Well, we have reached another milestone in our permission-based economy with the Administration's rejection of the Keystone Pipeline. We have zillions of miles of pipelines and are actually wasting energy and creating environmental messes moving the same oil by the inferior option of rail, but somehow this one pipeline had to be opposed.
Actually, the only reason this project is in front of the administration at all is because it crosses the Canadian border, which requires State Department sign-off. Which leads me to wonder if there is a hack. Why not take the pipeline right up to the border from both sides and create a rail line across the border using a continuous loop of tank cars. Its kludgy and inefficient, but probably less so than moving the oil long distance by rail.
I am reminded of this from a story long ago off Santa Barbara. Exxon had gotten permission to drill in Federal waters, but local state/county folks wanted to find a way to stop the oil development. Plans were (as is typical for any offshore oil) for a separation facility on shore that would separate oil, gas, and water from the mix that usually comes up out of the ground. The state or local folks (can't remember which) refused to permit the separation facility, thinking that would kill the project. But Exxon built what I believe was a unique separation facility on a boat and anchored the boat offshore. No land permits necessary.
This is very similar, in my mind, to the pipeline decision. California's attempt to block oil development altogether proved futile, just as Obama's decision will have little effect on long-term Canadian oil development. But it did, in both cases, force a workaround (rail and the separator ship) that were almost certainly environmentally worse solutions than those that were halted.
I thought this was an interesting article on Harry Dexter White, an important American architect of the post-war monetary system who spied for the Soviets for over a decade. The one disconnect I had was this:
Over the course of 11 years, beginning in the mid-1930s, White acted as a Soviet mole, giving the Soviets secret information and advice on how to negotiate with the Roosevelt administration and advocating for them during internal policy debates. White was arguably more important to Soviet intelligence than Alger Hiss, the U.S. State Department official who was the most famous spy of the early Cold War.
The truth about White's actions has been clear for at least 15 years now, yet historians remain deeply divided over his intentions and his legacy, puzzled by the chasm between White's public views on political economy, which were mainstream progressive and Keynesian, and his clandestine behavior on behalf of the Soviets. Until recently, the White case has resembled a murder mystery with witnesses and a weapon but no clear motive.
Only in academia could folks see a "chasm" between admiration for the Soviets and an American progressive who grew up a supporter of Robert La Follette and later of the New Deal. The problem, I think, is that White seems to have shared the gauzy positive view of Soviet economic progress and success that was also rooted deeply in American academia (not to mention the NY Times). I don't know what the academic situation is like today, but as recently as 1983, for example, I had a professor at Princeton who went nuts at the mere mention of Hannah Arendt's name, apparently for the crime of lumping Stalin's communism in with Hitler's fascism as two sides of the same totalitarian coin.
What I wish Obama had said day one:
I didn't care for this particular YouTube video. I don't think many in my State Department would agree with it in any way. But in this country, that does not matter. In this country, we allow people to speak their minds, whether or not they agree with those of us in office. No, that's not quite right. We protect their right to speak particularly when they don't agree with those of us in office. I have sworn an oath to do so. Browse YouTube and you will see hundreds of videos charicaturing me personally in ways I find hurtful. You will find videos supporting and attacking nearly every religion, political party, or idea you can imagine.
Many nations are sometimes awed, overwhelmed, angry, envious at the power and wealth of this country. But this did not happen by accident. We are wealthy and successful because we hold ourselves consistently to a set of principles, and among the most important of these is freedom of expression.
It should be a regular feature here -- government programs so silly they sound like a spoof. Seriously, I thought this was some spoof birther proposal. Via Radley Balko, from Consumer Traveller
The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information. According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”
The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.
It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.
In fact, this text misses some of the real doozies. Here is a jpg of the 2nd page of the application (click to enlarge)
Dates and locations of your mother's pre-natal doctor visits? My mom would laugh her ass off if I called her asking for these. And how can the government get away with asking for details of religious ceremonies connected to one's birth?
I swear the combination of the religious ceremony stuff and the residence of one's mother before, during, and after birth is so parallel to birther arguments about Obama I thought this was a spoof.
Update: Apparently this form is for people who have lost their birth certificate. If a person cannot track down his or her birth certificate and can't find his or her birth hospital to get a replacement, I find it hard to believe any of this stuff is answerable either. To me, this factoid makes the whole Obama/birther irony even funnier.
Via the Junkfood Science blog,
It has actually happened. Lawmakers have proposed
legislation that forbids restaurants and food establishments from
serving food to anyone who is obese (as defined by the State). Under
this bill, food establishments are to be monitored for compliance under
the State Department of Health and violators will have their business
Unbelievable. And not that this would make it right, but the ban is not even on serving certain types of fattening foods, but on serving any food. Here is the key part of the law:
Any food establishment to which this section
applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese,
based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after
consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and
Management established under Section 41-101-1 or its successor. The
State Department of Health shall prepare written materials that
describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is
obese, and shall provide those materials to all food establishments to
which this section applies. A food establishment shall be entitled to
rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when
determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person.