Afghanistan's trillion dollar curse: lithium

The New York Times reports that a small team of American geologists and military personnel have discovered vast reserves of precious metals and minerals in Afghanistan , which profoundly transforms the destiny of this battered nation overnight: The previously unknown deposits - including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium - are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries. (...) The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan's existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as we

A fair solution to Jerusalem

I remember reading one of the books by Tom Clancy in which Jack Ryan was credited with coming up with a solution for Middle East peace which was pointedly never actually detailed in the novel. It was just a way to give his character some foreign policy cred, but ended up like that mysterious suitcase in Pulp Fiction. I couldn't help but be reminded of that, though, when I read former New York mayor Ed Koch's innovative solution to resolving the status of Jerusalem . Instead of putting the hot-button issue of Jerusalem last on the agenda, the issue should be addressed first. If the Jerusalem question is solved, everything else should fall into place more easily. I believe there is a way to keep Jerusalem unified. I am talking not only of the old walled city, which is a very small part of the city of Jerusalem, but the whole city, east, west, north and south. [...] My suggestion is to situate the new Palestinian capital in that part of East Jerusalem that is occupied overwhelming

I am beginning to notice a disturbing pattern

There's something strange going on... Recall that at the height of the health reform fight, after Senator Brown was elected in MA and the Democrats looked like they were on the verge of total failure. It looked like Obama's signature domestic policy achievement would indeed be his Waterloo... and then, Anthem Blue Cross raised rates by 40% . On the verge of the financial reform fight, Goldman Sachs was sued by the FEC and grilled mercilessly by a bipartisan Senate committee for it's shenanigans of knowingly selling "sh$%ty" securities to customers and profiting from their failure. The next big fight is immigration reform, and Arizona passes a draconian law essentially legalizing racial profiling of its Hispanic population - soon to be a majority. (It also revealed the Tea Party to be hypocrites when it comes to big government and Constitutional fidelity). And of course, with the climate bill coming down the line, we have a gargantuan oil spill in the Gulf of me

Conservatism's shari'a, liberalism's ijtihad

An interesting meta-debate by intellectual conservatives over conservatism's future is playing out. It started with David Frum's Waterloo essay, which led to his political excommunication. Julian Sanchez observed that this represented an epistemic closing of the conservative mind , a thesis that was validated by the retribution visited upon Jim Manzi for daring to suggest that conservatives will achieve more persuasion by using honest, strong arguments instead of weak, emotional ones. All of this has led John Quiggin at Crooked Timber to argue most wisely that as conservatism implodes, liberalism needs to find its own rationale that is more than just "not conservatism". Quiggin has a list of priorities for the liberal movement to address, and closes with the general plea, ...the left has to stand for something more than keeping the existing order afloat with incremental improvements. We need to offer the hope of a better world as an alternative to the angry tribali

Iran's nuclear ambiguity

It seems that every year, there's a breathless report that Iran is a year ortwo away from having nuclear weapons. Once again : Two of the nation's top military officials said Wednesday that Iran could produce bomb-grade fuel for at least one nuclear weapon within a year, but would most likely need two to five years to manufacture a workable atomic bomb. The time frame ... was roughly in line with the finding of a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate . That document, which is about to be updated, said that Iran would probably be able to produce a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015, while cautioning that there was no evidence that the Iranian government had decided to do so. (...) The generals offered a number of significant caveats about their assessment of Iran's capabilities. When asked, for example, how long it would take Iran to convert its current supplies of low-enriched uranium into bomb-grade material, General Burgess said, "The general consensus - not knowing

Tea party? I'm proud to pay my taxes

This year, I won't be getting a refund - in fact I had to cut two sizable checks to the Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Treasury. Yes, it was indeed painful. Fundamentally, the idea of sending your money to faceless bureaucrats is one that provokes some resentment in even the most mild-mannered citizen. In fact, there's a Tea Party rally going on right now in Capitol Square here in Madison full of people who are really angry about it, who think that taxes are a form of tyranny, who are holding signs evoking the Revolutionary War ("Don't Tread on Me", etc.) and who fervently believe that Barack Obama is a socialist/muslim/fascist/communist dedicated to destroying this nation, who will throw you in jail if you don't buy health insurance. That's patriotism, in a way. These people believe that their liberty is being threatened, and they are making their voices heard in defense of what they believe. However, my understanding of patriotism is that freed