Monday, May 31, 2010

Educating People is Not Hard

Humans have an innate interest in learning, as anyone with young children has observed. The problem for the U.S. ruling class is developing a technically well-trained population that is still submissive to authority.

Big business needs efficient bean counters. But they can't have well-rounded individuals undermining their authority, or worrying about things like democracy in the workplace. Start arguing with the boss at the interview and you won't have a job.

It's really hard to train someone to be technically capable but at the same time render them a zombie about all other matters in life. This is the quandary bourgeoisie-minded education reformers find themselves in.

1'Is the "Billionaire Boys Club" Good for Education?'-Economist's View

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Divisive Chart of the Day

Some thoughts:

First: Asian Male Privilege , anyone ? Let's get working on that.

Second: Themes of minority racial unity espoused by hermetically sealed Berkeley-ish profs are b.s.

Third: Immigration patterns and flows are a significant influence on this chart. Sample Bias, in other words.

Fourth: Mexico is far richer than mainland China on a per-capita basis.

Fifth: Immigration 'Reform' in the United States political class is about factions of Capital arguing over a skilled-labor system versus a migrant-labor system.

and Sixth: I'm reminded of a friend , with a PhD in physics, who spent fifteen years raising her kids while her CEO husband slept around the globe. Now she's divorced and substitute teaching for a living, and building up her job experience.

Chart fleeced from wikipedia-Income Inequality in the US. Year: 2005.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Autoworkers Strike in China

Honda's four auto assembly plants in China have ground to a halt after workers at a parts maker went on strike demanding better wages.

The strike come after Honda Motor Co.'s announcement earlier this week of an aggressive plan to boost production in China, raising annual production capacity at its Guangqi Honda Automobile Co. joint venture from 360,000 units to 480,000 vehicles by the latter half of 2011.
The newspaper 21st Century Business Herald reported that the workers were pushing to have monthly wages increased from the current 1,500 yuan ($220) to up to 2,500 yuan ($370). A photo showed workers gathered outside the factory in spotless white uniforms and red caps.

Industrial wages are rapidly rising in China which in the short-term will boost domestic consumption. Longer term, it will impinge on the profitability of private capital unless new markets are continually tapped. And there are no China's left on the horizon.

The working class in China seems increasingly self-confident, as well they should be.

1'Strike stalls production at Honda's China plants; - AP

Sunday, May 23, 2010

U.S and Canadian Immigration Policies

A recent Gallup survey of potential immigrants notes that the less educated tend to favor the United States over Canada. These two countries being, by far, the most favored destinations for people around the world who want to leave their own country permanently.

This tendency is probably more a reflection of immigration policy, or in other words, a type of sample bias. Canada, while often feted as a progressive alternative to the United States, is more conservative when it comes to immigration, or at least so-called legal immigration. (Which is the context of this piece.) Summing up the difference: Canada has a skills-first immigration policy while the United States has a family-first policy. If one has ever looked into immigrating Up North, one of the first things you are asked to do is take a skills self-assessment test; i.e., whether or not you have a needed or scarce job skill. If you can't pass this little 'test', or check-up, then it's very unlikely you will get into Canada.

The U.S. has no such skills mandate. If one can find a sponsor - most typically family, than one can immigrate. Of course, U.S. immigration policy also favors certain skilled labor - historically professions such as nurses, engineers etc. But once one family member gets in, they can bring almost unlimited number of family members along with them over the years as long as they are willing to sponsor. If this sounds like a personal story, it's because it is to a large extent.

What exactly is sponsorship ? It means one vouches for the self-sufficiency of the applicant for a period of years, and promise they won't be on the public dole during that time. In theory, one is liable for the cost if they do, but that rarely happens.

Immigration policy is of course more intricate than outlined above, with many nuances. But in general, less educated potential-immigrants favor the U.S. because they know they have a better chance of getting in. The United States is more open than Canada on matters of immigration.

A large part of 'immigration reform' as favored by Bloomberg or Silicon Valley, is to make the US policy more 'skills-first', like Canada. This is strongly opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It's one of those unwritten battles that is worth remembering in the overall debate.

'Young, Less Educated Yearn to Migrate to the U.S.' - 1 - Gallup

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Labor Costs are Rapidly Increasing in China

There is no inherent reason for people in China to like being super-exploited any more than in the United States. It's just a matter of if there are other options for income, and the degree to which a certain expectation of treatment has arisen in the working class. As many others have suggested however, capitalism does seem to need a large pool of super-exploitable labor in order to thrive, and there are no China's left in the world. India's and Indonesia's infrastructures are too ragged.

From China International Business:

The departures lounge at Dhaka's Zia International Airport is packed with people waiting for the late night flight to Hong Kong. Bangladesh receives few tourists, but travelers of a different sort abound. One, a Japanese bag designer, clutches product samples made of her designs in local workshops. She concedes that the ‘green'-looking bags for an environmentally-sensitive clientele at home are not really ‘green.' But you can do such things easier in Bangladesh than elsewhere, she explains.

Two serious-looking men from Guangdong are here for a similar reason. They've shifted part of the production from a factory in Dongguan to Bangladesh. "You can do stuff you're not allowed to do in Dongguan," they explain, declining to swap name cards. Bangladesh's environmental laws are not as stringent as those back home, explains one. And apart from buying clothes locally the duo have built up a solid business selling dyes to garment processors in the area.1

Obama Kicking A** (And Taking Names)

This will fix things.

'Obama Creates Oil-Spill Panel' - 1WSJ

Freaky Mascots

Shanghai World Expo

London Olympics

Nothing warm and cuddly about these little monsters. More of a police-state flair with a layer of feigned friendliness...someone is watching.

National DNA Database to be Expanded

Millions of Americans arrested for but not convicted of crimes will likely have their DNA forcibly extracted and added to a national database, according to a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.

By a 357 to 32 vote, the House approved legislation that will pay state governments to require DNA samples, which could mean drawing blood with a needle, from adults "arrested for" certain serious crimes. Not one Democrat voted against the database measure, which would hand out about $75 million to states that agree to make such testing mandatory.

Not one Democrat. Of course, if Bush was in office this would be cause celebre with the Ivy-League liberal crowd. Ethics means consistency. Liberalism in its current American form is about the privilege of being able to raid the public till when your side wins.

1'House votes to expand national DNA arrest database' - CNET, McCullagh

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Political and Social Growth has not Matched Economic Growth in Asia

Though it appear this round of political upheaval in Thailand is over, the fact remains that economic growth in most of East and South East Asia has outstripped political and social growth. What is meant by social growth in this context ? For instance, the type of non-discriminatory laws taken for granted in the United States do not exist in emerging Asia. Overt discrimination by skin color is a norm of life and a basis for employment without recourse. The working classes lack any type of standardized labor laws, and are shut out of politics by historically entrenched and often (but not always) colonially-originated ruling classes. These issues are not unique to the region, but they are nevertheless overt and oppressive.

The Thai protests show that the folks driving the world economy over the last ten or more years are not quite as happy to be sweating in factories just for the sake of a job and a living. They are gaining confidence and letting their aspirations be known. The economic development in emerging Asia will eventually mean greater democracy and human rights, which will actually end up cutting into the rate of exploitation and capitalist-oriented growth in the region, and worldwide. This is something even the late Milton Friedman might agree with: Capitalism and Freedom (outside the workplace, of course). One slight problem for private capital accumulation is that emerging Asia is the last bastion of large pools of cheap labor coming out of pre-capitalist agricultural relations. It is a pool that is shrinking but will probably still provide enough labor for growth for a number of economic cycles.

Arizona Official Offers Energy Boycott to L.A.

One of the local nativists in Arizona did just manage to show what a bunch of grandstanding fools the L.A. city council is. They trumpet a 'boycott' that really isn't a boycott at all. If anything, this just shows how dependent states are on each other, and why an independent California - sometimes fantasized about by liberals during the Bush era - is not in the cards in our lifetime.

1'Ariz. regulator weighs retaliation for LA boycott' - AP

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oil Spil Expands in Loop Current

Obama was practicing his jokes for the Correspondent's Dinner as this catastrophe blew out of control. -Tell us the one about Predator drones, again.-

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wise Developed World To Sell Clean Energy to the Backward Undeveloped World

Should one laugh or cry ?

U.S. leaders want China's clean energy boom to drive technology exports and are sending a sales mission to Beijing this week. But Beijing wants to create its own suppliers of wind, solar and other equipment and is limiting access to its market, setting up a new trade clash with Washington and Europe.

China is quite capable of developing its own clean energy technology and its own 'national champions' in these fields. In many areas of which they are already nearly equal to the developed world (so-called here for the sake of standardization). The political and economic leadership of the developed world is woefully mistaken if they think they can just 'move on' after strip mining their own working classes the last generation. What fools these people are. When they fail to crack the China clean energy market- as they failed with finance - no doubt the saber-rattling of trade war will recommence. China will then find out, or perhaps they already realize, how worthless all those promissory notes are. Perhaps they should talk to some Native American tribes about trading partners who speak with 'forked tongue'.

1'US, Europe, look to China for Clean Energy Sales' - AP; McDonald

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Did the IMF Just Bailout Europe ?

Pretty much looks that way , if one reads between the lines. More interesting will be Europe's response over the next decade - will it be domestic savings, devaluation and export policies ? Much like Asia after its run-in with the IMF over a decade ago ?

Austerity for the entire world won't work. Everyone cannot be an exporter and a saver when the components of a capitalist system push for growth. And we do have a capitalist world-system, because surplus capital is mostly controlled by the private sector. Hence the power of bond 'vigilantes'. Though these vigilantes are as inseparable from the system as a zebra is from its stripes, and railing about them is pure political theater.

At this point, these guys are flailing. They're not evil geniuses or even cunning. They have power through accident and history. But they're about as capable as BP is proving itself to be in the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The ‘Industrial Reserve Army’

The Wall Street Journal hearts Marx, after an obligatory 'he was wrong, you know'.

In Das Kapital, Marx described a problem he saw in the way capitalist societies function. As companies became more productive, learning to get more from their workers, they would need fewer and fewer of those workers. This would create an “industrial reserve army” of unemployed people, whose desperation to work would keep the fire at the heels of those who had jobs and keep wages in check. As a result, all the added value created by workers would accrue to the owners of the companies.
Lately, the U.S. recovery has been displaying some Marxian traits. Corporate profits are on a tear, and rising productivity has allowed companies to grow without doing much to reduce the vast ranks of the unemployed.

I suspect the Obama administration is hoping the threat of this reserve army of the unemployed will help drive down wages in the U.S. working class. This would help the US industrial sector to regain competitiveness internationally. I believe this is one reason why the administration never gave a big push for a jobs program.

It's doubtful this type of strategy would work though. Class struggle in the U.S. exists, but not often with marches or strikes. Like America itself, it is socially atomized. People just won't take the work if it's below a certain wage. They will go back to school, try starting a business, be a house husband etc. The assent of neo-liberalism and the assault on working standards is often talked about as a success on its own terms. But neo-liberalism in the U.S has been politically unable to destroy the largest of the social safety nets - Social Security and Medicare. There has been a pushback by the American working class, but we often don't notice it.
'29.4 Million in ‘Industrial Reserve Army’ - Wall Street Journal Blog; Whitehouse

The Hard Working Chinese Offensive Lineman

A story on the first ethnic Chinese man to be drafted into the NFL.

As with most human interest stories on matters to do with East Asians, the author goes on about how hard-working he is and how strict his parents were.

You will almost never see an article about a Black athlete mention how hard working he is. I guess, because Blacks are naturally athletic, and don't have to work hard on these type of things.

Or so the subtext reads.

1'Bills’ Wang ready to help NFL gain ground in China'; Wawrow, AP

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Austerity Means No Demand

Having bankrupted the American middle class, the designated consumer of last resort, factions of the US ruling class thought they could keep things going in the emerging world. China tightening is showing different. With a billion people and massive overcapacity China still plans on being an exporter. Like Obama, who somehow promises to double exports in five years despite a crumbling Euro.

Keynes was a moderate in the 30's, basically a conservative and protector of the private profit system against a vibrant Left. Without a political impetus to reform - first and foremost by redistributing wealth - capitalism could very well consume itself, as a swarm of cannibalistic piranhas might.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2004: Greenspan Channels Plato

Because we really need to be ruled by wise unelected philosophers who know best:

"We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand."

1'Greenspan Wanted Housing-Bubble Dissent Kept Secret' Huff Po; Grimm

Monday, May 3, 2010

Obama Makes Jokes as the Worst Environmental Disaster in US History Unfolds

From the White House website, Obama and Jay Leno have fun.

And eleven men died in the initial explosion.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

'A Lot of What You're Seeing Is Just For Show'

Comments a boat guide, about oil booms put out in strategically visible places along the Louisiana delta. His business has been shut down due to cancellations over the oil spill.

'What are they waiting on ? ' he asks.

IMF Austerity Will Destroy the World Economy

The savings glut that is blamed for current global imbalances are a result of Asia's reaction to IMF austerity more than a decade ago. Asia built up trillion dollar warchests to make sure those humiliations would never happen again.

Yet the IMF has learned nothing, because it's nature as an institution is to attract the most rapacious among us. A world with both European and Asian reserve warchests is impossible; demand will breakdown and we will have depression. This is the route I expect Europe to chose after the IMF forces austerity on the Mediterranean states. If not in a year, then ten - these reactions take time to build. In the end, the IMF will be finished in Europe like it is finished in Asia.

China Drops Tens of Billions on the World Expo

Meanwhile, they can't or won't build infrastructure to survive an earthquake. Schools crumbled by the dozens both in Sichuan and in Yushu:

"If every year half the money spent on cars, eating, drinking and traveling overseas were saved and spent on strengthening rural buildings, in a single year the buildings of millions of people could be made more earthquake-proof," a former top engineer for the China Earthquake Administration, Wang Zifa, wrote (recently)1

The stark divide between the goals of the Shanghai and coastal cliques, and the interior populations they exploit grows wider. China's Gini is larger than the United States, with a per capta income that is far lower.

I'm not sure where the bizarre and disturbing string of knife attacks fit in, but it is not part of the 'harmonious society' Hu bullshits about all the time. There are clearly some deep fissures forming in mainland Chinese society.