Friday, August 21, 2015

America's Addicition to Oil, and Support of Middle East Dictators

UPDATE II:  Now would be a good time to increase the federal gas tax by $1/gallon, so that we don't become complacent about the real cost of oil.

"We are witnessing a historic fall in the price of oil, down more than 50 percent in less than a year. When a similar drop happened in the 1980s, the Soviet Union collapsed. What will it mean now? . .

Many American experts and commentators have hoped for low oil prices as a way to deprive unsavory regimes around the globe of easy money. Now it’s happening, but at a speed that might produce enormous turmoil and uncertainty in an already anxious world."

Read the Washington Post, From Russia to Iran, the consequences of the global oil bust.  

UPDATE: Why not increase the federal gas tax by $1/gallon?

"The beauty of the tax — as a substitute for a high world price — is that the incentive for fuel efficiency remains, but the extra money collected at the pump goes right back into the U.S. economy (and to the citizenry through the revenue-neutral FICA rebate) instead of being shipped overseas to Russia, Venezuela, Iran and other unsavories.

Which is a geopolitical coup. Cheap oil is the most effective and efficient instrument known to man for weakening these oil-dependent miscreants.

And finally, lower consumption reduces pollution and greenhouse gases. The reduction of traditional pollutants, though relatively minor, is an undeniable gain. And even for global warming skeptics, there’s no reason not to welcome a benign measure that induces prudential reductions in CO2 emissions.

The unexpected and unpredicted collapse of oil prices gives us a unique opportunity to maintain our good luck through a simple, revenue-neutral measure to help prevent the perennial price spikes that follow the fool’s paradise of ultra-cheap oil.

We’ve blown this chance at least three times since the 1980s. As former French foreign minister Jean Fran├žois-Poncet said a quarter-century ago, 'It’s hard to take seriously that a nation has deep problems if they can be fixed with a 50-cent-a-gallon' — 90 cents in today’s money — 'gasoline tax.' Let’s not blow it again."

Read the Washington Post, Raise the gas tax. A lot.

Would you support a $4/gallon gas tax?

Read the Washington Post, Can Americans handle the truth about gas prices?

I Have a Question!

From an email:

Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety-one?

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea...does that mean that one out of five enjoys it?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren't they just stale bread to begin with?

If people from Poland are called Poles, then why aren't people from Holland called Holes?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car is not called a racist?

If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, then doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

Do Lipton Tea employees take 'coffee breaks?'

What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks, so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use, toothpicks?

Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen can look for them while they deliver the mail?

Is it true that you never really learn to swear until you learn to drive?

If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?

Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?

Why, Why, Why do we press harder on the remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?

Why do banks charge a fee due to insufficient funds; when they already know you're broke?

Why is it that when someone tells you that there are one billion stars in the universe you believe them, but if they tell you there is wet paint you have to touch it to check?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but he ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose cruel idea was it to put an "s" in the word "lisp"?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that, no matter what color bubble bath you use, the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people run over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it and then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

How do those dead bugs get into the enclosed light fixtures?

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

Why, in winter, do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

The statistics on sanity say that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're OK..? (then it's you!)

REMEMBER, A day without a smile is like a day without sunshine!

Go, The Donald, Go!, Cont.

UPDATE IX:  The articles say it well.

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump and the Cattle Car Caucus and GOP candidates tiptoe around Donald Trump’s xenophobic demagoguery.

Then read Vox, Donald Trump’s appalling reaction to a hate crime committed in his name.

UPDATE VIII:  "There’s a certain demographic in this country — it’s unseemly to mention the specific population by name — that has no sense of personal responsibility.

I don’t know whether their problem is cultural or biological. But these people refuse to acknowledge any bad decisions they have ever made, or the many times others have bailed them out. They want everyone else to pay for their failures, and sometimes even their successes.

By now I think you know which deadbeats I’m talking about: the people running for president.

I’m not saying they’re all bad; there are a few personally responsible outliers to cherry-pick from an otherwise mooch-y bunch. But, as a whole, this group is unusually adept at ducking deserved blame, claiming unearned credit and hoovering up O.P.M. (Other People’s Money). . .

[B]y far, the leader of the personal responsibility deadbeats is Donald Trump, a welfare queen if there ever was one.

This is a man who has proudly “used the laws of the country to [his] advantage.” That means racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements — that is, government subsidies — to finance his real estate empire. That means using “government’s incompetence as a wedge to increase his private fortune,” as one former New York City tax auditor put it. It means borrowing lots of money that he never paid back, because it was discharged in four (corporate) bankruptcies, which he now looks back on with pride.

That means trying to use eminent domain to seize an elderly widow’s property so he could build a limousine parking lot, or pressuring a city to condemn several businesses so he could buy the land on the cheap to build a 'combined amusement park, shipping terminal and seaport village and office complex.' That means slapping his name on all sorts of other projects he had relatively little involvement in and then swooping in to take credit when things went well — or suing to have his name removed when things went badly.

None of this is illegal, of course. But it’s also maybe not the track record of someone who wants to lead the party that has fashioned itself the party of personal responsibility, of freedom from government dependence, of the makers rather than the takers. Yes, Trump’s been 'making,' but that making has been enabled by a fair amount of taking, too. . .

To be sure, there’s a long and storied American tradition of shunting responsibilities, and costs, onto other parties (most creatively, though not exclusively, through the tax code). So maybe this crop of candidates is just what we deserve — if not exactly what we need. "

Read the Washington Post,  The 2016 field is full of deadbeats — and maybe it’s just what America deserves.

Again I ask, why are Republi-cons such suckers for snake oil salesmen?

UPDATE VII:  The appeal of politicians such as Trump and Putin "is partly their brash self-confidence. They don’t explain the mundane details of national revival; they just assert it. Think of the character Harold Hill in 'The Music Man.' He promised to give River City a marching band, even though he couldn’t play music.

Putin, like Trump, seems to understand that power and showmanship are inseparable, especially for a nation that is traumatized by military and economic losses. It’s a confidence game. 'Within the system, Mr. Putin has developed his own idealized view of himself as CEO of 'Russia, Inc.' In reality, his leadership style is more like that of a mafia family Don,” write Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy in their book, 'Mr.?Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.' . .

Trump is more nakedly self-promoting than Putin, with a vanity and braggadocio that would embarrass a Russian (or, indeed, almost anyone). Trump’s Web site promotes him as “the very definition of the American success story,” gliding over his four corporate bankruptcies. He seems to enjoy it when commentators deride him as an uncouth lout and rabble-rouser, underestimating the power of his message. His blunt comments speak to a nation that’s sick of political double-talk. . .

What’s surprising about Trump is that he has attracted such a wide following. He’s Reagan without Reaganism, running a campaign nearly devoid of ideas. Americans have had flirtations with demagogues, from Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. But the bullying authoritarian personality — the Putin style — usually doesn’t work here. This summer has been an exception, but history suggests that it won’t last."

Read the Washington Post, Is Donald Trump an American Putin?

P.S.  I don't agree with the final conclusion that Trump is a demagogues like Coughlin or McCarthy because, as noted before, unlike most politicians Trump doesn't need to win the election, he has a real life.

UPDATE VI:  Love him or hate him, The Donald understands "the way really life works" and how to negotiate and deal.

A "key advantage that Trump has is that he is unconstrained by the norms of running for office. He doesn't need to spend time raising money because, however much he actually has, it's in the billions -- hundreds of millions of which are liquid and with millions more coming in regularly. He doesn't need to actually win, because he's already accomplished -- and employed. He doesn't need to worry about what he says because so much of his appeal to voters is centered on his not caring what the repercussions are.

All of which means that he's unconstrained by campaigning. He doesn't have to prove his chops to you; he's a billionaire. . .

Trump is also introducing something else new to the campaign process: An explicit reliance on personality. Much of what we do when we choose a candidate is to try to use past actions to predict future behavior. But we're bad at that, both because we can't help but blend our desired outcome into our analysis, and because past action is actually a bad way to predict the future."

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump’s surprisingly savvy analysis of American politics.  which also notes that "[w]hen people are considering candidates, most will review top-line policy positions, if they compare policies at all. This is why we have political parties: so that we can have a cheat sheet for what people stand for without having to do a lot of reading and becoming experts in particular issues."

UPDATE V:  "If you’re a Republican, you may be telling yourself that this will get sorted out eventually, and your party will get itself a real nominee. And you’d be right. But by the time that happens, the party will have spent months tying itself in knots. The voters Trump represents will be only more convinced that their party is, in the words Trump himself might use, a bunch of total losers."

Read the Washington Post, Bad news, Republicans: Donald Trump is practically bulletproof.

UPDATE IV:  Can the Republi-cons "keep the crowded field from turning into a Trump-incited mob" tonight?!

Read Politico, How Jeb and the GOP Got Trumped.

UPDATE III:  Scott "Walker’s [recent] encouragement of the Muslim myth was another case of a dynamic that could be problematic for the eventual Republican presidential nominee: Saying zany things is rational strategy.

Chris Christie talking about his wish to punch a teachers union in its collective face? Ted Cruz saying the Obama administration is becoming the 'world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorists'? Mike Huckabee talking about Obama marching Israelis to the 'door of the oven'? Rand Paul declaring that highly taxed people are 'half-slave'? Or Donald Trump, who still doesn’t know whether Obama was born in America, insulting everything from Mexican immigrants to John McCain’s war record?

They may sound crazy — but they’re crazy like a Fox.

Paul, the libertarian candidate in the GOP field, explained the Trump appeal on CNN: 'This is a temporary sort of loss of sanity, but we’re going to come back to our senses and look for somebody serious to lead the country at some point.'

He’s right about the insanity part. But it may not be temporary. The gap between those who vote in GOP primaries and the rest of the electorate is growing.

This Republican sliver of the electorate, growing isolated and angry, is inclined toward exotic views. Trump, rather than causing the insanity Paul speaks of, is exploiting it."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP field’s calculated crazy talk.

UPDATE II:  "Trump’s appeal is pure style. His emptiness makes him a perfect vehicle for rage. He is angry about everything that makes you angry — because that is why he chose his views. He is a megaphone of resentment against elites and foreigners who are ruining our country, taking our jobs, raping our women or eating our lunch. And he promises to fix it all.

'I don’t care what his actual positions are,' says supporter Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. 'I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers.'

This is the cult of spontaneity taken to its logical conclusion. In choosing a president, policy positions are held to be irrelevant. Only authenticity matters. And Trump, who has changed his entire political worldview to capture the political moment, represents the brand of authenticity. Whatever his opinions, he delivers a very genuine Blank You .

The Trump candidacy has revealed a huge attitudinal division in American life. Some of us have found it appalling that he should gain any traction in presidential politics. It seems as if World Wrestling Entertainment has conducted a hostile takeover of CNN. . .

I know that incivility is immoral and dangerous to democracy. People of faith in particular are called to speak and act on the assumption of shared human dignity. This does not rule out vigorous disagreement, but it forbids the cultivation of contempt and the issuing of threats.

I know that Trump is encouraging political fantasies. He is not preparing people for difficult choices, on, say, entitlements; he is assuring them that our problems could be easily solved if elites were not so corrupt. And he is wrong. Our problems are not easy."

Read the Washington Post, A GOP led by Donald Trump will fail, and deserve it.

UPDATE:  "How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of the most entertaining political spectacles we’ve seen in a long time? . .

Maybe Trump will somehow self-destruct in the debate. But who among his rivals is more skilled at projecting a persona on television? Trump knows how to filibuster and won’t hesitate to turn an inconvenient question back on the questioner. Even if he brings nothing to the lectern but bombast, he might emerge unscathed. 

The question becomes whether the others go after him. Perry, if he makes it to the big dance, surely will. But what about the rest? Will they throw proper punches, legal under Marquess of Queensberry rules, against an opponent who kicks, bites and gouges?

And how will the non-Trump candidates seek to present themselves in the most positive light? Will Walker refute Trump’s allegation that Wisconsin is 'doing terribly,' or will he just brag about his victories over organized labor? Will Bush break into Spanish? Will Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), drowned out of late, try to crank up the volume? Will retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson again compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery?

Can Mike Huckabee come up with an even more offensive Holocaust analogy for the Iran nuclear deal? Can Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) remind voters that, you know, he’s still in the race? Will Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) help Mr. Trump with his jacket and ask if he’d like a glass of water? Will Kasich make himself the flavor of the month? Will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie punch somebody?

Going out on a limb here: This promises to be fun."

Read the Washington Post, Christmas comes early this year — the gift of a Trump-fueled GOP debate.

So how does The Donald do it?

He play "to people’s fantasies."

Read the Washington Post, I just binge-read eight books by Donald Trump. Here’s what I learned.

In other words, he's a con man, ergo, he is the lead Republi-con candidate.