NYT takes a look at Texas’ wind power boom. One oddity of American geography is that most of the most promising locations for this form of clean energy generation are in the stack of red states running up from Texas through the plains up to Canada rather than in the kind of places where default political conditions would suggest a lot of wind enthusiasm. In the short run, that’s an impediment to developing green energy sources, but in the long run it could make for a much more politically sustainable green coalition once places like Texas and Kansas find themselves invested in the idea of building a more ecologically sustainable electrical power infrastructure.
The March Atlantic is now fully online and chock full of great stuff. Particularly relevant to the issues frequently blogged about here are James Fallows on China’s surprisingly successful efforts to regulate the internet, and Christopher Leinberger on exurbs as the slums of the future though obviously Lori Gottlieb is going to attract more attention than anything else.
It’s weird to think of something so random as a ten year-old purchase of a television station in Pittsburgh as posing a major political problem for John McCain, but much more so than other politicians he’s made the myth of some kind of preternatural powers of honestness central to his persona. At the same time, he’s told a series of whoppers in the past few days. First we heard that he’d literally never done favors for lobbyists or special interests when, clearly, he did try to intervene with the FCC on behalf of Paxson Communications. Then he said he’d never met with Bud Paxson himself about this, even though in a 2002 deposition he said he had met Paxson.
Now the Washington Post reports that Paxson, too, is contradicting McCain’s story and also contradicting the desperate spin McCain tried to put on his earlier deposition. Paxson also says McCain is wrong about never having met with Vicki Iseman on this issue. Which of course makes sense. We know that McCain tried to help Paxson out on this. We know that Iseman’s job at the time was to get legislators to help Paxson out. And we know that McCain and Iseman were friends at the time. It would be pretty weird if she’d never mentioned the whole thing to him, and he was just inspired to go write the letter by coincidence.
I try to keep the off topic stuff limited to the weekend, and since this website is hilarious, and it is a Saturday….
Tying together yesterday’s post on the economy of Iceland with Thursday’s musings on the difficulty of promoting the rule of law, I thought I might lay down my general theory that I think the basic ideological debate between the partisans of the free market and the partisans of social democracy actually has relatively little to tell us about macroeconomic growth issues.
The biggest difference you see around the world is, by far, not one of government policy but of government efficacy. Less important than the differences in what the rules say, in other words, is the question of how the rules relate to the real world. In some places, you have highly-functioning states where the rule of law is effectively enforced. In other places, the formal state has almost no capacity, so in practice people are under the thumb of warlords or criminal gangs or what have you. Macroeconomic policy advice that’s perfectly reasonable for a large, resource-rich, ethnically diverse country like Canada is going to be completely useless in a large, resource-rich ethnically diverse country like Congo and that’s true no matter what your perspective on what Canada ought to do.
At the end of the day, even a very market-oriented state is being given an awful lot of powers. It has police, prisons, an army, navy, air force, along with a central bank, rules about broadcast media, where roads and airplanes go, some subsistence provision for the poor, etc. That all on its own is perfectly adequate power to ensure that if the state is administered incompetently, corruptly, or abusively that there’ll be all kinds of terrible consequences. Conversely, you see in Iceland or Denmark that when you do have a well-governed state all kinds of additional public services can be provided in a very helpful and constructive way. The main independent variable in the success (or lack thereof) of different kinds of polities, in other words, probably isn’t the policies so much as the presence or absence (or scope) of a certain quality of “good government” that we don’t understand much about.
This week, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer discussed the right wing’s tepid support of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) with right-wing activist Mary Matalin. Matalin explained that McCain is out of step with the far right on several issues, in particular global warming, which many conservatives “loathe” discussing:
BLITZER: They loathe that?
MATALIN: Because it’s a largely unscientific hoax. And it’s a political concoction.
Echoing Matalin, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) recently said that “there is no science to suggest that man is the cause of climate change.” These claims are laughable. As Science Magazine noted, in addition to the IPCC and National Academy of Sciences, there is overwhelming agreement that the causes of global warming are man-made.
Matalin observed that “you haven’t heard [McCain] prioritizing” climate change recently: “What you’ve been hearing him say since he’s achieved the nomination…is to prioritize security issues,” which are less controversial on the right.
… no, it’s not Toyota (but don’t get me started). And no, it’s not Wal-Mart (I’ll be doing a piece on them later). No, it’s not GM, though they are trying hard, really hard. No, the winner, which has all the others over the proverbial barrel, is British Petroleum.
This was pretty clear when they invested in the tar sands last year, the “biggest global warming crime ever seen.” The Guardian provides more details, explaining that the new CEO Tony Hayward, is taking the company back to the past: “The shift to renewables has been ditched for a carbon intensive future.” They write:
BP appears to be dropping a central plank of [Lord John] Browne’s strategy, the green promise to go “beyond petroleum”, in favour of going back to petroleum – a move which many believe has riled the former boss. In what some saw as a thinly veiled criticism, Browne argued at a recent conference that some energy groups were “in denial” over the need to clean up their carbon output.
Browne understands the future for “carbon billionaires” and renewable power “majors,” even if Hayward doesn’t: