Thursday, April 30, 2009

US and India Hold the Second Meeting of the Indo-United States Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group

U.S. and India Hold the Second Meeting of the Indo-United States Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group
Energy Dept, Thursday, April 30, 2009

The United States hosted the second meeting of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group at Idaho National Laboratory on April 28-30, 2009. This was the first meeting held by the Working Group since entry into force of the U.S.-India peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement, signed in October 2008, aims to provide new opportunities for trade and job creation for both economies, help India meet its rapidly increasing energy needs in an environmentally responsible way, and enhance global nonproliferation efforts by bringing India closer to the nonproliferation mainstream.

With completion of the peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, both governments are now working to reinvigorate technical discussions begun under the Working Group in 2006. Mr. Shane Johnson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, and Dr. Ravi Grover, Director of India’s Strategic & Planning Group in the Department of Atomic Energy, served as co-chairs of the meeting. They opened the dialogue by reaffirming their commitment to work collaboratively to face global economic, climate change, and energy security challenges.

Discussions focused on deepening mutual understanding of each country’s nuclear energy development plans, including light water reactors, near term reactor deployment, licensing, management of nuclear waste, research and development programs as well as international best practices. The U.S. delivered presentations on safeguards and physical protection. The Working Group will continue its efforts by developing an action plan to focus collaborative work efforts. Its next meeting is scheduled near the end of 2009 in India.

The Obama Administration is committed to the implementation of civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India and looks forward to India bringing its IAEA Safeguards Agreement into force, filing its declaration of facilities pursuant to the safeguards agreement, publicly announcing reactor park sites for U.S. companies, and enacting global standards of liability protection.

Obama Is a Statist, Not a Socialist

Obama Is a Statist, Not a Socialist. By Edward H. Crane
National Review (Online), April 29, 2009

Pres. Barack Obama is not a socialist. He is a thoroughgoing statist, perhaps the worst in American history. And with Wilson, FDR, and LBJ, he's got some serious competition. Republicans in Congress lack the leadership to challenge the president's audacious power grabs. More important, they lack any serious philosophical basis for doing so. The acronym RINO is an oxymoron, for the name "Republican" in fact designates someone with a commitment to nothing more than maintaining political power. The purpose of maintaining that power is to, well, maintain that power.

There is a reason sales of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged are going through the roof. The book is nothing if not prescient. The "Troubled Assets Relief Program" is straight from its pages. Monday's New York Times front page suggests Atlas may be starting to shrug. "Doctor Shortage Proves Obstacle to Obama Goals," laments the headline. Hmm. Wonder why there would be a doctor shortage in the face of nationalized health care? Perhaps bright young people considering a career don't want to work for the federal bureaucracy?

Time for those conservatives serious about limited government to re-read Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Strategically, conservatives have made three major mistakes. The first was to follow the advice of supply-side guru (and big-government Democrat) Jude Wanniski and not talk about spending cuts, much less the proper role of government. Economic growth replaced individual liberty as the rallying cry of far too many GOPers. Second, the neocons — mostly statists themselves — should never have been accepted into the fold. All they give us is a war against a country that never attacked us and schemes for "national greatness" like going to Mars. Enough. Finally, conservatives should jettison the social agenda of gay marriage, flag burning, and school prayer, and focus instead on federalism. Politics is about man's relationship to the state. That relationship, to be healthy, should be minimal.

Nearly two-thirds of crude still gets left in the ground

Squeeze That Sponge. By Guy Chazan
Nearly two-thirds of crude still gets left in the ground. With enhanced oil recovery, companies are determined to lower that number.
WSJ, Apr 29. 2009

Often stymied in their quest for new crude, Western oil companies are squeezing more out of the reserves they already have.

Despite the engineering advances of the past century, nearly two-thirds of crude still gets left in the ground. So oil companies are raising the ante, investing billions of dollars in cutting-edge technology to increase the amount of crude they can tap.

The potential rewards are huge: Raising the average recovery rate world-wide to 50% from 35% would boost the world's recoverable oil by about 1.2 trillion barrels -- equal to the whole of today's proven reserves, the International Energy Agency says.

"It's the prize for the next half-century," says Howard Mayson, vice president for technology at British oil giant BP PLC, which relies heavily on enhanced-recovery methods. Among the processes BP uses: flooding reservoirs with polymers that expand like popcorn when they come into contact with hot rocks, thus flushing more oil out of difficult-to-reach nooks.

Read the full report at the link above.

Confirm Dawn Johnsen

Confirm Dawn Johnsen. WaPo Editorial
A qualified nominee to fill an important Justice Department slot is being held up by petty politics.
WaPo, Thursday, April 30, 2009

HERE ARE some facts about Dawn E. Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC): She is a graduate of Yale Law School, spent roughly five years as legal director of the abortion rights group now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, worked for the next five in the Clinton administration's OLC, has been a professor at the Indiana University School of Law since 1998 and has been an outspoken critic of the Bush Justice Department's legal justification for harsh interrogation techniques. In other words, Ms. Johnsen is undoubtedly qualified for the position, and she should be confirmed.

Ms. Johnsen's confirmation has been held up by Republicans concerned that she's an "ideologue," in the words of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). Ms. Johnsen's nomination squeaked by on a party-line vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee and has been stalled for the past month amid filibuster threats from some Republicans.

Let's put aside, for the moment, the fact that the Justice Department under President Bush was perhaps the most politicized in a generation -- and that among the most warped sections of the Bush Justice Department was the OLC. It is nonetheless legitimate to ask whether Ms. Johnsen will behave as badly as some of her immediate predecessors.

Walter Dellinger III, Ms. Johnsen's boss during many of her years in the Clinton administration, wrote in a recent article in Politico that Ms. Johnsen's "commitment to the rule of law allowed her to put aside immediately and emphatically the confounding influences of policy preferences, political partiality and pressure from important governmental clients. . . ." Douglas Kmiec, a conservative and former Reagan OLC lawyer, cited in Legal Times several cases in which Ms. Johnsen "observed the law" even though it was at odds with her personal beliefs.

Senators concerned that Ms. Johnsen may try to contort the law to fit her beliefs can keep close tabs on her through the oversight process. This process, by the way, should be made easier by Ms. Johnsen's pledge to make public as many OLC opinions as possible. This is a welcome change from the previous administration and another reason to confirm Dawn Johnsen.

The Real Culture War Is Over Capitalism

The Real Culture War Is Over Capitalism. By Arthur C Brooks
Tea parties, 'ethical populism,' and the moral case against redistribution.
WSJ, Apr 30, 2009

There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture.

Despite President Barack Obama's early personal popularity, we can see the beginnings of this schism in the "tea parties" that have sprung up around the country. In these grass-roots protests, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have joined together to make public their opposition to government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud.

The data support the protesters' concerns. In a publication with the ironic title, "A New Era of Responsibility," the president's budget office reveals average deficits of 4.7% in the five years after this recession is over. The Congressional Budget Office predicts $9.3 trillion in new debt over the coming decade.

And what investments justify our leaving this gargantuan bill for our children and grandchildren to pay? Absurdities, in the view of many -- from bailing out General Motors and the United Auto Workers to building an environmentally friendly Frisbee golf course in Austin, Texas. On behalf of corporate welfare, political largess and powerful special interests, government spending will grow continuously in the coming years as a percentage of the economy -- as will tax collections.

Still, the tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an "ethical populism." The protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.

Voices in the media, academia, and the government will dismiss this ethical populism as a fringe movement -- maybe even dangerous extremism. In truth, free markets, limited government, and entrepreneurship are still a majoritarian taste. In March 2009, the Pew Research Center asked people if we are better off "in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time." Fully 70% agreed, versus 20% who disagreed.

Free enterprise is culturally mainstream, for the moment. Asked in a Rasmussen poll conducted this month to choose the better system between capitalism and socialism, 13% of respondents over 40 chose socialism. For those under 30, this percentage rose to 33%. (Republicans were 11 times more likely to prefer capitalism than socialism; Democrats were almost evenly split between the two systems.)

The government has been abetting this trend for years by exempting an increasing number of Americans from federal taxation. My colleague Adam Lerrick showed in these pages last year that the percentage of American adults who have no federal income-tax liability will rise to 49% from 40% under Mr. Obama's tax plan. Another 11% will pay less than 5% of their income in federal income taxes and less than $1,000 in total.

To put a modern twist on the old axiom, a man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart; a man who is still a socialist at 40 either has no head, or pays no taxes. Social Democrats are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the "sharing economy." They are fighting a culture war of attrition with economic tools. Defenders of capitalism risk getting caught flat-footed with increasingly antiquated arguments that free enterprise is a Main Street pocketbook issue. Progressives are working relentlessly to see that it is not.

Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship. They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can. It's also a moral issue to lower the rewards for entrepreneurial success, and to spend what we don't have without regard for our children's future.

Enterprise defenders also have to define "fairness" as protecting merit and freedom. This is more intuitively appealing to Americans than anything involving forced redistribution. Take public attitudes toward the estate tax, which only a few (who leave estates in the millions of dollars) will ever pay, but which two-thirds of Americans believe is "not fair at all," according to a 2009 Harris poll. Millions of ordinary citizens believe it is unfair for the government to be predatory -- even if the prey are wealthy.

Political strategy aside, intellectual organizations like my own have a constructive role in the coming cultural conflict. As policymakers offer a redistributionist future to a fearful nation and a new culture war simmers, we must respond with tangible, enterprise-oriented policy alternatives. For example, it is not enough to point out that nationalized health care will make going to the doctor about as much fun as a trip to the department of motor vehicles. We need to offer specific, market-based reform solutions.

This is an exhilarating time for proponents of freedom and individual opportunity. The last several years have brought malaise, in which the "conservative" politicians in power paid little more than lip service to free enterprise. Today, as in the late 1970s, we have an administration, Congress and media-academic complex openly working to change American culture in ways that most mainstream Americans will not like. Like the Carter era, this adversity offers the first opportunity in years for true cultural renewal.

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute.