Category Politics

Which raises the question: Why are they here? If you’re here just to get reelected, you’re worthless to the country

Ezra Klein interviews Tom Coburn:

EK: It seems your view is that just as the market needs to have faith in your demographics and in the flexibility of your labor market and the competitiveness, it has to have faith in your political system’s capacity to deal with long and short-term threats. Do you see any reason for the market to have that faith right now?

TC: No. One of my biggest worries is what happens if Romney wins and Republicans control both chambers, do they have the courage to do what it takes to fix the country? It’s kind of their last chance. If they’re given the favor of control and they don’t act on it, why should you ever trust them again? You shouldn’t. It’ll be the death knell of the Republican Party. They controlled it all for four years under Bush and grew the government. They created a new entitlement with no revenue. Went against the very tenets of what they said they believe.



One of the reasons I wrote the book was to show a whole lot of people how many stupid things we do. I don’t really blame presidents too much. You gotta get appropriations. I say the problem is not that we don’t get along. We get along too well. Government is twice the size it was 10 years ago. The president can’t spend the money if we don’t appropriate it. So it’s not a president problem. It’s a congressional problem.

Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun

Alexander Neubacher:

The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country’s transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.

The Baedeker travel guide is now available in an environmentally-friendly version. The 200-page book, entitled “Germany – Discover Renewable Energy,” lists the sights of the solar age: the solar café in Kirchzarten, the solar golf course in Bad Saulgau, the light tower in Solingen and the “Alster Sun” in Hamburg, possibly the largest solar boat in the world.



The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.


As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.

Infrastructure Spending

Michael Pettis:

In the paper Flyvbjerg looks at infrastructure projects in a number of countries (not in China, though, because he needed decent data) and shows how the benefits of these projects are systematically overstated and the costs systematically understated. More important, he shows how these terrible results are simply the expected outcomes of the way infrastructure projects are typically designed and implemented.



It is not a very happy paper in general, but I am pretty sure that many people who read it probably had a thought similar to mine: if infrastructure spending can be so seriously mismanaged in relatively transparent systems with greater political accountability, what might happen in a country with a huge infrastructure boom stretching over decades, much less transparency, and very little political accountability? Isn’t the potential for waste vast?

Dems’ SOPA support risky in 2012

Ryan Rainey:

The technology industry might be crucial for the economy of Wisconsin’s second-largest city, but our congressional delegation has been reluctant to heavily contribute to the debate about SOPA and PIPA. It took until Wednesday’s online “blackout,” in which The Badger Herald participated, for Madison’s own Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin to release a statement announcing she would not support the legislation.

Last Tuesday, Baldwin’s press representative said she had “some reservations” about the legislation. Baldwin still was staying unusually quiet about the issue.

Baldwin has rightfully earned her title as one of the most effective progressive voices in the House of Representatives. However, her reluctance to be one of the major progressive voices to come out early against SOPA and PIPA exposes several important aspects of her position in Congress, her campaign for Senate and the disappointing representation of Congress’ Democratic caucus.

Ever since her first Congressional victory in the 1990s, Baldwin has essentially been a shoo-in to win Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. Still, she needs donations to keep her biannual campaigns afloat, and she predictably receives large donations from trade unions and equal rights advocacy groups.

A brief scan of the history of donations to Baldwin’s campaign committee might explain her reluctance to oppose SOPA immediately. In 2010, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association donated $10,000 to Baldwin’s campaign, tying it with three other unions as the top donor to the Baldwin campaign. Unsurprisingly, the NCTA is one of the many organizations affiliated with the entertainment industry that supports SOPA.

Peter Schneider Madison Talk

ACG 5 Peter Schneider – The American Council on Germany, Keynote Speaker, “Reinventing the Industrial Heartland” from Tracy Will on Vimeo.

I enjoyed Schneider’s October talk. Here’s his Wikipedia entry, and website.

Remembering Gordon Hirabayashi

Dorothy M. Ehrlich, Deputy Executive Director, ACLU:

Gordon Hirabayashi was an American-born student at the University of Washington in 1942, when he was ordered in his senior year to report to an internment camp in northern California. He refused.

Only a handful of remarkably courageous individuals defied the internment orders. Hirabayashi was not only the youngest; his decision was a clear act of civil disobedience based on his deeply held pacifist beliefs.



In every respect, Hirobayashi’s defiance made him a civil rights hero. He died last week in Edmonton, Alberta, at the age of 93.



Some 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in America’s concentration camps — a shameful act of wartime hysteria based on racial prejudice. Hirabayashi challenged the curfew he was subject to and the internment order.

“If I were to register and cooperate… I would be giving helpless consent to the denial of practically all of the things which give me incentive to live,” he said then. “I must maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. I am objecting to the principle of this order which denies the right of human beings, including citizens.”

Lunch with the FT: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Edward Luce:

“Americans don’t learn about the world, they don’t study world history, other than American history in a very one-sided fashion, and they don’t study geography,” Brzezinski says. “In that context of widespread ignorance, the ongoing and deliberately fanned fear about the outside world, which is connected with this grandiose war on jihadi terrorism, makes the American public extremely susceptible to extremist appeals.” But surely most Americans are tired of overseas adventures, I say. “There is more scepticism,” Brzezinski concedes. “But the susceptibility to demagoguery is still there.”

Stopping SOPA


The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to reddit and many other sites you use everyday. Internet experts, organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists, and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the President will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.

We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).

Finally, a Judge Stands up to Wall Street

Matt Taibbi:

Federal judge Jed Rakoff, a former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office here in New York, is fast becoming a sort of legal hero of our time. He showed that again yesterday when he shat all over the SEC’s latest dirty settlement with serial fraud offender Citigroup, refusing to let the captured regulatory agency sweep yet another case of high-level criminal malfeasance under the rug.

The SEC had brought an action against Citigroup for misleading investors about the way a certain package of mortgage-backed assets had been chosen. The case is very similar to the notorious Abacus case involving Goldman Sachs, in which Goldman allowed short-selling billionaire John Paulson (who was betting against the package) to pick the assets, then told a pair of European banks that the “designed to fail” package they were buying had been put together independently.

This case was similar, but worse. Here, Citi similarly told investors a package of mortgages had been chosen independently, when in fact Citi itself had chosen the stuff and was betting against the whole pile.



This whole transaction actually combined a number of Goldman-style misdeeds, since the bank both lied to investors and also bet against its own product and its own customers. In the deal, Citi made a $160 million profit, while its customers lost $700 million

World power swings back to America

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.

Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline – so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue – will seem wildly off the mark by then.
Telegraph readers already know about the “shale gas revolution” that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing – breaking rocks with jets of water – will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.