Between 1964 and 2001 (when the economy was sluggish), 35 per cent of the nation's most promising graduates moved abroad, according to research conducted by the Delhi-based organisation, Evalueserve, but from 2002 onwards (the period when India's GDP began to soar) only 16 per cent chose to leave. Now, the research suggests, the West no longer seems synonymous with wealth and opportunity. Asked to predict which country would 'hold the most promise for success' in 10 years' time, 72 per cent of the 677 IIT graduates surveyed named India, with only 17 per cent citing the US, 5 per cent Europe, and just 2 per cent China. The number who feel the US offers a better standard of living than India has fallen since 2001 from 13 per cent to almost zero. The study is a clear sign that the lamented flight of India's best students, which has troubled the government for decades, may be reversing, in tandem with the turnaround in economic prospects.
Another recent analysis argues the United States isn't getting the best and brightest among skilled H-1B visa workers. Well, that's not why employers use H-1B workers. The advantage of H-1B is that the workers are cheaper than natives at the same skill level. If the average skill level from abroad is lower that doesn't matter as long as some tasks do not require the highest skills. The main goal in using foreign workers is to cut labor costs.
If more skilled workers will find the United States increasingly less appealing then the mix of immigrants will shift even more heavily toward those with little or no skills. We need an immigration policy that keeps out the less able.
Freedom rings on the Tigris? We've built a $740 million castle for US diplomats in Baghdad.
The 104-acre, 21-building enclave – the largest US Embassy in the world, similar in size to Vatican City in Rome – is often described as a "castle" by Iraqis, but more in the sense of the forbidden and dominating than of the alluring and liberating.
Our castle is bigger than Saddam's castles in case anyone misses the point.
"Saddam had his big castles; they symbolized his power and were places to be feared, and now we have the castle of the power that toppled him," says Abdul Jabbar Ahmed, a vice dean for political sciences at Baghdad University. "If I am the ambassador of the USA here I would say, 'Build something smaller that doesn't stand out so much, it's too important that we avoid these negative impressions.' "
Yet while the new embassy may be the largest in the world, it is not in its design and presence unlike others the US has built around the world in a burst of overseas construction since the bombings of US missions in the 1980s and '90s. Efforts to provide the 12,000 American diplomats working overseas a secure environment were redoubled following the 9/11 attacks.
I'm reminded of Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath Of Fealty where the residents of the Todos Santos arcology live in a massive building that protects them from a future very distopian Los Angeles. "Think of it as evolution in action."
700 employees (doing what exactly?) and 250 military personnel will occupy it. The place is a mini-economy which allows American government workers to work in another country without getting out into that country.
In the case of larger embassies in the most dangerous environments, as in Baghdad, secure housing is included, along with some of the amenities of home – restaurants, gyms, pools, cinemas, shopping – that can give the compound the air of an enclave.
The air of an enclave?
The dollar has declined during the past two years against not only the euro but also against most other currencies, including the Japanese yen and the renminbi. On a real trade-weighted basis, the dollar is down about 13% relative to its value in March 2006.
This improved competitiveness of American goods and services is needed to shrink the massive US trade deficit. Even with the dollar’s decline and the resulting 25% rise in US exports over the past two years, the US still had an annualized trade deficit at the end of fourth quarter of 2007 of about $700 billion (5% of GDP). Because US imports are nearly twice as large as US exports, it takes a 20% increase in exports to balance a 10% increase in imports. That means that the dollar must fall substantially further to shrink the trade deficit to a sustainable level.
The dollar has to fall much further because of the rising price of a barrel of oil. Peak Oil will send the cost of oil far higher and the United States and other countries will have to export far more in goods and services in exchange for the oil. In other words, we do not just need to export another 5% of our GDP to close our current trade deficit of 5% of GDP. We also will need to export several percentage points more of our GDP to pay for future oil price increases.
Another doubling in the price of oil will not double our oil import bill because a lot of demand destruction will occur as oil prices go up. But we are going to have to give up a lot more stuff to the rest of the world in order to balance our trade. More for them means less for us.
Given this trend a job in an industry which sells most of its goods and services abroad might be the ticket for job security.
Actor Robert Downey Jr. got hit too hard by reality to think like a liberal any longer. You've heard the "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality". How about "A conservative is a liberal who got beat up inmates"?
“I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.”
Acting in Iron Man must have had a fantasy escapist appeal. If he'd only had Iron Man's abilities he wouldn't have gotten beat up in prison.
The unfortunate thing here is that we do not have a way for most people to get their political beliefs tested in a manner that'll let them see reality. It is a measure of just how much our technologies insulate us from the consequences of our false beliefs that holding false beliefs on political topics is so easy to do.
Here's a literal example of someone getting sense knocked into him. While in prison Downey got knocked out in fights.
“If I see somebody who is throwing their life away with both hands and is raging around and destroying their family, I can’t understand that person,” he said. “I’m not in that sphere of activity anymore, and I don’t understand it any more than I understood 10 or 20 years ago that somehow everything was going to turn out O.K. from this lousy, exotic and dark triple chapter of my life. I swear to God I don’t even really understand that planet anymore.”
Mr. Downey, who has said that he woke up in a pool of his own blood a time or two when he was in prison, is a fighter. “Probably the biggest thing that Tony Stark and I have in common is the hardware of conflict, the courage under fire,” he said, setting aside his lunch on a tray. “I don’t really fit in so good outside the military bases with my mentality.”
Our advancing technological capabilities increase the number of people who can live to varying degrees in fantasies. Virtual realms are the latest manifestation of this trend. Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other online virtual communities allow people to experience simulated worlds governed by rules more to their liking. Does that make people less realistic about the real world?
I see another manifestation of this problem with people who do not vaccinate their kids. They are able to harbor false beliefs about vaccination risks because most people still vaccinate and therefore their kids aren't likely to get exposed to the diseases that vaccines protect against. But at some point a critical mass of kids doesn't get vaccinated and then a disease can spread with harmful results. What political beliefs are likely to continue to spread until we reach a critical mass for some problem? Which problem will that be?
This is not like London or New York, or even Tehran, another car-clogged Middle Eastern capital. It is literally like living day in and day out with a lawn mower running next to your head, according to scientists with the National Research Center. They spent five years studying noise levels across the city and concluded in a report issued this year that the average noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train 15 feet away, said Mustafa el Sayyid, an engineer who helped carry out the study.
But that 85 decibels, while “clearly unacceptable,” is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer.
Why is the noise so bad? People hit their car horns a lot. But also, industry takes place pretty much out on the streets because the people are too poor to conduct industrial activities indoors.
In a nation where about 40 percent of the population survives on about $2 a day, people understand the struggle to feed a family. In Rhode al Farag, men worked on cars in the street, butchered meat in the street, blasted radios and turned up television sets. Like shellshocked war veterans, residents sat out on the street, sipping tea, oblivious to the cacophony.
Even when it came to the shop run by Mahmoud Faheem, people did not complain. Mr. Faheem rents out concert-sized speakers, and he displayed his speakers on the street, offering the entire block a never ending thump-thump of dance music. “Let him eat bread,” said Atef Ali, 45, the owner of a food shop next door, using an Arabic phrase to explain why he did not complain, even while he detested the music.
Human overpopulation is a bad thing. The article makes no mention of that fact. But overpopulation is one of the root causes of the Cairo noise problem. In spite of the high level of noise they keep making more babies. To what level will human instincts sink the human race if left unrestrained?
That the Egyptians can't manage to raise productivity much is another cause. But the resource demand on the world would be enormous if the Egyptians and other poor people could all raise their productivity up to First World levels.
Update: My guess is the 85 decibel noise level refers to on a street and not in houses. It seems hard to believe for an entire city. Anyone know what percentage of vehicles on Cairo streets are cars versus scooters and motorcycles? Also, do the Cairenes replace rusty mufflers on cars and trucks? The traffic could be very dense even though few can afford to drive since the city is pretty densely populated.
A Washington Post story headline claims the economic downturn in the US is actually increasing the lure of America to Mexicans who can't count on cash flows from unemployed relatives in the United States. But even with the decrease in money flows the absolute amount is still over 5 times the amount sent 10 years ago.
Buoyed by increased migration and lower money-transfer costs, remittances to Mexico peaked last year at just under $24 billion, more than 5 1/2 times the amount sent a decade earlier. Remittances recently vaulted over tourism to become the second-largest source of foreign currency in Mexico, topped only by oil exports.
The point about remittances being topped only by oil exports is important. Mexico's oil production has peaked. Their biggest oil field, Canterell, is heavily depleted and will never produce as much oil per day as it did at its peak.
The money has transformed the landscape of many small towns, paying for new houses and new kitchens, cars and childcare, medical care and clothes. But some economists also say the giant sums sent to Mexico have created a sense of complacency, especially among government officials who have failed to right the country's wobbly economy.
"This is demonstrating that there is an increased dependence on remittances and a great vulnerability for the country," said Rodolfo García Zamora, an economics professor at the University of Zacatecas and one of Mexico's leading authorities on remittances. "Neither the government nor the families who are affected have a good alternative to remittances."
The complacency in the Mexican government is bad news for Americans. Unless we close Mexico's safety valve with a border barrier and immigration law enforcement Mexico's elites aren't going to try to reform Mexico's schools and economy. Oil production in Mexico fell 7.8% in the first quarter 2008 and exports dropped 12.5%. With less money coming in from oil sales Mexicans will feel even more motivated to head north. We need to build a very substantial layered barrier to keep them out.
But the Wall Street Journal reports border crossings are way down due to job cuts in the US.
The number of illegal immigrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border is falling steeply, an indication that the economic downturn and beefed-up security could be deterring unauthorized crossings.
The U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday that the number of apprehensions dropped 17% to 347,372 between Oct. 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, from the same period in late 2006 and early 2007.
One academic quoted in the article claims she can spot recessions in the US at least a year in advance due to declines in arrests of border crossers. So it is hard to tell how much of the current decline is due to economic factors versus improved border enforcement and interior enforcement.
Arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border have been falling for more than two years. However, the dramatic drop in the first half of the fiscal year means that the number of apprehensions for the whole year ending Sept. 30 could dwindle to less than the 858,638 in fiscal 2007. That would be roughly half the nearly 1.64 million arrests during fiscal 2000, the peak year. Immigration experts also believe state laws to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants are discouraging attempts.
In Arizona, an employer-sanctions law has made finding work more difficult as companies start using an electronic system to verify worker documents. The state, currently the main gateway into the U.S. for illegal immigrants, has also stepped up enforcement beyond the border.
A big build of a border barrier during this recession could prevent an eventual post-recession surge of border crossers. We ought to take this recession as an opportunity to get ready to stop the next surge of illegal crossings.
In fact, the federal deficit hit an all-time high of $311 billion for the first half of this budget year, reports the Treasury Department. And Congress is discussing further moves to help distressed homeowners and stimulate the economy. Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least another $170 billion in supplemental funds through the end of next year.
Given the need, the current rush of spending might be understandable, say some deficit hawks. But they worry that Washington will use recession and war as excuses to stop caring about red ink altogether. They also warn that current deficits leave Washington ill-prepared to face an imminent explosion of spending on Social Security and Medicare caused by retiring baby boomers.
Withdrawal from Iraq would cut that deficit almost in half. Eventually the US government will feel compelled to pull back from expensive foreign commitments.
In theory tax revenue should rise this summer and prevent a $600+ billion deficit for the current fiscal year.
Tax receipts generally pick up in the summer, so the deficit is unlikely to surpass $600 billion. But $450 billion, or even $500 billion is possible.
But I expect rising oil and food prices combined with deepening fall-out from the popping of the real estate debt bubble to cause a decrease in economic activity this summer.
I'm sure your heart bleeds for the people who can only afford one million dollar apartments. The poor dears are cutting back on their limo usage in New York City.
Buyers this year have already closed on 71 Manhattan apartments that each cost more than $10 million, compared with 17 apartments in that price range during all of 2007.
That said, providers of luxury goods reported anecdotal evidence of a widening gap between the merely rich and the ultrarich. Clifford Greenhouse, who owns a household-staff employment company, said he suspects that the merely rich might be starting to lag behind their far richer counterparts, and are trimming their budgets. He cited reduced demand for chauffeurs — a relatively small-ticket service — yet ever-strong demand for private chefs, butlers and “household managers.”
Darren Sukenik, a real estate broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, said that while business may be slower for clients with a mere million to spend on apartments, none of his clients with budgets of more than $2.5 million have stopped shopping. Seth Semilof, the publisher of Haute Living, a luxury magazine, said that luxury car dealerships that advertise with him are pushing Bentleys and Rolls-Royces at the expense of less-extravagant cars like the BMW 5 Series.
Why even mention the BMW 5 Series? Surely nothing below the $110,000.00 BMW 750 Li is worth considering unless you just want a sports car. Why isn't there a $300,000 hybrid Rolls or Bentley so that the ultrarich can be environmentally conscious by boosting their gasoline mileage up to 12 or 15 miles per gallon?
Too bad we the public cannot conspire, away from the calculating gaze of the political/media class, to pay no heed at all to "gaffes." To starve them once and for all of the raw material of manufactured controversy, a random bludgeon of opportunity that only serves to introduce an element of caprice into politics and further chill our already tepid national discourse. No, occasional disciplinary lapses into honesty should be encouraged and welcome for what they often are: the brief lifting of the veil of rhetorical obscurity between the people and the governing elite.
After explaining that Obama's candidacy is built upon a circle of flattery (go read it) Dennis then gets down to how Obama's gaffe was basically to slip out of code-speak and say more bluntly something he's said many times in code.
Senator Obama said nothing he hasn't said a thousand coded times before, assuring one group its resentment of another is proof of its righteousness. There are two distinct groups he must appease with demagogy, blacks and self-styled liberals; the same bogeyman template works well for both: gun-toting, God-fearing, white. The Wonder Brother could give the Clinton in this race a lesson in triangulation.
Yes, Obama's "gaffe" is evidence of elitist disdain, but it distinguishes him in no way from his peers. Exacting a political price for it is a sort of censorship, nothing more, and only serves to sink us further into obscurity. Barack Obama said nothing he and the political class doesn't take so much for granted that occasionally they will let it slip: the conservative white middle class is another nation with conflicting interests. They are to be humored and isolated politically, wherever possible, but, rest assured, they will not upset the order and progress of things. Their concerns are the delusional product of their ignorance and mean state, born of inferiority. But we can still congratulate ourselves for the enlightened pity we feel for them.
This, in a nutshell, is the main reason why I do not want an Obama presidency. My problem is that I have very compelling reasons to not want a Hillary Clinton presidency or a John McCain presidency either. They look upon me with disdain to varying degrees as well. But Obama takes it further. He much more profoundly does not believe he's part of the same group as I am. From his rough (snicker) upbringing in Hawaii he's built up a model of victimized black guy and I, as a white guy, am in the club that victimizes him. Well, I think blacks in America ought to look at African countries which have few white people on the ground and ask themselves if they really are getting a bad deal by co-occupying a country with a majority white population. I think we deliver huge benefits and take a lot of costs in response (e.g. more real victimization of whites by black criminals and racial preferences which discriminate against whites).
Now we are expected (by condescending white liberals and assorted other fools) to accept the prospect of President Obama with excitement. We'll be ruled by a better. Gimme a break. American politics is built on large stacks of lies. Gotta agree with Dennis. It would be far easier if gaffe-speak was the norm. The truth of what our elites really believe would be easier to take if they were more honest about it.
To my readers who are Democrats: Read Dennis' next paragraph that I do not quote here. How can you get excited about your party as a source of greater economic justice for the working class? The elites who run the Democratic Party are just as much enemies of the white working class as are corporate lobbies working for cheap labor. You delude yourselves if you think the Democratic Party still resembles to any appreciable extent what it was in the era of Harry Truman. That party of our imaginations is dead.
Ironically and depressingly, the defeat of antiwar Republicans together with the rest of the party, even though the party’s unpopularity is a result of support for the war, provides perverse justification for the GOP tying itself to the war even more closely. If opposition to the war from the beginning is not enough to shield you from the antiwar backlash, which the defeat of Leach, Hostettler and Chafee would indicate, there is litte incentive for most House members in switching positions later, suffering the inevitable credibility attacks and providing ammunition to Democratic challengers who will argue that antiwar voters might as well vote for them rather than back the Johnny Come Lately Republican. Plus, one of the peverse consequences of gerrymandering is that it ensures that the broad majority of the caucus would actually risk losing re-election by adopting what is the nationally more popular position.
I see an obvious conclusion here: For the sake of Republican electoral prospects in future elections the Republicans need the Democrats to end US participation in the Iraqi civil war. Republican electoral prospects will brighten once the US pulls out of Iraq. The Democrats might have enough motive to pull out US troops. By contrast, the Republicans seem less likely to admit US national interests are ill served by continuing to fight in Iraq. Some Republicans are even foolish enough to believe even now that the war is a good idea. The Republican presidential candidate seems an especially hopeless case. John McCain lacks both Nixon's genius and his cunning ruthlessness to maneuver to get us out of Iraq. We'll probably need Democrats to get us out of Iraq.
Larison sees the Grand Old Party stuck with winning only the most solidly Republican parts of the country.
For a lot of them, the greater political risk is to take the overwhelmingly popular position, because antiwar sentiment is concentrated in all those parts of the country that they don’t represent. What this means, though, is that over the long term the GOP will be limited to their safe districts and to extremely “red” states.
Where Larison says "over the long term" I would say "until the Democrats manage to pull the US out of Iraq". In other words, the Republicans will stay a highly marginalized party until the Democrats manage to cut our losses in Iraq. The Democrats can therefore act as the saviors of the Republicans if only the Democrats can win big enough to have the votes to implement a withdrawal over Republican objections.
Having said all this, the Iraq war is not the biggest problem facing Republican electoral prospects in 2008. A recession during an election year just about assures defeat of the incumbent party. Of course the Democrats now control the House and Senate. Will voters therefore apportion some of the blame for the recession on the Democrats?
In 2004 rice sold for $200 per ton. Pretty cheap. The price of rice has gone up by a factor of 5 in 4 years.
Rice exported from Thailand -- a global benchmark -- was trading at about $950 a ton Thursday, up from $360 a ton at the beginning of the year. Price offers at a Philippine auction Thursday topped $1,000 a ton. A few hours later, Chicago Board of Trade rice futures climbed to record levels.
Vichai Sriprasert, president of Thai exporter Riceland International, says Thai rice prices are nearly certain to hit $1,000 a ton. He adds: "The question is: How far will it rise beyond that?"
This has many causes. Population growth, the rise in oil prices, the growth in the use of food crops for biofuels, and bad weather in some parts of the world all contribute. Also, Asian industrialization boosts the demand for meat therefore more grain goes to feeding animals. In China yearly per capita meat consumption has risen from 20 kg in 180 to 50 kg per year in 2007.
That previous link shows Egypt as the biggest wheat importer. Egypt has curbed rice exports even as it buys lots of wheat abroad and sells it internally at below market prices.
The rise in oil prices boosts food prices in at least two ways. First off, higher energy costs boost the cost of producing inputs into farming such as fertilizer and tractor fuel. Second, the higher the price of oil the higher the price for biomass energy such as corn ethanol. So farm production costs and crop demand both rise with oil prices. Well, oil prices are going to go much higher as the oil production plateau continues and eventually world production starts falling.
The price of rice, the staple food for half the world, has doubled in the past year to an all-time high. Countries including Indonesia and Egypt have seen social unrest over high prices, and are attempting to restrain inflation and curb instability by limiting food exports or removing import duties on basic food staples.
``The implications are huge,'' Johnson said. ``In almost every corner of the world, poor people primarily eat rice these days, so the rice prices are clearly hurting people.''
According to the World Bank, global maize production increased by 51 million tonnes between 2004 and 2007. During that time, biofuels use in the US alone (mostly ethanol) rose by 50 million tonnes, soaking up almost the entire global increase.
Next year, the use of US corn for ethanol is forecast to rise to 114 million tonnes - nearly a third of the whole projected US crop. American cars now burn enough corn to cover all the import needs of the 82 nations classed by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as "low-income food-deficit countries". There could scarcely be a better way to starve the poor.
Biomass energy production is not just a US phenomenon. Brazil, Europe, Indonesia, and Malaysia are all getting into the act. The shift toward biomass energy production by big crop exporting countries bodes poorly for future food grain exports.
The U.S. is seen as one of the last remaining reliable suppliers of rice in the world after Egypt, India, Vietnam and Indonesia curbed their exports to ensure adequate domestic supplies, industry members said. Some Asian countries also may shift their purchases to the U.S., although consumer preferences may limit the demand, they said.
I do not expect the demand for biomass fuel to go down even if politicians start taking a lot of heat for higher food prices because I expect oil prices to continue to rise. Also, China and some other Asian economies will continue to develop. Those with rapidly rising incomes will be able to afford the food price increases. Those with stagnant incomes are going to get hungrier. Some will starve.
Update: Some Ionia county Michigan farmers report costs are rising along with crop prices.
“Pretty much everybody I know, we're not going to plant any more corn than last year,” said Belding cash-crop farmer Joe Marhofer, who farms a few hundred acres of alfalfa and corn just off Krupp Rd. “Guys are really putting a pencil to it, they're looking to tighten their belts this year. With the input costs for corn so high, we decided not to break our normal crop rotation.”
Many farmers, state and nationwide, did adjust their crop rotation last year to take advantage of $4 corn, subtracting acreage that would have gone toward soybeans, wheat or alfalfa. But input prices - the costs a farmer takes on to plant, raise and harvest the crop - last year weren't as astronomical as they are now; cash-croppers say they've more than caught up.
This is important. If the crop price rise is driven by demand then we have the potential for supply to catch up and prices to drop. But if costs rise by as much as prices then high prices look like more of a long term condition. I'd like better insight into the cost side of farming. How fast are farm costs rising? Which costs are rising?
"It seems everybody says it'll (the economic slowdown) be short and shallow, but it looks like it's just the opposite. You know, deleveraging by its nature takes a lot of time, a lot of pain. And the consequences kind of roll through in different ways."
The deleveraging he speaks of refers to debt. A long recession means this recession might last until oil production starts declining. In that case we'll just segue from recession into depression. Sorry about that.
Paul Krugman sees growth in China as a continuing source of rising pressure on commodities prices. Those high prices are bearish for the US economy and European economies.
Some of the causes of poor economic performance since 2000 are probably beyond any administration’s control. Raw materials were cheap in the 1990s, but in the years ahead the rise of China and other emerging economies will place increasing pressure on world supplies of oil, copper and so on, no matter what the next president does.
Zero sum games? Or negative sum games? But this is the free market. Where'd I misplace my Panglossian sunglasses?
This is what peak oil is supposed to look like — not Oh My God We’ve Just Run Out Of Oil, but steady pressure on the economy and the way we live from rising energy prices and their consequences. And it doesn’t matter much whether we’re literally at the peak, or whether production can rise by a few million more barrels a day; unless there are big sources of oil out there, we’ll be feeling peakish for the foreseeable future.
Yes, it doesn't matter whether we still have a few million barrels a day of potential world oil production increases possible. Though I doubt it. Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens says world oil production can't rise above the current production plateau.
Pickens said he thought oil was approaching $125 a barrel. Oil will eventually reach $150 per barrel, he said, while cautioning ``I won't be investing in $150 oil.''
``There is only 85 million barrels of oil globally in the market coming a day and I don't think you can increase that 85 million,'' Pickens said.
That production plateau is bumpy and January 2008 world oil production finally surpassed the previous monthly record set in 2005. But our prospects for going above that level are not good because a growing list of nations have declining production.
The big credit fiasco with subprime mortgages, the real estate bubble, and excess consumer indebtedness by itself would just cause a recession. But rising Asian commodities demand and declining oil production can cause inflation and declining living standards combined with lots of layoffs. Lay on top of all that America's twin demographic problems of unfunded old age liabilities. The Panglossian view is that economic growth will prevent the old age pension liabilities from becoming too heavy a burden. But that only works if the economy grows a lot. That might not be in the cards. Plus, Third World immigration is lowering the average skill level of the US labor force. All these factors seem like reasons for pessimism about the economy.
Contracts are written in dollars, and as much as 60% to 80% of Indian service providers' revenue is in U.S. dollars, but more than half of their costs are incurred in rupees, according to an October report from Forrester. Indian outsourcing powerhouses like Wipro are feeling the squeeze. They've strived to cut costs, and now they're raising prices to keep margins from narrowing further. "We are relentlessly driving for higher pricing for our services and have seen price increases from our customers in the range of 3% to 6%, and our new customers are coming in at around 5% higher than our average," Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said on a conference call with investors on Jan. 18.
Duke University professor Arie Lewin estimates that the benefit of doing business, from a labor-cost point of view, in such locales as Bangalore, India, will disappear for some companies in three to four years. That's due to a combination of dollar depreciation, wage inflation, and other costs. Others say it will take longer. "Costs are escalating, so the level of labor arbitrage isn't as great as it used to be, but that's not to say labor arbitrage is disappearing, nor will it disappear in the next 10 years or so," says Sid Pai, partner and managing director of TPI India, a sourcing advisory firm.
How fast that arbitrage advantage disappears depends in part on how far and fast the US dollar drops.
IT workers in Argentina are (surprisingly) about as cheap as in India. I would not have expected that. We are told relentlessly by open borders supporters that Mexicans are dirt poor and we have to let them into the United States out of charity. Yet Mexico has about twice the salary level for IT workers as Argentina.
The average annual salary for an IT worker in the U.S. is about $75,000, according to a late 2007 report by Alsbridge, an outsourcing consulting firm. In India it's about $7,779 and in Argentina, it's slightly higher at $9,478. In Brazil, the annual wage jumps to $13,163, and in Mexico it climbs to $17,899.
Argentina, with a national average IQ 9 points above Mexico, looks like it might be an IT employer bargain. The Western Hemisphere time advantage is an important consideration in that calculation. Supervising people 12 time zones away isn't easy.
Leonid Fedun, the 52-year-old vice-president of Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent oil company, told the Financial Times he believed last year’s Russian oil production of about 10m barrels a day was the highest he would see “in his lifetime”. Russia is the world’s second biggest oil producer.
In 2007 Russia showed the 3rd largest oil increase in the world (see context here). If Russia is going to join Mexico, Iran, Kuwait, and the lengthening list of other countries with declining oil production then the unfun times are just around the corner.
The Russian government hopes a tax cut on oil can help boost oil production. But with oil prices already very high the prospects of a tax cut making a difference seems remote.
April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Russia will cut taxes on oil companies to overcome production ``stagnation'' after a decade of growth, Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko said.
Russian output fell for the first time in a decade in the first three months of this year, according to the International Energy Agency, which represents industrialized oil-consuming countries. It said Russian production averaged about 10 million barrels a day, a 1% drop from the first-quarter of 2007.
My advice: When you move or take a job choose locations that reduce your commute distance. Also, work more hours and save your money. Also, insulate. Also, next time you buy a car buy a smaller one. If you can get a hybrid or a diesel then all the better.
Are you confused by American electoral politics? Do you wonder just where did the rational arguments run off to? I don't think they ran off to the fall-out shelter. That was another era when reason had a place to run to. No, the answer is much worse: We've been feminized and Oprah-fied. Don't believe me? Oprah's endorsement of Obama was big news. If afternoon talk show fluff was treated really as fluff then that endorsement would have meant squat. Dennis Dale looks at the vacuousness of Obama mania.
"What did he say?"
"His is a rare eloquence. He struck just the right note of conciliation while still expressing the anger of black America without all the, without all the anger."
"There's a neat trick. But I thought he was addressing some controversy or other."
"Yeah, the Clintons played the race card. Just reprehensible. I'm sickened."
"What's this? The same Hillary the Great as you've characterized her BO?"
"Before Obama. Everything changes AO. It's a whole new paradigm. An exciting time."
"Yes, it's amazing how much of an impact he's had already. To think that some would deny him the presidency! I swear, if we fail to elect this man for the first time in my life I will be truly ashamed of my country."
People do not want to think about weighty bummer issues like Iraq or America's demographic decay or unfunded old age entitlements liabilities. No to all that. Much more enjoyable to think about "Hope!" and "Change!" and "lets show everyone how unracist we are!" and other fluff pretty much aimed at feeling good about oneself. The purpose of an election then becomes a sort of national group therapy session.
The fact that elections are between a small number of candidates tempts those who want to look at politics as all about personalities and relationships. The tendency is to turn an election into a week day afternoon talk show for ladies who have too much time on their hands. How does he feel about what she said? How does he feel about what she said? Can we get other personalities on the air to dissect the personalities that are running? Can some of those talking heads be really gushing and enthusiastic for those who just want to hear reasons to feel good? The top candidate then becomes the one who can generate the most positive emoting. That's where we are.
The Presidency used to be a serious office. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal I think its main purpose started to shift toward producing material for pop psychology gossipers. I wonder whether serious thinkers will simply withdraw from discussions about politics and the political realm will become an emotional circus show.
Writing for the Daily Mail Anthony Browne predicts the rise of China will shift the West rightward and kill off political correctness.
But Western attitudes will change as well, with a likely shift to the political Right. White liberal guilt, the driving force behind political correctness, will subside as Westerners feel threatened by the global order changing, and their supremacy slipping away.
Anti-Americanism will disappear as Europeans realise how much better it was to have a world super power that was a democracy (however flawed) not a dictatorship.
There is even speculation that the intense economic pressure on countries such as Britain will cause them to trim down their bloated welfare state, simply because it will no longer be affordable at present levels.
Western attitudes of superiority to China and the rest of the East will also subside, as Westerners realise they are no longer the masters of the world.
The relative status of Westerners will decline vis a vis Chinese people. The Chinese will change the status games. Westerners won't be able to imagine that they are the only causes of what goes right or wrong with the world. It is unfortunate that we need to face something akin to the decline of the West to make people more realistic.
In understanding the madness of our entanglement in Iraq I find it helps to reject out of hand everything the administration says and ignore the distorted center of polite opinion maintained by the corporate press, while continually reminding yourself that the point of the occupation is the occupation. For all of the shifting goals and serial failure, what we have, still, is less a war seeking resoultion than a committed government enterprise experiencing cost overruns.
The administration has shown admirable resourcefulness in utilizing its very failures to obscure and further, even now, its intentions. But no matter how much our might has degraded our sense of national responsibility, I suspect that to operate on the premise that regardless of everything we must remain in Iraq to prevent the consequences of our invading Iraq, while refusing to impeach those responsible for this deadly chain of causality, indeed, while so much as an apology to the people of Iraq is absolutely out of the question, a notion for marginal cranks, must come with its own unanticipated consequences.
Dennis goes on to discuss the importance of oil in US calculations on Iraq. The US insists on Shia submission to the Maliki Baghdad government to a far greater extent than it tries to enforce Sunni submission. The reason? Lots of oil in the Shia south. On the one hand I think that the value of Iraq's oil to US interests is exaggerated by many critics of US policy. On the other hand, I sometimes think our leaders share this distorted view.
Still, Dennis makes good points. Bush really does not want to admit making a mistake. Also, a disruption in oil flow of a million barrels per day would cause a large increase in world oil prices. So maybe US policy makers are trying to prevent that. Maybe US policy makers are afraid of the transition phase should the US basically withdraw from Iraq and let the Iraqi factions work out (probably violently) who gets to rule Iraq and get its oil revenue.
Steve Sailer admits to being baffled as to why the US supports Maliki and the Badr Brigade against Moqtada al Sadr and his militia given that the Badr Brigade is much closer to our (or at least Israel's) supposed enemy Iran.
So, why are we against Mookie and for Maliki? Possible answers include:
- Mookie wants us to leave Iraq, which makes him anti-American. But the majority of Americans wants America to leave Iraq, so I guess that just means the American people are anti-American, too. It's simple logic.
- The Badr Boys are more middle class, while Sadr's guys are more slummy.
- More Badr Boys than Sadr Slumsters speak English, so that's why we're on their side: we can understand what they're telling us, while Sadr keeps rambling on in that moon man gibberish that people in Iraq seem to speak.
- Badr is weaker than Sadr, so we support them because they need us more, and thus tolerate us more. And, the whole point of our being in Iraq has become our being in Iraq -- we can never leave until we prove that we don't have to leave, because that would show weakness; but we can only prove that we don't have to leave by not leaving. So we are going to be there, roughly, forever. It's simple logic, but Mookie doesn't seem to get it.
Do our policy makers want to prop up Maliki's government because it is (partly) the product of a democratic process? How important is that to them? The US has played Machiavellian intrigue to change Prime Ministers in Baghdad. So it is not like the Iraqi people freely chose the current government. The attempt to achieve democratic legitimacy for US involvement in Iraq is pretty weak.
My guess is the primary reason we are still in Iraq is in order to avoid admitting it was a mistake to invade in the first place. The secondary reason is that our withdrawal might cause a large disruption of oil flow and the ensuing even higher oil prices would cause a world economic recession.
My question: When will the US populace loose patience with our continued burning of wealth and people in the Iraq war?
My second question: Shouldn't we prepare for that potential oil flow disruption upon our withdrawal? Maybe we could lessen the size of the disruption by shifting our support toward that Iraqi Shia patriotic Moqtada al Sadr.
Ronald Reagan never would have said this. Barack Obama sees small town America full of racist, bitter, gun-loving religious nuts. Yes, the paragraph below came out of Barack's mouth and you can expect the liberal media to defend him or ignore it.
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
So if you oppose large scale immigration from the Third World you are clinging as a way to explain your frustrations and you have a small town mentality. You have to stop clinging and let the world run you over - oh, and vote for Obama to show you aren't small town.
Obama can get away with saying this stuff because people people do not find Hillary Clinton as friendly and the media wants a liberal in the White House. Plus, lots of people want to prove they aren't racist by voting for a black guy.
With a choice between John "invade the world, invite the world" McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack (uncritically accepted phony) Obama I gotta say I feel like a spectator with no dog in this fight. But I'm disappointed by the lack of real critical analysis of what these candidates say.
While Obama's positive personal image plays an important role in his high favorable ratings, the polling found that his ratings are more influenced by how he makes voters feel than by specific characteristics they attributed to him. In particular, views that Obama inspires hope and pride are the strongest determinants of a person's opinion of him. In other words, he is a charismatic candidate who has made large numbers of Democratic voters feel good, and this is even more important to them than specific perceptions of him.
In contrast, Clinton's image is more driven by opinions about her own qualities, rather than the emotions she engenders in others. Although, making voters feel hopeful does register as a significant factor for her, especially among women, it is much less important than for Obama. Honesty is as much a factor for her as for him, though many fewer see her as honest compared to her opponent.
The press could decide to ignore Obama's comments about small town people so that those people can feel good about themselves due to other things he says.
Hillary says Pennsylvanians need a President that does not look down on them. Well, okay, but isn't it too late for someone else to join the US Presidential race?
“I saw in the media it’s being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that’s not my experience.
“As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children.
“Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”
I sure miss Ronald Reagan. And Ike too.
The bigger problem is that the now-finished boom was, for most Americans, nothing of the sort. In 2000, at the end of the previous economic expansion, the median American family made about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau’s inflation-adjusted numbers. In 2007, in what looks to have been the final year of the most recent expansion, the median family, amazingly, seems to have made less — about $60,500.
This has never happened before, at least not for as long as the government has been keeping records. In every other expansion since World War II, the buying power of most American families grew while the economy did. You can think of this as the most basic test of an economy’s health: does it produce ever-rising living standards for its citizens?
In the second half of the 20th century, the United States passed the test in a way that arguably no other country ever has. It became, as the cliché goes, the richest country on earth. Now, though, most families aren’t getting any richer.
Demographics plays a large role in this outcome. The large growth in lower income Hispanics has begun to weigh down American living standards. I'd like to see these numbers broken out by race. Did whites achieve as high a median income in this business cycle as they did the last time around?
Still, other things are going on as well. Globalization is one big one. The owners of capital are using lots more foreign labor and this is holding down wages of employees. Though the decline of the dollar is cutting demand for imports and boosting domestic demand for labor.
Another biggie? The commodity price rise. The high costs of energy, food, and raw materials weigh on living standards. I expect oil prices to go much higher when global oil production starts declining. Due to the coming of Peak Oil I do not see how living standards can rise in the next 10 years.
Drive up the price of real estate so high that the dangerous people leave and lock up lots of people. The result? A white upper class goes on a baby boom in a safe environment.
The number of children younger than 5 in Manhattan has increased about 30 percent since 2000, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. The increase is driven by white toddlers, whose numbers have gone up by 60 percent, according to the 2000 census and the 2006 American Community Survey, he said. For the first time since the 1960s, young white children outnumber their black or Hispanic counterparts in Manhattan, demographers say.
"It's surprising," Frey said. "It's a selective part of the white population, a lifestyle of people who want to have children and can afford to live in the city."
Indeed, according to Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, the median household income for this group of children was $280,000 in 2005.
It took a lot of prison building and aggressive policing to create the environment where these members of the upper class felt safe enough to start popping out the babies in a city.
To all you who can't afford to spend your way to safety: You think evil thoughts and the elites look down on you.
Educational bureaucracies lie. What, teachers don't operate noble institutions?
One team of statisticians working at the state education headquarters here recently calculated the official graduation rate at a respectable 87 percent, which Mississippi reported to Washington. But in another office piled with computer printouts, a second team of number crunchers came up with a different rate: a more sobering 63 percent.
One third of the kids in California drop out of school. Such are the wages of Third World immigration.
Like Mississippi, many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so severe that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.
California, for example, sends to Washington an official graduation rate of 83 percent but reports an estimated 67 percent on a state Web site. Delaware reported 84 percent to the federal government but publicized four lower rates at home.
The No Child Left Behind law actually increases the incentive for schools to discourage kids from attending. A dumb kid who drops out is a dumb kid who won't pull down standardized test scores.
The lies and counterproductive educational policies will continue until cheap genetic testing allows scientists to discover the genetic alleles that cause intelligence differences. Once the low performers can be shown to have genetically caused lower cognitive abilities our elites will finally have to admit that most kids can't do college level work and a substantial portion can't even do high school senior level academic work.
EVEN if American and Iraqi forces are able to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are still three worrisome possibilities of new forms of fighting that could divide Iraq and deny the United States any form of “victory.”
One is that the Sunni tribes and militias that have been cooperating with the Americans could turn against the central government. The second is that the struggle among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups to control territory in the north could lead to fighting in Kirkuk, Mosul or other areas.
The third risk — and one that is now all too real — is that the political struggle between the dominant Shiite parties could become an armed conflict.
How long will we have to pay before we can all admit that we've tried long enough? At what point can our elites admit that a large fraction of the Iraqi people - and not just some relatively small group of terrorists - are the cause of the fighting between factions in Iraq?
What are we seeking to prove at this point other than that we have enough willpower to stand up to whoever might threaten us? Really, what is the point of a US presence in Iraq?
Daniel B. Wood of the Christian Science Monitor reports: Where U.S.-Mexico border fence is tall, border crossings fall
In Yuma, Ariz., border patrol agents tout the success of a high triple-and double-layered wall. But such a fence is unlikely to stretch the entire border.
The Bush Administration is trying to prevent construction of a full border barrier. Our current crop of pathetic Presidential candidates also oppose the wishes of the people on imimgration control. Immigration restriction is opposed by our elites.
In those sections of the border barrier where multiple layers of high walls and fences were built fewer illegals manage to cross.
"This wall works," says Mr. Bernacke. "A lot of people have the misconception that it is a waste of time and money, but the numbers of apprehensions show that it works."
The triple-and double-layered fence here in Yuma is the kind of barrier that US lawmakers – and most Americans – imagined when the Secure Fence Act was enacted in 2006.
The law instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to secure about one-third of the 1,950-mile border between US and Mexico with 700 miles of double-layered fencing – and additionally through cameras, motion sensors, and other types of barriers – by the end of the year to stem illegal immigration.
Most of the barrier is pretty weak. But the areas with formidable fences see less illegal immigrant traffic.
Bernacke, the patrol agent, says that since the triple fence was finished in October, there has been a 72 percent decline in illegal migrant apprehensions in the 120-mile swath of the US-Mexican border known as the Yuma sector. Eight hundred people used to be apprehended trying to cross the border here every day. Now, agents catch 50 people or fewer daily. The 1.5-mile strip of triple fencing that cuts through suburban San Luis is the most impenetrable, says Bernacke. That's because the three walls are separated here by a 75-yard "no man's land" – a flat, sandy corridor punctuated by pole-topped lighting, cameras, radio systems, and radar units, where unauthorized migrants can be chased down by border agents.
You might think the masses really don't care or prefer millions of illegals to cross into the United States. Nope. The voters want tougher immigration enforcement and think their preferred Presidential candidate agrees with them.
The ignorance of the voters puts limits on how much governance can be improved.
The Austrian authorities have indicted politician Susanne Winter on charges of incitement and degradation of religious symbols and religious agitation. This offence carries a maximum sentence of two years. Last January, Ms Winter said that the prophet Muhammad was “a child molester” because he had married a six-year-old girl. She also said he was “a warlord” who had written the Koran during “epileptic fits.”
The politician, a member of the Austrian Freedom Party FPÖ, an anti-immigration party which is in opposition, added that Islam is “a totalitarian system of domination that should be cast back to its birthplace on the other side of the Mediterranean.” She also warned for “a Muslim immigration tsunami,” saying that “in 20 or 30 years, half the population of Austria will be Muslim” if the present immigration policies continue.
Following her remarks, Muslim extremists threatened to kill Susanne Winter and she was placed under police protection. Today, the Justice Department in Vienna announced that Ms Winter will be charged with “incitement and degradation of religious symbols” (Verhetzung und Herabwürdigung religiöser Symbole). If convicted she may have to serve up to two years in jail for her opinions.
Well, what did she say that was inaccurate? 20-30 years before the Muslims take over Austria seems premature. But other than that what incorrect statement did she make?
The good news about Obama and his radical past: he can probably be deterred. Barack Hussein Obama is more Hussein than Osama, an opportunist rather than a fanatic.
While his heart may be black, his head is quite white, the epitome of the small-town Midwest where his maternal grandparents originated. He's conflict-averse, cautious, polite, eager-to-please, sensitive, and insecure, with a Sally Field-style need to be liked.
So, Obama's radical principles have repeatedly pushed him left … right up to the point where he starts worrying that if he goes any farther to the left, not everybody will like him anymore, and that could endanger his amazing rise to power. Thus, he compromises and accepts promotion to the next level in return for selling out.
Up through now, Obama has been focused on attaining more power for himself rather than on actually using the power he already has to benefit the people in whose name he has promoted himself. He's kept his eyes on the prize: the White House.
I hope Steve is correct about this because I think Obama has the best odds of getting elected President.
Once Obama is in power will he continue just as hard to try to get everyone to like him? Will this attempt to get people to like him eventually turn him bitter? He's got to reach a point where he realizes this is as high as he's going to go. Will he find that perch as insufficiently satisfying? Will he try then to satisfy himself more by accomplishments that appeal to his base?