Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for May 3rd, 2008


Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2008

Among the other vacations you won’t be able to afford thanks to the weak dollar is a tour of Japan, staying at traditional small inns known as minshuku. But thanks to Kate Graham of The Guardian, you can ogle:

I wanted to experience some traditional minshuku and had heard whispers of one particularly famous road, a 310-mile highway stretching from Kyoto to Tokyo. Called the Nakasendo, it was established in the eighth century and developed up until Edo times (the period from 1603 to 1868 when military rulers or shogun were in power) for the convenience of the travelling shogun and other feudal rulers. Snaking through the beautiful Kiso mountain region, it boasts 69 traditional post towns, many offering minshuku for the tired and hungry.

…I draw back the shoji (paper screen door) and enter my room, a smaller, simpler version of what I might find in a ryokan. It’s tiny and tastefully shabby, with tatami matting, scuffed walls and a large square lacquered table.

I notice another difference. In ryokan the staff make up your bed; here you are on your own. Sliding open a second screen door to see a tower of futons, duvets, sheets and pillows. I’m relieved to be called down to dinner.

The Nakasendo

A photo from the Nakasendo

Posted in Japan | Comments Off on Minshuku!

Elizabeth Warren on the collapse of the middle class

Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2008

Avedon Carol found this gem, a speech of Elizabeth Warren of Harvard University.  Definitely click here.

Posted in economy | 1 Comment »


Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 3, 2008

I know that Senator Clinton wants to differentiate herself from Senator Obama, but is backing a particularly stupid McCain gas-tax ‘holiday’ proposal the way to do it?

How stinky is it? It hurts American jobs, doesn’t help the poor anywhere near as much as it helps the rich, does not work to wean us from oil and/or fight global warming, depletes an already-spare Federal highway funds treasury, and horrifies every major economist worthy of the name. [UPDATE: Yes, she says she’d pay for it using an increase in the windfall-profits tax. That, of course, assumes she could get such an increase through Congress, which is not a safe assumption.]

By backing this obscenity, she’s also badly undercutting Congressional Democrats with this nonsense, which will hurt them come November if she keeps it up. This was apparently the last straw for Joe Andrew.

Cue the Hillary fans shouting “But Obama voted for a state gas tax holiday in Illinois eight years ago!” As he says, this is exactly why he opposes a Federal gas-tax holiday now. He saw the negative results of the Illinois state gas-tax holiday, along with the efforts of the state GOP to use this as a tool to permanently repeal the state gas tax — he voted AGAINST a permanent repeal, by the way — and to oppose the ‘temporary’ repeal efforts of the Federal gas tax:

The version that ended up becoming law required a six-month suspension of the state’s share of the sales tax on gasoline, a 5 percent tax paid directly by consumers rather than gas stations. It also required gas stations to post signs on their pumps saying that the Illinois General Assembly had lowered taxes and the price should reflect that cut.

The impact of the tax holiday was never clear.

A government study could not determine how much of the savings was actually passed along to motorists. Many lawmakers said their constituents didn’t seem to have benefited. They also worried the tax break was pushing the state budget out of balance.

At the end of Illinois’ tax holiday, there was a failed push to eliminate the sales tax permanently. Obama was among those voting against eliminating the tax.

Obama’s presidential campaign says the lessons of that Illinois tax holiday influenced his decision to oppose a national tax holiday. The lack of clear results then make him dubious about suspending the national tax now.

In addition, the Illinois tax was paid directly by consumers and increased as gas prices increased. Obama’s campaign points out the national tax is a flat 18.4 cents (24.4 cents a gallon for diesel) and, therefore, isn’t climbing as gas prices climb. It’s also paid by producers, raising more questions about whether they’d pass the full savings along to customers.

During a three-month suspension, the average driver would save only about $28, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“That assumes the oil companies are going to give it to you. That’s probably not a likely outcome,” said Jack Basso, the association’s director of management and business development.

If oil companies did pass along the savings, tax experts say, the lower prices would increase demand. Since refineries are already at maximum production levels, the increased demand probably would drive prices back up.

The association also estimates that suspending the tax would divert about $8.5 billion from the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road and bridge repairs and already faces a shortfall of $3.2 billion. Taking that tax money from the trust fund could endanger hundreds of thousands of jobs — every $1 billion in highway money supports 33,000 jobs, by one estimate — and would push more maintenance and construction costs onto the states.

“The federal gas tax is a piddly little 18 cents. If that is eliminated, it isn’t going to make an iota of difference to the average gasoline purchaser, yet it’s going to hasten the bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Rod Diridon, head of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.

Just as in Illinois, the McCain Federal ‘gas tax holiday’ is just the first step by Republicans towards pushing to repeal the gas tax forever, dooming us to decaying roads and collapsing bridges forever.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, 2008, Barack Obama, bust-outs, crimes, economy, eedjits, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Oil | 2 Comments »

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