“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, March 10, 2006

party poopers on the Titanic

It is entertaining to see D.C.’s international thinkin’ set run like the three blind mice this morning, groaning about the Dubai port deal. It isn’t that the Friedmanites are wrong per se – it is just that this part of the deal – the deal in which the U.S. liquidates its manufacturing status, borrows money indefinitely to maintain the world’s largest consumer market, and adopts for domestic purposes your standard third world distribution of wealth – was supposed to go down a little smoother.

Stephen Pearlstein at WAPO, in four paragraphs, lays it out like an exasperated boiler room jack who has plugged your money into a black hole and is trying to tell you that th-th-th-that’s all, folks:

“Maybe it was possible to get away with this noxious blend of arrogance and ignorance when the United States was the world's only economic superpower. But now that we've become the biggest debtor nation in the history of civilization, we might want to give a bit more thought to whom we tell to buzz off.

It was more than a bit ironic that on the very day that Dubai Ports World threw in the towel and agreed to sell off its U.S. operations, the Commerce Department announced yet another record monthly trade deficit for January, putting us on course to exceed last year's record deficit of $724 billion. At this rate, we are adding to our debt to the rest of the world at the rate of $2,500 a year for every man, woman and child in America.

Where do you think that $724 billion comes from? Let me tell you: It comes from the people who have the dollars. And in case you hadn't noticed, tops on that list are the Japanese who are selling us all those cars, Arabs selling us all that expensive oil, and the Chinese selling us the shirts on our backs, the athletic shoes on our feet and all those computers and flat-screen TVs in front of our noses.

If these folks suddenly get the idea that we don't really trust them enough to do business with them, and begin acting the way human beings do when they get poked in the eye, you could be looking at 8 percent mortgage rates, 6 percent unemployment, $4 gasoline, a $1.50 euro and a 9000 Dow.”

Gee, Dad. Are you saying we can’t afford the war?

But of course, Americans, dummies that they are, don’t get the program. They don’t get that, as they are stripped of all the good things they used to get under the old social welfare regime that taxed, actually taxed, the wealthy and shit (the horror!), they are also stripped of the right to say peep about who in particular owns them. Unfortunately, the notices haven’t yet gone out in the mail. So the American people look at the joke called Homeland Security and go charging against scarecrows, and it is tut tut time for the think tankers. David Ignatius, who has been toured around the UAE by pro-American types just eager to use the sea of money coming in from oil revenues to do everything the pro-American way, can’t get over the ingratitude of the American people. And it is a little puzzling.

After all, the American people have been so grateful to Exxon that not a word in anger has been spoken as the company gouged out the biggest profit ever made by an American corporation – and in fact, the American people felt so grateful to oil companies that even as the oil giants have been cutting back on oil exploration and R and D -- you know, the alternative fuels that will either have to get up and running in the next ten years or bye bye Americans remaining wealth, plus the health of the planet - and, instead, raining money down to its stock holders -- even while this was going on, the American people, through the Gov, was larding these companies with 7 billion dollars in handouts The Minnesota Star Tribune interviewed an petroleum hack who produced some beautiful prose on this issue:

“Profits are soaring, and that's part of the reason the U.S. oil industry has encountered slippery times. Congress is investigating the Interior Department's decision to grant oil and gas companies a $7 billion windfall - reducing required royalty payments for drilling on government land. Meanwhile, the New York Times estimated that natural gas companies have shortchanged taxpayers by $700 million in royalties.

In an interview Thursday, Sara Banaszak, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute, said tales of royalty windfalls and oversized oil profits present a distorted picture of an industry that needs huge amounts of capital to capture energy that's getting harder to find.

Q: Why can't natural gas companies pay royalties in full when you and I have to pay our taxes in full?
A: Many companies are disputing what's owed under a number of different royalty programs. I'm not an expert on the details on this, but it's complex. The idea of royalties is you get producers to produce where they might not produce or to keep a well open where they might otherwise shut down.
If you are a large company and managing a lot of exploration risk - trying to decide where to invest - you need to manage your income over the life of the program. A single offshore well will [cost] $1 billion. You're trying to decide where you're going to drill and not going to drill. If you decide to drill into an area, based on royalty relief, [and] then it's removed, it's changing the economics.
Q: Do you think the industry's behavior is inviting more regulation by slipping through loopholes?
A: Where's the loophole? That's my point. If the New York Times reporter's "loophole" is [what the industry sees as] the rules being changed on them, it's not a $7 billion loophole. It's a $7 billion royalty relief program.”

Royalty relief is relief for our royalty. So apt!

Never have so few pinheads in so little time pissed away so much – surely this will be on the tombstone of the American empire.

But now that LI has pissed to his heart’s content on the think tankers, let’s put in a good word for Bush. Lately, we are trying to be less ulcerous about the gang in the White House. And there is more good news today. Due to John Bolton’s single minded, and simple minded, crusade to keep Americans from ever being subject to an international court, the U.S. Military is having to abridge its traditional ties with Latin American militaries. Whenever a country signs on with the International Criminal Court, the official Bush policy is to ask that country to exempt the U.S. If they don’t officially do that, the U.S. cuts military aid. This policy brought forth a great deal of handwringing from Jackson Diehl, the WAPO’s uberhawk, in a column entitled A Losing Latin American Policy. According to deal, U.S. military aid to Chile is going to be terminated next month. In fact, “12 of 21 nations in Latin America have been suspended from U.S. military training and aid programs because of the ICC rule, including Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay.”

This is the best news of the day. Keep John Bolton – this is LI’s new cause. The U.S. military has been the biggest misery-maker in Latin America since Pizarro made a deadfall on the Peruvian coast. To think that the Americans are going to discontinue their deadly subversion of Latin American independence due to the pique of a noxious neo-con gives LI an unusual feeling of joy and peace. Unfortunately, the military is trying to water down the Bolton amendment to our military aid covenants. Don’t let them! Call the State Department (Condi’s number there is: 202-647-5291) and stand four square behind Bolton’s ultra American American ultraism. Are we going to abandon our Rebel in Chief now, at his hour of greatest danger? Hell no.

Ps -- another LI band pick for SXSW. Check out this Black Angels track, black grease. The chorus expresses LI's feeling post the Rumsfeld hearings: But I kill kill kill kill/I kill what I can, dear

oh oh

That Rice, trying to impose a liberal scheme on these here United States! Why, you can hear the wind whistle mightily in the nostrils of any number of C.S.A. Senators:

“SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated Saturday that the United States would look for ways to resume military assistance to Latin American nations cut off from aid programs because of their refusal to shield Americans from the International Criminal Court.”

This story does have a comic side, however:

“Officials traveling with Ms. Rice said that in meeting with President Evo Morales of Bolivia, she had emphasized the importance of cooperating on efforts to combat drugs despite his vow to end coca plant eradication programs. The newly installed Bolivian leader favors the legal cultivation of coca, the plant used to manufacture cocaine, but says he opposes cocaine and has agreed to let American antidrug officials remain in the country.

In a friendly but pointed gesture, he gave Ms. Rice a small guitar decorated on the front with real leaves from a coca plant in lacquer. Ms. Rice, perhaps not realizing that the decoration was from the plant that the United States has sought to eradicate, then smiled and strummed the guitar for television cameras. American officials said Bolivian leader was clearly trying to show how growing the plant that is made into cocaine is a part of his nation's culture.”

Like Bush, Rice clearly can’t resist a guitar.


Brian Miller said...

Re: Your new campaign.

If our goal is opposing The Empire, then maybe you're right: the real solution is to be a CHEERLEADER for the the Bush Administration, as their incompetence makes impossible the too persistent dream of interventionism throughout the world.

I wish I had the link to the fascinating three-part essay on a survivalistic doom and gloom site in which the author, a Russian, described the parallels between the fall of teh Soviet Union and our perils. It was interesting his explantion how the good ol evil empire actually survived its downfall much more easily than we will.

Brian Miller said...

Ah. Here it is. From the somewhat hysterical (at least, I really, really hoppe so. Sometimes I wonder, increasingly. It's now snowing in the Bay Area-near Sea Level-peak oil+crazy climate?) From The Wilderness site:


roger said...

Brian, are you accusing me of being tongue in cheek?

First I gotta get my tongue out of my cheek to even reply!

While it is true I was doing a little hoist with their own petardism, if I am always, tediously chronicling the bad but unintended effects of the Rebel in Chief's foreign policy, I have to concede that there is a chance for good but unintended effects too. This is one of em. God bless it.

Brian Miller said...

Well....I just like the IRONY of how our vaunted "realist" "looking out for American interests" foreign policy debacles always turn out so....bad. Not that our last big moralist, Carter, has clean hands, either.