Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Krugman Wrong on the Golden Age

A case of a non-sequitor question "Is It Good to Live in A Destroyed World ?" (no one argues that) followed by number crunching on a faulty premise :'Net exports as a share of GDP'.

He writes:

On this blog and elsewhere, I often see assertions that America prospered after the Depression because our competitors were in a state of ruin.

That’s just not right.

This is a case of looking at a tree and forgetting the forest. We can start with dollar reserve currency, inheriting Britain's naval bases through lend lease, or seizing most of the world's gold supply. More importantly, consider how rare it was for a Mercedes Benz or Toyota to be seen on the streets of an American city in 1960. Or for high-value added South Korean or Taiwanese technology to be competing with and outselling U.S. technology. Those two countries were as poor as Africa at that time.

The US benefited from the destruction of its competitors first because it enabled a monopoly within its domestic market. Secondly, it enabled a monopoly in regional markets. And lastly, it enabled us to rebuild these competitors and sell our products to them. However, as they quickly rebuilt it meant the penetration of the US marketplace, partly opened up as a response to the Cold War. The U.S. car industry went under because it lost the competitive battle in the domestic marketplace to Germany, Japan and finally South Korea. Would this have happened in 1960 ? No.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Some English Language Articles Regarding Cuba

1'Cuban aviation scandal highlights growing corruption problem' - Miami Herald, 4/2010

Plenty of grains of salt when it comes to anything out of Miami regarding Cuba, especially in terms of quotes from defectors. However it references an original BBC article on the arrest of General Rogelio Acevedo.


2'Cuba Names New Civil Aviation Chief' - Latin American Herald Tribune


3'Cuba fires minister for oil, mining industries' - Yahoo, AP, 9/2010

Article reads: "The government of Raul Castro discharged Yadira Garcia Vera as minister of basic industry due to "her deficiencies in heading the institution, particularly reflected in the weak manner in which she controlled resources destined for investment and the production process," said a small but sternly worded item in the Communist Party newspaper Granma."


4'Cuba sets shake-up for powerful health minister ' - AP, 7/2010

Article reads: "Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered few details on why he was replaced."


5'Chile Presses Cuba Over Death of an Executive ' - The Wall Street Journal, 4/2010

Article reads: "Chile's government on Wednesday asked Cuba for an "exhaustive investigation" into the death of a Chilean executive in Cuba who worked for Max Marambio, a former top Cuban spy whose business empire is under investigation by Cuban authorities.


6'Officials: Chilean exec's death in Cuba tied to drugs' - Miami Herlad, 4/2010

Article reads: "Baudrand's death has focused attention on the growing corruption in Cuba, including a simmering scandal in the government-run airline Cubana de Aviacion that has landed two longtime Fidel Castro protégés in hot water.

``It's becoming evident that there are people in government . . . who are entrenching themselves financially for the time when the revolution falls,'' economist Esteban Morales wrote in an article published on the Web page of the official Union of Cuban Writers and Artists."


6'Cuba Needs Dialogue without Sectarianism ' - The Havana Times, 6/2010

Article begins: "The political moment is complicated. The economic situation is at its most critical point; social stagnation is chronic; the international campaign to isolate the government is worsening; the opposition is gathering strength, and measures by the state to alleviate some internal tensions are interpreted as weakness in the face of international pressure."


7'Corruption, the True Counter_Revolution ?' - Esteban Morales, 4/2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

They Don't Want an Educated Population

I see Obama was in the news today, excoriating fat and lazy teachers/students.

Obama and his Masters do not want an educated population. One should never debate them on their own terms, because it is a lie.

They want nimble and efficient bean counters, hence the emphasis on metrics and testing. Preferably bean counters without a social conscious who are happy to crank out new products for the war machine.

An educated and historically aware population is too hard to politically control in a country as unequal as the United States.

Related Posts:
'Better Pay Means Better Teachers'


1'Lack of 'Rare Earth' Minerals Could Cause Major Problems' - Voice of America

From the article:"If you look at the United States trying to go to a renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2030, there currently isn’t the rare earth material available to build those wind turbines to help build that economy."

A little problem: rare earth minerals are non-renewable, so how can any technology that uses them meet a 'renewable energy standard'. Not too mention that the last U.S. mine was shut down because of the dangers it posed in terms of pollution and radiation. (Please be a little less smug Prius owners.)


2'Bright Food Is in Talks to Buy McVitie's Maker United Biscuits' - Bloomberg

This is inevitable as long as China's accumulated account balance swells. At current trends, they will eventually move into areas now deemed out-of-reach because of national security. Money Talks.


3'Wikileaks in Revolt: Spokesman Quits Amid Tension with Founder' - Gawker

A sign of health ? I suspect in a few years we may have one, two, many WikiLeaks.


4'Albert Haynesworth bristles over deal' - ESPN

Haynesworth:"Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want ... does that mean everything is for sale?"

People may not like the possible answers to this question if they probe too deeply into our social structure.


5'Broncos WR Kenny McKinley found dead in apparent suicide' - The Denver Post

Article reads: "The 23-year-old, second-year pro has been on the team's injured reserve list since early August with a knee injury."

The emotional trauma of losing one's passion due to injury is devastating. Most people aren't that passionate about their jobs. In the arts, yes. In elite sports, mostly yes.


6'Ga. Megachurch Pastor's Flock Standing by Him' - ABC News

Article reads: "Despite allegations that he lured four young men into sexual relationships, many of Bishop Eddie Long's followers remain unwavering in their support for him as he pledges to fight the accusations like David fighting Goliath."


Sunday, September 26, 2010


1'A Dearth of Work for China's College Grads' - Bloomberg/Business Week

The simple fact is almost no one intrinsically wants to be a factory worker. We are now into the 2nd or 3rd generation of the Asian industrial revolution, and wages will have to increase to keep people in the factories. This may boost demand but it may also lead to a profitability crisis; where that inflection point is in a nation's capitalist development is not set in stone.


2'New strikes in France over retirement age' - AP

If people wonder why the French have a lower retirement age.


3'Chinese Leader Fields Executives’ Questions' - New York Times

And Bill Gates complains: “I’ll mention one thing that is not going well, and that’s related to the enforcement of intellectual property, such as copyright. If you look at the numbers, over the last five years there hasn’t been much progress.” ...Question: Has Bill Gates ever actually talked to a regular person in the developing world or China ? They could give a rat's ass about some billionaire's precious property rights.


4'Only in Japan, Real Men Go to a Hotel With Virtual Girlfriends ' - WSJ; Wakabbayashi

There were plenty of sci-fi books written about this scenario in the 50's and 60's. The Asian penchant or demand for light-skinned women can be seen in the article's pictures. Discrimination by skin color is endemic in Asia, and pretty much out in the open and socially 'accepted', as are skin lightening products. A very obvious attitudinal difference between Asian-American and Asian-born women is their attitude to skin color and use or lack of use of these products. An uncomfortable topic, but very real and somewhat interesting. To me it illustrates the fact that while economic development has moved at a breakneck speed in Asia, politics and social relations remain stagnant. That dichotomy can't continue much longer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Esteban Morales: "Corruption: The True Counter-Revolution ?"

Esteban Morales, one of Cuba's most prominent pro-revolution intellectuals, in his last public essay before being excommunicated from the Cuban Communist Party. Cross-posted from: Progreso Weekly. Originally posted on a Cuban Artist's and Writer's website, before it was scrubbed.


Corruption: The true counter-revolution?

By Esteban Morales
From the UNEAC website

When we closely observe Cuba's internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counter-revolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the State and Government.

Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the Revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR.

Fidel said that we ourselves could put an end to the Revolution and I tend to think that, among other concerns, the Commander in Chief was referring to the questions relative to corruption. Because this phenomenon, already present, has continued to appear in force. If not, see what has happened with the distribution of lands in usufruct in some municipalities around the country: fraud, illegalities, favoritism, bureaucratic slowness, etc.

In reality, corruption is a lot more dangerous than the so-called domestic dissidence. The latter is still isolated; it lacks an alternative program, has no real leaders, no masses. But corruption turns out to be the true counter-revolution, which can do the most damage because it is within the government and the state apparatus, which really manage the country's resources.

Otherwise, let us look at something very simple. When is there powdered milk in the black market (which has been rising in price to 70 pesos per kilogram)? When the powdered milk reaches the state-owned warehouses. There's no better example than that. And so it is with the products acquired in the black market by part of a majority of the population. In other words, at the expense of the state's resources, there is an illegal market from which everyone benefits, except the State.

And what can you tell me about the street vendors, outside the large hard-currency stores, offering to sell everything. It is a corruption in which almost everyone participates, generated by the corruption of state functionaries. Because, as far as we know, in Cuba there is only one importer – the State. I don't think that what comes in the packages from Miami can generate a market that big, much less a market of lasting products.

Observe, too, the movement of pork meat from state-run stores to private outlets, the prices of beverages and water sold at the various tourism chains. The suspicious differences in prices that we stumble on so frequently.

In other words, it is evident that there is an illegal flow of products between the state's wholesale trade and the street commerce. An entire underground economy that the State is unable to control and will be impossible to set aright as long as the big imbalances between supply and demand that today characterizes our economy exists.

This economy is, then, a form of counter-revolution that does have concealed leaders, offers alternatives to the State's offerings, and has masses that practice it.

But the situation sketched above is not the most dangerous part of the affair we are now dealing with. That's only its popular surrounding.

What was recently learned regarding the weaknesses of a group of functionaries at a very high level – having to do with favoritism, the buddy system, certain acts of corruption and carelessness in the handling of sensitive information, as well as some evidence of a struggle for power waged by those functionaries – was information that, lamentably, was passing into the hands of the Spanish intelligence services, even though those services were very careful not to enlist the officials' participation. Those are extremely serious matters.

In other words, matters as sensitive as the hunger and hope for power, favoritism, corruption and unseemly statements about the country's top leadership, which were already known by the foreign special services. A real “political merchandise” with extremely high added value in the hands of the enemies of the Revolution.

When the Cuban government turned over to the FBI all the information it had about the activities of the counter-revolution in the United States, activities that included even the possibility of assassination attempts against the U.S. president, what did the FBI do? Instead of taking steps against the counter-revolution, instead of acting against the Cuban-American Mafia, they sought to find out, like hound dogs, where the information that Cuba had given them came from, what were the sources. And there we have our five devoted, heroic compatriots who have spent more than 11 years serving unjust sentences in U.S. prisons.

After the statements made by Fidel about how we ourselves can destroy the Revolution, about the existence of reasons to think that our Revolution may be reversible, what the U.S. special services must be doing is looking for information that corroborates Fidel's concerns.

They're looking for confirmation for the words of the Commander in Chief, watching closely what happens every day in Cuba, digging into everything that may allow them to find out where is the real counter-revolutionary force in Cuba, a force that can topple the Revolution, a force that appears to be not below but above, in the very levels of government and the state apparatus.

It is formed by the corrupt officials, not at all minor, who are being discovered in very high posts and with strong connections – personal, domestic and external – generated after dozens of years occupying the same positions of power. Note than none of the men “defenestrated” until now (at least since Trials 1 and 2) was a simple employee.

Very recently, General Acevedo, director of the IACC (Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba) was removed, and what is making the rounds in unofficial circles about the reasons for his ouster is enough to keep people awake at nights.

There must be some truth in what they say, because this is a very small and familial country. The affair still has not had an exhaustive public explanation, as the people expect, because – if it's like the rumors say – the people's money and resources were squandered amid an economic situation that's quite critical to the country. So, either to vindicate Acevedo or to condemn him, you have to explain it to the people, the people the Revolution has created and formed, technically and scientifically, and who are prepared and with sufficient ability.

In reality, I must say, as a hypothesis, that what happened in the IACC is not unique. It has been discovered in other places and there may still be companies where the same is happening, i.e., where the chiefs are receiving commissions and opening bank accounts in other countries. Which is a working theory valid enough to open other investigations so that such affairs will not catch us by surprise. In economics, there is a “surprise audit” that is not meant to offend anyone and should not annoy anyone. To audit is not to offend; it is a mechanism of precaution that contributes to honesty.

An element we mustn’t fail to consider is that the focus of the United States' policy toward Cuba changed long ago (1986-1994). Today, basic attention is paid to Cuba's domestic reality. It is not an absolute orientation but it is fundamental and prioritized. Everything that's happening domestically in Cuba is being observed, monitored by the American politicians and particularly by the U.S. special services.

For obvious reasons that need not be explained, the Americans know better than us what Cubans and how many Cubans have bank accounts abroad. Who receive commissions and what business they're in. Because all the companies with which Cuba does business have intelligence apparatuses and almost all of them coordinate with the U.S. services. And if they don't, there are officials who, as soon as they get hold of sensitive information about Cuba, link up with the American services, which, by the way, pay handsomely for that information.

What's most lamentable is that the American services are better informed than we are about all the possible movements of our businessmen. And that's information that, if left to run, in other words, accumulate, is an excellent conduit for bribery, blackmail and the recruiting of any Cuban official. This doesn't mean it always works; there may be someone who becomes corrupt but doesn't allow himself to be recruited, because it is a very subtle matter. But whoever turns to corruption to enrich himself will find it difficult to retain other values.

Any Cuban functionary who, in his relations with any foreign enterprise, becomes corrupt, should know that that information could fall into the hands of the special services of any country, and from there to the hands of the American services it's but an instant. A dossier is immediately opened, and it is filled with information until it is considered necessary or pertinent to subject that functionary to bribery, blackmail or recruitment.

This is not being paranoid. Only fools fail to realize that any sensitive information about Cuba, its activities abroad or regarding any Cuban functionary, that is considered to be useful is very well paid by the special services of the United States. And if we don't know this by now, we're finished.

It is, then, a covert area of the subversion against Cuba that, particularly in the medium and long run, produces very good political dividends. It is an area of the counter-revolution that has nothing to do with the so-called dissidence, the piddling groups or the ill-called “ladies in white.”

Observe how the weaknesses of some Cuban functionaries were being transferred to the Spanish intelligence services. Cubans in the FAR and the MININT involved in drug trafficking. Discovered by Cuba in 1989, but that was already privileged information in the hands of the DEA, the FBI and the rest of the American special services.

Actions of that type seriously affect the ability of the country to press forward. It is as clear as a mathematical algorithm that the ability of any nation to deal with international confrontation is measured, in the first place, by its internal fortitude.

If at least Cuba could discover its corrupt officials early, the damage could be slighter.
Esteban Morales, a Cuban academician, is honorary director of the U.S. Studies Center at the University of Havana.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why We Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Begin to Love Computerized Medical Records

Using social security numbers as a clearinghouse, the computerization and digitalization of medical records might soon make one's medical history as accessible as one's credit history. Which is often checked by companies before hiring an employee. One can imagine laws to prevent the abuse of this in a reasonably democratic society, again, an intellectual exercise rather than a reflection of what today exists in a highly unequal and stratified society that requires the implicit hand of authority to maintain order.

From a few weeks back:

Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances.

The state sheriff's association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse. But patient advocates say opening up people's medicine cabinets to law enforcement would deal a devastating blow to privacy rights.

Allowing sheriffs' offices and other law enforcement officials to use the state's computerized list would vastly widen the circle of people with access to information on prescriptions written for millions of people. As it stands now, doctors and pharmacists are the main users.

1'Sheriffs want lists of patients using painkillers' - News and Observer; Bonner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Post World War 2 Global Financial Structure Remains Shattered

Dragged down by the economic inability of the global 'regulator' of capitalism, the United States, to support the dollar demand that comes with reserve currency. The dollar has two values: one, at a much lower rate that would reflect the competitiveness of US production in the global market. The second, much higher, reflecting the near monopoly the dollar has in international finance and the subsequent demand for dollars. The gap between these two dollar values will continue to grow as the developing world moves up the value chain.

The bourgeoisie academic solution would be to convert to a SDR system that reflects each country's real strength in production in the global market. That probably isn't theoretically possible in a world of capitalist nation-states, and certainly isn't possible in reality as we look at each region engaging in currency devaluation and export turf battles. Other 'solutions' are as before, war and the liquidation of competitors and capacity through violence, or a crashing of the world economy to wipe out export dependent countries. Unless U.S. capitalism finds a way to revive itself, theoretically possible through massive government spending and investment, but politically almost impossible, the other options will increasingly be on the table.

1Graph from Albert Edwards, SocGen

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nasdaq 5000 !

From 3/9/2000:

The Nasdaq broke 5000 today on a broad-based rally sparked by those irrepressible, highflying technology stocks. Who would have thought on Jan. 1 that 69 days into the new year, the market of the 21st Century would be sitting at more than half the level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

'Market of the 21st Century' - wrong continent perhaps ?

"The Nasdaq 5000 is smacking people across the face and saying, 'I don't care if the Dow is down. There is money going into stocks and they're real stocks,"' says Ben Marsh, director of equity trading at Adams, Harkness & Hill. "The money will continue to go into these Nasdaq companies."

Yes, of course it will. And housing always goes up.

Bond were largely unenthusiastic about the Treasury Department's first buyback of government debt since 1930...The government ultimately intends to repurchase $30 billion in Treasury bonds as part of its campaign to pay down the national debt.

Paying back national debt; bad idea - better to blow it on tax cuts to buy another sofa or Jaguar.

Oil prices also firmed a bit this morning, after plunging about 8% yesterday, on hopes that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' members will agree to boost oil production when they meet March 27. Iran and Saudi Arabia signaled such willingness yesterday.

Iran is still 'playing ball'.

On the economic front, the Labor Department reported this morning that initial jobless claims for the week ended March 4 rose by 5,000 to 280,000, largely as expected. But the less volatile four-week moving average fell to a 26-year low of 277,250 from 284,000, signaling a very tight labor market.

The market now celebrates 450,000...

We've already had a lost decade.

1'Nasdaq 5000! Tech Fever Ignites Broad Market Rally - Smart Money, WSJ Digital Network

Friday, September 17, 2010

End the Current System of Analyzing America By Ethnicity

To start, consider a bit of statistical 'analysis', by way of reference:

Mexico has a per capita gdp/ppp of $ 13,500 a year while the Chinese speaking world is at about $ 7,500 a year. As we know from statistics there is a clear and undeniable relationship between income and IQ. Therefore, either Mexicans work harder, study more, or are innately smarter.


Of course, this is not a standard view in the United States today. In our corner of the world, our sample bias, Chinese-Americans make about twice what Mexican-Americans do. So we bring another set of stereotypes to the table. But from the global income numbers it seems that ethnicity is masking class issues related to immigration patterns particular to the United States.

Critics of the bracketed analysis would point out the large population of mainland China, the geographic, political and economic difficulties in raising that population out of poverty, the legacy of imperialism, Mexico's proximity to the U.S, or the weakness of IQ as a measure of innate anything. In short, people would point at other factors that complicate said analysis.

Unfortunately, we seem unable to do that when it comes to analyzing our own population.

Such is the intellectual weakness of our continuing obsession with ethnic categorization in an increasingly multi-layered American society. It is silly on one level, but deeply dangerous on another.

First, from a left perspective, it undermines working class solidarity. Go to any Cal campus in the Fall and see how many ethnic-oriented tables and student organizations there are versus labor organizations. Politically speaking for the United States in 2010, this is a complete dead end.

Second, it promotes racial antagonism and and the 'science' of ethnic differences in learning. This undercurrent exists in mainstream educational circles - again, based on our statistical reporting of issues solely along ethnic lines. And based upon a misunderstanding of how sample bias can skew perception.

Third, it is inaccurate and unscientific, which erodes logic and rationality in our broader discourse.

We cling to this way of viewing American society because it worked - 40 years ago - when there was little immigration and less flux in the statistical inputs of our society. The US today is characterized by multiple levels of immigration - skilled , unskilled, from multiple areas of the world, and by ethnic mixing domestically on a scale rarely seen in human history. This tapestry is being thrust into an archaic and brittle system of categorization despite in many cases deep differences in class, culture and educational background. And behind it are political voices who like this way of breaking up society by skin color - most importantly the wealthy who of course are deeply in love with the idea of fracturing working class solidarity.

When statistics obscure rather than illuminate, it's time to use a new model, most especially for those on the left.


The most obvious example of this is Obama. He is of course 'black', but from a middle class background and attended one of the most elite private high schools in the country. His father was from the political elite of Kenya, highly educated, and hand-picked to immigrate to the United States for those reasons. His mother was also highly educated and had a doctorate degree.

Can Obama's success really tell us anything about the conditions and opportunity for a descendant from slavery who grows up in Detroit ? I don't think so.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Putting the Chinese Consumer on the Western Credit Morphine Drip

One has a feeling this is what 'it' was about all along. Cracking the Chinese banking system for a takeover by the West.

"We are concerned that China is breaking its trade commitments to the United States and other WTO partners, both by favoring its one state-owned financial services firm to the exclusion of American credit- and debit-card companies and by manipulating trade remedy investigations to unfairly restrict exports of American steel," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.(1)

Or, as better stated over Jesse's:

...The natural benefit of unrestrained globalization is a canard similar in nature to the fallacy of naturally efficient markets.

It suited some people to ignore it then because the arrangement provided cheap goods to the US while depressing the domestic manufacturing sector and working class incomes, while boosting the financial sector and masking monetary inflation and asset bubbles. It was a means of empowering and enriching Wall Street at the expense of the productive economy.

Now that China's currency manipulation does not suit them, they are willing to discuss it, since China is not 'playing ball' with the financial engineers and encouraging domestic consumption and adopting Western bankers as their masters.(2)

How will China respond ? Centralization is essential to maintaining the cohesiveness of the state in a country so large, and with China's historical geographic weaknesses and propensity to factionalize. The repercussions of opening up their financial system would probably push a Beijing-centered China to the point of collapse.

1'U.S. files WTO cases vs. China on steel, services' - Marketwatch
2'China's Mercantilism: Selling Them the Rope' - Jesse Cafe Americain

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FDR was Popular with the Working Class and the Poor

From a Survey for the 1936 Election

Car and Phone Ownership: FDR 55 %, Landon 45%
Car, No Phone: FDR 68%, Landon 30 %
Phone, No Car: FDR 69%, Landon 30%
No Car, No Phone: FDR 79%, Landon 19%

I doubt such a survey today would reveal the same contrasts in class. Part of the legacy of the Southern Strategy.
As a side note, my family's farm did not have electricity until 1948, however, they did buy a brand new Ford in 1945 or so.

Rural electrification took a long time.

1'Why the 1936 Literary Digest Poll Failed" - Perevill Squire (page 6)

Monday, September 13, 2010

China and the End of Capitalism

The argument is that China represents the last infrastructurally developed reservoir of cheap labor and market growth left in the world, and its now central role in the world economy represents an end stage in the modernizing phase of capitalism. Chinese production has been increasingly overloading the world capitalist system with goods, creating overcapacity on a global scale, with the U.S. running unsustainable trade deficits as the holder of reserve currency and 'consumer of last resort'. The system is overloaded; we have a global crisis of 'over-production' of proportions never before attained.

Two people associated with this view are Robert Brenner of UCLA and Minqi Li of the University of Utah, though their perspectives vary significantly as well; Li focuses quite a bit on ecology both in his book 'China and the Demise of the World Capitalist System' and in this interview.

1'The Real News Network'

2'Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis: the US, East Asia, and the World' - Interview with Robert P. Brenner

China and Japan: Naval and Trade Tensions

While World War 2 effectively blew out the European volcano, in Asia national tensions have mostly been suppressed by the long time presence of the 7th Fleet. Despite rapid economic development, there have been only gradual steps towards regional political unity as compared with the EU. This is possibly because of the fundamental weakness in the development strategy, in that it is based on export cartels and not domestic consumption - though domestic consumption and living standards have increased dramatically as a byproduct of export success.

With China now buying Japanese bonds to diversify away from dollars, strengthening the yen and cutting into Japanese-based exporter profits, these two powers are seeing a commensurate rise in territorial disputes over oil and natural gas rich areas in the waters of East Asia.

1'Wary Japan seeks clarity on China military outlay' - Reuters
2'China raises pressure on Japan in sea dispute' - Reuters
3'Wikipedia Commons' - Map Image
4'Look Out for the Diaoyu Islands' - NYT; Kristoff

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Agree to Pay Whatever We Charge or Your Family Will Die

All from a catastrophe you had nothing to do with causing. What a country !


"(Julio) Locon suffers from 3rd degree burns on his ear and second degree burns on his hand and his back as a result of the explosion. He is concerned about his niece and and sister-in-law who were also burned but have no health insurance. Locon had to sign papers at Seton Medical Center stating he would pay the medical bills if no one else would. He said the center made him sign before they would treat his relatives for burns and a broken arm."

1San Bruno Fire Photos - San Jose Mercury News

Saturday, September 11, 2010

No Excuse For Government Inaction on High Unemployment

Because there is plenty of work to do :

Experts say the nation's 296,000 miles of onshore natural-gas lines routinely suffer breakdowns and failures.

More than 60 percent of the lines are 40 years old or older and almost half were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a recent analysis by the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Bellingham, Wash.

Most of the older pipelines lack anticorrosion coatings that are prevalent in the industry today, said Carl Weimer, executive director of the trust, which was set up following a 1999 explosion that killed three people in Bellingham.

"The industry always says that if you take care of pipelines, they'll last forever," Weimer said. "But what we see over and over again is companies are not doing that and corrosion and other factors are causing failures."(1)

The problem is this work is not sufficiently profitable in the narrow short-term way that private capital measures such things. So, just have government do it through direct hiring.

1'Crews Search San Bruno Homes After Blast Kills 4' - CBS News

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Fall Will be Very Hard for the White, Western Ruling Class

Example 1: A former German Central Banker who insults the intelligence of Muslims.(1)

Never mind that the Islamic world was light years ahead of the West - most especially the tree worshiping Hun - for most of recorded history.

As Betrand Russell wrote in 'A History of Western Civilization':

"To us, it seems that West-European civilization is civilization, but this is a narrow view. Most of the cultural content of our civilization comes to us from the Eastern Mediterranean, from Greeks and Jews. As for power; Western Europe was dominant from the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome - say, roughly, during the six centuries from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D. After that time (until the Renaissance), no state in Western Europe could compare in power with China, Japan, or the Caliphate."

Yet racism and privilege is so deeply buried in the mind of the Western ruling class, their inevitable fall from absolute power will probably bring the modern world to all out war.

1'Official's views on Muslim immigration divide Germany' - Washington Post

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hungary Pokes a Stick at EU, IMF

If Hungary can get away with this in the debt markets, it will provide further confidence for countries like Greece to split from the Euro mandated austerity.

1'Hungary govt to focus on jobs, econ growth' - Reuters

"Peter Szijjarto also told a news conference that the economic policy of previous Socialist governments -- based on austerity measures -- has failed and the new government planned to create one million new jobs in the next ten years."

2'Europe Finance Ministers Urge Hungary to Resume IMF Negotiations, MTI Says'-Bloomberg

3'Hungarian premier: I am no 'Che Guevara' fighting against banks ' - Earth Times

"Hungary's government has stuck by its "economic autonomy" during its first months in office and will continue to do so, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday, defending a controversial tax on the banking system."

4'Hungary economy ministry sees no need for new IMF loan agreement' - Budapest Business Journal

5'Hungary warned on pay cap law' - Financial Times

"The European Commission has warned Hungary that it must amend a law capping the pay of national bank employees to avoid infringing the independence of the national bank.

Hungary’s new government passed a law in July capping the salary of public employees at 2m forints ($8,800), requiring Andras Simor, governor of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank, to accept a 75 per cent pay cut"

6'Hungary can finance debts from mkt in 2011-13 -govt' -Reuters

"Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy also reiterated at a business forum that the country's financing deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union will expire in October and the Fidesz government had no intention of seeking a new IMF loan agreement."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Take This Job And Shove It

From another era. It's no accident this song came on the precipice of the neo-liberal counter revolution, which diminished the expectations and rebelliousness of the American working class. If released today it might be attacked as unpatriotic and certainly ungrateful.

Happy Labor Day 2010.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tony Blair Foams at the Mouth on Iran

Tony Blair on the BBC:

"I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear."(1)

Martin Wolf, channeling HSBC boss Stephen King:

In King’s view, many western optimists mistakenly think the rise of the west was due to superior institutions, particularly the market, and superior science and technology, particularly in commercial applications. He argues, instead, that the west reached its pinnacle at least as much by rent-seeking or, to put it more bluntly, by plundering the world’s physical and human resources. Meanwhile, other civilisations “were disconnected from the world’s productivity engines through the suppression of ideas, innovations and linkages with other nations, or by the violence meted out to them by the western powers."(2)

There's not much the Western ruling class can do about Iran, absent a nuclear strike that would send their already tattered historical legacy down in flames.

1'Tony Blair: West should use force if Iran 'continues to develop nuclear weapons'' - UK Guardian
2'Why the west faces a harsher future' - Financial Times; Martin Wolf

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Charter Schools are About Union Busting

Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has moved to shut down a San Fernando Valley charter school over the alleged theft or misuse of as much as $2.7 million by the school's founding principal.

The problems at NEW Academy Canoga Park turned up in an audit released Monday by the inspector general's office of the Los Angeles Unified School District.(1)

Most likely there's a lot of this going on that hasn't been reported. More private interests feeding at the public trough.

The larger reason for the elite push towards charter schools is to weaken the teacher's unions. Charter schools are not unionized, though they pay the prevailing wage. A union's ultimate power comes from the strike, and the ability to shut down the system; if fewer teachers as a percentage of a school district are unionized, it weakens union negotiating power.

1' L.A. Unified moves to close charter school over alleged misuse of $2.7 million' - LA Times; Blume