Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Pot vs. The Kettle, Mercantilism in 2006

I know, I know - two entries in one day!  Will wonders never cease?  It’s just that the material out there today is so good I simply can’t help myself.  But don’t take my word for it, read on…
The Bush Administration released a revised National Security Strategy last month that made a rather strong claim about China.  That country's leaders, the document declared, are "expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up, as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era."
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with economic policies that were developed as lords, vassals and fiefs became extinct, I offer you the following definition of Mercantilism:  A post-feudal doctrine of national economic health through protectionism, foreign trade and exports.  Basically, it means putting the interests of your country first by protecting national industries, while trading with any nation that has what you want, regardless of that nation’s political leanings or even alleged inhumane policies.
Bush Administration officials have repeatedly used the term mercantilism to describe China.  And, there are some indications that Dubya’s cronies are not far off the mark.
"They are buying long-term supplies wherever they find them, including in unsavory places like Sudan, Iran and Burma, where we won't buy," said Michael J. Green, a Georgetown University professor who directed policy on China at the National Security Council until late last year. "They say it is benign, because they don't interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. And we say it is anything but benign, because it finances these regimes' bad behavior."
Now, what does Mr. Green mean by all this economic jargon?  Well, consider a country like Sudan.  China has made deals with Sudan to firm up access to oil for years to come.  Sudan is a nation known around the world for incorporating insalubrious practices like genocide.  For that reason, the US cries, “Foul!” on the grounds of Mercantilism.  But China says 'Look, you know, we don't care about internal issues like genocide, we only care about the oil because we need the resources.'  And we’re not influencing how the Sudanese run their country, so why should it matter?
How about Iran?  In November 2004 China's state-owned oil company signed a $70 billion deal with the Iranians to develop an Iranian oilfield that could eventually produce 300,000 barrels a day.  Meanwhile, the Bush Administration wants the global community to put sanctions in place against Iran because they’re busy playing with Uranium.  But, China won’t cooperate.  China doesn’t want to threaten its oil interests.  Mercantilism rears its ugly head once again!
So there you have it.  China is doing business with unscrupulous governments and is protecting energy interests in other countries in spite of the apparent wishes of the world community.  Man, those Chinese sure are mercantilists.  Just look at them, parading around the world and muddling in the affairs of foreign nations, all in the name of ‘locking up’ energy.  How arrogant!  How just plain wrong!  Of course, no one else has been behaving like that on the world stage over the last, oh I dunno, 100 years or so, have they?
So, why are the Chinese so desperate for oil?  Could it be because they are an emerging super power with a population of around a billion people?  Sure, they can use their abundant coal reserves to create power, but hey, maybe they’d like to drive a car now and again?  For that, they’re certainly going to need some oil.
Right now China consumes about 6.5 million barrels of oil per day.  That’s a lot.  The Bush Administration predicts that that number could double in the next few years.  Greedy Chinese!  Why, they’re already second in oil consumption in the world!  Isn’t that enough?  How dare they even consider moving in on the world’s number one?  That’s right, we’re number one!  The US is currently the number one consumer of oil in the world, at over 20 million barrels per day.
Let’s see now:  300 million people at 20 million barrels per day vs. 1 billion people at 6.5 million barrels per day.  I’m not much of a mathematician, but something seems a little uneven here.  It’s a disparity that, given the world’s total oil reserves, may just need a little protectionism to maintain.  Perhaps the nation that has done such a good job “locking up” the world’s oil reserves for the last 50 years is feeling a little threatened by the new kid on the block.  And, there’s nothing more threatening when you’re on top than seeing the favored contender hot on your heels, playing the same game you’ve been playing all along, only better.
BTW – This entry unabashedly borrows from an article in today’s NY Times

Repent (or not)! The End is Near!

Hey Dave!
 I read an interesting article the other day of which the premise was that the Christian evangelicals do not care about global warming because they believe that it is part of the apocalypse and that global warming is a sign that the end is near.  In fact to hasten global warming would hasten Christ's return, so why bother going green?  Although there is a small movement of 'green' Baptists who are concerned.

Hey John!
Yes, I’m familiar with that sentiment you describe from the religious right.  I believe the first I heard of it was from the secretary of the interior in the US, who made some side handed remark to the effect that we don't really need to protect the environment 'cause we're all going to heaven real soon.  (I believe more of them are actually going to hell than they realize, but who am I to judge?  I'll be right there along side them...)  He was promptly removed from that position (and probably landed quite softly, thank you very much, as a lobbyist for some heavy industrial polluter), but the fact that someone at that level of government would even think that way astounded me.  Was it James Watt?  I can't quite remember.
Anyhow, I wrote it off as random noise from a religious wacko.  That is until more recent comments from larger groups in the US defending their "right to drive massive gas guzzling behemoths".  Their attitude is similar to that classic Far Side cartoon with the two guys sitting in a boat fishing while huge mushroom clouds appear on the horizon.  The one guy says to his buddy "You know what this means!  Screw the limit!"  That's right, I suppose since Armageddon is upon us, we throw all responsibility to the wind, and burn as many fossil fuels as possible!
What amazes me is this is the attitude of supposed Christians!  You know, "love thy neighbor as thyself", "turn the other cheek", "sacrifice your first born" (oops, old testament).  How do people that supposedly believe in love and caring for their human brethren get so morally twisted?  And surely some of them have children currently stationed in Iraq.  Don't they see more than a subtle connection there?  Their selfish religious dogma is contributing to the unnecessary extermination of their own sons and daughters.
Sure, the end is nigh, but I don't think it's the one they're praying for.  After their kids are all slaughtered in the deserts of the Middle East (or simply blowed up by car bombs), the world will be taken over by a pretty angry mob of Islamic zealots, who will make the religious right in America look almost sane.
Global warming?  Yep, it's pretty serious business.  So, just for practice, let's all go to Florida this summer and walk around completely covered in black wool blankets.  Hey, it's not that far off...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Iraq 'n roll, Iran 'n roll over?

This just in: The Bush Administration continued to plan a major air attack on Iran; a highly placed government consultant said that President George W. Bush believes that "saving Iran is going to be his legacy."

Wha?!?  Shock and Awe II?  Are they nuts?  Has Bush been talking to God again?
Isn’t anyone keeping score after the inaugural Shock and Awe?  How much is it currently costing America in terms of lives and $$$ to occupy a Middle Eastern country that, when attacked, had no military and an infrastructure crippled by sanctions and corruption?  Now they want to take on another Middle Eastern country, yet this one actually has military might and reasonable infrastructure?  And, lest we forget, all the while they’ll continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan?
Can any good come of this?  

I can see what the legacy is, and I'm afraid - very afraid.  I thought Presidents just wanted to leave behind libraries.  Mind you, I suppose that requires that the President has actually read a book.

I’ll leave you with the words of a friend of mine who has just returned from a six week “tour of duty” in some of the world’s smelliest armpits.  “Can you believe this stupidity?  It is fucking unbelievable.  Bombing another country...  Man this world is fucked up.  I am going back to Mongolia.”

Amen, brother.  Amen