Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Little More on the Saudi Arms Deal

Here's a short piece by Alex Epstein, also of the Ayn Rand Institute. In it, he discusses the Saudi arms deal.

The money quote:

"This is absurd," said Alex Epstein, a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. "The administration has been telling us that we must forgo oil for more costly fuels because our 'addiction to oil' helps finance hostile Middle East regimes--among them Saudi Arabia, which has spent almost $100 billion spreading the terrorists' ideology of Islamic Totalitarianism. And yet at the same time that our leaders demand that we sacrifice oil-consumption for the sake of protection from the Saudis, they are arming the Saudis to the teeth.

"What explains this blatant contradiction? While one might attribute it to simple hypocrisy, the Bush Administration is in fact being consistent. In response to both the Saudi threat and the Iranian threat, our response is not self-assertion, but self-sacrifice. When Saudi Arabia spreads a terrorist ideology around the world, we do not punish that regime, we punish ourselves by rejecting the lifeblood of our civilization.

Read the whole thing.

Pharmaceutical Companies Under Attack - and With Them, Us

Here's a piece by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute on pharmaceutical price controls. It's an importance piece, because most of the advances in pharmaceuticals occur in the US, and are paid for mainly by Americans. Essentially, we subsidize the drugs for the citizens of those countries like Canada that impose price controls.

"Big pharma" is accused of many devious and downright evil things, including ridiculous conspiracy theories about withholding actual cures for diseases in order to keep selling treatments (which, of course, make no economic sense). But without it, there are many, many people who would either no longer be alive or whose quality of life would be atrocious. I doubt that many who read this don't have a relative or friend whose life has either been saved or positively impacted because of this industry.

I worked for a medical devices company once, which functions the same as the typical pharmaceutical company. For every 10 innovations we made huge investments in trying to perfect, maybe one made it through the FDA and into the market. It's those tremendous R&D costs, which represent the lifeblood of medical advancements, that raise the costs of drugs. If Congress allows the reimportation of drugs from Canada, at Canadian prices, and from elsewhere as well, that R&D will no longer be funded and the incredible advancements will dry up.

If you're against advances in medical science, then you'll call up your Congressman and support the reimportation of drugs from other countries.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3304, is a link to a story about a "bridge hero" in Minneapolis who was offered a photo opp with President Bush and refused it.

Of course, what's sad is that the Dugg item is buried at the end of the story, and isn't at all relevant to it. Actually, the story's a rather nice discussion about a young man who saved the lives of a bunch of school kids, and how he was being rewarded for his efforts.

Leave it to Digg to, well, dig up the political dirt. Which, by the way, wasn't explained. We have absolutely no way of knowing why the young man turned down the offer. Maybe he was just tired of all the exposure?

China's Internal Issues and What They Mean for America

An interesting discussion on China and it's internal troubles. I've often vascilated between worrying about China economically, and not (but I still worry about them as a future military threat, unless they move completely away from communism). This piece has some interesting points to make.

I'll quote a few:

China is loudly whispering that they may start selling off some of their holdings of US Treasury debt. The last I heard, they have about $1.3 trillion in dollar-denominated instruments, up from about $1 trillion last fall. About $400 billion of this is in long-dated debt like notes and bonds.


Now the real problem here is that China's threats are empty. Forget about the threats to the stability of the US economy. The last time the Chinese talked about diversifying out of US Treasuries, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke went on record saying that he would simply sterilize and/or monetize any large Chinese sales of US debt. Don't underestimate his willingness to follow through on this, and don't underrate the Fed's ability to keep the resulting inflation under control without significantly disrupting the US economy.

But even more to the point is that there just aren't any asset classes in the world, apart from US Treasuries, that are liquid enough to soak up $400 billion or more should China go shopping for them. Again, the Chinese threat is empty.

His conclusion:

The true challenge for us is to find a way to exploit the weakness in China's position. China cares about nothing more than their prestige and standing in the world community. Not only is this deeply ingrained in the Chinese character, but it's also one of the keys to the current government's tenuous hold on legitimacy. They'll probably be willing to trade away a good deal in order to avoid being seen as having messed up their transition to a globally-dominant market economy.

The proper focus for our China foreign policy is to find a way to keep China permanently dependent on us for increases in prosperity, while forcing them to give American investors a considerably larger stake in what is the biggest growth-engine in the world. If I can figure out how best to do that, I'll let you know.

I'd read the whole thing if I were you.

Russian Engages in Military Exercises Over North Pole

And I suppose it's just one big coincidence that Russia's engaging in military exercises over the North Pole. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale.

Didn't Take Long: Predicted Action Taken Against Russian Oil Company Owner

I mentioned this guy, Mikhail Gutseriev, awhile back, and predicted that his outspoken stance against the expropriation of his oil company would land him in trouble. Well, it's happened. Shares in his company, Russneft, have been frozen, and he's now being accused of tax evasion and "illegal entrepreneurship." I'm sure it'll be off to the gulag for him soon.

And, for those who don't know, "illegal entrepreneurship" in Russian (and Soviet) lingo basically means doing business without the state's blessing. I remember my wife telling me about her mom's black market sewing business back in the USSR--that would have been "illegal entrepreneurship" as well.

Hillary Clinton's True Character

Here's a rather in-depth (and well worth it) essay by Ed Cline in The Rule of Reason, on the paper that Hillary Clinton wrote during college and is apparently circulating the Internet (although this is the first I've heard of it). It's an appalling and, frankly, frightening look into Clinton's character, and until some other candidate is defined so clearly it makes her the least desirable.

Mr. Cline's essay is long, but I'll post the quote that best sums up Clinton (and note that there's a great deal of analysis that backs this up):

It takes a village, or a Toohey, or an Alinsky, to fill such a void. This is a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Hillary has progressed from doubting the effectiveness of massive government programs to help the poor to seeing them as the only answer, in the name of “social justice.” Like Alinsky, like Toohey, she wishes to crush the individualist independence of Americans and replace it with dependence on the state – and she would be the state – chiefly because she has grown to fear and hate independence in anyone.

No matter how slickly “human” she presents her made-over self to the public in debates or during interviews, one can still detect in her the desire to kill in every American his integrity, self-respect, sense of values, the heroic, and happiness. When she left Wellesley, she decided to become the “star,” someone whom uncounted others would come to depend on and thank for that dependence.

Read the whole thing. It's well worth it.

New Bomb Explodes, and Then Explodes Again

As I think I've mentioned before, I'm all for our military developing the most powerful weapons imaginable. It's called deterrence, you see: the more powerful we are, the less likely some tinpot dictator is to start something with us (or, the not-so-tinpot dictators, as well).

Well, it appears our military agrees, because it's developed a bomb that not only explodes, but is made of reactive materials that themselves explode upon contact. And interestingly enough, they should even appeal to the anti-war crowd, for whom the alternative, cluster bombs, have been such an issue. See, the new bomb won't leave behind any unexploded ordnance (or, I suppose, not much).

There are those who think such constant improvements in weaponry is just the military-industrial complex gone mad. But that's only because they refuse to recognize that there really are bad people out there who plan very bad things for us (and by that, I mean Americans) for any number of reasons. There are evil things happening all over the planet with which the US is completely uninvolved, and yet there are those who think that only America is capable of doing wrong.

I'm just glad that others, like the inventors of this kind of weaponry, don't give a damn what they think and just keep coming up with good stuff.