Agriwelfare v. The Peoples

After NAFTA Comes CAFTA: Labor may object to the Central American Free Trade Agreement — but not nearly as much as do the sugar and rice industries,” by Robert B. Reich, American Prospect, 8 December 2004, http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=8918.

Following up both on the “Clinton was a great President” and Chinese textile themes, WJC’s former Labor Secretary comes out in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In fact, the real issue surrounding CAFTA isn’t about manufacturing jobs at all. It’s about agriculture commodities like sugar and rice. U.S. sugar producers don’t want CAFTA. They want to keep their generous government subsidies and tariffs that result in sugar prices here being three times what they are on the world market. CAFTA would open the door just a crack to much cheaper sugar imports from Latin America, and America’s sugar barons won’t hear of it.

As to American rice growers — yes, there are American rice growers — they get more than a billion dollars a year in subsidies from Uncle Sam. A billion dollars is more than Nicaragua’s entire national budget. It’s even more than the total market value of all the rice that’s produced in the United States. Unless those subsidies are ended, CAFTA will flood Latin America with U.S. rice so richly subsidized by U.S. taxpayers that Latin America’s own rice-growing farmers will be forced out of business.

So you see, the issue behind CAFTA is really the same one that derailed the Doha round of global trade talks a while back: How to wean big agribusinesses off tariffs and subsidies so poorer nations can sell their food to the rich. To the extent CAFTA is a step in the right direction, it’s a good idea.

George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush. Three great Presidents, one great trade policy.

Turkey in Europe

Turkish Premier Slams German Opposition
Deutsche Welle
December 12, 2004
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1426240,00.html

At first, a pretty typical story

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out in a Sunday newspaper interview at Germany’s conservative opposition for its drive to torpedo Turkey’s EU membership bid, accusing it of populism.

“Unfortunately, the opposition in Germany seems to believe that it can make domestic politics out of our wish to join the European Union,” Erdogan was quoted by the mass-market Bild am Sonntag newspaper as saying. “I consider that to be a fateful error.”

EU leaders are widely expected to give the go ahead for the start of membership talks with Turkey at a crunch summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, but under tough conditions.

While German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has strongly backed Turkish negotiations toward full membership in the EU, the opposition Christian Union parties reject this goal, calling for a “privileged partnership” with the predominantly Muslim country.

My first reaction? “Germany. Against the Liberation of Iraq. Against the Membership of Turkey. Against Muslims.” Pretty juvenile stuff on both mine and the Fourth Reich’s part, but then I read further:

The paper reported that the Christian Union parties would pass a motion in parliament Monday entitled “Do not close your eyes to the problems with Turkey.”

The document lays out what the opposition views as the dangers posed by Turkey joining the EU including “rise in gangland crime, Islamist threat and terrorist danger” in Germany.

Ah, because immigration problems in Germany are indicative of problems in… Turkey? It’s Germany that has the immigration problem. It’s Germany that’s invited thousands upon thousands of permanent “guest workers” into her borders, and gave them no way to integrate. Until very recently Germany even denied they were immigrants, or could ever be Germans.

As far as melting pots go, Germany is a nightmare version of the United States as it could-have-been. Desperate for workers, but unwilling to ever let the gaijan be “true” Germans. The problem is all on Germany’s end.

Expect the best of the new Germans. Even if his name is Gurkan or Safak.

Situation Normal, All F

`Scrounging’ for Iraq war puts GIs in jail
Sun Dec 12, 9:40 AM ET
Aamer Madhani
Chicago Tribune

But when Birt’s unit was ordered to head into Iraq in the heat of battle in April 2003 from its base in Kuwait, Birt said the company didn’t have enough vehicles to haul the equipment it would need to do the job.

So, Birt explained, he and other reservists grabbed two tractors and two trailers left in Kuwait by other U.S. units that had already moved into Iraq.

Several weeks later, Birt and other reservists scrounged a third vehicle, an abandoned 5-ton cargo truck, and stripped it for parts they needed for repair of their trucks.

“We could have gone with what we had, but we would not have been able to complete our mission,” said Birt, who was released from the brig on Oct. 17 and is petitioning for clemency in hope that he can return to the reserves.

“I admit that what we did was technically against the rules, but it wasn’t for our own personal gain. It was so we could do our jobs.”

The thefts mirror countless stories of shifty appropriation that has been memorialized in books and films as a wartime skill. Birt and other reservists in the unit said that what the prosecutors called theft was simply resourcefulness, a quality they say is abundant among soldiers in Iraq.

While in confinement, Birt had a chat with a military police officer who was puzzled by why Birt was in the brig. The MP, a guard, told Birt that his unit had “acquired” a Humvee in a similar fashion.

Our soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq. And the military lawyers have made it clear which side they are on.

Terrorists kill people. But bureaucrats kill people too.

Hat tip Democratic Underground.

One Dollar, One Vote, For You

Ever dream of getting mad at a crazy war, and not paying in retaliation? Ever get sick of federal welfare to the poor/corporations/farmers, and stop subsidizing it? Ever not do so, because you realize the penalty for that is imprisonment?

For years, international investors have been able to punish rogue regimes by withdrawing their money. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls these investors “the global herd,” and the new world “One Dollar, One Vote.” The global herd played a critical role in removing the Suharto regime from Indonesia.

President Bush wants to give you that power.

Most Americans pay no income tax, and yet they still have to subsidize the government’s policies. Their social security “premiums” go straight to buying government debt. The government forces people to vote for its politics with their retirement money.

The social security reforms making their way through Congress would allow individuals to invest some of their money in private accounts. Instead of the federal government getting cheap no-choice loans from you, you could stear that money where you want. Care only about profit? Go for a high performing mutual fund. Care for social responsability? Invest in so-called green funds that support environmentally friendly organizations. Similar funds for free speech, free religion, or free software could also grow.

Social security should enable social democracy. Support social security private accounts.

Obliteration Delayed is Obliteration…

China to Limit Some Textile Exports
Associated Press
Sunday December 12, 9:54 pm ET
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/041212/china_us_textiles_1.html

Red China has a new tax on clothes leaving the country.

BEIJING (AP) — China said Monday it will slap a tax on some of its textile exports in a nod to trading partners who fear that cheaper Chinese goods will flood their markets when global quotas on textiles expire next month.

China will impose an export duty on certain, unspecified textile products, the English-language China Daily newspaper said, citing Ministry of Commerce spokesman Chong Quan. The report did not say when the tax would be instituted.

The report said the duty would be calculated based on the quantity of the export rather than the value of the goods in order to “encourage high-end textiles.”

China is a dominant competitor in the US$350 billion-a-year (euro265 billion) world textile trade.

World Trade Organization members, including China, will see all quotas on textile and clothing trade expire on Jan. 1 as part of the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.

The United States and the European Union have expressed concern that the change will result in a glut of Chinese-made goods.

The reason is simple enough. After the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement international textile quota regime, China and India are going to be the big winners. They have cheap labor like Vietnam and Honduras, but much larger populations allow for much greater economies of scale. China also grows a lot of its own cotton, so it will be a one-stop shop.

This is scaring a lot of small countries, not to mention U.S. clothesmakers. Of course the devastation to this coddled American industry would have been mitigated if they would have supported the Central American Free Trade Agreement, allowing for tigher supply chains with much nearer latin producers…

Regardless, China is a big winner, and she knows it. Voluntarily limited exports for a time is a way of dampening protectionism in countries with the most losers. It’s disappointing rich countries are so captured by small special interests that the world price for textiles will remain higher than they should be for a time. It’s disappointing that the leading administrations don’t have the courage to face down the special interests, and instead allowed this regressive-tax-by-stealth on the world.

But January 1, 2005 will still be better than December 31, 2004 for the clothes trade. It’s all a step in the right direction.

A Global Failure

Maldevelopment – Anatomy of a global failure
Samir Amin, Ed.
http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu32me/uu32me00.htm
United Nations University Press, 1990

You can always trust the U.N. As the rest of the world was ending the Cold War and welcoming globalization, the United Nations continued prattling in pseudo-Marxist pseudo-intellectual hooey. Two excerpts follow.

The first is a contorted non-defense of OPEC price manipulation. More important than any argument it makes is the realization that allowing a sizeable fraction of governments to make oil be their main source of revenue leads to clap-trap like this. Almost incomprehensible, it argues that most OPEC dollars went to the west anyway, and the Oil Shock was mis-named and completely coincidental. It is from Chapter 2, The decade of drift: 1975-1985, Structural costs; the stakes; the struggle for the NIEO [New International Economic Order].

The claim of the NIEO coincided with the most serious post-war crisis. It was even argued that the oil price rise – the first (and as yet sole) indicator of the implementation of the Third World programme for the NIEO – was the ’cause’ of the crisis. A veritable campaign was orchestrated on this theme in 1973 and 1974, using every kind of argument and despite all the facts: the beginning of the international monetary crisis and the appearance of US external deficits since the mid-1960s, the precedence of stagflation, the scale and persistence of inflation rates irrespective of the calculable increase attributable to oil, the (still massive) placing of oil revenues on the Western finance markets, the modest role of petro-dollars in comparison with the movable assets of the transnationals in speculative fluctuations, and so on. The campaign has of necessity long hung fire: erosion of the oil price in the 1 980s and the reversal of the conjuncture (‘the end of the era of OPEC’) have never allowed it any funkier take-off.

funky?

The second is best read after Thomas P. M. Barnett’s weblog and The Pentagon’s New Map commentary. While some our trying to create a free global world, others prefer ghettoization. Few things are worse than infantilizing entire nations. But that’s what the U.N. does. The quote is also from Chapter 2, in particular The efforts of radical African nationalism: adjustment or delinking?

The discouraging prospect afforded Africa by capitalist expansion explains the frequency of the rejections and the high level of effort to ‘do something else’, to escape the simplistic logic of capitalism. But at the same time the objective conditions caused by this historical legacy make the task particularly difficult. This difficulty could be expressed in the formulation that the especially unfavourable external factor is combined with fairly unfavourable internal factors that have been largely shaped by that very external factor.

The response to the challenge of our age that we propose is celled ‘delinking’. The concept is to some extent half of an equation ‘adjustment or delinking’.

We shall not expand here on the theory of delinking but, to avoid any misunderstanding, say merely that delinking is not synonymous with autarky but only subjection of external relations to the logic of internal development (whereas adjustment means binding internal development to the possibilities afforded by the world system). In more precise terms, delinking is the refusal to submit to the demands of the worldwide law of value, or the supposed ‘rationality’ of the system of world prices that embody the demands of reproduction of worldwide capital. It, therefore, presupposes the society’s capacity to define for itself an alternative range of criteria of rationality of internal economic options, in short a ‘law of value of national application’.

Searching Google for “law of national application” reveals one result — that page. Fortunately this attempt at world sabotage seems unsuccessful.

No Transition Costs

On Social Security: The Washington Post Gets It
Jack Kemp
http://techcentralstation.com/120904C.html

Jack Kemp reports on the growing bipartisan push for Social Security reform, from the Washington Post…

For example, on August 14th, 2004, the Post editorialized that, “Mr. Bush’s sympathizers are right that Social Security privatization could reduce long-term deficits, and right that the nation should not be deterred by the transition costs.” The Post also discarded the class-warfare mantra that has consumed Democratic candidates and party loyalists for so long by reasoning that: “Privatization could also stimulate economic growth, boosting tax revenues and so strengthening the nation’s fiscal prospects via a second route.” They continued, “Private accounts would boost national savings” thus “savings would become more plentiful,” which, in turn, would “stimulate extra corporate investment and growth.”

The Washington Post editorial writers realize that Social Security, as it currently stands, is the “risky scheme.” The government can at any time raise taxes or cut benefits. Moreover, workers born after 1960 are expected to receive a real rate of return on their payroll-tax contributions of less than two percent. Alan Greenspan stated this in 1999; his estimate likely was generous. This measly return is not a fair deal for retirees — today or in the future — and is particularly bad for low-income people of color. Even workers who put their money in standard government-insured savings accounts will earn higher returns than the current Social Security system can provide.

The Washington Post has now followed up on that original piece with an even more promising editorial this week. This week’s piece entitled, “The Cost of Reform,” observed that creating personal retirement accounts without tax increases or benefit cuts would require “issuing perhaps $2 trillion in extra bonds over the next generation or so,” but added that the creation of these accounts “would generate an equal and opposing transition benefit” thus “the net transition cost should be zero.” Ditto for the effect on interest rates and the dollar. As the editorial makes perfectly clear, “Government borrowing would increase, but private saving would increase equally.” In other words, net national savings would not suffer. In fact, net national savings can be expected to increase, especially if personal accounts are accompanied by tax reforms.

Hat tip Tech Central Station

Helping the Terrorists

Over at the Corner

OVER THE BORDER [KJL]
And then there is the illegal immigration thing in Spanglish. The housekeeper (Vega) comes to America with her young daughter “economy class…”—they run across the Mexican border. And what does she do? Works her tail off, four jobs for $400-something a week I think her daughter narrator says at one point. Hardworking, decent, wonderful people are many of the illegals in the country. Totally the way W sees it. And totally true in so many cases…they just want the best for their families. It’s a single mother in this case whose husband inexplicably left her, as they do sometimes do.

But, of course, they’re still illegal…and if we’re not cracking down on her, we’re also not cracking down at the guy who wants to do us harm at a time when there is an active jihad being waged against us, among other things…

Meanwhile,

Homeland Security pick withdraws name
WASHINGTON — In a surprise move, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik abruptly withdrew his nomination as President Bush’s choice to be homeland security secretary Friday night, saying questions have arisen about the immigration status of a housekeeper and nanny he employed.

The common theme? United States federal policy supports terrorism.

In the first post, a fictionalization of a single mother working three jobs. Three jobs in the black market, because even though she wants to work, and employers want to hire her — even though there is work to do — our immigration policy hasn’t caught up to the fact.

In the second, the Homeland Security Secretary-designate withdraws his name over where or not a nanny paid taxes. Our top domestic opponent of Al Qaeda can’t work because of a nanny.

This is absurd. There is work to do, and immigrants want to work. We should expand legal immigration, reap the benefits of a growing economy, shrink the black market, and let our top fighters against Al Qaeda do their job.

Support working families. Kill terrorists. Reform U.S. immigration policies.

Update Powerline disagrees.

Democracy in Action

Iraq’s Odd man out?
The political currents are running against U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi
Kevin Whitelaw
U.S. News and World Report
December 12, 2004 Edition
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/041220/usnews/20iraq.htm

Even as insurgent violence in Iraq continues to increase, U.S. officials have been reassured by the stalwart presence of Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. But now, with the January 30 election fast approaching, there is an increasing realization in Washington that the administration’s key ally may not be in his job that much longer. In fact, U.S. News has learned that at a meeting two weeks ago, top Bush cabinet officials including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the prospect that Allawi might lose his job following next month’s parliamentary poll.
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In recent weeks, most observers have been more focused on whether the elections will even take place–and many politicians continue to fear that insurgents will target electoral workers and polling stations in an effort to disrupt the vote. But President Bush and the interim government continue to insist they will stick to the schedule. This means that time is running out for Allawi, whose efforts to fashion a unity slate of candidates to return him to his post have foundered. Most political observers now say that he is unlikely to be chosen to keep his job because many Iraqis believe he has failed to deliver on promises to improve security or deliver basic services.

Prime Minister Allawi (“No, Allow Me”) seems like a great man. He is unbelievably heroic for leading his nation at this desperate time. But even greater and more heroic is the new free Iraq. The identity of the next leader of Iraq matters much less than how he is chosen. May a free Iraqi people have a leader of their choosing, Inshallah.

Allawi, a secular Shiite, could still prevail, but it is not clear that the U.S. military is fully prepared for his increasingly likely departure. Allawi has given U.S. troops a fair amount of room to operate in Iraq–and backed them even during tough times like the siege of Fallujah. On the other hand, the ouster of the U.S.-backed Allawi could help convince Iraqis that the United States really is trying to build a democracy in Iraq.

Yup.

Hat tip Democratic Underground.

State of Fear

Remarks to the Commonwealth Club
Michael Crichton
San Francisco
September 15, 2003
http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote05.html

So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven’t read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don’t report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn’t carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn’t give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

There’s much, much more. Please read

Hat tip Peter Robinson, The Corner.

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