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The View From Afar

My blogging has fallen off of a cliff.  Work at Digital Lumens has been very hectic, with lots of travel.  Lots of sales activity will do that to you.  And, we’ve been busy at home with long-term houseguests from Central Asia, a son applying to college, a daughter’s first year in high school, Patriots and Celtics games, and planning an overdue family vacation!  Before I knew it, almost two months has gone by since my last post.

For the first time in more than 5 years, I took an international business trip this week.  I went to a conference in Lisbon, Portugal (life could be a lot worse), and I had a chance to talk to Europeans in the energy efficiency business.  It was very interesting to compare notes with others in a fledgling industry on a difference continent.

There is a lot of government-mandated momentum around energy efficiency.  They take reduction of carbon footprint very seriously.  Portugal is positioning itself as a clean-tech testing ground, with the government sponsoring all sorts of projects and industries as a way to solve high unemployment in the wake of the global financial meltdown.  Their stimulus was in the form of subsidies for solar and wind power, as well as tax credits to enable solar panel assembly for export to the rest of Europe.  Although there is the threat that the subsidies will soon end, it seems clear that they were really focused on creating jobs that they hope will somehow outlast the government sponsorship.

Is the kind of job creation that we should be doing the US?  Clearly, some of the stimulus dollars went to high-flying clean tech companies to help them build factories and infrastructure.  It’s probably too early to tell if they are creating enough sustaining jobs.  In general, I don’t think that you can justify this type of investment on a $/job basis.  What the government hopes to do is to get some sort of flywheel affect going that allows a new industry to start to create its own jobs, or at least start fully paying for the subsidized ones.  I’m skeptical of subsidizing a business where the core business premise is uneconomic, but maybe some economies of scale will kick in to solve that.

There was a great deal of interest in US politics.  I don’t think we realize how much a large part of the world looks to us to lead.  They want us to lead in foreign policy and in economic policy.  The prospect of the US failing to get things done in the light of post-midterm election gridlock was very disappointing to everyone.  And, the US’s shift to the right over the past 15 years has really been surprising to even the most conservative people I talked to.  European conservatives would almost be considered communists in today’s US political discourse.  And, as they pointed out, so would Nixon and Reagan.

The most embarrassing was trying to explain how people like Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Rand Paul could get so much support while seeming to take positions that are so much against the types of freedom that most Europeans associate with America.  Our image in Europe is still one of real freedom.  And, despite their cries of “freedom”, most Europeans associate the tea partiers with a loss of freedom – less tolerance, less help for those in need, and a harsher government.  They are worried that the hard shift to the left for the US will be bad for the rest of the world.  I just hope that the left and right can work together in the coming two years rather than having strongly entrenched views without compromise.

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Comments

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Just curious, what did you say when they asked you about clownish, sex offender senate candidate Alvin Greene? I realize that it is a bit harder to know about him since, for some unfathomable reason, CNN broadcast the DE senate debate but not the SC one.
http://articles.cnn.com/2010-06-14/politics/greene.south.carolina.primary_1_mr-greene-filing-fee-primary?_s=PM:POLITICS
http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-13/politics/greene.indicted_1_obscenity-charges-vic-rawl-campaign-issues?_s=PM:POLITICS

Tell me about their conversations about the congressman who was elected despite his bizarre behavior lead his staff to fear he was mentally ill. The staff limited his interaction with the public and many of them resigned. There were concerns about his drinking but as scion Patrick Kennedy proved, substance abuse induced incoherence is not a detriment in electing Democratic congressmen. The picture of Wu in his tiger suit is not to be missed!!

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/02/david_wu_oregon_congressman_we.php

Did you tell them about the congressman in your neighboring congressional district who get elected despite his wife laundering millions for her brothers illegal gambling enterprise?

Ah yes, those wacky Tea Partiers with that weird idea that some it is bad for the US government to spend $1.50 for every $1.00 revenue. The protesters in WI a mere month have exceeded the crude (and violent) behaviors of 2 years of Tea Partiers, but that does not make the international news.
http://biggovernment.com/jjmnolte/2011/03/17/20-days-of-left-wing-thuggery-in-wisconsin-when-will-obama-democrats-and-msm-call-for-civility/

Also remember, many of bad actors at Tea Parties are plants, as well as some TP candidates.
http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/two-charged-in-tea-party-election-fraud-20110316-mr
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/10/south_jersey_democrats_planted.html

Why is Rand Paul embarrassing, (besides having a working knowledge of the constitution)?

"Communists" is a harsh and well defined word that I would avoid using. I think it is much more likely that JFK today would be considered on the Right (strong defense, tax cuts, RFK limiting union power) than Reagan would be viewed on the left.

Nixon greatly increased government spending and supported price control so I too would put him on the economic left today. (Can you believe it, PRICE CONTROLS)?

Just curious, since you were in Portugal discussing green energy, was there any discussion regarding the fact that Spain's green job program was not a mere failure, but instead very harmful to Spain's economy?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/24/AR2009062403012.html
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a2PHwqAs7BS0
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/05/27/economic_reality_of_5_million_green_jobs_96680.html

Also, I do appreciate the irony of "large part of the world looks to us to lead" while being criticized for American hegemony and cultural imperialism.

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