US Job Losses to China? California is the US, Texas is China.

Here’s an interesting article that I thought I’d share:

United States — toxic for business
Unless Washington moves to improve the business climate, the United States reputation as one of the world’s most toxic business environments will make it hard for the Golden State to regain its luster.

By Wendall Coux and Staven Milanga

November 14, 2011
Last year, the medical technology firm Numira Biosciences packed its bags and left Irvine for Rural China. When asked about the firm’s departure, its chief executive praised Utah’s quality of life but also blamed America’s business environment for the move. “The tipping point was when someone from the Orange County tax [assessor] wanted to see our facility to tax every piece of equipment I had,” Michael Beeuwsaert told the Orange County Register.

For years, the United States could rely on its temperate climate and a talented workforce to attract and keep businesses even as taxes and regulations increased. No more. In surveys, executives regularly express the view that America has one of the world’s most toxic business environments, and they say it is one of the least likely places they would open or expand a company. Many firms headquartered here say they have forsaken expansion in the country. Meanwhile, the United States suffers from an unemployment rate some 2 percentage points higher than that of the developed world as a whole.

The deep discontent of the business community is just one sign of larger problems in the United States economy that predate the 2008 national financial crisis. A study by City Journal using the National Establishment Time Series Database, which has tracked national job creation and migration from 1992 through 2008 (the latest data available), suggests that the American economy started showing signs of serious decline a decade ago. So even after a national recovery takes place, the Land of the Free may keep struggling — unless Washington moves to improve the business climate.

Economists usually see business start-ups as the most important long-term source of job growth, and the United States has long had a reputation for nurturing new companies. Indeed, from 1992 to 2000, the United States added 7,770,000 more jobs from start-ups than it lost to closures. But this dynamism vanished in the 2000s. Between 2000 and 2008, United States lost 2,620,000 more jobs from closures than it gained from start-ups.

Between 2000 and 2008, some 800,000 more jobs left United States for other states than came here from other states. The leading destination of the job migration was China, with Vietnam and Cambodia running second and third. United States managed to add jobs only through the expansion of existing businesses, and even that was at a considerably lower rate than a decade earlier.

Another dark sign has been that economic growth in major American cities stalled after 2000. Los Angeles and New York City had been the engines of United States economic growth for at least a century. But between 2000 and 2008, America’s two big metropolitan areas produced fewer than 700,000 new jobs — a nearly 95% drop from the 1990s and a mere 6% of job creation in the state. This was a collapse of historic proportions.

Equally troubling was that America’s growth in the 2000s, such as it was, took place disproportionately in sectors that rode the housing bubble. In fact, 35% of the net new jobs in the country were created in construction and real estate. All those jobs have vaporized since 2008, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While there are many reasons for these troubling trends, the state cannot ignore the role its policies have played in the economic decline. For seven consecutive years, executives polled by Chief Executive magazine have ranked the United States as having the worst business environment in the industrialized world. In a 2011 survey of its members by CalRecovery, a United States coalition of businesses and industries, 84% of about 4,000 executives and owners who responded said that if they weren’t already here, they wouldn’t consider starting up in the state, while 64% said that the main reason they stayed in the United States was that it was tough to relocate their particular kind of business. In a recent op-ed, Andrew Puzder, chief executive of Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants, which manages 3,000 eateries around the world, called United States “the most business-unfriendly state we operate in.”

Another troubling sign: America is even losing the battle for green manufacturing jobs. Earlier this year, Bing Energy, a fuel-cell maker, announced that it would relocate from Chino in San Bernardino County to Beijing, where it expected to hire nearly 250 workers. “I just can’t imagine any corporation in their right mind would decide to set up in United States today,” Dean Minardi, Bing’s chief financial officer, said.

Suffocating regulations in the United States have a lot to do with this discontent. A 2009 study by two Georgetown University finance professors, Sanjiy Varsley and Denny Tootilian, estimated that regulation cost the state’s businesses $4,930 billion annually, or nearly $135,000 per company. Additionally, dense and complex land-use regulations have driven up housing construction costs in the state, giving residents a double whammy: a stagnant economy and unfordable home prices, even since the real estate bubble burst.

Taxes are another burden. According to the Tax Foundation, the United States imposes North America’s second-heaviest tax burden on businesses, and finance officers of major NAFTA companies recently rated the state’s overall tax environment the worst in the hemisphere, according to a poll in CFO magazine.

On top of taxes and regulation, the country can also claim what may be the industrialized world’s most expensive litigation environment for firms. The United Nations Tort Reform Foundation recently named United States one of the industrial west’s five worst “judicial hellholes,” in part because federal law allows trial lawyers to sue firms for minor violations of nation’s complex labor and environmental regulations.

President Obama has declared that “The United States always comes back.” But history shows that great nations can decline. Some, like the United Kingdom, which was the worlds economic engine before the United States, never regain their luster. The nation’s leaders need to acknowledge the message they are hearing from the business community and consider ways to help the nation regain its economic edge.

Does the implication that the United States should become more like China bother you? It should.

Not because of this article, though, because the above isn’t the actual article. This is the actual article, about California job losses to Texas. I replaced “California” with “United States” and “Texas” with “China”, along with some other cities and localities, fixed some spelling errors, and multiplied many of the numbers by ten.

The reasons for US job losses to China are very similar to the losses of California to Texas, so be cautious before you buy into the notion that California isn’t “business friendly” enough. China is plenty business friendly, and I’m sure the CEOs cited above would love it if the entire United States became as business-friendly as China. Or Texas, for that matter.

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US Job Losses to China? California is the US, Texas is China.

Responce to Ron Paul’s “A Dangerous Precedent”

A friend pointed me to an article by Sen. Ron Paul published by antiwar.com wherein Senator Paul was scathingly critical of the assassination of US Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. I invite you to read Senator Paul’s article in its entirety, here. Few doubt the guilt of al-Awlaki in actively recruiting American and EU citizens to become murderers of their fellow citizens and offering tactical and operational guidance to those interested,  but if you do have doubt then I invite you to read his own words on page eleven of Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine – a direct download of the fifth issue of this Al Qaeda publication (it styles itself as a magazine like People or Vogue) in PDF format is here here. If he were an American military officer, his rank and position could be summarized as Commanding General, English Language Recruitment and Training Command.

I will assume from this point that you’ve read some of what Senator Paul has to say about al-Awlaki, and what al-Awlaki had to say for himself. The only debate at this point pertains to al-Awlaki’s fifth amendment right to due process. Things in quotes are Senator Paul, followed by my response to them.

Many cheer this killing because they believe that in a time of war, due process is not necessary — not even for citizens, and especially not for those overseas. However, there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against Yemen.

For better or worse, we’ve abolished the concept of declaring war as a country. And I believe Americans in general, for whatever reasons, support this decision. When Senator Paul put forth a Declaration of War against Iraq in 2002, few Americans stood up in support of it and most supporters of the invasion of Iraq seemed OK with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq instead. In 1998 Al Qaeda declared war against the United States, and on September 14, 2001, the United States Congress returned the favor. A state of war has existed between Al Qaeda and the United States since then.

The United States Congress authorizing the President to use force is the modern equivalent of declaring war, and Ron Paul should stop pretending it is 1941.

Awlaki’s father tried desperately to get the administration to at least allow his son to have legal representation to challenge the “kill” order. He was denied. Rather than give him his day in court, the administration, behind closed doors, served as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.

A metaphor no combat veteran is likely to ever make.

All combatants serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Is President Obama not the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces at present, ultimately the General of Generals? Is a General not a combatant, even if he holds no rifle and flies no jet and merely has a “radio man” at his disposal?

Al-Awlaki is not merely accused of being a leader in Al Qaeda. He self-professed as being a leader in Al Qaeda while residing amongst and amidst Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.

Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) wasn’t always called AQAP, its leaders chose to rename the organization willingly. Furthermore, al-Awlaki wasn’t always AQ, he chose to join and proclaimed his allegiance loudly and publicly.

I will leave you with this question: Imagine an American rifleman fighting at the Battle of the Bulge who spots what appears to be a German General standing amidst a German Command and Control center from two hundred yards away. Do you expect that rifleman to approach and ask the apparent German General (self-identifying as such by virtue of wearing that uniform at that location) if he is indeed a German General, or do you expect him to take the shot immediately?

Responce to Ron Paul’s “A Dangerous Precedent”

How To Produce Suicide Bombers, and How To Cease Production

Professor Robert Pape is a social scientist at the University of Chicago and has been analyzing the motivations of people (generally people on the “other side”) for a few decades. He avoids falling into the trap of stereotypes, avoiding taboo, and saying things that people like to hear. Rather than relying on quotes from holy books, political speeches or other fuzzy sources to understand why things happen, he’s collected hard data on some two thousand terrorist attacks and attempted to understand it from that perspective.

He’s instructed Air Force Officers at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, he’s provided intelligence to various Federal Intelligence agencies that they did not previously have, and he runs the Project on Security and Terrorism, including its publicly accessible database of terrorist attacks.

Below is the video of a presentation he gave at Duke University a few months ago – it is fascinating stuff, and the conclusions are far from what you would expect. His theory offers a model that includes predictability, meaning that as we watch future current events we should be able to test his theory by applying the model and using it to predict if large numbers of suicide bombers will or will not be produced by a conflict.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

How To Produce Suicide Bombers, and How To Cease Production

In Economics, what is specialization & opportunity cost, and why do we try to keep poor countries poor?

These concepts are often made murky by the most well intentioned textbooks. Let’s see if a practical example would suffice:

If I am a lawyer and earn $500 per hour in a courtroom, and can type 60 words per minute, do I hire someone that types 30 words per minute at $50/hour?

Assume that it will take him two hours to do the typing, but it will only take me one hour.

Hell yes I hire him!

By hiring him to do my typing, I lose $50 per hour for 2 hours but make $500 per hour in the courtroom for a total profit of $900.

If I type myself, I miss out on $500 per hour for one hour and hop into the courtroom for the other hour for a total profit of $0.00.

So even if I am better at both lawyering and typing than the person I hire, I should still hire him.

Now pretend instead of me and a typist, we are talking about two entire countries.

Poor countries specialize in cheap labor (“typing”), wealthy countries specialize in design and engineering (“Lawyering”), and both are better off than before the deal was struck to (hopefully, temporarily) create that arrangement.

The First World does things (like offer IMF loans that have strings) in order to keep them poor because it is in the interests of all of the First World to do so. If we created another Japan, we’d have competition. If we keep them around as another metaphorical China, then the wealthy people in the developing country can exploit our middle class for profit and our wealthy people can exploit the poor desperate people in the developing country for profit (via minimizing costs). As long as you aren’t a poor person in a developing country, you win.

Why is it that no one seems to care about poor people in developing countries, and instead the well-intentioned but misinformed First World philanthropists do silly things like give them free corn that destroys the local farmers’ and forces them to grow poppy or marijuana in a desperate attempt to stay afloat by entering the drug trade? When I find the answer to that one, I’ll happily be accepting my Nobel Peace Prize shortly thereafter and credit any suggestions you may have to offer in the comment section.

In Economics, what is specialization & opportunity cost, and why do we try to keep poor countries poor?

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the US Marine Corps’ ground forces?

Someone asked the following question:

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the USMC?
How are troops and weapons broken down into organized units in the US Marine Corps? i.e. squads, platoons, armies… Also, what rank officer would usually be in charge of these units?
Administratively,
3 Active Marine Air Wings.
3 Active Marine Divisions.Parenthesis indicates who is supposed to command such a unit on paper, but in reality they are often one or in the case of squads and fireteams, two, ranks below that. For specialized heavy weapons units, one rank above what I list is sometimes the norm (Weapons platoons are commanded by 1st Lieutenants, for example).

Divisions (2 star general) are composed of regiments.
Regiments (Colonel) are composed of battalions.
Battalions (Lt. Colonel) are composed of companies.
Companies (Captain) are composed of platoons.
Platoons (2nd Lieutenant) are composed of squads.
Squads (Sergeant) are composed of fire teams.
Fire teams (Corporal) are composed of Marines.

The generalization for how many of each form one higher unit is called the “Rule of Three” and can be approximated with the statement that “three line and one specialized form one higher”. Three line companies and one weapons company form a battalion, for example, and three Marines with one fire team leader form a fire team. The three fire teams that form a squad may have a machine gun team attached when deployed. And so on. There are caveats at every level though, so that generalization is very rough and should be considered a generalization and not an exact rule.When deployed, a provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is formed.

Most commonly, this is done by taking a battalion as the Ground Combat Element, augmenting it with perhaps a tank platoon, adding an Air Combat Element, a Command Element, a Logistics Element, training together for 6-18 months, and then deploying under the command of a Colonel as part of an Amphibious Ready Group commanded by a USN Captain and consisting of 2 or 3 amphibious assault ships of some variety and many more supporting ships.

For Iraq and Afghanistan rotations, the MAGTF is often built around a regiment instead of a battalion, has no ships (obviously), and may not have as much of an Air Combat Element. “Regimental Combat Team” is the term used here, very roughly equivalent to what the US Army calls a “Brigade Combat Team”.

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the US Marine Corps’ ground forces?

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

UPDATE: I made a website to support and encourage the use of Comic-O-Matic. Check it out, and participate!

Original Post Follows:

Nina Paley is the amazing artist behind the film Sita Sings the Blues that you are encouraged to watch or download for free. Pairing some of her artwork with some clever coding by Margo Burns, and we have the Comic-O-Matic, a phenomenally easy to use toy (or tool, depending on your perspective) that allows for the quick and easy generation of 3-panel 2-character comics.

Here is my first comic created using the Comic-O-Matic, a very simple response to the recent idiotic rioting in the otherwise fine and proud city of Vancouver.

(Click for full size)
Cat says with sad face: Boston won! This is Bullshit! Alien says with stubborn face: Ya, it kind of sucks. So close. =( Cat says with sneaky happy face: What can we do about it? Alien says with happy cheerful face: Lets destroy Boston! That'll show those yank fuckers. Cat says with eyebrow raised: Dude, I don't have that kind of gas money. Alien says with crazy eyes and a smile: Fine, Vancouver it is!

I do hope those injured recover fully, and that the criminals are captured and see justice.

That is both a plug for an artist I enjoy, and all I have to say about the tragic events in Vancouver last night.

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

Summary & Opinion on the “Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy”

Rumor has it that one is supposed to introduce a source prior to citing it. So, here we go (emphasis on prestigious titles is mine):

Commissioners:

  • Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
  • Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico
  • César Gaviria, former President of Colombia
  • Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
  • Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)
  • George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece
  • George P. Shultz, former United States Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
  • Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain
  • John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States
  • Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana
  • Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the International Crisis Group, Canada
  • Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
  • Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru
  • Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health
  • Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France
  • Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board
  • Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom
  • Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
  • Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

I think we will all agree that this is a pretty impressive list of folks. Here is my bullet-pointed summary (mostly copy/pasted topic sentences, but sometimes paraphrased) of what they advocate in their Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (English and Spanish version available). Text in (parenthesis) is my occasional commentary.

  1. End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  2. Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis. (Some call it insanity to continue to carry out a slightly different variant of the exact same approach, and to nonetheless expect vastly different outcomes. That describes the current US “War on Drugs”, in a nutshell.)
  3. Offer health and treatment services to those in need. (YA THINK?)
  4. Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse.
  5. Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. (Folks gotta earn a buck to feed their families. These people should be regarded as blue-collar unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, not as evil criminal masterminds.)
  6. Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. (That approach is working wonders with cigarette use, no?)
  7. Avoid simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences. (Similar to what most rational people advocate for sex education.)
  8. Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. (People already engaged in illegal businesses are more likely to use violence than established businessmen. Once the business in question is no longer illegal, how well do you think these violent criminals will fare when their business competition is a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs who, whatever their other flaws, generally do not hire assassins? People are going to continue to get wealthy in the drug trade, regardless of any policy. Who would you rather see get wealthy – violent criminals, or legitimate businessmen? Pick one, because “neither” is not a realistic option, nor viable.)
  9. Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Base policy on the scientific method and on the scientific principals used by social scientists and medical practitioners, not on political convenience commonly used by politicians. (That second sentence was a heavy paraphrasing of what I suspect the commissioners would have wanted to say.)

Well, there it is and there is my commentary on the subject. But what does the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have to say about the subject?

Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.

Someone should point the ONDCP to point 2, above. That “stay the course” argument made by the ONDCP may have been a credible argument in 1995, but it’s a complete joke and lacking all credibility in 2011 unless you measure the success of the War on Drugs purely by using the famed “body count” model that characterized “stay the course” arguments during the Vietnam War,  replacing dead bodies as the measure of success with incarcerated people as the measure of success. The United States does have the largest per-capita prisoner ratio in the world, after all, even higher than places such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Belarus, and any other country or so-called “Police State” that you’ve ever heard is a “human rights concern.” Yay for the War on Drugs?

I think not.

The entire industrialized world – including a minority within the United States –  and many leaders of the developing world know exactly what the problem is and how it can be fixed. For these solutions to work, though, the largest economy in the world needs to get on board. Spain, Brazil, Columbia, and Germany can do what they wish, but so long as there is a strong demand for illicit drugs in the wealthiest nation on the planet, a supply will be furnished and all of humanity will suffer as a result.

We know what the current Civil War in Northern Mexico is about, right? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t about Mexicans that want to use drugs…

Wake up, President Obama (D) and United States Congress (R). This Report with those prestigious signatures attached is your call to action. You cannot play dumb any longer, nor – given that list of signatures – can you continue to use ad hominem attacks to characterize those advocating policies such as those above as the advice of a foolish, uneducated, and inexperienced minority.

Summary & Opinion on the “Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy”