oil product prices. They peaked at $16 in late 2005, now $2.50. Plus the warm winter has depressed consumption of heating oil and natural gas — a massive gift to consumers this year.

  4. What do you think of economist Michael Hudson? Just stumbled across a couple of his articles, and he advocates ideas that seem to have alot in common with the basic viewpoint of this website. Are you familiar at all with his work?

    His website, which has links to many of his popular articles:

    1. IMO Michael Hudson is a brilliant, provocative thinker. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I always gain insights and knowledge from reading him. Strongly recommended.

      Also, he’s an associate with the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Which I consider a a-team source of economic analysis.

  5. What’s your take on the recent Robert Kagan article in The New Republic? “Not Fade Away – The myth of American decline“, Robert Kagan, The New Republic, 11 January 2012

    It seemed to me he was saying that America is not declining because we are just as stupid and incompetent as we’ve always been, all other things being equal.

    He seemed to suggest that America’s portion of world production (about one quarter) has remained about the same over time, but I wonder is this accurate?

    Personally, I feel that America’s greatest failure has been her “failure of imagination” particularly during the past decade, when we really had an opportunity to open a fresh chapter in history (after 9/11) but completely blew it.

    1. I don’t normally read Kagan because he’s a bit of a doofus. But this one was billed as having made a big impression on President Obama, shaping his State of the Union address. So then, trying to read it, I was really dismayed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: