Links 6/13/10

Rich slammed on carbon ‘cheating’ BBC

Report: Japan bribed countries ‘with cash, prostitutes’ to keep whaling Raw Story

Inaugural Otter Photo Megan McArdle

Juan Cole, Israel’s Gift to Iran’s Hardliners TomGram

Isn’t It Ironic? Maureen Dowd, New York Times

Foxconn to close factories in China: Apple device manufacturer ends suicide payments TechWorld

Dismantling Factories in a Dreamweaver Nation Caixin (hat tip reader Don B)

New Hips Gone Awry Expose U.S. Kickbacks in Doctors’ Conflicts Bloomberg (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

A Waning of Controversy among Economists Econospeak. Picks up on a tidbit some readers may recognize.

Finally, Borrowers Score Points Gretechen Morgenson, New York Times

“Strange Arguments For Higher Rates” Mark Thoma

Superheroes and supervillains – why the cult of the CEO blinds us to reality Guardian

BP oil spill: coastguard chief launches fresh attack over clean-up failure Telegraph. Some interesting tidbits:

Last night, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spoke to President Obama amid concerns that the £49bn decline in BP’s value is hurting both British and US financial interests. Downing Street said the US leader “made clear that he had no interest in undermining BP’s value”.

Yves here. I see, BP is trading down, not because is has a colossal big mess in the Gulf, but because Obama is criticizing the company. I was also not aware of this:

BP has pledged to refine and sell the oil [recpvered], donating its proceeds to restore wildlife on the coast of the four affected Gulf coast states. However, it only owns 65pc of the field and its co-owners, Anadarko and Mitsui, have not made any similar commitment.

Both the Texan and Japanese oil companies are understood to be considering legal action against BP, since they are passive partners in the field but still liable for 35pc of the clean-up costs.

Too Big to Fail? The BP Bailout as Corporatism Douglas Rushkoff (hat tip reader John D)

Ghost Town Detroit Ed Harrison

Antidote du jour:

Picture 56

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  1. attempter

    Re Juan Cole:

    Lest anybody get the wrong idea from the headline, Juan Cole’s not the “gift to Iran” but rather the author of the piece about the symbiosis between Iran’s hardliners and the Israeli kleptocracy.

    Re Dowd:

    But the picnic was on the record, and good reporters can’t be co-opted by some cold French fries.

    Yes, while bad, bootlicking reporters can be co-opted by anything. Indeed, they pre-co-opt themselves. That’s how they get on this beat in the first place. That’s why so many “liberal” bloggers are such bootlicking hacks as well. They want to get on the gravy train.

    Re Waning Controversy:

    “Walter Heller is usually tagged as a “liberal,” but he departs so often from what used to be liberal cliches that the identity tag is a bit blurred. A more descriptive label, one that he applies to himself, is “pragmatist.” That is the vogue word among economists today, the term that most of them use to label themselves and one another. When economists call themselves pragmatists, they mean that they are the opposite of dogmatists, that they are wary of broad theories, that they lean to the cut-and-try approach to public problems, and that they believe it is possible to improve the functioning of the economy by tinkering with it.”

    This kind of anodyne mumbling is always Newspeak for supporting the status quo. Almost no one who calls himself a “pragmatist” is actually some objective, rational practicality-seeker the way he’s claiming. It’s really to be an aggressive but disguised pro-power structure cadre.

    Sure enough:

    Heller said, “My awareness of the seriousness of the situation is balanced by a conviction that we can do something about it — and without interference in the basic freedom of our capitalist system.”

    But in the 60s they already saw the outlines of neoliberalism. Chicago had already publicly proclaimed what the real plan was. Textbook capitalism, to whatever extent it had ever existed, was to be liquidated.

    So our “pragmatist” with his babbling about “the basic freedom of our capitalist system” (and “without interference”, no less! he must’ve had a hard time when Friedman embraced Pinochet and China) is really trying to astroturf good liberals for the neoliberal onslaught.

    And it worked.

    1. Cynthia

      Even though the Christian Right is pretty powerful in the Obama Administration, it isn’t so powerful that it can have you jailed or killed if you were to uncover the truth that God and his semi-superhuman son, Jesus, have nothing to do with the creation of life, thus proving that the Holy Scripture is nothing more than a powerful work of fiction. The same thing can’t be said the warmongering Right’s power in the Obama Administration. Our warmongers are so powerful that they’ll not only have you put behind bars for exposing the truth that the Obama Administration is a safe haven for past and present war criminals, as they have done to Pentagon whistle-blower Bradley Manning, but they’ll see to it that you are put on Obama’s assassination list for this as well, as they have done to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

      But as long as you remain on the side of the rich and powerful, you’ll be protected under Obama’s look-forward-not-backwards policy that he is using to protect high-level Bush Administration criminals. But if you side with the poor and powerless, as Bradley Manning and Julian Assange have done, Obama will overlook his look-forward-not-backwards policy and have you silenced by having you incarcerated or even assassinated.

      I must say that I’d never thought I’d see the day when our country has become so rogue and so lawless that our president is granted the absolute authority to assassinate those whom he personally deems enemies of the state, but I’m afraid that this day is upon us. The day that our secular democracy has devolved into a Judeo-Christian police state is upon us, I’m afraid.

      1. K

        The inane treatment of Judeo-Christianity as a proxy for Western Civilization should be first to go. Tying the moral foundations of the American Nation with cultural archetypes of prehistoric Biblical Jews, or with those of devout Europeans emulating them is beyond preposterous. The dogmatic authoritarianism inherent in Judeo-Christianity and its ubiquitous tradition of framing Man as a wretched sinful creature fallen from grace since birth, are antithetical to a societal infrastructure built around individual freedom and dignity.

        Judeo-Christianity provides no coherent moral justification for why humankind deserves freedom. The Bible presents men and women as fundamentally unequal and incorrigibly flawed, offhandedly condones slavery, and offers absolute monarchy as the sacrosanct form of government prescribed by God.

        Read more:

        1. debra

          Sorry, K, but you know NOTHING about your cultural history.
          0/10 for this one.
          In all fairness, it’s not your fault. YOUR CULTURE simply has not made any effort to transmit what ITS FOUNDATIONS ARE to you.
          For starters, try… Jacques Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence, from 1500 to the Present, 500 years of the History of Western Culture”.
          Don’t worry… Jacques Barzun is NOT a T.V. Evangelist. He is an eminent historian of ideas, of the old school.
          I don’t even think he is a believer… But… He knows a hell of a lot more about where he comes from than you do.
          From me… if you bothered to sit down and read the New Testament, you would see in it the foundations for… our modern ideas of democracy and equality. The founding fathers were NOT old macho fuddy duddies, and THEY knew THEIR BIBLE. And.. they drew on it WHEN THEY THOUGHT IT HAD GOOD IDEAS (and it DOES, believe me, it does…).
          For YOUR sake… do some reading.

  2. charcad

    r.e. “Dismantling Factories in a Dreamweaver Nation”

    The use of cheap labor to postpone investment in automated capital equipment and production processes extends far past electronics in the offshore paradigm. As far I can see a primary original goal of offshoring was to lower labor costs so the same obsolescent production technology could continue to earn a profit.

    You can trace this phenomenon in small machine tool production. US manufacturers either upgraded like Sherline did to 5 axis computer controlled vertical machining centers, or they left the business entirely like Atlas Press and South Bend.

    Companies like Sieg Machine Tool Company of Shanghai continue to use production techniques used back in the 1920s & 1930s in US machine tool factories. Taiwanese companies were entering this field in the early 1970s. Sometime in the 1980s the iron casting patterns and other tooling were transferred from Taiwan to the mainland. As a guess I’d say this was the same time that Foxconn was starting operations on the mainland.

    The idea of returning (actually restarting) this style of production to the USA is a false one in my view. We instead need to move forward faster into the 21st Century, not retrograde towards the late 19th Century. This means developing and deploying robotics on a massive scale here.

    1. emca

      You make a apt point: how long can a 19th Century means of production be extended?

      For as long as I can remember there’s been talk of machines displacing human labor. It just never seems to happen in full. Always the specter of humans doing work for less money somewhere in the world, even in the cases of repetitive tasks and requirements for “nimble fingers” (one can hardly imagine more a method more adept at manipulating tiny parts than robotic assembly)

      If and when technology finally overtakes human labor as the definitive means of production, especially for mundane tasks, then another transformational revolution (as per the Industrial Revolution) will finally take place, shaking both national economies and lifestyles, posing the question: what’s to be done with all that unskilled labor?

      1. charcad

        “how long can a 19th Century means of production be extended?”

        In the case of clothing we’re at 160 years and counting. We have large textile mills producing cloth followed by piecework factories where cloth is cut on patterns and then stitched together semi-manually (sewing machines) and by hand. England to New England to Japan to Taiwan to China and lately Bangladesh, Haiti, Pakistan, Honduras…

        This entire industry and its technology is still readily recognizable to textile mill workers and seamstresses of the 1860s. It just migrates periodically in search of illiterates willing to work for rock bottom wages.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          This is a very good analysis of the history of textile production. Then again, all you have said is that, basically, water runs downhill. I imagine water will continue to run downhill, no matter how many dams we try to construct to temporarily stem its flow.

    2. Michael Cain

      I admit to being a bit perplexed by the choice of Apple and Walmart as the example companies in the “Dreamweaver” story. Walmart I can understand; they stock thousands of items under hundreds of brands, many with large amounts of hand labor involved. Apple makes a much more limited line-up, most subject to being assembled almost completely by machine, so the benefits of cheap labor would seem much smaller. More likely that Apple chooses to have the devices made in China because that’s where they get their LCD screens, the major component in the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Shipping the screens would be almost as expensive as shipping the completed device; better to do assembly in China, either manually or automated, and ship the device once, rather than ship screens somewhere else and then ship devices worldwide.

  3. Abhishek

    Japan which has been so proactive in climate change issues and nuclear activism has been strangely very anti-whaling.Using cash,prostitutes to kill more whales seems highly unethical to say the least

  4. charcad

    r.e. Foxconn to close factories in China: Apple device manufacturer ends suicide payments TechWorld

    Tai-ming said Foxconn is considering moving its main production lines back to Taiwan and using more automated production

    Moving production lines back! Using more automated production in place of ‘cheap’ labor! Imagine that.

    The timeline here seems questionable. Well, let’s assume this transaction goes forward as advertised and Foxconn indeed shifts back to Taiwan in the next few years. What will the mainland Chinese do?

    1. They will destroy all the existing buildings, production tooling and documentation at the Shenzhen works, and also massacre the work force lest they trespass on Steven Jobs and Michael Dell’s intellectual property?

    2. They will apply the same business ethics employed by Chinese used crane dealers in transactions with Iranian equipment resellers? i.e. we (and Michael Dell & Steven Jobs) can anticipate a flood of pirated Dell clone products to issue forth from the Shenzhen Works.

  5. tpn

    Yves–long time reader but I seldom comment. But I wanted to bring to your attention the latest USAA magazine that goes out to their membership; they have started the PR meme that you mentioned a few days ago, i.e. “walking away is immoral”, etc. If you can get a hold of a copy it might be worth looking at as a case in point.

  6. Cynthia

    The Obama Administration’s decision to grant immunity to the Pope for his role in covering up pedophilic acts committed by Catholic clerics says two things about Obama: 1) he’s deep in the pockets of the Christian Right and 2) he only likes to apply his look-forward-not-backwards policy to the rich and powerful.

    But I must say that the Obama Administration probably wouldn’t have arrived at this decision had Benito Mussolini not agreed to let the Pope establish the Vatican as a sovereign state, independent of any other country. And I must also say that this reaffirms my suspicions that the Christian Right has a special fondness for fascism.

  7. emca

    Andy Xie’s “Dismantling..” discussion of the generational gap affecting Chinese society provides another thoughtful glimpse of social dynamics within the country.

    Somewhat a compressed version of Western idealogical disjunctions via improved circumstance, Mr. Xi observes in management ‘blindness’ to changing expectations of a workforce; what was necessary then is not necessary what is needed now.

    Like Andy, I agree the lure of urban (urbane) lifestyles is a factor which can not be overlooked, and is a particularly strong motivation in youth with its conflicting pressures of peer acceptance and individual extraordinariness. That a young person of any society may want to define their own identities given the lack of need to be predominately concerned with mere survival is something marketers of various gadgets of modern interface (think Apple), have understood for quite a while.

    I would only add the Internet as is now known and loved (or hated as the case may be) throughout the world. One can hardly imagine a youth in those ‘other’ countries such as China on seeing the latest chit-chat from Hollywood, or generational equals expounding on the virtues of a particular color for their I-Phones, to not want to be part of latest turn in lifestyle innovation, to be socially (if not materially) affluent, to be ‘hip’, or ‘in’ if that doesn’t date me too much.

    Maybe the Chinese government should worry less about past news of pro-democracy demonstrations, and more about the filtering entertainment(and technology) section of Google, Yahoo et al. Might provide a better means of keeping a lid upon the situation.

  8. gordon

    There are lots of definitions (or types) of corporatism, but Douglas Rushkoff seems to have invented yet another one – where it just means the dominance of big corporations. I wish he would use another word rather than further disturb the already muddy waters of “corporatism”.

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