Posts Tagged ‘mccain’

More on the Russo-Georgia conflict.

August 22, 2008 Leave a comment

“When Mikheil Saakashvili attacked the Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali, he expected to find success, or, at least, some cashable Western support. Part of his wish was granted. As soon as the Russians counter-attacked, an American politician was ready with threats and dire prophecies. John McCain was out of the gate on Georgia long before George W. Bush or Condoleezza Rice or Robert Gates made their first statements for the record. Why? Who gave McCain his early cue?

“A fair bet is Saakashvili, through his closest American friend and former agent, Randy Scheunemann. Since Scheunemann is John McCain’s adviser on foreign policy, this looks like a dangerous contact — dangerous, that is, for the security of the United States. Yet it follows a pattern. Scheunemann was the agent of Ahmed Chalabi in agitating for the war against Iraq. He is a former director of the Project for the New American Century, which welcomed a world at permanent war, dominated by the U.S., as the order of the 21st century. And Scheunemann is as closely linked as it is possible to be — while holding a nominally different post — with the American Enterprise Institute, the Office of the Vice President, and the Weekly Standard: the most drastic and persistent lobbying network for the Iraq war, and the group that lately pressed the hardest for a war with Iran.

“The idea of bombing Iran did not catch fire this summer. But these people are ambitious; they never let up one project without starting another. In their way of thinking, the United States — to keep the archaic Constitution at bay, and our enemies on the run — must always be occupied with a war somewhere. Iraq may be turning into a peaceful occupation; Afghanistan is getting to be an old story. Why not start a war in Georgia? At best, you push back against Putin, and show him to be a hollow threat. Or — a different advantage — you make a pitiful spectacle of the tears and the trampled pride of Saakashvili, and prove the brutality of Russia which has never really changed. So you restart the Cold War — a very good thing indeed. As for the run for president: on this issue as on FISA and Iran, Barack Obama can easily be shown to be a diluted version of McCain.”

Full piece here:

Russia’s terrible miscalculation…

August 17, 2008 Leave a comment

The extent of the Russian miscalculation in Georgia is completely revealed by the following excerpt:

[T]he Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow.As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it. The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status.

This is not something that just happened – it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity.

The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.

George Friedman: Russia stamps its authority

The writer believes the Americans to be outmaneuvered by the Russians, owing to the American problem wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The role of the dollar is key here, as we will show this when we return to the piece. With the dollar, Washington command not only the economic strength of the US, but of all countries which use the dollar to complete trade transactions.

Obama has promised to increased the military by 90,000 troops, McCain has promised an equal measure of increase. Added to this is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates plan to “counterbalance what the secretary sees as the U.S. Defense Department’s natural tendency to focus excessively on winning conventional conflicts rather than ‘irregular wars’ such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The actual increase will likely be much more than this. Why?

As you know from this little series we have been writing, business is good for war.

The present cascade of economic difficulties the US is now experiencing would have been diagnosed by Keyserling, the economic architect of NSC-68, as resulting not from too much military spending, but too little.

Keyserling estimated the US timidity to go all out with a really aggressive military build-out resulted in the loss of “…8 trillion dollars worth of GNP and about 85 million hours of civilian unemployment…” between 1953 and 1981.

The American economy is hollow, consisting of nail salons, restaurants, real estate and financial speculators, and millions of employees who spend all day moving emails from their inbox to folders under their inbox.

Increasingly, China and the rest of the world provide an ever larger percentage of what Americans consume; and, the dollars exported through trade return to the American economy as loans for ever more consumption.

The Americans can, in other words, provision themselves with very little effort, while amassing astonishing military power. There are sufficient manpower resources to undertake a massive military buildup without causing the slightest impact on American consumption.

The self-deluding Russia leadership believe it is confronting the United States at the limits of the latter’s power – that the US will back down owing to its draining wars of occupation. They have, in fact, merely positioned themselves to be an object lesson for China and any other challengers.

Russia has tragically misread global power relations; it has engaged in a hopeless battle against the economic power of an entire planet which effectively sit in hands of Washington.

Notes on a Work Free Society has been posted to Creative Capitalism project

June 29, 2008 1 comment

We have posted the piece, Notes on a Work Free Society, to Michael Kinsley’s new blog, Creative Capitalism.

The blog is part conversation, part collective publishing project, designed to address billionaire Bill Gates’ concept of Creative Capitalism.

As Kinsley sums up Gates’ idea:

Despite his move from capitalism to philanthropy, Gates believes that some of the world’s problems — especially the problems of the world’s poorest countries — are too big to be solved by philanthropy. Only capitalism can address them successfully. But — as he argued in a speech at Davos in January — capitalism is much better at serving the needs of the the prosperous than the needs of the poor. He goes on to argue that capitalism needs to be, and can be, reformed to solve this problem. He called this new system “creative capitalism.”

Asks Kinsley,

So why isn’t his approach — make the money, then give it away; “to every thing there is a season,” and so on — the right approach? That is one question raised by creative capitalism. There are others. Wouldn’t the small-d democratic approach be: make the money and then tax part of it away? When corporations start giving money away or devoting it to good works, aren’t they cheating their shareholders? (That was Milton Friedman’s position, you won’t be surprised to hear.)

To explore these questions, I’m producing a book. And “producing” is the right word. This is a literary experiment as well. The book will be derived from a private website and a public blog in which economists and others debate whether “creative capitalism” is meaningless, dangerous, useless, maybe useful, very useful, or brilliant. Anyone interested is welcome to join in at As the project progresses other contributions to the book will be published on this site and perhaps elsewhere — all in the spirit of web collaboration. The book will be out by the end of the year.

Notes on a work-free society

June 25, 2008 4 comments

Since, this is the summer before 2008 election season, perhaps, it might be a good time to just take a step back and consider our situation beyond the next four years, as it may influence how we decide to vote, and what we might demand of those for whom we vote.

Thinking more long term should be easy, since between now and the end of August will be silly season – consisting mostly of catfights among the candidates over who is whiter or blacker, older or more inexperienced, more patriotic, tougher on terrorism, has more flag pins in his lapels, and, more likely to betray every campaign promise sooner.

In another thread, we have been writing on the topic of government’s share of GDP, in light of Barack’s likely November victory over the bankrupt Republican Party, and its unbridled quest to bankrupt the rest of us.

That thread has led us back to the Woodrow Wilson Administration and the earliest moment when the idea took hold in Washington, that it could permanently command ever greater resources simply by actively expanding the economy, and, our collective time on the job.

Which caused us to consider the following: Is it possible to set the goal of creating a work free society in the next twenty years as the national economic priority? Not just reduce working time, but, eliminating work entirely – is this possible?

It is, we admit, an astonishingly arrogant policy objective.

In our collective mythology work has always existed, and, is likely to be a constant companion of humanity until the species is extinct.

But wait a minute – is that really true?

Work today consists of leaving our homes and entering the employment of one or another corporation for wage, salary or commission – each of these being relatively recent inventions. Work, as we now define it, mostly did not exist two hundred years ago, and, is likely an occurrence of only limited historical duration.

In fact, up until about 1940, the time our industrial era ancestors spent at work shrank more or less continuously, and, free time away from work gained a greater share of their daily lives.

So, it really is possible to speak of a future where we – or at least our children – could be free of any economic necessity to work.

If you give it some thought, you quickly realize a work free life has always been with us, in one form or another, for most of human civilization. Imagine a work free life as a product – a widget, for example – this widget has always been available, but it was just a really, really, expensive, and, as such, beyond the means of most members of society.

However, kings could afford it; the upper caste of most ancient societies could afford it. And, there are people of our own age (Warren Buffet, for instance) who could easily afford. Still, by and large, the price of a free time widget remains well beyond the means of most of us – a luxury item.

Conceptually, then, creating a work free society is a simply matter of getting the price of this widget to the point where it is inexpensive enough to be enjoyed by everyone in society – free would be even better.

There is a precedent for reducing the price of very expensive items like our free time widget to zero: see, for example, the History of the Book.

Up until quite recently book production was a very long tedious process, involving many months of intense labor. Just as important, making another copy of a book – the Christian Bible, for instance – consumed as much time as the production of the original.

As you would expect, a book was highly prized as a result, and, as much a symbol of wealth as it was a means of transmitting information.

Today, you can have your very own copy of the Bible by going to this site and creating a copy for yourself in about 5 seconds – depending on the speed of your internet connection.

Of course, the publishing industry is not all that happy with this, but who cares?

The same is true for just about any piece of music you might wish to enjoy – once digitized, a rare piece of literature, or, the latest Jay-Z CD is instantly available in whatever quantities we demand.

When production costs approach zero, price disappears – and, despite the RIAA‘s constant, and, annoying complaints to the contrary, even the most powerful lobbies in the world can’t recover their market when that happens.

The journey from tedious months-long reproduction of the Bible and other ancient texts to a portable document format (.pdf) download took thousands of years and an innumerable series of technological innovations.

And, during this long transition, not one person ever conceived that ultimately the reproductions of books, music, stage performances, etc., might become so cheap as to be costless, and, as a result, without any market price at all.

No one had that as a goal; no one saw any further than the next step in that process, until – BAM- it happened, like a bolt out of the blue. But, that collective effort has, over the centuries, turned those things which would have once been for the exclusive enjoyment of the very wealthiest in society into a common object of use with little more market value than rain water.

And, I think this can also be true for our free time widget: exclusively enjoyed today by the likes of Warren Buffet, enjoyed tomorrow by everyone.

It can be argued that the free time widget is actually composed of hundreds of very important products we likely will consume over our entire lifetime – each of which require a definite amount of time to produce, and, which can’t be simply digitized down to zero production cost.

For instance, my twin his-and-her Hummers cannot be reduced to a few million bits of digital information.

But, as we have witnessed since the founding of this country, the fact that an object cannot be reduced to digital information does not imply it cannot be virtually cost free to produce.

The best example for this is agriculture.

When our nation was founded, 99 percent of of its citizens made their life by farming. It literally took the bulk of all the nation’s work time to set food on the table.

Today, only about one half of one percent of the population remain in farming – an astonishing reduction in the work time devoted to feeding ourselves accomplished in about 200 years.

It is impossible to digitize a Hummer, but, it is still possible to so lower the work time effort of producing one it becomes costless.

Moreover, projects of this astonishing scale have been undertaken several times in the Twentieth Century.

During the Great War and again during the World War II, the United States managed to free more than half its production to wage a global catastrophe. Nations around the globe made similar efforts. This required such a feat of economic management as to have dwarfed any and all previous efforts combined in the long history of humanity toward such an end.

By freeing production to support the war effort, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany were also unwittingly reducing the cost of free time – all that stuff and all those men on the battlefield killing each other were supported by the rest of society, and contributed nothing to society’s living standard.

When you prove a nation has the capacity to devote half of its GDP to a global military catastrophe, you also prove half the cost of a free time widget can be eliminated through sustained concerted effort.

In 1950, as we will show, the Truman Administration undertook a similar effort to sustain an global encirclement of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics which lasted for some 40 years, and, which machinery still is in place today.

In 1961, President John Kennedy proposed the nation undertake an effort to place a human footstep on the Moon – a massive feat of science and engineering which revolutionized virtually every field of human knowledge – up to, and including, breakfast drinks.

Imagine the impact the challenge of creating a work free society would have on our society today.

It is as simple – or complex – as taking a product exclusively enjoyed by only the very wealthiest in our society, and, bringing the cost of producing that product so low as to be free – and, we certainly have experience doing that.

That is the great challenge of the opening decades Twenty-First Century – and, it could be accomplished in as little as twenty years if only there were some exotically different kind of candidate for president in this year’s race.

Barack, can you smell what we’re cooking?