The John Batchelor Show

Friday 17 January 2014

Air Date: 
January 17, 2014

Fashoda Incident, or "Fashoda Crisis" (1898), was the climax of imperial territorial disputes between Britain and France in Eastern Africa. A French expedition to Fashoda on the White Nile sought to gain control of the Nile River and thereby exclude Britain from the Sudan, and possibly force the British out of Egypt as well. The British held firm as Britain and France were on the verge of war. It ended in a diplomatic victory for the British. It gave rise to the 'Fashoda syndrome' in French foreign policy, or seeking to assert French influence in areas which might be becoming susceptible to British influence.

The French thrust into the African interior was mainly from the continent's Atlantic coast (modern Senegal) eastward, through the Sahel along the southern border of the Sahara, a territory covering modern Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Chad. Their ultimate goal was to have an uninterrupted link between the Niger River and the Nile, hence controlling all trade to and from the Sahel region. The British, on the other hand, wanted to link their possessions in Southern Africa (modern South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Zambia), with their territories in East Africa (modern Kenya), and these two areas with the Nile basin. Sudan (which in those days included modern South Sudan and Uganda) was the key to the fulfilment of these ambitions, especially since Egypt was already under British control.  See Hour 3, Blocks C & D, Robert M Cutler on the Fashoda Crisis.


Hour One

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 1, Block A: Jim McTague, Barron's Washington, in re: Pres Obama's speech today on the NSA, which is out of control in proportion, in respect of its mandate, with the United States as a "Citti upon a hill."   Regulatory expense for contactor working for he feds would have an extra expense: pres Obama says you have to pay workers X in order to receive our approval as a fed contractor. In 2011 he promised to streamline regulations and paperwork; have now cut tens of millions of hours of "paperwork burden," but so many regs have just passed that we now spend 2.2 billion hours on paperwork – ten pr cent more than in 2011.  The OMB keeps track of all regs issued by departments, look at independent regulatory agencies –but only what's "significant" – a term of art.   Legal costs, accounting costs, paperwork – reduces the number of jobs you can hire and increases your cost and increases the cost to the government .

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 1, Block B:  Henry I Miller, M.D., Hoover &, in re: Grist for the Genetic Engineering Mill

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 1, Block C: Kara Brandeisky, ProPublica, in re: While Pres Obama was preparing to deliver a speech on surveillance policy today, ProPublica took a look at his various defenses of the NSA's surveillance programs thus far and how many of the president's claims haven't stood up to scrutiny.  It highlights four of Obama's misleading assertions, including how:

·  There have been no abuses: At press conferences in June, August and December, Obama made assurances that two types of bulk surveillance had not been misused. In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reprimanded the NSA for abuses both in warrantless surveillance targeting people abroad, and in bulk domestic phone records collection.

·  At least 50 terrorist threats have been averted: Obama's own review group concluded that the sweeping phone records collection program has not prevented any terrorist attack.  

·  The NSA does not do any domestic spying: The government, of course, has the phone records of most Americans.  [more]

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 1, Block D:  Jason Karaian, (Quartz), in re: . . .  How does capital flow from poor to rich countries? In the case of London, it’s considered worldwide to be a safe haven; right now, esp Egyptians. Lucas Puzzle:  when people in countries in turmoil look for where to park their cash, they find London to be safe – property will at least hold its value and not likely be appropriated. Whole blocks of fancy homes not even inhabited – lights on sometimes.  Entered by cleaners once in a while. Oxford study: Middle East and Russian buyers concentrate on Mayfair, Knightsbridge, the highest-end; houses passed from one tycoon to another. Southern Europe and South Asia: they go to somewhat less expensive areas and often actually live there. property bubble?? Not – hard to expand beyond the ring road, so there's not much property around on which one can expand; about half the demand is met.  The average house price in London is more than $700,000. 

      Riots in Egypt + recession in Greece = property boom in London   House prices in the UK rose by a pedestrian 3.5% year-over-year in November, according to the latest data—that is, if you exclude London from the calculation. Residential property prices in London rose by 11.6%, which is down from 12% the previous month but still frothy by any definition. Including London, British house prices were up by 5.4% in November.

For some time, property prices in London have disconnected from the UK as a whole; London homes are both the most expensive and fastest appreciating in the country. The average London house is now worth £441,000 ($724,000), versus the £248,000 national average.   New research provides evidence of what many Londoners have long suspected; property prices in London are only partly linked to the local economy. Academics at Oxford’s Saïd Business School looked at transaction-level data since 1996 and cross-referenced spikes in prices to economic and political turmoil abroad. Thus, they hoped to . . . [more]

Hour Two

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 2, Block A: Sue Craig, NYT, in re: With $613 Million at Stake, an Albany Rivalry Is Said to Escalate Cuomo and Schneiderman Prepare to Fight Over JPMorgan Settlement

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 2, Block B:  Liz Peek, The Fiscal Times, in re: Mr. Obama, it's all about jobs, not income inequality Is income inequality really the number one challenge facing this country? That’s what President Obama and his acolytes have told us, citing a “dangerous and growing” divide between those at the bottom of the ladder and those at the top. 

Never mind that his claim is undermined by numerous economists (including left-leaning Jared Bernstein) who have failed to link income inequality with slow growth. More important, the reality is that the gap between richest and poorest in the United States actually dropped 1.8% between 1993 and 2009. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But it’s true.

Those denouncing a rise in income inequality rely on the “Gini coefficient” – a calculation that tracks the gap between richest and poorest over time – to make their case. 

What Democrats and Republicans alike must address is the scarcity of good jobs available to lower and middle-income workers. This is the defining challenge of our times. 

As pointed out in a 2012 study by Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian for the Hoover Institution, [more], that . . . 

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 2, Block C:  Josh Rogin, Daily Beast, in re: Iran Top Nuke Negotiator: Deal Reversible in One Day In an interview with Iranian television, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator says Tehran can resume enriching uranium to 20 percent levels within one day if it so desires.  Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, said this week that if Iran decides to resume enriching uranium to levels prohibited by the new nuclear deal, it could begin to do so in one day’s time. Araghchi spoke on Jan. 12 to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Channel 2 following his return from Geneva, where he led the Iranian delegation to the negotiations with the P5+1 countries that resulted in an agreement to implement the Joint Plan of Action signed last November. The interim agreement goes into effect Jan. 20, giving both sides six months to reach a final deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

Critics of the deal, especially in Congress, want any final agreement to force Iran to stop enriching uranium altogether and dismantle its enrichment program. The interim agreement requires Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium at 20 percent levels and downgrade their existing stockpile of highly-enriched uranium to lower levels. But Araghchi said in the interview that the enrichment suspension is quickly reversible if Iran decides to pull out of the agreement. “We can return again to 20 percent enrichment in less than one day and we can convert the [nuclear] material again. Therefore the structure of our nuclear program is preserved,” said Araghchi, in a broadcast that . . .  [more]

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 2, Block D:  Peter Berkowitz, Hoover, in re: The Economic Hokum of 'Secular Stagnation' by John B. Taylor, in Wall Street Journal. Blaming the market for the failure of bad government policies is no more persuasive now than it was in the 1930s. The evidence continues to mount that government policy has been to blame for the disappointing economic performance in recent years. Yet many don't want to hear it, and they offer a series of alternative explanations including most recently the re-emergence of a chestnut, "secular stagnation."

When it became clear that the recovery from recession—which officially ended in mid-2009—was unprecedentedly weak, policy makers found an excuse in the depth of the financial crisis. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner argued in August 2010 that "recoveries that follow financial crises are typically a hard climb. That is reality." This argument is put forth frequently by government officials, and it's loosely based on a popular 2009 book by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, This Time Is Different.   A careful look at American history by Michael Bordo of Rutgers and Joseph Haubrich of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank has blown holes in the argument. Recoveries from deep recessions with financial crises have been stronger, not weaker, than recoveries following shallower recessions. These strong recoveries average about 6% real GDP growth per year, compared to only 2% per year in this recovery. The current recovery should have been . . . [more]

Hour Three

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 3, Block A:  Steven Erlanger, NYT, in re: Now Online, Diaries of British Soldiers Detail Horrors of World War I   Britain’s National Archives has posted the first group of firsthand accounts of the war, but millions of more pages are still to come.

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 3, Block B:  Matt Continetti, NRO, in re: POLITICAL CULTURE  Poverty Chic  The political fashion du jour.

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 3, Block C:  Robert M Cutler, Asia Times & senior research fellow, Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University, Canada, in re: WASHINGTON'S "FASHODA" MOMENT   The US "reversal of alliances" towards Iran:  Comparative historical perspectives     It is rare that a great power in world politics, after decades of hostility with another country, turns around and suddenly seeks to embrace that country as a friend, if not an ally. Yet this is what the recent United States demarche towards Iran represents, unilaterally overturning years of carefully crafted economic sanctions laboriously conceived and implemented, and breaching numerous UN Security Council resolutions voted following Iran's repeated violations over the years, in bad faith, of its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The term of art for such a turn of events in diplomatic and military history is renversement des alliances (reversal or overturning of alliances), and it is so rare that one can find only a few examples in the last three centuries. This essay seeks to . . . [more]   (1 of 2)

(Cartoon, below) Punch, or the London Charivari – March 5, 1898   PLAIN ENGLISH

John Bull:  'Scuse me, m'soo: what are you doing on my ground?

French explorer: Mon cher, je n'y suis pas. (Aside) Mais, j'y reste.  [My dear sir, I'm not there {on your ground}. (Aside) But I'm staying there.]

John Bull: You mayn't be there – but out you go!

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 3, Block D: Robert M Cutler, Asia Times senior research fellow, Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University, Canada, in re:   WASHINGTON'S "FASHODA" MOMENT   The US "reversal of alliances" towards Iran:  Comparative historical perspectives . . .  Historians canonically divide the "modern era" into the "early modern" (from the early 16th to the early 19th century) and the "late modern" (from the early 19th to the mid-20th century). Before the modern era, such reversals of alliances were not altogether unusual, whether in the consecutive systems of Mongol and Central Asian conquerors or in those of the Italian city-states, or elsewhere and at other times.

With the Treaty of Utrecht (1715), however, the European States system, formerly an unintegrated collection of international systems, became a truly comprehensive international system. This meant not just that any change in power relations in one geographic region entailed implications for power relations in other geographic regions, but moreover that every state became involved in every conflict among the members of the system. As a result, reversals of alliances became less frequent. In the modern era there are still two examples that are most notable.

. . . From Fashoda to the outbreak of World War I was only 16 years, and it is a commonplace that history accelerates in the contemporary era. The transnational civil war between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has been under way, and not only in the Middle East, for some time already.   

All historical reasoning points to the prospect that the American renversement des alliances towards Iran will only accelerate that conflict: as if things were not bad enough in the Middle East already.  Further: this transnational civil war, still intensifying, has been and remains, and will inescapably continue to be, one in which casualties also to non-Muslims, on nearly every continent, are collateral, and indeed very often not-so-collateral, damage. (2 of 2)

Hour Four

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 4, Block A:  Brian Bremner, Bloomberg Businessweek, in re: Legal Weed's Strange Economics in Colorado  This is a blazing moment for American stoners. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes.  Libertarians and progressives are thrilled. Addiction specialists are anxious. And economists, well, they’re a little like undergrads lost in a bong-induced thought experiment: One moment the economics of pot seem beautifully elegant, then the real-world implications suddenly become . . . [more]

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 4, Block B:   Richard Leong, Reuters, in re: Exclusive: FBI suspects front running of Fannie, Freddie in swaps market    Wall Street traders may be manipulating a key derivatives market and front running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, hurting the US-owned mortgage giants in the process, according to an FBI intelligence bulletin reviewed by Reuters. [more]

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 4, Block C:   David Henderson, Hoover, in re: Debate over Minimum Wage Hike Is Obscured by Myths  Most people who earn the minimum wage or slightly more are the only earners in their households and therefore are poor, right?  And so, if the federal government or state governments raise the minimum wage, that will be a nicely targeted way of helping poor people, right?

Well, no. Wrong on both counts. Most workers earning at or close to the minimum wage are not the sole earners in a household, and most of them are not in poor households.  For those two reasons, raising the minimum wage is not a targeted way to help poor people.  That's the finding of a study by Joseph J. Sabia, professor of economics at San Diego State University, and Richard V. Burkhauser, economics professor at Cornell.  From 2003 to 2009, the federal hourly minimum wage rose in steps from $5.15 to $5.85, and from $6.55 to $7.25. Between 2003 and 2007, 28 states increased their minimum wages to a level higher than the federal minimum.  In an article in the Southern Economic Journal, Sabia and Burkhauser report that they "find no evidence that minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 lowered state poverty rates."  Moreover, they calculated . . . [more]

Friday  17 January 2014  / Hour 4, Block D:   Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a star almost identical to the Sun.

Astronomers have used ESO’s HARPS planet hunter in Chile, along with other telescopes around the world, to discover three planets orbiting stars in the cluster Messier 67. Although more than one thousand planets outside the Solar System are now confirmed, only a handful have been found in star clusters. Remarkably one of these new exoplanets is orbiting a star that is a rare solar twin — a star that is almost identical to the Sun in all respects.  This discovery is interesting in that some astronomers have proposed that our Sun itself was born in M67, the open galactic star cluster where these exoplanets were found. My March 2012 cover story for Sky & Telescope was on this very subject.

Honesty! The UN climate chief this week declared that communism is the best way to fight global warming.  United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said that democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model. China may be the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and struggling with major pollution problems of their own, but the country is “doing it right” when it comes to fighting global warming says Figueres. “They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”  Putting aside the minor detail that communist states have routinely had the worst environmental record — “ghastly” as the article above accurately notes — this statement by Figueres is remarkably refreshing in that might be the first time an environmentalist has admitted the movement’s true agenda. They don’t want to save the environment, they want to gain power and then use it to squelch everyone else’s freedom.

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Hour 1:  Inside Man. Elysium. The Recruit. The Kingdom. 

Hour 2:  Inside Man. The Kingdom. 

Hour 3:  Paths of Glory. Michael Clayton. Green Zone. 

Hour 4:  Appaloosa. Michael Clayton. Elysium.