Friday, April 30, 2010

Why East Asia and Not Africa

East Asian tigers were bolstered through US policy as a buffer to contain Communism.

As Hung Ho-Fung writes:

As Communist China’s support for guerrillas and its involvement in the Korean and Vietnam wars had led the region into a permanent state of emergency, and Washington regarded East Asia as the most vulnerable link in its strategy for containing Communism. Considering its key Asian allies—Japan and the four Tigers—too important to fail, it provided them with abundant financial and military aid to jump-start and direct industrial growth, while also keeping American and European markets wide open to Asian manufactured goods. This access to Western markets constituted a further advantage that other developing countries did not enjoy, and without which it is unimaginable that the Asian economies would have had such success. Viewed in this light, the rapid economic growth of East Asia was far from a ‘miracle’.

East Asia is no longer important in this way and priorities have changed.

Washington needs doors open for US products and respect for the so-called intellectual property rights of US companies. Countries that do this will prosper as 'Head Servants'; countries that don't will face isolation. This is Japan's choice at the moment, and South Korea's when it comes to the outstanding issues in the free trade agreement on the table.

In another part of the world, the flip side to the same coin: Israel, which faces a political decision. The US no longer needs it - with the holdout Saddam dispensed - as a counterweight to Arab nationalism and will eventually demand an agreement to the Palestinian issue. This means the ultra-right forces in Israel will have to be tamed or dismantled.

Stereotypes are temporal. As Poland is a crucial hotspot of geo-political friction, the US is now pushing policies that will bolster it in much the same way previously mentioned countries have been over the last half century.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will Tokyo Cave on Okinawa ?

The Japanese government indicated Friday that it would broadly accept a plan to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps base on Okinawa, a move that could ease months of discord between the two allies, U.S. and Japanese officials said.
The meeting Friday followed a brief and blunt tete-a-tete between President Obama and Hatoyama on April 12 during the prime minister's visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. During the 10-minute encounter, Obama told Hatoyama that the two countries were "running out of time" and asked him whether he could be trusted. Japanese officials were so taken aback by the toughness of Obama's tone that they did not draw up a written record of the words exchanged between the two leaders, sources said. 1

Submission to Washington in the face of widespread domestic opposition, will leave Japan with a humiliated and discredited political class. Japan - like South Korea - is a country with little leverage against the U.S. now that the Cold War has ended. The U.S no longer has to unconditionally open its markets, and is quite capable of damaging national champions like Toyota to enforce diplomatic leverage.

1'Japan moves to settle dispute with U.S. over Okinawa base relocation" ; Washington Post; Pomfret

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Was Your Mom Ever A Prostitute ?

Haven't had this at a job interview before.

Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized Tuesday to former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant for asking in a pre-draft interview whether his mother was ever a prostitute.

Bosses in this country really, really need to get put in their place. No way would this Ireland guy have apologized if he hadn't been caught. And the way football draftees are measured up in the media, and by the NFL, like a hunk of meat is reminiscent of some very ugly history. I wonder if master Goodell will be weighing in with his pompous 'personal conduct' code in this matter; I doubt it.

1'Dolphins GM apologizes for asking player if mom was a prostitute'- Yahoo Sports; Chris Chase

Monday, April 26, 2010

Immigration 'Reformers' Propose Biometric Social Security Cards

Lindsay Graham and Charles Schumer have proposed biometric social security cards as a condition of immigration reform legislation going through the U.S. Senate:

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

The scope of these cards can and will, looking at history, be expanded to include every aspect of a person's personal profile. One example, the current quest to digitalize the health records of every American. Throw in political registration, job history, travel history, and anything else that could be used to create a profile of risk (to the state).

Governments of highly unequal societies instictively need to control every aspect of their population's behavior.

-Knowing that we know everything about you is the best way to control you.-

1"The right way to mend immigration" - By Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey O. Graham; Washington Post

Why Greece Was Brought Into Eurozone

Despite a perennially weak economy, and geographic isolation, Greece was brought into the Eurozone in 2001 as the first non-core member.

Germany and France may be stomping their feet now, but it was their idea all along. Greece as a full member of Europe blocks potential Turkish influence in the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire - Turkey - held sway in the Balkans for many centuries and certainly that potential exists going into the future. Turkey is already the world's 17th largest economy in a region of economic basket cases, and their influence is going to increase greatly over the next few decades.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Print Baby, Print

The Fed will return about $45 billion to the U.S. Treasury for 2009, according to calculations by The Washington Post based on public documents. That reflects the highest earnings in the 96-year history of the central bank.....The numbers are good news for the federal budget and a sign that the Fed has been successful, at least so far, in protecting taxpayers as it intervenes in the economy -- though there remains a risk of significant losses in the future if the Fed sells some of its investments or loses money on its stakes in bailed-out firms.

There's no chance of that, because 'we' can simply print more money , right ?

And everyone can and should get $100,000 electronically deposited in their bank account because this means we will all be much wealthier. I'm waiting.
(100 K * 150 million adults is ...15 trillion, I believe. (An inconsequential amount if one listens to some economists.)

'Rebellious Mood Takes Root in Rural Thailand '

Six weeks of demonstrations by red-shirted protesters turned violent this week in Bangkok, but the capital is not the only place with a whiff of insurrection in the air.

It appears the situation has gone beyond the factionalism of Thaskin and Abhisit, which is predictable when working class people discover their power. Convoys of military reinforcements from the countryside have been blocked from entering Bangkok. And dissent in the military , which is made up mostly of working class people, is evident.

Again, no way to know how this turns out. But the downtrodden of society are gaining the confidence that comes with collective power.
The roots of this actually date back to the Asian financial crisis, which stripped the traditional Royalist-oriented elite of their veil of invincibility. This allowed the emergence of Thaskin, who brought in international capital - particularly Chinese capital.

The political fallout from economic crises takes a long time to unfold, and I expect that to be the case in the United States as well.

1'Rebellious Mood Takes Root in Rural Thailand ' - New York Times; Fuller

Immigration Protests in Arizona

Brief TV footage of some of protests in Phoenix regarding the new immigration law there. A cop gets hit in the head with a water bottle while escorting an idiot with a flag tied around his head. Really not a good idea to throw stuff at a cop. If you're a young person and get charged with a felony your life is pretty much ruined. No financial aid, for one thing. And the national database of arrests is becoming more complete, which means you'll probably be barred from any sort of teaching or public sector job as well.

Protests of this sort, including student walkouts of high schools, have been extremely rare in this area of the country. But the law is draconian, and a lot of people are going to react against that: "It's going to change our lives," said (a 13-year-old American citizen) from Phoenix. "We can't walk to school any more. We can't be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we're illegal immigrants."

Phoenix is one of the worst hit areas in the country when it comes to the housing meltdown and foreclosure crisis.
The folks who I've heard in day-to-day life blast illegal immigration the most, are legal immigrants. This may be a case of differentiation - i.e. 'see, I'm not like them'. I remember that almost none of the Chinese-managed stores in the Mission and other San Francisco neighborhoods shut during the Bush-era immigration protests, while almost all the Mexican and Central American-managed ones did.

The scope of 'immigrant rights' is pretty wide, most wealthy business people favor a form of immigrant rights; the reason to oppose these specific laws in Arizona is because they are an attack on working people.

The Okinawa 'Problem'

I don't see how this gets resolved in a way that pleases US imperialism and its Japanese head servants.

Nearly 100,000 demonstrators attended a rally on Okinawa Sunday to demonstrate against a US air base in a row that is dominating Japan's national politics and souring its ties with Washington.1

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Smell of Trade War in the Morning

"U.S. legislation aimed at stopping China from "manipulating" its currency by imposing duties on Chinese products would get overwhelming support in the U.S. Senate, co-author Senator Lindsey Graham said on Thursday.

"We'd get 80 or 90 votes if we could ever get this sucker to the floor," the South Carolina Republican lawmaker told a U.S. Senate Banking Subcommittee on Economic Policy hearing.

Obama promised to double exports in 5 years not too long ago (10% growth a year).
But he doesn't realize that U.S. exports have already doubled ! Between QIV 1995 to QIV 2009, in other words - over the last 14 years.

Stratfor and others have noted that severe dislocations will occur in world geopolitics if the US is forced or forces itself into the role of an export-oriented country.

Derek Scissors, a China economist at the Heritage Foundation told the Senate Banking subcomittee pressing for a yuan appreciation "is not going to accomplish much of anything" when Beijing could offset a stronger currency with a range of subsidies to state-owned firms that dominate China's economy.

"We'd be much better off skipping over renminbi revaluation and going to what really matters, which is state domination of the economy in China and the budget deficit in the U.S.," he said.

Good luck 'convincing' the PRC to end state domination of their banking sector after watching the Western view of capital allocation drown in its own recklessness.

But the US ruling class is reckless about everything, and this bodes badly for China - holder of large sums of intrinsically worthless electronic paper - in the long run. That paper is a domestic problem, not an economic one, because the average person in China realizes it was money drained from the consumer for the benefit of export cartels.

One last taste:

(Michigan Democrat Sander) Levin, whose committee has jurisdiction over trade legislation, said he believed China's currency was "clearly undervalued," and has been used by Beijing as "a major tool for them to get an advantage economically over us."

I would only ask, in the end, who is the 'us' Mr. Levin in talking about ?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Americans Don't Trust Their Government

Only 22% of all Americans surveyed said they trusted the government in Washington almost always or most of the time -- among the lowest measures in half a century -- according to a Pew Research Center survey released Sunday night.1

Well, duh.

Alienation will be a reoccurring and deepening trend in American life. The working class population is splintered into an ugly and confused state of sectarian identity politics which basically leads nowhere on a collective basis. This country is a remarkably unpleasant place to live in given its generally high level of wealth as compared with most of the world.
It's interesting that in 1958, 73 % of American said they trusted the government. We will never get to those levels again.

Texas Town 'Revives' Paddling

TEMPLE, TEX. -- In an era when students talk back to teachers, skip class and wear ever-more-risque clothing to school, one central Texas city has hit upon a deceptively simple solution: Bring back the paddle. 1

Having mostly grown up in the small town South, my middle and elementary schools had paddling. We could hear students 'getting it' out in the hall a few times, and the principal at one of my schools was rumored to have quite the paddle rack in his inner office. These were public schools, and not too long ago.

It is not nearly as traumatic on kids as some would make it seem. And it's normal in most of the world. But from an adult point of view, the whole thing seems a little creepy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The U.S. Congratulates Itself on Diversity as Inequality Reaches New Heights

How many years will it take the typical Gen - X, Y, Z'er to realize that the diversity mantra preached to them since Kindergarten does little to alleviate inequality in American society ? We are more unequal in terms of income than at any time in the last century. The model of a multi-cultural and diverse society of capitalists is not Left and it's time the Left stop pretending it is so. Almost no one is pro-racism anymore, and the Establishment hasn't been for decades. Capitalism is about selling to anyone, at any time; it has an international push by definition, and racism really doesn't fit in with that. The bourgeoisie incorporated the critiques of the past, adapted, and it's time for left-oriented folks to push for more.

from Emmanuel Saenz, "Income Inequality in the United States"; Updated to 2007 (2009)1

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Give Us Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses...

And have $17,728 in the bank account, minimum. And pre-pay the tuition if you're going to one of our schools.

The U.S. is full of myth making about its immigration flows; this is pretty standard on the right and left. But it is almost impossible for someone from the slums of Manila or Rio to get here, because we don't have an open door policy like we did for Europe for a hundred plus years.

We have an extremely restrictive immigration policy that favors people with certain job skills, or family connections. This ultimately means money.

Of course we are not seeing the very wealthy from the rest of the world, they have no reason to leave their homes. But we are rarely seeing the very poor, i.e. the vast majority. The average yearly salary in the Philippines for instance, is $1000. Good luck studying in the U.S. (and coming up with that $17,000 +) if you live in a squatter's area.

Mostly, legal immigration to the U.S. is made up of what could be called the frustrated professional and middle classes of the developing world. This is important because Americans shape their views of other countries, both in terms of politics and culture, by the immigrants they meet in the U.S., particularly in university settings. But it's pretty clear we're seeing a 'selected sample'. The working classes of the developing world are invisible to the vast majority of Americans.

The one caveat to this is, of course, immigration from Mexico and Central America, which is diffferent by reason of proximity and an open border.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Bangkok Looked Like Last Night

via YouTube. Some graphic images around the 6:50 mark.

Part of what is going on in Thailand is that the U.S. and China are engaged in a tug of war for influence, with China leaning toward the Red-shirt side and their deposed president Thaksin Shinawatra, and the U.S. of course supporting the minority, what is called middle-class and urban elites in wire news stories. The U.S. was very quiet when Thanksin was removed in coup a few years ago. As with the case in any factional dispute, things can 'get out of hand' and lead to a revolutionary or insurrectionary situation that moves beyond the traditional party structures.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Something Depressing

This article is from a few years ago, but I'm reminded of the situation of aboriginal and indigenous people in the Philippines by the recent discovery (as in illumination to the outside world) of a new species in northern Luzon island.

The monitor, described as spectacular by the scientists who found it, lives in forests covering the Sierra Madre mountains in the north of the country. ...
The giant lizard is actually well known to resident Agta and Ilongot tribespeople living in the forests of northern Luzon Island.

The tribes people regularly hunt the lizard for its meat, a vital source of protein.

Yet scientists were unaware of its existence.

That was until Dr Brown and an international team of colleagues from the US, Philippines and The Netherlands surveyed a series of lizard specimens preserved in museums both within the US and Philippines.1

Much is made of traditional, aboriginal, or indigenous wisdom during these types of discoveries, but the Agta, or Aeta (as they are sometimes known) are virulently discriminated against in the Philippines. The continuing obsession and open discrimination against dark-skinned people is a particular feature of areas that fell under Spanish conquest. (What happens in the United States now is not even on the same map, in terms of comparison.) This marginalization seems historically, until the present day, about wiping the values of these people off the face of the earth. And while it's true that there is romanticism on the part of Western anthropologists when in comes to indigenous peoples, the Aeta is a gentle society, without a concept of property rights, that is just treated very poorly.

The Agtas, are the first indigenous people to originally inhabit the Philippines. Today, they are being threatened with extinction. The remaining few are going deeper into the forests which also may not be around too long.
"The land is no longer there for us. Other people say they own they land, but who owns the land? We belong to the land," Salak Dima, a leader of a band of 23 Agtas, said to this reporter.
Salak, at 4 feet plus, dripping wet, showed no interest at all in talking to a stranger. His face was stripped of emotion and stoic. But a gift of two Marlboro packs, five boxes of strike-anywhere matches and a Swiss knife I hurriedly grabbed at a Copenhagen airport duty-free shop on my way from Sweden to Denmark, changed all that.

He recalled the years of his band's oppression.

"Despite being dwellers and guardians of the forest for hundreds of years, our primitiveness conserved peace and prosperity in these lands. We live in harmony with nature. We would rather flee than fight. But that does not make us cowards. We rely on our own resources as our forefathers did. We will do so now, especially now that the outside world has shown us unheard-of cruelty," he said with a sigh.

"In our dialect, we don't have words for theft, hatred, selfishness and cruelty. In our ways, these are strange. When the lowlanders came, we were friendly, trusting and found out too late. We traded meat with the lowlanders. In return, they gave us liquor, raped our women, ridiculed us and treated us like dogs," Salak continued.

Salak himself slaved in a logging camp in Casiguran, Quezon and was tortured.

Agta women and children bear the brunt of some of the most cruel and inhuman acts of oppression. When in lowland towns to barter meat or vegetables for medicine or rice, they are inundated with lewd jokes, propositioned and sexually abused. In Salak's tribe, five women were raped by gold prospectors and loggers. Some were gang-raped.

2'Filipino 'Agta' aborigines threatened with extinction' - The Bruneo Times

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why No One Should Bourgeoisie Economists Too Seriously

Krugman scolds Stiglitz for not understanding exchange rates - which are SO simple - and then draws a chart that scientifically 'proves' his case.

And both these guys are Nobel laureates.

Greenspan Gives Himself a C -

"When you've been in government for 21 years, as I have been, the issue of retrospect and what you should have done is a really futile activity," Greenspan said. "I was right 70% of the time. But I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years," he added.

Fair enough. But you don't get far with those kinds of grades in the 'real world'; C- = F in grad school, for one thing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

'U.S. approves killing of American cleric'

Where is this heading ? It is impossible for a democratic republic to exist with increasing and cavernous gaps in income and social standing. Normalizing the assassination of US citizens (just the bad ones, you know) is quite consistent with the eventual end of the Republic. And who is president again ?

1'U.S. approves killing of American cleric' - MSNBC

Power Lies in the Streets

The government of Kyrgyzstan appears to have fallen, and with it, possibly the future of the last US airbase in Central Asia.

It's hard to know what will come with the new government, because without an established socialist political movement, there could be more of the same. But the overall point is that state security forces are helpless against numbers and the control of state institutions is about physical control and occupation.

If you want to see what an insurrection looks like, go the video.

Workers of the World Unite

"Death toll hits seven in north China flooded mine"
"West Virginia coal mine explosion kills 25"
"Death toll rises to 40 in Central China mine blast"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The U.S. Congratulates Itself on Diversity as Inequality His Record Heights

How many years will it take the typical Gen - X, Y, Z'er to realize that the diversity mantra preached to them since Kindergarten does little to alleviate inequality in American society ? We are more unequal in terms of income than at any time in the last century. The model of a multi-cultural and diverse society of capitalists is not Left and it's time the Left stop pretending it is so. Almost no one is pro-racism anymore, and the Establishment hasn't been for decades. Capitalism is about selling to anyone, at any time; it has an international push by definition, and racism really doesn't fit in with that. The bourgeoisie incorporated the critiques of the past, adapted, and it's time for left-oriented folks to push for more.

from Emmanuel Saenz, "Income Inequality in the United States"; Updated to 2007 (2009)1