United States


European Perspective on the US

The Globalist has reprinted an article by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Notice that he uses the expression "America's democratic imperialism". For the full text, see
Rethinking the United States ­ A European Perspective
Can Europe learn to live with America's "democratic imperialism?"

Unemployment in the US over the past decade

Randy Black gives us "some facts about the US labor market: With all the criticism from various politicians and members of the media about loss of jobs, since Dubya was elected three years ago, I thought it would be interesting to examine unemployment statistical facts and the size of the labor force in the SA over the past decade. Here is what I found:
At the end of 1995, U.S. unemployment stood at 5.6%. (source: the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1997/02/art1exc.htm

As of March 5, 2004, the unemployment
rate (is) 5.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the
U.S. Department of Labor. (same source)
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
Thus, unemployment today is about what it was at the end of 1995.
Todays labor force in the US is approximately 146.4 million.
In 1995, the US labor force was 132.3 million.
http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1997/09/art2exc.htm
When I hear critics whining about millions of jobs shipped
overseas by greedy corporations, at the expense of American workers, I
have to wonder what the real facts are".

RH: This is a valid question. One report said that most of the new
jobs are government jobs and that they pay much less than the jobs lost.
That many professional jobs have been outsourced cannot be
denied.

Hank Levin comments on Randy Black's rosy picture of employment in the US: "Mr. Black should check labor force participation rates as well as the proportion of part-time and contract work. First, labor force participation rates are down among those of prime working age, much of this due to the "discouraged worker" phenomenon. Workers who give up hope of finding jobs simply withdraw from the workforce. Second, the unemployment rate is based upon civilian and non-incarcerated populations. Guess what has happened to the active military population? Thirdly, the proportion of part-time work (among those seeking full-time work) and contract workers has increased. Finally, benefit coverage has diminished. Although it is obvious that Mr. Black wishes to exemplify the George W. Bush record on employment, it should be presented honestly, not just as an unemployment percentage. Simply taking the unemployment rate (without looking into it carefully) is to play fast and loose with the facts".

Hank Levin criticized Randy Black's use of statistics to show that unemployment has not worsened. Randy replies:
Mr. Levin appears to be playing "fast and loose" with the facts himself. The facts are the facts. For him to touch on so many related topics without providing facts, as did I, is not interesting. What the "active military population" has to do with the unemployment rate is puzzling. It would be much more interesting to compare apples to apples, which is exactly what I did". RH: The huge military establishment has absorbed many people who would otherwise be unemployed. Many join the army because it is a job and because they are told they will get an education which will help them later in life. How well this works is questionable. A large proportion of the homeless on our streets are veterans.

International students applying to US universities

The People's Daily of Beijing reported (3/16/04) that "the number of
Chinese students applying to US universities has drastically decreased.
Foreign students applying for admission to US master and PhD degree programs have dropped extensively, said a report released by the US Congressional Budget Office two weeks ago, and New York University also said its Chinese students has decreased by 50 percent". Ross Rogers, Jr. comments "Re the article about the large drop in Chinese students applying for admission to U S universities, the same applies to other nationality students. This is a major loss. Chinese and Indian students are finding universities in New Zealand and Australia, closer to home, more reasonable in tuition, living and travel costs, quality programs, English-speaking and without the INS hassle". RH. I believe Canadian universities are also attracting more Asian and Latin American students.

Randy Black says: "Regarding the alleged drop in foreign student enrollments in the US: One should note the the source of the "news" is a very controlled Chinese publication, and that's just for starters.

1) But I ask this. If it is true that there has been a drop in foreign enrollment in the USA, which there evidently has NOT been, why is it a loss?

2) The story appears to conflict with another source. According the the Institute for International Education, foreign student enrollment is up, from 438,000 a decade ago to 586,000 in 2002-2003.

Further, the same source reports that 32% of US universities report an INCREASE in enrollment from India in 2002-2003, while 27% showed a decrease. From China, 36% indicated a decrease in Chinese applicants but 21% indicated an increase. Nevertheless, overall, foreign enrollments are up consistently over the past 10-15 years. 276 colleges and universities were surveyed. This doesn't sound like Armageddon to me?

The reports that I've read indicated that there are numerous factors extending beyond INS (which no longer exists, by the way) hassles.

According to one article, 21% of foreign students cited financial issues as their main reason they chose to study elsewhere.

http://www.admin.colostate.edu/caucus/documents/enrollmentstagnates.pdf

I note, from the above article that India, China, So. Korea and Japan send the largest number of students to study in the USA, as of 2003.

I asked John Pearson, director of Stanford's International Center, to comment on this. His reply confirmed what the People's Daily of Beijing said: "The whole issue of visa delays and denials and student applications is a topic that is getting a lot of attention at campuses these days. In a nutshell
1. applications from international students to Ivy Plus schools are down this year and from China are down noticeably
2. we do not know whether this will impact the final number of admitted and enrolled international students
3. Obtaining visas to come and study in the US is more difficult, and there is a sense that some students are deciding to go elsewhere (Canadian universities report quite an increase in international student applications)".
RH: The figures Randy quotes refer to 2002-3. The drop is in subsequent years.

Politics

We have discussed foreigners entering a nation's politics, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger being a prime example. The US constitution requires that candidates for the presidency must be natural citizens, Sen. Edward Kennedy believes his niece's husband, , should be allowed to run for president. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday he supports a constitutional amendment allowing anyone who has been a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years to run for the White House. Kennedy stopped short of endorsing the husband of his niece Maria Shriver. The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has said the constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) "sounds really good." Schwarzenegger became a U.S. citizen in 1983, so the 20 year period has just passed, which is one reason why 20 was chosen. Were he elected President, he might unite Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Europeans. The Terminator might save Western civilization.

NewsMax reports: "WWE superstar wrestler turned action film star Dwayne Johnson - aka 'The Rock' - thinks that might not be a bad idea. Johnson, the Miami Herald reports, was asked if he'd like to enter politics. "Possibly, you never know. Maybe one day. Absolutely. ... I talked to Arnold [Schwarzenegger] about that, too. "We'll see. One day, maybe President Johnson," he laughed. 'The Rock' dipped his toe into the proverbial political pool in the year 2000, when he spoke at both parties' political conventions to try to get people to the polling booths. But the betting is that 'The Rock' is a Republican just like Arnold". RH: Film stars, athletes and politicians have similar personalities: they love working admiring crowds, and political parties can use them because of their name recognition. This has nothing to do with knowledge of world affairs of administrative skills. What would a world run by such people be like?

Embassy in Iraq

Christopher Jones noted critically that the US Embassy in Baghdad would be "the largest in the planet". Randy Black comments: "There are stories on AP and Reuters that speculate that the US Embassy in Baghdad will at least on a temporary basis have 3,000 employees and be our largest. So what? While the US Embassy in Moscow has about 1,000 Russian as well as American employees, additional employees in the three consulates across Russia raise the number considerably. Again, so what? You employ the number that you need to provide the services required. Why is the number of persons, American and Iraqi, employed at some future Embassy relevant? Could it be that the US is anticipating a huge expansion in business locally and is trying to fill that need proactively, rather than reactively, as it has done so often in the past? Perhaps the US should be congratulated for anticipating and gearing up, rather than trying to catch up".

Christopher Jones lives close to the French-Spanish border, and his views presumably reflect those prevalent there, especially on the first anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. He writes: He writes: "Randy Black's "So what?" is yet another manifestation of that lovely parochialism that characterizes the US. For Mr Black's benefit, I remind him that the US assured the world that it wanted a speedy handover to Iraqi sovereignty and rebuffed all suggestions that it had concocted the WMD lies to justify the establishment of an American empire in Iraq. Essential for the establishment of that empire is a pompous embassy (just like in Saigon, déja vu again) to coordinate"cooperation" between the new Iraqi regime and its US masters. It also looks likely that Iraq has replaced Saudi Arabia as a center for US activity in the area. The crowds in Madrid wrote on their placards the best comment: "NO SOMOS IDIOTAS". RH: They may not be idiots, , but,like the mob protesting in San Francisco yesterday, they do not offer a precise policy to solve the present situation.

Iraq Policy

John Wonder says: "I do not understand Peter Orne's reasoning. Just because Saddam Hussein is gone does not mean we should pull out and leave chaos behind, That is what we did after the first Gulf War following the mandate of the UN. Why the defence of the Security Council? It has done nothing but waffle and procrastinate. Bush wanted to go ahead because the weather in Iraq, by delaying a few months. would be disadvantageous militarily--a fact which many seem to ignore. "Unless the UN takes over in Iraq" Such folly is hard to imagine and is certainly egregious wishful thinking. They have always made a mess of things. Would they pull out if their headquarters and comfortable surroundings were bombed?"

9/11 Commission

The best feature of the American government system are congressional hearings. Especially enlightening were the hearings of the 9/11 commission. Jamie Gorelick, a member of the commission, made come interesting comments on C-Span. She was critical of Condoleezza Rice, who she charged was not candid with the commission. At Stanford, she was famous for saying "I don't do committees". She is totally loyal to President Bush, and she may have been afraid of revealing some confidential remarks.

Staunch Republican Randy Black says: "If Dr. Rice is a "when, not if" person, then so are the Democrats when it comes to taxes. Twenty years ago, I covered an off year meeting of a State of Texas committee regarding taxation in Texas. Texas, for those of you who live otherwise, is one of a few remaining states with no state income tax. The committee had invited a gent down from New Jersey, an "expert" on such topics. He made a clear statement that the question of a state income tax in Texas, and every other state, was not a matter of "if," but "when." Twenty years later, we still are without such a tax.

Regarding the Lemann opinion in the article that Hank. Levin cites, Dr. Rice, as provost at Stanford, controlled a budget, $1.5 billion, that is larger than that of many countries. As a scholar and a teacher, and as an integral part of both Bush administrations and the Clinton administration, she is a renowned expert on European and Russian politics. I'm not clear as to her upbringing but from her online bio, she's got pretty decent credentials:

Born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, she earned her bachelor's degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver in 1974; her master's from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995, the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003, and the University of Louisville in 2004. She resides in Washington, D.C."

RH: Fine, but the subject was 9/11 and the decision to go to war with Iraq.

Hank Levin writes: "On the subject of Condoleezza Rice and her rigidity and belief system driving her behavior, read Nicholas Lemann’s article in the October 14 & 21, 2002 New Yorker, “Without a Doubt”. In his interviews with her, “Rice not only believes in herself; she believes in belief, as an all conquering force. Doubt, ambiguity, and caution are just not part of the picture­if Rice ever experienced them, she has either put them somewhere out of view or completely willed them away.” According to Lemann, it was clear from the interview that the invasion of Iraq was a certainty in Rice’s mind, and the issue was “when” rather than “if”. This article was published in October, and probably written one or two months before, given the gestation from writer’s pen to publication, long before the actual invasion in March. The conclusion that one draws is that the Administration was just looking for the right excuse of which WMD played the part".

Texas South Padre Island

Randy Black writes: "I think that your Mexican TV, wherever it's coming from, is a bit off the mark. South Padre Island, Texas has about 180,000 college students descend upon the resort destination annually. They are expecting more this year with the improved economic conditions. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission last year gave out more than 2,100 citations for misdemeanor offenses, including public intoxication and selling alcohol to minors, as well as felony charges of possession and distribution of narcotics. A "normal" month sees about 100 arrested there. The local police force increases its numbers from 30 to about 80 by hiring off duty police for area towns during Spring Break. I can find no record of murders during Spring Break. There has been one drowning in the past ten years. Yesterday or the day before, I recall. The event brings about $200 million in economic benefits to the area annually. None of the violence there that you see at places like Michigan State after losing a game. No burning of cars and houses or riots in the streets as we saw in college towns elsewhere".

RH: I believe the TV report I saw this morning was accurate. For me, the comparison with post-game college mayhem is poor consolation. Veteran WAISer Jaqui White is a judge in Port Isabel, next to South Padre Island. I wonder if some of these students get hauled up before her.

Outsourcing

Randy Black says "Outsourcing is not a recent "invention". The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which contributes to the problem, was a product of both the Republicans and the Democrats in the 80s and early 90s. Bush the First signed it into effect and Clinton later claimed it would ADD jobs to America. I also recall earlier that Ross Perot ran on a very well publicized "anti" NAFTA plank. Ross is probably secretly laughing about the outcome of this program, which continues to be controversial and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of American jobs moving elsewhere. FYI, I voted for Ross for Boss.... both times.

On a related note, Christmas 2002 found me searching online, in the stores and on the phone for a new PC. Naturally, my decision came down to Dell vs Gateway. I called both. Dell, the Roundrock, Texas giant, had outsourced its customer support to India, as I found out sadly. While Dell's PC seemed like a good choice at the time, trying to understand the guy in New Delhi made my decision for me. I got a Gateway and have never regretted the decision. Dell has since found that their outsourcing was a huge mistake and has repatriated the customer service jobs.

Verizon Communications is sort of "outsourcing" in reverse. In its Irving, Texas (Dallas) headquarters, thousands of Indian and Pakistani H1-B visa techies are employed by the phone company, but at "back home" salaries. The H1-B holders live in nearby apartments, but are paid Indian and Pakistani salaries to their banks back home, while displacing thousands of local tech types who would certainly demand US salaries. The Verizon practice really irritates me, considering how many of my American neighbors are out of work due ot the the layoffs in high tech. I have no clue as to how Verizon gets away with the practice, considering how many local tech types are unemployed".

Steve Lord says: "I noticed that the defenders of outsourcing always cite the growth of new potential markets for U.S. products, in particular, the growth of a new middle class in India that will spur consumption. Yet the last time I checked, U.S. exports to India have languished between $3.5-4.0 billion per year since 1997--hardly a success story here. Comment?"

South Padre Island

Jaqui White defends South Padre Island with the vigor of her favorite beast, the bald eagle: "First of all, I laud Christopher Jones for his "great and noble creatures of the planet." Let us not confuse human frailties with the purity of these creatures. [RH: My turkey refuses to accept this challenge from a scavenger bird.]

Secondly, since I live ten minutes from South Padre Island and have a condominium there, I must vehemently defend the Island. It is a magical stretch of thirty-five miles of white sand beaches and warm water, the Gulf of Mexico on one side, the Laguna Madre on the other. One can go a few hundred yards north of the town and walk thirty miles on the beach, never seeing anything but water, low sea vegetation, a huge proliferation of world renowned sea birds, land animals, endangered sea turtles, coyotes, and flocks of my favorite bird, the fantastic prehistoric Pelicans, both brown and white. One feels as though one is a million miles from civilization in a place where you are the original discover. The only sound is the lapping of waves and the breeze.

Once a year Spring Break comes. Usually the universities stagger their vacation week, but this year the entire states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Mississippi scheduled their break during the same week, which just ended last Sunday. We were on the Island constantly, and had a marvelous time. The city fathers and merchants are acutely aware of making this time of year terrifically entertaining for the "Breakers" and at the same time safe. After all, usually parents are paying for this vacation for their children, and would not continue to allow their children to come were it a Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Marines and the US Army had recruiting areas on the beach where the Breakers could compete in chinning themselves on bars, and climbing a very intimidating tall tower, similar to a rock climbing wall. The Marines and Army personnel in charge were the best looking (both male and female), clean cut, marvelous individuals you could imagine to inspire and have your child emulate. I took an eleven year old little girl, quite shy, very feminine and protected, over to experience Spring Break, she succeeded in hanging from the Marine bars for the allotted time and was awarded a beach towel (the top award) with US MARINES emblazoned with the Marine logo, which I think she will treasure forever. She feels sure she is the only little girl at the Episcopal Day School who feels she is now a bona fide Marine.

The Breakers are on the beach all day, kite boarding (a surfboard powered by a kite, which is classed as an Extreme Sport), reef running, windsurfing, sailing, water skiing, swimming, fishing (world class, both in the Gulf and Laguna Madre), surfing, dolphin watching and milling around meeting each other. The girls all look like models, and the men are acutely aware of this fact.

There are planned concerts and entertainment every evening. In Texas the legal drinking age is 21, strictly enforced. Naturally, there are always wild ones in any group of any age, but the vast majority of these Breakers are courteous, polite, and above all fun. They love to go to Mexico, twenty minutes away, and there are always admonitions concerning overdrinking. There are many civic and religious groups offering rides 24 hours a day, free breakfasts, to those who feel they should not be driving. It is possible to ride with a group to the Border (Matamoros), then be picked up at the end of the evening and returned to the Island.

The entire atmosphere is great happiness, friendliness, and boundless energy. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen work endlessly to make this a calm, safe, healthy, and fun destination. There is nothing tawdry nor sleazy about it. Accommodations and restaurants are wonderful - this a year around resort.

South Padre Island developed thanks to the people in Mexico, mostly from Monterrey, who wanted to have a lovely beach hideaway in the States. They come every summer, Spring Break, and Semana Santa with their children of all ages. The television program you mentioned is for sensationalism, not for reality. Many people come from the northern states in the US to escape the snow, usually for about two months. Soon they are staying six months, and eventually they realize they have found paradise, and move here permanently.

I am so delighted Randy Black mentioned South Padre Island, since I feel that some erroneous impressions should be corrected. If any WAISers would like to see for themselves, we would adore having them come, visit, and stay forever..."

RH. This is rather like the argument about Las Vegas. Is it a mecca for gamblers and the like, or a nice family resort? Answer:both.

Jaqui White reports:"We do not have lifeguards on South Padre Island. It is such a long beach it would be impossible to guard, plus people would rely on them, parents would complacently send their children into the surf, and the liability would be overwhelming. Instead, we have the flag system, red when you should not be in the water, etc. One must use good judgement.

Although it is an unusually safe coast, all coasts have the rip currents. We are taught and barraged with instructions that if one is caught in a rip current, simply let yourself be taken with the current, which is usually away from the shore. They are very short currents, and one should swim parallel with the shore until one runs out of the rip, then swim easily back to shore. The rip currents do not drag you down under the water. People who are not strong swimmers should not go in over their knees under any circumstances. The great majority of water tragedies are caused by the swimmers themselves, who are not experienced.

The Saudi Arabians have an expression, "The waves have teeth". We would go down to the Red Sea most week-ends, but unfortunately there were never any Saudis there - it was completely isolated and deserted except for camels. I say unfortunately because it is the most beautiful diving in the world, and extremely safe. Some day I hope that swimming and particularly scuba diving will become popular there. If Saudi Arabia is ever opened to tourism the divers of the world will descend upon them".

Ronald Hilton -


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