Saturday, March 01, 2008

Christopher Hitchens on Buckley...

A bit more on the man ... at the Weekly Standard:

William F. Buckley Jr. was never solemn except or unless on purpose, and seldom if ever flippant where witty would do, and in saying this I hope I pay him the just tribute that is due to a serious man.

VDH on The Forgotten American (Americanus oblitus)

From Works and Days (less depressing than usual):

The forgotten American day in and day out pays off his monthly mortgage—$1000, $1500, $2000 a month perhaps. That his house went up in value was no reason to take out a second for a new car or kitchen or to max out the charge cards or to trade up to a home he could not afford, power, or maintain.

The forgotten American may have empathy for those who took out no-down payment loans, balloon payments, and interest only plans, but would never do so herself.

The forgotten American has no grudge against Muslims, and wishes the Middle East well. But he doesn’t have much guilt over paying $100 a barrel oil, or the tens of billions in handouts to Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan.

The forgotten American doesn’t know much about Harvard or Princeton, or private school for her kids, or prep schools she never went to, or jobs that pay over $300,000 a year, or million-dollar homes. But she is pretty happy to be an American and the chance to have a comfortable house, car, good food, security, and a clean, safe, and good community.

The forgotten American worries about health care and wishes everyone were covered somehow. But for now when her son turned 23 she helped him take out a catastrophic policy, and when he forgets to make the $200 a month payment, she ensures that it is paid.

I don’t know how many forgotten Americans there are out [there], but I have a feeling the answer may well determine the next election.

Re: Nukes

I can't believe I didn't look at the Manhattan Institute earlier. Here's a pretty balanced discussion of pros and cons.

Re: Nukes

I still don't know where I come out on this. Cato clearly wants the market to decide, as from this July 2005 Washington Times article:

The intellectual case for killing energy subsidies instead of adding more is fairly straightforward:

* First, if private investors are unenthusiastic about, say, investments in nuclear power plant construction, it's probably for a good reason. Do politicians [me: probably better to say the bureaucrats they appoint because we all know that civil servants aren't political] really know more about the wisdom of that investment than the individuals who stand to lose their shirts if they make the wrong economic bet?

* Subsidies distort useful and important price signals. If the unsubsidized cost of hydrogen cars, for instance, is more expensive than the unsubsidized cost of hybrid cars, that means the resources to produce hybrid cars are more abundant than those to produce hydrogen-powered cars.

* Subsidies often do as much harm as good for their intended beneficiaries. By providing some protection from market forces, they deaden incentives for economic and technological innovation. Recipients too often grow fat and lazy at the federal trough. Look at the ethanol industry, which, after decades of massive subsidies, still can't compete without them.

That's not to say government has no role in energy markets. Energy generation and consumption are two of the most significant sources of industrial pollution. At the same time, air and water sheds are shared by all who live within them. Those who believe government should protect property rights should demand their government fight pollution to protect the value of their property and their health. So, for instance, the federal government should not override state and local governments that want to block LNG terminals or transmission line construction, as proposed by the House and Senate bills.

For a full list of the Cato articles, look here. Cato certainly has a dog in this fight because of its focus on the purity of the market. I did not find similarly negative accounts at American Enterprise Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute or Tech Central Station though they, too, bemoaned the subsidies.

While I'm as much of a Milton Friedman fan as anyone, I'm still not convinced that it may not be worth subsidizing in the name of national defense or the environment if warming really is caused by our collective carbon footprint. On the other hand, if the US were to completely wean itself from foreign oil, aren't China and India just waiting in the wings...still enriching those who want to kill us and filling the atmosphere with icky stuff? And, on the gripping hand, I still hate subsidies.

An interesting aside that you'll just have to trust me on since I didn't keep the links, at least one or two leaders/founders of one or two of the more will known Green Groups who reluctantly embraced nuclear energy as a way to reduce the carbon output are now ex-members of those groups.

Baby baby don't get hooked on me???

I think I've written before that I rarely listen to pop/rock on the radio. Driving home from the store just now there was nothing on AM and that Latino news show on PBS, which I can't stand. I hit scan on FM and stopped when I finally heard something I recognized.

Whatda??: "Girl, you're a hot-blooded woman-child/And it's warm where you're touchin' me."

I'm sure I've listened to that song dozens of times and never heard that line before.


Good work Scooter and SJJ on sussing out the subsidy issue. Makes me wonder if I need to start doing some serious homework re the standard positions of the Right that I've been spouting . . .


Friday, February 29, 2008

Re: Nuclear Subsidies

A few quick paragraphs from the very fist Cato article that pops up on their site:

Pro-nuclear groups herald the coming flood of applications as proof that nuclear energy makes economic sense. Nonsense. The only reason investors are interested: government handouts. Absent those subsidies, investor interest would be zero.

A cold-blooded examination of the industry's numbers bears this out. Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf concludes that the total cost of juice from a new nuclear plant today is 4.31 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's far more than electricity from a conventional coal-fired plant (3.53 cents) or "clean coal" plant (3.55 cents). When he takes away everyone's tax subsidies, however, Metcalf finds that nuclear power is even less competitive (5.94 cents per kwh versus 3.79 cents and 4.37 cents, respectively).

Nuclear energy investments are riskier than investments in coal- or gas-fired electricity. High upfront costs and long construction times mean investors have to wait years to get their money back. The problem here is not just the cost per watt, several times that of a gas plant, but the fact that nuclear plants are big. Result: The upfront capital investment can be 10 to 15 times as great as for a small gas-fired turbine.

Cato is not exactly your average treehugging anti-nuke protest bunch.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kudlow's thoughts on Buckley...

I've grown to love Larry Kudlow and Michael pointed out to me his earlier "problem."

Apparently, Buckley had a hand in the recovery:

At Pat’s memorial service in New York I cried with Bill as we embraced each other. So I am crying again right now at Bill’s passing.

He encouraged me to become a Catholic. He encouraged me to stay sober. He encouraged me to keep writing columns. He encouraged me to stick with my new career in broadcasting. Sometimes he would call, out of the blue, and tell me I was making good progress and that he was proud.

As we approach Texas Independence Day...

VDH in the face of a hot question:

JF: The U.S. did steal Texas from the Mexicans in the 19th century. Isn’t there a certain justice in what is happening now, the land being gradually reclaimed by its original owners?

VDH: In the sense of the irony that Mexico stole its land from Spain, that stole it from the Indians. Though unlike Mexico, the U.S. legitimized its forced annexation through a treaty and payment. There surely is irony on all sides that long ago mobs of European Texans encroached on Mexican land and now their descendants face the same from Mexicans. That said, the greatest irony is the majority of Mexican citizens in Mexico who poll that (1) they think the southwestern U.S. really belongs to Mexico, and (2), the majority of such respondents still wish to leave Mexico and emigrate to the U.S.: the subtext being ‚we want the status and prestige of being Mexico, but don’t wish to live in what we subsequently create.’

Just to cross the 1000 post threshold

Jewish World Review has begun positing articles from Strategic Forecasting, Inc. or Stratfor.

The last two paragraphs from todays article on "The Good War":

As the situation in Iraq settles down — and it appears to be doing so — more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.

Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.

I've met one of their forecasters, and ex-CIA guy. Who'd of thought they'd be headquartered right here in Austin.

From their "about us" at the site:

Stratfor provides published intelligence and customized intelligence service for private individuals, global corporations, and divisions of the US and foreign governments around the world. Stratfor intelligence professionals routinely appear at conferences and as subject-matter experts in mainstream media. Stratfor was the subject of a cover-story article in Barron’s entitled The Shadow CIA.

Stratfor was founded by Dr. George Friedman in 1996. Stratfor is privately owned and has its headquarters in Austin, TX. Stratfor has a Washington, DC-area office and employees in geopolitically significant areas around the world.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr.

I really wish that I could say he had a profound effect on me but I cannot, at least in the way so many others are writing/saying today.

Sure, I subscribed to "National Review" in the 80s but was either too self-absorbed, lazy or intellectually challenged to receive much benefit beyond, "Hey, there's this smart guy out there who thinks like I do." I had no clue about his influence on the conservative movement beyond his damning of the John Birch Society (JBS) as anti-Semitic...and only know that because my folks eventually left JBS for those reasons. I was also somewhat aware of his libertarian views on the War on Drugs.

This is blasphemy but I disliked the weekly PBS show because of his, dare I say it, arrogance. I recall being particularly pleased when a Susan Estrich/Ann Richardson type challenged him to make his points on the show in words with less than five syllables.

It was Michael who turned me on to The Corner several years ago and therefore NRO and my re-subscription to "National Review."

Indirectly, of course, the effect was profound. As George Will wrote (as close as I recall), "Before Reagan, there was Goldwater, before Goldwater there was 'National Review' and before 'National Review,' there was Buckley."

An amazing man, a lover of life. I wish I shared that joie de vivre.

I did enjoy some of the spy novels, though. (Update: after reading Steyn's comments about the spy novels at NRO today, I just ordered Marco Polo if You Can, High Jinx, Stained Glass and Henri Tod Blackford Oakes in Berlin.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tonight's debate with Hillary and Barack

I'm guessing Hillary looses the dogs. We'll see. Just wish I wouldn't have to see Olberman tonight.

Obama ads in Austin

I'm hearing many of them on the radio. I've not heard a single Hillary ad. Granted, Austin is much more likely to go for him than Houston or the "Metroplex" (always hated that term), but shouldn't she be trying?

Re: Nuclear Subsidies

Ugh. Looks like I'm going to be eating that sandwich after all. The CATO Institute has what appears to be dozens of articles and publications that show nuclear energy would never get off the ground without huge subsidies. More later.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Frontpage Magazine on Liberal Fascism

From Jonah Goldberg's LF Blog, Frontpage Magazine on Liberal Fascism (I've got lots of problems with Horowitz but do support his cause on stifling free speech on campus):

Frontpage On LF

A very nice write-up, emphasizing a point I made a while ago here that one reason for the book's success is that it was a book whose time has come. Here's the opener:

That "thwack" you hear from coast to coast is conservative book-writing pundits smacking themselves on the forehead and exclaiming, "Why didn't I think of that?"

No, the "thwack" is from conservative would-be book-writing pundits who did think about it and did nothing. I'm reminded of my past failure to act on my idea that car radios should be able to play while rewinding or fast-forwarding a cassette tape. Or, my current failure to write the definitive book on nuclear subsidies.

Or, on my dad's decision not to go in on Ross Perot's crazy computer leasing scheme in the mid-60s. Thanks, Dad...I love you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Re: Nuclear Subsidies

Michael's MN cousin was kind enough to send me many links on the subsidies issue and nuclear energy (NE) in general (many thanks) and I'm still lost. The most readable for the science challenged (me) was an article by Jon Gertner from the July, 06 NYT Magazine.

His general conclusion was that while NE is not a good source of energy, it may be a necessary one with the rising energy needs of countries like China and India, our own energy voraciousness and greenhouse gas piece of the energy supply pie needed to replace fossil fuels.

While I was glad to read a NYT journalist was slouching toward NE, the article left me only more confused about the subsidies. Gertner mentions that many reactors bring in revenue in excess of $1M a day. That sounds really low to me. I'm not sure even a heavily subsidized reactor could ever generate a profit like that. Maybe he meant to say "profit" instead of "revenue." That could be because just a sentence or two later he refers the Entergy's 10 plants generating about $250M a year in profits. If these monsters were costing $6-9B to complete in 1985 and have a 40 year life expectancy, I don't know how the numbers could ever work.

On the other hand, if 103 US plants provide 20% of our electricity using the dinosaurs, maybe the next generation reactors will yield a better result. Or, and at the risk of sounding like FDR, electricity in this era may really be something that government should fund. I'm not there yet but could probably be convinced.

I'm not too concerned about the issues of waste or terrorist attacks. We'll figure something out for the former and while the Gertner article tried to strike a negative pose on the latter, it actually heartened me.

Much more work for me to do.

(Note: my most left-leaning bone is my green bone. Non-violent treehuggers don't bother me in the least so long as they are intellectually honest.)

Dammit Jim, Feed Your Head!

From Jack M. over at Ace Jefferson Airplane Meets Star Trek. Thought it worth the link.