Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's All About Me

So the press is suddenly reconsidering its position on the Iraq War, now that journos are biting it in large numbers, too. Apparently, it's possible for people who aren't terrorists to die in war. How shocking!

Meanwhile, the press decided Kerry was an elitist based entirely on the shocking fact that he wasn't a Republican.

Apparently, things are only true when the press decides they're true.

Does anyone else suspect that we're being fed nothing but horseshit, 24/7?

Good enough for the National Post...'s good enough for Bush. Blech.
Two weeks ago, Amir Taheri published an op-ed in Canada's National Post about an Iranian law that forced Jews to wear a yellow stripe. The story, reminiscent of Nazi Germany, quickly provoked outrage, but was just as quickly revealed to be a total fabrication. It also ran in the New York Post.

Apparently this is just the sort of reliable advice that President Bush needs. Yesterday, Taheri had a face-to-face with the President as one of a small group of "experts" on Iraq that visited the White House.
See? Do a favour for Bush, and you get a treat.

Now, roll over and play dead.

You winged him and turned him in to a Unitarian

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians....

The game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, is based on scenes from the first four novels in the series. The game was developed by a publicly-traded company called Left Behind Games, according to SEC records. The developers obtained the license from Tyndale House, the Christian publisher of Left Behind.
Compassionate Christian splatter porn. Scary.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

But it was cute in Mandarin

via LGM, this is possibly the silliest thing I've ever read:
Today, it is the essence of foreign policy sophistication to suggest that we apply the old Cold War containment strategy to the Iranian situation. It worked against the Soviet Union, didn't it?

That is true, up to a point. In the eighties, Reagan implemented "containment plus" when he supported anti-Soviet insurgencies around the world. He also challenged the Cold War notion of Mutually Assured Destruction by advancing missile defense and questioning the traditional approach toward arms control.

But, the difficulty with applying the containment strategy to Iran is that it is governed by a madman who might not necessarily be governed by the normal rules of statecraft. That unfortunate reality is evident in this interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Der Spiegel .
Yes, because when Mao Zedong said that nuclear war wouldn't be so bad, he was obviously "governed by the normal rules of statecraft". Think I'm exagerrating?
If one half of humanity were destroyed, the other half would remain, but imperialism would be destroyed entirely and there would be only Socialism in the world. - Speech, Moscow, 1957
Plus you've got to love the gratuitous man-love given to Reagan's corpse. I thought it was at least impolite to celebrate Reagan's backing of the Contras and UNITA, but I guess when you're so concerned about being "centrist" it means you get to justify war crimes.

The queerest reality of international relations is that nuclear weapons seem to make even irrational actors more rational. See India/Pakistan, China/US, and of course Soviet/US. "Seem to" is deliberately squishy, because of course I can always be shown to be wrong. But believe it or not, the world will survive an Iranian bomb.

This wouldn't be an issue, of course, if the US and Russians had pursued diarmament with good faith, as they promised to do in the Non-proliferation treaty. But we're all so quick to apply the law to others - especially the "rogue nations - that we forget the law makes demands on us, too.

While we're on matters military, this is one of the most interesting short posts I've read in a while. Makes ya think.

It's all so domestic

Jon Schwarz at TinyRevolution:
the main goal of all political actors, particularly violent right wing ones, is almost always to make themselves more powerful than their rivals in their own country. They are trying to beat their "enemies" on their own "side." However, they always always always claim they're it doing for everyone in their tribe. (Meanwhile, their counterparts on the other "side" make up a mirror image fantasy to make themselves more powerful than their own domestic "enemies.")

Thus, Bush invades Iraq because he thinks it will help him crush the Democrats. Osama bin Laden kills thousands on 9/11 because he thinks it will help him crush his Muslim rivals. But rather than being honest—"I'm doing this because I think it'll really be great for ME!"—Bush, bin Laden and the Iranian mullahs all claim they did it to protect their "people."
We'd all like to believe that our leaders are noble enough - or at least, not despicable enough - to use foreign policy for their own short-sighted needs. Now, I didn't approve of Stephen Harper's use of the vote on Afghanistan, but it really pales in comparison to what Bush and the GOP have done in the US. Hopefully, the institutions of Canadian democracy are strong enough to keep Stevie on the less-crooked and narrower path.

Ideas I Like

In response to the inevitable "more people vote for American Idol than US Presidents" talk:
Frankly, though, I wouldn’t want to watch Hillary Clinton trying to belt out “Lady Marmalade,” or Al Gore’s rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”; nor could I face George Allen butchering “Mandy,” or John McCain trying once again to suck up to Christianist conservatives by wrapping his aged vocal chords around “Hallelujah.”
First off, Gore and a few other Democrats, in a pot-stinking car, reenacting the scene from Wayne's World, would be brilliant. Secondly, I would really hope that John McCain tries singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". But maybe "Everybody Knows" would be even funnier.

Everything you wanted to know about Equalization

A while back, I asked (rhetorically) if there was a FAQ for the equalization program out there. This is about as clear and complete an intro as I've seen thus far, so go read it.

Taking off the blinders

So a number of "skeptics" have come around and said, "Oops! Guess I was wrong" about climate change. Gregg Easterbrook took some time off from blaming Jews for movie violence to pen an op-ed in the New York Times saying he's come around based on new data. Tyler Cowen posts an ideological update of sorts, saying he's come around too.

Of course, neither of these men has been convinced by anything really "new." What's changed is that, for whatever personal reason, they cannot maintain their willful ignorance any longer. My suspicion is that both see the contrarian position on climate change becoming less and less tenable, and have changed their minds just in time to say they were a late convert.

Easterbrook doesn't actually cite anything particularly new in his column, and Cowen doesn't cite any new evidence at all. Both men have simply taken the (admirable, if overdue) step of admitting that the decade-old scientific consensus might just in fact be a decade-old scientific consensus.

Of course, Cowen responds that he doesn't know what to do next, and takes the necessary swipe at US participation in Kyoto. Why, God, can we not have people who a)admit climate change is real, and b) actually support doing something about it?

Frankly, I have no time for those people who at best kept themselves stupid for too long, and at worst actively spread disinformation at the behest of the carbon lobby. That they've come around now impresses me not at all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Bad Sign

The people in charge don't have a fucking clue:
OTTAWA -- There may never be a clear point of victory in Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Monday while painting an optimistic picture of "extremely significant progress" in the war-ravaged country.

"I don't know that we will see a point in time where it's like the last spike in the Canadian railroad, where we'll be able to say, 'There, a surrender is in place, there's an armistice'," MacKay told a Senate hearing. "But within Afghanistan, I think that day may arrive."
Ah, goody. Because I was worried that without Canadian troops in Iraq, we'd be left out of the "open-ended war without an exit strategy, or even a basic objective" party. Good to know that there's more than one quagmire to go around.

I've written before that I basically support fighting in Afghanistan, but we need to have achievable goals. If the mission objectives amount to a) kill brown people, and b) keep Harper's poll numbers up, then we need to bug out now.


Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that yes, Toronto's transit workers staged an illegal strike this morning, costing everyone their morning commute.

Before I begin: Yes, illegal strike, yadda yadda. Petulant union, yadda.

But once again, we're seeing the stupid suggestion that transit workers be regulated as an emergency service, thus denying them the right to strike. We've previously seen this logic applied to teachers, and I imagine we'll eventually see it applied to Baristas and pizza delivery boys.

Why? Not because people actually couldn't live without these services - like the ambulance*. No, what bothers people so much is the idea that they might be inconvenienced for living in a society that is unwilling to pay the necessary costs of modern civilization. They're unwilling to elect politicians who honestly promise tax increases to fund proper transit spending, so transit gets cut. Then transit workers - upset at doing a pretty unappreciated job, and wary of being crapped all over - do something foolish. The final act comes when - unwilling to pay people what they're worth, and offended at the very idea of inconvenience - we demand that workers be stripped of their rights. Brilliant. Even more depressingly, I see that even alleged progressives are gravitating to this idea.

Blech. This whole phenomena could roughly be described as the "unless it affects me" crowd: I'm for workers rights, so long as I don't have to pay more for t-shirts, or be inconvenienced when management acts like the tools they always are. I'm for renewable energy, unless someone wants to put a wind turbine in my town.

If you dare to offend me in even the slightest way, this crowd says, then I'll throw any and all of my principles out the window and scream bloody murder. I'll go so far as to call the armed might of the state down on you, because you made me carpool with a stranger, you bastards.

Of course, stripping workers of their right to strike will do absolutely nothing. If your complaint is that the TTC workers are overpaid or lazy, well, congratulations! Making them emergency services is likely to do only one thing - increase their compensation. Mayor David Miller has said this repeatedly: Emergency workers have all their contract disputes settled by arbitration, which historically means that workers demands get met more quickly and fairly than if management gets to make workers strike for their demands publicly.

Of course, Mayor Miller sees the added expense of fair compensations as a bad thing, so he's opposed to making transit workers emergency personnel.

Shorter David Miller: If we paid these people what they're worth, we couldn't afford it.

So please, everyone screaming for the head of the union leaders, I dare you - make the TTC emergency workers. They'll be even better paid, and it still won't shut you up.

*I'm actually sympathetic to the idea of labelling the TTC an "essential" service, if only to recognize the reality that Toronto basically doesn't function without it. This is what everyone who laughed at Toronto missed a few years back when we had a big snowstorm that shut down the city - if the subways don't run, this city stops working. But to pursue this as a form of union-busting is repugnant.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ancient History

Via Suburban Guerilla:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has appealed for more international support for Iraq and urged quick reform of world bodies such as the UN, World Bank and IMF to tackle future crises such as Iraq....

"The war, I know, split the world. The struggle of Iraqis for democracy should unite it," said Blair in a foreign policy speech at Georgetown University....

"I don't want to repeat or to reopen past arguments. I want to advocate a new concord to displace the old contention," said Blair, who visited Baghdad this week to meet the new government.

Blair said nations may not agree with the original decision to invade Iraq, be critical of mistakes made by the coalition or wonder if it was all worth the sacrifice.

"But surely we must all accept this is a genuine attempt to run the race of liberty," said Blair.
SCENE OPENS: GEORGE, TONY, JACQUES, and three exchange students, VLAD, GERHARDT and HU are all walking down the street. All are young men, up to no good. However, GEORGE is by far the best-armed of the bunch. TONY is GEORGE's best friend. They pass a convenience store.

GEORGE: Hey, let's go knock over that convenience store!

TONY: Hell, yeah! It'll be great!

JACQUES, HU, VLAD, AND GERHARDT all exchange puzzled looks.

JACQUES: Um... what exactly have you guys been smoking?

GEORGE: Well, why not? I mean, I heard that the guy who runs that convenience store slapped your sister, Jacques!

JACQUES: What? When?

GEORGE: This morning, man!

JACQUES: Dude, my sister's out of town. That couldn't have happened. Why you lyin'?

VLAD: I am thinking this is bad idea. George and Tony just wanting to make trouble.

GEORGE: Who asked you, Commie? C'mon guys, we'll split the take. Honest.

GERHARDT: That's not the point. You don't know if that guys has a gun or not. Hell, you don't even know if there's any money in that safe!

TONY: You guys need to think big picture here: With the money that's in that store, we could all buy ourselves houses, and sweet cars!

HU: Dude, it's a convenience store. What do you think, they've got a billion dollars in there? Besides, I've done this before, and it never ends well. I still can't walk through Little Tibet alone...

JACQUES: Don't get me started about how much the Algerians hate me...

VLAD: Lousy Chechens.

GERHARDT: You guys all know my problems. I'm outta here.


GEORGE: C'mon Jacques, this'll be fun. You comin'?

JACQUES: Yeah, I'll join you when my sister gets back. Dumbass.


Shots ring out. TONY and GEORGE start screaming, and the owner is heard yelling.

OWNER: Hand over the money?! It's all about the Cheneys, bitches!

GEORGE and TONY stagger out of the store, bleeding profusely from their faces.

GEORGE staggers towards JACQUES: I... regret... nothing...

TONY: Dude... give me a hand.. call an ambulance...

JACQUES: Why should I? You guys were retarded to do that.

TONY: Man, why you hatin'? That's all in the past. You gotta live in the present!

TONY and GEORGE fall over, dead. JACQUES walks away, whistling.

Friday, May 26, 2006

An Excellent Fishing Story

I was never much for fishing, myself. But any story that begins with this:
I never got the hang of grabbing the fish after you catch it. Not being able to do this makes fishing pretty pointless, and after your grandfathers die there's nobody left to do it for you.
and ends with this:
I started to wonder how the hell I was going to scoop up this very mean fish who almost certainly hated me the way a Hell's Angel does somebody who dents his bike. And in that moment, I suddenly saw the appeal of being drunk.
needs to be read by as many people as possible.

And the best thing is I haven't even given you the best parts. Go read it.

Boomers Suck, cont.

Not really, but this is relevant to the previous discussion:
First the good news: women have made steady increases — though it's worth noting that about half of that gain is because women work more hours than they did 30 years ago. On an hourly basis, the increase since then amounts to about 1% per year.

And men? Not such good news. The average 40-year-old guy made $44,000 in 1973, and that was as good as it ever got. Today that number is about $40,000. It's gone down even though the American economy has nearly doubled on a per-person basis during that time.

So where did all the money go? What happened in 1973 that suddenly stopped wage growth for half the population in its tracks? And what should we do about it?
First off, the idea that average incomes have declined as the economy has expanded has to be called for what it is: the most grandiose and pernicious robbery ever. That's money we should all have, and don't because society suddenly decided to reward the Gordon Geckos and Ken Lays of the world.

What happened in 1973, of course, was the OPEC oil embargo and the beginnings of the Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush era of crappy economic performance: Each President had marginally different responses to the crap economic performance, but the economic picture was uniformly crappy.

Again in 1979 oil supplies were disrupted, spurring another round of inflation and the election of Ronald Reagan. I actually understand the election of Reagan on a visceral level - Carter was seen as so weak that a potted plant probably would have beaten him. What confuses me is Reagan's landslide re-election.

Let me re-state, and moderate, my earlier statements regarding my parents' generation: If you were born before 1946 and 1964 and never voted GOP or Conservative in your life, hold your head up high. (Indeed, this should have gone without saying. Nevertheless, it should be said.) But broadly speaking, it remains true that no generation in history was bequeathed as many options as the Boomers, and yet accomplished so little.

(And please spare me the talk of the Civil Rights movement, or "ending" Vietnam. Unless you marched with King, or were in a mortar team for the Viet Cong, your involvement was trivial. Sit down.)

If I were feeling snarky, I'd point out that the global economy began to sputter and die the moment baby boomers became old enough to hold the steering wheels. But that would be churlish, and unfair. The baby boomers are not responsible for the economic chaos of the 1970s, but they must be counted responsible for the actions society chose to deal with that chaos: Republicanism and harsh assaults against the generations yet to come.

It Worked So Well..

So Harper has announced he's going to stop talking to the national press corps, because they're "biased" against him. Waaaaaah. Poor baby.

Seriously, he thinks he'll get an easier ride by going around the national press, and speak only to the regional press? That's idiotic. Fist of all, as others have pointed out, the regional papers aren't exactly swooning at Stevie in the first place.

Secondly, don't we remember another leader who tried this recently? And it worked so well for Bush. His polls have done nothing but go up since he came up with that plan (or, more likely, nodded lamely while playing his Gameboy DS.)

I say, continue on this line of attack. You're sure, one day, to be as popular as George W. Bush! That's what I call rebuilding the Mulroney Coalition!

Kids these days

...with their rap music and the pants down to here...

Yes, I too was offended by Hillary Clinton's remarks about my generation:
"They don't know what work is," she claimed. "They think work is a four-letter word."... The former first lady has blamed cable TV, high-speed Internet, cell phones and iPods for creating a culture that "really argues against hard work" and makes today's kids lazy. She says "kids, for whatever reason, think they're entitled to go right to the top with $50,000 or $75,000 jobs when they have not done anything to earn their way up."
Matt has perhaps the best reaction I've seen thus far:
Who, exactly, does she think is fighting her regret-free war? The legendarily hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone baby boom generation?
I have to walk by a Debbie Travis poster every day that says "kids these days have no work ethic." And I think to myself: Which kids is she talking about? My little cousins have a huge workload in high school, much larger than I did - and there's not that much time passed since I was in high school. And one of my cousins is taking extra classes, even though her parents are already worried about her workload. Why? Because she wants to and thinks she can manage.

Now, I'm certain when I'm a few scant years away from collecting my Social Security checks, I'll be just as crotchety as she is. But that's the point: Every generation - no matter how pampered they were in their day - always think that the next generation can't measure up.

There is, however, something uniquely offensive about baby boomers lecturing any subsequent generation - i.e., those born about or after 1970 - about hard work. The baby boomers really did grow up in a remarkable time: the "30 glorious years" of Keynesian economic expansion. It's fair to say that no generation has ever had such wealth created in advance for them to take a share when they reached adulthood. Not only was more wealth created, but it was more equitably shared than any previous industrial economic expansion.

And then, the baby boomers started electing Reagan, Thatcher, and in this country Mulroney. Not all boomers by any means, but the bulk of their electoral support did not come from the elderly or the young adults of the 1970s and 1980s. The electoral support of the neo-conservative revolution overwhelmingly came from the baby boomers.

This same neo-con revolution of course has ended the rapid, sustained economic expansion of the previous era, and replaced it with anemia and speculation in equal measure. Public infrastructure has been allowed to decay, and the public education system has yet to be rescued from the assaults of the 1990s.

From personal experience, I can say that my entire high school experience was one of being constantly told there would be no jobs for me unless I not only passed high school with high marks, and went on to University and performed similar stellar feats. Some of this was undoubtedly asshole teachers being assholes, but in the early- and mid-1990s, high unemployment levels and low economic growth justified those statements.

The election of political parties like Thatcher and Mulroney's Tories, and the Reagan Republicans, is probably the greatest act of intergenerational and class warfare ever conducted, and it was only possible because one side - the generation who were either yet to be enfranchised, or about to be born - were totally disarmed. It was, in effect, an economic My Lai, with the baby boomer generation playing the role of an enthusiastic Lt. William Calley.

So don't lecture us on ethics.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Profiles in WTF?

Honestly, I have no idea what this means:
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is threatening to drop out of the federal government's equalization deal with the provinces -- if energy income is included in the program's formula.

Klein says Alberta has "control" and "authorization" over its resources under the Constitution, and he's seeking a legal opinion to see if there's a way he can pull his province out of the revenue-sharing deal.

Klein is promising a fight unless the federal Conservatives live up to their election promise to not include resource revenues in the equalization formula.

"They made a campaign promise, the federal Conservatives, that they wouldn't include resource revenues in the equalization formula," Klein told reporters in Edmonton Wednesday. "And I would hope they live up to that, because otherwise they're going to have a battle on their hands."
As more than one person has pointed out, there's nothing for Alberta to "pull out" of - the money that "have not" provinces receive all comes from the Feds, and Albertans don't get to withhold federal taxes simply because Ralph's throwing a snit.

I also have to say, I don't understand why natural resources are exempted from revenue-sharing. I understand there's a separation of powers in the constitution when it comes to mines, etc. But we're essentially talking about accounting done by the federal government, and it's a mystery to me why Ottawa would decide that manufacturing taxes count as provincial income, but oil royalties don't.

But I must confess I don't have a clear understanding of the revenue-sharing system to begin with. Anyone know where I can find a FAQ or someting?

Oh, and this is insulting:
The always outspoken Klein said Wednesday that he's getting ready for what he calls a political showdown with Quebec and Ontario at a special leaders meeting next week, following what will be his last western premiers conference in Gimli, Manitoba.

"(Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty is on a different wavelength, so is Quebec," he said. "Quebec wants resource revenues included. Of course, they want the money that we're enjoying now. Albertans have earned that money."
How, exactly, has Alberta "earned" its recent windfall? Did Ralph Klein personally buy a few million cars and send them to the Chinese, spurring the recent increase in oil prices? Alberta has done nothing to "earn" $70/barrel oil that it wasn't doing to "earn" $35/barrel oil. To imply that the recent windfall is the result of some virtue of the Albertan worker is simply ridiculous. Furthermore, the implication that somehow Ontario and Quebec have not earned their money is insulting in the extreme.

Ralph Klein needs to stop picking fights with hallucinations, and needs to leave office post-haste.

Update: Okay, Wikipedia (yes, grain of salt) says that lumber, gas taxes, income taxes, and mineral resources are all already factored in. So the mystery grows: Why on Earth wouldn't we consider oil wealth? In fact, Wikipedia says oil wealth is already factored in, making this even more bizarre.

My guess is that Klein somehow thinks that the federal government - which is so inimically hostile to Alberta at the moment - is going to re-start the NEP or something. Is Ralphie off the wagon?

Suckers, all of you!

TORONTO -- The National Post apologized Wednesday for publishing an erroneous story last week claiming that an Iranian law would require Jews and Christians to wear badges identifying them as religious minorities.

The article Friday caused an international uproar. Tehran on Wednesday summoned Canada's ambassador to its foreign ministry.
Yup. And the sucker-in-chief is none other than Stephen Harper.
The meeting comes on the heels of comments by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said Friday that while he couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the National Post report, he believed Iran was capable of such actions.
You can always bet that no matter how irresponsible it might be to speculate about the actions of foreign governments, the Conservatives will be there.

Unless, of course, the foreign government is our neighbour to the south. In which case speculating that they might, say, wage a war for oil would be irresponsible America-hatred.

More Isolationism, Please

This post at Democracy Arsenal misunderstands a few things, I think. In responding to the anti-left "liberals" who are still unrepentantly wrong about Iraq, Suzanne Nossel writes:
4. Being anti-war doesn't mean being anti a strong defense and an aggressive foreign policy - Though the Administration would have us believe otherwise, there's nothing incoherent about supporting assertive, effective American global leadership and believing that a) the Iraq war was anything but and b) the problems in Iraq won't be fixed by a continued American prresence. The Fighting Dems and the retired Generals who have openly criticized the conduct of the war all advocate a strong national defense and tough line on terror regardless of where they come out on Iraq.

5. Iraq is not Vietnam - Vietnam did engender a long period of American isolationism and protracted misgivings about U.S. military intervention in virtually any form. But Iraq won't do the same for various reasons: the mistakes and misconceptions of the Iraq adventure are so obvious that people are less prone to believe any American intervention would be similarly flawed; also, as painful as Iraq has been, casualties still are small relative to Vietnam...
This is where I disagree with the "Fighting Dem" militarist faction. These are people whose fundamental criticism of Iraq boils down to incompetence. The argument seems to be that the US should still resort to military force whenever it wants, so long as we a) do so competently, and b) don't lie so much.

We'd like to draw a clear line between, say, Tom Friedman ("I was wrong about Iraq before, but trust me this time!") and the pro-military wings of the Democratic party, but I don't see the clear distinction. Dems like Paul Hackett are still unabashed militarists, they just think Bush was wrong on this call.

The more fundamental problem with US foreign policy is a structural one, not Bush himself. So long as the US needs to maintain power in areas where they are unwelcome (the middle east as just one example) the US will be in what amounts to a Second Cold War. Except this time, the US will be fighting not Soviets, but Iraqis, Saudis, Syrians, and Iranians.

Secondly, in what universe did Vietnam engender a "long period of isolationism"? By the late 1970s Carter was meddling in Central Asia again, as well as propounding the Carter Doctrine - that the US would attack anyone who interrupted the supply of oil. Reagan's administration never seriously contemplated inaction on the world stage.

It's really bizarre that there's this narrative out there, where somehow the US was a lost, isolationist nation from 1975-1991 or so. This may come as a shock, but the US was in the process of fighting something called the Cold War during this period. Isolationism is not compatible with fighting, and surviving, a global standoff with a rival nuclear superpower.

Every continent in the world saw American force during the so-called "post-Vietnam" period, whether it was US support for UNITA in Angola, US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf during the "tanker wars", American assaults on democracy across Central America, or the support given to the South Korean junta prior to democratization. Say it with me: There was no "post-Vietnam" era. There was, at best, a punctuation in the equilibrium of US global power.

What worries me is that I believe that for the US to recuperate economically, politically, and even militarily, there needs to be a major withdrawal of US forces from various parts of the world. I don't think this is politically or psychologically palatable to the US population at large, and therefore I don't believe it's likely to happen voluntarily.

That only leaves the involuntary exit of US forces, or no exit whatsoever. Neither is a particularly optimistic scenario.

That Those Liberal Media

The biggest problem Al Gore would face in a 2008 run will not be the GOP. It'll be he media - again. Ezra Klein writes:
While writing my article on Gore's post-2000 activities, I tracked down some of the students in the course he created for their journalism course. The class was deeply critical of contemporary journalistic conventions -- particularly the false idol of "objectivity," namely as it translates into mindless stenography of unequal viewpoints. The students rebelled against Gore's critique, turning almost instantly hostile. Josh Bearman, who took the course, remembers that “He knew more than everyone in the room. So the class basically turned against him because he was smarter than they were, and they didn’t like that. We witnessed exactly what had happened on the campaign plane in the year prior.” And make no mistake -- we'll see it again. It's one thing for global warming to top the agenda. For Gore to put it there, however, implicitly indicts all those who mocked or sought to stymie his crusade in the past. His success is their failure, and they'll do their damndest to stop it.
The US press corps invested an incredible amount of energy to sink Gore in 2000 - without their efforts to support Bush and lambast Gore, the Bush presidency would never have happened. A return of the Gore candidacy, made more popular by Clinton-era nostalgia and his own increased charms, would be a fundamental indictment of every journalist in Washington, who believed they alone had the right to choose who should be President.

This is why Gore's efforts to get around the press - around the filter, as Bush would say - is so crucial to his resurrection.

(Edit: Changed title to be grammatically correct. Thanks, anonymous! Actually, the singular use of the word "media" is one of my pet peeves, so I feel ashamed.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


From Green Car Congress:
The per-capita car ownership ratio in China will increase by 67% to 40 cars for every 1,000 citizens by 2010 from the current 24, according to a report by Chinanews. By contrast, the US has 765 vehicles per 1,000 (2002 data), while Europe (including the FSU countries) has an average of about 300 vehicles per 1,000. (UNECE).
I wonder what the numbers are when you exclude the FSU countries. This PDF does show that Germany - probably the closest to the US in terms of wealth - has fewer cars than the US, per 1000 people. In fact, I'd wager this understates the case - the German lower class is much better off than the American lower class, but car ownership doesn't seem to increase.

My theory is that German cities are more accessible by foot, bike, and mass transit, but I've never been so who knows.

It's not new regulation, dumbass

After his critique of Matt Yglesias' post on net neutrality, Kevin Drum writes:
Although both cable companies and telcos provide local internet access, the backbone of the internet is carried exclusively by telcos, which were regulated as common carriers under the tighter TS rules. The common carrier rules effectively enforced the principles of net neutrality on the internet backbone.

A series of court cases between 2000 and 2005 changed all this.
As Kevin notes, until last year, net neutrality was the law of the land anyway. That's why this has become a big fight all of the sudden - because the FCC changed the definition of what was acceptable behaviour on the Internet backbone.

Imagine for a moment that someone published a book on Manners and Etiquette saying that it was okay to crap on the dinner table. They might present any number of arguments for why it was desirable - nay, necessary - that people crap on the dinner table. This would not change the fact that we'd be forced to eat shit.

The FCC decision last year effectively made it acceptable to crap on the Internet when it hadn't been before, and we're all being forced to eat it.

Changing gears slightly, it's worth pointing out that the telcos have been fighting for the end of neutrality for years now, and they've finally gotten their wish. I know I've argued before that adding partiality to the network is more expensive than simply providing more bandwidth, but I suspect that's not true anymore.

Here's why. Given that they've been fighting for partiality for five years, and given that the FCC is notoriously "captured" by the telcos, they must have started adding intelligence to the network years ago. Cisco began marketing intelligent routers back in the late 1990s, so I'd wager it's been at least that long.

This means that by now, the network probably has all the intelligence it needs by now. When the dust settles and the telcos decide to eliminate net neutrality, all they'll need to do is flip a switch, or execute a command or something.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

The war on consumers continues:
According to a UK news source, citing retail contacts, Sony is preparing to make it illegal for consumers to sell used PS3 games. The plan would involve Sony adopting a licensing system whereby gamers would agree that they are purchasing a license to play a game, rather than the game itself.

If true, such a move would be a massive boost for publishers and developers which do not profit from the lucrative and damaging retail trade in used games. In fact, many publishers are furious that they have to spend support money on consumers who have not actually contributed a dime to the company's coffers.
The hell? I guess we can expect Random House to crack down on used bookstores next. Tools.
In turn, it would be a catastrophe for retailers, which make a significant proportion of margin from used games. Consumers would likely be less than overjoyed.

Sony, which is refusing to comment on the story, does have a patent on technology which would tie a piece of software to an individual piece of hardware.
With my big move-in with Vicki, we've recently purchased a new TV and DVD player. They're real, and they're fantastic. But when we tell people this, the next question is always "So, PS3 or XBox 360?" And my response is always the same: "I hate Sony and everything they make. This hatred is actually greater than my hatred for Microsoft, because Sony used to make really good gear. Now all they do is make crap that breaks on you, or is designed to screw you." To my knowledge, Microsoft hasn't designed the Xbox in such a retarded way, but if someone wants to correct me, I'll gladly reconsider.

In any case, I'm just as likely to buy a used PS2.

Quote of the Day

Tim Lambert muses about what one scientific concept he would most like to teach the world. Lambert sez "random sampling", but I like this answer by "z" in his comments better:
That mathematical equations are not amenable to reason, pleading, threats, prayer, offers of compromise, etc. etc. etc.
I have this image of George W. Bush, looking at the balance sheet for the US treasury, all in red, begging a giant talking minus sign with all the desperation of a junkie:

"Please, c'mon man, don't hold out on me."

"Damn, fool, get offa me. Ain't my faultcha can't add, dumbass."

Any cartoonists want to run with that idea, feel free.

But it's cute when I do it

I have to say, the fact that Abu Ghraib didn't result in mass resignations/firings from the US Defense Department and White House continues to baffle me. Well, it would baffle me if I actually thought these people had any moral compass to speak of.

To put it bluntly, the US has always had a bit of a double-standard when it comes to human rights abuses. Sadly, not only when Republicans are in charge - though especially then:
For seven months in 1967, an elite platoon known as Tiger Force went on a rampage, killing hundreds of Vietnamese men, women and children. The soldiers mutilated bodies, wore necklaces made of human ears and executed unarmed civilians at close range. It was the longest known series of continuous war crimes in the history of the Vietnam War. Tiger Force fought in the theater of operations where the My Lai massacre later happened, a fact that suggests atrocities in Vietnam occurred due to the failure -- or even the design -- of leadership as opposed to the isolated actions of a few rogue soldiers.

The Army began an investigation of Tiger Force in 1971. Despite overwhelming evidence of war crimes, no charges were ever filed against any Tiger Force soldiers or made public. The investigation was apparently killed at the highest levels of government in November 1975 -- the same month Donald Rumsfeld began his first term as defense secretary under President Gerald Ford and Dick Cheney began as White House chief of staff.
How the Republican party can be so unrepentantly vicious amazes and confuses me. Here are national leaders who do everything but say "go get 'em, boys" and then claim they had nothing to do with the results. Whether its Vietnam or Iraq, the motto of the GOP seems to be "no bar to low."

Greg Palast is Apparently Retarded

Jeez. Usually I love his stuff, but this is just stupid. Via HTWW:
In his 1956 paper, Hubbert wrote:"On the basis of the present estimates of the ultimate reserves of world petroleum and natural gas, it appears that the culmination of world production of these products should occur within a half a century [i.e., by 2006]."

So get in your Hummer and take your last drive, Clive. Sometime during 2006, we will have used up every last drop of crude oil on the planet. We’re not talking “decline” in oil from a production “peak,” we’re talking “culmination,” completely gone, kaput, dead out of crude—and not enough natural gas left to roast a weenie. In his 1956 treatise, Hubbert wrote that Planet Earth could produce not a drop more than one and a quarter trillion barrels of crude.
It's really bizarre that someone could read anything - literally, any single thing - about Hubbert's Peak and declare that Hubbert predicted that we'd run out of oil yesterday. You'd have to be a moron. Seriously.

Palast doesn't believe in geology, you see. Palast believes that the current high price of oil is driven not by supply-chain constraints, but by oil cartel manipulations.

There is so much stupidity in the next few paragraphs:
Have we peaked? Worldwide oil reserves continue to rise even faster than America and China can burn it. Since 1980, reserves, despite our binge-guzzling, have risen from 648 billion to 1.2 trillion barrels. Yet, weirdly, despite the rising flood of discovered crude, its price quadrupled between 2001 and 2005.... The oil squeeze tightened after the Bush Administration, beginning with the energy bill of 2001, abandoned conservation and encouraged a monstrous jump of two million barrels a day in U.S. oil consumption.

So please don’t slander Mother Earth and say she’s run out of oil when it’s man-made mischief to blame. Evil, not geology, has a chokehold on energy; nature is ready to give us crude at $12 a barrel where it was just a few short years ago.
So we've got a number of dumb assertions in these sentences:

1) Reserve size is a linear determinant of oil production. By this logic, Canada should produce more oil every day than Saudi Arabia.

2) Reserves have grown faster than consumption. Palast says reserves have doubled since 1980. We consumed 64 million barrels per day in 1980. So at first, it looks like Palast is right. Of course, by accepting these numbers without qualification, Palast is inadvertently giving a lot of credit to the rulers of OPEC, all of whom multiplied their stated reserves severalfold during the 1980s, usually with no explanation. This oil magically appeared on the ledgers, and has never left or been explained. Palast mentions this nowhere in this piece. (I confirmed Palast's numbers at the EIA website of the US Department of Energy.)

3) If it weren't for Exxon, we'd be at $12/barrel oil. This is simply idiotic. The price of production for a large chunk of the world's oil is higher than $12/barrel. I'd have to check, but I'm relatively certain that if oil dropped to $12, all production in Alberta and Alaska would stop, most of Russia would stop exporting, and maybe a solid chunk of places like Venezuela and Iran, too. All told, $12/barrel would cut several million barrels of production from the world market, meaning - yup - the price would go through the roof again.

All of this is simple economics, but Palast needs to ignore Econ 101 if he can make a case against the Exxons of the world.

(Let no one ever say that I'm unwilling to criticize idiots on the left. Damn it, I want the people on our side to be angry and right, not just angry.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pulling a Farnsworth

Good news, everyone!
BERKELEY, California - Climate models that predict the Earth's average temperature could rise as much as 10 degrees by the end of the century may have underestimated the increase by as much as four degrees.

New research at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory suggests that as carbon dioxide emissions heat the globe, hotter oceans and soils will release stored carbon dioxide, which will in turn kick up the thermostat an extra notch.

"We've probably underestimated the problem," said UC Berkeley ecologist John Harte....

"It's a vicious cycle where more warming causes more greenhouse gas emissions, and more greenhouse gas emissions cause more warming," Torn said. "That could have serious consequences both for human populations and biodiversity."
A year and a bit ago I wrote that the prospect of a positive-feedback cycle was making me reconsider my opposition to nuclear power, and I keep waffling on this. I guess I need another hit of good, pure, uncut data from actual renewables performance before I abandon nuclear entirely.

The Over-Used Pun: Reefer Madness!

Anybody else remember how the US screamed bloody murder when the Liberals were talking about lessening the penalties for personal use?
As it happens, no fewer than 11 states on this side of the border have made the decision not to bother filling their prisons with recreational potheads. Among them are not only such states as California and Oregon, which you might expect, but states such as North Carolina and Mississippi, which you might not. About 100 million Americans live in places where pot has been decriminalized....

Looking at these places, "you can't tell the difference from how many people use marijuana," says University of Maryland, College Park economist Peter Reuter. A 1999 report commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences found "there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use."
You mean, pot is so available, and existing law is so laughable on its face, that people don't see a need to fly to the dope-haven of North Carolina?

Shocking, I know.

Seriously, how are we run by idiots? Something that's unrelated, but has been bothering me for a while:

Why the queasiness among some US liberals to call Bush a liar? My theory is this: As much as Bush's lies say a lot about him, the fact that his obvious lies still got him re-elected say much, much more about the American people. American liberals need to confront that fact first before they can think about winning the White House back.

Highway to the Danger Zone

ATHENS, May 23 — Greek and Turkish F-16 fighter planes collided in midair today in disputed airspace over the Aegean Sea.

While Greek rescue teams searched for their missing pilot, Defense officials in Athens said the Turkish pilot, Lt. Halil Ibrahim Ozdemir, survived the crash, ejecting safely from his aircraft.... "We have no signs that the Greek pilot managed to eject," said a spokesman for the Hellenic Air Force, Yannis Papageorgiou.
One of the sillier arguments about Afghanistan was that we had to continue in our war-fighting mission because our NATO allies demanded it. I tend to believe that if NATO were so all-encompassing and demanding, maybe the Greeks and Turks could go a few weeks without playing aerial chicken at Mach 2. It doesn't always end like this, but they've been playing the odds for more than a decade now.

Focus on the Macro

Bradford Plumer has an excellent post today about how unimportant litter is:
In 1953 Vermont passed a law banning "throwaway bottles," after farmers complained that glass bottles were being tossed into haystacks and being eaten by unsuspecting cows. Suddenly, state legislatures appeared poised to pass laws that would require manufacturers - and the packaging industry in particular - to make less junk in the first place. Horrors.

So that's where litter comes in. In 1953, the packaging industry- led by American Can Company and Owens-Illinois Glass Company, inventors of the one-way can and bottle, respectively - joined up with other industry leaders, including Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Company to form Keep America Beautiful (KAB), which still exists today. KAB was well-funded and started a massive media campaign to rail against bad environmental habits on the part of individuals rather than businesses.
And today we learn that a anti-smoking activist has passed away:
Heather Crowe, the long-time waitress who contracted lung cancer after decades of exposure to second-hand smoke, has died. She was 61.

Crowe, who never smoked, became widely known as the face of the nation's anti-smoking movement after sharing her personal story in television ads for Health Canada.
Now, there's some excellent reasons to focus on smoking and the risks thereof, especially in the workplace. But we shouldn't let the focus on individual behavior obscure the real culprits behind the carcinogens we ingest, oh, every day.

Conservatives love to rail on about "personal responsibility", but in the modern era that has next to no meaning. Exactly how, pray, am I - a conscientious ecologically-minded person - supposed to dramatically cut my CO2 emissions? I can't, for the very simple reason that all of my available options are carbon-intense. I can choose between the lesser of two evils (say, mass transit over a car) but seriously reducing my personal footprint requires - you guessed it - collective responsibility.

Of course, that requires government regulation, like the kind that was too late to protect Heather Crowe. So here's the question: Do conservatives favour "personal responsibility" out of their own ethical preferences, or because they don't care when people die and they're just so dishonest?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

War is Always and Everywhere a Political Phenomenon

For the George W. Bushes and the Stephen Harpers of the world:
"Clausewitz's writing sometimes seem to reflect a disappointment that ideal war is spoiled by friction, but he does not regret that war is held in check by politics. On the contrary, he regarded war that has broken free of political guidance as 'something pointless and devoid of sense.'"

-Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World, p. 16
This really has nothing to do with democracy as we know it - Clausewitz would have been aghast at our government - but instead has to do with the nature of war. Everyone knows that Clausewitz said "war is politics by other means", which all too many have taken to mean that war is a normal act of government.

Clausewitz, I believe, didn't mean this at all. What he meant was that the state needed to have an achievable objective in mind when it went to war, just as it would with any other policies. If the government no longer has an objective - if we're just fighting to 'support the troops', or to bring 'peace with honour' - then we've reached the point where our battles have become "pointless and devoid of sense."

Debate needs to be a permanent fixture of any military act, whether it's peacekeeping or preemption. Those who seek to silence the debate because they fear they'll lose are already putting us on a course for disaster.

This doesn't seem to be something Gen. Tommy Franks understands, unfortunately:
Franks referred to the national media as “a bunch of suckers” in his speech, recalling a reporter who had asked him whether freedom for Iraqis and Afghans was worth more than 2,000 American lives.

“I thought ‘you idiot,’” Franks said. “Do you not understand what we’re talking about? It’s neither 2,400, 24,000 or 240,000 [lives]. Terrorism is a thing that threatens our lives. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics.
Tommy Franks demonstrates the biggest problem about "supporting the troops": Some of the troops - especially those who wear General's stars - can turn out to be lying Republican whores. I've said this before. Even when they're not, you can see how by "militarizing" the debate, Franks and those like him seek to de-politicize the debate. Because God forbid we bring politics in to matters of state, right?

And boy do I hope Tommy Franks is never President. A man who thinks that Iraq is worth a quarter of a million lives is certifiably insane. Jeebus.

Net Neutrality and Utopia

(Cross-posted at Ezra Klein's.)

Lest anyone think otherwise, net neutrality is a real concern. Here in Canada, Shaw (a cable provider) is charging people who use a VOIP client other than Shaw's own a $10 fee.

So what do we do if/when we lose this fight? To find the answer, we have to travel to Utah, of all places.

Spectrum, the magazine of the IEEE, has an excellent article about a publicly-owned fiber-optic network in the Wasatch Valley: The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA. (Pause to admire the cute naming scheme.)

There's been a lot written about the value of municipal wireless networks - see here - but its important to point out that the policy and economic rationale for wired networks is at least as strong, if not more so. Lawrence Lessig has described the case for municipal fiber networks thusly:
The point is obvious when you think about corporations. Boeing, for example, has installed a massive AFN on its campuses. That AFN enables the company to offer itself extraordinary network capacity at extremely low cost. Technically, Boeing is the monopoly provider of network services to Boeing. But as McAdams nicely puts it (so nicely that we might call this the McAdams theorem), you don't monopolize yourself.
The principle that applies to Boeing, applies to Chicago, or Washington, or to Utah. Hence the Spectrum article. The condensed version is that the state legislature banned cities from offering their own Internet service, but didn't ban them from operating a wholesale network. So 13 Utah cities were allowed to build their own fiber-optic network, but private companies provide the actual Internet, TV, and phone service.

The funny thing is, while this makes a good political compromise, its not a compromise from the point of view of the network: A neutral operator maintains the fiber grid, but private operators compete for the market, keeping prices low for consumers without threatening the users with nasty surprises, a la Shaw above.

It also turns out that building this network is cheap, or at least cheaper than you'd think. You wouldn't know it from the way the big telcos have dragged their feet, but laying fiber optic cable right to the home isn't too hard. The article quotes a lower price for the bargain Internet-only package than local cable or DSL, while offering 5x faster bandwidth. The trick is that the participating city governments offer 20-year bonds, paid by the fees raised from the network. They claim they don't spend any tax dollars to lay the fiber.

And once you've laid the fiber-optic cable, the hard part is done. UTOPIA delivers 100mbps already, with the potential to upgrade to 1gbps in the future, and even potentially even to the 10gbps Ethernet standard. Upgrading the ends of the network is relatively cheap, if you build it right.

The policy implications are clear: it's the telephone and cable companies' monopoly over the last mile to the home that has allowed them to subvert net neutrality in the first place. Building a third network - owned by the public - gives citizens a real choice. On top of that, the fiber network will hopefully be so appealing, even for the big telcos, that they'll want to offer their services over the fiber. Municipal networks can make access to the fiber networks conditional on strict neutrality.

Of all the places where we'd find a potential solution to the oligopoly of the ISP market, I can honestly say I'd never have thought of Utah. It is, after all, one of the few states where Bush still has a positive approval rating. Who'd think they'd support socialized Internet?


I think I actually agree with Harperco. Somebody pinch - no, shoot - me. From Paul Wells:
It's all about the economic union. "In many respects, barriers to trade and to mobility are being eliminated more rapidly outside our borders than within them," Flaherty's Finance Department gnomes write. Time to fix that. The provinces will have to recognize each others' professional credentials, as well as those of immigrants, so a dentist doesn't have to become a cabbie when he moves to Calgary, whether he's from France or Moncton. Provinces will be asked to allow neighbouring provinces to transmit electricity through their territory to a third market. They'll be asked, for the umpteenth time but with more urgency, to permit a single securities regulator for the whole country. And non-Atlantic provinces will be asked to harmonize their sales taxes with the GST, just as the Atlantic provinces did, to cut administration costs.
The urgency behind Confederation in 1867 was largely due to the end of the US Civil War, and the fear that a number of well-armed and newly-unemployed Americans might come North. But the underlying drive was an economic one - the desire to make a single market out of British North America.

One hundred and forty years later, it's still incomplete. If Harper & Flaherty manage to tie the Provinces closer together, then I say good on them. Oh, and the idea that there's no Federal regulator for Securities in this country is bizarre.

Quote of the Day

Steve Gilliard:
Americans may have no great faith in education, but they love intelligence, and they expect the president to have it. They don't like it smarmy like Dennis Miller, but they love it sly like Jon Stewart.
I'm not sure I believe even this, but I hope.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Tar sands fever

My latest post is up at Gristmill. It's about the tar sands (again) and involved the pungent aroma of human urine.

Fun for the whole family!

(In case you're wondering, the boys and girls at Gristmill prefer that I don't cross-post, while Ezra has given me no such restrictions.)

Worst. Ads. Ever.

(Cross-posted at Ezra Klein's)

If you haven't seen the ads by the Competitive Enteprise Institute yet, you really gotta. It's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect the carbon lobby to put together, complete with little girl blowing on a flower.

Of course, we should all remember that one of the first campaign promises that Bush broke was his promise to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

And then, once you've watched the ads, read this much better, and more accurate parody.

But... I love Gore!

(Cross-posted at Ezra Klein's.)

Neil raises some excellent points about Gore. My responses below the fold, but in short, I don't see where Gore has weaknesses that the rest of the Democratic field won't.

The flip-flopper charge is going to be a problem, but only if Gore manages not to define the race. Gore's reappearance in the mainstream media has been all about Climate Change (or the Climate Crisis, as he calls it.) Given the likelihood of another hot summer this year, with the possibility of another bad hurrican season, it's possible this will play in to Gore's hands. I know that's crass, but the GOP is the party of all 9/11, all the time, so why can't we be the party of Katrina?

Fortunately for Gore, he's been righter about Climate Change for longer than any other American politician. If Gore plays to his strengths - climate change being the biggest - I find it hard to believe that the flip-flop charge will stick worse than it sticks on all Dems.

As for what swing states Gore wins, I don't have an answer for that. Constituencies? As Neil mentions, the largest constituency that Gore can capture are the people who remember Clinton with nostalgia. That's a pretty large number already, and it's liable to get larger as time goes on.

The real test I think is going to be the success of Dean's 50-state strategy. If the Dems win big this November, then Gore's lack of a swing constituency will be less important. If the 50-state ploy fails, then the Dems need to be more careful as to who they choose.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I love the smell of bullshit in the morning smells like.... humiliation.

By now, many of you may have heard about the Iranian government's plan to make Jews where yellow stars on their clothes. I personally saw this story on the front page of the National Post (inside the box on the street - I refuse to pay for that shit.) Apparently, Godwin's Law doesn't exist in the National Post newsroom.

Of course, as POGGE has detailed, it's total and complete crap.

That isn't to say that the actual law isn't offensive - the law that actually, you know, exists, restricts what women can wear in public. Iranian women have been flouting the existing dress code by wearing tight-fitting robes, apparently.

But somehow, the National Post wasn't content with a story that was just about the oppression of women. They had to fabricate a story to smear the Iranian leadership with a hallucination straight out of the Holocaust.

As if that weren't bad enough, the dead-tree version of the paper actually ran a photo from 1940s German-controlled Europe accompanying the story, leaving no propaganda stone unturned.

It's obvious what's going on here - the Canadian right, not content with the fact that Iran's nuclear program already poses enough of a challenge, want to make things worse by inciting people with images out of last century's nightmares. In doing so, they plant false stories about how their enemies are devious, conspiratorial, and don't value human life the way we do. That's right, the National Post, in comparing the Iranians to Nazis... acted exactly as the Nazi's allies in the press did.

And the circle of life for Nazi references is complete. Somebody cue Elton John.


In the NYTimes today, behind their paywall:
We shouldn't read too much into a couple of days' movements in stock prices. But it seems that investors are suddenly feeling uneasy about the state of the economy. They should be; the puzzle is why they haven't been uneasy all along.

The rise in stock prices that began last fall was essentially based on the belief that the U.S. economy can defy gravity -- that both individuals and the nation as a whole can spend more than their income, not on a temporary basis, but more or less indefinitely....

As I summarized it awhile back, we became a nation in which people make a living by selling one another houses, and they pay for the houses with money borrowed from China.

Now that game seems to be coming to an end. We're going to have to find other ways to make a living -- in particular, we're going to have to start selling goods and services, not just I.O.U.'s, to the rest of the world, and/or replace imports with domestic production. And adjusting to that new way of making a living will take time.
One of the more common conspiracy theories re: Iraq & Iran is that the US attacked because Saddam started denominating oil sales in Euros, and Iran is next because of the opening of their oil bourse. Paul Krugman dismissed this theory before the Iraq War began, and on matters economic I happily defer to him. However, one of the definite advantages the US gains from oil denominated in dollars is that the when the value of the dollar goes down, the price of oil does not go up for the US as it would for any other country. This isn't conspiratorial at all. While the price of oil isn't "pegged" to the dollar the way the Yuan is, the US is insulated from its own deficits in a way that no other country is in relation to oil.

Brief illustration: If the price of oil is US$50/bbl and the Canadian dollar declines to C$0.75/US$, then the price of oil in Canadian dollars is more than C$65. If the Loonie climbs to parity, then we pay $50/bbl. But if the US dollar declines in value relative to the Euro, or Yuan, or whatever, America still pays the same $50. This is good for OPEC when the dollar is high (when Democrats run things) and bad for OPEC when the dollar is low (Bush.) It's less important when the price of oil is going up generally, but it's really bad for OPEC when the price of oil goes up while the dollar sinks.

This amounts to a subsidy from the OPEC nations to the US. As you might imagine, some in OPEC aren't particularly happy with subsidizing the Great Satan. There's been some musing by OPEC members to switch to a basket of currencies, or to stop denominating the price of oil in any currency whatsoever and let it float relative to all currencies. None of this talk has (officially) been aimed at bringing the Zionist lackey to its knees. As recently as 2002, the Venezuelan oil minister was saying that the system worked fine and there was no reason to change.

We can see that the scenario some people see - OPEC switches to Euros, world ends - is unlikely. In fact, it's probably reversed. OPEC is only going to jump currencies after there's a serious decline in the dollar, one they can't ignore. (Not saying it's going to happen at all, but if it is a decline in the dollar is a necessary precondition.) This will finally expose American consumption to the kind of discipline that other countries have been exposed to. The next step will be for China to unlock the Yuan, and the global economy might finally be able to find a balance again.

One interesting point to note: Two major chunks of US imports - oil and Chinese goods - have been insulated from changes in the value of the US dollar because of OPEC and Chinese policy. Meanwhile, China has been propping up the US dollar (and maintaining its peg) by buying massive amounts of US debt. So three of the largest impacts on the US economy - Bush's deficit, oil consumption, and Chinese imports - are effectively being maintained artificially by policies of the Chinese, American, and Saudi governments. Without Chinese lending, American interest rates would be higher and the housing bubble couldn't be sustained. Without Chinese goods, most Americans couldn't afford their lifestyle. They certainly couldn't do so without the easy money of home financing, again made possible by low interest rates via Beijing.

And finally, the US economy, already troubled with oil at $70/bbl, could very well fall into recession if Americans have to pay the full price of oil. I've heard Brad Delong say that the US$ may need to decline by as much as 30% to restore balance. If that's the case, then a US$70 barrel of oil may suddenly cost close to $100/barrel, even assuming the price of oil doesn't increase. $100/barrel would be 25% over the 1980 peak price of oil.

So even if the global economy reaches a "balance" of a higher Yuan, lower dollar, and controls the US deficit, we can see that it might still be quite... unbalancing.


Atrios writes:
I really don't know how we excise this "wants to invade lots of countries" attitude from elite opinion in Washington. It's very entrenched, very wrong, and very frightening.
Referring to Matthew Yglesias here:
And, of course, I certainly do desire a leader with command of the national security issue. Personally, I wouldn't define "command of the issue" as equivalent to "wants to invade lots of countries,"
Matt was talking about McCain specifically, but Washington generally: the belief that "seriousness" in national security means "willing - nay, eager - to invade lots of countries."

I'm not sure I could say when it happened that the US Military became the Swiss Army Knife of US foreign policy - whatever you need, the USAF can bomb it in to submission! My bet is probably Reagan's various campaigns against Latin American Communist Superpowers such as Grenada and Nicaragua. But whenever it began, the process continued more-or-less uninterrupted though Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. Probably the biggest boon to the miltarization of foreign policy has been the US War on Drugs, with the attending use of soldiers in places like Colombia. Like the War on Terror, the question we've never really grappled with is: Is the military the proper tool for our objective?

As Chalmers Johnson has written, the US military is now the foreign policy instrument of the United States government, with the State Department about as useful as an appendix. When Musharraf took power in Pakistan, his first call was to Anthony Zinni, CENTCOM, not Madeleine Albright.

Again, this predates Bush II and Iraq by some time. Bush inherited a state aparatus that was predisposed to blowing shit up, whether or not that was a particularly useful response.

It's really weird, because as with so many things the shift in attitude seems to be the Reagan-era, post-Vietnam cynicism. But Vietnam showed how ineffective the military could be - even in it's own environment! - yet somehow the idea of substantial humanitarian assistance is seen by the US elite as unnecessary. The military was rehabilitated post-Vietnam, but foreign aid as a tool of foreign policy never was. See yesterdays's post about the meager US aid to Ukraine post-Orange Revolution, for example.

If the American people want to avoid another Iraq-style disaster, it requires more than just a rethinking of US national security. It requires a major rethinking of what kind of country the US wants to be in the world. So long as the US wants to be a global power, able to use military force around the planet, I would say Iraq, Vietnam, or their successor disasters are going to be likely, if not inevitable. However, if the US were willing to build institutions of true global governance - the ICC, a rapid reaction force for the UN, adherence to the will of the UN General Assembly (gasp!) - while downsizing it's own ambitions, then there's a chance that future calamities can be avoided.

On Hypocrisy

Yesterday, I made a crack about how hypocritical I was being to criticize Ezra. But I was also thinking about something else: How tiresome the accusation of hypocrisy is: Not because it isn't always true, or because it isn't always relevant, but because you can always find examples of hypocrisy, everywhere.

The favourite on the right these days is to claim that Canada needs to fight with the Americans in Afghanistan because of the years we've spent talking about human rights and peacekeeping. Not "walking the talk" in this case, the right argues, is simple hypocrisy.

My response: So what? Hypocrisy doesn't matter if consistency would have us make the wrong choice.

For another example, I turn to Dean Baker, who points out that the US Congress is beginning to strip oil companies of some of their subsidies. Specifically, Congress is unilaterally imposing higher royalties on oil. This leads Baker to write:
To an outsider from another planet, this proposed renegotiation of offshore energy leases might look similar to the recent renegotiation of energy leases in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela that have prompted such outrage from the media.
Yes, the US government is acting shockingly rational, like Chavez and Morales.

So is this hypocrisy? Arguably. But it's also the right thing to do from a policy point of view. The better argument about hypocrisy is this: When our previous statements don't match our present behaviour, it's just as likely our previous statements were wrong, not just our present actions.

So American hysteria about Morales or Chavez nationalizing the oil industry was just the usual capitalist histrionics, which lasted exactly until the US government was in the same position.

This argument also calls in to question Canada's rhetoric about peacekeeping, doesn't it?

Aw, My First Troll

I know I shouldn't even both giving them the attention, but this is just perfect: It's like the Platonic ideal of right-wing nutjob spam.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Foreign Policy? What's that?

So I've been reading the archives of Nikolas Gvosdev's blog, Washington Realist, and I have to say I'm impressed. Not just because I think of myself as a realist in the IR sense of the term, either.

Gvosdev identifies a number of problems with US foreign policy that I don't think enough Americans really understand. But they're critical to understanding why America has so much trouble in the world today.

One of the most important problems Gvosdev notes (repeatedly, read his blog) is that the US is accustomed to offering what amounts to zero-incentive diplomacy. That is, the offers made by the US usually amount to two awful choices, or one bad choice and one effectively non-existent choice. As a recent example, people have described Ukraine's elections as a choice between "Russia" and "The West." Of course, the US offers Ukraine no immediate, tangible benefits to "joining" our club. Meanwhile, Russia was, before the election of Yuschenko, selling natural gas at below-market rates, effectively subsidizing the Ukrainian economy to the tune of $5-7 billion over a period of years. American and EU aid has not amounted to a small fraction of that. There has been no offer of trade relations or membership in the EU. The only real push has been for Ukraine to join NATO - which you can interpret as you will.

A more important example would be Bush's approach to Iraq before the war began. You remember in September 2002, that Iraq agreed to weapons inspectors - more than a month before they were forced to by UN mandate. By January 2003, Hans Blix was reporting that the inspectors had found no new weapons. A rational response would have been: Fine, the inspectors are staying until we're satisfied, but for now the tanks are parked.

Of course, this wasn't the response the Bush Administration took. The response of the Bush administration was to say that the Hussein family had to leave the country or the US would invade.

Now, this meant that Saddam had no good choice: Either leave your country, or we'll take it from you. What possible incentive did Hussein or his sons have to acquiesce to US demands? None. (Of course, this was actually the point. Bushco saw peace as an obstacle.)

But this goes beyond Bushco, unfortunately. The document drawn up by NATO in the prelude to Kosovo - the Rambouillet "Agreement" said that
NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters.
Basically, Serbia was supposed to allow a NATO invasion. This is a bit much to ask, especially if the crisis we were trying to avoid was contained within one region. Once again, however, we see that the US was only giving the leadership two bad choices: Either we invade your country, or we bomb you until you let us invade your country.

Now, the point here is not that Milosevic or Hussein were "victims" in any sense of the word, other than an obscene one. The point is that if the US is actually interested in acheiving aims short of a military conflict, it needs to offer adversaries something in return. In the case of Cuba, 1962, it was a guarantee to the Soviet Union that Cuba would not be invaded. The North Koreans want what Cuba got. The US could attempt to resolve the tension with Iran by, bizarrely, considering Iran's grievances. I know, it sounds weird. But Iran's leadership has said they want to talk, and specifically they would like the US government to stop trying to overthrow and kill them.

Now, the US can either a) keep failing at regime change, or b) try to keep Iran from getting the bomb. That seems like a no-brainer to me. If only we didn't have a no-brainer in the White House.

What to do with New Orleans?

Ezra Klein writes, in response to the de-blackifying (an awkward word) of New Orleans:
Let's be real clear here: New Orleans is a death trap. With the acceleration of global warming, hurricanes are intensifying. Katrina, remember, was only a category three when it hit the city, and even then it only delivered a glancing blow. Its successors won't be so kind. So maybe it's a good thing that the new New Orleans will be more affluent, more mobile, and less populated, because all those attributes will make Mother Nature's next assault less devastating.
After ranting about how maybe people shouldn't live in Vegas if they can't water themselves, it would be hypocritical of me to say that Ezra's wrong, wouldn't it?

Hypocrisy it is, then!

If there's one lesson that the Bush Administration shows us, it's that motives matter*. If Bush had, in his little photo-op speeches, said to the American people that New Orleans could never be rebuilt the way it was, that America would be better off rebuilding the necessary port infrastructure but resettling the bulk of the population elsewhere (with adequate funding etc.) and helping the people formerly of New Orleans make new lives for themselves, then I'd actually be wholeheartedly in favour of it.

But guess what? If the Bush Administration did that, they wouldn't be the Bush Administration.

Would this US Government ever seriously consider a rational, long-term policy to adapt to the climate change they don't believe is happening? Would they ever seriously consider aid that would disproportionately go to poor blacks? Would they do anything at all to help the underclass they wouldn't cross the street to spit on?

Motives matter. The former residents of New Orleans may be better off where they are. They may even make better lives for themselves than they could have otherwise. That doesn't change that facts that Ezra is - not ignoring, but I think trying to see the bright side of: The poor population of New Orleans is the victim here. They are still being victimized, and the Bush administration is still to blame.

*In fact, the Bush administration has been extremely educational on many, many more than one occasion.

A Good Question

via MyBlahg, Paul Dewar asks a good question about Afghanistan:
The question is, how can parliamentarians vote on extending the mission for two years when this mission lacks clarity? In fact, instead of signing up for two more years of a mission that lacks clarity, we should be urging the UN and NATO to look at a plan for real peace in the south, a plan that abandons the search and kill. That has failed.

We should be supporting the peace strengthening commission, which needs international support and has been championed by an Afghan Canadian. In fact, there will be no peace in Afghanistan unless a peace process is put together.
Robert says that "in every modern war there are peace talks", but that's not strictly true. The demands of the Allies in WWII was total, unconditional surrender. The Japanese got to negotiate only after they had already lost the war. There were some attempts at negotiation on both sides, but nothing really serious.

I would question whether the military has really failed, as Dewar puts it. I think that's quite a statement, but I honestly don't have the expertise to judge.

More problematic, however, is that Canada is in no position to bring the parties to the negotiating table. After all, we're talking about a trilateral conflict - the US, the Afghan government, and the remains of the Taliban. Even assuming we could bring all three to the table, what possible settlement could there be? Allow the Taliban to participate in the political process again? Maybe win an election in a few years, a la Hamas? Even if Canadians thought that was acceptable, I'm willing to bet that Washington and Kabul wouldn't.

Not incidentally, a peace settlement would almost necessarily include a demand by the Americans that Mullah Omar and any Al Qaeda leadership surrender to the US. This is unlikely to be accepted, to say the least. And finally, all of this presupposes an American government that was predisposed to negotiate.

Now, none of the above means that Canada should be fighting with the Americans. But I don't think it means we shouldn't be fighting with them, either.

Odd Conversations

Vicki: You know what I liked about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II? That warehouse they had - it was like boystown, and they all hung out there.

Me: That was in #1, not 2.

Vicki: Really?

Me: Yup. I remember #2 being better than #1, but #1 had the warehouse thing.

Vicki: #2 had Vanilla Ice.

Me: OH GOD I'd forgotten that.

Vicki: Go ninja, go ninja, go!


Vicki: I made a funny!

(Bizarrely, this conversation started by me discussing extending voting rights to children. It always comes back to the Ninja Turtles, however.)

I Concur

Donnie Darko sucked nads.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ignatieff Should Be So Proud, Pt. II

via My Blahg:
WASHINGTON - A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood," a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.
Murtha wasn't just a Marine, he was a drill instructor. I can't imagine the kind of disgust he must be feeling at this kind of news.

It's important to say that while this incident may be attributable to "a few bad apples", the fundamental problem is this God-forsaken war. Just like every other problem the right has tried to sweep under the rug.

Tardy Wheaties

Everyone seems to have found their backbone six years too late. Damn it, Dick Meyer, where were you in 2000?
The great impulse of the punditocracy right now is to look at President Bush's swelling problems with the public and his party in the context of the elections coming up in November and then in 2008. Big mistake.

Short of another disaster on the scale of 9/11, George Bush no longer has the power, credibility or ability to effectively govern for the rest of his term in office. Contrary to what you hear on television, governing remains more important than campaigning. Government is more important than elections — to the extent the two can be differentiated anymore.

Bush's realm of efficacy will be limited to areas where he can make unilateral decisions, mostly in war and foreign policy. The tax cuts that oozed through Congress last week may well be his last "significant" piece of domestic legislation; I put quotations around significant because they are, in fact temporary. The entire menu of Bush tax tinkering is set to expire in 2010 on someone else's watch, an apt metaphor for this administration.


Will all this lead to a Democratic field day in November? Who knows; and not to be flip, but who cares? Polls show Congress is held in low esteem similar to the president's. Democratic gains would simply lead to continued do-nothingism. And the ramifications for 2008, I believe, are nil. 2008 will be about two people, not the performance of congressional Democrats in 2007 and 2008.

But what is apparent, is that George Bush has at his disposal none — none — of the tools presidents have used to turn bad situations around: public support, party support or skilled statecraft. He's a lame duck less than two years in to his second term. You are not being governed.
Actually, doing some Lexis-digging, it seems that Meyer is just another late-comer to this party. All of his columns before now have a very Cohenesque feel, if you will.

About Chavez

Robespierre (who has not yet assured me that he doesn't own a guillotine) complained about my labelling Hugo Chavez a despot. I explained myself a bit, and I suppose I should clarify things a bit. I don't think Chavez ranks up with Fidel Castro, and in fact Chavez had done a lot of laudable things since winning his first election in 1999. That said, recently things seem to have taken a turn in Venezuela, and it has me concerned.

Anyway, one thing we know for sure is that Chavez has far, far, FAR, fewer ties to terrorism (as in none) than Qaddafi's Libya.

Which must be why Venezuela is on the US list of Terror-supporting states, and Libya is not.

(Duck of Minerva had it first.)

The Crawl to War

Bill Hicks once said about the US rush to war in Iraq, 1991:
"We're goin' in at nine for God and country and he's a Hitler and -- hey, look, a fetus! Whatever you need, let's go!"
Of course, Hicks was describing Bush's PR campaign against the US people. Today, we've seen the spectacle of a Parliamentary debate to legalize a war we've already been in for almost five years. (Yes, Canada participated in the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001. Deal with it.)

If there's a polar opposite to a "rush to war", this may be it.

Nevertheless, we've seen Prime Minister Harper employ many Republican tricks to try and demonize the opposition by saying that either you support the government, or you hate freedom. And probably like Nazis, or something. I'm glad that Jack Layton pointed out that the budget the Conservatives voted against had more money for the CF than the Conservatives have presented.

One MP (I didn't catch the name) lamented the Conservative use of "supporting the troops" to try and browbeat Parliament in to submission. He asked that all parties refrain from such jingoism. Silly MP, if the Conservatives didn't use jingoism, they'd have to rely on reason and facts.

This isn't to say that I don't believe there's a factual, reasonable argument for Canada's role in Afghanistan, even if it means supporting the dreaded Operation Enduring Freedom. If Canada is serious about humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, then it's reasonable to ensure that the previous regime is destroyed thoroughly. Yes, this means counter-insurgency warfare. (When did that become the NDP's favourite dirty word?)

The question Canada - and the Parliament - needs to ask is simply whether that objective is realistically achievable. I have plenty of doubts on that score, but am willing to be convinced.

So, the questions I ask, and have asked before:

1) Do we wish to help protect the government of Afghanistan by assisting in the destruction of the Taliban? (This, it seems to me, is the most succinct definition of the mission we're debating.)
2) Can we accomplish that goal?

Obviously, if we don't answer yes to #1, then the discussion is moot. If we can't actually achieve the mission, then our motives are worthless. If the answer to both is yes, then I really don't see the objection to Canada's participation in Afghanistan. Neither, I imagine, would most Canadians if the question were presented to them honestly. Frankly, I don't think there's a need to complicate the debate beyond that with questions of aid, or NGOs, or schools. I support all those things, and believe Canada can support both sides of the equation. But the first condition of building a state is establishing sovereignty - that means destroying armed forces not loyal to the government.

I'm rather dissapointed to hear the NDP, the Bloc, and some Liberals talk about how we need to "drain the swamp" through aid instead of a military solution. I totally agree that the only long-term solution is exactly that. But the problem is that in the shortest term - now - we have a modest population of well-armed people devoted to destroying the existing government of Afghanistan. Some might be willing to be bought, but I'd wager good money - and we've already wagered our soldiers lives - that the majority of the remaining Taliban are, to quote George Bush, dead-enders.

(God, I just heard Lloyd Axworthy say that attacking the Taliban isn't the same thing as protecting the Afghan people. What does he think killed the most people in Afghanistan in the last decade and a half? Bad Ambien prescriptions?)

There's obviously some reticence in supporting George W. Bush in anything - a reticence I share - but Canada doesn't get to pick our fights like that. ISAF is a small, limited force, and the experience of Kosovo showed how difficult working through NATO could be. The US has tens of thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan, and they get to call the tune. Obviously, I don't believe we should be at the American's side, right or wrong. I would prefer we stop providing America the meager help we already have in Iraq, for reasons that should be obvious. But the US is doing good in Afghanistan, in so far as any military force can be. If we're serious about helping Afghanistan, why wouldn't we be at their side?

Like I've said before, as much as I would like to see Afghanistan turn out well, I lack a deep, unshakeable position on this matter. I'm willing to be convinced that everything I've said above is wrong. Oh, but if anybody tries anything like Stephen Harper did today - using the death of Capt. Goddard to bully Parliament, while her husband is still numb with shock - then don't bother. And Mr. Harper can shut the hell up any day now.

The Indispensable Nation

Nicholas Gvosdev is bored:
I am tired about hearing the U.S. described as a superpower. Yes, we are. Big whup.

The reality is that there are severe domestic constraints on how we can utilize and deploy that power. We can put less troops into the field today that Mussolini's Italy--and Italy of the 1930s was far from being the world's greatest power. Americans do not want to assume the burden of empire--which is why we seem to have to resort to lies to motivate them (the "next Hitler", the imminent mushroom cloud, etc.)

Moreover, our economic prosperity depends on many factors no longer under our control--imported energy, supply chains (read Barry Lynn on this!), etc. We require the active cooperation of the intelligence services of other states in areas where we have limited reach.
I've been thinking about this a lot myself lately. Most recently, while listening to this podcast about Iran. One of the participants - I was supposed to be shopping with Vicki, so I forget who - mentioned that the US spends about 100x more on its military than Iran does. The implication was that the US therefore has a massive (orders of magnitude) advantage over Iran. Needless to say, there's a number of problems with this analysis. To put it simply: Who thinks that the insurgents in Iraq have a multi-hundred billion dollar budget? Who's winning? Who's getting more for their money?

There are two massive structural drains on US power that reduce the effectiveness of every dollar the US spends on its military, one from domestic politics, the other from the nature of American power. The first, domestic, problem is the nature of the US House of Representatives, which effectively necessitates that each large appropriation be broken up in to small pieces and scattered across the country. The B2 bomber is the classic example, but you can look at the old Apollo Program and see the same dynamic - to ensure political longevity, a project has a part built in as many Congressional districts as possible, employing as many people in each district as possible.

No one doubts that this inflates the costs of major appropriations, but I haven't done the research to see by what magnitude. I suspect that, relative to other costs (soldier's pay, for example) the inflation may be relatively modest in absolute terms, even if it does lead to the occasional $500 hammer.

(On that note, I wonder if anybody's compared the relative costs of the British (parliamentary) appropriations during their empire versus the US (congressional) model.)

The far larger structural cost to the US military is simply the purpose of the US military - the maintenance of US power across the planet. This necessitates a huge supply chain of ships, planes, pipelines (fighter jets aren't particularly fuel-efficient) and assorted other transportation. It is no exaggeration to say that, if the US weren't also simultaneously deterring North Korea and Russia (what do you think V Corps is doing in Germany?) the Iraqi adventure would have a lot more troops to spare.

A paradox of American Imperialism: If the US weren't so powerful, they'd be far more potent.

So the American leadership has a choice for the future: If they believe (as they seem to) that the future will inevitably be shaped by Sino-American rivalry, the US needs to downsize its empire to retain a greater military effectiveness. Shut down bases in western Europe, pull out of the Middle East (aside from possibly Qatar, and maybe Saudi Arabia if they'll let Uncle Sam back in), end the various military projects in Latin America. Instead, focus on areas where the Chinese are already competing for influence - Asia and East Africa - and increase the number of troops stationed in Japan and South Korea.

Problem: After decades of American "protection" the South Koreans and Japanese don't particularly want any more American troops on their soil. The other option is Russia, who share a rather long border with China, but are not well-suited for striking at the Chinese coastal cities and military aparatus. Nor do the Russian people particularly like the Americans at the moment - something about American economists doing more damage to Russia than the Wehrmacht. So prickly when the economy declines by 50% in a decade.