Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bridge to the future, floor on the gas

Barack Obama has said he wants any Detroit bailout to be "a bridge to somewhere". He's talking about pushing new automotive technologies. The only new technology based product that keeps coming up is the electric car, like Ford's Volt.

But electric cars are unlikely to be economically viable for a long time, especially given the current gas prices. What to do?

The solution is obvious: put a floor on gasoline prices. Tax gasoline so that it's guaranteed to always be at least (say) three dollars a gallon, forever. The biggest unknown that confronts unconventional energy technologies is the future price of gasoline. Take this out of the equation.

This suggestion has been made many times, by many people, from environmentalists like The Carbon Tax Center, through observers like Tom Friedman, to ultra-conservatives like Charles Krauthammer. Why aren't we hearing this being proposed by anyone responsible for making policy yet? This would be a golden opportunity to pass such a tax.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nicholas Kristof gets an earful on Kashmir

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote what the U.S. should do for Pakistan. His advice to Obama was mostly about improving education and basic services in Pakistan, to help counteract growing militancy.

Unfortunately, he also gave this suggestion:
...we should push much harder for a peace deal in Kashmir -— including far more pressure on India —- because Kashmir grievances empower Pakistani militants.
The outpouring of comments on his blog was disproportionately about the Kashmir suggestion, an overwhelming amount of it negative, from desi readers.

Kristof then added a clarification on his blog:
Let me clarify that this is not just to “appease” Pakistan, but because India’s own behavior in Kashmir has often been shameful. Paying more attention to Kashmir and to human rights violations (in both Kashmirs) is not only geopolitically correct, but it’s also the right thing to do.
This "clarification" seems to have inflamed his Indian readers even more. Tsk, tsk. He has really put his foot in it now, exposing his own ignorance about the India-Pakistan problem. This was perhaps to be expected from someone who has "been coming to Pakistan for 26 years" and who quotes Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos". All good things, but if these are his only sources of information, then it's no wonder he's been brainwashed beyond help by Pakistani talking points.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Whose side is the Pakistan army on?

The Washington Post reports today that another U.S. missile strike in North Waziristan killed 5 militants, including an Al Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf, who held dual Pakistani and British citizenship:
Before his arrest, Rauf's ties to the Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed stirred strong suspicions among intelligence experts that he may have also had connections with rogue elements within Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, also known as the ISI. [...]

Suspicions about Rauf's connections to Pakistani intelligence agencies deepened after he escaped from custody in December 2007. [...]

Rauf's attorney at the time, Hashmat Habib, claimed Rauf was subsequently taken into ISI custody. Until Saturday's strike in North Waziristan, Rauf's whereabouts were not publicly known.

(full article here).

So let me get this straight: this guy was connected to the ISI, the ISI may even have had him in custody, and yet he was with fellow extremists when he was killed.

Whose side is Pakistan on, anyway?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama

Tomorrow is voting day. Here are the reasons why I'll be filling in the oval for Barack Obama:

Obama is rational and clear-headed

Obama doesn't simply react, or fall back on old paradigms that he is comfortable with, but instead thinks problems through. A conservative lawyer who has worked with him back in his law school professor years says that he always wants to hear both sides of an argument before making up his mind. He asks searching questions to satisfy himself that he understands the argument, and then he picks the side that makes sense to him. We have seen this quality in him again and again during the past two years. He has been attacked and provoked many, many times, but he never loses his cool. When he opens his mouth, he has usually thought about what he is going to say.

A huge contrast with John McCain, whose modus operandi seems to be to work with two minutes of information gathering followed by a "decisive", seat-of-the-pants gamble, which he will then stick with, come hell or high water. See his selection of Sarah Palin as an example. See also his parachuting-in during the financial crisis between the presidential debates, for another example. With McCain, everything seems to be personal--- his angry outbursts have left behind a string of victims over the years. I'm a pretty conservative guy. McCain scares me.

Barack Obama is extremely competent.

Obama has shown an enormous capacity to learn new things over his life -- raised by a single mother of modest means in Hawaii, he studied hard and got into Harvard Law School, later to teach constitutional law, before taking up public office. He has also shown the ability to run a half-billion dollar campaign in fifty states over almost two years, beating even the Clinton machine in the primaries. The guy learns fast, and he can get things done.

McCain, in contrast, was the son of admirals who graduated toward the bottom of his class in military training, and married into money. A lot of his achievements seem to have been handed to him on a silver platter. While he has gotten bills passed in the senate, I have seen little evidence of outstanding competence. I don't have much confidence that he can get things done.

I want to tell my kids.

My children are not white, and I want to be able to tell them they can be anything they want to be in this country --- and mean it. If Obama wins, people's attitudes about what America stands for will change, both here and abroad.