Wednesday, February 18, 2009


SO, what's new? Nationwide, the Chinese government estimates that the number of jobless migrants looking for work may reach 26 million. Some of them have returned home to places that largely missed out on China's economic boom of the past two decades, forcing officials in Beijing to find a way to reincorporate them into the labor force -- or face possibly dramatic consequences.

So concern has shifted to China's countryside, where 56 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people reside:
  • The average income for Chinese farmers is about $690 a year -- less than a third of what is paid in urban areas.
  • The shortage of well-paying jobs explains why as many as half of the laborers in Bamboo Pole, population 50,000, decided to seek factory jobs -- and why their return is so problematic now.
    Many of the jobless migrant workers will stay in cities to try their luck, possibly at smaller salaries.
  • But for those who go home and stay, rural life will come as a shock. Now that they have lived in the big city, their expectations are a lot higher. Sichuan province started offering $11 million in training vouchers, at $73 a person, to teach workers new skills.
  • An estimated 15 job training centers for returning migrants have been set-up in Jintang, and there are already over 2,000 workers receiving the courses.
There are also programs to assist farmers and migrant workers to set up businesses at home.
But China's growing unemployment could strain U.S. relations over trade matters as the United States seeks China's help to deal with North Korea's nuclear program. If unrest grows, China could become more belligerent internationally.

Source: Calum MacLeod, "Return of jobless migrants strains China," USA Today, February 17, 2009.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Terrorism vs Treason

Terrorism and treason are two different sides of the same coin. One an external threat to the safety and security of a country, and the other an internal threat, although often motivated by money and other higher order (Maslow) needs.

More on this later...


There is little difference between politicians and prostitutes. Comment.



As treasury reserves in Venezuela dwindle, electricity blackouts become commonplace, public security deteriorates and the finances of the state-owned oil monopoly, PdVSA, fall further into disarray, there is little reason to think the decline will be reversed any time soon. If President Hugo Chávez hopes to continue governing under the guise of democracy after 2013 (when his term expires) he must get the constitution changed now.

So when Venezuelans cast their votes in February, they will be answering just one question: Do you approve of changing five articles in the constitution so as to allow for the indefinite reelection of the president, legislators, governors and mayors?

The problem for Chávez may be that a majority of voters have already had enough of him, and this ballot gives them a chance to say so. Current economic and financial conditions do not favor the incumbent:
  • Prices for Venezuelan crude are now below $40 per barrel, and the central bank has recently been asked to hand over $12 billion to a government development fund.
  • The bank's international reserve position is now just below $30 billion, and if reserves keep shrinking, Venezuela could have trouble paying for its food.
  • Currently, PdVSA owes its suppliers some $7.86 billion.
  • If the problem is not resolved, it could affect 25,000-30,000 jobs.
To combat this malaise, Chávez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela is campaigning frantically. But he has added intimidation to his toolkit and in the past month, enforcers have been attacking student groups that are trying to rally Venezuelans to vote "no."

This could negatively affect voter turnout by raising doubts about whether enough opposition observers can be mobilized to guard the vote on election night. If not, and Chávez "wins," things are likely to get a whole lot scarier.

How is this different from any of the dictators that rule the middle-east? Several Asian, African and Latin America countries are not far behind with incumbents using threat of death or intimidation to ensure their continued rule. Under the guise of democracy everything is fair in love, war and politics.

Source: Mary Anastasia O'Grady, "Chávez Grabs Again for Life Tenure," Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2009.

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