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July 30, 2004

See What Others Did 20 Years Ago

This is some way cool technology! Some Columbia U. scientists have figured out a way to generate an image of what a person in a picture was looking at by the reflection in their eyes.

03:12 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Have Oil Reserves Reached Their Peak?

Is Saudi Arabia running out of oil" asks Jon Markan. Good followup to my previous post. Maybe the collapse of the oil producing countries will still occur in the next 20-30 years even if we do nothing about energy independence. If the warnings in the article are correct, we need to achieve energy independence as quickly as possible but we still must start considering what happens to these countries when there is no more oil to sell.

11:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Political Dishonesty Regarding Oil

Expect to hear a lot of shrill electioneering about the need to become energy independent. Much of it coming from Democrats. This rhetoric will go hand in hand with the idea that we want to be loved abroad. Well, I doubt that both are doable so politicians are being dishonest about part of the equation. Why? There is a nasty secret that the energy self reliant teams don't want people to know - by withdrawing from international oil markets, the US would most likely cause a crash in some of the countries that mean the most to us. Not quite sure how that will win the hearts and minds of the people there and would, most likely, just create most animosity.

The sad fact is that most of the countries that supply the US with oil rely on that oil revenue to survive in the world economy. When Kerry says we must become energy independent, how in the world does he plan to prop up important countries like Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and Russia when they can no longer sell oil?

Mexico is probably the best off which is a good thing since its right on our border. Oil exports to the US make up only about 1/10th of their exports. It would be a hit, but Mexico has diversified enough that it would not seriously weaken them.

Russia is an entirely different matter. Oil made up almost 50% of all their exports in 2003. More importantly, because Russia has an extremely small tax base due to the lack of tax paying compliance, its government relies to a large extent on export earnings to prop it up. At the momment, there does not appear any chance that Russia will be able to diversify quickly enough to be safe should they have nobody to sell oil or natural gas to. Given the number of nukes that still exist in that country, one can't believe the collapse of oil exports would be a good thing.

Venezuela is an important country in Latin America. The US is its most important oil purchaser and oil makes up 3/4 of its exports, 1/2 of government revenue and 1/3 of GDP. One can only imagine what would happen to Venezuela should it no longer have an outlet for its oil in the US.

And then we come to Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries (Venezuela is also an OPEC country). I don't think anyone is under any illusions of what would happen in Saudi Arabia, not to mention Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Kuwait or the UAE, should the oil market collapse. Many of these countries would simply implode and given the established powers of Islamic fundamentalist which already exist in this part of the world, the US needs to start planning for its worst case scenario in dealing with terrorism as not just one country but an entire part of the world becomes a "failed state." Given the reliance that Africa has on trading with these countries, I would expect Africa to follow closely behind since so many African countries already hang on to the world economy by tenterhooks. Given Turkey's geographic proximity to Russia and the middle east, one wonders how it would fare.

One might argue that China is growing fast enough that they could take over for US oil imports. Even if China's economy was not hurt and could continue to voraciously consume fossile fuels, it would be difficult to overcome a US withdrawal from international oil markets. More importantly, if the US has the technology to break away from fossil fuels, expect that the technology will be actively sold by US companies and purchased by everyone, except of course the countries whose economies are collapsing because they can no longer sell oil

Of course, oil will eventually one day run out, but the transition will hopefully be a gradual one that allows oil exporters to adapt. Disruptions leading to social upheaval may well occur in countries that didn't take the steps to break away from their overreliance on oil exports, but the process would be far more gradual than if the US is able to achieve energy independence by 2020 (which is a dubious claim in itself) and withdraw itself from world petroleum markets. The crash of the oil economy would create disruptions and discontinuities that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. The road to energy independence will create its own pressures that may well be more destructive than the current state of affairs. This does not mean that energy independence is not a goal we should strive for. In fact, we must start moving toward energy independence since oil is a diminishing resource. However, politicians who pretend that all we have to do is become energy independent and the world will be ok again are kidding themselves and us. I am pretty sure that the argument that we can be loved and admired again in the world will also not follow, especially by the countries that collapse due to our energy independence. When a politician starts their rhetorical oratory about the great gains we could accomplish through energy independence, ask them what they would do to support the countries that could no longer sell oil. If we are going to achieve energy independence, we MUST have an answer to that crucial question.

10:15 AM in 2004 Election | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

More balloons more balloons

Too funny. To hilight how scripted the convention was, CNN caught the balloon organizer right after Kerry's speech screaming balloons left, balloons right, where are the balloons - more confetti - what the hell are you guys doing where are the balloons? This went on for about 5 minutes. I was just cracking up.

Overall, decent speech by Kerry although short of any specifics which I kinda expected. However, next to some of the other speakers during the convention, it is so painfully obvious that he just does not have the cadence to be a great speaker - not that that is a reason not to be a president - just look at Bush. Overall, not bad.

One thing that strikes me is that the Dems just seem so eager to prove that they love God and they love the military and they will be militarily strong and they want to be positive. However, these things were said so many times it seemed like a self help group where if you just say something enough then you just might believe it.

I also love that 1 minute he is implying that Bush sells out to the Saudis, calls the Bush administration simple minded (as opposed to his complex, nuanced thinking), and refuses to wear his religion on his sleeve, while the next minute he is saying that he will run a positive campaign and asks Bush to do the same. Give me a break.

Good initial parsing of the speech at MSNBC.

Oh well, one more month to the Republican's own heavily orchestrated, devoid of real news self help group - er, I mean convention ;). If I were Karl Rove, I would never mention Kerry or the Democrats at the convention, would troop up some grateful Iraqis and Afghanis, and then load up on Schwarzeneger, Kerick, Guiliani, McCain, etc. All the polls will be tied again and then the American public that is not decided will start deciding.

11:10 PM in 2004 Election | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Look Who Liked the Obama Keynote Address

Even a conservative organ like the National Review raves about Obama's speech.

I really loved the Obama speech. It was something all democrats and republicans should take note of. He did not seek to create "Two Americas" or discuss the need to "take America back" as though the natural order of things is for Democrats to rule and Republican rule is an aberration against the natural order. He did not seek to attack the other side for being a divider - he subtly hinted that the dividers are on both sides of the aisle just as patriots exist on both sides. He pointed out that we are all united NOW, not in some hypothetical future once one party or the other wins the Presidency.

It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

The pundits on both sides thrive when the country is divided, but as I have pointed out in previous postings, it is the elites of both sides that are divided while I believe most Americans are quite united in the view of their lives and their positions within the United States of America.

09:20 PM in 2004 Election | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What if George Bush is Right?

Tom Junod, a self-professed liberal, asks some deep questions that I have rarely heard asked from the left. Namely, what if Bush really is not the most compelling problem facing this country as the Democrats want people to believe. What if Bush actually is right in his moral absolutism amid the war on terror. Of course, there are many reasonable, deep thinking people who will disagree with what Junod has to say, but I feel this should be required reading for anyone who finds themselves teeing off on George Bush without stopping to think about where we are and what motivates them to feel the way they do. If after reading this, they still think the worst problem facing this country is George Bush, then so be it.

As easy as it is to say that we can't abide the president because of the gulf between what he espouses and what he actually does , what haunts me is the possibility that we can't abide him because of us—because of the gulf between his will and our willingness. What haunts me is the possibility that we have become so accustomed to ambiguity and inaction in the face of evil that we find his call for decisive action an insult to our sense of nuance and proportion.

The people who dislike George W. Bush have convinced themselves that opposition to his presidency is the most compelling moral issue of the day. Well, it's not. The most compelling moral issue of the day is exactly what he says it is, when he's not saying it's gay marriage. The reason he will be difficult to unseat in November—no matter what his approval ratings are in the summer—is that his opponents operate out of the moral certainty that he is the bad guy and needs to be replaced, while he operates out of the moral certainty that terrorists are the bad guys and need to be defeated. The first will always sound merely convenient when compared with the second. Worse, the gulf between the two kinds of certainty lends credence to the conservative notion that liberals have settled for the conviction that Bush is distasteful as a substitute for conviction—because it's easier than conviction.

07:55 PM in 2004 Election | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PSI and Caspian Guard

Kudos to Instapundit.com for a link to this posting about thePSI and Caspian Guard. Its funny because I was having an IM convo with a friend of mine at the State department yesterday about how the announcement of a possible muslim army in Iraq as well as the formation of the Caspian guard (not to mention the invasion of Iraq itself which represents an extreme threat to Iran) had the larger purpose of attempting to encircle Iran which really is one of the last overtly hostile state threats to our country and the Western world. My friend, who is an analyst in Northern African affairs and a specialist in Libya, said that the internally stated goal of the State Department since 1998 has been to create a "fence" around Iran in the same way that was done to North Korea through Asian allies. Some other interesting observations that were made included the possibility of the US and Israel discussing the physical destruction of the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which seems to be a real worry of the Iranians. In addition, it seems as though the US government is pretty convinced of high-level Iranian complicity in 9/11 but are trying to keep it under wraps because they do not feel they can manage Iran through overt hostility.

If Bush is re-elected, I'd expect a more sharply honed focus on isolating Iran over the next 4 years.

10:26 AM in Liberal International Democracy | Permalink | TrackBack

Reality of Stem Cell Research Without the Partisanship

I thought Ron Reagan gave a good speech the other night on stem cell research although he purposely skirted the widespread ethical dillemas and seriously overstated the current results of the research. The NY Times had a nicely balanced article today titled Hopes Now Outpace Stem Cell Science.

My own views are that:
a) stem cell research does offer tremendous possibilities for curing some horrible diseases
b) it is not guaranteed to solve anything and scientists are a long way from having success in animals, let along humans - based on where it seems the science is at the momment, Reagan was a bit misleading when he discussed patients being cured in a decade.
c) there are tremendous ethical dillemas behind the research - basically, human embryos do have to be created in the lab and then destroyed in order to harvest the percursors to stem cell lines. Its not just scratching off some skin from your arm as Reagan stated. There are any number of reasons why people should have qualms about this and I always worry about science that moves forward without discussing the ethical dimensions of what they are trying to accomplish. Reagan was quite demeaning toward anyone who might raise ethical concerns, basically labeling them nothing more than religious know nothings. I always worry about someone who dismisses ethical concerns in relation to scientific discoveries.
d) should the federal government use tax payer money to support a science that many of those taxpayers feel goes against their ethics - once that was called taxation without representation. Note that this is where the real argument lies between Reagan and Bush - Reagan wants taxpayer money to fund the research and Bush is hesitant to do so, although he took a pretty brave stance given his reliance on his right wing base for support. However, at no time has the federal government prevented private funds from being used to do stem cell research. My guess is, if re-elected, Bush will most likely expand the lines of stem cells open to federal funding.

For my way of thinking, the question is will the results outweigh the ethical concerns? As with anything in life that is thought through, its a balancing act. I feel the possibilities are too great not to try, but without a thorough discussion of the ethics involved, we may ultimately discover that stem cells do not provide the hope we thought they did, but we will also have torn down some ethical walls we may not want to have destroyed.

Hopefully, Ron Reagan's speech will open the door to further discussions on stem cell research and the ethics involved.

08:39 AM in 2004 Election | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Democrats and Sharptons Dirty Unsecret

Now that he has spoken and electrified the crowds with an appeal to traditional liberal values, the people in the democratic party might ask themselves how their traditional liberal values are served by having Al Sharpton, a person whose racist demagoguery, some say, help lead to arson and 8 deaths at Freddies Fashion Mart when one of the protestors went on a shooting spree; who led the Tawaney Brawley fiasco and dragged several people through the mud in order to make a name for himself; who led a boycott against Korean delis in which he used quite inflamatory racial demagoguery against Koreans; his support of the 1994 "buy black" boycott of non-black merchants; his divisiveness during the Crown Heights riots where David Dinkins police force allowed blacks to rampage through a Jewish neighborhood; and who has not hesitated to shill for Louis Farakhan - a noted racist and anti-semite in his own right.

Just wondering how some of his uglier views align with traditional liberal values. Also, how is it, that Sharpton received a far better spot to speak than Howard Dean?

I guess all that matters is beating Bush - not anything as silly as real values.

<"http://www.nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry200312030840.asp">“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."

09:57 PM in 2004 Election | Permalink | TrackBack

Democrats, Money and the Mafia

I am so goddamn tired of hearing how big money funds the Republicans. Of course it does, as it does the Democrats as well. However, now there is some speculation that one of the Democrat's biggest fundraisers may have links to organized crime.

08:42 PM in 2004 Election | Permalink | TrackBack