Sunday, February 9, 2014

Night Watch
North Korea-South Korea: One day after agreeing to resume family reunions in late February, North Korean authorities linked the reunions to upcoming US-Republic of Korea joint military exercises. The North announced that "dialogue and wartime invasion exercises, reconciliation and agitating for confrontation; these can never go hand in hand."

"It would be nonsense to hold reunions of families scattered by a previous war in the midst of treacherously dangerous nuclear war exercises," according to a statement from the National Defense Commission (NDC). "The South Korean authorities must rid themselves of their confrontational character and act decisively to meet the expectations of the people."

The statement also claimed that an American B-52 bomber took part in exercises yesterday. The statement asked, "How can South Korea shout about building trust and improving relations while they are throwing open their sovereign airspace to allow American nuclear-capable bomber formations to crawl in?"

Comment: Today's National Defense Commission statement tends to confirm the NightWatch hypothesis that the "one nation" theme is a propaganda ploy. Kim Jong Un and his advisors are acting out the old reunification script that leads nowhere. Based on yesterday’s statement, 100 South and North Korean families are not likely to meet this month, despite government promises and agreements.

The South needs an aggressive counter-propaganda strategy that questions why the North has to train so much to invade South Korea, if its intentions are so benign. To repeat, the North's Winter Training Cycle is completely inconsistent with dialogue, reconciliation and national unity.

Pakistan: Peace talks between the Pakistani government and representatives of the Taliban began on Thursday. "Today, we started the journey for peace, and both sides have agreed to complete it as soon as possible," the chief government negotiator said.

After four hours of talks, the two sides issued a joint statement in which both sides called for avoiding any steps that could disrupt the peace process. The statement listed the government's five conditions for a permanent agreement. The representatives of the Pakistani Taliban offered no terms.

The government conditions follow:

•All talks to be held within the framework of the Pakistani Constitution;
•The scope of the talks should remain confined to areas affected by violence, not the whole country;
•All hostilities should cease during talks;
•The Taliban should clarify the role of a separate nine-member committee that they have established;
•The talks should not be protracted.

The Taliban team had no authority to agree to the five government conditions for an agreement. The team agreed to travel to Miram shah in the north-west to present the government's terms to the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. It also pledged to report back to the government committee as soon as possible.

The chief Taliban negotiator proposed an exchange of meetings. He asked the government negotiators to arrange a meeting between the Taliban team and the prime minister, army chief and head of the intelligence agency so that issues could be discussed with them directly.

In return, the government team also said it wanted a direct meeting with the Taliban leadership. The Taliban chief spokesman said he would relay the government's request.

Comment: These talks might serve the government's political purposes, but they were not substantive. Nothing substantive happened because the Taliban sent no plenipotentiary representatives. They sent proxies who had no authority to make binding commitments.

Consequently, the government negotiators did not talk with the Pakistani Taliban. The men who purported to speak for the Pashtun rebels are well-known Islamic fundamentalist clerics who have no direct ties to the Pakistani Taliban, but share the intention to establish a strict interpretation of Sharia in Pakistan.

The talks have almost no chance of long term success because the Taliban already have rejected most of the government's five conditions, including respect for Pakistan's Constitution. Nevertheless, the talks serve the interests of the negotiating parties, for now. Both can say they tried the path of diplomacy.

End of NightWatch

My main goal for fiscal policy is shrinking the size and scope of the federal government and lowering the burden of government spending.

But I’m also motivated by a desire for better tax policy, which means lower tax rates, less double taxation, and fewer corrupting loopholes and other distortions.

One of the big obstacles to good tax policy is that many statists think that higher tax rates on the rich are a simple and easy way of financing bigger government.

I’ve tried to explain that soak-the-rich tax policies won’t workbecause upper-income taxpayers have considerable ability to change the timing, level, and composition of their income. Simply stated, when the tax rate goes up, their taxable income goes down.

And that means it’s not clear whether higher tax rates lead to more revenue or less revenue. This is the underlying principle of the Laffer Curve.

For more information, here’s a video from Prager University, narrated by UCLA Professor of Economics Tim Groseclose.

An excellent job, and I particularly like the data showing that the rich paid more to the IRS following Reagan’s tax cuts.

But I do have one minor complaint.

The video would have been even better if it emphasized that the tax rate shouldn’t be at the top of the “hump.”

Why? Because as tax rates get closer and closer to the revenue-maximizing point, the economic damage becomes very significant.

Here’s some ofwhat I wrote about that topic back in 2012.
…labor taxes could be approximately doubled before getting to the downward-sloping portion of the curve. But notice that this means that tax revenues only increase by about 10 percent. …this study implies that the government would reduce private-sector taxable income by about $20 for every $1 of new tax revenue. Does that seem like good public policy? Ask yourself what sort of politicians are willing to destroy so much private sector output to get their greedy paws on a bit more revenue.
The key point to remember is that we want to be at the growth-maximizing point of the Laffer Curve, not the revenue-maximizing point.

P.S. Here’s my video on the Laffer Curve.

Since it was basically a do-it-yourself production, the graphics aren’t as fancy as the ones you find in the Prager University video, but I’m pleased that I emphasized on more than one occasion that it’s bad to be at the revenue-maximizing point on the Laffer Curve.

Not as bad as putting rates even higher, as some envy-motivated leftists would prefer, but still an example of bad tax policy.

P.P.S. Switching to a different topic, it’s been a while since I’ve mocked Sandra Fluke, a real-life Julia.

To fix this oversight, here’s an amusing image based on Ms. Fluke’s apparent interest in becoming a politician.

Fluke Filing Fee But she’s apparently reconsidered her plans to run for Congress and instead now intends to seek a seat in the California state legislature.

She’ll fit in perfectly.

If you want to see previous examples of Fluke mockery, check out this great Reason video, this funny cartoon, and four more jokes here.

P.P.P.S. And since I’m making one of left-wing women, we may as well include some humor about Wendy Davis.

Check out this excerpt from a story in the Daily Caller.
A dating service that pairs wealthy “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies” for “mutually beneficial dating arrangements” has endorsed Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.’s Friday announcement followed a recent report in the Dallas Morning News which detailed a number of discrepancies in Davis’ personal narrative, including that she left a man 13 years her senior the day after he made the last payment for her Harvard Law School education. “Wendy Davis is proof that the sugar lifestyle is empowering,” seeking arrangements founder and CEO Brandon Wade said in his endorsement.
Mr. Wade obviously is a clever marketer, but he may also be a closet libertarian.

After all, he also mocked Obamacare with an ad telling young women to join his site so they could find a sugar daddy to pay for the higher premiums caused by government-run healthcare.

Then again, I’ve also speculated that Jay Leno and Bill Maher may be closet libertarians, so I may be guilty of bending over backwards to find allies.

New moderate Iranian TV airs simulated bombing of Tel Aviv, US aircraft carrier

  / Jihad Watch
If anything, since concluding their nuclear agreement with the U.S., the new moderate Iranians have only grown more bellicose. Clearly they think, as Hitler did after humiliating Neville Chamberlain at Munich, that their foes are weak, spineless, and anxious to appease them. Like Hitler after Munich, they are stepping up their saber-rattling, as well as their actual moves towards war. One wonders if there is a Winston Churchill on the horizon, ready to face them down at the eleventh hour. There certainly seems to be an inexhaustible supply of Neville Chamberlains.

“Iranian TV airs simulated bombing of Tel Aviv, US aircraft carrier,” by Ilan Ben Zion for the Times of Israel, February 8 (thanks to Lookmann):

Click on link to see the video...
Iranian state TV on Friday ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a hypothetical retaliation for an Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.
Iranian drones and missiles are also shown carrying out simulated strikes on the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, downing American aircraft and striking American military targets in the Persian Gulf.
The clip was broadcast amid a clear escalation of anti-American rhetoric and even action by Iran: On Saturday, an Iranian admiral announced that Iran had despatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Iran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”
The film, entitled “The Nightmare of Vultures,” opens with Supreme Leader Khamenei addressing military academy graduates in 2011, warning: “Anybody who thinks of attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran should be prepared to receive strong slaps and iron fists from the Armed Forces.”
“And America, its regional puppets and its guard dog – the Zionist regime – should know that the response of the Iranian nation to any kind of aggression, attacks or even threats will be a response that will make them collapse from within,” the film shows him saying.
Set to dramatic music, the video shows Iranian drones and missiles carrying out strikes against Tel Aviv’s Kikar Hamedina square, the Azrieli Towers skyscrapers, and the IDF’s Kirya central command complex, as well as Ben Gurion International Airport, Haifa’s Technion, several army and air force bases, and the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
The strike on the Israel’s central command building is shown taking place while former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former defense minister Amir Peretz — who served in that capacity during the 2006 Second Lebanon War — are inside convening a meeting.
Iranian TV aired a program showing computerized shots of Ben Gurion Airport being bombed by Iran in retaliation for an American or Israeli strike on Iran. (screen capture: YouTube)The clips of drone strikes on Israel are interspersed with shots of Israeli emergency personnel evacuating injured Israeli civilians and soldiers while air raid sirens wail
A barrage of missiles brings down Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers in a final blow.
Iranian TV aired a program showing computerized shots of Tel Aviv being bombed by Iran in retaliation for an American or Israeli strike on Iran. (screen capture: YouTube)Afterwards, Iranian drones and missiles are show attacking the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on its way through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Iranian drones are shown downing several American aircraft before sinking the US capital ship.
Zooming out to a map of the Middle East marked with US military bases, Iranian missiles are then shown striking American military targets across the Persian Gulf.
In November, Iranian state television aired a shorter animated clip showing Iranian missiles targeting Israeli cities.
Iranian leaders have made repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map, and have threatened to annihilate Tel Aviv should Iran’s nuclear facilities be attacked by the West.