Wednesday December 5 2007
The Lies at the End of the American Dream
The Shortage Myth
Last June a revealing marketing video from the law firm, Cohen & Grigsby appeared on the Internet. The video demonstrated the law firm's techniques for getting around US law governing work visas in order to enable corporate clients to replace their American employees with foreigners who work for less. The law firm's marketing manager, Lawrence Lebowitz, is upfront with interested clients: "our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested US worker."
If an American somehow survives the weeding out process, "have the manager of that specific position step in and go through the whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them for this position--in most cases there doesn't seem to be a problem."
No problem for the employer he means, only for the expensively educated American university graduate who is displaced by a foreigner imported on a work visa justified by a nonexistent shortage of trained and qualified Americans.
University of California computer science professor Norm Matloff, who watches this issue closely, said that Cohen & Grigsby's practices are the standard ones used by hordes of attorneys, who are cleaning up by putting Americans out of work.
The Cohen & Grigsby video was a short-term sensation as it undermined the business propaganda that no American employee was being displaced by foreigners on H-1b or L-1 work visas. Soon, however, business organizations and their shills were back in gear lying to Congress and the public about the amazing shortage of qualified Americans for literally every technical and professional occupation, especially IT and software engineering.
Everywhere we hear the same droning lie from business interests that there are not enough American engineers and scientists. For mysterious reasons Americans prefer to be waitresses and bartenders, hospital orderlies, and retail clerks.
when websites go bad
The site isn't in English but that doesn't matter. Check out the blue cup.
thanks to Wendy Greenleaf
america the beautiful
America in the Time of Empire
All great empires and nations decay from within. By the time they hobble off the world stage, overrun by the hordes at the gates or vanishing quietly into the pages of history books, what made them successful and powerful no longer has relevance. This rot takes place over decades, as with the Soviet Union, or, even longer, as with the Roman, Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires. It is often imperceptible.
Dying empires cling until the very end to the outward trappings of power. They mask their weakness behind a costly and technologically advanced military. They pursue increasingly unrealistic imperial ambitions. They stifle dissent with efficient and often ruthless mechanisms of control. They lose the capacity for empathy, which allows them to see themselves through the eyes of others, to create a world of accommodation rather than strife. The creeds and noble ideals of the nation become empty cliches, used to justify acts of greater plunder, corruption and violence. By the end, there is only a raw lust for power and few willing to confront it.
The most damning indicators of national decline are upon us. We have watched an oligarchy rise to take economic and political power. The top 1 percent of the population has amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, creating economic disparities unseen since the Depression. If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president, we will see the presidency controlled by two families for the last 24 years.
thanks to wood s lot
The End of America? Naomi Wolf Thinks It Could Happen
Don Hazen: Let's take up a big question first -- your fears about the upcoming U.S. presidential election and what the historical blue print about fascist takeovers shows in terms of elections.
Naomi Wolf: We would be naive given the historical patterns to have hope that there's going to be a transparent, accountable election in 2008. There are various ways the blueprint indicates how events are much more likely to play out. Historically, the months leading up to the national election are likely to be unstable.
What classically happens is either there will be a period of provocation, and we have a history of this in the United States -- agitators who are dressed as or act like activist voter registration workers, anti-war marchers ... but who engage in actual violence, torch property, assault police officers. And that scares people. People are much less likely to vote for change when they're scared, and it gives them the excuse to crack down.
In addition, I'm concerned about the 2007 Defense Authorization Act, which makes it much easier for the president to declare martial law.
A “Presidential Coup,” The Continuity Of Government, And Blackwater Watching Midtown Manhattan
I have argued that in the closing stages of a `fascist shift', events cascade. I am hearing about them, even across the globe. Here in Australia I hear from the nation's best-know feminist activist, and former adviser to Paul Keating, Anne Summers, who was also at the time this took place Chair of the Board of Greenpeace International. Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. `I want to call a lawyer', she told TSA agents. `Ma'am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,' they replied. `You have not entered the United States.'
After the Empire:
The Breakdown of the American Order
by Emmanuel Todd
I'm way behind on posting book recommendations of books that I've read. At least my reading has slowed down with everything else that is going on. I even had to return two books to the library; one half read and one unread. I'll try to catch up. Anyway, After the Empire is a must read. From Amazon:
A bestseller in Europe, this provocative but erratic manifesto stands Euro-anxiety about American hegemony on its head. French demographer Todd (The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere) cites Paul Kennedy's theory of imperial overstretch and Michael Lind's notion of the American overclass to paint America as a "predatory" but weakening empire, its unilateralism and militarism a sign of frailty, not strength. Misguided free trade policies, he contends, have hollowed out America's industrial base and decimated its working and middle classes, polarizing the country into a society of plutocrats and plebeians. Dependent on imports, America has degenerated into a parasitic, Keynesian consumer-of-last-resort, injecting demand into the world economy while producing nothing of value. To mask its decline, America pursues a foreign policy of "theatrical micromilitarism," picking fights with helpless Third World countries like Iraq to convince the world's real power centers-Europe, Japan and Russia-of its military prowess and validate its spurious image as global policeman. Written in a witty polemical style, Todd's grand but cursory arguments range across economics, military history and geopolitics in ways that might make specialists cringe. Particularly reductionist is his demographic and anthropological view of political science, in which birth and literacy rates and peasant family structures are virtually the sole determinants of a society's politics (but, it should be noted, he used declining birth rates in the Soviet Union to predict its downfall). Todd's eccentric views-on the American trade deficit, the racial attitudes of "the Anglo-Saxon mind," the prevalence of marriages between cousins in Islamic countries, the "castrating" feminism of American women-pull in too many directions to be classified as right or left. His characterization of the United States may hold more than a grain of truth, but some readers might bristle before they see it.
Emmanuel Todd: The Specter of a Soviet-Style Crisis
Le Figaro - What is the first moral and political lesson we can learn from the catastrophe Katrina provoked? The necessity for a "global" change in our relationship with nature?
Emmanuel Todd - Let us be wary of over-interpretation. Let's not lose sight of the fact that we're talking about a hurricane of extraordinary scope that would have produced monstrous damage anywhere. An element that surprised a great many people - the eruption of the black population, a supermajority in this disaster - did not really surprise me personally, since I have done a great deal of work on the mechanisms of racial segregation in the United States. I have known for a long time that the map of infant mortality in the United States is always an exact copy of the map of the density of black populations. On the other hand, I was surprised that spectators to this catastrophe should appear to have suddenly discovered that Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are not particularly representative icons of the conditions of black America. What really resonates with my representation of the United States - as developed in Après l'empire - is the fact that the United States was disabled and ineffectual. The myth of the efficiency and super-dynamism of the American economy is in danger.
We were able to observe the inadequacy of the technical resources, of the engineers, of the military forces on the scene to confront the crisis. That lifted the veil on an American economy globally perceived as very dynamic, benefiting from a low unemployment rate, credited with a strong GDP growth rate. As opposed to the United States, Europe is supposed to be rather pathetic, clobbered with endemic unemployment and stricken with anemic growth. But what people have not wanted to see is that the dynamism of the United States is essentially a dynamism of consumption.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The price of oil has dropped below $90 a barrel. A temporary situation. Here is a chart titled "Research and Development Investments In Different Types of Energy Compared to the Cost of the War in Iraq." You have to check out the link because this scale is too small to see the other costs.
Possibly the Longest Post Ever on Energy
Energy crisis? Ha! Want to get a glimpse at how much emphasis the administration is putting on research into solving energy issues?
Oil price creates a new world order
AS the price of oil surges above the symbolic milestone of $US100 ($106) a barrel - with Malaysia's TAPIS crude hitting $US100.54 yesterday - it is creating new winners and losers across the globe.
In southern China, high oil prices forced Wang Pui, a truck driver, to wait in line 90 minutes the other day to fill up, just to be told he could pump only 98 litres, as China faced spot shortages of petrol and diesel.
When Vladimir Putin was making Russia's bid to be host of the 2014 Winter Olympics last July, he reached into the country's deep pockets, bulging with oil profits, and pledged $US12 billion to turn a Black Sea summer resort into a winter-sports paradise. Russia, which was nearly bankrupt a decade ago, won the Games.
The prospect of triple-digit oil prices has redrawn the economic and political map of the world, challenging some old notions of power. Oil-rich nations are enjoying historic gains and opportunities, while major importers - including China and India, home to a third of the world's population - confront rising economic and social costs.
Managing this new order is fast becoming a central problem of global politics. Countries that need oil are clawing at each other to lock up scarce supplies and are willing to deal with any government, no matter how unsavoury, to do it.
In many poor nations with oil, the proceeds are being lost to corruption, depriving these countries of their best hope for development. And oil is fuelling gargantuan investment funds run by foreign governments, which some in the West see as a new threat.
Social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin, now 97 years old, has been likened to the great social documentary photographers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis. His photographs are in the Library of Congress, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Center for Creative Photography and other distinguished institutions around the world. His work speaks of the humanity of working people, the poor and the forgotten ones.
Innovating Our Way to Financial Crisis
By Paul Krugman
The financial crisis that began late last summer, then took a brief vacation in September and October, is back with a vengeance.
How bad is it? Well, I’ve never seen financial insiders this spooked — not even during the Asian crisis of 1997-98, when economic dominoes seemed to be falling all around the world.
This time, market players seem truly horrified — because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t understand the complex financial system they created.
thanks to dangerousmeta!
"A Generalized Meltdown of Financial Institutions"
"It is increasingly clear by now that a severe U.S. recession is inevitable in next few months...I now see the risk of a severe and worsening liquidity and credit crunch leading to a generalized meltdown of the financial system of a severity and magnitude like we have never observed before. In this extreme scenario whose likelihood is increasing we could see a generalized run on some banks; and runs on a couple of weaker (non-bank) broker dealers that may go bankrupt with severe and systemic ripple effects on a mass of highly leveraged derivative instruments that will lead to a seizure of the derivatives markets... massive losses on money market funds with a run on both those sponsored by banks and those not sponsored by banks; ..ever growing defaults and losses ($500 billion plus) in subprime, near prime and prime mortgages with severe knock-on effect on the RMBS and CDOs market; massive losses in consumer credit (auto loans, credit cards); severe problems and losses in commercial real estate...; the drying up of liquidity and credit in a variety of asset backed securities putting the entire model of securitization at risk; runs on hedge funds and other financial institutions that do not have access to the Fed's lender of last resort support; a sharp increase in corporate defaults and credit spreads; and a massive process of re-intermediation into the banking system of activities that were until now altogether securitized." (Nouriel Roubini's Global EconoMonitor)
America's Back Is About To Break
America's back is about to break. And since the US consumer has been carrying the Asian economies, that means a world wide recession at best, and a depression as the worst case (but not necessarily unlikely) scenario. China is not going to "decouple" from the US and suddenly have enough consumer demand to see this through, especially not when they also have out of control inflation and massive exposure to the bad debt. The production that does sell to the US is the margin that makes for the explosive economic growth, and when it's gone, so goes the Chinese economy.
This is also going to be true pretty much everywhere else, including Japan (whose free money policy was responsible for the Yen carry trade and thus much of the financial bubble), India and the Asian tigers.
And what happens when your back breaks? You become a cripple. The US has lived far beyond its means, on borrowed money, for some time. Rather than either trying to fix the problem, or trying to adjust slowly to reduced circumstances, America is now in danger of having to adjust in one abrupt, sickening crash--from 100 mph to 0--courtesy of hitting a brick wall while Bernanke's foot is on the accelerator, with Congress's foot jammed on top for good measure, as it approves huge amounts of stimulus by way of "war funding."
America and Americans have lived well beyond their means for too long. Soon the credit card is going to start bouncing.
Smart people cut it up and see a counselor at that point.
Bernanke? He prints more money.
Should be interesting.
Magic Wand Finance
by Jim Kunstler
Whatever else you think of it, there is an awful lot at stake in manipulating the collective mood of those who traffic in capital. Beneath the momentary fugue of triumphalism, markets have never been so distressed in the lifetimes of most of us living. It's not just the folks in charge of things whose legitimacy is at stake, but the system itself. When the markets really do start to manifest their true state of extreme disorder, many will blame "capitalism," not the swindlers who have been gaming it in recent years.
I've been neglecting my faithful (and faithless) readers. Visiting Gerry 4 times in two weeks takes it toll, but it was certainly worth it. We went down to see Zoe's mom, Gerry who has Alzheimer's, the Monday after thanksgiving. It's 2 1/2 to 3 hours driving down, 1 to 2 hours visiting, and another 2 1/2 to 3 hours driving back. Plus the 3 hours of preparing and cooking food to take down for her. We bring everything to set up a festive table for us to share dinner. She ate well and was doing much better. We spent a delightful two hours with her. In the following week she was eating on her own again. We went down again Sunday and she ate like a horse. It was great! She looked much better. Even through her speach made little sense, we could tell when she was teasing and joking, which was often. She was so happy to see us and enjoyed the food so much. We wish we could do it every day.
There have also been some additions of photographic gear.
It's been like drinking from a firehose. Now that I have the Epson 3800 printer working, I've been setting up a 4x5 field camera. Vern has been helping. He made the lens board and gave me a chunk of the wood so that I can make lens boards for the rest of my lenses. The lens is a 170mm Kodak Anastigmat from a Kodak No. 3A Autographic Junior. It's mounted in a Kodak Ball Bearing shutter. I originally thought the lens wouldn't cover but when I looked on the ground glass it had lots of coverage. The folding Kodak it was from was a 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" format. And my friend Don is lending me his modern Schneider APO-Aymmar 210/5.6. I'm setting this up as a light weight (relatively speaking) walk around kit. More on this beauty later. Vern brought up a number of cameras from his late camera collector friend. There was a box of Yashica Electro 35s that I am going to sell. Very nice automatic rangefinders from the 1970s. But, as Vern and I went through the Electros, we found the camera on the left, a Yashica Lynx 14E with a FAST f1.4 lens. Like the Electros, it's fixed lens, but what a lens! I'm keeping it for available darkness photography. And, in front, is my carry everywhere Olympus XA. An aperture preffered rangefinder. A great camera in a small package. Then there was the case of Pentax Spotmatic bodies and lenses. I'm keeping a Pentax SV and a number of lenses. Most have some fungus damage but most of those are still useable but not saleable. More on that later.
It's been a very busy time. Some of it has been scary because of Gerry's problems but a lot has been very positive. I hope we can get back to regular programming soon.