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My Shrimp Are Too Cheap

Thank God the president took care of that little problem. See me, I'd been going into stores to pick up some shrimp and thinking -- Gods! this shrimp is too cheap, if only there were some kind of federal policy that could make it more expensive. And then along comes George W. Bush with his shrimp tax. Brilliant! That'll teach them Vietnamese to try and make a living. But yes, yes, yes, I know, John Kerry used to talk about "Benedict Arnold CEOs" so every good free-trader has a duty to vote for Bush....

July 7, 2004 | Permalink


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» The other Vietnam Syndrome from Left Center Left
The story til now: Third World country, in breaking off the shackles of colonial rule, ends up fighting a civil war, with Marxist-Leninist side getting the upper hand. U.S. fights brutal but ultimately unsuccesful war to prevent Communists from getting [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 7, 2004 8:25:39 PM

» Well...I Can Agree With Matthew On That from Deinonychus antirrhopus
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Tracked on Jul 8, 2004 10:35:26 AM

» Why God? Why? from Majikthise
I think we should have a shrimp party where we dump shrimp back into the sea to protest the tax. No taxation without representation! Hands off my shrimp, King George. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 8, 2004 7:57:33 PM

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Off topic:

Matthew, a post of yours on this blog is quoted today on page A8 of the Philadelphia Inquirer (an article that starts on page 1) by Dick Polman. Sorry I don't know how to make HTML tags to link it.

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 7, 2004 5:52:27 PM

Louisiana needs a little shoring up. Good for Kerry/Edwards.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 7, 2004 5:52:34 PM

I don't believe a thing the Administration says, but is it remotely possible that the alleged shrimp-dumping rationale holds water in this case? Secondly, I can't get too worked up about this because if it's "WRONG", there's a decent chance the WTO will get around to it and we'll have to drop it (this is quite dissimilar to other GWB policies).

Posted by: Skeptic | Jul 7, 2004 5:56:43 PM

Here's the quote, from an article about the Edwards pick:

But Edwards fans know that the Bush campaign will not be similarly dazzled.

At 9:51 a.m. yesterday, liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias wrote on a Web log: "Soon enough, I suppose, it'll be 'revealed' that Edwards has long been a flip-flopping, freedom hating, appeasing member of the liberal elite." But it had already happened. An hour earlier, the GOP had assailed Edwards as "a disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal injury trial lawyers."

Posted by: Skeptic | Jul 7, 2004 6:01:11 PM

They didn't mention this, or the Seafood.com guy didn't say it to them, but one of those "loopholes" he was talking about is a real doozy. It seems that the Bush Administration is so serious about its promotion of the big business agenda that it even extends to Vietnamese big business. From the Mobile Register (which has been covering this story for a long time -- shrimping is big business in Mobile):

"The Commerce Department assigned the smallest tariffs to the largest shrimp exporting companies while the largest tariffs will hit the hundreds of small producers that make up the rest of the market, observed John Sackton, president of the on-line seafood industry news service Seafood.com. Sackton has tracked the seafood industry for more than 20 years.

For example, shrimp from Minh Phu Seafood Corp., one of Vietnam's top seafood-exporting businesses, was assigned a 15 percent tariff, while the Vietnam-wide shrimp tariff is to be 93 percent."

Posted by: Mac Thomason | Jul 7, 2004 6:22:41 PM

Louisiana must really be in play after all.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 7, 2004 7:12:17 PM

Dick Polman used to be the Phillies beat writer for a little bit back in the day. He wasn't bad at it, either - they might not be putting his talents to their most efficient use, because his political analysis seems to me to be kinda so-so at best. Meanwhile, Mark Bowden of Black Hawk Down fame was the Eagles beat writer, while Sal Paolantonio (now of ESPN) was one of the main political columnists. Weird.

To get even further off-topic, why is there no link to Tapped in the blogroll?

Posted by: JP | Jul 7, 2004 7:53:37 PM

Er, the shrimp that is farmed in the far east comes at the expense of rapidly vanishing mangrove swamps. Vanishing because the "farmers" remove them to create the breeding ponds for the cheap shrimp.

So choose.

Posted by: Michael Murphy | Jul 7, 2004 8:23:16 PM

Hm...cheap shrimp or mangrove swamps? Tough choice. Michael must not have read my post on the Endangered Species Act.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Jul 7, 2004 8:31:24 PM

Speaking as a Louisiana boy who has about 15 shrimp boats docked within a hundred yards of my front door. BOOYAH!! Yeah, I know, we all benefit when prices go down cause somebody can produce the same product for less, but these 'Murcans have mortgages and kids too.

Posted by: wolf | Jul 7, 2004 8:40:04 PM

Like I was saying, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There's shrimp kabobs, shrimpcreole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger and a shrimp sandwich.

- Bubba

Posted by: whopundit | Jul 7, 2004 8:40:58 PM

No, this move makes perfect sense. Ya know how in Buffy and Angel they've occasionally mentioned that there's an alternate dimension that consists entirely of shrimp? This is just Bush making damn sure this dimension doesn't turn into that one.

Posted by: fling93 | Jul 7, 2004 9:44:34 PM

"Hm...cheap shrimp or mangrove swamps? Tough choice. Michael must not have read my post on the Endangered Species Act."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 7, 2004 10:10:06 PM

Bob McManus, are you actually rolling on the floor laughing?

Posted by: next big thing | Jul 8, 2004 12:03:15 AM

Ever since that storm that destroyed all of those docked shrimping boats, the shrimping industry has needed some protection to jumpstart it. Without it, the American shrimping industry is faced with the double-whammy of cheap imports and complete domestic domination by Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan.

Posted by: Constantine | Jul 8, 2004 12:22:03 AM

"Shrimp Tax" has a nice ring to it. If I ran the New York Post, it'd be on the front page.

Posted by: David Yaseen | Jul 8, 2004 12:27:39 AM

Mmm... mangroves...

Posted by: JP | Jul 8, 2004 12:54:16 AM

More to the point, this tax doesn't sound like it's aimed at protecting mangrove swamps and probably won't have that effect. And Matthew, you Canadaphile, when will we see you come out in support of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt? Until then, you're just a big envirosofty. :)

Posted by: Wrye | Jul 8, 2004 3:18:03 AM

hey now, don't forget all those other "free trading" bush policies--steel tariffs, softwood lumber tariffs, bra quotas, television tariffs. let's give credit where credit is due!

(makes ya long for the free trading days of the clinton presidency, don't it?)

Posted by: passing thru | Jul 8, 2004 6:24:44 AM

The impact of shrimp farming on mangroves isn't that large. Most shrimp ponds in the third world are built on farmland. The real environmental issue is that the shrimp ponds are unlined, so salty water seeps out and ruins neighboring farms. This obviously doesn't make the farmers too happy, which can lead to conflict and sometimes violence.

Posted by: Stentor | Jul 8, 2004 9:58:38 AM

"the shrimp that is farmed in the far east comes at the expense of rapidly vanishing mangrove swamps. Vanishing because the "farmers" remove them to create the breeding ponds for the cheap shrimp.

So choose"

But how does this tariff protect the mangrove swamps? The shrimp farmers aren't going to starve themselves to save the mangrove swamps. They will continue to produce at least some shrimp, albeit probably a smaller quantity, and they will find other things to produce as well. We can't just assume that those other things will be less environmentally harmful, but we can assume that they will be less profitable for the farmers.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | Jul 8, 2004 10:01:07 AM

Source: WRI, UNEP 1990, Australian Institute of Marine Science (1992).
Comments: Mangrove forests (swamps) are major ocean-fishery breeding grounds. See a lot more data on mangrove forests in the Fisheries Degradation Review.

Mangrove Swamps -- Asia
Thailand's mangrove forests declined from 3127 km2 in 1975 to 1689 km2 in 1993. (Ref. 36 of (fi00P1)) Another estimate gives a mangrove forest loss rate of 57.2 km2/ year. (Ref. 37 of (fi00P1) -- See a plot in Ref. (fi00P1) covering 1961-96). (la) Comments: Much of this forest land was converted to aquaculture. (la)

In Thailand, shrimp farms covered 1103 km2, or 64% of Thailand's total mangrove forestland in 1987 (fi00P1). (la)

Mangrove Swamps -- Africa
Tanzania has banned the destruction of its remaining 810 km2 of mangrove swamps (fi89L1). (la)

Mangrove Swamps -- Latin America
33% of Ecuador's mangroves have been converted to ponds for shrimp fishing (fi89L1). Shrimp farming has reduced the area of mangrove forests (globally?) by at least 25% (fi94H2). Ecuador has lost 800 km2 of mangrove forests and salt flats to shrimp ponds over the past 23 years (fi94W1). 20% of Ecuador's mangrove forests were converted to shrimp farms during 1979-91 (EDF Letter, 27(1) (1996) p. 7). (la)

For more see http://home.alltel.net/bsundquist1/la9.html

I think all of us wondering if Matthew was serious about the Go Bush Go post can now stop.
It is very difficult to believe that such a bright and interesting writer can be so shallow and smart-assed about about something so important. In this case he thinks cheap shrimp are obviously more important than mangrove. He does not attempt to argue for a balance of well engineereed aquaculture and ecosystem protections. Does he consider that there must be some downside to unplanned and unregulated shrimp farming or mangrove distruction? Oh I forgot ... shit happens.

Posted by: biology | Jul 8, 2004 10:20:11 AM

Mangroves are the key here. I say fuck the Vietnamese and their mangrove-destroying ways.

See here for more:

Posted by: praktike | Jul 8, 2004 10:28:15 AM

Bernard, um, making shrimp farming less attractive compared to traditional fishing and wood harvesting is a very good thing. And we're talking about the potential for catastrophic ecosystem collapse here. Anything to prevent that is welcome, in my book.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 8, 2004 10:30:14 AM

Matthew's opposition to the ESA is just another indication of his Canada-philia. Canada, until a few months ago, had _no_ federal endangered species/species at risk legislation (a couple of provinces have laws, but not Alberta or BC).

A bill was enacted recently, but it is seen by the environmentalists (aka human-haters, job-killers, and perhaps baby-eaters) to be inadequate. They especailly object that the process to designate species-at-risk and protect habitat is ultimately political (i.e. decided by Cabinet, not scientists).

Posted by: Ikram | Jul 8, 2004 10:32:16 AM

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