Archive for July, 2011

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Iraq security situation crumbling; Libya operation failing

July 30, 2011

via BBC:

A top US adviser on Iraq has accused the US military of glossing over an upsurge in violence, just months before its troops are due to be withdrawn.

Iraq is more dangerous now than a year ago, said a report issued by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W Bowen Junior.

He said the killing of US soldiers and senior Iraqi figures, had risen, along with attacks in Baghdad .

The report contradicts usually upbeat assessments from the US military.

It comes as Washington is preparing to withdraw its remaining 47,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year, despite fears that the Iraqi security forces might not be ready to take over fully.

“Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,” Mr Bowen concluded in his quarterly report to Congress. “It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago.”

The report cited the deaths of 15 US soldiers in June – the bloodiest month for the American military in two years – but also said more Iraqi officials had been assassinated in the past few months than in any other recent period.

I though as recently as a month ago that Barack Obama would be able to campaign in 2012 as the president who got Bin Laden, who deposed Gaddafi, and who presided over the last act of a minor victory in Iraq.   Today, it looks like only the first is a sure thing.  The Libya operation, which should have been a certain victory of grinding attrition, is on the cusp of failure  (see also here, here, here and here)- an unbelievable outcome that seems to require almost willful mismanagement.    Suddenly, the Obama 2012 campaign looks to running on the rails of debt and defeat.   Given the structural advantage of the Democrats in the Electoral College, the powers of incumbency, and the very large Obama war chest, I had long assumed that re-election was inevitable.  As inevitable as a victory in Libya, perhaps?  But there is nothing so certain that it cannot be lost by an incompetent executive.

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Jobs and Economic Growth

July 29, 2011

Walter Russell Mead has a typically excellent blog post on employment patterns in the 21st century.  Short version:  Lost industrial jobs are not coming back, and even in the rosiest scenarios will stay flat in the near and middle terms.  Growth is to be found in service jobs, and that doesn’t necessarily mean dead-end retail work.  There are a number of people in my personal social circle who make very good, middle class to upper middle class livings offering services:  Masseuses, yoga instructors, personal coaches, landscape architects, etc.

Mead recommends Michael Spence’s essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.  I tweeted a recommendation to Spence earlier this month, but I did not blog about it.  I recommend it now, along with this recent Chatham House research report which serves as an excellent companion piece to both Mead and Spence.  I am going to excerpt a chart from the Chatham House paper.  The first shows why service jobs are growing – because American consumption is exploding, while consumption of durable goods has been relatively flat for decades while consumption of non-durable goods has been declining.

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Top Turkish Military Leaders in Mass Resignation

July 29, 2011

breaking news, not much detail . . . the Chief of Staff and the individual commanders of the Land, Sea and Air forces have all quit.

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The Geopolitical Impact of Shale Gas

July 29, 2011

Major study out this month from the Baker Institute on Shale Gas and US National Security.  The report is very detailed and anyone interested in energy and geopolitics (which should be anyone who reads EnerGeoPolitics) should read the whole thing.  In summary, the report identifies the following major impacts of the US shale bonanza:

  • Eliminates the US need for gas importation
  • Reduces pressure on Middle East & Persian Gulf reserves
  • Reduces reliance on Russian, Iranian and Venezualan gas and prevents their formation of a GASPEC (gas OPEC) and limits the use of gas as an energy weapon
  • Will reduce global gas prices
  • As a clean(er) burning fuel, aids in meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals
  • Reduces the possibility of Sino-American conflict over gas supplies
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Territorial disputes in the East China Sea

July 29, 2011

China and Japan have been alternately seeking cooperation and then butting heads over territorial claims in the East China Sea and, in particular, over presumed hydrocarbon resources in the region.  James Manicom details the disputes, their history and some alternate ways forward that could avoid conflict.

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Utilities rebel against high wind power costs

July 29, 2011

via Energy Central:  Construction costs for wind projects in Kansas and Oklahoma have blown past their initial estimates – over $100 million more for a Kansas project and over $200M more for an Oklahoma project.  Individual utilities design their own projects, and the costs are then spread amongst all the members of the utility pool.  These leads some utilities to bear the costs for projects from which they will not benefit.

A broader philosophical dispute centers on whether those utilities that see no benefit from the lines should have to pay for them.  The Southwest Power Pool adopted in April 2010 a new formula that assesses the cost of building the pool’s largest lines, so-called “highway” lines, equally across all pool members because they can transfer energy between utilities.  The net effect is that Kansas ratepayers will pay about 20 percent of the cost of all approved projects, including those in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, according to Harrison.  If Kansas ratepayers had to bear the entire cost of the “V Plan,” it might have scuttled it entirely — and, with it, the prospect of Kansas wind power.

But Omaha Public Power District was dismayed last year when, shortly after it joined the power pool, the power pool adopted the policy that allocates 100 percent of the cost for major lines across everyone in pool — and even less happy to be handed a big bill for the projects.  In April, its board of directors said that it is considering withdrawing from the power pool over the cost allocation issue.  “We’ll be required to pay a considerable amount of money for little benefit,” said utility spokesman Jeff Hanson.  He said the board is still studying the issue but must make a decision by Aug. 25.

Empire Electric and Lincoln Electric System have also expressed unhappiness.

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Japan comes storming back

July 29, 2011

Via Truth About Cars:

After being devastated by the unprecedented triple disaster in March, Japanese automakers have shown terrific resilience and are nearly back to pre-disaster production and export levels mere months after the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown triple threat.  Congrats to our courageous and persistent allies.