Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

A Civil Libertarian is a Congressperson who got Wiretapped

Greenwald on Harman. Read the whole thing.


when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was “both legal and necessary” as well as “essential to U.S. national security,” and it was the “despicable” whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. [links in original omitted; emphasis his]

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Prof. Pollkatz: Bush Approval & the three Commander in Chief Moments

Stuart Eugene Thiel is a retired lawyer and economics professor (at least he taught at Wash. St and DePaul U’s) who comments around the blogosphere here and there. But to me he will always be Prof. Pollkatz proprietor of a really fantastic polling website with a concentration on Bush approval as aggregated from 15 national polls: Professor Pollkatz’s Poll of Polls Prof. Pollkatz graciously has made his graphics available for distribution as long as it is free, reproduced in its entirely and clearly shows his name. Conditions I think I met (certainly nobody is paying me for content here).

His work did a huge service to those of us who couldn’t figure out why the American people continued to support Bush. And the answer was that they really didn’t. Instead they rallied around the Commander in Chief at three separate points: 9/11, the Fall of the Statue (capture of Baghdad), and the capture of Saddam. At all intervals in between he lost approval at a steady rate. Prof. Pollkatz shows this with these two graphics (among others). I am having trouble getting the second one to load (the one that shows the spikes), so I’ll try to get it up in comments.

(Click on graphic to enlarge) This is really an amazing result. Bush never had any significant year over year improvement. He fractionally beat his previous number in a handful of shown sample points. But in total you can’t really quarell with Prof. Pollkatz’s caption.

Prof. Pollkatz shuttered his site on Nov. 8th with the signoff: “My work is finished. Farewell. We done good. Yes We DID.”

Well I can’t disagree with that. Consider this a lovely parting gift for the political genius Karl Rove. Nothing he did actually worked in any substantial way. His client bled support almost from beginning to end, numbers boosted by three events which were largely or totally out of either man’s control.

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Satire? Or Prophecy? Or just Being There?

In 1979 Peter Sellers starred in a brilliant movie about the ultimate in accidental Presidents. As the movie ends Chance the Gardiner has not actually been elevated to be Leader of the Free World but is well on his way. Because people could read meanings they wanted to hear into what he was saying. I hadn’t made the connection until today but this movie tells us much about the process which left us with the Boy Chimperor Bush. When Chance admits “I don’t read” this is taken as a statement that he instead acts from the gut and not by taking direction from the pointy headed among us. Which should sound painfully familiar. You want a ‘Bush Legacy Project’? I suggest forwarding a copy of the DVD to his library. It will probably give a lot more insight than any number of future biographies.

The only real difference between Chance the Gardiner and George W. Chimperor is that the team that picked Chance to be the leader of the Free World didn’t know where he came from. Whereas Uncurious George came with a pedigree. But the decision making process was much the same.

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Reasons I Haven’t Needed to Post

davenoon at LG&M and Kikuchiyo Jones subbing for the good Roger Ailes both clobbered the WSJ’s most egregious fluffing this year.

Martin Feldstein continues to try to destroy the previously-brilliant David Warsh’s reputation by openly declaring that the major Bush administration policy initiative was a complete failure, and that a dollar spent with a multiplier of at best 1.0 should be preferred to investments with spillover effects into private industry (and therefore multipliers definitionally greater than 1.0).

Warsh may never live down this piece, though economic historians may well find the seeds of the destruction of the discipline outlined therein.

UPDATE: PGL at Econospeak was there first, but is nicer than I am.

Meanwhile, it was left to the WaPo to explain Moral Equivalence in the Beltway:

Bill Clinton was sharply criticized for issuing dozens of pardons in his final days that included fugitive financier Marc Rich, while Bush’s father came under fire for forgiving Caspar Weinberger and others involved in the Iran-contra affair.

Yep, a man whose prosecution was viewed by the publisher of the New York Sun as “an error and a tragedy” is at least as evil as actively violating U.S. and international laws while working to support terrorists and destabilize democratic governments. Glad we got that one straight, guys.

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Symbolman: Dangerous lunatic or prophet before his time?

by Bruce Webb
Back in the day even to hint at some of the subjects of Symbolman’s brilliant flash productions was to mark you as being infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). But now in the waning days of Bush/Cheney maybe it is time to push back against the revisionism. Warning if you ever supported Bush or this war you probably need to use your scroll bar. RIGHT NOW. Because I guarantee you are not going to feel comfortable with any of this content.

Army of One If you can watch this without tearing up you may not have any heart at all. Note that this is copyright 2003 before we had any hint that the Walter Reed situation would exist. ‘Support the Troops’? My ass.

Bush no Nazi. A little edgier, but like all of Symbolman’s work fully documented. And also well scored, in this case with Spike Jones. Chorus: “When the fuhrer says we are the master race, sieg heil, sieg heil right in the fuhrer’s face!” In any event pretty illuminating about the source of the Bush family fortune.

Triumph of the Wimp. Whatever you do stick it out to the second half with the soundtrack of ‘Fortunate Son’. Which if it wasn’t written with Bush in mind certainly could have been.

And for people tragically stuck in print mode it is worth reviewing this Onion article published days before the Bush inaugral (Jan 17, 2001). Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’ Boy Howdy. Key paras?

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

Shortest verse in the Bible? ‘Jesus wept’. (John 11:35)

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A Collective "Aw, Gee" is in order

CNN works hard for its money:

Although ex-presidents in Adams’ day quickly descended into obscurity after their years in the Oval Office, today the transition away from serving as the leader of the free world is high-profile, potentially very lucrative and, above all, a difficult job in itself.

This is especially true for Bush, historians and political observers say. He not only must oversee the construction of a presidential library and begin writing his memoirs, but he also must grapple with salvaging a legacy mired in the lowest presidential approval ratings in history.

Despite the Dolphin Lady’s protestations (op. cit. Digby), “lowest presidential approval ratings in history” isn’t really an Exogenous variable.

At least now we know why he’s moving to Dallas; he’s got a job “oversee[ing] the construction of a presidential library.” Maybe he can hire Michael D. “Heckuva Job” Brown to work with him on this one, too.

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Taxation’s Rhetoric: Today and yesterday’s economic crap

by: Divorced one like Bush

In a posting regarding which presidents would be considered socialist I found the following curious:
1921 – 4% 73% Census
1922 – 4% 56% Census
1923 – 3% 56% Census
1924 – 1.5% 46% Census
1925-1928 – 1.5% 25% Census
1929 – 0.375% 24% Census
1930-1931 – 1.125% 25% Census

1982-1986 12 brackets 12% 50% IRS
1987 5 brackets 11% 38.5% IRS
1988-1990 3 brackets 15% 33% IRS
1991-1992 3 brackets 15% 31% IRS

2001 5 brackets 15% 39.1% IRS
2002 6 brackets 10% 38.6% IRS
2003-2008 6 brackets 10% 35% IRS

Notice anything about these 3 groups of income tax rates? No, I’m not suggesting that the lower rates are the smoking gun of today’s economic crap. Don’t want to run afoul of those scoldings of association is not causation critiques. But, do you not find it just a bit curious that approximately 8 years prior to an economic troubling time we get talked into reducing that tax rates? Three periods in history, all preceding an economy of crap. Varying degrees of crap, but crap just the same. We even had a housing bubble for 2 of them!

None of these tax changes can happen without convincing. A dialog has to have happened to convince the people that it is a good idea. And, I bet that the rhetoric of tax reduction is only part of a package regarding the overall idea of what is best to “grow the economy”. I bet, that tax reduction presentations have never been presented as a stand alone, single issue, unrelated to accomplishing a larger money shift. Being that we are relating today to the Big One, while at the same time hearing muttering that we are in “new territory”, my Angry Bear side asked: What else is similarly presented in the 20’s as part of a sales job of an over all ideology that preceded today’s and yesterday’s crap?

Installment Sell

Manufacturers realized they could expand their profits if they could grow their markets and so installment selling was introduced. The increased production volumes reduced the unit cost of items making them more affordable, and easy terms made for easy sales.

There is a reprint of an article specifically looking at the pros and cons of credit purchasing. Rather fascinating reading.

PAYING FOR THINGS ON “EASY” TERMS has become such a conspicuous element in American life, and so large a factor in our prosperity, that the economists have been doing a great deal of worrying about it. Source: The Literary Digest for March 5, 1927

Sub-prime anyone? Oh, did you notice that it was a concerted effort to sell the consumer that installment purchasing was good? I wonder if blaming the consumer for spending what they did not have was part of the discussion when the economy turned to crap then?


Christmas distribution of bonuses in Wall Street, when finally added up, is expected to prove the most generous ever made except during some of the flush World War years.

No accurate account of sums paid out can be made, according to the New York Times, because many firms do not announce their benefactions, but last year’s total was estimated at $50,000,000, and it is expected that the Wall Street firms paying bonuses are being no less generous this year. In fact, some firms which have never paid bonuses will start the custom this Christmas. Probably the largest distribution, we read, is being made by banks, which have been exceptionally prosperous.

Converting that $50 million we get various amounts: $586 million via CPI, $494 million via GDP deflator, and (drum roll please), $1.999 million via unskilled wage factor.

There was one perspective that was not accurate in their prophecies for America:

America has played square in China, and will have an inside track in China against the commerce of other nations.
China buys one billion dollars worth of outside goods every year. But that’s only, a drop in the bucket compared with what this customer may buy some day. “When the per capita foreign trade of China,” runs one government report, “is equal to that of Australia, the total will be sixty-five billion dollars a year which China will pay to the outside world for her imports.
“You can’t help seeing American business grow in China,” a business man from China told me. “Why, it has multiplied itself by four within the past dozen years. It’s eight times bigger than it, was thirty years ago.

The inaccuracy? The quotes are from a perspective of the American selling to China, not from China. And you thought Nixon opened up China.

Getting back specifically to the tax reductions, this web site offers a lot: The Tax History Museum
From reading the site, it appears a progressive tax system was put in place for the WW I war effort. They even put in a munitions tax to “appease” opponents of American involvement in the war; levied on manufacturers of military equipment, it was designed to prevent war profiteering”. There was an “excess profits” tax put in place which appears to be what the later progressive income tax became. Arguments for it were as today: equality. Against it:

It attracted bitter opposition from business groups, who considered the tax a threat to managerial prerogatives. They were certainly justified in their suspicion, since both Wilson and his allies in Congress considered the levy a legitimate means of business regulation.

Well slap me silly! A tax used to curb the excess of business. I hear some of you saying: Excessive CEO compensation regulation please?

After the war, the argument was that such high rates were “unsustainable”. It was the party of today’s tax cuts who yesterday cut the taxes:

Republican lawmakers joined with a series of GOP presidents to engineer tax cuts in 1921, 1924, 1926, and 1928. Andrew Mellon — who moved into his Treasury office in 1921 and stayed their until 1932 — was the principal architect of these reforms.

Certainly some Democratic elected joined in (early Blue Dogs, DLC’s of their time?).

In 1980 we got schooled in the Stockman trickle down theory of economic growth which included lower taxes will raise collections and bolsters economic growth. It was all about cutting taxes by his confession though. So, as I look to find evidence of selling tax cuts as a part of an ideology sell job regarding how an economy should run, such being clues that in the near future we will have economic crap, the following regarding Mr. Mellon’s position just confirms how ignorant we have been in our recent times (post 1981) to have followed those who suggest tax cuts as part of their economic program:

“Any man of energy and initiative in this country can get what he wants out of life,” he wrote. “But when initiative is crippled by legislation or by a tax system which denies him the right to receive a reasonable share of his earnings, then he will no longer exert himself and the country will be deprived of the energy on which its continued greatness depends.”

Worse yet, Mellon argued, high rates didn’t even raise money. By encouraging both legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion, they eroded the tax base and reduced overall revenue. Lower rates, he said, would actually raise money by spurring economic growth and reducing the incentive for tax avoidance. “It seems difficult for some to understand,” he complained, “that high rates of taxation do not necessarily mean large revenue to the government, and that more revenue may actually be obtained by lower rates.”

Can we have been any more stupid, shown our ignorance more than to have taken as a new idea, language regarding taxation’s need to be reduced and it’s effect on filling the government coffers that is as old as almost the day progressive taxation came into existence? Unfortunately, our stupidity has been worse than accepting Mr. Mellon’s similar arguments to those used by Reagan et al suggests. That is because, back in Mr. Mellon’s day he at least understood what Mr. Buffet of today understands but congress and by extension US do not:

Of particular note, he suggested taxing “earned” income from wages and salaries more lightly that “unearned” income from investments. As he argued:

The fairness of taxing more lightly income from wages, salaries or from investments is beyond question. In the first case, the income is uncertain and limited in duration; sickness or death destroys it and old age diminishes it; in the other, the source of income continues; the income may be disposed of during a man’s life and it descends to his heirs.

Surely we can afford to make a distinction between the people whose only capital is their metal and physical energy and the people whose income is derived from investments. Such a distinction would mean much to millions of American workers and would be an added inspiration to the man who must provide a competence during his few productive years to care for himself and his family when his earnings capacity is at an end.


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Daniel Davies’s Three Laws Summarized

Via the sainted and gorgeous Bess Levin at Dealbreaker the erudite Felix Salmon at, Michael Giberson at Knowledge Problem summarizes why even a Bush Administration initiative that might have had an upside falls victim to Daniel Davies’s Three Laws:

In response to disruptions caused by Hurricane Gustav, the DOE has indicated a willingness to release reserves from the SPR. Unfortunately, due to a continuing power outage – also caused by Hurricane Gustav – the DOE is unable to pump oil from storage.

Disruptions serious enough to be “economically threatening,” whatever that means, are very rare events – the U.S. has only released oil in such circumstances a few times in the SPR’s 35-year history. Power outages are also rare events. If the two kinds of events were uncorrelated, then simultaneous power outages and economically-threatening disruptions in oil supplies would unlikely in the extreme. But the two kinds of events are not uncorrelated, obviously.

As Platts reports, the SPR does have backup generators on site, but the generators produce insufficient power to permit pumping from storage. Any release of oil from the SPR will have to wait for power to be restored to the area. [emphases mine, but see the original’s as well]

So those past seven years of adding to the Reserve can be added to the list of abject failures when the time came for them to actually perform.

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Everything Old is New Again (Space Science Edition)

An article in Wired reminds us that space science can (and should) be relevant to terrestrial issues (*):

There is a new challenge, however, that could ensure NASA remains relevant over its next 50 years: global environmental change, primarily human-induced global warming.

Jonathan Trent of the NASA Ames Green Team, a research group trying to bring NASA’s expertise to bear on energy and environmental problems on Earth, put it poetically.

“We are the crew of a spaceship we don’t understand,” Ames [sic] said. “The radical technology we need is not just for us, but the life forms on Earth with us.”

This seemed oddly familiar. To the way-back machine NYT archives!

WHEN President Bush outlined his vision of America’s future in space last week, Mars and the Moon outshone another initiative that the President said was critical to the space program: a 25-year effort using a new network of satellites to understand how the Earth’s atmosphere, seas and living creatures function as a global system.

Yes, that’s President George H. W. Bush, and the story appeared on July 25, 1989. This was called “Mission to Planet Earth” at the time, though in the Clinton era it became the très-New Democrat “Earth Science Enterprise” and what did those diabolical Clintonistas do? Let’s jump ahead to 1998:

The craft’s surveillance target is not some distant world, but rather the home planet of those who built it. AM-1 is to be the flagship of a new generation of earth satellites called the Earth Observing System, or EOS, which in turn is the centerpiece of what until recently has been called Mission to Planet Earth: a 15-year effort to subject the interlinked workings of the atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces to detailed scrutiny from space.

It should be easy to guess at the gestational difficulties for the project:

As conceived at the start of the 1990’s, EOS was to consist of an elaborate array of six 15-ton satellites, each carrying 12 sensing instruments… to be launched over a 12-year period beginning in 1998. A complementary series of smaller satellites was to be sent into orbit starting somewhat earlier. The cost of the program, including operational expenses, was projected at $17 billion by 2000 and $30 billion by 2020.

But the project never found solid support. When Mr. Goldin became the NASA Administrator, he set out to make the space agency’s programs ”smaller, cheaper, faster, better,” and EOS was a prime target of his intended reforms…

[T]he program came under attack from Congressional Republicans who charged that its purpose was to push a global-warming agenda.

EOS survived that challenge, but was redesigned in accordance with Mr. Goldin’s philosophy.

Then comes the other George Bush:

The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA’s earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission.

As a result, the panel said, the United States will not have the scientific information it needs in the years ahead to analyze severe storms and changes in Earth’s climate unless programs are restored and funding made available.

“NASA’s budget has taken a major hit at the same time that NOAA’s program has fallen off the rails,” said panel co-chairman Berrien Moore III of the University of New Hampshire. “This combination is very, very disturbing, and it’s coming at the very time that we need the information most.”

After all, it isn’t as if the Bush Administration has ever sought to suppress politically inconvenient information.

(*) Not that there’s anything wrong with space science for its own sake.

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Money = Wind, Bush and Fox News?

By: Divorced one like Bush

Yes, you read that correctly. The right is reporting there is money to be found in wind. Sacrilege in their church of oil. In an article, May 17, 2008 we learn about a Bush administration report on wind.

A little back ground first:

With major government investments in wind in the 1970s, the U.S. was poised to be a dominant player in what was clearly going to be one of the biggest job-creating industries of the next 100 years. As late as the mid 1980s, we had over 85 percent of the world’s global installed capacity, and U.S. companies possessed the most critical knowledge about how to develop wind farms cost-effectively.
President Reagan cut the renewable energy budget more than 80 percent after he took office, and eliminated the wind investment tax credit in 1986.

Since the turn of this century, wind has been growing explosively. From 2000 to 2007, the industry increased fivefold in size. Last year, $36 billion in wind investments were made around the world, with $9 billion invested in U.S.-based projects. In 10 years, it is expected to nearly quadruple in size.

In fact, because the new wind turbines are tall, and don’t interfere significantly with grazing or farming, they have become popular in the central U.S., where the wind resource is best in the country. Some ranchers make half a million dollars a year by leasing only a fraction of their land for turbines.

From 2004 to 2007, the company’s wind turbine production has grown 500 percent, and the division brought GE revenues exceeding $4 billion in 2007.

While the multi-decade drop in wind prices has stalled temporarily, prices for the competition have gone up the smokestack. New nuclear plants, for instance, have tripled in price. Analysis for the California Public Utility Commission puts the cost of power from new nuclear plants at 15 cents per kWh. It also puts the cost of coal (without carbon capture and storage) at more than 10 cents/kWh. That’s a major reason why, since 2000, Europe has added 47 GW of new wind energy, but only 9.6 GW of coal and a mere 1.2 GW of nuclear.

The report:

…the recent Department of Energy report, called “20% Wind Energy by 2030.” With improved efficiency and a decrease in capital cost, the report found that wind power should cost 6 to 8.5 cents/kWh, unsubsidized, even including the cost of transmission to access existing power lines. And the cost of integrating the power into the U.S. grid would be under 0.5 cents per kWh. This effort would only add about 50 cents per month per household, or under 2 cents a day.

The study notes that “few realize that electricity generation accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the nation.” By 2030, wind would be cutting water consumption by 450 billion gallons a year, of which 150 billion gallons a year would be saved in the arid Western states, where water is relatively scarce — and poised to get even scarcer thanks to climate change. And on top of that, we get half a million jobs, of which nearly a third are high-wage workers directly employed in the industry.

So, this is what could be. Being that we are a “global economy”, our companies need to be able to compete, correct? Here is the competition environment:

By 2020, many European wind farms will be generating electricity at 2¢ per kilowatt-hour, making it cheaper than all other sources of electricity.

Wind-generating capacity worldwide is growing at over 30% per year and has jumped from less than 5,000 megawatts in 1995 to 39,000 megawatts in 2003—an increase of nearly eight-fold. The fossil fuel with the highest growth rate—natural gas—grew at just over 2% annually during the same period. Oil grew at less than 2% annually, and coal at less than 1%. Nuclear generating capacity expanded by 2% annually.

One would think that an industry growing at 30% would be far more inviting to the “free market” entrepreneur than one growing at 2%. But, that is not where we are seeing money flow. No, we felt it was wiser to spend it creating a democracy in an oil rich country. Then again, in 8 years of neocon election policy and 50 plus 1 strategy, we have not seen any major news organization go after the 49% not being ideologically serviced. Think that might have something to do with the policies we vote for?

But, back to the environment to be competing in:

With wind-generated electricity, the principal production cost is the capital outlay for initial construction. Since wind is a free fuel, the only ongoing cost is for maintenance.
Many countries in Europe are pushing hard to bring in more wind power. Here are a few examples.

The United Kingdom is requiring an investment of over $12 billion in off-shore wind farms that should satisfy the residential electricity needs of 10 million of the country’s 60 million people.
Tiny Denmark, which led Europe into the wind era with the development of its own wind resources, now gets an impressive 20 percent of its electricity from wind.
Germany overtook the United States in terms of wind-based generating capacity in 1997. Now Spain is close to overtaking the United States as well.

As to investments being made, it is just as we are seeing in beer:

Regulatory issues do not appear to have deterred energy companies from making US acquisitions. Energias de Portugal paid nearly $3 billion to acquire Horizon Wind Energy from the Goldman Sachs Group. The purchase doubled the amount of wind power operations in the Portuguese company’s portfolio. German utility E.On has agreed to acquire the North American assets of Irish wind power company Airtricity Inc. for $1.4 billion. Acciona Energia has acquired the wind farm development rights of EcoEnergy, a company based in Illinois. Spanish energy giant Iberdrola has acquired Oregon wind development company PPM Energy, as well as Community Energy of Pennsylvania, and more recently US wind farm companies Greenlight Energy and Orion Energy.

But get this, Fox News titles their article: Denmark Points Way in Alternative Energy Sources
Fancy that. Fox News says we can learn from the foreigners.

…most of the Western world was subjected to an Arab-led oil embargo. The crisis forced Denmark, which was 99-percent dependent on foreign oil at the time, to develop an alternative-energy policy.
In the 30 years since, Denmark has worked tirelessly to develop new technology and new policies.
Twenty percent of Denmark’s energy needs are now met by electricity generated by wind turbines, and the proportion is steadily increasing. Thanks to advances in technology and turbine design, the cost ofwind power has been reduced by 75 percent since 1970, when the programs began.
The Danish attitude toward energy conservation means “people don’t have as many appliances, or gizmos,” said Griswold, a frequent visitor to Denmark. “Also, there are stringent requirements for insulation when building new homes. Every individual mandate like that means the nation uses less energy.”
A major part of that success is the Danish commitment to and attitude toward its energy policies, Griswold said.

“After the [1973-74 oil] embargo, Denmark had the attitude that they were going to become less dependent on the outside world and more self-sufficient,” he said. “And upon making this commitment, they’ve gained benefits, including lower national debt, cleaner air and less dependency on other countries.”

Let me repeat the important part of that last sentence: “And upon making this commitment, they’ve gained benefits, including lower national debt, cleaner air and less dependency on other countries.”

One final point Fox News wants us to learn: “Danes would say, ‘Thank goodness we have a government that plans so well that we are only minimally impacted.'” he said. “The average Dane isn’t terribly conscious of being in an energy-saving environment because it’s so natural to [him or her].”

Now there is a message I would have never expected Fox News to promote.

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