Monday, October 25, 2010

Shut Up Little People, It's Algae !

A Coast Guard official said Saturday the orange substance floating in miles-wide areas of West Bay on the Mississippi River delta appears to be algae, not oil as reported Saturday morning by The Times-Picayune.
However, boat captains working in the BP oil spill response team who first reported the sightings as oil said Saturday they were not convinced by the Coast Guard's initial assessment.

"I've never seen algae that looked orange, that was sticky, smelled like oil and that stuck to the boat and had to be cleaned off with solvent," said one captain, who like the others wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their BP contracts. "I'll wait for the lab reports. In fact, we're also sending some samples off."(1)

Just Shut Up ! Shut Up !

1'Coast Guard says substance found floating in Gulf is algae, not oil' - NOLA

FoxConn Is Also in India

Twelve Foxconn workers and union leaders remain in prison on October 13 in Chennai, India after hundreds of workers striking the plant were arrested on October 9.

The International Metalworkers' Federation is writing to Foxconn and Nokia global management demanding they intervene and ensure workers' rights are respected at the Foxconn plant located in the Nokia Special Economic Zone in Chennai, India.

More than 1,200 permanent workers belonging to the Foxconn India Thozhilalar Sangam (FITS) union, which is affiliated to Center For Indian Trade Unions (CITU), at the plant have been involved in weeks of struggle to have their union recognized by management so as to negotiate wage rises and other demands.

On October 9 police arrested hundreds of workers who had been picketing and striking the plant for several days. Around 319 workers including the trade union leaders were remanded into judicial custody and transferred to Vellore central jail. Remaining workers were let off and around 200 women workers were taken to a bus stop and asked to leave. When the women refused and demanded to be arrested also, they were abused and forced off the police vehicle.(1)

Bosses are having to go to more and more remote areas to find their requisite 'hard and humble worker'. The SE Asian working class has no intention of sending their kids into the factories. That means wages will have to go up a lot to compensate, which is going to put immense pressure on the export cartels in the coming generation.

1'500 workers arrested in India for striking against Foxconn' - No Sweat

Torture - Conveniently Explained on PowerPoint

The British military has been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions, the Guardian has discovered.

Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved.

One PowerPoint training aid created in September 2005 tells trainee military interrogators that prisoners should be stripped before they are questioned. "Get them naked," it says. "Keep them naked if they do not follow commands." Another manual prepared around the same time advises the use of blindfolds to put prisoners under pressure.(1)

1'Humiliate, strip, threaten: UK military interrogation manuals discovered' - UK Guardian

Texas Bills Amazon

As states grapple with increasingly squeezed budgets, one simmering battle -- trying to collect sales taxes from retailing behemoth Amazon (AMZN) -- has heated up considerably over the past year. The jury's still out on how much money states like Rhode Island and North Carolina (which is thick in litigation with Amazon over this very issue) will get from online sales-tax initiatives. But Texas has issued its own bill to Amazon -- to the tune of $269 million.

Although the state evidently said its bill, for uncollected sales taxes from December 2005 to December 2009 with extra interest and penalties, was sent to Amazon in August...(1)

The presumption of the article is probably partially true, but knowing Texas, this sounds like a power play on behalf of WalMart. Capitalists using their allies within the political apparatus to jockey for position.

1'Texas Sends Amazon a $269 Million Sales Tax Bill- Daily Finance

Bees as Travelling Salesmen

Bees can solve complex mathematical problems which keep computers busy for days, research has shown.

The insects learn to fly the shortest route between flowers discovered in random order, effectively solving the "travelling salesman problem" , said scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The conundrum involves finding the shortest route that allows a travelling salesman to call at all the locations he has to visit. Computers solve the problem by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the one that is shortest.(1)

Maybe this is because computers aren't very smart ? And chess - aka Big Blue - isn't that complex a game after all.

1'Bees' tiny brains beat computers, study finds- UK Guardian

Friday, October 22, 2010

Singapore Finding Pensions 'Costly'

says the once proud, but now awful BBC News.

The video helpfully points us to a 71 year old shoe salesman.

You didn't really want to retire, did you ?


Singapore is in the top five in terms of per capita GDP, worldwide.

Next : Public Floggings for Bad Parents ?

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok.

Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail. Parents of those excelling in school would be exempt, as would those whose health issues make travel difficult and those “actively engaged” with teachers through e-mail, phone calls or letters.(1)

This is one of those laws that gets the authoritarian types excited until they realize it may apply to them. And it is completely unenforceable because the standards will never be equally applied. There are enough gray areas to walk many lawsuits through.

The whole thing is farce - kids are unlikely to do well in school if they are hungry or homeless no matter how many teachers or parents are yelled at. That means increasing wages and jobs and reducing profits ... something the U.S ruling class is incapable of considering. Unless we boot these suckers out, the road to collapse will be very harsh.

1'Worthy proposes jail for parents who skip kids' school conferences- - Detroit News

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The False Dawn of Electric Cars ?

I've never been sure why technology based on highly polluting rare-earth mineral extraction should be considered 'green'.

The push to get electric cars on the road is backed by governments and auto makers around the world, but they face a big hurdle: the stubbornly high cost of the giant battery packs, which can account for half the cost of an electric vehicle.

Both the industry and government are betting that a quick takeoff in electric-car sales will drive down the battery prices. But a number of scientists and automotive engineers believe cost reductions will be hard to come by.

Unlike with tires or toasters, battery packs aren't likely to enjoy traditional economies of scale as their makers ramp up production, the scientists and engineers say.

1'High Battery Cost Curbs Electric Cars' - WSJ

Paramilitaries Authorized in France

The ruling class and its state appendage is starting to feel the heat, and the throwing off the facade.

The BBC's Christian Fraser says the French government has authorised the use of a special intervention force to deal with protesters blocking fuel depots

French strikers have tightened fuel blockades, hours after security forces began clearing protesters from depots.

Police reopened three sites in western France overnight, after ministers ordered that all of them be lifted.

1'French police frustrated by new strike blockades' - BBC News UK

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As Opposed to the 'Liberal' Ultra-Rich ?

So much of American politics is about following the nobleman with the biggest castle. Workers, the middle-class, however you want to define it, are spectators who are never permitted to take matters into their own hands.

On Bill Gates and Education

Just a response I posted over at Unsettling Economics, to 'Bill Gates: Teachers’ Pest'.

My response:

A couple of things.

1) Bill Gates doesn’t give a rat’s ass about having educated population. He wants a nation of bean counters who he can hire from. He certainly doesn’t want people who question political and economic authority. Annualized testing feeds into this well because it destroys the intrinsic joy of learning found in humans and replaces it with behaviorism.

2) This program is all nonsense anyway because there are still openings for teachers in every inner city district, especially in the core science/math subjects. Even if the economy recovers a bit, these openings will soar. The fact is, the job is to stifling , too controlled, and too poorly compensated to attract quality applicants. Having some Ivy-league educated Gatesian drone breathing down one’s neck, yeah that will encourage people to take the job. And having the political class attack public pensions will move people into the field, as well – yep.



Critics of Gatesian educationomics are far too kind. The guy is basically clueless about educating a student, though quite skilled at achieving results for business. This is behind his push for education reform: a nation of robotic bean-counters that he and other wise-men of the U.S. aristocracy can select from to run their affairs. But never question or seek to undermine their power.

These are the same people who think we need music in the schools to raise test scores. Such is their enlightenment and focus on fabled 'life-long learning'. What they believe in is behaviorism: rewarding and controlling behavior through the modulation of rewards. The draining of inspiration and innate human curiosity from everyday life unless channeled through the confines of the profit motivation. Specifically, their profit motivation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Zhao Dongmin: A Chinese Activist Who Will Never Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Though he meets the superficial conditions of being a critic of the Chinese Communist Party and imprisoned without trial, he does so from the Left - not from the pro-privatization stance of Liu Xiaobo and Charter 8. The latter fits in nicely with the desire of Western powers to 'democratize' China, which would probably have the added benefit of opening up its financial system.

But those who advocate worker's rights just aren't on the radar screen of the Western elite right now - can't imagine why.

Background :

On 27 July, the municipal government of Xi'an formally banned a local workers’ rights group that was seeking, but never obtained, official recognition of its status as an enterprise restructuring watchdog.

Just three months earlier, on 7 April, a group of more than 380 workers, predominately from local state-owned enterprises (SOEs), applied to the provincial Party committee and trade union federation to set up the Shaanxi Union Rights Defence Representative Congress, a body tasked with overseeing and monitoring SOE restructuring, and reporting corruption and abuses of power. The workers were concerned that the official trade union was not doing its job properly and that workers’ congresses in local SOEs had been bypassed in the process of restructuring and privatization.

Party and local union officials initially dismissed the workers’ application as the work of troublemakers, not worthy of consideration. The workers however were only emboldened by this rebuff and demanded a meeting with senior union officials to discuss the application and other pressing issues affecting workers in local SOEs. The meeting took place on 15 April at the provincial union’s workers’ centre in Xi'an, and was attended by workers from the Xinhua Rubber Plant, Fenglei Watchband Plant and Hu County Paper Mill, plus local labour activist Zhao Dongmin, the director of the Shaanxi trade union federation’s office and the director of the workers’ centre, amongst others.

Zhao writes, in part, of the rejected application for an independent trade union:

The “Application to establish a Shaanxi Union Rights Defence Representative Congress” is a strongly worded demand by the working class to the Party to strengthen its leadership over the working class and the peasant class, as well as a demand for the socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and farmers to thoroughly expose and punish corrupt officials in cahoots with factory directors and managers (known in political terms as the bureaucratic capitalist class), who are even more brutal and ruthless than capitalists. Isn’t the Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau’s arbitrary “ban” in effect weakening and even “banning” the Party’s leadership of workers and farmers, shielding corrupt officials in cahoots with factory directors and managers, and harming the socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and farmers?

1'A brief history of a workers’ rights group in China' - China Labor Bulletin

RFID Chips for Every American Worker !

Why not ? They are starting to put them in schools. For kids it might be about safety, for adults, workplace productivity - we don't want you out of your desk more than X % of the time.

Authoritarian thugs will always find some excuse.

Radio frequency identification — the same technology used to monitor cattle — is tracking students in the Spring and Santa Fe school districts.

Identification badges for some students in both school districts now include tracking devices that allow campus administrators to keep tabs on students' whereabouts on campus. School leaders say the devices improve security and increase attendance rates.(1)

1'Tracking devices used in school badges' - Houston Chronicle

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Mandatory Retirement Age ?

While the tenor of the elite led debate is towards an increased retirement age, in fact it probably would make more sense to lower the age one could receive full Social Security and Medicare. This could even go along with a mandatory retirement age. In doing so, positions would be freed up for the younger generation whose unemployment is often decried, but little done about. In general, older people usually want to retire and enjoy the life they have left, while young people should be working during their healthiest years. We are instead left with a deeply inefficient economic system based around a nebulous version of puritanism.

The Condition of the Working Class, in China

Yu Jianrong compares the Chinese working class to their counterpart in 19th century England, quoting Engels:

As pointed out by the ACFTU (All-China Federation of Trade Unions) , we are in a special period of time, characterized by economic transition, social transformation and mounting social tensions. However, in the process of the transformation of State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and the development of the private economy, some local governments have sacrificed practices that would benefit workers in exchange for practices benefiting investment, which has damaged workers’ legal rights. Some owners of SOEs seize state-owned or collectivity-owned properties in the name of transformation by bribing officials and lay off workers who worked in SOEs for their entire lives, transforming them into unemployed without insurance. Some other transformed former SOEs, along with private-owned enterprises, become sweatshops that fail to provide the basic protections to workers in workload and working environment. Workers in those factories toil in a vile work environment for very low wages, work becomes only a means for survival, and workers on the production line become robots without thoughts or dignity.

To change this undignified life, some workers must go to any lengths, including strikes, to protect their own legal interests. As Friedrich Engels wrote in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, “Since, as we have seen, no single field for the exercise of his manhood is left him, save his opposition to the whole conditions of his life, it is natural that exactly in this opposition he should be most manly, noblest, most worthy of sympathy.”(2)

People may recall his doomsday critique of CCP policy that leaked through Australia:

1'China insider sees revolution brewing' - Sydney Morning Herald

2'Without the Right to Strike, Chinese Workers Have No Dignity- Yu Jianrong

Will the UK Guardian Please Stop Informing Readers About the U.S. 'Heartland'

The last time I checked out their coverage on U.S. politics they were informing the reader that McCain faced a fight for survival in the Republican primary. That was ludicrous; J.D Hayworth was sent packing in his last local election and there never was a chance he would win statewide.

Now they are making up Heartland anger against Nancy Peolsi, who most Americans have never heard of - and by the way, San Francisco happens to be a place Americans love to visit. Living in a conservative area of this famous Heartland I have noticed a complete lack of anti-Pelosi anger or awareness.

Basically the UK Guardian, like many English elitist organs, has a vision of the average American as a racist neanderthal; it's like the county is unchanged since 1960. It's ridiculous and inaccurate.

If the Democrats get swamped it's because unemployment is at + 9 % and our standard of living is decreasing. Politics 101.

Full Retirement in France is 65, not 60

Yet the royal stenographers are not headlining that. They are headlining the retirement age for partial benefits, which is not dissimilar from Social Security's early opt-in. Much better to make the French look silly and demanding then be fair and balanced.

On Chinese 'Subsidies'

The Obama administration is launching a broad investigation into whether the Chinese government improperly supports its alternative energy companies, one of the sharpest challenges yet to Beijing's alleged efforts to seize world leadership in particular industries.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced on Friday he had accepted a petition from the United Steelworkers union contending that the subsidies and other benefits China grants to its clean-energy companies violate World Trade Organization rules.

Why wouldn't any right-minded country subsidize the development of new technology ? For that matter, the U.S. government subsidies all sorts of research through its military, much of which gets put to civilian use.

Basically this sounds like a case of a bully who gets punched in the nose and runs off to the teacher crying. The Washington Consensus is losing, so of course the other side is cheating. Not persuasive.

1'U.S. to investigate Chinese subsidies to alternative energy companies' - Washington Post

Striking Detroit Musicans Write a Letter

Dear Ms. Chang,

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra applaud your courageous decision not to perform a recital at Detroit's Orchestra Hall tonight. When the DSO management asked you to play at a replacement concert for those canceled during our strike last week, they placed you in an impossible situation.

I guess these wunderkinds think they can just play along with a C.D., much like the violinists on The Tube in London used to (or still do, maybe).

1'Letter to Sarah Chang from the Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra'

'Modern war is about metrics (and Powerpoint)'

Says CNN's Adam Levine:

Modern war is about metrics (and Powerpoint). The numbers right now suggest that the surge in troops has, not surprisingly, led to a surge in offensives. Last month there were 700 airstrikes, according to Air Force data obtained by National Security producer Jennifer Rizzo. A year ago only 257 strikes were logged.

More numbers: In the last 90 days NATO forces have killed 300 senior Taliban and insurgent leaders and commanders, as well as 800 fighters and detained 2,000 more, a senior military official in Afghanistan told Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Would The New York Times Ever Run This as an Editorial ?

Yes, it's probably to talk down domestic disconnect, but at least China feels the need to do so - either through pressure within or without the Communist Party.

'Widening wealth gap proves obstacle to prosperity'

When night falls, a middle-aged man walks slowly toward a trash bin near the busy Xuanwumen intersection in downtown Beijing, and looks around before swiftly taking out an empty plastic bottle and then moving on to the next bin.

His tidy clothes and behavior suggest he is neither a street cleaner nor a scavenger from outside the Chinese capital, but a local resident of a low-income family who hopes to make some money through collecting recyclable bottles.
For the world's most populous nation and the second largest economy, the widening wealth gap is an obvious obstacle on the road to a "xiaokang" -- moderately prosperous -- society.

That poses grave challenges for Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders, who gathered Friday in Beijing to discuss the formulation of China's 12th Five-Year Program (2011-2015).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

U.S. Consumption and Consumption Share of GDP

Looking at the BEA numbers there is little correlation between Consumption and Consumption Share, it's around the -.15 range. Therefore, it's initially puzzling to know what people like Soros, Geithner and Obama mean when they say the US has to reduce its dependence on consumption as a way to 'rebalance' the world economy, using consumption share as the illustration. It would be fairly easy to reduce dependence on consumption within GDP simply by boosting public investment, as was most obviously done during World War 2. Likewise, there is no reason to believe that a reduction in consumption will reduce consumption share - i.e. dependency - if it results in a collapse in investment. For instance, US consumption has been decelerating since the mid-1970's even as its importance in the economy has grown from about 63% to 70%. Similar numerator based thinking exists in regards to China, and in fact World War 2 United States looks a lot like China now, with booming consumption and falling consumption share due to heavy investment.

I would argue the end game has nothing to do with fat Americans and stingy Chinese, or a desire for rebalancing, but a desire by the Western finance establishment to take down the Chinese banking system. Floating the yuan on the currency markets would allow that to happen.

Privatizing Our Language

How do expressions start ? Who invents them ? As with music, the form I am most familiar with, there is little that originates with one person. Rather, expressions usually come from the exchange of ideas and millions of social interactions that organically grow, and are preserved or rejected based up social response. Language is a reservoir of our collective intelligence. It is the ultimate social and public asset we have.

So it is noteworthy that the private sector is increasingly muscling into our collective property - our Commons - through the branding of long established expressions and slogans. The 'Fair and Balanced' meme of a few years ago is one example. Recently while looking into a 2010 flu shot, and I noticed that a pharmacy has privatized the expression 'Arm Yourself' through trademark. As if no one ever said this before the pharmacy company's marketing department, with the backing of money and lawyers, decided to appropriate it.

Our Commons seems to be open for looting at every level.
One could imagine a future scenario, in a population encoded with microchip implants tied to a central clearinghouse - that one would have to pay a small fee for the use of privatized expressions. So, if one exclaimed "Chill Out !" , the company who owned the trademark would deduct a nickel from one's savings account. Why not ? After all, they would "own" it. Such is the insane and endgame logic of privatization.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Ocean debris turning Hawaiian beach 'into plastic' -BBC

UBS Is Going Gaga For NJ Gov Chris Christie With Parties, Excited Emails, And Speeches - Business Insider

Obama seems to enjoy golfing with UBS America President Robert Wolf.

U.S. Corn Facts -Monsanto

America's unsexy but internationally dominant export product, Big Ag. But how many times has Tommy Friedman traipsed out to Fresno ?

Iceland's politicians forced to flee from angry protesters - UK Guardian

Much linked to, but still enjoyable.

The Shockingly Fast Hand Speed Of Chinese Factory Workers- Business Insider

Though I have been assured by many people over the years that 'all' Chinese are doctors or engineers, etc. etc... sample bias, perhaps. The Chinese working class is invisible to Americans.

Michael Gove promises 'new deal' for teachers on classroom discipline - UK Guardian

'OK, you're going to have your wages and pensions cut, but at least you get to take your frustrations out on the students with a little physical violence. It's good for them.'

EU's Offer To Give Up IMF Board Seats Likely To Be Denied - WSJ

The U.S. and E.U. are both trying to bring BIC (sans Russia) around to their side. The U.S. will never give up its veto power, so its scolding of the EU is mostly amusing.

The Oil in Our Food Chain. Yummy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Detroit Symphony on Strike

One of the most significant arts organizations in the history of the United States stands on the verge of collapse. Though it may make some uncomfortable to talk about money and the arts, if wages are drastically cut, people of talent will choose other careers or work in other countries. And elite musicians are educated and capable enough to do both.

'The Musicians of the Detroit Symphony'

The bottom line is the people of this country need to figure out what the hell is important in life and how to get there in a collective manner.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

China Doubles Down on Export Strategy

The two leaders (Prime Minister George Papandreou and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao) will today visit Piraeus Port, Greece’s biggest, where Asia’s third-biggest container terminal operator has a 35-year concession to run some operations. China plans to deepen its Piraeus investment to move 3.7 million containers a year by 2015.

Cosco Pacific Ltd. won the concession to run container operations at Piraeus Port’s Pier II and build and run Pier III in 2009. Greece’s government owns 75 percent of Piraeus Port Authority SA, the company that manages the harbor.

Wen will speak in the Greek parliament on Oct. 3, Ambassador Luo Linquan said in an interview with China’s state- run news agency Xinhua.

In June, Greece and China signed 14 agreements in fields including shipping, construction and telecommunications during a visit by Vice Premier of China Zhang Dejiang.(1)

Chinese goods are prevelant in Europe but not to the extent they are in the United States. This will change with their administration of Greece's largest port. China is using its FX reserves to run its competitors out of town, putting pressure on Eastern European exporters initially but even Germany eventually as they are charging up the value added chain. In short, what global rebalancing ? China's political system is in the grip of export cartels every much as the Anglo system is in the grip of finance

Greece has long been the soft geo-political underbelly of Europe going back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. This was probably the reason for its quick (and quixotic) inclusion into the Euro. China's push into the continent through its control of Greek ports will add to the ballooning global imbalances that are taking the world capitalist system to the brink of implosion.

1'China to Buy Greek Bonds, Support Shipping, Wen Says' Bloomberg

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Living Standards Rapidly Improving in Asia

If one looks at the overall trends; even the Asian Financial Crisis is a blip on the radar at this point. And along with those rising standards are rising expectations within the working classes for better opportunity and better treatment.

The Asian Development Bank raised its forecast for the region's economic growth this year, crediting a rapid recovery in exports even as it warned the risk of another recession in advanced countries has not completely receded.

The Manila-based development bank said it now expects developing Asia to grow 8.2 per cent this year compared with a projection of 7.5 per cent growth issued in April.

The forecast, which doesn't include Japan, covers 44 developing and newly industrialized nations in Asia.

This doesn't feel like a bubble, what this feels like is a power shift, or the center of weight moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Where most of the world's population lives by far. Yet the Achilles Heel might be that "rapid recovery in exports", since the countries being exported to have high unemployment and increasing internal political pressure to shut out competition.

1'Asia expected to grow 8.2 per cent this year- AP

Protectionist Sentiments on the Rise

While 65 percent of union members say free trade has hurt the U.S., so do 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers.

These constituents' work might skew towards industries dependent on the domestic market; therefore, cheaper foreign-made goods would make for an easy target.

Also interesting:

Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff, who conduct the NBC/WSJ poll, say the greatest shift against free trade has come among relatively affluent Americans, or those earning more than $75,000 a year.

The fact that protectionist sentiment is gaining ground among the affluent makes legislation much more likely,

1'53% in US Say Free Trade Hurts Nation: NBC/WSJ Poll' - CNBC