Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wage Arbitrage Within China

Foxconn is preparing to relocate its main production facilities from Shenzhen to north China in an effort to tap cheaper labor in the region, with the transition now in the final stages, according to reports.(1)

I spent far too much time with a group of boarding school liberals a summer ago. Their chief geo-economic insight (besides Bush/evil : Obama/great) generally centered on the idea that American workers were lazy, or lazy and fat. And China was the 'new boss' because of this.

The psychological fear, or affliction, of being terrorized by a new non-American boss is most definitely the concern of a very narrow group of pseudo-academics and meritocrats whose job rests on the dominance of the American ruling class. Courtiers to the king. For the rest of us, a boss is a boss.

But I wonder, would these same scolds now proclaim that some Chinese, those around Shenzhen, have also gotten fat and lazy ? Or maybe something a bit deeper is going on.

1'Foxconn preparing to shift main production to north China'- Marketwatch

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Renting Whites in China

(CNN) -- In China, white people can be rented.

For a day, a weekend, a week, up to even a month or two, Chinese companies are willing to pay high prices for fair-faced foreigners to join them as fake employees or business partners...

And it is, essentially, all about the age-old Chinese concept of face. To have a few foreigners hanging around means a company has prestige, money and the increasingly crucial connections -- real or not -- to businesses abroad.

"Face, we say in China, is more important than life itself," said Zhang Haihua, author of "Think Like Chinese." "Because Western countries are so developed, people think they are more well off, so people think that if a company can hire foreigners, it must have a lot of money and have very important connections overseas. So when they really want to impress someone, they may roll out a foreigner."(1)

Most of Asia definitely has a love affair with whiteness and fair skin. One non-verbal way to distinguish an Asian-American woman from an Asian-born women is that Asian-born women (with money) typically lighten their skin with various types of products. Asian-American women are darker and just leave their skin tone natural. (Or as the proverbial Asian-born grandma might say "Too Dark".)

Discrimination by skin color is mostly an open fact of life in Asia, most definitely extending to opportunity and employment. This is in contrast to discrimination in the West, which exists, but which is more strongly dealt with through legislation and litigation. If the large peasant and working classes of Asia continue to see their incomes rise, and confidence gain, these and other rather backward social customs will face challenge. Strikes in China , turmoil in Thailand - these are probably just very small tips of a larger iceberg of political movement that will occur in the region over the next generation. And if developing Asia is too replace the U.S. as the consumer of last resort, it will need to occur. Economic gains must be equaled by political and social gains eventually. Capitalism and Freedom - though it should be underlined that this freedom broadens only outside the realm of control of capital and the means of production.

1'Chinese companies 'rent' white foreigners' - CNN

Amateurs versus Technocrats

Much ink has been spilt over a recent whine by a PhD economist at the Federal Reserve bank of Richmond. The crux of the whine is that he has a PhD, and people who don't are ignorant about economics.

Being in the working music field and holding advanced degrees in the subject, I have seen many sides to this debate, at least in music. Basically it should boil down to what a person does, says - and how they play - not what degree they hold. There is way too much emphasis on degrees as a measure of status in the U.S. at the moment, probably a function of our increasing class-based social stratification.

At any rate, a person with an advanced degree in music is quite used to be challenged by very well-informed amateurs on all fronts, from interpretation to history to what is 'good' and what is 'bad', even up to playing ability in some cases. It seems this is less true for other fields.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Microchip Implants Will Improve Productivity and Increase Safety

From a blog in 2030:

"Why don't government workers have microchip implants ? We need a chip for a job in the private sector... yet another case of favoritism for lazy bureaucrats."

"To improve the productivity of school teachers, they should be REQUIRED to have microchip implants. If they are not being responsible at home, not getting enough sleep or staying out late - IT IS HURTING THE CHILDREN !!!"

"Only irresponsible parents fail to implant microchips in their children at birth. The ability to track one's child in a dangerous world is sure to lighten the already heavy load of parenting."

A possible newspaper Editorial:

"Microchip implants are a reasonable solution to the problem of poor worker performance. With a harmless and painless application, workers can be assured that their peers are playing by the same rules as they are. Unions who resist this push towards increased productivity are only doing their own membership a disservice in an increasingly competitive world."
1'Microchip implant (animal)' - Wikipedia

Friday, June 25, 2010

Libraries Are Becoming Madhouses

I was hoping for an afternoon of intense quiet research, but it was impossible. Headphones at volumes loud enough for the room to dance to. Babies screaming up and down the aisles. A guy with his socks and shoes off, feet up on one of the tables. A tutor bellowing instructions. Phones ringing non-stop and conversations attended to at important volumes.

Either I'm getting old and cranky, or...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Asian Wealthy

The wealth of rich Asians has surpassed Europe's millionaires for the first time as the region's stock and property prices rebounded from the global recession, a report showed Wednesday.(1)

Absent war of one type or another, expect to see Asia's wealthy also surpass North America's in due time. Wealth is primarily built in domestic markets. However, will it matter ? Most of the world's population lives in Asia, most of the wealthy should live there, but it is still a region of deep poverty. India's per capita GDP-PPP is an example, clocking in behind Iraq according to the IMF. Because of the internal poverty, India and China will never be able to project force the way Western powers can. And they will always have problems with 'brain drain', as well.

I expect the international political fault lines to remain very much as they are for quite some time, the only wild card being if there is not room at 'the top' to accommodate a burgeoning ruling class in Asia (how much larger can the G-20 get ?). In that case, things could get nasty very quickly.

1'Asia's wealthy surpass Europe's for first time' - AP

Fire McChrystal

Civilian authority of the military is a core principle of any democratic state, even one as compromised as the United States. The last thing we need is some of the sociopathic thugs in the leadership of the armed forces deciding they know what is best.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mexico Gaining in Export Wars to U.S.

Mexico’s exports to the U.S. are taking market share from China as demand rises for Mexican-made refrigerators from Whirlpool Corp. and Dodge Ram pickups from Chrysler Group LLC.

Mexico’s share of the $427.7 billion in goods and services the U.S. imported in the first three months of the year rose to a record 12.3 percent from 11 percent a year ago, helped by a weaker peso and U.S. companies moving manufacturing south of the border. China’s share fell to 17 percent from 18.4 percent.
The average annual salary for Chinese manufacturing workers was 24,192 yuan ($3,543) in 2008, a 16 percent increase from 2007, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Mexico’s average manufacturing salaries rose 5.2 percent to 239.8 pesos a day last year from 227.78 pesos in 2008, according to Mexico’s Labor Ministry. Factoring in a work week of five days, the Mexican wage in 2009 would be 62,348 pesos ($4,823)

The US - Mexico political and trading relationship will only deepen as the decades move on. Demographic changes (Los Angeles is already a majority Latino city), Peak Oil, Mexico's relatively untapped markets and somewhat ignored middle class will drive it. At some point, the Mexican government will get control of its drug cartels, just as the United States - from a far wealthier position- finally got control of its organized crime syndicates in the early 1960's. Mexico's nominal GDP is about equal to India's - that vaunted member of BRIC.

1'Mexico Wins U.S. Share From China as Peso Buoys Trade' Bloomberg/Business Week

Internet Kill Switch

A new US Senate Bill would grant the President far-reaching emergency powers to seize control of, or even shut down, portions of the internet.

The legislation says that companies such as broadband providers, search engines or software firms that the US Government selects "shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed" by the Department of Homeland Security. Anyone failing to comply would be fined.(1)

I suspect the cat is too far out of the bag on this one. Authoritarians will just have to 'eat bitterness'.

Bill Gates wishes he was smart enough to have corralled the internet at infancy.

1'Internet 'kill switch' proposed for US' - CNet, McCullagh

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Other Trade Deficit With China, and Opium

The current trade dispute with China harkens back to an earlier dispute that eventually led to the famous 'Opium Wars' that forced China to give the West control of its ports and trade.

During the 17th and 18th centuries , there was heavy demand for commodities and finished products from Asia in the West. China became the so-called global sinkhole of silver during this time, as this was generally the only Western commodity the Chinese accepted in exchange.

Although Europe had plundered silver from the New World, the trade imbalance with China put strains on their financial system, which was based on metals.

Importing opium into China, via its monopoly in India, was a way for Britain to reverse the drain of silver. China now began 'accepting' opium - at least in the aggregate flow of trade. As opium use increased, the flow of silver was reversed.

After the West decisively won the two Opium Wars, they demanded and received large amounts of silver from China's reserves .

How did one ex-U.S president describe trade with China at that time ?

John Qunicy Adams said in 1841: "the cause of the war is the kowtow – the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relations between lord and vassal.”(1)

Does it sound not dissimilar from the rhetoric we hear from Congress today ?

1'China as “Victim”? The Opium War That Wasn’t', Harry G. Gelber Visiting Scholar, Center for European Studies, Harvard

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unemployed Need Not Apply

The last thing someone who is unemployed needs to be told is that they shouldn't even apply for the limited number of job openings that are available. But some companies and recruiters are doing just that.

Employment experts say they believe companies are increasingly interested only in applicants who already have a job.

"I think it is more prevalent than it used to be," said Rich Thompson, vice president of learning and performance for Adecco Group North America, the world's largest staffing firm. "I don't have hard numbers, but three out of the last four conversations I've had about openings, this requirement was brought up."(1)

The best thing to do is have some sort of business going while one is unemployed. Even if it's some sort of psuedo-consulting gig. Get a few clients or have your friends 'hire' you. Get a stack of references doing a lot of small jobs. Keep the credit good because employers do check it for half decent jobs.

A key thing to remember is that it is possible to work even while on unemployment, as long as one doesn't go above 15-20 hours a week. However, it is not possible to go back to school - the dole will be cut off in this case.

I do think some legislation on this problem will be necessary.

1'Out-of-work job applicants told unemployed need not apply' - CNN Money; Isidore

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Kent State Killings

From a article published a few months ago, it appears that an officer gave an order to fire in the Kent State murders. Probably was fed up with the -lack of respect from young hooligans- and wanted to -teach a lesson-.

There are plenty of thuggish cowards in our armed forces.

The Ohio National Guardsmen who fired on students and antiwar protesters at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 were given an order to prepare to shoot, according to a new analysis of a 40-year-old audio tape of the event.

"Guard!" says a male voice on the recording, which two forensic audio experts enhanced and evaluated at the request of The Plain Dealer. Several seconds pass. Then, "All right, prepare to fire!"(1)

It's not often mentioned that most universities shut down for the year after the killings due to student strikes and uprising. As close to an insurrection that the U.S had during that time.

1'New analysis of 40-year-old recording of Kent State shootings reveals that Ohio Guard was given an order to prepare to fire' - Cleveland Plain Dealer; Mangels

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bailing out Banks and Their Investors on the Backs of the Working Class

French and German banks have lent nearly $1 trillion to the most troubled European countries and are more exposed to the debt crisis than the banks of any other countries, according to a new report that is likely to add pressure on institutions to detail their holdings.(1)

Let's hear some more Libertarian commentary about lazy Greek pensioners !

1'Debt Burden Falls Heavily on Germany and France' - NYT, Ewing

Honda Strike 'Fizzles' Says NYT

American Pravda lets out a sigh of relief. Those greedy Chinese autoworkers ...

A strike at a Honda auto parts factory here in southeastern China collapsed on Monday morning, as Honda’s hiring of hundreds of replacement workers on Sunday prompted most of the strikers to return to work.
Striking workers had held a rare protest march on Friday, chanting slogans as they walked down the main road of an industrial park, many of them smiling with an almost euphoric sense of unity.

1'With Concessions, Honda Strike Fizzles in China' - NYT, Bradsher

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Large Amounts of Oil Predicted to Hit the Florida Coast

Onshore winds over the next week threaten to make the white sands around Pensacola as thick with oil as the coastal marshes of Louisiana.

If that happens, then BP will be going up against other wealthy interests, and will pay a much steeper price than what they have up to this point. Oiled turtles and pelicans upset people, but in the United States money matters. The fishermen and wildlife don't have money or influence, but tourist-related business interests in Florida definitely do.

NOAA has been doing an excellent job in forecasting and tracking the oil spill. Thankfully they have not yet been privatized and turned over to a private operation more intent on sensationalism and user fees.
NOAA Oil Spill Forecasts 1

Friday, June 11, 2010

Britan Ponders Selling Aircraft Carrier to India

One of the Royal Navy's new £2bn aircraft carriers could be sold off under government cost-cutting plans, the Guardian has learned.

It is understood that India has recently lodged a firm expression of interest to buy one of the two state-of-the-art 65,000 tonne carriers, which are still being built by BAE Systems in the UK.

Any sale of the long-delayed carriers would be highly controversial and would leave the Royal Navy with just one carrier. It could also force Britain to borrow from the French navy, which itself only has one carrier and is reluctant to build any more.(1)

I'm of two minds with this. One, it takes decades to develop aircraft carrier capabilities, not just the technology to build them, but also the expertise to 'set sail'. This would represent a significant transfer of power from the former Empire to one of their former subjects.

On the other hand, India's ruling class is well within the Western fold, and is seen by Britain and the United States as a bulwark against Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean. The national bourgeoisie of India and China are not too fond of each other. China does not yet have an aircraft carrier, and may never have one. Selling India a top-of-the-line carrier would thoroughly contain China, geo-politically speaking.

1'Royal Navy aircraft carrier may be sold to India' - UK Guardian

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tiananmen Square Vigil Sees Record Turnout

The yearly vigil in Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre had record turnout this year, though rather sparse coverage in the Western media. It looks like the vigil is becoming a magnet to express a range of dissatisfactions brewing in Hong Kong society. For instance:

Friday's candlelight vigil comes as Hong Kong's own democratic protesters are battling with local authorities over what they see as slow progress on promised direct elections. Earlier this year, a number of opposition lawmakers staged a mass resignation. In recent weeks, Beijing's top leaders in Hong Kong have engaged in rare meetings with more moderate democracy advocates in an effort to win support for a government-backed democracy plan.(1)

1'Thousands in Hong Kong Attend Tiananmen Vigil' - Wall Street Journal, Cheng
Photo From:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Grand Isle State Park


Over 280 species of fish are known to make their home in the waters off the coast of Grand Isle. Brown pelicans--the state bird of Louisiana--dive into the water. Seagulls appear to float on the wind above the shore. Crabs nimbly scamper out of reach of the children chasing them with their nets.

This is Grand Isle State Park--a natural haven on the most popular barrier island off the coast of Louisiana. A beach ridge created by the action of the waves of the Gulf, Grand Isle serves as a breakwater between the Gulf and the network of inland channels that connect to the bayou tributaries of the Mississippi River. It is also the launching point for excellent deep-sea salt-water fishing adventures.

1'State Parks of the United States'

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

First, Do No Harm

Hopefully this latest experiment by BP won't blow up in their - and our - faces. It's going to substantially increase the size of the gusher until and if the makeshift cap can be put on.