Wednesday, February 23, 2005


The Montana state Senate and House of Representatives passed a joint resolution on Monday against the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Read the full resolution (it's short) here.

CAFTA is part of the USTR's divide and conquer strategy. As negotiations over the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is more or less dead in the water--not to mention the stagnant WTO Doha "Development Round" of talks--the USTR is pursuing a number of bilateral and smaller regional FTAs in their stead.

As the song goes, "What force on Earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?" It's easier to take on Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic than, say, all of Latin America and the Caribbean. That oughtta back Brazil into a corner.

Monday, February 21, 2005


The man who taught us that drugs and irresponsible handling of firearms are cool and that presidential candiates are all on drugs, Hunter Thompson, is dead at 67.

As a young politico and reader of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 1972 (it's the book that I won over my wife with, go figure) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I cold never stop thinking back to Hunter's observation of the "high water mark" attained by the progressive movement, sometime just before Nixon's decisive rout of McGovern--especially in this era of W (g-d I thought we had hit neap tide on November 1, 2004). After all that man had lived through and subjected himself to, I can only think that the age of Bush was too much for him to stand. He was always ahead of the curve.

Here is his last column: Shotgun Golf With Bill Murray.

UPDATE**: Now the NYT is reporting HST was 65 at the time of his death. Denver Post is also reporting HST as 67.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Wanted to welcome a neophyte blogger to the blogosphere (are we calling our "left" nook Blogovia or Blogistan these days, I forget: Freiheit Und Wissen. For those of you who don't speak German, this translates to Freedom and Wisdom (I'm guessing here, I don't speak German either). C.N. Todd is a philosophy grad student and, from what I can gather, an armchair political junkie ranging from left to left of left on the spectrum. His postings are a combination of blog syntheses and keen, original insights that can only be mustered by someone who spends his time thinking about the interstitial logic between our shared linguistics. (Please don't deconstruct me).

I also wanted to highligh a couple of additions to the Beyond Economic Globalization reading list (see "IDEAS" heading to the right):

Fred Block's book, Origins of the International Economic Disorder, is old and apparently out of print (though available used for quite cheap). But it is one of the best works on the collapse (or perhaps torpedoing by the Nixon administration) of the post-war Bretton Woods international monetary order. It should be no surprise to anyone, save the most devout Hayekian, that a given international financial system is the outcome of strategic economic statecraft and competition among national governments to maximize their exercise of power vis a vis one another. Yes, the liberalized global economy we all know and love is a product of state power. Thus, the outcome achieved by this contest of power imposes an "order" upon the world financial system. Or in this case, engineered disorder that promotes the global projection of American capital and military force. Block's study--actually derived from his doctoral dissertation--lends valuable insight to the political economy of international monetary relations.

The other notable addition to the list (by which I mean the other addition to the list) is Paul Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. So you want to learn about classical Marxist economic theory without slogging through antiquated nineteenth century texts? This is your book. It's all here: historical materialism, labor theory of value, crisis theory, imperialism, and so on. In three words, lucid and thorough.

P.S. Don't forget to rate the reading list. I'm told by inside sources that ratings are one of the criteria used by Amazon's algorithm to determine which listmania lists pop up when people search for keywords at Amazon. Better people see this than (retch) Cato's free trade circle jerk reading list.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Now that the Kyoto Protocol has come into effect, why not get in on the game and buy up some carbon? You remember's one of the many international treaties based on multilateral cooperation that President Bush stymied in his first term, even bore 9/11 "changed everything." lets you estimate how much carbon your household creates, and then purchase the rights to produce that much carbon. Carbon you purchase is carbon that can no longer be produced by private corporations.

How much does carbon cost? Well, it trades on a market, therefore individual economic agents with competing demands and factor endowments set the price. According to's estimates of my household consumption, carbon is going for about $6/ton, or about as much as a nice cheese steak sub.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Today'sProgress Report gets it right and wrong about Bush's invocation of African-Americans in his Social Security privatization campaign:

President Bush has decided to focus his hard sell on African-Americans. Last month, in his pitch, he said: "African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group. This needs to be fixed." President Bush has his priorities backwards. The issue that needs to "be fixed" isn't Social Security, it's the troubling statistic that African-American males have a shorter life expectancy than any other ethnic or racial group in America. If President Bush is serious about reaching out to the African-American community, his time would be more wisely spent addressing countless inequalities faced by African-Americans in the U.S. today.

Yes, of course this is a troubling statistic as well as typical Bush hypocrisy. But Bush isn't pandering to African-Americans, he's pandering to suburban middle class whites! Just like Collin Powell's appearance at the 2000 RNC convention, this ploy is not aimed at drawing blacks into the GOP base, but drawing in middle class whites who are tempted by the siren song of the Republican platform, but are otherwise loath to be lumped in with a bunch of racists. Quite a dilemma. Hence, Bush making overtures toward addressing racial inequalities, which appeals to soccer moms and office park dads. This is the demographic of people to whom Bush's proposal is being marketed. Everyone wants to make it rich in the stock market; no one wants to be a racist (okay, some people do want to be racists but I'm assuming here that they are an anomalous minority--please note I am distinguishing here between will and behavior--wanting to not be racist and not being racist are two different things).

Responses to Bush's invocation of the race card, a la the Progress Report, subtly decry Bush as racist. They impugn his motives. It's quite easy, I presume, for most African-Americans to believe Bush is a racist. That's why so few voted for him in 2000 and 2004. On the other hand, the label does not stick so easily for suburban middle class whites and their self-disavowed yet latent racism. It's just another partisan attack on the president who is trying to do something just: redressing racial inequality in America. Ultimately, such an "attack" is likely to yield the perverse effect of driving these people to the president's side on this issue. Not only will they be able to gamble payroll tax receipts on the latest stock fad or fraud, but they can feel good about doing it because its making them less racist. So everyone's happy, that is unless your one of those people dying prematurely or who has no money due to structural ineualities. But that's another soundbite.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


From the BBC:

[Mexican President Vicente Fox] said it was worrying that a criminal gang could infiltrate a presidential institution.

All he has to do is look a little north of the border. ZING!

Friday, February 04, 2005


CNN is rapidly becoming a Social Security misinformation machine:

From Media Matters:

For the second time in three days, CNN economics correspondent Kathleen Hays made an inaccurate claim regarding Social Security. On the February 3 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Hays incorrectly claimed that under the current system, workers are unable to "pass their Social Security retirement benefits on to their heirs." In fact, surviving spouses and children can all obtain benefits based on the lifetime payroll taxes paid by a deceased parent or spouse.

As the Social Security Administration explains, a surviving spouse is entitled to receive the "full benefits" that the deceased spouse would have been entitled to upon reaching the standard retirement age (currently 65, but scheduled over time to increase to 67). Even divorced spouses are entitled to those benefits, subject to certain conditions. Before reaching retirement age, a surviving spouse caring for a child under the age of 18 (or 19 if that child is still in high school) is also entitled to receive significant monthly benefits.


Perhaps she's on the Bush administration payroll? It's happened before.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


In the "Why didn't I think of that?" category: Sun Microsystems, as reported in today's FT is planning to marketize surplus computing power.