Pontificating Putin piece


Pontificating Putin pushes Graham

toward energy platform

“Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations — military force…. Primarily the United States has overstepped its national borders, and in every area…. They bring us to the abyss ….”
                    — Vladimir Putin

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
VLADIMIR PUTIN is pushing Lindsey Graham toward the Energy Party, and I feel fine.
    Sure, that anti-American diatribe at the Munich security conference on Feb. 10 was the biggest step back toward Cold War since Nikita K. took off his shoe, but I like to look at the bright side.
    “The biggest threat to everybody in the room wasn’t al-Qaida, or Chechen rebels, it was the United States,” our senior senator said in an interview last week, marveling at the neo-Stalinist’s international demagoguery. “It was a blatant pitch at trying to divide Europe and the United States, because he sees us as weak.”
    “Which takes us to energy independence,” I said.
    “Which takes us to energy independence,” he nodded.
    I like the way this guy thinks.
    As regular readers know, I recently called for the creation of a new political party, one that would get serious about our greatest strategic vulnerability, while saving the world from global warming at the same time.
    Sen. Graham’s still a Republican, but we might have to nominate him anyway.
    He had thought plenty about this stuff before Munich, but that one intemperate speech (followed immediately by an Iranian dissertation on democracy that seemed to come from some other planet) jacked up his resolve. “Whatever doubts I had about us being energy-independent were put away,” he said. “I don’t think he ever made that speech unless he sensed weakness.”
    So how do we get strong?
    He says the United States government must use economic incentives to encourage hybrid technology, biofuels, hydrogen, nuclear power — pretty much any viable alternatives that we can embrace that neither strengthen the worst bad guys in the world nor pump out more greenhouse-promoting carbon dioxide.
    He would promote the transition to hybrid cars — and eventually hydrogen — on three levels:

  1. Research. Grants for improving the technology.
  2. Wholesale. Tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to make the new vehicles.
  3. Retail. More tax incentives for individuals to buy them.

    He makes sure to point out that South Carolina can play a pivotal role in all this. We’re well positioned to help develop the technologies for a hydrogen economy. Meanwhile, we can grow and process switchgrass and other plants for biofuels.
    He sees “a whole economy in energy-efficiency,” one that South Carolina could help lead.
Beyond that home-team advantage is the bigger picture: “It is in our long-term national security interest to get people thinking about alternatives.”
    It’s not just cars. We need to make more efficient, cleaner refrigerators, computers and every other item that uses electricity.
    As for that, “Most of our power comes from coal-fired plants.” We need to “give nuclear power the same tax advantage we give solar and wind.” Like those usual green suspects, nukes don’t emit CO2, either.
    Expensive, yes, but he’s convinced that the economic cost of global warming is far greater than the 1 percent of gross domestic product that a full transition away from emitters would cost.
    So how do we pay for it?
    Well, he said, we can’t do it by “cutting waste” in the discretionary budget — what most people think of when they say “federal spending.” There’s just not enough there.
    You have to go where the  real money is: entitlements. “Change the structure of our debt,” he said. “Give people like me and Joe Lieberman and others some breathing room on Social Security,” room to do the kinds of politically unpalatable things that are necessary to save it without pulling us further into the fiscal black hole.
    Can we produce our way out? No. “Yes, there’s gas and oil, but it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said, no matter how deep you drill in the ANWR or offshore. “They’re sort of just one more drink” for the hopeless alcoholic.
    What about increasing the gas tax, to promote conservation and raise money for incentives? No. “Gas taxes will put some businesses at a competitive disadvantage with China and India.” Besides, “it’s not progressive.” It hurts the poor.
    “The next president of the United States should declare a war of energy independence,” he said, evoking the usual metaphors such as the Manhattan and Apollo projects. We had such a war once against a king. Now we should “declare a war of independence from the dictators and sheiks.”
    The next president? So he’s given up on this one? He didn’t say that, but I will. He said President Bush has addressed the issue, but only in a “piecemeal” fashion.
    As for Lindsey Graham, he says he’s doing what he can, such as working “with McCain and Lieberman to strengthen the conservation part of their global warming bill.”
    But ultimately, he’s just one of 100. “The real megaphone is for the person who’s going to be president.” Does that mean John McCain, his preferred candidate for the GOP nomination? Yes, partly: “He’s led on global warming like no other Republican.” But “I’m urging all the candidates.”
    OK, so I didn’t start this discussion. Mr. Putin did. But that doesn’t mean the Energy Party’s not going to grab the opportunity thus created to strengthen national security and save the Earth.
Neither should you. So go ahead. Jump right in.


32 thoughts on “Pontificating Putin piece

  1. bud

    Duh moment of the century. Brad writes:
    So how do we pay for it?
    Hello! We quit fighting the damn war in Iraq! That’s how we pay for energy independence and other important programs. Can it get any more obvious.

  2. Randy E

    In lieu of Energy Party, how about Proactive Party? Maybe the Foresight Faction? It’s a party in which commonsensical decisions are made.
    With this in mind, consider that we are bombarded by massive amounts of energy every day. There’s no need for mislabelling it as “clean” solar energy. There are no nasty biproducts. There’s no solar spills in the ocean. It’s not conrolled by sheiks and terrorists can’t blow it up.
    Brad, where does the Energy party stand on lap tops for every rising high schooler in SC public schools next year?

  3. bud

    Perhaps Putin feels threatened by one Texas cowboy who invades foreign nations on false pretenses and maintains a military 10 times as large as Russias. Yet another example of how our misguided foreign policy is making us less secure.

  4. SC2

    What happens when a reporter loses his or her objectivity? We get an editorial that gushes over a senator, who after seeing that the political winds have changed is now espousing energy independence. Let’s remember that Senator Graham supported the energy bill that was a windfall for energy companies and had little to do with conservation.
    As a concerned citizen, I am asking that you please keep your objectivity when meeting with Senator Graham, no matter how much you may like him personally. (And I agree that he is a likeable person.)

  5. Brad Warthen

    SC2, three quick points:

    First, I am not a reporter, and haven’t been for 27 years.

    Second, objectivity is a sham. No one is objective. I realized that a long time ago, and started angling to get out of news so I could get into the editorial genre of journalism. This will sound odd, but I actually think having to say what I think about things honestly, with no pretense at "objectivity," knowing that all my judgments will be judged by thousands of readers, has caused me to examine my subjects more carefully than ever. I can now see the shortcomings of the unconscious assessments I made when I was an editor in news, because I dig farther into things. The irony is that it helps me come a little closer toward that unattainable ideal of unvarnished reporting that people are claiming when they tell you they are "objective." But only a little closer.

    Third — and this is the most important point — you are confusing cause and effect. I don’t praise a person’s words and actions because I LIKE that person. I praise a person because I like the ideas he is expressing.

    It’s sort of a personality flaw, this focus on ideas ahead of people. And for most people, it’s counterintuitive. But I find it serves me well as I try to achieve that thing which is not objectivity.

    I don’t think I explained that very well. It’s hard to explain one’s own cognitive processes. Certainly, it is impossible to do so "objectively."

    What do I like about Graham’s ideas in this area? The general thrust. He and I disagree on the gas tax, and the production issue. I would go ahead and open the ANWR, drill offshore, and increase our refinery capacity. Why? We certainly can’t produce our way to independence; he’s right about that. And it hurts us in fighting global warming.

    But I would do it for a couple of reasons. First, it would help a little in meeting our current fossil fuel needs during the lag time while we develop the alternatives, and at least for that little bit that the production would help, that would be that much we wouldn’t have to get from objectionable foreign sources.

    Second, it’s a way of bringing in all those so-called "conservatives" who want to do that INSTEAD of conservation and alternatives. I’m saying, sure, do EVERYTHING — in the short term — to make us independent, while we work like crazy to move away from these types of fuel altogether.

    Ironically, it is Graham, a conservative Republican, who rejects that part of the plan. But that is a function of another thing I like about him — his lack of ideological prejudices.

    Finally, I am trying to encourage ANY politician who tries to sail these "political winds" moving toward energy independence and a reduction of CO2 emissions. But when someone does it pragmatically, rather than ideologically, like Sanford and Romney (their approaches get us nowhere; they are just playing partisan games), I will indeed praise that to the skies — even if it doesn’t match my own proposals in all the particulars — because that’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere. As long as making us independence and saving the planet are seen as the province of THIS side or THAT side, we’ll never get anywhere.

  6. bud

    Brad, I’m glad to see you’ve become a big Al Gore fan. Now there’s a guy that was talking alternative energy way before alternative energy was cool. You certainly can’t say he’s partisan about it either. By comparison Lindsey is very late to the party. To be charitable I’m glad Senator Graham is on board. But let’s not forget those who have been fighting this battle all along.
    I was ok with drilling in the ANWR until reports came out showing just what a mess we’ve made with the Prudoe Bay area. I really don’t see much point in drilling there except to get conservatives on board with a comprehensive plan.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Well, if Al were still in the Senate, that would mean something. I wish he WERE still in the Senate. When I was in Tennessee, I voted to send him there.
    But he’s not. Now, he’s just an ex-officeholder, and one who has long held this position. The important thing is that other people — particularly current officeholders — who did NOT worry about this before are starting to. That’s worth celebrating.
    To elaborate on that about Al — I liked him a lot more when he was a Senator. It’s just like I liked the current president’s dad before HE was a veep. There is something about serving eight years as a veep — particularly under a popular figure such as Reagan or Clinton — that sort of diminishes a guy, seems to make less of him. I just hated to see the first Bush trying to be an imitation Reagan (I had thought a lot more of him than I had Reagan), and then see Al trying to be Clinton (when, once again, I had liked him better than Clinton). It’s sad.
    There’s nothing wrong with being a smart, dedicated, serious public servant who’s just a little colorless. Guys like that should be who they are, instead of trying to be the Great Communicator or Elvis.

  8. SC2

    Mr. Warthen,
    Points one and two well taken. I apologize for the accusation.
    With his comment about Senator Graham’s late arrival to the party, Bud has touched on why it’s important to keep an objective (perhaps wary is more appropriate) eye on Senator Graham. While I agree his arrival should be celebrated, I am skeptical of his commitment, and thus do not think he should be given the keys to the Energy Party.
    Regarding increasing domestic oil production, any such move that would lighten, even slightly, the pressure to remove ourselves from fossil fuel, I oppose. We, as a country, are not very proactive – the Social Security and Medicare programs are prime examples – and appear to need a crisis to get us, and keep us moving.

  9. SGM (ret.)

    Those who are following this thread might find this interesting. (I know I found the symmetry ironic.)
    In the English language edition of the local paper there was an AFP piece (front page). In it, a member of the Saudi royal family, who has just returned from a diplomatic visit to the US, said that all the talk in the US over “independence from fossil fuels” and “eliminating the need for foreign oil” was just so much political hot air. He further assured people here in the Gulf region that there were no concrete plans or ideas that would ever cause such an occurrence. So, all the talk by US politicians was only pandering to their various domestic constituencies.
    It seems that the locals here aren’t losing any sleep over the Energy Party, Lindsey Graham, or Al Gore.
    However, the first time I tried to post a reply to this using a free, government owned public WiFi hotspot, I was unceremoniously dumped from the link and refused re-entry. It seems that maybe Brad is achieving some international notoriety and his blog might even be considered subversive.

  10. Lee

    Funny how every “solution” offered up by Graham is a tax on individuals, and a subsidy for some businesses and academic types.
    Putin’s election was financed with $10 BILLION stolen in a weekend wire transfer from the IMF accounts through the Bank of New York in August 1999. Culprits identified included close associates of Chernomyrdin, Al Gore’s big buddy from Al Sr’s days as a lobbyist OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM, the source of the Gore’s wealth.
    Why has this theft been quietly pushed under the rug? How much money came back to America to finance campaigns here? Why doesn’t Lindsay Graham care?

  11. bud

    I know I shouldn’t be but the stories of failure by the Bush administration continue to amaze me. Here’s an excerpt concerning the story by the Washington Post on the diplorable conditions at Walter Reed hospital:
    Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility
    By Dana Priest and Anne Hull
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Sunday, February 18, 2007; Page A01
    Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
    Now I ask you, does this sound like an administration that’s supporting our troops?

  12. bud

    Mary’s a bit too abrasive when talking about Brad but she makes some extrodinary points. Of course Putin was tough on the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. He has to given his country’s ongoing economic problems that make it imperatvie for Russia to refrain from participating in a new arms raise. His tough talk is designed to let Bush know that continued pre-emptive war can only be viewed by the rest of the world as threatening. Since Bush and Putin have had amiable relations in the past Putin must feel he can cash in on that good will by giving Bush a firm warning. Heck, his speech actually seems tame given the threatening nature of our huge military in the region.
    Brad, for one minute close your eyes and imagine you live in the middle-east or Russia. Would it not concern you that the worlds only superpower had such an enormous presence in your backyard? Or what if China were to send troops to Cuba to overthrow Castro? Even though we view him as a despot we would certainly view that with great concern.

  13. Brad Warthen

    bud, I hope our presence there worries the hell out of the autocrats in that region. That was part of the point, which seems to escape a lot of war opponents.
    And Putin is more concerned about NATO expansion, especially to some of his former satellites. Big, sore subject with the Russians. So he’s trying to drive a wedge between Europe — which is dependent on his oil — and the U.S. That weakens NATO.
    It would be interesting, though, to ask folks in the Baltic states whom they fear the most — the big, bad U.S., or Putin’s newly re-Sovietized Russia.

  14. B. Gene Garland

    As a former South Carolinian (30 years in Greenwood SC), I am glad to see the beginnings of energy awareness in SC. I now work with an energy efficiency firm in Austin, Texas that is working towards market transformation in Texas and the Southwest. An Energy Party is, I think, a debating point. However, it does serve to emphasize the point that our lifestyle, our economy, our climate, our safety and stability, and our fragile future are linked to a very undependable energy supply. Since we are living in the post peak oil world, a number of measures can be adopted. Other states and countries have done and are doing this. California citizens consume less energy per capita than in 1975, mostly due to upgraded building codes, mandated energy efficiency measures, and public support for these measures. The SC PSC can mandate an increase in energy efficiency programs, and allow the utilities a rate of return for offering these programs to the public. One reason SCE&G and other utilities historically don’t like to offer these programs is a rate of return has not previously not been allowed. Educational components must be a part of this effort. There is a reason that Australia has banned the incandescent light bulb beginning in 2010. We must pay the price of change or we will pay a much higher price for delaying change. Some day the only place for incandescent bulbs in SC will be at the one trillion dollar Hunley museum.

  15. Lee

    Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint
    The Nashville newspaper has an article today about how Al Gore’s 20-room mansion uses 2400 kW hr of electricity a month, about 20 times what the average US home consumes in year.
    With his pool house and gas bill included, the monthly bills run $2,400.

  16. bud

    Mary, the Russians are a very paranoid people. They’ve been invaded many times and they naturally distrust any nation that maintains a large and powerful military. That nature paranoia is intensified when that same powerful nation has hundreds of thousands of troops stationed near it’s borders. And it is exacerbated further when the leader of that powerful nation continues to threaten smaller nations, even those that don’t present any particular threat. Stalin trusted Hitler in 1941 and he got burned. Putin is probably a bit edgy at the current circumstances he faces.
    You are right that Putin is concerned by the U.S. stirring up the various terrorist organizations and generally creating an unstable region. But Putin is probably just a little wary of the U.S. military in general. He knows he can’t compete in an arms race. Yet in the final analysis if he feels threatened enough the Russians may just resort to an arms build up just to hedge their bets. After all, world events can turn quickly and the Russians are no fools. They’ve had to learn some hard lessons about trust over the years.

  17. Brad Warthen

    Folks, FYI before you waste time generating non sequiturs … Mary Rosh has been banned from the blog, owing to her utter disregard for the standards of civil discourse.
    I have actually let her on once or twice since then, because she was on unusually good behavior (for two or three comments in a row, about a week ago). I shouldn’t have, because she is basically changing IP addresses constantly in order to force her way in where she is not wanted. Bad faith such as that doesn’t deserve second chances — or in her case — 10,000th chances.
    As much as this might offend some of you, this is my blog, not Mary’s. Mary can start her own. They’re free, you know. But this is just not going to be the kind of romper room that she wants to make it.
    If she, and a couple of other seriously dysfunctional types, continue to force me to delete their juvenile missives individually, I’ll just have to penalize everyone by requiring comments to be approved before they appear. That would be sad, as it would greatly slow down dialogues, but I will resort to that if I have to.
    Anyway, I call this once more to everyone’s attention so you won’t waste time answering something that won’t be there at the end of the day. Of course, if you don’t mind that, feel free.
    Meanwhile, I’ve got to go delete some messages by our old friend Lee, who has returned, and who doesn’t know I ran out of patience with that stuff while he was gone.

  18. Doug Ross

    Just so everyone knows, Mary’s latest skewering of Brad was a very well thought out, insult-free analysis of the approach someone who was intellectually curious would take toward Putin’s statements.
    I’ve noticed a new feature on my posts as well. They seem to get labeled as “spam” and require me to enter a code word before they can post.
    The irony of an editor restricting speech is not lost on most of us…

  19. Brad Warthen

    The same thing happens to me, Doug — about half the time I enter a comment. It’s some new Typepad feature, started a couple of months back.
    I’ve noticed it’s somewhat more likely to happen when I post more than one comment within a short period.

  20. Brad Warthen

    Oh, one other thing, Doug: Mary’s problem is contained within your defense of her — “Mary’s latest skewering of Brad…”
    I’ve made it clear that this blog isn’t going to be about skewering each other. For the longest time, I ignored anyone trying to attack me personally, and just went after the ones attacking other participants. But I didn’t see any improvement in the variety of comments, and that is my aim. This blog gets thousands of page views, but only has a couple of dozen regular commenters. That’s a problem.
    I regularly run into people out in the world who say they like to look at the blog, but aren’t about to jump into the mud pit and get splashed. I’m tired of that. Frankly, as much as I’d like to see a greater diversity in comments, I’d rather have none at all than the sort that Mary has chosen to post. But maybe if we have a period without her and any emulators who come along, others will venture in.
    Oh, and there is no irony in an editor editing. It’s what we do, all day, every day. Your speech is in no way restricted. You can go anywhere you like and say whatever you like. But if you want to say it here, you’ll do so with a modicum of regard for your interlocutors.
    Finally, I made it clear a long time back that I will grant no leeway to pseudonymous posters. I’m told that some have legitimate reasons to be unidentified. I have trouble accepting that, but thus far I have accepted it. What I won’t accept is people who clearly use anonymity to shield their own willful refusal to treat others with common courtesy. They can simply go elsewhere.

  21. Randy E

    Doug, let me repeat that I find you a remarkably insightful parent who makes some very good points.
    Brad’s beard makes him look intelligent and dignified.
    Lex is not an ideologue, but a man who knows what he believes and has the courage and principles to take a stand.
    Mary can type fast and Lee has three letters in his name.
    I actually made the Doug comment before and believe it to be true.

  22. Reed Swearingen

    “I’m told that some have legitimate reasons to be unidentified. I have trouble accepting that, but thus far I have accepted it.”
    Brad, you’re right in my case. I have no reason to be unidentified and should be willing to stand behind my views.
    Reed Swearingen
    (Formerly SC2)

  23. bud

    Brad, I’ve said it many times and I’ll repeat it here, Mary’s tone is far too abrasive for my taste. But she does make some excellent points. It’s a shame you deleted her/his very insightful arguments concerning the Putin post. It’s crystal clear that the U.S. is creating a great deal of instability in the middle-east and that is alarming to practically every other nation in the world. Putin, in a very restrained way, called Bush out for it. But you turned his remarks around and suggested he was acting in bad faith. Mary and I strongly disagree with that assessment.
    It’s the U.S. government that has created this monster, not Russia. Given the tremendous amount of support we had following 9-11 it is truly remarkable how far world opinion for the U.S. has plummeted. That should be reason enough for us to end our failed stay-the-course policy.

  24. Brad Warthen

    God Bless You, Reed. Today, you are a man in full (assuming you ARE Reed Swearingen, and that there aren’t any women around here named "Reed.")

    bud, I’m made it extremely, excruciatingly, repetitively clear that Mary can make all the points she wants as long as she leaves off the completely superfluous personal garbage (here’s how that is done, just to remind you how much trouble I’ve gone to on this) — or at least, she COULD have, up until the point she had thumbed her nose at that offer a couple of dozen times.

    Mary is out (and she can keep posting the same stuff over and over, and it will last until the next sweep, and be deleted). Mary can come back under another name (as he/she has done before), and will still be banned as long as she engages in the same behavior. If she comes back in a sufficiently unrecognizable guise, however — one without all the garbage — that will be great, because the problem will be gone.

    It’s entirely up to Mary.

  25. Brad Warthen

    Sure you can. Figure it out. You’re a smart girl — or whatever.
    Oh, excuse me, everyone: That was regarding a comment just deleted, from an identity that has been banned from this blog. He/she was insisting that it’s impossible to make the necessary points without getting personal. That, of course, is patently ridiculous.
    Oh, and once again, Reed: Welcome to the real world. It might take some getting used to, but at least you’re out of the Matrix.

  26. Ready to Hurl

    Mary, why not choose a name– any name. I’m thinking about “Willie Wilson.” You could be “Harriet Hoover.”
    Brad wouldn’t know the diff and it’d make him happy.
    Heck, if I make one person happy with such a cheap and meaningless gesture then it’s a good day.
    And, ya never know, I might really be Willie Wilson.


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