Darfur Yes, Cheek No

Posted in 2008 Olympics on August 6th, 2008

By Chris Chase-Photo via Getty ImagesThe 2008 Summer Olympics – also called the 2008 Genocide Games – will start on Friday August 8th, but they’ll start without Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek. China has revoked the athlete’s visa.

Joey Cheek is co-founder of Team Darfur, a group of 70 athletes who are striving to raise global awareness of the human-rights violations taking part in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Chinas military, economic and diplomatic ties to Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir’s regime have apparently made it undesirable – for the Evil Old Men in Beijing at least – for Cheek to enter China during the Games.

I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur.

— Joey Cheek

China has also revoked Cheek’s partner and Team Darfur’s co-founder, former UCLA water polo player Brad Greiner’s visa as well. Both activists were told that they had no recourse in the matter and that China did not owe them any explanation as to why they had been banned from the country.

This seems like another typically stupid and childish move by the Chinese. It’s not like any new damning evidence would be brought forth by Cheek or Greiner. The whole world is quite aware that China has consistently violated the 2005 UN Arms Embargo against Sudan by providing the weaponry that al-Bashir needs to complete his ethnic cleansing of Darfur. The whole world is also quite aware that Sudan pays for those arms with oil that China needs to fuel its growing industrial sector.

I guess the Chinese are just tired of hearing about about their collusion with other genocidal states and their utter inability to conduct themselves with anything remotely resembling human decency.

Punishing Profitability

Posted in 2008 Election, Society on August 4th, 2008

Presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama has published his “Emergency Economic Plan.” Given the current perceived state of the US economy, this is neither surprising or unwarranted in and of itself. Sadly but still not surprisingly, as with many politicians published plans during an election cycle, Obama’s plan is more firmly based in pandering to the voters than to addressing the issues at hand.

Obama “Emergency Economic Plan” comes in two parts. The first part , which is the only one I can really speak to, is an “energy rebate” ($500 to individual workers, $1,000 to families) he would like to send out as soon as this upcoming fall. These “rebates” would be fully paid for with five years of a windfall profits tax on record oil company profits!

Obama describes this in his plan as “Forcing big oil companies to take a reasonable share of their record breaking windfall profits and use it to help struggling families with direct relief.”

OK, let’s start with what are Windfall Profits? They’re technically defined as “profits that occurs unexpectedly as a consequence of some event not controlled by those who profit from it.” So essentially Obama is saying that the US federal government should enact legislation to ensure that companies – at least certain companies – are forced to share their unexpected gains with the public at large.

Where does a profit margin become excessive? Below is a listing of the average profit margins for some of the major economic sectors in the US.

  • Beverages & Tobacco: 19.10%
  • Pharmaceuticals: 18.40%
  • Electronics & appliances: 14.50%
  • Computers: 13.70%
  • Chemicals: 12.70%
  • Manufacturing: 8.90%
  • Oil & Gas: 8.30%
  • Aerospace: 8.20%
  • Machinery: 8.20%

That’s right, Oil & Gas ranked 7 out of 9 by sector when it came to profit margins, and maintained profit margins of less than half of that maintained by Beverages & Tobacco and Pharmaceuticals. Yet, Obama and a bunch of other Democrats aren’t gunning for other sectors with larger profit margins and margins more sustainable over the course of years.

Why would Obama want to take money away from a sector of American industry that maintains less than a 10% profit margin during most years? Have the oil companies been engaging in profiteering or market manipulation? No.

Obama’s plan as published doesn’t even try to hide his intent or reasoning. He makes no claim that that “Big Oil” is engaged in profiteering or any other form of market manipulation. In his plan Obama even states that the oil companies committed no wrong, but had benefited from “changes in the price of oil because of factors like supplies in the Middle East, demand in Asia, and disruptions and distortions in the oil market.” So Obama isn’t for regulation of profits; he’s for commandeering profits from companies that experience good fortune in their business endeavors.

This idea sounds more like something that would be enacted into law in some socialist nation like Venezuela than the US. Oh wait – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did enact almost identical legislation in April of this year. Less than a month later House Democrats tried to get that law enacted here in the US, but were blocked in the Senate. Now Obama is giving it another shot – or at least acting like he is.