Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Because I am here.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sat Oct 7th, 2006 at 11:52:22 PM EST
BBC: Shots fired amid Korean tension

South Korean troops have fired warning shots at soldiers from the North amid rising tension over North Korean plans to test a nuclear weapon.
Early reports suggest that about 40 shots were fired when soldiers crossed into the demilitarised zone.

Meanwhile, South Korea has welcomed a statement by the United Nations Security Council urging North Korea to abandon plans to test a nuclear weapon.

Seoul joined in calling on the North to return to six-party talks.

Some observers have warned that a nuclear test could come as early as this weekend.

After intruding some 30 metres (yards), the Northern troops returned to their side of the military demarcation line, it added.

One Southern military source, speaking anonymously to The Associated Press, said it was unclear whether the intrusion was "intentional or whether it was to catch fish".

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 12:03:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chicago Tribune: Jailed for 34 days, Tribune reporter writes: What I saw in Darfur

Humanitarian catastrophe poised to grow worse in weeks ahead

By Paul Salopek
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published October 8, 2006

One cloudless Sunday morning in early August, while traveling on a desert road in the remote Darfur region of western Sudan, a teenager sporting dreadlocks and an AK-47 rifle stopped my vehicle. My translator, Suleiman Abakar Moussa, stepped out and offered the youth a cigarette--standard etiquette in African war zones. But Moussa immediately returned to the car, frowning.

In this incidental way, I learned that we had just lost our freedom.

The young gunman belonged to a pro-government militia. And his patrol, after beating us and stealing our car and equipment, handed us over to Sudanese military intelligence. Moussa, my driver, Idriss Abdulrahman Anu, and I spent the next 34 days behind bars in Darfur, ending up hostage to a regime accused of mass murder. The government in Khartoum charged us with espionage, spreading "false news" and entering Africa's latest killing field without a visa.

It was hard not to feel, however, that our real crime was unspoken: reporting on a humanitarian catastrophe that is largely invisible to the outside world, and that is poised to grow worse in the weeks ahead.

Thousands of villagers will likely die soon in Darfur, the arid homeland of millions of farmers and herders who have been targeted in a ruthless civil war that some call genocide. Their torched huts, seen from the air, look like cigarette burns on a torture victim's skin.

Currently, a peace deal between the government and a major insurgent group is coming unglued. With the advent of the dry season, the Sudanese army and the fractious Darfur rebels are primed for a new military showdown. And, paradoxically, negotiators on the ground worry that a well-intentioned human-rights campaign, launched by Western activists on behalf of Darfur's civilians, may actually be locking in the violence. With Khartoum tarred as the bully, there is scant hope for any last-minute dialogue before the offensives begin.

Ironically, I wasn't focused exclusively on the Darfur tragedy when I crossed the desolate border separating Sudan and Chad on Aug. 6.

My Chadian colleagues and I were working on a much broader freelance assignment for National Geographic on the Sahel, the immense and turbulent band of savanna that runs across northern Africa, home to some 90 million struggling people.

Darfur was a side trip. Other journalists and aid workers had described how some Darfur refugees in Chad were drifting back to their ruined villages to rebuild their homes. It seemed a rare chance to profile civilians clinging to life in an intractable war zone. With our arrest, we unwittingly became part of that survival story.

For years, foreign correspondents have covered the Darfur crisis by slipping into rebel-held territory from Chad. Sudanese officials in Khartoum are stingy with journalist visas. Thus, much of what the world knows about a conflict that has killed at least 200,000 people comes from quick reportorial forays into the beautiful, lawless, corrugated plains and rocky escarpments controlled by Darfur's half-starved rebels.

Unfortunately for us, those insurgents can no longer be relied upon to guarantee our safety.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 12:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New York Times: Raise the Gasoline Tax?  Funny, It doesn't sound Republican

Mr. Greenspan was hardly a proponent of raising taxes on energy to encourage conservation, a policy prescription generally associated with the politicians and economists of the left.

Until now. In late September, as he spoke to a group of business executives in Massachusetts, a question was posed as to whether he'd like to see an increase in the federal gasoline tax, which has stood at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. "Yes, I would," Mr. Greenspan responded with atypical clarity. "That's the way to get consumption down. It's a national security issue."


N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economist who served as chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, favored a higher gas tax before going to Washington, and has been banging the drum loudly for it since he left.


The roster of what Mr. Mankiw calls "economists and pundits with the good sense to have publicly advocated higher Pigovian taxes, such as gasoline taxes or carbon taxes," includes some of the usual suspects --  Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, and Al Gore, for example -- as well as unusual suspects like Gary S. Becker, the economics professor and Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago.

Andrew A. Samwick, chief economist on the Council of Economic Advisers from July 2003 to June 2004, and a professor of economics at Dartmouth, is a member in good standing. So is Martin S. Feldstein, the intellectual godfather of a generation of Republican economists.


But as much as Republican-leaning economists like Messrs. Greenspan, Mankiw and Samwick may think that it's a good idea, the Republican politicians who control the levers of power in Washington think that it's an awfully bad one, even though gas taxes in the United States are far lower than those in other industrialized countries.


... because President Bush and his top political advisers are known to be adamantly opposed to any increase in the gas tax, economic advisers haven't pushed it much. ...

THIS highlights a professional hazard faced by academic economists who serve in presidential administrations. They must act as team players who value the overall success of the administration -- even if they don't agree with all of its policies. As a result, economists must often stow some of their policy ideas in an intellectual coat check at the White House gates, where they can be reclaimed upon return to private life.

Or did anyone slip these guys a copy of Energize America?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 12:51:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A significant difference between the U.S. and most other countries is that our fuel taxes are mostly usee for transportation-related projects, like roads. Gasoline tax doesn't go into the general fund here like it does in Europe...
by asdf on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 01:12:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't bought gasoline in the UK since I left 15 years ago.  (generally don't hire/rent a car when I visit)  I'm surprised the tax is that high--$4.24.  What's the price of gasoline today in the UK?  Must be incredible if that is the tax.
by wchurchill on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 02:11:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
85p-90p/litre, depending on location
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 04:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe prices are hovering just under the psychological barrier of £1/l and just over €1/l.

$4.24/gal(US) is $1.12/l or £0.60/l.

So, 2/3 of the price of fuel in the UK is tax.

$1/l = $3.79/gal(US)
€1/l = $4.77/gal(US)
£1/l = $7.08/gal(US)

as of today.

Wikipedia: Gasoline usage and pricing:

Norway (Oslo): $7.68/gal on August 8, 2006
UK: $5.58/gal on September 29, 2006
Germany: $5.29/gal on September 29, 2006
US: $2.38/gal on September 25, 2006
Venezuela (Caracas): $0.14/gal on September 29, 2006

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 05:07:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prices have been dropping for the last few months. They peaked at around £1/litre in July/August and have been on the way down ever since.

Pump prices follow crude prices almost instantly when crude goes up, but then come down only very slowly.

Usually what happens is one of supermarkets breaks ranks to score some quick cross-over interest, and the others have to follow.

Independent forecourts set their own prices, and they're usually even higher.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 05:40:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prices and price dynamics in Finland are around the same. A quid a liter is about 1,44 €, whereas here it is now around 1.3 €. I assume the tax levels explain the difference.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 05:53:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish the US had been smart enough to begin raising taxes, and thus prices, in the '70's.  We would have a lot different vehicle profile today if we had.
by wchurchill on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 03:11:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Look what happened to Carter.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks - that will be my story of the day...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 04:11:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't it a no-brainer for administrations? Demand reduction coupled with increased tax revenues. Hello?

Oh but of course, if you are a dyed in the wool tax cutter....

I will be interested to see if those countries with high fuel taxes start to manipulate the tax when base fuel costs rise painfully. When transport costs start to impact the economic viability of major employment providers, it may make sense to forego some of the revenue (which has been rising anyway)

If, however, you have a low tax component, it doesn't give you much room to manoeuvre eg in the States.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:03:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People have been demanding that European governments reduce fuel taxes to protect drivers from oil price increases.

That is emphatically the wrong policy - this is a genuine market signal (even if there is manipulation of market volatility the base price is genuine) and masking them would only make matters worse in the long term.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.

Tax manipulation does however have a short term use in stabilising costs for both corporates and homes. It cannot change the long term need for demand reduction/alternative energy needs, but could assist in the transition.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:19:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't agree.

The problem is that you can't tax people off car use if you don't give them an alternative. If there is no alternative, they'll simply pay more. This may raise revenue in the short term, but it also has the effect of introducing a rather random car-use tax with random social effects.

While you'll catch the gas guzzlers with this, some people who have to use cars - for example nurses, especially in rural areas - will be unfairly penalised.

A petrol tax only makes sense as part of a wider social transport strategy. Otherwise it's an example of believing in marketism, and the mistaken notion that if you can link a single variable to a single policy factor the wider social effects don't need to be thought through because the invisible hand will magically solve the problem for you.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 12:54:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to protect rural nurses, pay them more. If you reduce fuel taxes you reward fuel consumption.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 01:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fuel tax in Norway has actually been decreased somewhat over the last couple of years, to shield the politicians from getting booted out in the prior elections.
by Trond Ove on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 11:43:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Daily Yomiuri Online: Inpex deal not end of the road

Inpex decided to reduce its interests in the development of Azadegan oil field [in Iran] --believed to have the largest reserves in the Middle East--from the current 75 percent to around 10 percent. The decision comes as a number of countries consider implementing economic sanctions on Iran as a means of pressuring it to suspend its uranium enrichment program.


conforming to international pressure means that Japan has now been forced to give up most of its stake in a national project to develop its own source of oil--a goal it has been pursuing for many years.

... However, ... Katsujiro Kida, executive senior vice president of Inpex, was quick to insist that the decision was unrelated to the international situation.

"The reason is simply a delay in removing land mines," Kida said. "It was a business judgment made as a private company."

... Progress in Iran's removal of land mines in the Azadegan area was undercutting the main Japanese excuse for stalling.


Observers also note that even if sanctions [against Iran] are averted, it would be difficult for Japan to go ahead with development as long as the United States maintains its hard-line stance toward Iran.


If sanctions are put in place, China and India will also likely hesitate in developing oil fields in Iran. Oil industry experts therefore believe that Iran was pressing Japan for an early start to development to tie it into the project ahead of sanctions and prevent delays for other, similar projects.

With the Japanese side refusing to be hurried by Iran's repeated demands, the Iranians appear to have decided it was better to restart the negotiations with another party by recovering the Japanese stake, than continue with negotiations indefinitely.

Question for those more knowledgeable about these things:

If sanctions are put in place, China and India will also likely hesitate in developing oil fields in Iran.

And yet this article claims that

the Iranians appear to have decided it was better to restart the negotiations with another party by recovering the Japanese stake

But if the Chinese and Indians would "hesitate" to work with Iran, who else would be a candidate for this "another party"?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 01:16:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All foreign companies have found it frustrating to work on thse Iranian projects. From my personal, direct experience, I'd expect that the negotiations have collapsed on their own, without any link to the sanctions.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 04:10:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WaPo: Advocates Say Illegal Workers Suffer After 9/11 Cleanup

Jose Moncada watched the World Trade Center towers tumble, and, like so many Americans, felt a patriotic urge to help rescue survivors and rebuild after Sept. 11. "It was my time to put my hand on my heart," he said. "It was my time to help somebody."

It did not matter to him that he was an illegal immigrant from Honduras. And that did not seem to matter to supervisors who oversaw the retrieval of human remains and the removal of toxic debris at Ground Zero. They welcomed Moncada and thousands of other illegal immigrants, no questions asked.

Working on the pile for 10 days, Moncada breathed in thick dust, grainy asbestos and foul-smelling gases driven by an angry downtown wind. Now, five years later, he suffers from a hacking cough, nosebleeds, wheezing breath and life-threatening respiratory illnesses that also trouble thousands of legal U.S. residents who worked there.

No one knows how many illegal immigrants worked at Ground Zero in the days after Sept. 11. Immigration advocates claim it was thousands.

[... more horror stories ... ]

In 2004, an advocacy group called Beyond Ground Zero noticed more and more immigrants getting sick. The advocates approached Bellevue Hospital and asked for help. The hospital started an unfunded program that provided care to patients, and last year the American Red Cross donated money to expand the program.

This month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) pledged $16 million over five years to expand the initiative further. Within two weeks, the occupational safety committee received more than 350 calls from immigrants, Calderón said. Newton said 500 people had been screened for medical examinations by her organization, and 700 people were waiting.

But the assistance may have come too late for illegal immigrants who have gone home since working at Ground Zero, advocates and workers said.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:10:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
boy, it sure rubs in the significance of your sig...

unbelievable....if the american public really ever does find out how much funny business there was arouund 9/11, there will be a public rage and will-for-accountability that will be up there with....i was going to say 'nuremberg', then godwin nudged...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 9th, 2006 at 05:47:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New York Times: Death Squad Fears Again Haunt Argentina

A crucial witness in the trial of a notorious human rights abuser has been missing for nearly three weeks, and authorities and rights groups here say they fear he may have been abducted and killed in a new campaign to intimidate prosecutors, judges and witnesses in cases that have not yet gone to court.

Mr. López vanished Sept. 18, one day before Miguel Etchecolatz, who was the police commissioner in Buenos Aires Province during the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, was sentenced to life in prison.

The disappearance of Jorge Julio López, 77, a retired construction worker and former political prisoner, has awakened a host of old fears among Argentines. Some worry that it is a signal of a return of right-wing death squads that were thought to be extinct, precisely at the moment when the leaders of those groups are belatedly being summoned to justice.

"They are sending a message, that they can still threaten, kidnap and kill," said Nilda Eloy of the Association of Former Detainees and the Disappeared, referring to former members of the police, security and military forces that were responsible for the forced disappearance of as many as 30,000 people. "There is a great deal of fear."

Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, is awash in posters with Mr. López's name and image, some urging anyone with potential clues or leads to call a hot line, and others proclaiming "We are looking for truth, justice, Julio." The government has offered a $65,000 reward for information that can establish his whereabouts or fate, and on Friday night an estimated 100,000 people marched to the main plaza here to call for Mr. Lopez's reappearance.


Leaders of some rights groups said they had even returned home from meetings to discuss the López case only to find that they had been surreptitiously recorded, and that messages on their phone machines played back their own words.


"The past has not been defeated or overcome," Mr. Kirchner said last month in reference to Mr. López's disappearance, also warning against those who "want to sow fear."

"Let's stay on the alert, Argentines, we can't allow this past to repeat itself," he said.

The government has offered bodyguards to some rights leaders and potential witnesses who may be having second thoughts about testifying in the coming trials.

But some former victims, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were reluctant to accept that offer because the protection would come from members of the same police forces that were under suspicion in Mr. López's disappearance.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wall Street Journal: Tax Tidal Wave (Friday 2006/10/06)

Another round of Laffer Curve debunking in the pipeline?

... the government will soon report that the federal budget deficit for the just-completed 2006 fiscal year fell to about $260 billion.


The main cause of the deficit decline -- 90% of it, says White House budget director Rob Portman -- is a tidal wave of tax revenue. Tax collections have increased by $521 billion in the last two fiscal years, the largest two-year revenue increase -- even after adjusting for inflation -- in American history.


One place it has come from are corporations, whose tax collections have climbed by 76% over the past two years thanks to greater profitability. Personal income tax payments are up by 30.3% since 2004 too, despite the fact that the highest tax rate is down to 35% from 39.6%.


More good news is that dividend-tax payments appear to be up as well, even though the tax rate was lowered to 15% from as high as 39.6%. A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that "after a continuous decline in dividend payments over more than two decades, total regular dividends have grown by nearly 20%" and that this reversal happened at "precisely the point at which the lower tax rate was proposed and subsequently applied retroactively." There hasn't been a purer validation of the Laffer Curve since Ronald Reagan rode off into the sunset.

As for the budget deficit, at $260 billion it is now about 2% of our $13 trillion economy, well below the 2.7% average of the last 40 years. Most states and localities are also afloat in tax collections, and including their revenue surpluses brings the total U.S. public sector borrowing down to roughly 1.5% of GDP.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 06:42:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I refer my supply-side believing friends to Bruce Bartlett's debunking of the Laffer Curve from last March:

The economy has suffered from many recessions in the past and always recovered, usually without benefit of any tax cuts.

    Of course, revenues always fall off when economic conditions are depressed. Economists call this an "automatic stabilizer" that helps recovery. But this is not the same as legislating tax cuts expressly to stimulate growth.

    Anyway, the economic data upon which tax cut supporters rely doesn't really prove their case. If one compares the recovery from the most recent recession to the last one, it is hard to find any effect of tax cuts at all.

I think it still holds up.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 07:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is Bruce Bartlett again arguing against the Laffer Curve (again, back in March):

how likely is it that the Laffer curve is causing revenues to rise, as opposed to normal operation of the business cycle? Not much, in my opinion.

First of all, the Laffer curve came to prominence during a period when the top tax rate on dividends was 70 percent, and the rate on long-term capital gains was 40 percent. Economist Arthur Laffer correctly pointed out that a 100 percent tax rate would raise no revenue and that rates close to this would reduce revenue below what a lower rate would bring in. Given the tax rates in existence, it was plausible to argue that a reduction in the top rate and capital gains tax would raise revenue.

However, when President Bush took office, the top rate on dividends was down to 39.6 percent, and the rate on long-term capital gains was just 20 percent -- far below the rates Ronald Reagan inherited. It is very implausible that these rates were in the "prohibitive" range of the Laffer curve, such that a rate reduction would raise revenue.

But even if we grant the theory, how likely is it that the recent rise in revenue owes anything to this effect? Again, not much.

The fact is that it is only in very exceptional circumstances that there would even be the possibility of a tax cut that would so stimulate growth that it would pay for itself. Even the Bush Administration admits this. The 2003 Economic Report of the President  says, "Although the economy grows in response to tax reductions ... it is unlikely to grow so much that lost tax revenue is completely recovered by the higher level of economic activity."


Revenues as a share of the gross domestic product fell every year from 2000 to 2004, from 20.9 percent to 16.3 percent. The 2005 increase only raised revenues to 17.5 percent -- still well below their historical average of 18.1 percent of GDP. It seems to me that the normal cyclical expansion after the end of the recession in 2001 has done far more to raise revenue than any Laffer curve effect. Revenues are simply returning to trend, nothing more.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 07:23:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You will probably see it anyway, but just in case - Bonddad
by det on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 at 12:48:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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