Quotulatiousness

September 14, 2017

QotD: The 1970s economic mess

Filed under: Economics, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

He then goes on to blather about the policies of the 1970’s. I lived through the 1970’s and what you need to understand was that the governing motive of policymakers then was panic. The “policymakers,” by and large Democrats, screwed up as badly as possible and just couldn’t get a grip on what [the problems] really were.

John C. Carlton, “Who ‘Stole’ The Country’s Wealth, The Rich, Or Government ‘Policy Makers?'”, The Arts Mechanical, 2015-10-16.

November 17, 2016

Deregulation’s return

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I rarely say nice things about Jimmy Carter’s term as president, but he should get more credit for the deregulation that happened under his administration — the lifting of restrictive and obsolete rules over things like railroads, long-distance trucking, and (most important to drinkers) enabling the rebirth of craft brewing — many of the economic benefits were later attributed to Reagan, but Carter did the heavy lifting on several important issues. It’s a hopeful sign that S.A. Miller says Congress and the Senate may be in a deregulatory mode after Trump’s inauguration:

Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that he expects a flurry of repeals of Present Obama’s regulations by the next Congress and President-elect Donald Trump.

“You’re gong to find that we are going to repeal a half dozen or more regulations in the first week of Congress, and I’m excited about it because I think the regulations have been killing our jobs and making us less competitive with the world,” the Kentucky Republican said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program.

Mr. Trump, whose surprise win over Democrat Hillary Clinton sent shock waves across the Washington political establishment, pledged on the campaign trail to tackle over-regulation by the Obama administration.

The federal government has imposed more than 600 major regulations costing Americans roughly $740 billion since Mr. Obama took office in 2009.

Mr. Paul said he viewed many of the regulations under Mr. Obama to be unconstitutional because they were issued without Congress’ approval.

September 15, 2016

QotD: Hubert Humphrey’s presidential aspirations

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Toward the end of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the governor of Georgia was a white trash dingbat named Lester Maddox – who is still with us, in one crude form or another – and when the curtain finally falls on George Wallace, he will probably go down in history as the Greatest Thief of them all. Wallace was the first Southern politician to understand that there are just as many mean, stupid bigots above the Mason-Dixon Line as there are below it, and when he made the shrewd decision to “go national”‘ in 1968, he created an Alabama-based industry that has since made very rich men of himself and a handful of cronies. For more than a decade, George Wallace has bamboozled the national press and terrified the ranking fixers in both major parties. In 1968, he took enough Democratic votes from Hubert Humphrey to elect Richard Nixon, and if he had bothered to understand the delegate selection process in 1972, he could have prevented McGovern’s nomination and muscled himself into the number two spot on a Humphrey-Wallace ticket.

McGovern could not have survived a second-ballot shortfall in Miami that year, and anybody who thinks the Happy Warrior would not have made that trade with Wallace is a fool. Hubert Humphrey would have traded anything, with anybody, to get the Democratic nomination for himself in 1972 …… and he’ll be ready to trade again, this year, if he sees the slightest chance.

And he does. He saw it on the morning after the New Hampshire primary, when five percent of the vote came in as “uncommitted.” That rotten, truthless old freak was on national TV at the crack of dawn, cackling like a hen full of amyls at the “wonderful news” from New Hampshire. After almost four years of relatively statesmanlike restraint and infrequent TV appearances that showed his gray hair and haggard jowls – four long and frantic years that saw the fall of Richard Nixon, the end of the war in Vietnam and a neo-collapse of the U.S. economy – after all that time and all those sober denials that he would never run for president, all it took to jerk Hubert out of his closet was the news from New Hampshire that five percent of the Democratic voters, less than 4,000 people, in that strange little state had cast their ballots for “uncommitted” delegates.

To Humphrey, who was not even entered in the New Hampshire primary, this meant five percent for him. Never mind that a completely unknown ex-governor of Georgia had won in New Hampshire with more than 30% of the vote; or that liberal Congressman Morris Udall had finished a solid but disappointing second with 24%; or that liberal Senator Birch Bayh ran third with 16%……. None of that mattered to Hubert, because he was privy to various rumors and force-fed press reports that many of the “uncommitted” delegates in New Hampshire were secret Humphrey supporters. There was no way to be sure, of course – but no reason to doubt it, either; at least not in the mushy mind of the Happy Warrior.

His first TV appearance of the ’76 campaign was a nasty shock to me. I had been up all night, tapping the glass and nursing my bets along (I had bet the quinella, taking Carter and Reagan against Udall and Ford) and when the sun came up on Wednesday I was slumped in front of a TV set in an ancient New England farmhouse on a hilltop near a hamlet called Contoocook. I had won early on Carter, but I had to wait for Hughes Rudd and the Morning News to learn that Ford had finally overtaken Reagan. The margin at dawn was less than one percent, but it was enough to blow my quinella and put Reagan back on Cheap Street, where he’s been ever since …… and I was brooding on this unexpected loss, sipping my coffee and tapping the glass once again, when all of a sudden I was smacked right straight in the eyes with the wild-eyed babbling spectacle of Hubert Horatio Humphrey. His hair was bright orange, his cheeks were rouged, his forehead was caked with Mantan, and his mouth was moving so fast that the words poured out in a high-pitched chattering whine …… “O my goodness, my gracious …… isn’t it wonderful? Yes, yes indeed……. O yes, it just goes to show…. I just can’t say enough…….”

No! I thought. This can’t be true! Not now! Not so soon! Here was this monster, this shameful electrified corpse – and raving and flapping his hands at the camera like he’d just been elected president. He looked like three iguanas in a feeding frenzy. I stood up and backed off from the TV set, but the view was no different from the other side of the room. I was seeing The Real Thing, and it stunned me……. Because I knew, in my heart, that he was real: that even with a five percent shadow vote in the year’s first primary, where his name was not on the ballot, and despite Jimmy Carter’s surprising victory and four other nationally known candidates finishing higher than “uncommitted,” that Hubert Humphrey had somehow emerged from the chaos of New Hampshire with yet another new life, and another serious shot at the presidency of the United States.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’76: Third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous — hanging with Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and a bottle of Wild Turkey”, Rolling Stone, 1976-06-03.

October 2, 2014

American craft beer fans owe Jimmy Carter a hearty “Cheers!”

Filed under: USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

If you like your beer — that is beer for the taste rather than for the numbing effect of the alcohol — you probably prefer craft beer (or imports). You should probably thank the man who finally made it legal to brew your own and to sell your beer to the public. The craft beer revolution broke out very quickly after that:

There has never been a better time to love beer. Duck into any local sudshouse in any half-horse town, and one is likely to find behind the bar a distinctive tap dispensing Fat Tire Amber Ale, or Shiner Bock, or — at the very least—Samuel Adams Boston Lager. At fashionable metropolitan lounges, the menu is more dizzying: porter and stout, hefeweizen and lambic, ales brown and blonde and pale.

’Twas not always so. Shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, the number of American breweries spiked to more than 800, but thereafter consolidation marked the industry for decades. By the late 1970s, that figure had fallen to fewer than 100. These were the Dark Ages, when selection was nigh nonexistent and “lite” was a selling point. Miller went so far as to brag in the tagline of its commercials: “Everything you always wanted in a beer — and less.”

The best anecdote I have found to help explain these dismal times comes from “Confessions of a Beer Snob,” a 1976 article I stumbled across in the archives of The American Spectator, the magazine where I work. There’s a bit midway through the piece in which the author, a former Nixon speechwriter named Aram Bakshian Jr, describes a beer newly available on the East Coast that had taken Washington, DC, by storm. That beer? Coors.

“What transports of delight the availability of Coors threw certain White House colleagues of mine into. I always suspected that they were more excited by the idea of its being specially flown in from Colorado than by what little taste it — or, for that matter, they — had,” Bakshian wrote. “Today the Coors cult still thrives, its devotees buying it even at the most ridiculous prices, and liquor store windows across the country proudly displaying banners blazoned with the inspiring motto, ‘Coors is here!’”

This was the state of affairs until near the end of the decade, when everything changed, not quite suddenly, but faster than could have been reasonably foreseen. In 1978, Congress and Jimmy Carter officially legalized home brewing, previously a federal crime punishable by prison time, bringing tinkerers and hobbyists aboveboard. The first brewpub since Prohibition opened in Yakima, Washington, in 1982. It was a mad dash to the fermenting tanks from there. Today, somewhere around 3,000 breweries of various sizes operate from sea to shining sea, churning out all manner of hoppy, malty, citrusy concoctions.

The Coors mania was felt as far away as the suburbs of Toronto: driving down to Buffalo to visit their incredibly wide variety of beer and liquor stores (one of my friends always referred to them as “boozaterias”) was eye-opening (and wallet-emptying at the punitive exchange rates of the day) for Ontarians in the late days of the LCBO’s Soviet store era and the grimy Brewers Retail outlets of the 1970s. And Coors, for a while, was the Holy Grail of American beer. Shudder.

September 4, 2014

How post-Prohibition restrictions still plague many states

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 17:07

The American craft beer boom continues, but making the beer is only the start of the process of getting the beer into the hands of eager consumers. CEI’s Michelle Minton explains how rules crafted for the end of Prohibition now artificially restrict the craft beer marketplace, reduce consumer choice, and add unearned profits to favoured corporations:

After Prohibition ended, Americans could sell, produce, import, and transport alcoholic beverages, but home-brewing was still illegal until 1978 when then President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to legalize brewing in the home for personal or family use. In that year, the number of breweries was at its lowest point after the repeal of Prohibition. But in the 1980s, after states began to legalize brewpubs, the number of brewers began to rise. This development, along with easy access to capital in the 1990s and 2000s, aided efforts of modern craft breweries to change the laws in their home states so that they could brew more, self-distribute, and start the microbrew revolution.

[…]

Another hindrance for craft brewers are franchise laws, enacted among the states in the 1970s and 80s due to fears of brewers’ market power. With less than 50 brewers in the nation at the time — most of them large — there was a fear the big brewers could hold wholesalers hostage by threatening to walk away unless distributors bowed to the brewers’ demands. Since then, however, the landscape has completely shifted.

Although the number of wholesalers nationwide has declined, those remaining are larger and more powerful than almost all of the breweries in the nation. Yet, the laws remain, giving the wholesalers “virtual carte blanche to decide how the beer is sold and placed in stores and bars,” according to Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy.

In almost every other industry, a manufacturer unhappy with a distributor’s performance or price can terminate a contract in search of a better fit. This is not the case for beer manufacturers. Brewers wishing to switch from one distributor to another must go through long and costly legal battles. Hindy, for example, paid $300,000 to get out of a contract with a New York wholesaler. Yuengling COO Dave Casinelli’s experience was similar. In a phone interview, he noted that in his 24 years with the company, he couldn’t recall any attempt to switch wholesalers that didn’t end up with some legal ramifications.

Most state franchise laws not only make leaving a wholesaler hard, but they also create regional monopolies, known as “exclusive territories,” where a brewer is prohibited from selling through more than one distributor within a given area. This undermines incentives for wholesalers to compete by improving performance, increasing efficiency, or lowering prices. After all, distributors have little or no fear that a brewer will leave — because most of them can’t. As for consumers, they end up paying more because of this lack of competition.

October 18, 2013

Peak America

Filed under: Economics, History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:42

In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reviews the last few times we thought we’d reached “peak America” moments:

Those old enough to remember the 1929 crash on Wall Street and the US exit from the Gold Standard under Franklin Roosevelt — thin in numbers these days — will recall the pervading sense that America had already peaked, its capitalist model overtaken by history.

The Russian trade agency Amtorg in New York famously advertised for 6,000 skilled plumbers, chemists, electricians, and dentists, and suchlike, to work in the Soviet Union, then deemed the El Dorado of mankind, or the “moral top of the world where the light never really goes out”, in the words of Edmund Wilson. It is said that 100,000 showed up.

The commentariat went into overdrive, more or less writing off the United States. The Yale Review, Harpers, and The Atlantic all ran pieces debating the risk of imminent revolution.

Just 12 years later the US accounted for half of all global economic output and was military master of the West, literally running Japan and Germany as administrative regions.

Those a little younger — like me — who remember the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and the last American citizens being lifted by helicopter from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975, will recall the ubiquitous claims that the US could never fully recover from what looked like a crushing defeat.

The Carter Malaise, the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Iran hostage humiliation all followed in quick succession, and seemed to seal the argument.

Oh, but this time it’s different because reasons. The sky really is falling! It’s the end! THE END!

June 5, 2013

US policy on Syria is 1979 all over again

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:38

In the Miami Herald, Glenn Garvin points out that the US went down this geopolitical path in 1979, with less than stellar results:

The problem in our capital is not that there’s too much division between Republicans and Democrats, but that they’ve merged into a single War Party when it comes to the Middle East.

There might have been at least a tenuous case to be made for intervention in Syria back at the beginning of its civil war, at least if you accept the view that the United States cannot disengage from the Middle East because it is, for the foreseeable future, joined at the hip with Israel.

Unlike Libya or Somalia, strategically useless states in the middle of nowhere in which Washington mysteriously chose to intervene, Syria is a pivot point in the Middle East. It shares long borders with our two major allies in the region, Israel and Jordan, who cannot help but be affected by what goes on in Syria.

Two years ago, we could have acted decisively to end the Syrian civil war before it really got started. We could have made a realpolitik decision to support Assad, who, though a vicious brute to his own people, mostly minds his own business. Or we could have thrown in wholeheartedly with the rebels, picking one faction to provide with arms and international prestige, keeping (maybe) the worst elements out of power.

Instead, the Obama administration dithered, denouncing Assad and drawing lines in the sand over his behavior, then backing away every time he crossed one. We managed to alienate both sides as well as convincing all concerned that our bark had no bite.

In short, Obama has adopted as his guide Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy of 1979, when the United States cluelessly half-yanked the rug from beneath the shah in Iran and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, then primly tsk-tsked their opponents. The eventual result was that two of our allies were replaced with regimes implacably hostile to our interests, which quickly began destabilizing everything around them. Sadly, that’s now the best possible outcome in Syria. If the War Party get its way, you’ll see the worst.

H/T to Nick Gillespie for the link.

March 22, 2013

Nick Gillespie on Libertarianism

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:24

Katy Bachelder interviews Reason‘s Nick Gillespie:

What do you see as the primary policy goal of libertarianism?

Things that move us toward decentralization of power. The way I used to talk about it when Windows was still a dominant operating system is that the way a computer operates, what you want is an operating system that allows as many different apps to run at the same time without crashing the system. That’s what classical liberalism really does.

How do you think libertarianism as a third party helps achieve those goals?

I’m not particularly interested in electoral politics. Where I think public choice economics is hugely important is what it asks is not simply what the rhetoric of people is, but what are the outcome of their actions. In that way, it gets to what actually matters as opposed to people sprinkling magic words. It’s amazing how much slack people will give if you say the right words as you’re repressing them.

Libertarianism is a pre-political attitude. It can inform you if you’re in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or the Libertarian Party. It can express itself in a lot of different ways, like through Jimmy Carter, who is the great deregulator of the American economy, not Ronald Reagan. He deregulated interstate railroads, trucking, airlines. That all happened under Jimmy Carter and he was abetted in it by people like Milton Friedman. Libertarianism is an impulse, not a set of beads on a string.

[. . .]

Hillary Clinton just endorsed gay marriage. What do you think is the future for that issue?

I think gay marriage is over as an issue. When you look at public opinion polls about gay issues, the moral approbation toward the issue has faded. The larger questions are: what is the connection between the state and individual choices? It’s as big of a deal as it is because the state is involved in bestowing certain benefits such as tax incentives. I think what we’re starting to see is that if you want to live in a society that is truly pluralistic and tolerant, and that doesn’t mean everyone agrees every lifestyle is morally valid, but just tolerant, then we have to start shrinking the scope and the size of the state. The state should recognize all people as equal.

August 19, 2012

The end of the world is nigh

Filed under: Books, Environment, Media, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:07

Sell all your posessions! Live for the now! Repent your sins! Or, as Matt Ridley suggests, keep calm and carry on:

This is the question posed by the website 2012apocalypse.net. “super volcanos? pestilence and disease? asteroids? comets? antichrist? global warming? nuclear war?” the site’s authors are impressively open-minded about the cause of the catastrophe that is coming at 11:11 pm on December 21 this year. but they have no doubt it will happen. after all, not only does the Mayan Long Count calendar end that day, but “the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.”

When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following — from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011.

Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable. Best-selling economist Robert Heilbroner in 1974: “The outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospects seem to be very slim indeed.” Or best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s [“and 1980s” was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.”

July 2, 2012

Hoist a craft-brewed beer to thank Jimmy Carter for saving America’s brewing tradition

Filed under: Business, Government, History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:35

Jimmy Carter will have to go a long time before his reputation recovers from his four years in office, but along with beginning to deregulate the air travel, freight railroad, and trucking industries, he also deserves credit for triggering the revival of the American craft brewing tradition. This is from an article in The New Republic, published in 2010:

If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries as opposed to say Bud Light or Coors, you should say a little thank you to Jimmy Carter. Carter could very well be the hero of International Beer Day.

To make a long story short, prohibition led to the dismantling of many small breweries around the nation. When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening back up to craft brewers. As the chart below illustrates, this had a really amazing effect on the beer industry:

H/T to The Whited Sepulchre for the link.

August 12, 2011

Why Obama is being attacked from the left

Filed under: Economics, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:12

Victor Davis Hanson outlines the reasons for increasing attacks on President Obama and his administration from his erstwhile allies on the left:

Politics, of course. The combination of sinking polls to the near 40% range, the stock market nosedive, the Standard and Poor’s downgrade, the tragedy in Afghanistan, the confusion over Libya, the embarrassing golf outings and First Family insensitive preferences for the aristocratic Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, and Costa del Sol have contributed to a general unease on the Left about Obama’s judgment, perhaps to the extent that he might well take the Left down in 2012, both in the House and Senate, whether he wins reelection or not.

But the argument remains incoherent: Obama is being blamed for not being liberal enough — after federalizing much of the health care delivery system, expanding government faster than at any time since 1933, borrowing more money in two and a half years than any president in history, absorbing companies, jawboning the wealthy, going after Boeing, reversing the order of the Chrysler creditors, adding vast new financial and environmental regulations, appointing progressives like a Van Jones or Cass Sunstein, and institutionalizing liberal protocols across the cabinet and bureaucracy, from the EPA to the Attorney General’s Office.

In other words, there is now an elite liberal effort to disentangle Obama from liberalism itself, and to suggest that his sagging polls are not a reflection of Obama’s breakneck efforts to take the country leftward — but either his inability or unwillingness to do so!

Partly, the disappointment is understandably emotional. Just three years ago Obama was acclaimed as a once-in-a-lifetime prophet of liberalism, whose own personal history, charisma, teleprompted eloquence and iconic identity might move a clearly center-right country hard leftward where it otherwise rarely wished to go.

Partly, the anger is quite savvy: if one suddenly blames Obama the man, rather than Obama the ideologue, then his unpopularity is his own, not liberalism’s. There is a clever effort to raise the dichotomy of the inept Carter and the politically savvy Clinton, but in the most improbable fashion: Clinton supposedly was a success not because he was personable, sometimes compromising, and often centrist, and Carter was a failure not because he was sanctimoniously and stubbornly ideological, but just the opposite: Clinton is now reinvented as the true liberal who succeeded because of his principled leftwing politics; Carter like Obama was a bumbling compromiser and waffler.

May 22, 2011

Obama clarifies his last Middle East speech

Filed under: Middle East, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:46

Drew M. points out that President Obama is merely doing what every other President since Jimmy Carter has done:

There was a lot of confusion on Thursday about whether Obama’s reference to “67 borders with mutually agreed upon swaps” was news or not. A lot of pro-Israel folks on Twitter (but granted not all) didn’t seem to think it was a big deal at the time. I think two things played into the reaction.

One, the left, led by the New York Times, played this is up as a big change and that an American President was finally standing up to Israel.

Second, the language choices Obama made and the fact that no one doubts in his heart of hearts Obama would throw Israel under the bus if he could. The fact is, Presidents don’t always have full freedom of action. It’s like there are checks and balances or something (thank God).

Now, he’s walked back or clarified his stance (depending on your point of view). The anti-Israeli left will say “the Jews got to him”. Many on the right will say, “Bibi got him”.

I think the fact is, reality got him.

Obama is simply doing what many other Presidents (Carter, Bush, Clinton and even G.W. Bush gave it a shot) have done…try and build a legacy by solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He’ll fail just like the rest simply because the Palestinians don’t want to solve it by any means other than the destruction of Israel. Until that changes, this will always be a Siren’s Song that winds up with everyone crashing on the rocks.

That last little nugget is the real reason I always feel depressed when yet another attempt to “resolve” the Middle East crisis gets underway: without Palestinians accepting the right of Israel to exist, there will be no actual progress regardless of the number meetings, declarations, conferences, and so on. One side has the bedrock value that the other side must die — as long as that value remains, no peaceful settlement is possible.

November 29, 2010

Oh noes! WikiLeaks show “undiplomatic” side of US diplomacy

The latest release of WikiLeaks’ cache of US government documents shows the undiplomatic side of things:

The documents obtained by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, some of which describe allies and adversaries in starkly blunt terms, could undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to improve ties that have frayed with some key countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

As reported by The New York Times and other media, the cables at times deride or mock foreign officials, calling Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi a “feckless” partier and describe Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “weak” and “easily swayed.”

Below are highlights of the embarrassing comments from the new WikiLeaks documents.

— One July 2009 cable from the State Department’s intelligence bureau, posted by The New York Times, contains instructions to U.S. diplomats for collecting intelligence on the United Nations.

The directive, from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urges diplomats to collect biographical information on U.N. personnel, including such personal data as telephone, cellphone, pager and fax numbers and e-mail addresses; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and Internet and intranet “handles” (or nicknames).

Here we go: a perfect example of government duplication of effort. Everyone knows it’s cheaper to buy this information from Facebook!

Other “worldshaking” revelations include:

The newspaper says one 2008 cable characterizes the relationship between Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, and its Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as a partnership in which Medvedev, who has the grander title, “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.”

It also says a cable describes Italy’s Berlusconi as “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader.” One cable from Rome to Washington describes Berlusconi as “physically and politically weak” and asserts that his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest.”

In other words, pretty much common knowledge.

Update: William A. Jacobson thinks this is the Jimmy Carter moment for Barack Obama:

The U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran on November 4, 1979, was the start of 444 days which came to define Jimmy Carter. The U.S. government was revealed to be powerless and the President weak. Those among us who were alive and conscious during those days have embedded the feelings of helplessness.

There have been many comparisons of Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, focused on the economy. But the continuing leak of documents by Wikileaks has become for Obama what the Iranian hostage crisis was to Carter.

June 23, 2010

Monty’s summer job recommendations

Filed under: Economics, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:11

Jon, my former virtual landlord, sent me a link to Monty’s “Wednesday Financial Briefing”, which includes some job advice for students:

If you’re a high-schooler looking for a summer job, your best bet looks to be sex slavery, murder-for-hire, selling your blood, or Occult Apprentice to a Master of the Dark Arts. (Teens who have already sold their souls for liquor, sex, or illegal drugs need not apply to the Dark Arts Guild. Teens will be required to promise their souls in exchange for a Guild Card.)

Monty also thinks that Barack Obama will have a noteworthy spot in the histories:

I always thought that Jimmy Carter would remain the gold standard for modern Presidential incompetence and futility. But Barack Obama, the comback kid, has already usurped Jimmah’s spot a mere two years into his term. What wonders still await us as the remainder of Bammer’s term plays out? And Bammer is a young man; he has a great shot at being the worst former President as well, a title also held by the lamentable Mr. Carter.

September 29, 2009

QotD: Confessions

Filed under: Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

Whew, I’m pooped. Jimmy Carter has got me run ragged with all the hating I’m supposed to do. Jimmy says I’m a racist because I oppose President Obama’s health care reform program. Even Jimmy Carter can’t be wrong all the time. And since Jimmy Carter has been wrong about every single thing for the past 44 years, maybe — just as a matter of statistical probability — he’s right this time.

I hadn’t noticed I was a racist, but that was no doubt because I was too busy being a homophobe. Nancy Pelosi says the angry opposition to health care reform is like the angry opposition to gay rights that led to Harvey Milk being shot. Since I do not want America to suffer another Sean Penn movie, I will accept that I’m a homophobe, too. And I’m a male chauvinist due to the fact that I think Nancy Pelosi is blowing smoke — excuse me, carbon neutral, biodegradable airborne particulate matter — out her pantsuit.

Also, I’m pretty sure Rahm Emanuel is Jewish, and you can’t be against (or even for) President Obama without the involvement of Rahm Emanuel, so I’m an anti-Semite. Furthermore, although I personally happen to be a libertarian on immigration issues, I do agree with Joe Wilson that you can’t say you’re expanding health care to the poor and then pretend you’re going to turn those poor away if their driver’s licenses look a little Xeroxy and what’s on their Social Security cards turns out to be a toll-free number for a La Raza hotline. Thus I’m prejudiced against Hispanics as well.

P.J. O’Rourke, “Outsourcing Hate: The burdens of conservatism in the Obama age”, The Weekly Standard, 2009-10-05

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