Tonosama Lord of the Penguins…,” AFP, 1 April 2005, (from Riding Sun).

Emperor penguins looked up in awe as Tokyo’s main zoo unveiled its latest addition — a giant penguin said to be suspiciously close in height and weight to a human.

“A great discovery!” blared the special news release by the Ueno Zoo, saying the Tonosama (Lord) Penguin was 165 centimeters (five feet, six inches) tall and weighed 80 kilograms (176 pounds).

Kneel, for I am Your New God

As the cameras rolled, the real penguins rose their beaks and gazed up at the purported Lord — but then walked away disinterested when he took off his penguin face to reveal himself to be zoo director Teruyuki Komiya.

The press release — which stressed the newly discovered animal would be unveiled on April 1 — said the giant penguin’s favorite food was “white fish meat with soy sauce.”

Pondering a Cash Tax for Japan

Getting Japan’s Measure,” The Economist, 31 March 2005,

Near the end of an article dealing with statistical oddities of ‘s economy, a startling reminder:

The other sure sign of [economic] change would be a rise in confidence among Japanese households. Since the government’s household surveys shed little light on this, most economists look elsewhere for signs. The ratio of available jobs for every applicant is one closely watched measure, and it has improved sharply since early 2002. Yet Paul Sheard, Lehman Brothers’ Tokyo-based chief Asia economist, worries that this could be yet another “false signal”. For years, a rise in the job-offer ratio could be counted on to predict employment growth. But in recent years the link has broken down (see chart). Mr Sheard reckons that there is now a big mismatch in the Japanese labour market, because workers with outdated skills cannot handle the new kinds of jobs that employers want to fill these days.

The best indicator of all, however, may be the one that never seems to change. Although foreign investors began pouring money into Japanese equities nearly two years ago, Japan’s own savers continue to keep more than 55% of their financial assets in cash and bank deposits, despite zero interest rates. This, says Mr Sheard, is a sure sign that Japanese workers and consumers lack confidence in their economy. Until that attitude changes, deflation will continue to be a menace.

Japan’s financial system is pre-Modern. Japan is vital for the world — it is the second largest economy and has one of the largest navies — so tt must be fixed. But how?

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Tom Friedman emphasized that a nation’s finances rest on a three-legged stool: stock markets, bond markets, and banks. A nation without these three is much more likely to face slow growth or economic collapse. Japan has bloated banks and starved stock and bond markets. For example, a recent Riding Sun post mentioned high-profile criticism of a Japanese executive for using stocks to buy a company. The above Economist article about the high liquidity preference of Japanese savers is another example.

Japan needs to move away from banks towards stocks and bonds. One way to do this would be a tax on cash kept in very-low-interest bank accounts. This would force money out of no-growth, bloated banks and into stocks and bonds.


My Negative Review of NationMaster

Update: is now entirely free. NationMaster assures potential users that it is not a scam site, and is attempting to nullify any problems they had in their billing and support areas.

Update 2: As of ‘s most recent email, NationMaster’s problems have apparently returned. For more information, please read NationMaster Watch

Adam at The Metropolis Times gives a good summary of what has happened. Another synopsis is also available.

Juan Cole’s Radical Centricism on Terri Schiavo

A Tragic Death and other Tragic Deaths,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, 1 April 2005,

I blogged Cole’s view of nation-building earlier today from the same post. But Cole is an original thinker and a great writer. I’ve pulled out that post’s comments on the case.

The Radical Center is that state of the far-Left or the far-Right where Left/Right differences fade away. Positions are so divorced from the political census that it is impossible to locate them on a conventional political access. Radical Centrist ideas are not necessarily wrong, but they are unusual.

Without comment, Dr. Cole’s Radical Centrist view on the Schiavo case:

What is interesting about the analogy, however, is that it seems to turn on its head the central underlying values of the anti-abortion lobby.

Anti-abortion activism is essentially patriarchal. It insists that the woman’s egg, once fertilized, is immediately a person and that the woman loses control over her body by virtue of being impregnated by her husband’s sperm. It is men who dictate to the woman that she must carry the fertilized egg to term, must be a mother once impregnated by a man. For extreme anti-abortionists, even a woman who has been raped or is in danger of losing her life if she tries to give birth must be forced to bear the child. A rapist can make a woman be a mother whether she likes it or not, because his maleness gives him prerogatives not withdrawn by his mere criminality.

The Schiavo case, in contrast, appears on the surface to be anti-patriarchal. The activists in this case attempted to deprive Ms. Schiavo’s husband of his status as her legal guardian and of his ability to decide, with the physicians, not to make heroic efforts to keep her alive in a vegetative state. The activists sided with his mother-in-law, thus appearing to support matriarchy over patriarchy. Why Tom DeLay thought that would be a way of beating up on the Democratic Party is a great mystery. But an even greater mystery is why his conscience would let him play politics with an issue that had touched him personally, when he let his own brain-damaged father die.

It turns out that anti-abortionism is not about life at all. It is about social control. It helps establish a hierarchical society in which men are at the pinnacle and women kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Likewise, the Schiavo case was in part about the religious Right dictating to Michael Schiavo how he must lead his private life.

And that is also how the Schiavo case makes sense in the end, because the religious Right feminized Michael Schiavo, made him into the pregnant woman seeking an “abortion,” and wished to therefore deprive him of choice in the matter. If hierarchy is gendered, then the persons over which control is sought are always in some sense imagined as powerless women.

It is about hierarchy, power and control. It is not about life.

IMAO Bought by the Koreans (Good)

Frequently Asked Questions, IMAO America, 2005,, a so-so blog that linked to me the other day lost its domain name recently.

It’s now owned by IMAO, a Korean tools firm.

From the new FAQ:

Q. When will IMAO products be available in U.S.?
A. Early in April 2005. Shipments to Canada come very soon.

Q. Are IMAO grips ergonomic and OSHA compliant?
A. Yes IMAO grips and handwheel give great comfort in the hand.

Q. How will IMAO products help my business?
A. IMAO helps customer to maximize their labor saving by providing standardized components for industrial devices and machines.

Q. What happed to previous site at this URL?
A. Previous owner sold URL to help the IMAO expansions into North American market. If you liek American humor, then you should also consider well manufactured IMAO grips and handwheels.

You know what? Good. imao’s “Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated.” motto made a laughing stock of truly objective and disinterested newes sources such as Fox News. So long blogs. From now on, I’m trusting the pros.

Federalism on Homosexualism

House OKs citizen vote on gay marriage,” by Jean Hopfensperger and Conrad Defiebre, Star Tribune, 1 April 2005, (from Democratic Underground).

Governor of Maine Signs Gay Rights Bill,” by Glenn Adams, Associated Press, 1 April 2005,,1280,-4906031,00.html (from Democratic Underground).

Different states, different policies. The beauty of federalism.

Minnesota is pondering upping its legislative institution on heterosexual marraigesto a constitutional one.

A controversial bill to let voters decide whether to put a ban on same-sex marriages in the state Constitution was approved by the Minnesota House on Thursday on a vote of 77 to 56.

If the bill passes the Senate, voters in the 2006 election would consider a constitutional amendment to limit marriage or “its legal equivalent” to “only a union of one man and one woman.”

Although Minnesota law already bans same-sex marriage, the amendment is needed to thwart potential court challenges, proponents argued during a heated floor debate.

While Maine decides individuals have too muh freedom. Here come the state controls:

Gov. John Baldacci on Thursday signed legislation that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. Within hours, a religious group launched a campaign to overturn the new law.

“This act not only offers essential civil rights, but serves as a welcome,” the Democratic governor told supporters who packed the State House Cabinet Room. “Our doors are open to all people. This is a proud day for Maine.”

The law, which received final House and Senate passage Wednesday night, takes effect in late June.

The measure amends the Maine Human Rights Act by making discrimination illegal in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education based on sexual orientation or gender. Maine law now prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, disability, religion, ancestry and national origin.

The new law will exempt religious organizations that do not receive public funds. It also makes clear the law does not condone or authorize gay marriages.

Of course, the news from Minnesota is happier than the news from Maine. Minnesota is defending the status quo, while Maine is sweepign away horizontal bonds with vertical controls. Maine’s unease with private property and freedom of association is obvious (though Augusta has yet to legalize homosexualist marriages).

But on another level, this is good news. Federalism gives voters more power because decisions are made closer to them. Minnesotans may have one future worth creating, Mainites another. This is preferable to nation-wide laws, which the left pushed a few decades ago and the right pushes now.

Cole: Nation Building is Rape

A Tragic Death and other Tragic Deaths,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, 1 April 2005,

I don’t see any other way to interpret his words

And that is why the Iraq war is the perfect symbol for the anti-abortionists. Colonial conquest is always a kind of rape, but now the conquered country must bear the fetus of Bush-imposed “liberty” to term. The hierarchy is thus established. Washington is superior to Baghdad, and Iraq is feminized and deprived of certain kinds of choices.

And that is also how the Schiavo case makes sense in the end, because the religious Right feminized Michael Schiavo, made him into the pregnant woman seeking an “abortion,” and wished to therefore deprive him of choice in the matter. If hierarchy is gendered, then the persons over which control is sought are always in some sense imagined as powerless women. Powerful non-fundamentalist men and uppity Third World countries that won’t do as they are told are ultimately no different from feminist women seeking an abortion. All must be subdued, in the view of the Christian Right.

His feminization words aren’t off base; Embracing Defeat argued the point that nations that lose wars are feminized persuasively. But the rape analogy is as clear an insight into Dr. Cole’s worldview as his Marxism.

Cole seems to view Arab states as helpless victims. He seems suspicious of personal rights, instead focusing on the rights of states. And he seems to believe the right of a state to determine the political freedoms of its citizens is similar to the right of a women over her body.

Cole is a leftist, not a liberal. He is an enemy of globalization and on the wrong side of history.

A Modest Geogreen Gas Tax Proposal ($5/gal gas)

We need a $3/gallon federal tax on gasoline. We can do it and make the tax a popular idea.

How? Give every citizen an equal check from the gas tax fund.

The average motorist uses 520 gallons of fuel per year. If we assume that in the first year the tax does not decrease the amount of fuel used (because people still have their old cars, etc), in the first year a $3/gallon tax collects $1560/motorist. Assume that there are 200 million motorists in America. This tax raises $312 billion in the first year. This money would then be redistributed to all Americans equally. Assuming 300 million Americans, this gives a rebate check of $1040/American.

This is a fair tax. The most serious criticism of a gas tax is that it is regressive. It hits those least able to pay — the poor — most. But a redistributed gas tax solves this problem. Further, most gas taxes hurt families because kids need to be driven places. In a redistributed gas tax, the larger the family the greater the rebate. A family of five, for instance, would have a gas tax rebate of $5,200/year.

The first years rebate checks could be given as the gas tax effect, so citizens feel the benefits of the tax immediately. It is a patriotic plan to prevent oil dictatorships from driving our policies, to save developing societies from the corruption of oil, and of course the air will be cleaner.

$3/gal gas tax now. The people will support it.