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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’


Empowering Mobsters

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Former Mondale speechwriter Charles Krauthammer has been pushing a line for some time about increasing gasoline taxes. He does it again in an extended article in the current Weekly Standard, this time getting picked up by Sully and I’m sure others, who are latching on to his idea. This is an idea that will empower mobsters and encourage criminality throughout our society, and should thus be avoided.

The basic idea goes like this: back when gas prices were over $4/gallon, people seemed motivated to drive around less and spend money on more energy efficient cars. So if the invisible hand isn’t charging $4 for a gallon of gasoline, let’s force it by means of a tax hike, which will then be refunded to people by means of an income tax reduction.

The problem with this is that while people are motivated to drive less and choose fuel efficient cars when the price of gas is actually above $4/gallon, people become motivated to avoid the tax when the price is artificially set above $4/gallon by the government. And the primary catalyst for such avoidance is organized crime, or the Mob.

None of this should be news to anyone who is even casually schooled in economics. The concept is price elasticity, which states that the less elastic a price is, the less the price effects demand. This can be for a number of reasons. In some cases, like cigarettes, it’s because the consumer is addicted. In the case of something like gasoline, it’s because the switching costs are too high, i.e. moving closer to work, selling the car and buying a new one, etc. In THOSE instances, it behooves the consumer to seek out the cheapest alternative when making a purchase. In a world where the actual price of gasoline is above $4/gallon, that may include taking public transportation, etc. In a world where the actual price of gasoline is less than $4/gallon, but the artificial price of gasoline is above $4/gallon, then one becomes motivated to seek out someone who can procure the good at its actual market price. That someone would likely be a mobster.

This is basically what happens when goods for which there is demand is either made illegal or absurdly expensive by government. On the illegal side, we saw this with prohibition in the 1920’s, gay bars in the 1950’s, and see it with prostitution and drugs today. On the absurdly expensive side, the big one that comes to mind is cigarettes, where Hamas started smuggling them into New York City to help keep the price low. And of course, there’s gasoline in Europe, where the Russian Mob currently does a brisk business smuggling gasoline. I would recommend reading the book Red Mafiya for more details, but if I remember correctly, they already smuggle gasoline into New York City today.

Yeah, that’s exactly what I want, to create public policy that helps Hamas and Russian Mobsters enrich themselves, while encouraging them to be violent on our streets.

Here’s a better idea. If you want the price of gasoline to rise such that people choose more green vehicles and terror states stop being enriched, then you need to cause the ACTUAL price of gasoline or rise, or alternatively find an alternative fuel that is cheaper than gasoline to switch people onto. The former solution would be to bomb Saudi Arabia into dust, but since all our politicians appear to be on the Saudi payroll, I wouldn’t count on that happening any time soon. The latter plan would be the Zubrin plan, which may see some light in an Obama administration, but I wouldn’t count on it.

But raising gasoline taxes, that’s a monstrously bad idea.


Clinton Donors

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Worth noting:

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton’s foundation has raised at least $46 million from Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments that his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton may end up negotiating with as the next secretary of state.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by the former president to finance his library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts to reduce poverty and treat AIDS. Other foreign government givers include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Italy and Jamaica. The Dutch national lottery gave $5 million to $10 million.

The Blackwater Training Center donated $10,001 to $25,000. The State Department — to be led by Hillary Clinton if she is confirmed — will have to decide next year whether to renew Blackwater Worldwide’s contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. Five Blackwater guards have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on manslaughter and weapons charges stemming from a September 2007 firefight in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in which 17 Iraqis died.

The foundation disclosed the names of its 205,000 donors on a Web site Thursday, ending a decade of resistance to identifying the sources of its money.

Read more here. Unfortunately, the news article doesn’t link to the website where the donors are listed, and I don’t have time to go hunting right now. If you find it, drop me a line.



Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Asteroid writes about conspiracy theories today. I have one of my own.

It has puzzled me these last seven years why we never took out the Saudis. There can be no doubt that Al Qaeda was a movement that was basically fueled by Saudi religious extremism and petro-dollars. And the political will was certainly there in 2001-2 time frame. I certainly remember the Saudis running television ads showing quotes from prominent politicians saying what good friends the Saudis were. Surely they weren’t running those ads without reason, without poll numbers showing them that a majority of Americans would be happy with war against Saudi Arabia right about then.

So why didn’t we? The simplistic answer is that Bush and his clan are personally close with the Saudi Royal Family, and weren’t going to depose them. But surely we could have found safe haven for them in the United States somewhere.

Another objection I’d heard was that taking over Mecca and Medina would engender worldwide rage from the Muslim community. But isn’t the point to not be afraid of such irrational rage, and to put it down? Moreover, there’s no reason why attacking Saudi Arabia would require us taking over holy sites. Up until the 1930’s, those sites were run by the moderate Hashemite dynasty, and there’s no reason today why you couldn’t just extend the border of Jordan southward today and thus place the holy sites back into the hands of the moderates who until recently (by historical standards) were their stewards anyway.

And of course, a final objection was that we could never really rule over a people so extreme as the Wahabbi Saudis. But we did manage to rule over the Shinto Japanese, and even managed to wean most of them off of their extremism over time. If we really wanted to we could bring moderate clerics into Saudi Arabia and kill off all the Wahabbi clerics, destroy their institutions and seize their funds, which surely would change the Saudi people over time.

The real reason why we didn’t do any of those things [conspiracy] is that it very easy to wring concessions out of a party who has been marginally bad, so easy in fact that it is difficult to pass up the opportunity. In this case, we’re not only talking about Saudi money flooding the halls of congress, buying favors and handing out high-paying post-government jobs to anyone who will do their bidding, which in this case is to calm down the American people and discourage them from attacking Saudi Arabia. But more specifically, we’re talking about the periodic lowering of gas prices.

It has been noted that the single biggest determining cause of re-election for the Presidency is the price of gas. If gas prices are rising during election season, then the incumbent loses. And if they are falling, then the incumbent (or incumbent party) wins. And with that I note that the price of oil has just dropped to $92/barrel. This, after a major hurricane just ravaged the Gulf of Mexico. Coincidence? I think not. Hard to imagine a politician turning down the opportunity to manipulate the price of gas around election season and engaging in a hard and bloody war instead.[/conspiracy]

Let’s just hope that our next president, whether he’s a straight talker who puts country first or a change we can believe in, takes a harder line toward the Saudis than the current administration has.


It Sucks When Ed Markey Is The Voice Of Reason

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

He’s my congressman, generally a douche, but he’s right on today:

Here’s a quick geopolitical quiz: What country is three times the size of Texas and has more than 300 days of blazing sun a year? What country has the world’s largest oil reserves resting below miles upon miles of sand? And what country is being given nuclear power, not solar, by President George W. Bush, even when the mere assumption of nuclear possession in its region has been known to provoke pre-emptive air strikes, even wars?

If you answered Saudi Arabia to all of these questions, you’re right.

Last month, while the American people were becoming the personal ATMs of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, the American consumer is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia needs to be bombed, not given bombs. Ugh…

Read Ed Markey.