Why We Need a Consumption Tax

News of the Day,” Macroblog, 31 March 2005, http://macroblog.typepad.com/macroblog/2005/03/news_o_the_day.html (from The Glittering Eye).

Because this personal fiscal insanity has to stop

Personal spending rose 0.5 percent in February while incomes rose a less-than-expected 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The Labor Department said today the number of Americans seeking first-time jobless benefits jumped in the last weekly tally before tomorrow’s monthly jobs report.

Again spending rose faster than savings. This is great for Keynesians, but in the real world this retards growth and weakens are international position. Americans are literally selling out the future at steep discounts. A consumption tax would punish spendin, not earnings and not savings, and give us a sustainable economy.

Likewise, isn’t it great being a hostage to the Middle East?

Crude oil rose and gasoline and heating-oil surged to records on signs that U.S. refineries lack capacity to make enough fuel and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts predicted that oil could touch $105 a barrel.

….

It’s equally likely that oil will touch $105 or $15 a barrel,” said Jason Schenker, an analyst with Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte. “It’s not going to $105 without a major cataclysmic terrorist attack on significant oil infrastructure. It’s not a rational expectation.”

A geogreen strategy would take pain today, in the form of consumption taxes on oil, to avoid this randomness tomorrow. Oil revenue makes bad regimes horrible and fair regimes crooked. The oil system is lose-lose.

So we have two bits of bad news. Why not combine them?

Record prices have failed to curtail surging fuel consumption, the Goldman Sachs analysts said in a research note. The firm’s upper limit was $80 previously. U.S. supplies of gasoline and distillate fuels, such as diesel and heating oil, fell last week, according to an Energy Department report yesterday.

Great. We need a step enough oil tax to divert the excess revenue out of sheik’s pockets. If it would go to the treasury, fine. If it would go to a special fund, fine. But we cannot keep this us.

Russia Backs Indian Security Council Seat

Russia Tells Pakistan: India ‘Deserving UNSC Candidate’,” Daily Times, 31 March 2005, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_31-3-2005_pg7_45 (from The Acorn).

I blogged before on Russia’s responsible attitudes toward China. Part of the reason is Russia is excellently placed for Asia’s future — Moscow’s Cold-War-Era times to New Delhi should come in useful. The latest good news? Russia support’s India’s quest for a United Nations permanent seat:

Russia told Pakistan on Wednesday that India was a “deserving candidate” for an expanded UN Security Council seat, PTI reported. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s special envoy Riaz Khokhar was told this when he called on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, PTI said. Khokhar met Saltanov to convey President Musharraf’s personal message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The conversation focussed mainly on international and regional issues. “In the context of a upcoming UN reforms the Russian side affirmed the well-known consistent and principled position of Russia on expanding the UN Security Council membership. Moscow sees India as a deserving candidate,” said Russian sources, reiterating Putin’s statement in December last that Russia would back a permanent UNSC berth for India. However, Saltanov called for a consensus on UNSC reforms.

The Acorn adds his thoughts

Moreover, by leaking news of what was supposed to be a ’secret meeting’ the Russians did not lose the opportunity to score points in New Delhi.

Let Muslim Brothers Run

Al Qaeda’s Grand Strategy,” by Tigerhawk, Tigerhawk, 31 March 2005, http://tigerhawk.blogspot.com/2005/03/al-qaedas-grand-strategy.html (from Glittering Eye).

After the Iraqi elections, I blogged President Bush’s olive-branc to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is important that the Muslim Brethren be allowed to contest Egyptian elections fairly. If they are engaged as a democratic organization, the Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun will begin the integration of significant portions of Egyptian society with the rest of the world. Else, the Society of Muslim Brothers could revert back to terrorism.

I’m not alone in this belief

How do al Qaeda intellectuals explain what has happened in Afghanistan?

“They do not explain this well. This is why I think we will win in the long run. There are some things they do not think well about. They don’t trust the average Muslim. They do not have a good example. Whenever something bad happens to them, they say ‘The situation is clarified.’ They always say this. They also do not think very clearly about the sectarians. They are going to lose in Iraq because their message is not attractive to the Kurds and the Shiites.”

How is this going to play out in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is advocating democracy?

“There is a difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicals. It is kind of the tap root of these organizations, but it is not itself radical. Al Qaeda hates the Brotherhood, because it operates within a nationalist framework, which al Qaeda is very much against.”

Dr. was reportedly denied tenure by a Leftist academic department for his critical work on al-Qaeda. He isn’t some dove.

Every success in the Cold War came from using nationalists against ideologues. In China and Yugoslavia we helped turn a radical ideology into a patriotic party. We can do so against in Egypt.

In the new Egyptian elections, let the Muslim Brothers run.

International Political Fan Fiction

Aaron warned me that after Allawi’s Law, I was in danger of creating political fan fiction, and that he would have to avoid for me for that reason. That got me wondering, and I could find two other examples of this breathtaking genre.

From Ridiculopathy

A recent Google topic check resulted in several magabytes of text labeled “Greenfield/Russert Slash.”

Jeff suddenly stopped, drawing his face away from his lover’s gaze in shame. “This is wrong, Tim,” he muttered. “We’re from two different worlds, you and I. You have your life at NBC, and I have mine at CNN.”

Tim lifted his head from the bearskin rug stroked the protruding vertebrae on Jeff’s back. “Our love is forbidden, yes,” he said. “If our respective news divisions catch wind of this, it would ruin us both.”

Their bond passed wordless between them like an unseen ribbon of fraternity. They had been the only two prescient enough to predict the Florida mess in 2000, each respected enough by both parties to garner invitations to moderate high-level debates. Neither had fared well enough to keep a prime time cable talk show running for more than a few weeks.

Jeff pushed up the nose of his round tortoise shell glasses, resolved in his decision. “If running numbers with you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

With that, Tim put the bear costume back on for another go.

And IMAO has an entire category of the stuff (hat-tip Catalase).

“Why does it look like President Bush’s Social Security plans won’t be passed?” asked a reporter, “Is it because you’re so fat?”

“I’m not fat!” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan exclaimed, “And the Social Security plans will be passed.”

“Is it because you’re in denial of being fat then?”

“Argh!” Scott exclaimed and stormed away. “The press are being mean to me!” he yelled as he entered the White House. He then noticed Bush was spraying the interior with something. “What are you doing?”

“I’m spraying the White House with monkey poison,” he explained, “I’m pretty sure a monkey bit me while I was sleeping, and I don’t want any monkeys in my house.”

“A monkey did not bite you!” Laura Bush exclaimed, “You just imagined it!”

Bush kept spraying. “I can’t take that chance!”

But no international political fan fiction found. Allawi’s Law still wins!

Conservative Yasuo Tanaka (But not in Nagoya)

Japanese City Finds It’s Hip to Be Uncool: Years of Fiscal Conservatism Pay Off as Now-Trendy Nagoya Area Booms,” by Athony Faiola, Washington Post, 30 March 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11075-2005Mar29.html (from Riding Sun).

I first heard of Yasuo Tanaka from the book Japan Unbound. He came across as an unconvential but serious politician trying to turn around Nagano from its disasterous history of poor spending.

It looks like his home prefecture is doing well because of his fiscal conservatism

But the sophisticates in Tokyo and Osaka aren’t laughing anymore. In a nation still struggling to find its footing after a 13-year economic slump, Nagoya is riding high as Japan’s city of the moment. With an economic growth rate of 2.8 percent, greater Nagoya — home to 7.2 million people and some of Japan’s most successful companies, most notably Toyota Motor Corp. — is sizzling along at more than double the national average. The region boasts an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, markedly lower than the national rate of 4.7 percent, according to government statistics.

“Nagoya is doing better than the rest of Japan today because of a local culture of not being wasteful or risky,” said Shinobu Iguchi, senior economist at the city’s Kyoritsu Research Institute. “The rest of Japan made fun of that aspect of Nagoyans in the past, but the success in the region now speaks for itself.”

But analysts also cite Nagoya’s reputation for being stingy. In the past eight years, the city has trimmed 13 percent of its workforce, or 3,648 jobs, deemed part of a bloated government bureaucracy.

Especially considering that JU profiled him as the left’s answer to Shintaro Ishihara, it’s all the better. Let’s hope the Japanese Right can do for Nihon what the American Right did for the United States since the early ’80s.

Update: Gaijinbiker updates his original post

And I previously misidentified Yasuo Tanaka as the mayor of Nagoya, when in fact he is governor of Nagano prefecture. (The reference has been removed.) I’ve always had a problem with Japan’s “N-G” place names — once I bought an expensive Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Nagoya, instead of Niigata.

There’s a lot to be said for blogs. Refusal to admit that he was wrong cost Dan Rather his job. My local newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, constantly publishes inaccuracies and half-truths without correcting them. And not necessarily political ones, but basic facts of business, economics, and even sports. I suspect most of the main-stream media is like that.

Meanwhile, Riding Sun spots a goof, corrects it, and passes the word along. That’s the way media should work. That’s the way that the better blogs do work. That’s the way Riding Sun does work.

Back in the Day

The Good Old Days,” by Brendan, I Hate Linux, 31 March 2005, http://ihatelinux.blogspot.com/2005/03/good-old-days.html.

An eventful day today. In spite of a foul-up by USD, I got the Assistanship at UNL. So, failing a great counter-offer by my current employer, I’ll be there come August.

Brendan has a nostalgic and somewhat melancholy post about the past.

Not long ago I was talking with my friend Dan about the good old days of computing, the nostalgia with regards to different applications, the cost of new hardware, who was stuck on the worst pc for longer. Rather a sad topic for a couple of people in their mid 20’s.

One area that occurred to me was that of meeting new people.

Often these days, most people spend most of their online communication time with their friends and family, the IM and/or e-mail have in large part replaced the telephone enabling people to have multiple conversations simultaneously.

Go back a number of years, there were few on the internet, and even fewer who were capable of ‘chatting’ (ie having and using such an application). Back then, most who used such things did so on their own and didn’t know many people from the ‘real world’, so they ended up meeting lots of new people online.

Hopping onto IRC or some other chat service they’d spend time either with existing online friends from given social circles, or venture out and meet new people. Another common method was simply throwing ones ICQ # at the bottom of their webpage, e-mail, usenet posting or whatever was seen by others.

Heck, it was this way that I met my (now) ex. I was sitting in a Minneapolis chat room and someone entered saying they were from California, and me being the nosey person some accuse me of being, I IMed the person asking “You live in California and are in a Minnesota chat room… why?” And so began a nice conversation, like many over the years, but tapering off over the last few.

What’s the point of all of this? Just my thoughts on how much some things were ‘back in the day’ Back when ICQ was all of the rage, back when giving out your IP was not something to be feared, back when chat clients didn’t by default restrict messages from persons not on your ‘buddy list’.

Of course, a decade ago I was about crippled, so some things do improve. I remember being intensely happy while walking to Best Buy to purchase a computer with my family. In that same memory, I’m hobbling.

At one of the most influential periods of my life, all of my happy moments come from lying down. It was unfomfortable to sit, painful and exhausting to walk. I had accomplishments, but what stands out is how happy I was to fall asleep. I remembering being unable to walk a block to be at the White House fence. From the year before that I remember very little.

I remember that period of my life happily, and that comes from my loving family. I remember my first computer, a Packard Bell 100Hz with 16 megabytes of RAM and a 1.2 gig harddrive, fondly. I remember how mad I got at it, and how blissful playing Myst with my friend Aaron was. I remember getting (a virus-infected — egads!) copy of SimCity from him too.

My first computer had MS Paint, which I used to create (artistically terrible) alien land-scapes. My brother and I played Oregon Trail II, SimCity 2000, Hoover, and the Conquest of the New World battle-sim on it. I could forget my sickness and go anywhere and do anything. I’ve loved computers since. I wouldn’t have taken my undergrad degree from DSU without those experiences, nor my graduate degree from the University of South Dakota Computer Science Department.

Enough sentimental blogging for the day. And PS: I’ve had dinner with his ex. She’s hot. Cute and short and hot. Incredibly so. And so is her friend.

Asian Military Connectivity (Sino-Indo-Russian Foibles)

Ending the EU Arms Embargo: The Repercussions from Russia,” by Stephen Blank, Jamestown Foundation, 29 March 2005, http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=408&issue_id=3280&article_id=2369496 (from Simon World).

From Bill Roggio’s Assignment Desk,” by Bill Rice, Dawn’s Early Light, 30 March 2005, http://dawnsearlylight.blogs.com/del/2005/03/from_bill_roggi.html.

Two stories touching on China. One retorts an article on India snubbing the US by buying arms from other countries for a little less than a billion. Reading the article, though, reveals no mention of advanced US arms. Rice’s response:

The $746 million would likely not be paid out in one current defense budget year, and only represents 5% of 2004-2005 Indian defense spending of US $15 billion [February 5, 2005 Asia Times]. The same article hints at a possible purchase of 126 US F-16s: “The Indian defense community’s wish list is long, which they feel is necessary to modernize the country’s armed forces. These include a proposal to purchase F-16 fighter jets, Scorpene submarines and long-range rocket systems. The proposal to buy 126 F-16s – at $25 million each over five years – will itself cost the exchequer $3 billion. “

And that doesn’t even mention the advanced and expensive F-18!

But while Indo-American military connectivity is definitely a good thing, the Sino-European deal is not.

First, Brussels may be less responsible than Moscow

Since 1989, Russia has been China’s virtually exclusive supplier of military arms and assistance to the tune of $2 billion annually. China, however, wants to receive the technology and know-how to build these weapons indigenously so as to minimize its exclusive dependence on Russia. Since the Russian defense industry would collapse without the Chinese and Indian markets, it has had little choice but to oblige China’s requests. Thus, China now has the capability to make much of the Russian-type weaponry through technology transfer. To the degree that China can get top of the line weapons and communications/information technology that it needs (and in many cases better quality weapons and servicing) from Europe, the Russian defense industry will take a severe blow. Indeed, Beijing probably hopes to obtain technologies and capabilities that it cannot get from Russia since Moscow has been reluctant to sell top of the line systems to China.

Second, it risks turning an emerging democracy into a servant of an emerging economy

Last year, China already joined the EU’s Galileo project to tap into European developments in space and satellite technology. While there has been no official statement from Russia about the EU’s impending decision, there is clearly considerable unease as to what it may portend for the Russian defense industry – and for Moscow, which clearly displays considerable ambivalence about China’s future goals. This unease feeds into a broader sense that Russia cannot regulate the consequences of China’s growth and might face a creeping “satellization” vis-à-vis Beijing if it loses still more leverage.

Third, it empowers the worst people in the Chinese leadership

Thus, Beijing has the opportunity to not only pit the EU against Washington diplomatically, but also against Moscow with regard to arms sales and technology transfer. China is already attempting to exploit this trend. In late 2004, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov successfully proposed joint Chinese-Russian maneuvers to Beijing. Russia wanted to conduct joint anti-terrorist operations in China’s troubled Xinjiang province, a move that made strategic sense given Xinjiang’s unrest and proximity to Central Asia. However, China has recently insisted that the operation involve large-scale conventional forces in anti-landing operations and take place on China’s coast. That orientation would recast the joint maneuvers as a rehearsal for an invasion of Taiwan, not an anti-terrorist exercise.

Fourth, besides confirming CCK-Style Cravenness in Europe, in keeps war profiteers in business on the shrinking continent

However, it is also clear that individual members like France, Germany, and Great Britain are also pushing strongly to end the embargo. Although their individual motives vary, these countries have a common desire to rescue their ailing defense industries (which are finding it ever harder to compete in what is today an arms buyers’ market) by opening up to China and India. Likewise, they all hope to cash in on China’s economic growth and would seem willing to sacrifice their standing on human rights and democracy to gain these profits and expand their influence with China.

The only good news from the article? Pace Blank, China is improving

Second, there is no sign that China’s overall human rights record has improved despite the changes in the country since 1989. While China may be a much more prosperous and even freer country, none of those freedoms are anchored in stable legal human rights and can be removed at any time. Removing the embargo gives China a “good housekeeping seal of approval” and rewards China’s continued obstruction of democratic reform. At a time when the rhetoric and policy of promoting global democratization is trump in Washington, as shown in President Bush’s second inaugural speech, for the EU to reward China’s trampling of human rights hardly signifies a willingness to cooperate with America.

Economic liberalization is the cornerstone of stable democracy. Economic freedom is the cornerstone of political freedom. China is getting better. In spite of Europe.

Thune For Drug Reimportation

GOP conservatives strategize with Dorgan on reimportation,” by Geoff Earle, The Hill, 30 March 2005, http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/033005/dorgan.html (from South Dakota Politics).

Great news. My favorite Senator joins the fight for free trade in pharmaceuticals

A group of conservative Republicans has opened talks with the leading Democratic proponent of a bill to allow for the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. The talks raise the possibility that GOP leaders will have to hold back a united front of supporters of the controversial legislation.
Keri Rassmussen

Republican freshman Sens. David Vitter (La.) and John Thune (S.D.) are backing a reimportation bill that is identical to a House bill by Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.). The senators have been meeting with Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who last year tried to force consideration of the issue by holding up the nomination of Mark McClellan to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

If the Republican and Democratic senators can reach agreement on a compromise bill — or rally around one of the two existing proposals — they would likely have the political strength to prevail over the objections of leadership and pass a bill through the Senate.

In an interview, Thune warned, “We’re all going to vote for whatever gets to the floor. That’s why the leadership would be wise to bring Vitter’s bill to the floor. Something’s going to pass.”

Dorgan’s bill has seven Republican co-sponsors. If Thune, Vitter and DeMint were to join with those seven Republicans on a single approach, and Democrats backed it, they would be close to the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster. Dorgan has maintained that many additional Republicans also are supportive of his approach.cattle as well as drugs — when special interests are with him as well as when they are against him.

What a great Senator!

One North America Against Mad Cow

Canada, U.S. and Mexico agree to import standards related to mad cow,” Canadian Press, 30 March 2005, http://www.canada.com/news/national/story.html?id=d1aaf8ef-ca9e-4cf4-ac5f-87b5820abe1d (from Democratic Underground).

The economies of South Dakota and North America are helped by this bit of integration

Canada, the United States and Mexico have agreed to a single North American import standard related to mad cow disease, Federal Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell said Tuesday.

The standard, negotiated at a recent meeting in Mexico City, reflects guidelines laid out by the World Organization for Animal Health. It says that, as long as the materials most likely to cause mad cow disease are being removed from the animal at slaughter, and as long as animals are not being imported from herds where the disease has been found, then it should be safe for animals to move across borders.

“It’s a very important agreement between the three countries,” Mitchell said.

You can trade cattle between countries so long as you take certain steps and we are please that we have all three countries on side.”

Another good part of the agreement is that it keeps up momentum for further harmonization. The almost insignificant opening up of Mexico to Canadian cattle is important because it gets both Mexicans and Canadians thinking more in North American terms.

With the new standard, Mexico has indicated that it will begin a regulatory process that will eventually lead to the opening of its border to live Canadian cattle. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency estimates that will begin within three or four months.


Not that sort of Mad Cow

And the South Dakota angle. They won’t be keeping our cows out any longer. Hurrah for Sodak farmers!

Canada will also re-open its borders to American cattle. Mitchell said that will take effect Thursday.

“It certainly indicates that Canada believes in the scientific approach,” Mitchell said.

New TV Series: Allawi’s Law

Courtesy PKA:

The Allawi’s Law Season 2 Teaser Script

The teaser is meant to be a bunch of clips from the upcoming season.
Ayad Allawi: One Good Bad Cop

The teaser begins with Allawi chasing some bad guy down the street. As Allawi turns a corner we see a shocked expression on his face. The camera turns and we see the bad guy being cuffed by two regular cops and a female is standing aside looking on at the cuffing. The female lifts her eyes

Female: Good job detective. I’ll take it from here.

Narrator voice over:Condi Rice joins the cast of Allawi’s Law

medium_200px-condi_rice.jpg

The next shot is Allawi walking into the police station. He sees one of his bosses, the district commissioner who Allawi never liked.

Allawi: What’s going on?

Narrator voice over: Also staring Paul Bremer.
City Councilman L. Paul Bremer

Bremer: Now that I’m on city council, Rice is your new boss. Have fun. I’ll be sure to tell her all about you.

Bremer and Allawi then try to stare each other down

Next shot is Bremer and Rice in the commissioner’s office

Bremer: Allawi’s a loose cannon. Al Capone with a badge. He’s one mistake away from starting a war. If I were in your position I would cut him loose.

Rice: Really? Then why haven’t you gotten rid of him? Long silence. Maybe because he’s too effective?

Next seen has a man’s back talking on a celephone in the foreground and Allawi walking up from the background. Allawi walks up.

Celephone man: Got to go, he’s here.

Allawi: What was that about?

Camera moves to see behind Allawi’s back.

Narrator voice over: Ahmed Chalabi

But is he workign for internal affairs?

Chalabi: Silent laugh to Allawi’s face.

Next scene is in the break room with Rice and Allawi

Rice: How can I trust you if you are already lying to me? Do you know what city hall wants to do with you? The same thing they did to your partner. Put you behind some bureaucratic desk until you rot.

Allawi looks a picture of his old partner Benjamin Netanyahu. Rice, disgusted, walks out and is immediately stopped by Chalabi.

Chalabi: I think its time we allow Allawi chuckles to himself to have the strike team he always has been wanting.

Rice: Perplexed and just stares at Chalabi

Chalabi: But “allow me” laughs to himself this time to add an additional member.

Next scene is Allawi gearing up. A lieutenant runs up to him.

Lieutenant: Sir, we have a problem. It’s the new guy.

Allawi walks over and sees Chalabi’s addition
Jimmy Carter: The New Cop on the Beat

Narrator voice over: Jimmy Carter

Carter: I am ready to defend freedom.

Allawi has a skeptical/fearful expression on his face

Next shot is a meeting of Allawi’s loyal strike team members at a darken corner of a bar

Lieutenant: It’s the only way sir.

Allawi: But how can we trust Chalabi. If he finds out about the money train we’re all doomed.

Another Lieutenant: Drug money really is the devil’s money.

The final scene shows Allawi beating up a tied down drug overlord.

Muqtada al-Sadr
Narrator voice over: And a special guest appearance by Muqtada al-Sadr.

Allawi: Now, one last time. Where is the mayor’s daughter? Allawi holds a pistol against al-Sadr’s head

Narrator voice over: Allawi’s Law! This fall!