Two Thursday Links On Foreign Policy

Claudia Rosett At PJ Media: ‘The Upside Of Russia’s Threat To Trash The Iran Nuclear Talks:’

Reaching out to the leadership in Iran is risky, but Rosett seems to think it isn’t worth the risk at all:

‘I’ve been in Vienna for the first two rounds of these talks, Feb. 18-20 and March 18-19, and there’s no sign that this diplomatic process is going to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Rather, Iran is making some temporary and reversible concessions, while continuing to enrich uranium, and refusing to give up its ballistic missile program or abandon construction of a heavy-water de facto plutonium-factory reactor near Arak’

Zavid Jarif seemed pretty clear about Iran’s right to enrich as of March 20th, 2014.  This will be tough to bridge.

Putin’s pursuing an ethno-nationalist petro-empire and our most common interest would still be in preventing Islamist terrorism (Iran funds terrorism, mind you).  Is the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance worth bargaining with?  Meanwhile, the Saudis and Israelis are taking their own precautions, given Iran’s right next door.

Many Chinese interests line-up against ours.

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Robert Kagan at the Washington Post: ‘President Obama’s Foreign Policy Paradox:’

Per Kagan:  You wanted isolationism, withdrawal, and a light footprint, America, you’ve got it and you don’t seem pleased:

‘For many decades Americans thought of their nation as special. They were the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world,” the “indispensable nation,” the No. 1 superpower. It was a source of pride. Now, pundits and prognosticators are telling them that those days are over, that it is time for the United States to seek more modest goals commensurate with its declining power. And they have a president committed to this task.’

So, what next?

A Cold Dose Of Realism-‘Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess’

Full piece here.

Neo-cons, humanists, human-rights advocates…religious and secular idealists, missionaries of all stripes who want to see more freedom and democracy cast in our image…it’s good to get other points of view:

David Goldman wrote the following back in 2008, a few years after Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionjust as Georgia was flaring up, and when Putin stepped-in (to Georgia) to maximize his advantage:

‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.

My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’

The argument is pretty clear:  Putin is looking at demographic decline, and he’s an ex-KGB ethno-nationalist looking to keep the empire together:

‘Russia is not an ethnicity but an empire, the outcome of hundreds of years of Russification. That Russification has been brutal is an understatement, but it is what created Russia out of the ethnic morass around the Volga river basin. One of the best accounts of Russia’s character comes from Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey (Franz Rosenzweig’s cousin and sometime collaborator) in his 1938 book Out of Revolution. Russia’s territory tripled between the 16th and 18th centuries, he observes, and the agency of its expansion was a unique Russian type.’

Worth a read.

Related On This SiteRobert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’“Spengler” At PJ Media: ‘Lessons From Europe’s Winners And Losers’

Is Barack Obama A Realist?From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Full piece here.

Let the markets work!

Click through for some spit-balled suggestions, including some kind of mandate upon all individuals to purchase a basic minimum plan (as Martin acknowledges, this is always open to abuse and expansion of power).

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.

Avik Roy addressed this before the 2012 Romney/Obama presidential election, before we really started taxiing Obamacare down the runway:

‘Obamacare’s approach to pre-existing conditions, in summary, may help a tiny minority with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage in the short term, but the law will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone else, leading to adverse selection and higher premiums for all. And the price of Obamacare is steep: the individual mandate; trillions in new spending and taxes; deep cuts to Medicare providers.’

Epstein’s position:

The best way to deal with the risk of catastrophe is for people to buy their coverage early, when they are young, so that premiums are low. In any well-functioning market, they can acquire a renewable policy with guaranteed rates. At that point, does it become morally reprehensible to deny additional coverage to those individuals who passed on this possibility? No. Sadly, the abysmal performance of the American healthcare system lies not in the market economy that Kristof deplores, but in the elaborate network of regulation that shrinks the domain of voluntary choices, and leaves consumers with fewer choices than they would have had if the government had just stood by.’

Now the government isn’t just standing-by, it’s forcing people out of their current plans onto exchanges that don’t function, exacting high costs on individuals as part of an enormously flawed law in theory, which is being put into practice.

From Charlie Martin: ‘The Arithmetic Absurdity Of Obamacare’

Full piece here.

I’ve gotten a few emails suggesting there’s been a lot of ‘partisanship,’ on the site lately.  I agree there’s more than usual, but in the face of such a pork-passed monstrosity of a law, with so many bad incentives, so much adverse selection, and young people being forced to work in a system that makes so little sense for them, it’s good to have certain ideas boiled down:

Thanks for any concern.  I assume the risk of driving some people away with all this political talk.

Martin:

Now, what’s the point of this little fable? Basically, this is the story of health insurance. We started off with “major medical,” which was a way to protect yourself against big medical bills that everyone hoped they wouldn’t have; now what we’ve got is that major medical — but we’re also paying for snow-shoveling, er, we’re paying for everyone’s day to day medical care, and we’re paying for it in pretty much the most expensive and complicated possible way: through a federal government agencyand insurance companies.

Related On This SiteRichard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Train Wreck’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Watching Obamacare Unravel’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’

Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Could Amazon and Jeff Bezos Make the Washington Post Profitable?’

Full post here.

As mentioned on this site, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, knows how to focus on the customer, sit on cash reserves while combining the new technology and retail sales, and be patient.

He may already be in your living room, with a firm handle on the new digital supply chain.  Once there, the thinking goes, he may also be able to place a competitive, new-media Washington Post in front of you.  Perhaps he can aggregate it in such a way that you may be willing to pay, piecemeal and personalized, for the news, information and journalism you consume.

Of course, in purchasing the Washington Post, Bezos has also purchased the old supply chain:  The potentially valuable WaPo brand (influence), the potentially much less valuble linotype and newsroom culture of journalists and cultural gatekeepers battered in the surf of new media and technology.  If anyone has a chance to innovate and stay ahead of the curve of new technology, many hope, Bezos can (assuming he is so inclined).

Martin:

‘So here’s your new Washington Post: primarily delivered on Kindles, other Android platforms, and on Kindle apps on iPhone and iPad. Amazon applies your reading preferences and generates content with the selection optimized to what you like to read — my “front page” would have lots of politics, science, and foreign news; yours might have the sports pages and feature stories instead.’

I understand that news isn’t free, but I also can’t remember the last time I was willing to commit to a pay-wall without just surfing on, especially in the realm of politics, ideology, news and information.

Sometimes the writer is very knowledgeable, and the writing brilliant. Sometimes I think people really ‘nail it’ and I’m glad they’re there. Sometimes it clearly took years of development and dedication and I feel moved by a piece. But honestly, the wallet rarely comes out. If it isn’t business or something I need, and it isn’t family, friends, and fellow bloggers and connections who’ve exchanged time and ideas with me, I’m not inclined to pay for it.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

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***It’s worth mentioning there is a difference between opinion and ideas and providing reliable information, quickly and accurately to those who can pay for it and are responsible for that information to others, but that’s a smaller market:  Financial institutions, traders, businesses with fiduciary and contractual obligations to clients, politicians and other institutions, for example.

Addition:   From an insider at the Post: ‘Sorry, Jeff Bezos, the News Bundle Isn’t Coming Back

Related On This SiteBig Data And Filthy Lucre: Neil Irwin At WonkBlog-’Here’s What The Bloomberg Data Scandal Reveals About How The Media Really Makes Money’

The Disruption Of Education-From AVC: ‘Video Of The Week: Mark Suster Interview of Clayton Christensen’

Good luck making money blogging:

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

Whence journalism?:

From The Atlantic: “Information May Want To Be Free. But Not Journalism”

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? 

Malcolm Gladwell argues here that apart from the information/journalism divide, the technology still ultimately costs something as well…”Free” is a utopian vision, and I suspect Gladwell knows this pretty well:  From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”

From The Economist: ‘No News Isn’t Good News’

“Spengler” At PJ Media: ‘Lessons From Europe’s Winners And Losers’

Full piece here.

In the piece, our author asks why Spain’s unemployment is up at 25% while Germany’s is down at about 7% (this past April): 

‘Why should Germany thrive while Spain implodes? That’s like asking why Facebook is worth a lot and Myspace is worth nothing. It’s a winner-take-all world. Countries that do well have to do a few things extremely well. Germany makes the world’s best machine tools, some of the best heavy engineering equipment, not to mention autos. German manufacturing dominates innumerable key niches. The Spanish don’t do anything well.

Because the world, and global markets are ruthlessly competitive on this analyis.  Germany is specializing and competing,  Spain is not, and the only thing holding them together is the Euro:

‘Spain shows how quickly a seemingly prosperous country can come apart when its entrepreneurial engine stalls.’

Eventually, some social and political analysis might be relevant as well. Francis Fukuyama recently suggested that instead of thinking about Europe in terms of the “two Europes,” Protestant, more individualized, more modern statecraft northern….against Catholic more familial, more insular, clientelistic Southern, the key is that these Southern countries have kept the old structures in place and simply grafted an image of the modern State atop it.  They can modernize if they get over these old ways.  But for now, they are not economically sustainable.  Of course, for Fukuyama, the solution is a a more Hegelian model of the state, endlessly perfectible,which perhaps he envisions here in America as well: Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

Related On This Site:  Have you downloaded the apps…and the concepts of Enlightenment and post Enlightenment liberty that can lead to runtime errors and fiscal failure? Sachs and Niall Ferguson duke it out: CNN-Fareed Zakaria Via Youtube: ‘Jeff Sachs and Niall Ferguson’

Joel Kotkin Via Youtube: ‘Illinois Is In A Competition’From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

Covering the law and economics from a libertarian perspective: Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Death By Wealth Tax’

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