Not As Advertised

As I’ve been trying to explain for years, researchers have figured out that hydroelectric power isn’t carbon neutral, reports the Seattle Times:

Think hydropower is carbon neutral? You have another think coming, Washington State University researchers have learned.

In their paper to be published next week in BioScience, the researchers reported that reservoirs of all sorts are important sources of the potent greenhouse-gas methane. The gas is produced by decomposing organic material underwater.

While much attention has been paid to the effects of dams on fisheries and the natural form and function of rivers, little notice has been taken of the emissions they cause. Usually thought of as carbon-neutral sources of energy, hydropower dams, while far cleaner than fossil fuel for generating power, nonetheless are sources of carbon pollution.

Reservoirs not only produce methane, but they generate more greenhouse gases than natural lakes, found research associate Bridget Deemer and John Harrison, associate professor of biogeochemistry at WSU Vancouver.

Next thing they’ll be telling us that wind and solar have carbon emissions, too. Just as a for instance when the solar panel you install was made in China (90% of them are) or when the polysilicon used to make your solar panel in China was produced in the U. S. and shipped to China (as much of it is) it drastically increases the carbon footprint of your solar power.


I Saw the Signs

If there’s one good indication of a phlegmatic U. S. economy and also, possibly, a global economic decline, it’s got to be the collapse of one of the ten largest global shipping companies, South Korean Hanjin Shipping. It’s a lot easier to maintain high levels of debt amidst competition when the volume of shipping is rising than when it is falling.


Asleep at the Switch

In his post about the tension between trade and immigration on the one hand and our two party system on the other, Mark Aspinwall provides this accurate and helpful history lesson at The Conversation:

The U.S. has had “big tent” or “catch-all” political parties for much of its existence. They are two broad mainstream parties, each capturing a wide variety of opinion on all kinds of issues. Big tent parties had an easier time consolidating views among their members and producing unified platforms during the 20th century, when the focus was on domestic questions of social welfare and redistribution versus deregulation and market freedoms.

I think he runs astray when he characterizes the two parties’ views on trade and immigration:

However, when the issues shift to drawbridge topics like immigration and trade, the parties are less stable. Like a sticky weathervane, they are buffeted by crosswinds in which party members who are poles apart cannot unite behind a single policy. Within the Democratic Party, the left of the party is opposed to free trade because of the effect on workers. Within the Republican Party, the right is opposed to immigration because of the effect on national security, jobs and public services. For different reasons, both of these groups want the drawbridge up.

If Democrats object to free trade, I haven’t seen it. They object to what we have which is managed trade that works to the benefit of the few rather than the many. And the polls overwhelmingly suggest that not merely Republicans but Americans more generally object to our present immigration laws being enforced selectively or not at all. Characterizing those positions as opposition to trade or immigration is a bald-faced lie.

The framing of these issues as “drawbridge topics” is clever (he attributes it to The Economist—never take your advice on immigration and trade from a publication that operates from an island separated from the mainland by a distance of no less than 20 miles) but inaccurate. It would be better to characterize them as “asleep at the switch” issues. Or maybe “robber baron” ones.

IMO we have a problem but not the one to which Dr. Aspinwall calls our attention. Our problem is that both of our political parties are so insulated from democratic discipline that they have adopted policies that benefit wealthy patrons rather than their rank-and-file members.


Tribune Endorses Johnson

The Chicago Tribune has endorsed Gary Johnson for president. On Donald Trump they write:

The Republicans have nominated Donald Trump, a man not fit to be president of the United States. We first wrote on March 10 that we would not, could not, endorse him. And in the intervening six-plus months he has splendidly reinforced our verdict: Trump has gone out of his way to anger world leaders, giant swaths of the American public, and people of other lands who aspire to immigrate here legally. He has neither the character nor the prudent disposition for the job.

while on Hillary Clinton they write:

The Democrats have nominated Hillary Clinton, who, by contrast, is undeniably capable of leading the United States. Electing her the first woman president would break a barrier that has no reason to be. We see no rough equivalence between Trump and Clinton. Any American who lists their respective shortcomings should be more apoplectic about the litany under his name than the one under hers. He couldn’t do this job. She could.

But for reasons we’ll explain — her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust — we cannot endorse her.

But with respect to Gary Johnson they note:

Libertarians Gary Johnson of New Mexico and running mate William Weld of Massachusetts are agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments. They offer an agenda that appeals not only to the Tribune’s principles but to those of the many Americans who say they are socially tolerant but fiscally responsible.

On the inevitable topic of squandering a vote:

We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote. Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we’re recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates. Put short:

We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire.

and in conclusion:

This year neither major party presents a good option. So the Chicago Tribune today endorses Libertarian Gary Johnson for president of the United States. Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles — and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016.

Read the whole thing.


Which Direction Is Progress?

At The National Interest Leon Hadar weaves together the Whig theory of history, politics, and present immigration to ask an interesting question:

We are told to remember that the granddaughters of the families who emigrated from highly stratified, patriarchal and religiously oppressive Italy’s south now wear a bikini when they go to the beach. As do the granddaughters of the ultra-Orthodox Jews who immigrated to America from the shtetl in eastern Europe. Why shouldn’t that happen to the granddaughters of the Muslim immigrants from Egypt?

But wait a minute. Why do things seem to be happening in reverse in the case of many young Muslim immigrants in Europe and the United States? Their grandmothers, growing up in the 1950s in, say, Alexandria, actually looked “like us,” wearing the latest European fashion and a spiffy swimsuit on the beach. It’s their granddaughters who are now wearing veils, the hijab and the burkini to make sure that they don’t look “like us.”

What if becoming increasingly secular isn’t seen as progress?


The First Override

I only have one remark to make about the Congress’s overriding of President Obama’s veto of the JASTA bill, the bill that would allow civil suits against Saudi Arabia to proceed for the attacks on September 11, 2001. I think it reflects the president’s characteristic distaste for retail politics. If the White House had gotten in there and lobbied the Congress for changes with the president making direct, one-on-one personal appeals to individual senators, it probably wouldn’t have turned out so embarrassingly and it might have resulted in a better outcome.

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Better Late Than Never

The editors of the Washington Post pose an interesting question. So, a joint U. S.-Iraqi government force dislodges DAESH from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. What then?

In short, the Mosul offensive is setting the stage for a potentially catastrophic Day After problem. Though the United States has painfully experienced what such poor preparation can lead to, in Baghdad in 2003 and Libya a decade later, it is pushing the Abadi government to move still faster.

Military experts are more concerned about the aftermath than the fight itself. Brig. Gen. William F. Mullen, who was deputy commander for U.S. operations in Iraq until June, predicted last week that Islamic State defenses in Mosul could collapse quickly. “And then what?” he asked at a forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Iraqi government’s plan, he said, amounts to “chips will fall and we’ll sort it out when we get to that.”

“That’s not a good plan,” Mr. Mullen said. “This is going to be ugly.”

They go on to suggest failing to plan is likely to result in a repeat of the same abuses that led to the rise of DAESH to begin with.

They conclude:

Though the absence of such political solutions facilitated the rise of the Islamic State, the Obama administration is not pushing for them. It is not using its considerable leverage — U.S. air support will be vital to liberating Mosul — to insist on better political preparations or the exclusion of Shiite militias. Instead, eager for the operation to begin before President Obama leaves office, it has been encouraging Mr. Abadi to speed up the Mosul offensive, while leaving the Day After problem to the Iraqis. That is a highly risky course.

But, hey, it won’t be risky to the president. He’ll have left office by that point.

It’s too bad the editors couldn’t have started asking questions like that long, long ago. Say, fifteen years ago.


Implausible Theory of the Day

In his New York Times column Paul Krugman explores what seems to me a remarkably implausible theory of why Hillary Clinton hasn’t dispatched Donald Trump’s candidacy summarily. The press is just too darned unfriendly to her:

As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.

In other words even the most tepid of negative reporting is enough to deflate her. My recollection is somewhat different. I think the mainstream media has been fawningly obsequious to Sec. Clinton and, when it has reported a negative story about her, only did so because it was forced to by events.

I do think that the media is partially to blame but not because of “adversarial reporting”. They’ve consistently given far too much free advertising to Donald Trump, part and parcel of the culture of celebrity they’ve cultivated.


Reflecting on Chicago’s Murders

As Chicago closes in on its highest number of murders in a year in decades, this Associated Press article on the subject naturally caught my eye:

An analysis of the August toll shows more clearly than ever who’s dying in the Chicago slaughter and what’s behind it: surging violence in a handful of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, which are riven by loosely organized street gangs.

Young African-American men are the chief victims. In a city that’s one-third black, the overwhelming majority of those murdered in August — 71 — were, like Malik, African American. Another 11 had Hispanic surnames. Almost half were in their teens or early 20s.

And more than 70 percent of those shot to death appeared on the Chicago police’s “Strategic Subject List,” which includes 1,400 people considered likely targets of violence based on gang involvement or criminal record.

There is one credible explanation: gangs. Another possible explanation: that gangs are consistently portrayed as exciting and glamorous. There is one slightly less plausible explanation: guns. There is one implicit explanation in the article: drugs.

The article also included one incredible claim—that larger, better organized gangs would result in fewer murders:

According to community activists, the eagerness to kill wasn’t as great years ago when these neighborhoods were dominated by larger, more organized gangs that concentrated on carving out and defending drug turf.

Now, “I don’t hear much about Gangster Disciples against the Vice Lords,” said Marshall Hatch, a minister in the East Garfield Park neighborhood where Causey lived. “I hear block against block.”

Unmentioned is whether the “community activists” quoted are present or former gang members

The article fails to mention any number of other prospective explanations including inadequate economic opportunity, social dysfunction, self-serving politicians, and decades of nonexistent, incompetent, or even malevolent police work.

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What’s His Point?

I’m honestly not sure what Anthony Cordesman’s point is in his post at RealClearWorld on the terrible conditions in four Middle Eastern and West Asian countries that we’ve either invaded or intervened in—Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. That we should invade at will and let the chips fall where they may?

I found the post most useful in the catalogue of horrors Mr. Cordesman provides for each country. Those countries were horrible long before we invaded or intervened in them and they’re even more horrible after our meddling. How much responsibility should we bear?

Far from lowering our expectations for the results that can be achieved via military intervention, I’d suggest raising our standards for intervening. We should only use military force when there is no other alternative and when our national interests, narrowly construed, are threatened. If we can’t bring ourselves to use the level of military force required to achieve our objectives or don’t have the sitzfleisch necessary to deal with the consequences, maybe the interests weren’t that compelling to begin with.