Womanly Cobuyitaphobia

Losing the HP Way: Two years after Carly Fiorina pulled off a transforming merger, Hewlett-Packard looks huge, frail and confused.,” The Economist, http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/3124290?f=related, 25 August 2004 (from BlogCritics).

After jumping on the cobuyitaphobe anti-Fiorina bandwagon

Carly Fiorina is stepping down as chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard after three years. She led the company through the challenging merger with Compaq, which has not gone quite as swimmingly as hoped for.

BlogCritics quotes from a 2004 Economist article on Fiorina’s (disasterous) immunity to cobuyitaphobia

[Carly Fiorina's] problem ever since has been to justify the beast she thereby created. HP’s shares are worth less today than on the day before the merger was announced or on the day it closed. A consensus has emerged in the industry that the new HP, the tech industry’s most sprawling conglomerate, has lost its focus and is being squeezed between two formidable rivals with much clearer business models, Dell and IBM. Where Dell stands for cheap, simple boxes in an industry that is commoditising, and IBM stands for patching together lots of fiddly subsystems in an industry that remains ridiculously complex, HP seems a lukewarm compromise.

Her problem, in a nutshell, is that HP is trying to be all things to all kinds of customers, and is leaving more and more of them plain confused.

The selection continues, criticizing Fiorina’s femininity

It is unlikely that Ms Fiorina, who in her previous career oversaw the spin-off of Lucent from AT&T, is a stranger to the theory of corporate clarity. Could it be that years of conflict in testosterone-filled rooms have left her afflicted with that psychology so common among bosses of the other gender: the compulsion to rule the roost?

The Three-Fourths Rule

Iraqi Elections (VI): The Results and Their Implications,” by Nimrod Raphaeli, MEMRI, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iraq&ID=IA20705, 16 February 2005 (from Iraq Election Discussions).

Finally, a breakdown of the Iraq Elections by seat

medium_final_tna_seats_sm.jpg

Note how close it is to IED’s post-election projection, and laughably different from my pre-election guess.

The biggest consequence is that it allows a UIA-Kurdish majority to override the Basic Law at will. In other words, if the UIA and the Kurds hold together no constitutional ratification is necessary. From the Basic Law

This Law is the Supreme Law of the land and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception. No amendment to this Law may be made except by a three-fourths majority of the members of the National Assembly and the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. Likewise, no amendment may be made that could abridge in any way the rights of the Iraqi people cited in Chapter Two; extend the transitional period beyond the timeframe cited in this Law; delay the holding of elections to a new assembly; reduce the powers of the regions or governorates; or affect Islam, or any other religions or sects and their rites.

Combined, the UIA and the Kurds have 78% of all seats in the Transitional National Assembly.

If the UIA-Kurds hold together, this ends the need for Sunni approval of the Constitution.

The Sunni boycott is proving disasterous. The rejectionists can now only be defeated by Shia-Kurdish infighting.

The Irrelevancy of Federal Credit

Questions,” by Collounsbury, Lounsbury, http://www.livejournal.com/users/collounsbury/286044.html, 10 February 2005

Debate Quality,” by Dan, Lounsbury, http://www.livejournal.com/users/collounsbury/286044.html?thread=1152604#t1152604, 10 February 2005.

I’m Not Implying That SS Is Optional…,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/02/09/farm_subsidies_welfare_queens_and_kings.html#c38898, 16 February 2005.

There’s a troublesome meme brewing that somehow government solvency has anything to do with Social Security as it now is

I don’t think that government bonds are without risk either. But what I do think is without risk is US Government solvency. Regardless of the strength of the bond that the accounts are drawn on, I believe the Government has an obligation to pay the benefits promised and will do so. That might mean a budget deficit or cuts in certain programs. Perhaps we could cut welfare for repeat customers or some other abuser of government good-will, instead of cutting benefits for people who have (documentedly?) paid into the system and contributed to the betterment of American society.

Aaron is not alone in his fears.

In reading the Talking Points and others, I come away with the hopefully unfounded sense that there is an actual argument in the US to walk away from Treasuries held by the Social Security contraption.

I could not care less about what the US does with its Social Security contraption, but please do tell me that no one is seriously advocating reneging on bonds.

Fortunately, this is just a lie being spread by the Left

There are advantages and disadvantages to the differen optionst. But no one is “seriously advocating reneging on bonds.” The Social Security Administration is a government entity controlled by Congress – it has even less independence than the United States Postal Service. It’s income, investments, and expenditures are all determined (directly or indirectly) by Congress.

Most serious plans keep SS “in surplus” forever, meaning that the bonds will never be redeemed (they have only been two years where SS was not in surplus in the past, and both were blips). However, even if SS would not run a surplus Congress could direct SSA not to redeem the bonds. Mechanically, it would not be “reneging” on the bonds so much as never calling them in.

Because the bonds are owned by an organ of government, and will be redeemed only if Congress wishes (a redemption that obviously would need to be immediately made up with either other bonds or revenues) they are not on the open market
.

Solvency has nothing to do with the Social Security Administration. Nothing

Congress is under no obligation to pay anyone, anything under the current Social Security system.

Some background. Congress may steal. In Amendment V of the Bill of Rights

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

So if the U.S. has a budget problem, Congress can’t just announce that money deposited in banks is now theirs. Congress can’t simply take stocks, mutual funds, or even land from anyone without paying for it.

However, you do not have property rights to Social Security. The only entity that does is the federal goernment, because all the money in the Social Security “trust fund” is money the federal goverment owes to itself.

The federal government has repeatedly changed Social Security formulas. Solvency is not an issue.

If you write someone else a big check, it’s going to come out of your account. If you default, you are in serious troblem. If you write yourself a big check… well, it’s a joke.

One Free (from foreigners) Korea

NK Must Decide About Six-Party Talks,” The Hankyoreh, http://www.hani.co.kr/section-001100000/2005/02/001100000200502070932001.html, 7 February 2005 (from One Free Korea).

Will China Lower the Boom on Pyongyang,” by Joshua, One Free Korea, http://freekorea.blogspot.com/2005/02/will-china-lower-boom-on-pyongyang.html, 13 February 2005.

South Korea’s Anti-Anti-Communist Regime,” by Mark, Zen Pundit, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/02/south-koreas-anti-anti-communist.html, 15 February 2005.

Unilateralism Update,” by Joshua, One Free Korea, http://freekorea.blogspot.com/2005/02/unilateralism-update.html, 16 February 2005.

On One Free Korea

Don’t be particularly encouraged by any of this. What China (and Russia) want is the status quo ante, with North Korea keeping up its churlish behavior and tying down part of the U.S. military in Northeast Asia. Neither Russia nor China wants to face the threat of a unified, democratic, and economically resurgent Korea that competes for influence in Northeast Asia.

and

The piece claims that South Korea has not yet made a decision to send 500,000 tons of fertilizer to the North (given yesterday’s lavish birthday feasts for the North Korean elite, you have to wonder whether there’s any other reason for fertilizer request than to create a split between Seoul and Washington). Nor, according to the Mr. Ban, was there any discussion of sanctions.

As a South Korean editorialist writes

If the talks are truly work to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, North Korea and the United States will each have to make mutual concessions in good faith. If the North is going to give up its nuclear program, the US must guarantee the North’s system and make appropriate compensation. There must not be a repeat of the same insincerity as in the past, where talks are opened only for there to be no substantial discussion. There has to be firm resolve and a serious attitude about resolving the issue, because without that the future will not be optimistic. The Korean government must be thorough in all it does to make sure this opportunity work. It needs to create a direct channel for convincing the North to act. Most key to what happens next, however, will be a strategic decision on the part of the North.

Mark at Zen Pundit writes

If Americans are puzzled by South Korea’s recent rise in anti-Americanism they really shouldn’t be. It was stirred deliberately by former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, a former leftist dissident who suffered at the hands of South Korea’s old, right-wing, military regime. It was Kim who patiently refashioned South Korean nationalism, away from opposition to North Korea and defined it in opposition to the United States. In all fairness, Kim succeeded easily because his policy was cost-free and the Clinton administration questioned neither his ” Sunshine Policy” nor Kim’s crackdown on criticism of North Korea’s lunatic regime, finding both to be politically helpful cover for their own appeasement policy.

The United States will probably find China to be a more helpful de facto ally in taming Kim Jong-Il’s mad nuclear ambitions than our de jure ally in Seoul

The more I think of it, the more my question on Zen Pundit makes sense: Is South Korea purposefully aligning with the north? Is the Sunshine Policy a calculate attempt to drive China from North Korea and the United States from South Korea? Is it an attempt to harmonize interests with the Pyongyang regime?

Prussia united Germany in slow steps. The Sunshine Policy may be a purposefully anti-foreign effort by South Korea designed to make Seoul Pyongyang’s best friend. ROK may figure: if Beijing can co-opt the generals, why can’t we?

Kingdom of Disconnectedness

Don’t dare say hello to your `infidel’ neighbor,” by Nathan Guttman, Haaretz International, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=Saudi&itemNo=539828, 16 February 2005 (from Free Republic).

Earlier I mused on the relation between the Reese Committe’s “functional-dysfunctional” dualism and Barnett’s “connectedness-disconnectedness.” If there was any doubt that Saudi Arabia is a disconnecting retrograde state, this should end them]

Take, for example, a document signed by the cultural attache at the Saudi embassy in Washington that instructs Muslims arriving in the United States not to initiate a greeting when meeting Christians or Jews, and never to convey good wishes marking a Christian or Jewish holiday. In general, the attache recommends that the Muslim believer avoid friendships with the infidels, be careful not to imitate their customs (e.g. not to wear a cap and gown at a graduation ceremony), and try not to remain in the country any longer than required. The Saudis feel that a good Muslim can stay in America only for two reasons: acquiring knowledge and capital to promote the objectives of jihad, and lobbying the infidels to accept Islam.

The Saudis are not our friends. They are trying to keep their own people in a cultural ghetto. They tell their subjects not to be friendly. They promote travel to America only to fund wars of disconnection or to create the disconnected future they want.

Credit Cards Are Good For You

Bankruptcy Reform and Credit Cards,” by Todd Zywicki, The Volokh Conspiracy, http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_02_14.shtml#1108490249, 15 February 2005 (from The Corner).

I’m Not Implying That SS Is Optional…,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/02/09/farm_subsidies_welfare_queens_and_kings.html#c38898, 16 February 2005.

Aaron’s comment is well written and wide ranging. I will have to take some time to digest it fully. But a quick opening salvo, tied into a recent Volokh Conspiracy post…

Aaron writes

Maybe it all boils down to my recurring fear: I am worried that as the other half lives better and better, the lower/middle classes will aspire harder and harder to fit in. I’m perfectly happy with Levi’s or anything else I can get at ShopKo. However, I’d say I’m a rarity. Easy access to horribly high interest credit drives more and more of the unwashed into debt. Now, I know the Republican party is earnestly trying to erod away the concept of bankruptcy for individuals, but that’s an argument for another day. I’m worried that some day not too far off, there’s a great reckoning in the credit industry, and as a result, those of us who are responsible end up taking it in the shorts. Maybe interest rates skyrocket, or maybe they plummet. Maybe there’s a period of economic instability. Maybe all the execs sail away on private yachts and the companies simply fold. It’s hard to say.

Up until yesterday I would have agreed. But in an article linked to by Ramesh Ponnuru, Zywicki writes…

Naturally, the first question everyone wants to know is isn’t the need for bankruptcy reform just a response to “too much” credit card credit. In fact, this argument not only lacks empirical foundation, it lacks sould economic theory to support it.

First, the argument doesn’t make much sense from an economic perspective. Unless credit cards have somehow removed the borrowing constraint on individual credit (and no one has provided any evidence that it has), there would be no reason to believe that credit cards would increase overall household indebtedness.

Instead, economic theory would predict that the primary effect of the introduction of credit cars would be to shift around patterns of consumer credit use, by substituting credit card debt for other less-attractive forms of credit, such as pawn shops, personal finance companies, and retail store credit (such as from appliance and furniture stores). In fact, this is what the evidence indicates has actually happened.

Credit cards have not worsened household financial condition, because although consumers have increased their use of credit cards as a borrowing medium, this increase represents primarily a substitution of credit card debt for other high-interest consumer debt. Although this may seem irrational at first glance given the “high” interest rates charged on credit cards, consider that for consumers the alternatives may include pawn shops, personal finance companies, retail store credit, and layaway plans, all of which are either more costly or otherwise less attractive than credit cards

Zywicki quick presents a chart, slightly edited here for space, showing credit card debt rising as less attractive debt falls…

medium_todd-credit_cards_3_sm.jpg

While debt has increased, this is due to car purchases As the car industry is engaged in a continuing price war, owing largely to low-price high-quality Toyota vehicles.

As this chart indicates, the growth in revolving (credit card) debt has clearly been a substitution from nonrevolving consumer debt to revolving debt, thus leaving overall consumer indebtedness (as a percentage of income) largely unaffected. Revolving debt outstanding has risen during this period from zero to roughly 9% of outstanding debt. Nonrevolving installment debt, by contrast, has fallen from its level of 19% of disposable income in the 1960s, to roughly 12% today. Thus, the increase in revolving debt has been almost exactly offset by a decrease in the installment debt burden. In fact the recent bump in total indebtedness in recent years was not caused by an increase in revolving debt, which has remained largely constant for several years, but by an increase in installment debt, primarily as a result of a recent increase in car loans for the purchase of new automobiles. Thus, there is little indication that increased use of credit cards has precipitated greater financial stress among American households. Because the increase in credit card usage has resulted primarily from a substitution of credit cards for other types of consumer credit, rather than an overall increase in indebtedness.

America does have savings and bankruptcy problems. As a nation, we do not save enough. Our rising health care costs are an economic danger. But our problems are not because of credit cards, and Americans are not less rational than in the past.

Core India and Gap Pakistan

India’s role in rebuilding Afghanistan: In spite of hurdles imposed by Pakistan, India has played a meaningful role in Afghanistan,” The Acorn, http://opinion.paifamily.com/index.php?p=1247, 14 February 2005.

Regarding the CIA’s soothsayers: The CIA’s predictions for India and Pakistan cannot simultaneously come true,” The Acorn, http://opinion.paifamily.com/index.php?p=1248, 15 February 2005.

In spite of hurdles imposed by Pakistan, India has played a meaningful role in Afghanistan

The Acorn has two posts contrasting India and Pakistan. India is a responsible player spreading connectedness, despite Pakistan’s efforts

New Delhi currently spends around $100 million on various projects and $70 million on the reconstruction of a 213-kilometer road from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan. This ‘new silk route’ road is the result of a project between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop trade with Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The route will utilise the Chabahar port in Iran to send goods to Afghanistan and to Central Asian countries. New Delhi has gifted three Airbus aircraft along with crew to support Arian Afghan Airlines, and more than 270 Indian buses currently ply in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat. In 2002, 18 Afghan judges and lawyers were trained at the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi. An IT specialist has been deputed to the Afghan government. In the foreign minister’s office in Kabul, a local area network with Internet access via an Indian company has been set up while Afghan bureaucrats are being trained in the use of computers.

Three Reserve Bank of India officials were deputed to the Central Bank of Afghanistan in July 2002. A team of 30 Indian doctors treats thousands of patients every week while $4 million has been allotted for the rehabilitation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. New Delhi will gift 300 vehicles to the Afghan National Army once Pakistan allows their transit. Pakistan allows Afghan exports to India via Wahga, but not vice versa. Thus, every day, a large numbers of trucks cross Wahga carrying dry fruit and carpets but return empty. No country is spending in Afghanistan as much as India, except for the United States, which spends $900 million annually. So far, India’s efforts in Afghanistan have the backing of the United States and Russia. Indian analysts say India’s interests are two-fold: it does not want the Taliban to resurface; and it wants the new Afghan security structure to be free of anti-India elements

Pakistan, meanwhile…

But, contrary to the Bush administration’s belief, the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan is very much real as long as its army retains control. There any so many rifts and divides in Pakistan that a fundamentally hamfisted dictatorship cannot heal or reconcile. Pakistan needs national reconciliation and the steady, irreversible return of the army to its barracks.

Until that happens, Pakistan will remain the borderline about-to-fail state that we have become used to. Unfortunately, foreign policy in America and New Delhi is doing nothing to veer away from this unhappy path. If the current equations continue, India can, without doubt, continue to register healthy economic growth, but Pakistan will remain a Damocles’ sword hanging over its head.

Consider that the Army is the only respected and stable institution in Pakistan, this is not good news.

medium_paki_map.2.gif

Pakistan is an imaginary state. It’s east is an extension of India while the west is made out of pieces of Balucistan and Pashtunistan. Pakistan is a nuclear state with a rogue intelligence service. Dealing with Islamabad’s failures is a great problem of our times.

Chinese Colonization of Shan State, Burma

A very special region: Sex and drugs in the Shan state,” The Economist, http://economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3600073&subject=China, 27 January 2005.

An interesting Economist article on a Burmese falling into China’s orbit

Remote and once dirt-poor Mongla has been reborn as a tourist destination, a process that started in 1989, when Myanmar’s army reached a ceasefire and autonomy deal with the Shan. The local warlord, a Shan Chinese named Sai Leun (also known as Lin Mingxian), built Mongla with an unorthodox mixture of opium profits and technical aid from China’s neighbouring province of Yunnan.

Around 350,000 Chinese tourists visit every year to gamble, frequent the massage parlours, and perhaps take in a Thai transvestite show. Lin Mingxian, as he was born, has clearly come a long way from his days as a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Mongla’s authorities earned $9.6m from tourism in 2002—and it is entirely possible that they concealed some of their income.

medium_shan_state.gif

But is it still Myanmar? Apart from the fluttering of Myanmar’s flag by the side of government buildings, there is little to suggest any connection with the rest of the country. Myanmar’s kyat are scorned; only Chinese yuan are acceptable. The street signs, the language, and most government employees are Chinese, though many are ethnic Chinese born in Shan state, as well as Yunnanese immigrants.

Opium poppies used to flourish openly in the hills around Mongla, but in 1997 Sai Leun declared his fief an “opium-free zone”. Chinese advisers were brought in to develop alternative crops, and Sai Leun promoted his new image as an anti-drugs campaigner—he is chairman of the Mongla Action Committee on Narcotics—by opening an opium museum to educate people about the evils of drugs. It strangely neglects to mention that until 2000, the name Lin Mingxian featured prominently on America’s most-wanted list for major heroin traffickers.

China is a force for connectedness, even in Autarky-lite Burma.

Update: ComingAnarchy looks at the Mekong Region, too. And a photogallery of Shan State is also available.

Update 2 (20 October 2005): Shanghiist looks at Chinese-led deforestation in northern Burma — it isn’t all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

A Syria-US Matter

U.S. Pressure Mounts on Syria,” CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/02/15/beirut.explosion/index.html, 16 February 2005 (from Collounsbury).

Iran, Syria ‘Form Common Front’,” BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4270859.stm, 16 February 2005.

Earlier, I blogged

We should use the tension of Iran’s quest for the Bomb, along with events like al-Harari’s assassination, to make a deal with Iran: the Bomb for Syria. It’s in their interests. It’s in our intersts. It’s in the interests of the peace of the world.

Hopefully this is coming true. Syria-U.S. relations are fraying

U.S. pressure is mounting on Syria in the wake of the deadly bomb blast in Lebanon that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Both direction and speed are against Damascus

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday Syria was “unfortunately on a path right now where relations are not improving, but are worsening“.

Who killed Harari? Who cares:

“I have been very careful to say we really don’t know who committed this murder at this point, but we do know what effect the Syrian presence in Lebanon has,” Boucher said.

Our ambassador was recalled

Ambassador Margaret Scobey was returning to Washington for “urgent consultations,” Boucher said, because of “deep concern, as well as our profound outrage, over this heinous act of terrorism.”

Now, take Iran’s new tune

Iran and Syria say they are to form a common front to face challenges and threats from overseas.

We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats,” Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Syrian PM Naji al-Otar

This is reciprocity

Both countries are under intense US pressure, with Washington accusing Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran is realstic. They believe that a functioning nuclear weapon will improve their position in the Middle East. And they know an Iraq-Iran Axis allows them to begin the liberation of East Arabia.

Syria is opposed to a Shia-Kurdish Iraq. Combining his father’s cynicism with his own incompetence, Bashar Asad is trying to maintain a balance of power favorable to Syria. He has been supporting the anti-Shia insurgency and selling his alliance with Iran down the river.

Iran’s sudden statement reminds us that Syria is traditionally in Tehran’s sphere. It still has some value. And like any valuable thing, it can be traded away.

Ashcroftian Socialization of Virtue

Gonzales Seeks to Reinstate Obscenity Case,” by Mark Sherman, Associated Press, http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=544&u=/ap/20050216/ap_on_go_pr_wh/obscenity_appeal&printer=1, 16 February 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

South Dakota isn’t the only place where the government knows what is best.

The Bush administration said Wednesday it would seek to reinstate an indictment against a California pornography company that was charged with violating federal obscenity laws. It was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ first public decision on a legal matter.

Billed as the government’s first big obscenity case in a decade, the 10-count indictment against Extreme Associates Inc. and its owners, Robert Zicari, and his wife, Janet Romano, both of Northridge, Calif., was dismissed last month by U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster of Pittsburgh.

Iran and Europe don’t have secular irreligious populations by accident. Both places socialized religion and virtue, which let people to forget both. “No one ever washes a rented car,” and no one ever cares for virtue, once it is public.

I’m with the judge in this one

If allowed to stand, Lancaster’s ruling would undermine obscenity laws as well as other statutes based on shared views of public morality, including laws against prostitution, bestiality and bigamy, the department said in a statement.

In his opinion, Lancaster said the company can market and distribute its materials because people have a right to view them in the privacy of their own homes.

Lancaster relied in part on the Supreme Court’s June 2003 ruling that struck down Texas’ ban on gay sex, which it called an unconstitutional violation of privacy.