Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Popular Delusion: The Future of Africa is Peaches & Cream

A spate of articles in the popular media has attempted to paint an image of Africa as a resurgent continent in the middle of a great economic and cultural ascendancy. While such imaginative viewpoints may fit the modern mood of political correctness, they risk the inducing of complacency in the persons who might otherwise want to help develop solutions for the rapidly worsening plight of sub-Saharan Africans.

Here is an excerpt from a recent article about the "Africa's Amazing Rise."
The conversation about development, still too often mired in outmoded discussions of African poverty and stagnation, must catch up to the realities on the ground. A decade ago, development experts lectured African governments on the importance of crafting pro-poor policies. Now the question increasingly asked is how Africans can share their wealth more equitably. _Atlantic
These African Panglossians make a number of fundamental errors in thinking and argument when attempting to portray the dark continent as a veritable up and coming Garden of Eden.

First, they fail to distinguish between Muslim North Africa, and black sub-Saharan Africa.

Next, they focus on growth numbers such as per cent growth in GDP, without noting that "high" GDP growth numbers mean very little when one is starting from virtually nothing.

In addition, they look at growth industries such as "cell phones" as an example of the increasing vitalisation of the area. While cell phones may help facilitate genuine economic enterprise, they may also be used for a large number of non-economic and often decadent purposes.

Moreover, these cheerleader pieces of pseudo-journalism fail to confront the horrendous and worsening problems which SS AFrica faces. Dictatorships, overpopulation, bloody tribal war, religious wars, over-dependency on natural resources, neo-colonisation by China, tropical disease, HIV, collapse of family structure, premature urbanisation into crumbling cities of perpetual decay... and so on.

One would do far better in understanding the future of sub-Saharan Africa by reading The Coming Anarchy.

Wishful thinking -- even politically correct wishful thinking -- will not make a silk purse of a sow's ear. Anyone who still cares about Africa, beyond its vast resource wealth, will want to confront the reality of Africa, rather than the fantasy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Creativity is Dangerous -- Having No Creativity is Fatal

When we encounter new creativity, the work of someone who is really trying to bring something new to the game, our first reaction won’t be, ‘Oh, that’s lovely’, but rather, ‘Oh my God, that looks dangerous’. Maybe even that it’s disgusting.

We need to recapture the edge that creativity is supposed to have and inject that back into the discussion about it. _CreativeTimesUK
Removing danger and risk from life necessarily involves removing creativity. And without creativity, human life on the scale of modern times, is impossible. In other words, the engineers of modern societies are grooming their populations for oblivion, by removing risk, responsibility, and creativity from their childhood and adult lives.
As a general rule, we dislike uncertainty. It makes us uneasy. A certain world is a much friendlier place. And so, we work hard to reduce whatever uncertainty we can, often by making habitual, practical choices, choices that protect the status quo. You know the saying, better the devil you know? That about sums it up.

Creativity, on the other hand, requires novelty. Imagination is all about new possibilities, eventualities that don’t exit, counterfactuals, a recombination of elements in new ways. In other words, it is about the untested. And the untested is uncertain. It is frightening... _SciAm "Why So Afraid of Creativity?"
Democracies are all about keeping the voting masses relatively calm and satisfied. If this involves the wide scale infantilisation of mass populations from the cradle to the grave, then so be it. Humans are unpredictable creatures. Best to keep them fat, dumb, and happy.
If you are considering putting yourself out there creatively/emotionally, or are already doing so, you have a potential audience that is much, much larger than just your parents. It is true that the world can be a cruel and punishing place, but it is also large and welcoming. It is just a matter of when you will be heard and who will be there to hear you. _PsychologyToday
Okay, the last quote is a bit touchy-feely psychobabblish. Of course there is no guarantee that taking creative or emotional risks will turn out well in the end. That is the point: There are no guarantees, either way.

Complacent people will choose not to take the risk, not to create or innovate into a new and unfamiliar world. They will choose a wide choice of home entertainment, alcoholic beverages, and prescription drugs. Lots of prescription drugs.

Perhaps you have guessed by now that dangerous children are not about staying in the safe zone, and avoiding risk and responsibility. Dangerous children learn that the best way to become trapped in the stun-stall of the abattoir is to play it safe, and stay inside the prescribed lines.

Al Fin social analysts suspect that most persons living in modern social democracies will choose the path of mass oblivion. But just in case there are some who would choose differently, we are exploring the concept of "the dangerous child."

If you are interested learning more about the concept of "the dangerous child," we are running a series of postings on that topic at Al Fin, the Next Level. Feel free to drop in anytime.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They're Not Out to Get You

There have always been multiple strains of anti-government paranoia in the US, which tend to wax and wane depending upon the policies and reputations of the particular presidential administration in office. Depending upon the ideology of the anti-government group and the ideology of the presidential administration, some of these groups are more likely to be ignored, and others more likely to be prosecuted, at any particular time.

At this time, theUS FBI is turning its brightest spotlights away from run of the mill violent gangs and organised crime, onto a movement known as the "Sovereign Citizens" movement. The "sovereign citizen" is more of a loosely knit network composing a wide range of ideologies, personalities, and outlooks. They read a range of books which converge around the idea that their own government is out to get them. In other words, they are paranoid. So how will such a group -- the vast majority of whom are generally non-violent loners -- respond when the US federal government neglects career criminals in order to go after the separatist loners, specifically.

How do paranoid people typically react when they are made the targets of criminal investigations, night-time no-knock raids, and are otherwise framed as public enemies number 1? One might remember the 1990s, and the ill-conceived and deadly government raids on places known as "Ruby Ridge" or "Waco." Something tells me that the people in charge of US federal law enforcement at this time, learned nothing from the bloody disasters that took place 20 years ago in "flyover country USA."

The FBI did not choose to focus on the "sovereign citizens" by happenstance. Although most of the "sovereigns" would like nothing more than to be left alone by what they see as an over-intrusive government, as with any large movement a few of the sovereigns are violent criminals, by nature. Ideological activist lobbies such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have long focused upon what they see as right-wing separatists.

Under Obama, the SPLC is enjoying significantly greater influence within the US federal government. News coverage of the sovereignty movement has picked up lately, perhaps signaling a pre-election intensification of federal government focus on this particular anti-government group -- just one group out of a wide range of anti-government groups representing ideologies from the left, the center, the right, and any number of other philosophies and religions.

The sovereignty movement makes a fine target for Obama's FBI, since such a movement would have no friends among Obama's political supporters and financers. It also makes a fine target for the news media, since it is unlikely that most mainstream journalists, editors, or producers are acquainted with or sympathetic with any sovereign citizens. Even Wikipedia is unable to provide more than a superficial, insubstantial article dealing with the sovereignty movement, but opts instead for a boiler-plate, officially approved 1st grade level primer exposing "all those bad people." There are no links to any spokespersons of the movement itself. There are no objective estimates of the actual size or influence of the movement. It is the type of Wikipedia article that shames the brand for its lack of encyclopedic nature.

So if even Wikipedia has lost its objectivity over the "sovereign citizens," and the US FBI is being led around by the short hairs in the grip of the highly ideological SPLC, what can we expect between now and the US presidential election in November?

Well, anything that distracts attention away from the dismal and worsening economic condition of tens of millions of formerly middle-class Americans, can be seen as a good thing by the Obama administration. "Law enforcement as circus entertainment" is a grand political tradition of diverting distraction dating back centuries at least. Mr. Obama's situation as he approaches his most difficult political contest, suggests that he will not be reluctant to pull the trigger on a large scale clamp-down on the sovereign citizens -- as a form of political theatre and political distraction.

And what effect would such a clamp-down have on the wide ideological array of anti-government paranoids? It would have a mixed effect. But political strategists supporting the US President cannot help but hope that something will dramatic -- but not too dramatic -- will happen. Something that can be spun in the media to the president's benefit. Something closer to Ruby Ridge than to Waco, with no mothers shot dead while holding their infant in their arms, this time.

Perhaps I should put it bluntly: The ignoramuses in Washington think that they can provoke a limited violent response from an already well-demonised, putatively right wing "extremist" group. They believe that they can contain the popular blowback to manageable levels, while discrediting their political opposition in the general election by linking them to the extremists. But are they reading the public mood correctly?

It is more than possible that the Obama organisation could successfully win the next election, by enlisting federal law enforcement in a scheme geared to induce an explosive reaction from the violent fringe of a paranoid fringe group. Congratulations, Obama people! You have won another election. Now, what do you do to contain the growing damage from the methods you used to win?

President Obama's war against the US energy sector and the US private sector in general, has not been exactly subtle. Mr. Obama's antagonism to many of the US Constitutional protections against government power granted to citizens, is not a well kept secret. These "anti-constitutional" and "anti private sector" tendencies of the current US president are well known to large numbers of North Americans. Those who approve of such tendencies are more likely to support Obama in November. Most of those who disapprove will go no further than to vote against the president.

Of course, if the president's organisation manages to inflate the paranoia of all pro-constitutional Americans -- and not just those few fringists who go so far as to declare themselves "sovereign" -- they will have a somewhat different situation on their hands leading into the lame duck 4 year final term.

No one doubts that Mr. Obama will continue to run up $trillion deficits as long as he is president, thus making the economic future of the country ever more unstable. No one doubts that Obama will keep trying to contain US energy production if he can, thus continuing to cripple US commerce and industry. And those are just the president's better qualities.

When the president decides to get serious about "setting things right," when he feels he has nothing left to lose and everything to gain by going after his lifelong enemies and demons, that is when the paranoids will truly come out to howl at the moon. And when that happens, you might want to take cover.

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Cross-posted to Al Fin blog

Friday, February 24, 2012

Russia Must Drive World Oil Prices Above $150 to $200 /Barrel

“For Putin to have serious room for manoeuvre, he needs to have oil at $150 or $200 per barrel. What we have now is not enough,” says Vladimir Milov, former deputy energy minister and these days an opposition leader.

...Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the Center for Strategic Research, a government-connected think-tank, [adds] that much depends on oil prices. “At prices below $80 per barrel, this system would receive a blow from which it could not survive.” _FinancialTimes
The only thing that makes such statements true is Vladimir Putin's ambition to build Russia into a USSR-sized world super-power. He would require massive injections of capital into Russia's military and technological infrastructures -- and even then, he would come up short. But he has to try.

As noted here previously, Putin's Russia is willing to do almost anything in order for the regime to survive -- including helping Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and pushing the middle east into all out war.

Putin's hold on power is not absolute. It rests upon several factors:
So what secures Putin’s political power, and how strong is it actually? Briefly, the social contract which Putin has with Russia stands on two pillars: material well-being and stability. More specifically, the following factors have helped the KGB and Putin come to power and hold it.

Disillusionment with democracy and the free market as Russians saw it in the 1990s.
Fear of lawlessness and striving for law and order.
The old habits of living in a deterministic society, particularly on the part of the older generation.
The high price of oil and natural resources, which allows for a comparatively decent standard of living without unleashing the forces of creativity and free enterprise.
The social systems and infrastructures, though shabby and deteriorating, inherited from Communism: cheap medicine, education, apartments, etc., which allowed the government to save on those expenses for some period of time.
Post Communism credit–a substantial increase in production and the standard of living in comparison with the utmost inefficient central planning economy.

One can see that most of these factors are of a temporary nature: people’s memories are fading, the older generation is dying off, and the price of natural resources can fall at any moment, Any of these developments will weaken or undermine Putin’s authority or force him to drastic reforms, which would dramatically decrease his and the FSB’s power–or even oust them.
There are many signs that the Putin regime has never been very strong. It failed to create in Russia a modern competitive economy; it has mixed results at best in its attempt to impose control over the former Soviet republics; and it is losing continuously the most creative and entrepreneurial segments of the population to the West.

There are also signs that indicate that Russia’s ruling elite is not so confident in the strength and longevity of its position. Russia’s rulers try to extort as much money as they can and put it in foreign banks, keep their families abroad, establish foreign residence and even citizenship, and try to maintain good personal relations with influential Western friends. All that looks like the right escape route. _Yuri Yarim-Agaev Frontpagemag
World oil demand has risen fairly steadily over the past 25 years, but if one breaks the demand down into two components: advanced world demand and emerging world demand, it is clear that all of the increase in demand is coming from the emerging world. How much longer -- in the light of economic difficulties in Europe, Obama's US, and China -- will this meteoric rise in third world demand continue?
Image Source

Crude oil and gas are both being discovered in significant quantities from China to Africa to the North Sea to the Gulf of Mexico. North American tight gas and oil production continues to rise, and the tight gas & oil contagion is spreading to South America, China, Europe, and the Levant. All of this at the same time that the advanced world -- Europe and the Anglosphere -- are reducing per capita demand for oil & gas.

In addition, new technologies are making conversion of gas, coal, bitumens, kerogens, and biomass to liquid fuels and chemicals, more efficient and economical.

Putin cannot stop these developments. He can only hope that after the world settles down from all the mayhem he has stimulated, there are still Russia and Russians remaining. There is no guarantee of that, regardless of what Putin does.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

China's Overstimulated Economy Continues to Slowly Unravel

Chinese real estate markets have been unwinding over the past several months. As a result, the concrete and steel industries in China have experienced slowdowns in growth. Here is more on steel output in China:
After a decade of rapid growth since 2000, China’s steel industry is undergoing a slow growth. This year, crude steel output is expected to be lower than 700 million metric tons.

Three factors are believed to influence the production of steelworks in 2012. First, the global economic situation will not regain much of its composure in the first half of this year, thus, production for many new projects is not expected to commence in the short term. Second, the government does not encourage steel exports, so policies are likely to be introduced to reduce export tax rebate. And third, iron ore prices remain high, resulting in greater production costs compared to sales prices.

Related Data: Monthly Production of Crude Steel, Annual Production of Crude Steel, Average Daily Production of Crude Steel, FAI of Real Estate, FAI of Transportation Equipment _PragCap
China's calculated policy of overstimulating the real estate and construction industries, is largely responsible for driving up global iron ore prices. And now, high global iron ore prices are said to be partially responsible for slowing China's iron production. Ironic? You be the judge.

Michael Pettis is back on the internet, with more insider views of China's economic doldrums:
What is especially interesting, at least to me, is that an increasing number of commentators within China are identifying the social and economic rigidities imposed by the state system as crucially important in constraining China’s future economic and political growth.

This is becoming a pretty contentious debate. Over the past several months, in fact, we have seen a noticeable surge in articles and reports like this one – often by very prominent academics and policy advisors – criticizing the power of special interests in China. Their main concern seems to be over the constraints these special interests impose on further Chinese development, with the entrenched interests that have benefitted over the last decade or two having become so powerful that they are making it increasingly difficult for China to adjust.

A lot of very smart people in China, in other words, seem to be worried that the country’s governance structure and its development model are no longer able to accommodate the needs of the economy and that it is vitally important to confront the entrenched interest that make change difficult. _ChinaFinancialMarkets

The corruption within China's government and government-connected economy benefits a large number of insiders. But thanks to China's one-child policy, the elite class in China is composed of disconnected interests, rather than tightly knit extended family groupings. In other words, when things start to schism at the top, there is little to hold them together.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Global Markets Floating on Beijing D'Opium

An irrational exuberance has set in for global markets, largely in denial of what is happening to the economies of the global elephants: the US, China, and Europe. The ongoing slowdown in China should be particularly worrying to global markets, but from the "artificial high" behaviours of markets, most analysts and economists appear to remain blissfully oblivious -- for now.
...banks have two costs of doing business: the cost of funds (which they pay to depositors) and the cost of bad debts that aren’t repaid. Since Chinese banks enjoy a regulated spread between their deposit and lending rates, the more they lend (and they’ve been lending a LOT these past few years) the more money they make. But the more generously they lend, the greater the risk they won’t be paid back — a risk that should be realistically tabulated and deducted from the earnings spread.

That isn’t happening. The notion that Chinese banks have 1% non-performing loan (NPL) ratios is patently ridiculous, and the claim that provisions for 2.5 times that amount are somehow “generous” (or remotely adequate) are equally absurd. I don’t believe it, and neither do investors in Chinese bank stocks, based on their valuations. Any company can report “profits” if it doesn’t recognize half its costs of doing business. Any company can boost “revenues” by granted easy credit terms to customers who can’t pay it back.

Regarding inflation, the Wall Street Journal published an excellent editorial today that expresses my thoughts as well as I could. You can read it here. They do an excellent job describing the stresses facing China’s banks, and reconciling the apparent contradictions between a slowing economy and inflationary concerns:
It might seem odd to worry about inflation, capital outflows and tight liquidity at the same time, but that’s a consequence of China’s distorted financial system. Because allocation of capital remains politicized, a significant portion of the credit stimulus has gone into wasteful projects; since that money is not creating real growth or productivity gains, it chases too few goods at higher prices.

Meanwhile, those who need cash—including bankers and small and medium-sized businesses—can’t get it. Liquidity injections might help bankers with short-term funding. But absent broader reform, that cash will only follow earlier credit down the inflationary rabbit hole.
Usually economists consider slowing growth and inflation as polar opposites –you can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. Over-rapid growth spurs inflation, but slowing growth reduces price pressure. However, if you print (or in China’s case, import) money and spend it on projects with a zero or negative return, you will get an initial GDP boost (as long as you keep spending), but eventually you will get stagnant growth AND inflation: stagflation. The Journal gets it. Does anyone in China? _Chovanec
That is where China sits: It has stretched its GDP boost well beyond the bounds of credibility, then is stretching it some more. Global markets have a lot riding on the pretense that nothing is wrong in China, nothing is wrong in Europe, nothing is wrong in the US, etc. To maintain that pretense, you can bet that a lot of mind altering substances are being consumed.

As an interesting aside, here is a story of illegal drugs in China. As things go south, societies often turn to drugs for consolation. Expect to see more of that in the not so distant future.

Russia's War on Global Oil Markets

Russia has intentionally maneuvered Iran to the brink of war over its nuclear reactor program, in order to help raise global oil prices. With Russia's unflagging assistance, Iran is processing its uranium ore so as to produce highly enriched uranium. The most likely indications are that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to build fission bombs in the near future -- again, with Russia's assistance.

Russia is the main beneficiary of the run-up to war and oil market instability -- its oil profits are keeping its corrupt government afloat. China is a secondary beneficiary, able to buy Iranian oil at a significant markdown. The Iranian people are the big losers, sinking into poverty, drug addiction, and despair.
Russia is now the world's largest oil producer, pumping about 10 million barrels of oil a day, slightly more than Saudi Arabia. Of this, Russia exports seven million barrels a day... The Russian oil industry was already reaping the rewards of higher global oil prices from Iranian tensions, even before Tehran raised the stakes Wednesday by threatening to cut off oil to six European nations.

Now, whether Iran carries out that threat immediately or Europe proceeds with its previously planned embargo of Iranian oil this summer, the Russian industry could capitalise more directly. Its pipelines stand ready to serve customers willing to pay a premium price — with a grade of oil closely resembling Iran's._NYTimes News Service _ via TheHindu
Clearly, given their growing capability to produce and deliver oil wherever the market dictates, and the tie between the price of oil and price of gas in Russian supply contracts, it is in the clear interest of the Russians to push up the price of Brent crude. Therefore, could it be that the tumult around deliveries of Iranian oil is merely a smokescreen to escalate prices, and that some thing far more nefarious is taking place? _Learsy_HuffPost
Russia is having problems with its own ineptitude and corruption. It is also troubled by the threat of the coming global shale oil & gas boom. Other competitive pressures likely to arise in the near future include massive supplies of unconventional liquid fuels from GTL, CTL, BTL, bitumens, kerogens -- all eventually facilitated by high quality nuclear process heat.

It is clear that Russia had to take matters into its own hands in order to drive up oil prices -- one way or another.
As the NYTimes reported, "The Russian oil industry was already reaping the rewards of higher oil prices from Iranian tensions." The Russians have been cashing in brilliantly while rendering support to Iran by such acts as vetoing or emasculating any and all meaningful U.N. resolutions that would force Iran to comply with the terms of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency mandates. It is an open question whether this is being done in solidarity with Iran, or more malignly, to solidify Iranian intransigence on matters nuclear, in the hope that the European and other world consumers' boycott of Iranian oil has maximum impact, making Russian oil more sale-able at ever higher prices. _Learsy
Meanwhile, Russia is seeking the help of the international oil companies to upgrade its oil production and refining procedures and operations. Given how Russia has behaved toward international oilcos in the past after having received help and technology transfer, it is difficult to see how this turns out well for either western oil companies or western countries in general.

At the same time that Russia is ramping up international tensions over Iran in order to pull in greater oil profits, it is also looking for the world's sympathy by claiming that Russian oil fields are declining rapidly, to the point that Russia's oil production "has peaked" and in danger of rapid decline.

Yes, certainly we should all feel sorry for Russia, the nation that is enabling nuclear proliferation in Iran and driving the world to the brink of war -- all for oil profits that will go into the Swiss bank accounts of Russian oligarchs, insiders, and quasi-dictators. The nation that lets its oil fields go to crap out of neglect, asks western corporations for help, then abruptly nationalises any resources, technologies, and assets which the outsiders naively leave within the kleptocratic reaches of the Russian government.

Russia's energy reserves remain vast, deep, and wide -- and largely unexplored and undiscovered. In the hands of competent organisations, Russia's hydrocarbon production would not peak for several more decades. But pay no attention to reality -- heed only what you are told by your masters.

Raymond J. Learsy thinks that Russia is manipulating global oil markets to the detriment of all of Europe:
So here we have Russia, a major supplier of oil and gas with an economy deeply dependent on the revenues received from the sale of those commodities. According to the NYTimes article, "And the taxes the Russian government has received from those sales have been a political windfall for Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin as he campaigns to return as Russia's president. The extra money has helped further subsidize domestic energy consumption, tamping down inflation." Combine this with a Russia that is in large measure governed by that unique version of our Wall Street "ole boys network," the alumni of Russia's highly touted secret service, the KGB. The KGB helped form Putin and many of his associates in government. Here was an organization that was the nonpareil masters of clandestine intrigue, knows how to keep secrets, and now in a sense, is running the country albeit with the trappings of democratic governance.

Fast forward-only this week, "a group of brokers and traders successfully managed to manipulate an interest rate that affects loans around the world" (Please see "Traders Manipulated Key Rate, Bank Says," Wall Street Journal). If this could happen to interest rates, so widely traded throughout the world, just think what a KGB oriented Russia could do, and not with $6,500 at their disposal, but billions upon billions. It should not be a stunning surprise to those, be they government agencies, the press, or energy focused think tanks, that the traded price of Brent crude is being gamed. _Learsy
That would be an interesting "one-two!" play by the Russians, if we believe that they are so clever and manipulative. First ramp up international tensions over Iran, then behind-the-scenes, use a bit of leverage to shift global markets to their advantage.

We know the Russian government needs every bit of hard currency it can get, to keep its people happy, and to keep powerful insiders well compensated. But the price being paid by the Iranian people is severe, and has no apparent end-point.

Needless to say, the strategy is not guaranteed to work to the satisfaction of top Russian players, indefinitely. A lot of things could go wrong....

Meanwhile, behind the scenes in Russia, a demographic, infrastructural, and public health disaster continues to play itself out, below the happy Potemkin facade. Putin has a grand strategy, but it is built on a foundation that is slowly crumbling.

Parts of the above were cross-posted from articles previously published at Al Fin Energy.

Meanwhile, contrast the lucrative game of realpolitik being played by Russia, with the ham-handed, self-destructive voodoo environomics being practised by the Obama administration, to the detriment of North Americans everywhere.

Previously published on Al Fin blog

Monday, February 20, 2012

Angry Young Men of Asia and Africa to Shape the Coming World?

Most of those new babies entering our world will be born in Asia or Africa, and into countries that are poor or developing. According to a report by the United Nations Population Division, by the year 2030, Africa's population will be roughly equivalent to the population of North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean - combined. The population of sub-Saharan Africa could double or even triple in the next 40 years.

That's a lot of new potential angry young men, striving for dignity but facing a world of hopelessness. _TheNational
This is the human tide which is likely to sweep in "The Coming Anarchy" which Robert Kaplan has written so much about. Great masses of uneducated third world youth, often led by militant fanatics, sweeping across the planet out of Africa and Asia across Europe and beyond.
Of those seven billion humans on our planet, nearly half are under the age of 24.

In many of the poorest and developing countries, those numbers are even more stark, with 60 to 70 per cent of the population falling into that age group, particularly in poor and developing countries unable to cope with the demands of young populations. For example, three out of four Nigerians are under 35. In Yemen, the numbers are even more stark. Three out of four are 25 or under. Across the Middle East and North Africa region, two out of three people are 29 or younger.

We are currently living amid the largest cohort of youth in human history.

...The world over the next decade will be defined by the Angry Young Man, born amid this historic baby boom, and now entering the netherworld between youth and adulthood, unable to find a job, angry at his government, hyper-aware of the inequalities around him, frustrated by corruption, and connected to the outside world through social networking sites and satellite television. From Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis to Tahrir Square in Cairo, from Athens and Tehran to Delhi and Karachi, the angry young man, fist pumping the air, has become a feature of our world.

... _National
The fact that most of these youth will lack the cognitive aptitude to be trained for roles in the brave new technological world of the future, will not help global or regional stability.

The advanced world will be suffering from a shortage of skilled technological manpower at the same time that a tsunami of uneducable third world youth will be breaking down the doors looking for opportunity and room to expand.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feminist Whining Is Hurting the Cause of Women in Science

Female graduates see women scientists working very hard in what they feel are less fair conditions, and it puts them off.  __SciAm

Like the boy who cried wolf too often, academic and political feminists who complain about the state of women in science are causing unintended consequences. They are paradoxically making women avoid scientific careers.  Female students are indoctrinated by feminist whining to think that women are unfairly treated in science, math, and engineering -- which causes more of them to avoid those fields.
Difficulties in hiring and retaining women scientists and engineers are worrying universities. A study published in the February 17 issue of Science has tracked several thousand science and engineering faculty members over 19 years to unpick where the barriers lie and to provide evidence that can be used to develop policies to tackle the problem. Natasha Gilbert talks to Deborah Kaminski, an engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and co-author of the paper.

What did the study look at?

We tracked the careers of 2,966 science and engineering faculty members from 14 universities from the time they were hired to when they left the university over the period 1990-2009.

What did you find?

Overall, men and women are retained and promoted at the same rate. Of all staff hired as assistant professors, 64.2 percent are promoted to associate professors at the same institution. The median time spent in a job for both men and women is 11 years.

What does this show about academic careers for female scientists?

If we can hire women, we don't lose them. They are retained and advance as men do--they are equally likely to succeed. This is not where women leave the pipeline. The greatest losses of women tend to be at school and going into university and college.

Do women not tend to drop out after having children?

The women who come in to academic science careers tend to be so highly motivated that they stay. They limit the number of children they have. Other studies have shown that female academics have fewer children than other professional women, such as lawyers. Female graduates see women scientists working very hard in what they feel are less fair conditions, and it puts them off. Societal factors also make it harder for women to have such demanding careers--women tend to manage family problems, for example.

So where does the problem lie?

We are not hiring enough women. Only 27 percent of incoming academics are women, and at the rate we are going, this won't rise to 50 percent until 2050. Faculty careers are long, so it will take about 100 years to get a balance of the sexes in science departments. This is a problem. Our study shows us where we need to focus efforts. Attention is needed on hiring more women and on encouraging more women into science and engineering undergraduate and graduate courses, because if we can just hire them we can keep them.

What about quotas for hiring women?

Quotas would be hard to do. How can you have hiring quotas with so few individuals coming through and applying for jobs. I think it would be better to encourage more women to do PhDs--that would help. _SciAm
It is not news that leftist ideologues in academia, media, and politics tend to make things worse for everyone around them. This sad fact does not appear to bother these ideologues in the least, nor is it likely that an increased awareness of their adverse affect on society would lead to any changes of behaviour on their part.

That leaves it to the rest of us to do whatever needs to be done, to provide opportunities for those who wish to lead productive and satisfying lives. Consider it a challenge.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Will Putin Be the Next Qadafi?

In the run-up to the 2000 elections, the totally unknown Vladimir Putin engineered the Chechen crisis in order to convince Russians that he could save them from the chaos and war. In 2004, he managed to make Russians believe that the choice they faced was between him and the oligarchs. Khodorkovsky was thrown in jail and the majority of Russians preferred to believe that their president had finally broken the chain connecting him to Yeltsin's self-enriching circle. In 2008, contrary to expectations, he decided not to run for a third term, thus promising substantial changes in the framework of existing power. In all three cases, in other words, presidential elections were framed by a dramatic and easily comprehensible public narrative.

In 2012, by contrast, Putin has no story to tell. It is completely unclear in what way public interest could possibly be served by his returning to the Kremlin. He is not coming back to handle the Chechens, because they are now allegedly his most loyal supporters: United Russia won an eye-popping 98 per cent of the vote in Kadyrov's fiefdom. Nor is Putin coming back to save the Russians from the oligarchs, because the new oligarchs are his old St. Petersburg buddies. All those who had hoped that the regime could be modernized under a younger president feel humiliated by their own embarrassing naivety. In 2012, Putin has not only lost his image as someone who can solve crises: he is no longer able to create new crises which he can triumphantly resolve because, at this point, any crisis that emerges will be blamed on him. The only thing Putin can tell those who ask why he wants to return to the Kremlin is that he has nowhere else to go. (That he needs to stay in power to protect his "business interests", while widely assumed, is obviously not a tale for public consumption.)

Putin is now facing a dilemma similar to the one Gorbachev faced in the last two years of the Soviet Union. Genuinely competitive elections, assuming that he won them, might possibly rescue his collapsing legitimacy. But winning an election that he might have lost [In other words, being caught cheating in an election __ ed.] would not be the end of Putin's troubles. Afterwards, he would start to be held publicly responsible for his actions. The media would freely report on his business associates and the opposition would be constantly after him, pointing out all the promises he failed to keep. This means that he would perhaps keep power temporarily but that eventually he would lose. Shooting at protesters is an even less attractive option, even if it were feasible. In 1993, true enough, Yeltsin shelled the parliament; but back then Russian society was ideologically divided and the most radical democrats supported Yeltsin's decision to shoot. The West was also behind Yeltsin. Today, Putin can reasonably fear that shooting at relatively affluent urban crowds might land him where Gaddafi ended up. History shows that only politicians with a strong social support base – rooted in ideology, religion, or kinship – dare shoot at protesters. _Eurozine
Vladimir Putin may well be the wealthiest man in the world. He made his billions in the same way any number of dictators and quasi-dictators around the world -- he stole them. Just like his friends, the neo-oligarchs, Putin has a deft set of hands in the public cookie jar.

But that is how Russia and the third world have always done business. The big strong man and his friends get the first chance at the booty. Next come the elite and connected who are just outside the first circle. Then comes everyone else.

It worked well for Qadafi, Mubarak, Idi Amin, and a long line of dictators -- until it didn't work any longer. In the third world, dictators are generally replaced by other dictators of one stripe or another. US President GW Bush tried to replace a dictatorship in Iraq with a democratically elected government, and it is unlikely the country will ever completely recover. Of course, Iraq was never anything to write home about in the first place. But the tripartite country in perpetual turmoil should be a caution to other would be external democratisers -- in Arab countries or in Russia.

Friday, February 17, 2012

China's Coming Economic Reckoning

...if it turns out China doesn't need all that new stuff it's building, the country will face an economic reckoning, says Michael Pettis, who teaches finance at Peking University in Beijing.

For Pettis, China's economic miracle is just the latest, largest version of a familiar story. A government in a developing country funnels tons of money into construction. This increases economic activity for a while, but the country ultimately overbuilds — and the loans start going bad.

"In every single case it ended up with excessive debt," Pettis says. "In some cases a debt crisis, in other cases a lost decade of very, very slow growth and rapidly rising debt. And no one has taken it to the extremes China has." _NPR
China's boom began with a massive inflow of investment from the outside, which built an impressive manufacturing infrastructure. China grew wealthy from it high flow of profitable exports, facilitated by a skilled but cheap workforce, and big spending customers overseas in Europe and North America.

When the export markets cooled, China's governments made a desperate gamble -- overbuild, overbuild, overbuild -- and hope the overseas markets can pick up again like in the 1990s and early 2000s.

But Europe is dying of debt and demographics, and the US is dying of an overdose of Obamaism.
The problem Mr. Chiappinelli sees is that there's going to be no easy way out of the bubble that exists in China's infrastructure and real estate.

“China is experiencing the mother of all bubbles,” he said today at the Bloomberg Portfolio Manager Mash-up in New York. “We don't know when it's going to pop or what's going to cause it to pop, but there's very little track record of countries successfully navigating a soft landing out of a bubble,” he said.

Another problem for China: The likely recession in Europe, said Lisa Emsbo-Mattingly, director of research for global asset allocation at Fidelity Investments. Europe is China's biggest trading partner and a dip in demand on the continent will be keenly felt in the Middle Kingdom. _InvestmentNews
China has significant problems with corruption at all levels of government and state owned enterprises, including banks. The books are thoroughly cooked, and too many people outside of China seem to be falling for the deception.
While economists are often skeptical of China's government figures, Chanos estimates those numbers are way off..."We are seeing rapid falloffs in demand in things like construction equipment, railway construction over there, housing sales -- so lots of things are slowing down pretty quickly over there," he said.

"It remains to be seen whether that's going to go into a full-fledged recession. I do think the property sector which is where we're focused on, is going to enter -- or has entered a recession." _CNNMoney
China suffers from significant class inequality, with hundreds of millions of people living at near subsistence levels. If China's people discover how their leaders and elites have abused their trust, internal security may soon become the number 1 problem for the CCP, in this important year of a power changeover at the top levels.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Obama's Kiss of Death: How far Down Can the US Go Under Obama?

During his early days in office, President Obama promised to save 4 million jobs and bring the US unemployment rate down to 6% by 2012. Instead, many millions of jobs were lost, and the real US unemployment rate is at least 11%, with an underemployment rate above 20%. Under Obama, how much worse will things get?
The above chart shows the “labor force participation rate.” This statistic represents the share of working-age Americans who are either employed or unemployed but looking for work. It is not a pretty picture. Only 63.7% of working-age Americans are currently in the workforce – the lowest in almost 29 years!

To put it another way, 36.3% of working-age Americans do not have a job and are not even looking.

After 3 years of failure, it’s time to try something that will work. Let’s ramp up energy production. Let’s cut away government red tape that slows down job creation. And let’s design new tax code that is simpler, flatter, and fairer. _Source
Meanwhile, in Egypt and Syria, Obama's kiss of death blessing for the "Arab Spring" is bearing a predictably rotten fruit:
During the halcyon days of the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Western media outlets were filled with lofty predictions: the end of autocracy in the Middle East, the rise of the Arab twitterati youth, and the emergence of a liberal majority in the Middle East that would wipe away decades of tyranny and oppression. One year later, with repression in Egypt, fighting in Libya, and civil war in Syria, these predictions have been revealed for what they were: wishful thinking marred by an absence of critical thought about the region and its history. The reality is much uglier. _WRM
This is the developing anarchy under the benevolent umbrella of Obama's general good intentions, a la Saul Alinsky.

How far down can the world go under Obama?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrating Perversity: Rewarding Waste and Dissolution

Risk is a necessary part of life. Risk and scarcity are the challenges that cause animals to develop shrewd and wise strategies of survival.

You cannot remove risk from the world, but you can obscure it, or shift it from one person to another, or from one group to another. If you force persons of thrift and wisdom to bear the burdens of those who are prodigal and shortsighted, you will certainly grow a large new crop of fools and wastrels.

It almost seems as if modern public policy is designed to accomplish exactly that.
... the federal government has chosen to side with the wasteful, unprincipled and debauched who borrowed what they couldn't pay back, all at the expense of the good and moral. You can't make things like this up, and sadly this is not a dream. The federal government has sanctified promiscuous activity with the money of others through a $25 billion settlement foisted on banks that "will provide financial relief to an estimated one million at risk borrowers." The message: go heavily into debt, claim some lender abused you, then wait for the government (meaning all of us whose tax dollars support Leviathan) to compassionately save you.

The economic argument behind this most shameful of settlements predictably defies basic logic. Though economies work best when prices reflect market realities, housing to the political class is sacred such that a true correction whereby those who overextended themselves vacate their houses on the way to a market bottom won't be allowed to happen.

The broad economy will of course suffer this governmental error. For one, an investment in housing, quite unlike capital committed to technology or medicine, will not cure cancer or make us more efficient. A true bottom that releases investment capital from this dead money sector would on its own prove an economic positive.

Second, as evidenced by the inability of certain homeowners to make their mortgage payments, they're likely in many instances to live in depressed parts of the United States. Not only would putting their houses back on the market happily move the cost of housing down (that's the government's stated goal after all), it would also release these individuals from the ball-and-chain of quazi ownership such that they're free to pursue the best economic opportunities around the country irrespective of locale.

Third, if mortgage holders are to get relief, then someone, somewhere is by definition getting ripped off. Savers are society's ultimate benefactors for savings paying the freight for our economic advancement, but here savers will suffer a haircut so that the ghastly errors of borrowers can be excused. The message to savers is to not bother delaying consumption so that future innovators can access capital; instead, spend with abandon with an eye on borrowing excessively knowing full well that the government (again, meaning us) will underwrite your mistakes too.

Particularly offensive within this sad exercise is the notion that we must backstop the borrowing mistakes of the housing greedy because their mortgages are "underwater." Specifically, due to a shift in market sentiment that has made the mortgages for some more expensive than the house they're in, we're expected to cushion that blow. The next time investors in the stock market buy shares on the margin that plummet in value, will we cover those errors too? _RCM

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Occupy Zombies: For Sale to the Highest Bidder?

Protesters at Friday’s “Occupy CPAC” event, organized by AFL-CIO and the Occupy DC movement, told The Daily Caller that they were paid “sixty bucks a head” to protest outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

One protester told TheDC that all the “Occupy” activists were being paid to protest, and that his union, Sheet Metal Workers Local 100, approached him about the money-making opportunity.

“I have nothing nice to say about Local 100. … They just told me ‘you wanna make sixty bucks? So c’mon,’” the protester said.

Other “Occupy CPAC” protesters were unwilling to speak on camera because they were unaware what they were protesting and what the CPAC event was about. _DC
This is not much of a surprise, given that union-backed political activism typically involves the exchange of gratuities, money, beer, cigarettes, etc. in exchange for protests, pickets, and votes.

In the age of Obama, people have to do something to make a living.

The Real US Unemployment Rate Under Obama is 11%

When the recession supposedly officially ended in June, 2009, the labor force participation rate was still 65.7% [Just as when Obama took office in Jan 2009 _ ed.].

In the latest, much celebrated, unemployment report, the labor force participation rate had plummeted to 63.7%, the most rapid decline in U.S. history. That means that under President Obama nearly 5 million Americans have fled the workforce in hopeless despair. _Forbes
In a dishonest government, official statistics can be tweaked to say anything the regime wants them to say. It is fair to say that the current US administration is far to the dishonest side of the spectrum, so we are not particularly surprised to see dishonest and misleading employment statistics coming from this particular administration. We are now forced to wonder if everything we are being told by Washington is a lie.
The trick is that when those 5 million are not counted as in the work force, they are not counted as unemployed either. They may desperately need and want jobs. They may be in poverty, as many undoubtedly are, with America suffering today more people in poverty than in the entire half century the Census Bureau has been counting poverty. But they are not even counted in that 8.3% unemployment rate that Obama and his media cheerleaders were so tirelessly celebrating last week.

If they were counted, the unemployment rate today would be a far more realistic 11%, better reflecting the suffering in the real economy under Obamanomics.

Just last month, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported finding 243,000 new jobs, they also reported in the same release that an additional 1.2 million workers had dropped out of the work force altogether, giving up hope under Obama.

...Some additional facts highlight how misleading the reported unemployment rate, and the political rhetoric around it, can be. One year ago, 99 million Americans were unemployed or otherwise not working, and the unemployment rate was 9.1%. Today, while the reported unemployment rate is 8.3%, over 100 million Americans are unemployed or otherwise not working.

In January, 2009, 11.6 million Americans were unemployed, with 23% of those unemployed for more than 6 months. By January, 2012, 12.8 million were unemployed, with 43% of those out of work more than 6 months.

At the official end of the recession in June, 2009, America was 12.6 million jobs short of full employment. By January, 2012, we were 15.2 million jobs short, falling behind by another 244,000 in that month alone.

The time has come to begin to raise questions about the precipitous decline in the labor force assumed by BLS. Are the career bureaucrats there partial to President Obama, and favorable towards promoting his political chances for reelection? Or has the Obama Administration placed someone in a leadership slot over at the BLS or the unemployment statistics branch that is imposing this assumed sharp decline? Because of the oddness of this record setting decline, coinciding with President Obama’s ascension to office, these questions bear further investigation. _Forbes
This government is rotten to its core, but it is so huge that there is very little that anyone or any group can do about it. Even with the election of a competent and conscientious new president and congress, the dead weight of governmental bureaucracies would prevent meaningful change in the direction of honest and responsible government.

It is a problem that will require a great deal of thought.

Friday, February 10, 2012

JournoList Thug-Monkeys Re-consider Tactics

End of the Fight Club?** Now JournoList eminence Matthew Yglesias tells us he has “come to think that ‘mean’ arguments are counterproductive.” …  Hard-to-resist working thesis: This is what happens when you end a private institution where ambitious young leftish political writers preen for each other (and Scoutmaster DeLong) by showing how vitriolic and thuggish they can be about their ideological opponents. … Jonathan Chait had to be especially mean on domestic issues to make up for his New Republicish pro-Israel positions. … P.S.: Yglesias is a nice guy. That’s the point. JournoList encouraged nice guys to try to be nasty. …

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/10/end-of-the-fight-club/#ixzz1m0JTxcOD
Source: Mickey Kaus, Daily Caller

More on the "Thug-Monkeys" of JournoList, including a list naming names.

The thug-monkeys of the skankstream want to tell everyone else what they should be thinking and how they should be behaving. They are being paid to shape your thoughts, actions, and voting patters.

But wouldn't it be nice if the relevant knowledge and information were made freely available, without political or philosophical spin? That way, you could form your own opinions, and make up your own mind for yourself.

A Quick Primer on Modern Climate Change Theory from Warren Meyer

Following is an extensive excerpt from a piece in Forbes by Warren Meyer: Understanding the Global Climate Debate. Beneath the extended excerpt is a more detailed discussion by Meyer, in video form. Below the video is a link to more presentations from Meyer on the same topic. Warren Meyer's climate website is here.

Why bother learning about the climate debate at any particular level of detail -- much less the extensive level of detail provided in Meyer's video or power point presentations? Because the quality of your future existence, and that of your descendants, depends upon not being hornswaggled on this multi-$trillion issue. You cannot afford to be a climate ignoramus any longer. ;-)

Let’s begin by putting a careful name to what we are talking about. We are discussing the hypothesis of “catastrophic man-made global warming theory.” We are not just talking about warming but warming that is somehow man-made. And we are not talking about a little bit of warming, but enough that the effects are catastrophic and thus justify immediate and likely expensive government action.

In discussing this theory, we’ll use the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as our main source. After reading through most of the IPCC’s last two reports, I think it is fair to boil the logic behind the theory to this picture:

As you can see, the theory is actually a chain of at least three steps:

  1. CO2, via the greenhouse effect, causes some warming.
  2. A series of processes in the climate multiply this warming by several times, such that most of the projected warming in various IPCC and other forecasts come from this feedback, rather than directly from the greenhouse gas effect of CO2.
  3. Warming only matters if it is harmful, so there are a variety of theories about how warming might increase hazardous weather (e.g. hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts), raise sea levels, or affect biological processes.

In parallel with this theoretical work, scientists are looking for confirmation of the theory in observations. They have a variety of ways to measure the temperature of the Earth, all of which have shown warming over the past century. With this warming in hand, they then attempt to demonstrate how much of this warming is from CO2. The IPCC believes that much of past warming was from CO2, and recent work by IPCC authors argues that only exogenous effects prevented CO2-driven warming from being even higher.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Heavy Insider Trading in US Markets Points to Slowdown

...on the theory that corporate insiders — officers, directors and largest shareholders — know more about their firms’ prospects than do the rest of us, it can’t be good news that they are selling at such a heavy pace.

Consider a ratio calculated by Argus Research of the number of shares insiders have sold in the open market to the number that they have bought. Last week, according to the latest issue of Argus’ service, the Vickers Weekly Insider Report, this sell-to-buy ratio stood at 5.77-to-1. And among insiders at companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, this ratio was even more lopsided at 8.2-to-1.

Making these recent readings even more worrisome, according to Argus Research, is that they came on markedly stepped-up activity among corporate insiders. This increases our confidence that the ratio accurately reflects prevailing sentiment among a broad cross-section of the insiders.

In fact, Vickers is so alarmed by recent insider trends that this week it is selling big chunks of its two model portfolios and putting the proceeds in cash. After the sales, its “Insider Model Portfolio” will be nearly 30% in cash and its “Risk Model Portfolio” will be more than 60% in cash. _Marketwatch
Watch and see. Equities have never been a particularly good long-term bet since late summer of 2008, when it became highly likely that Barack Obama would be the next US President. The outlook has gone downhill from there.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Some Groups are Statistically Brighter than Others -- So What?

The best psychometric research over the past several decades (PDF) consistently highlights group differences in statistical measures of intelligence. Several biological and sociological rationales for these relatively stable differences have been offered. The key point seems to be: "What are we going to do about it?"
Four US Population Groups

A large number of academics from the ideological left have attempted to deny that any group IQ differences exist, but they are oddly averse to performing the type of definitive research which would prove their thesis. And since the consistent studies demonstrating stable statistical IQ differences between groups has been performed by persons of all racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds, it seems as if the most rational working hypothesis going forward, is that the group IQ differences are real, with multiple underlying causes.

Today's discussion is not meant to be about the causes of disparities in cognitive aptitude, but rather deals with the practical consequences for society.

The first thing to note from the graphic above, is the considerable overlap of the 4 curves. This indicates that general statements about the aptitudes of individual members of a particular group -- prior to testing of those specific individuals -- is unwarranted. In other words, policies should not restrict entry to any field of study or occupation based upon group characteristics.

Next, given the apparent long standing consistency of these group differences, it is clear that at least a portion of the statistical aptitude gaps originate from biological and genetic causes. Given this knowledge, any policies which give one group an advantage in terms of academic admissions, jobs hiring, or government contracts, is completely unwarranted.

Moreover, policies which provide advantages in obtaining bank loans, government loans, government benefits, or other government mandated advantage, based upon group membership or characteristics, is wholly unjustified.

Public favours should be doled out strictly on a meritocratic and group-blind basis. Anything else is bias of a most unjust and destabilising kind.

How would a society that admitted the existence of stable statistical group differences in aptitude work or function?

First, once such group statistical differences were admitted publicly, it is unlikely that the gaps would be dwelled upon to a significant degree -- the wind would be let out of those sails, in other words. Each person would be free to pursue his or her dreams and goals to the extent to which they were capable. They could do so publicly, with the secure knowledge that no one around them had been given undue advantage by government or government decree -- overt or covert.

Second, scientific means of improving aptitude could be researched and developed in an open manner, without the need to hide the potential uses of the research. Cognitive aptitude is a damned important personal characteristic, and statistical measures of population cognitive aptitudes are very important to the fate of a society. The higher the average population IQ, the higher the per capita GDP, statistically.

Third, much current societal discord would be done away with, since it would be seen that differences in group outcome were not due to any mystical "institutional racism," but were rather due to very real statistical group differences of aptitude, due to multiple causes. Other sources of societal discord -- such as the obvious inherent unjustness of official discrimination on the basis of race -- would likewise be done away with.

Some tumult would occur in transition between the present unjust mandates and a fairer, more meritocratic system. Such always occurs when persons lose an undeserved sinecure. But as long as the facts which underlie the basic fairness of discontinuing the current system of legal discrimination were explained clearly and consitently, society will find a more stable and less discordant equilibrium.

More on this topic at a later time.

More: This Reason Magazine review of an optimistic tech-future book offers several reasons why the future should be brighter. Everything hinges, of course, upon the ability of society to set up an equitable system which gives justice to the rule of law, and equality before the law.

If bias and discrimination are built into the system from the beginning -- as in the institutionalised slavery accepted by the founders of the original USA -- something bad is going to happen down the line, no matter how optimistic the technological future looks to some.

Monday, February 06, 2012

US President Obama Dreams of a "Post-American World"

I don’t buy into the president’s trendy “post-American world” fantasies. We are growing; Europe, Japan, China, and Russia are aging and shrinking. Is there a Facebook sprouting in Istanbul? Does Mumbai give us Wal-Mart? Does the world flock to Shanghai to learn brain surgery?

I am not worried that China’s one rusty carrier will match the power of about one-third of our eleven carrier groups. Fat flabby Americans still produce per capita three times as many goods and services as do three Chinese.

I’ve seen European and Arab universities; believe me they are no Caltech or Stanford. I’ve been in three hospitals abroad; the one in tiny Selma is to them as heaven is to hell. In most places abroad, I would not drink the water. I like American doctors; they don’t smoke as they treat you and don’t roll you into Dante’s Inferno on a gurney to rot. I don’t think they pulled out my tonsils years ago only to make a buck. My local Doc does not wish to lop off my leg.

Our gas and oil reserves grow; China’s and Japan’s shrink. If I move to China, as a Scandinavian-looking white guy I will never be accepted as fully Chinese; if a Chinese moves here, he’s liable to run a company. Barack Obama and most of us would never make it as a president or prime minister in Japan or South Korea, or for that matter France.

...I see no reason to apologize or bow abroad. I am all too aware that we helped save Muslims in Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Somalia and send them billions in aid to the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan. I have no guilt about the Europeans. We have paid trillions in dollars for their defense, after saving them from Germany twice, and are far less protectionist in our trade policies than are they. Compared to the caste system in India, racialism in China and Japan, tribal chauvinism in the Arab World, and class distinctions in Europe, I find the U.S. pretty open and fair, meritocratic if you will.

Why, then, would I wish to kowtow to Saudi or Japanese royals, or to apologize in Turkey for past sins?

...In the last week, there was more talk on illegal immigration from open-borders activists, the Obama administration, and Mexico—all to the effect that the United States has to shape up, be more caring, and start granting amnesty (“comprehensive immigration reform”). But what are we missing? Did not over 11 million people enter the U.S. illegally, and without apparent care about the law? I would not drive into Mexico without legal identification, or sign affidavits that I knew were false, or abandon my car at the scene of an accident in Acapulco, or register for public assistance in Mexico City, but I am to expect others can do the reverse with impunity?

...This is proving to be a Manichean administration. It sees the world in terms dark and light, of us/them, and then must create the necessary binaries to divide and demonize—so strange given this was the narrative of the Obama campaign against Bush, not so strange given the Chicago origins.

After three years, I realize that lots of us are on the downside of about every one of the president’s new Mason-Dixon lines. Yet I am not a one-percenter like Jon Corzine or Nancy Pelosi. I did not send my kids to private schools as did the Obamas in Chicago. I live in a racially mixed area, one of the poorest in the nation—unlike the mostly white mansion environs of John Kerry. My siblings’ families are racially mixed; I’ve never bought and sold real estate, or made much money on investments. I am certainly, then, no Rahm Emanuel, Jamie Gorelick, or Franklin Raines. I never had any developer give me a sweetheart deal to expand my backyard as did Barack Obama. I have never in my life used the term “typical black person” and would not dream of talking in terms of being a “wise white guy.”_VDH
Victor Davis Hanson is being generous to the Obama administration. The truth is, the current US President is a divider and a demoniser of the highest order -- he must do, in order to survive politically.

The question is: What are American voters going to do about this Obamanation?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ask Not, "Who is the forgotten man?" The Forgotten Man is You

Who is the "forgotten man?" He is a symbol of the growing numbers of ordinary US citizens who suffer as a result of President Obama's disregard for the US Constitution, US personal rights and liberties, and the tradition of the rule of law in the US.
Image Source

As a direct result of Mr. Obama's war against the US private sector, the US economy is suffering a deficit of 10.5 million jobs -- the combination of the jobs that have been lost and those that were needed merely to keep up with a growing population. The official 8.3% unemployment number is a political construct, meant to aid Obama in his re-election bid. But the millions who have lost hope under Obama understand the truth behind the numbers.

Only a few people expected Obama to demonstrate a contemptuous disregard for the Constitution he had sworn to uphold. But a growing number of "forgotten men and women" are becoming aware of the ongoing travesty.

CBS report on the controversial painting, "The Forgotten Man," above.

Barack Obama is the first anti-American US President. No wonder America's beacon of opportunity is fading.

Age of Obama Reminiscent of Carter's Age of Malaise

In the US of the late 1970s, Americans experienced an economic and emotional malaise which has since been associated with the Jimmy Carter presidency. Survivalism and prepperism were in full boom time, in the late days of the Carter Presidency.

After Carter left office, Americans seemed to recover their typical sense of optimism and opportunity. Survivalism and doomerism settled down to much lower levels of activity. But for those who had experienced the Carter malaise, the taste of uneasiness and foreboding remained deep, undercover.

In the age of US President Obama, that strange sense of imminent disaster has returned, and is felt even by supporters of the "hope and change" president. If Mr. Obama succeeds at being re-elected -- something President Carter was unable to do in his own age of malaise -- the sense of impending Obama-doom is likely to grow to suffocating levels.
"We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls, stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass street protests, and riots," [Rawles] told Reuters. "The worst-case end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency collapses, and long term power grid failures."

..."Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the old days," he said. "You could be living next door to a prepper and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on the weekends."

Like other preppers, Snider is worried about the end of a functioning U.S. economy. He points out that tens of millions of Americans are on food stamps and that many U.S. children are living in poverty.

"Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn't mean that they understand what is happening," he said. "A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it." _Reuters
Of course the skankstream media pretends that this deep uneasiness has nothing to do with President Obama, or with the millions of Americans who lost hope and have been driven out of the job market since Obama took office. It fails to associate the ongoing housing and banking crisis, the high level deflation combined with low level inflation, with the Obama war against the US private sector and the Obama energy starvation agenda. The Obama-friendly media has not sounded any warning calls regarding the great shift in power from the private sector to government under Obama which threatens to destroy the fiscal foundations of government at all levels . . . Mr. Obama's all out spending spree has led to a sky-rocketing of US federal debt to unprecedented levels at an unprecedented rate, in what might be perceived by some cynical souls (at least those who had read Mr. Obama's autobiographies) as a conscious effort to weaken the world's only superpower, down to its very roots.

If Mr. Obama is re-elected, there will be no long term return of optimism, as there had been after the defeat of the malaise-laden President Carter. Most Americans sense this, and yet, an observation of the early primary and debate results of the opposition US Republican Party points to a high likelihood of re-election for the current incumbent president. Mr. Obama's opposition candidates appear to be engaged in a dysfunctional barroom brawl of dirty infighting, which to most of the voting public appears even more distasteful than the picture of the current administration being presented to them on the nightly news.

It is beginning to seem to a large cross-section of Americans that any common ground they may have once had, is now either slipping away, or being consciously destroyed by those currently in power. This growing loss of cohesiveness among those who would otherwise have united against the emotional and economic darkness descending over America, can only help one group -- the Washington DC based vultures currently picking over the scattered bones of the republic and the populace.

All of this could have happened 32 years ago, had Jimmy Carter been re-elected as US President. But 32 years ago, the majority of Americans united behind a former film star and California governor, Ronald Reagan. In 2012, it is not clear that there is anyone of sufficient grit and substance who is capable of uniting most of the people behind him ( or her).

If things continue to play out in this way, the survivalists and preppers may very well have their day after all.

Taken from an earlier posting on Al Fin blog

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Freedom Comes to the Indiana Workplace

Paint another state free and blue in the right-to-work category. The Indiana legislature approved a new right-to-work law, and the Indiana governor signed it into law. Now workers in Indiana are assured the right to choose whether to belong to a union or not, when they take a new job.
Right to Work States

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation Wednesday afternoon making his state the 23rd right-to-work state in the nation and the first in the Manufacturing Belt. Under the legislation, unions and companies cannot negotiate contracts that force employees to financially support a union as a condition of employment.

Gov. Daniels put his signature on the measure shortly after the Indiana state Senate passed it Wednesday morning on a 28-22 vote. A similar measure in 2011 failed when Democratic lawmakers prevented the state House from holding session by leaving the state. Subsequent polling showed that strategy to be very unpopular with the voters. This year, the Democrats could only use delaying tactics and now the legislation has become Indiana law. _Source
This type of legislation is crucially important for the future of the economies of individual states. Several US states are approaching bankruptcy due to labour union negotiated contracts governing the pensions, pay, and benefits for public sector workers.

As the Obama recession continues taking its toll on the US economy as a whole, individual states will be forced to take action to save themselves from the general progressive decay caused by Obamaesque policies and concessions to extortionate and sometimse violent organisations such as labour unions, leftist activist groups, and big money organised faux environmental groups.