There Goes The EU Neighborhood

November 10, 2007

A Dem president and congress may lose a few American cities, but the Europeans will lose their homelands.

To Russia:

Flushed with profits from the re-nationalized oil and gas industries, President Vladimir Putin has improved Russia’s military, developing “the Topol-M mobile ballistic missile, the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, a new multiple-warhead missile, a new evading warhead, the S-400 missile interceptor, fifth-generation fighter planes and four new missile-firing submarines.” Putin has used Russia’s newly empowered military to confront the West.

He has resumed long-range nuclear bomber flights, opposes missile defenses in Europe, claims the North Pole for Russia and suspends cooperation under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. He also sells air defense missiles to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran, suspends gas and oil shipments to pressure other countries, and threatens both to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear forces (INF) treaty and to target NATO countries by basing missiles in Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

Absent US support, the EU cannot counter a single one of these mortal threats, and its pols lack the courage to implement the tripling of military expenditure needed to keep the bear in its cage.

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On The Road

October 29, 2007

We’re off to Italy this afternoon, where now we should have broadband. So service will continue as usual. Or not, as the case may be.


Appendicitis

October 17, 2007

Visiting London I was struck by appendicitis and have just left hospital after fancy keyhole surgery.

Will return to regular posting when my IQ returns to double digits


Road Warriors

September 22, 2007

Mrs G and I are traveling tomorrow, but this time will take laptops and cellular modems.

There may be a gap in postings of a day or so while we get these to work in darkest mainland Europe.


Spanish Practices

September 16, 2007

Looks like the Spanish government expects a terror attack. From the UK and Ireland.

It started in July:

Holidaymakers travelling to Spain this summer have been warned to brace themselves for delays at airports as a result of the introduction of new security measures.

From June 13, Spanish authorities will be asking travellers to provide detailed information about themselves before they fly to the country…

Airlines have been told that the information needs to be supplied to Spanish customs authorities before anyone boards an aircraft…

That got delayed, and now appears to be restricted to travelers from the UK and Ireland (my ellipsis):

The Spanish Government has introduced new measures requiring airlines to provide, (before flight departure) the Passport or National ID data of all passengers on board flights departing from the UK and Republic of Ireland…

(The requirement is restricted to) passengers traveling to Spain…from the UK or Republic of Ireland from the 19th September 2007 onwards.

Hopefully the Spanish will extend their scheme to flights from Morocco, Algeria, and Syria.


Oil and Iraq

September 16, 2007

Alan Greenspan says the war in Iraq is, as lefties claim, All About Oil. That’s ignorant nonsense, and diminishes the man.

His claim:

America’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil…

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says…

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.

“Everyone knows” isn’t quite the standard of proof one would expect from an elder statesman. Still, let’s ignore WMDs for the moment and look at how important Iraqi oil was in 2003 to the US and UK.

Iraqi oil was and is irrelevant to the UK, which until 2006 was an oil exporter, so would be nuts to spend blood and treasure invading a competitor. See OECD net oil imports 1992-2006.

So let’s consider the US, which since the year 2000 has had annual oil consumption of about 20 million barrels/day.

Iraqi oil exports in 2000 were 2.1 million barrels/day, and have since fallen to about 1.4 million barrels/day.

When the US launched the war, US oil imports came from the following sources according to Al Jazeera :

Country Million barrels/day in 2001
Canada 1.79
Saudi Arabia 1.66
Venezuela 1.54
Mexico 1.42
Nigeria 0.86
Iraq 0.78
Norway 0.33
Angola 0.32
United Kingdom 0.31
Total imports 9.0

(Table is total petroleum products and excludes all countries from which the US imported less than 300,000 bpd in 2001).

Why would the US go to the cost of invading a nation supplying under 8.6% of its imports?

Protecting the wells can’t have been a consideration – Saddam was nuts, but not enough to shut off his only source of revenue.

Perhaps Greenspan and friends think the US intended to occupy Iraq and take its oil for free. But in that case why not go for the Saudis? After all, they financed and carried out 9/11, Iraq and Saudi Arabia both have about 27 million people so should cost about the same to subdue (assuming the US suddenly became an evil imperialist power), and the US would steal almost 3 times more oil from Saudi Arabia.

That leaves the possibility that the US feared Saddam might have stopped shipping oil to it. But in that case, as an economist like Greenspan must know, Saddam would have to sell his oil to another customer, displacing their current supplier. Who would promptly have switched to supplying the US.

And if all else failed and the US lost Iraq as a supplier and failed to replace it, the US is surrounded by oil – Canada (170 gigabarrels), Mexico (maybe 100 gigabarrels) and of course the US itself (oil shale – 800 gigabarrels). That’s enough for a few centuries.

All this tells us the Greenspan isn’t a numbers man, which may explain the sub-prime disaster.


Dysfunctional States Have Decent Citizens, And Vice-Versa

September 15, 2007

Corrupt nations are dysfunctional, but their people have a much stronger sense of community than the less corrupt US and UK.

Here’s AP damning General Petraeus with faint praise:

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Congress that while Iraq remains mostly dysfunctional, violence has decreased since the influx of additional troops earlier this year.

That conflates the behavior of bad actors – Al Qaeda, Iranian killers, and corrupt pols – with the poor devils who suffer their “violence”.

Many European governments are corrupt, as are their new masters in the EU. But Europeans still manage to earn a living and raise their kids to live decent lives.

They do this by avoiding or ignoring government unless it threatens them with violence, in which case they concede the minimum. That works quite well, since no government can police all of its citizens 24*7, and even the most corrupt regime wants to avoid outright insurrection.

A small example is an EU directive on washing floors in lodging houses, which requires resulting waste water to be placed in special containers for (expensive) disposal as a biohazard. This is no doubt the result of a deal with the waste removal industry.

As you’d expect, people just wash floors less.

Governments counter with snap inspections, but these just encourage their intended victims to carefully track the inspectors – if a team is spotted in the area, the news spreads like wildfire, thanks to the cellphones.

As a result, the social fabric in dysfunctional low-trust nations is strong, as people combine against the predatory state. Of course this environment is quite antipathetic to running complex businesses, so such states are poor (unless they can rob less corrupt nations via the EU).

Our low-corruption/high-trust societies get the flip side – we can build great enterprises and prosper, but our social fabric is weak and decaying. Here’s an example from the UK:

Elderly residents, including one aged 103, have been evicted from a Sussex care home under police guard after inspectors shut it down saying that they feared for the safety of the people living there…

Residents and staff were given less than an hour to pack their bags and leave on Thursday evening. Family members arrived at the home, which can accommodate up to 30 people, to find relatives sitting on the driveway in wheelchairs or sobbing in their rooms as police officers waited in hallways…

Residents at Trevine Court spoke highly of the home, saying that they were sorry to leave. Mr Adelphie, who has owned the care home for more than 28 years, could not be contacted. However, he told the local paper that he would fight the closure: “Half of my residents are going to die because of this. It is an absolute disgrace”.

All old folks eventually die, and it’ll be hard to prove their deaths resulted from this eviction, although some surely will.

But people in corrupt low-trust states look after their own, and would not tolerate the brutality the high-trust Brits visited on these old people.

So, Iraq may be dysfunctional, but its people will be working together to survive in spite of this adversity – just as Greeks and Italians do.

Which is why we should not consign Iraqis to the mass death proposed by the Dems.