Filed under: China, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Military, National Security, Politics | Tags: Chinese Cyber-Hacking, National Defense, Stealing Classified Secrets
I indulged in a little schadenfreude in the piece below, but Chinese computer-based attacks are a serious matter. Over the past year, the Defense Department and private cyber-security experts have stepped up accusations that the Chinese government is directly involved in cyber espionage against the U.S.
In February, a U.S. based cyber-security firm issued a report accusing a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai of years of cyber-attacks against more than 140 companies, most of them American. They are using their cyber capabilities to collect intelligence against U.S. diplomatic, economic and defense programs, and the report warned that the skills needed for such espionage are similar to those needed to conduct cyber-warfare.
The report said China is modernizing its short-range ballistic missile force and acquiring greater numbers of medium-range missiles to increase the range at which it can conduct precision strikes against land targets and naval ships, including aircraft carriers directly from China’s shores. More plainly they are stealing classified data about our most sensitive weapons systems. The systems designs and technologies compromised by cyber-exploitation — the B-22 Osprey helicopter, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, The Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile System, the Global Hawk drone, the Littoral Combat Ship, and the list goes on — and on.
Our response has been finger-wagging and mutual verbal warnings from Obama’s national security team that China had better stop this or we might do something. We have, in the meantime invited the Chinese to join our 2014 Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, so they can get a closer look at our capabilities, I guess. A formal disinvitation should have been the immediate response to the Defense Science Board’s hacking report, as well as some firm talk.
The Obama administration doesn’t seem to have any strategy on how to deal with China, geo-politically, economically or militarily. Obama’s Pacific Pivot seems to be more of a smoke screen for drawing down our forces and abandoning our commitments in the Middle East. Obama wants the funds involved available to spend at home.
Filed under: China, Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, National Security, Politics, Science/Technology | Tags: Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cybersecurity, President Barack Obama
There are some quotations that come quickly to mind, when observing politics: This one is from Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion about the battle of Flodden Field in Northumberland in 1513 — border wars with Scotland. I heard a lot of Marmion at the dinner table when I was young. I think my father had to memorize vast quantities in prep school.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Just when President Obama was going to have an important meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, and perhaps have a little conversation about, um, cyber-hacking, and then it turned out to be right in the middle of the revelations of Obama’s cyber-hacking of Americans with the Prism program and cyber-hacking the nation’s telephone calls through Verizon. Makes it a little awkward.
AP White House correspondent Julie Pace:
Thank you, Mr. President. How damaging has Chinese cyber-hacking been to the U.S.? And did you warn your counterpart about any specific consequences if those actions continue? And also, while there are obviously differences between China’s alleged actions and your government’s surveillance programs, do you think that the new NSA revelations undermine your position on these issues at all during these talks?
And President Xi, did you acknowledge in your talks with President Obama that China has been launching cyber attacks against the U.S.? Do you also believe that the U.S. is launching similar attacks against China? And if so, can you tell us what any of the targets may have been?
What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships. …
But I think it’s important, Julie, to get to the second part of your question, to distinguish between the deep concerns we have as a government around theft of intellectual property or hacking into systems that might disrupt those systems — whether it’s our financial systems, our critical infrastructure and so forth — versus some of the issues that have been raised around NSA programs.
Oh, schadenfreude of course. I just find it — amusing.
Filed under: China, Economy, Election 2012, Foreign Policy, Media Bias, Politics, The United States | Tags: Media Bias, Poor Record, The Fact-Checkers
Do you remember Polifact’s “Big Lie of the Year?” Well, of course the fact-checking record of the fact checkers is not exactly pristine. It remains highly tinged with partisan bias, and a distinct lack of self-awareness. This was a big one, though.
It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.
And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.
The public, of course, did not express collective outrage. That was Polifact pretending more attention that existed. And they did not accurately represent what Mitt Romney said in the ad:
[Mitt Romney] Says Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs.
Here’s what Reuters reported on Thursday:” Fiat and its U.S. unit Chrysler expect to roll out at least 100,000 Jeeps in China when production starts in 2014 as they seek to catch up with rivals…”
Mitt Romney was also scoffed at for mentioning dangers in Mali.
Filed under: China, Economy, Election 2012, Liberalism | Tags: Bloated Bureaucracy, Policing Trade Practices, Trade With China
President Obama announced today plans to borrow some more millions from China to create — another new federal bureaucracy. It’s hard to get a handle on the number of bureaucracies created. The infamous ObamaCare flow chart showed over 100 new bureaucracies just in health care, but many other departments have ballooned.
The new one this time is the International Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC). (They apparently get their acronym at birth). It is scheduled to have as many as 60 employees, a budget of $26 million — about $433,000 per employee — which Heritage points out may be bloated even by government standards. The current US. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) currently spends about $207,000 per employee.
Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) the chairman of the Trade Sub-Committee of the House Committee on Ways and Means issued the following statement when he learned of Obama’s request for vast new powers from Congress so that he may restructure the federal government, beginning with a merger of certain trade-related agencies. Brady says USTR has a long-standing reputation as one of the smallest yet most productive agencies in the federal government.
I’m all for streamlining agencies, but simply burying the nation’s key trade negotiators within a mountain of new bureaucracy will only damage their effectiveness and delay efforts to open new markets for American businesses and agriculture. Whatever the true agenda is, I will vigorously oppose any effort by the White House to diminish the role and resources of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
USTR is nimble, aggressive and operates on a tiny budget – yet participates in round-the-clock negotiations with trading partners throughout the world while producing job creating trade agreements to spur the American economy. Heaping who knows how many more layers of Washington bureaucracy upon them will neither save money nor help our struggling economy.
The federal government excels at duplication and redundancy, and consequently already has several other agencies devoted to foreign trade practices, including USTR and the Dept. of Commerce’s Market Access and Compliance and Import Administration divisions. The new staff is likely to be drawn from these agencies, the very people Obama thinks haven’t been doing enough. President Obama told the UAW :
I’m creating a trade enforcement unit that will bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to investigate and counter unfair trade practices around the world, including by countries like China.
Has China changed its trade practice? Are they getting stuffy about lending money? Why do we suddenly need to change the successful work of an effective agency? What has changed in 2012? Oh, Mitt Romney has spoken out forcefully and negatively on China’s trade practice. Google lists 189,000 results on a search for Romney speech on China trade practice. Some are undoubtedly repeats, but that could have something to do with it. Do you suppose that Obama held one of his very rare press conferences this morning just because it was Super Tuesday?
Filed under: China, Communism, Economy, News of the Weird | Tags: China's Empty Cities, Why Are They There?, Why Were They Built?
Britain’s Daily Mail has satellite pictures of 14 major new cities in China that are essentially— empty. No cars, no people, empty buildings, empty housing. They are ghost towns. Some have been abandoned years after their construction. “Some estimates put the number of empty homes at as many as 64 million, with up to 20 new cities being built every year in the country’s vast swathes of free land.”They have pictures of 35 empty cities.
A Chinese government think tank speaks of a real estate bubble with property prices overvalued by as much as 70 percent. The article warns of real estate bubbles and increasing prices, but why do prices increase if there are no buyers? I have seen elsewhere a tour of a new Chinese city with no population, fine stores — empty, a whole city, just empty. The suggestion is of housing too expensive for people. In a normal capitalist market, you would just lower the prices to start inhabiting the city, but this is not a normal capitalist country.
Obama has celebrated China’s new high-speed train, yet ordinary people cannot afford to ride it, and it has become a financial catastrophe for the nation. Are these empty cities just a vast infrastructure project providing construction jobs for the unemployed?
The Daily Mail article doesn’t really explain anything. I saw pictures a while back of what was called the world’s largest traffic jam that went on for miles and lasted for days, so there are cars in China in significant numbers.
If anyone can explain this mystery, please comment. It is a puzzlement.
Filed under: China, Europe, History, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Russia | Tags: 1162—1227, Genghis Khan, He Created an Empire
I have mentioned that I never seem to read anything when it first comes out— partly because I usually have a stack of books that I have not yet read, but partly also because you have to be in the right frame of mind for some books. A good friend recommended Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World to me years ago. It was published in 2004, but I never got around to it until now. When I get excited about something I have read, I’m inclined to insist that everyone else read it right now. So consider yourselves warned.
I knew nothing about Genghis Khan except the”Mongol hordes,” Ulaanbaatar, the steppes, and the first stanza of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Xanadu” which I recalled word for word from Survey of English Literature quite a few years ago. Not promising. So I read the Introduction.
In 1937, the soul of Genghis Khan disappeared from the Buddhist monastery in central Mongolia along the River of the Moon below the black Shankh Mountains where the faithful lamas had protected and venerated it for centuries.
Well, who could resist that? Born in 1162, and his soul disappeared in 1937.
Year by year, he gradually defeated everyone more powerful that he was, until he had conquered every tribe on the Mongolian steppe. At the age of fifty, when most great conquerors had already put their fighting days behind them, Genghis Khan’s Spirit Banner beckoned him out of his remote homeland to confront the armies of the civilized people who had harassed and enslaved the nomadic tribes for centuries. …
In conquest after conquest, the Mongol army transformed warfare into an intercontinental affair fought on multiple fronts stretching across thousands of miles. Genghis Khan’s innovative fighting techniques made the heavily armored knights of medieval Europe obsolete, replacing them with disciplined cavalry moving in coordinated units. Rather than relying on defensive fortifications, he made brilliant use of speed and surprise on the battlefield, as well as perfecting siege warfare to such a degree that he ended the era of walled cities. Genghis Khan taught his people not only to fight across incredible distances but to sustain their campaign over years, decades, and, eventually, more than three generations of constant fighting.
Jack Weatherford is the Dewitt Wallace Professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota. He earned his PhD at the University of California, San Diego, and an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Chinggis Khaan College in Mongolia. He certainly knows how to draw in a reader.
In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation.
That’s all the sampling I shall give you. Here’s the book at Amazon, though every bookstore should have copies. And here is a young Mongolian musician, Battulga, who plays “Jonon Kharin Yavdal” on a horse headed fiddle which has a skin covered box and horsehair strings (even the bow-string) as in an ancient traditional fiddle. Enjoy.
Filed under: Capitalism, China, Economy, Science/Technology | Tags: Obama Wants Jobs Insourced, Shipping Jobs Overseas, Trade and Manufacturing
What about manufacturing, aren’t all the jobs going overseas where people work for extremely low wages? How can we compete with that? It’s true that fewer people are employed in manufacturing plants, but we’re still manufacturing lots of stuff. We’re just doing it with fewer people.
The production line has been changing ever since Henry Ford invented it after visiting a meat-packing plant that was already using the concept. For simplification sake, at one time someone stood at a particular spot along the assembly line and separated the stream of parts into two different streams, but they developed gates or electric eyes that would do that without a constant attendant, eliminating the need for a worker. But that step was a long time ago. These two videos explain how the world has changed.
Here is a BMW USA manufacturing plant, in 2009. Body shop: spot welding by robots. Mounting of side sills on body structure. Hot-stamping: Heating, compression molding, quenching. Wedding: Drive unit engine, transmission, axle, exhaust system is bolted to the body. Final assembly: BMW 5 Series Sedan rolls out of factory.
There are lots of decisions built into every manufacturing plant, and every product. Skilled workers or cheap workers who can be trained to be skilled. Energy costs. Some manufacturing processes need to be located next to water. Some need rail transportation. Some big things need to be moved, and freeway overpasses are a problem. Is shipping a major expense or minor — depends on the size, fragility and weight of the product. Raw materials: where do they come from, what kind of transportation is needed — some manufacturing plants need to be close to the source of their raw materials. Some need to be close to their market. Where is speed a factor? Regulations play a part. Unions v. right-to-work.The decisions are complex, and involve far more than greedy businessmen looking for cheaper labor.
The New York Times recently explained why Steve Jobs bragged when Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983 that it was “a machine that is made in America.” Today, the iPhone is made in China, and the Times article explains the details:
Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.
People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”
After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.
The facility in Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled, has 230,000 employees, many work six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of the workforce lives in company barracks, and many workers earn less than $17 a day, a good salary in China. When the first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City, in the middle of the night, thousands of workers were aroused and lined up to assemble iPhones by hand. Since then they have assembled more than 200 million iPhones.
China could also supply engineers at a scale the US could not match. Apple executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly line workers. Do read the whole article. It offers a valuable insight into manufacturing and trade that really helps to explain a very complex problem. Not all of it, certainly, but it’s a help in telling when the politicians are knowledgeable or just pandering.
Filed under: Africa, Australia, China, Developing Nations, Europe, Middle East, United Kingdom
11. New York, New York
Here is a collection of pictures taken out of airline windows. Sounds like looking at a bunch of clouds, but they are quite amazing, as you tour the world. Enjoy.
Filed under: Capitalism, China, Economy, Election 2012, Energy | Tags: China Wants Oil, Keystone XL Pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Reactions in Canada to Obama’s decision to put off a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the American election in 2012 have been extremely negative, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Canadian leader is taking part in a summit in Hawaii hosted by the American president. Mr. Harper has discussed oil exports with Chinese President Hu Jintao. If America is not interested, China assuredly is.
President Obama is a little weak in the consequences department. He seems ill prepared to recognize that he is not president of the world and everyone else does not jump to follow what he deems convenient for his reelection campaign. Putting off the decision on the pipeline until 2013 involves a lot more than kill thousands of expected American jobs, but TransCanada is supposed to sit around waiting for another year or two for a decision?
The pipeline has been completely vetted by all government departments involved, but then nothing is ever vetted enough for environmentalists who want to stop anything to do with oil. Do remember that there are no qualifications whatsoever to be “an environmentalist.” No degree in science, no course of study, only feelings about the environment. There are more qualifications to be a meter maid.
The oil comes from tar sands, which environmentalists claim means that it produces high levels of carbon emissions which are falsely blamed for global warming. If they put off the decision long enough, perhaps they can find an endangered species in the pipeline’s path.
The 1700 mile pipeline is good for America and for Canada, and would provide America with a stable source of energy from an ally and create thousands of jobs. Mr. Harper said he “remains optimistic that the project will go ahead because it makes eminent sense.”
ADDENDUM: A spokesman for the president said that :”The president said he will not trade the health and safety of the American people for a few thousand jobs.” What offensive hooey. The pipeline project had been approved by the EPA, the Energy Dept, the Department of the Interior and whatever other regulating bodies had any smidgen of authority.
Filed under: Capitalism, China, Economy, National Security, The United States | Tags: "The New Normal", "The New Urbanism", Straight Line Thinking
Investors Business Daily has a column today suggesting that the burgeoning theme in Washington, quietly whispered among the power brokers is — the “new normal.” I recognize that one. We’ve been here before. The American Dream is over, Japan is Number One. Oh wait — that was way back in January, 1990.
I have seen articles suggesting that unemployment is destined to remain high—permanently. Manufacturing will continue to shrink. A home is not a good investment. There will be no more high paying jobs (well, except in government of course, where all the bright people are). The U.S. is not going to be a fast-growing superpower, and we need to stop acting like one. We need more government agencies run by the best and brightest to take care of all the people who are displaced by the ‘new normal.’ It is unfortunate, but we must resign ourselves to double-digit unemployment.
The world is running out of energy, so we must live more sustainable lives. We must use less energy, less precious water. We can no longer afford to squander space and energy and wealth on strip malls and suburbs. We need more sustainable communities and more sustainable lives in more compact sustainable cities. All stuffed in there, cheek to jowl. That’s “the new urbanism.” Another lefty dream. See this interesting graph!
China could pass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016. The International Monetary Fund said that back in April. This assumes that if China is growing at 10% today, it will always grow at 10%. China made a big mistake with its one child policy. By 2040, China’s elderly population will exceed the total population of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan. Every elderly person will be supported by two workers. Good luck with that. Will they dispose of their elderly as they have disposed of those unfortunate girl children? And what about all those young men who cannot find wives? Will they fill up their empty cities?
This is straight line thinking. If unemployment is high today, it will always be high. If we are short of energy today, we will always be short of energy. Nothing will ever change. You will notice that men are still wearing powdered wigs and writing with quill pens. The ships that ply the ocean are propelled by canvas sails, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. And we are still a small nation of 13 states. Nothing will ever change.
We have an unusual number of people invested in predicting the future, not only in silly media columns. They have devised computer models to predict the climate in 50 years and 100 years, and are busily trying to make regulations and laws to prepare for the future predicted by their computers. Odd, when our best weather forecasters have trouble predicting the weather for the following week. Seven days is about their limit.
America was settled by people who had the courage and independent spirit to pack up and cross a vast ocean in a voyage that lasted months rather than days. They knew little about the wilderness that awaited them. They built their own communities and made up their own rules. And once the towns got too big or the rules too onerous, they packed up and moved on to where they could again build their own communities and make up their own rules.
Because it was a new country, they had to find ways to adapt, to create and invent to cope with a new land and new surroundings. There was no heavy hand of government to spell out what they could and could not do. They started out trying to create what they already knew, and as they changed the land, the land changed them. American exceptionalism derives from that creative, independent spirit. How odd that our current president should see this country as no more exceptional than any other.
How very strange that the left insists that the American Dream is to be found in “the new normal” and in “the new urbanism.” Have to stamp out all that independent spirit! The government will nurture the creativity, we just need an agency to direct it into the correct path.
Ignorance of the past leads to folly in the present. Freedom and democracy require a modicum of truth to survive. I like these lines from Bruce Thornton’s Plagues of Mind:
The importance of history lies in its ability to give a sort of visual depth to our expectations and ideas, to place them in the only context that matters—the dense and intricate record of what humans have thought and attempted and experienced, their successes and failures, their nobility and pettiness. History gives us ideals to strive for and failures both practical and moral to avoid. By familiarizing ourselves with the record of humanity’s deeds and crimes, we achieve a critical distance from the manifold passions and interests of the present, and we win a calm space in which we can judge with a cooler eye, the hectic novelties and temptations bombarding us. Without that, we fall into the trap of judging everything from the standards and “knowledge” of the present.
Filed under: Capitalism, China, Economy, Japan, Science/Technology | Tags: China and Japan, Rare Earth Elements, Suply and Demand
Dysprosium, gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium, neodymium, xenotime, cerium and lanthanum are the names of just some of the rare earth minerals that most of us have never heard of, yet are suddenly extremely important. Rare earths are vital for making a range of high-technology electronics, magnets and batteries. China accounts for 97 percent of global rare earth supplies and has been tightening the trade in strategic metals and causing an explosion in prices.
Introduction to economics—supply and demand. When there’s lots of demand and one source controls the supply— they can charge whatever they want. Conversely — high prices send others looking for more supply.
Unexpectedly — Vast deposits of rare earth minerals have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said last week.
“The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometer (o.4 square mile for Americans) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.
The team led by Kato and researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology found minerals in sea mud extracted from depths of 3,500 to 6,000 meters (11,500-20,000 feet) below the ocean surface at 78 locations. One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium. The deposits are in international waters in an area stretching east and west of Hawaii, as well as east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.
Kato estimated rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 to 100 billion tonnes, compared to global reserves currently confirmed by the US Geological survey of just 110 million tonnes that have been found mainly in China,Russia and other former Soviet countries and the United States.
Japan accounts for a third of global demand, and has been looking to diversify their supply sources, particularly of heavy rare earths such as dysprosium used in magnets. “Sea mud can be pumped up from the ocean floor to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching, and the process is fast,” Kato said.
The sea mud is especially rich in gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium which are used to manufacture flat-screen TVs, LED valves, and hybrid cars. Here is a visual guide to some rare earth elements that shows how they are used, and what they look like.
I know only slightly more than I did before I heard of these elements, but if I hear someone in conversation mentioning gadolinium, I can smile brightly and say,”Oh yes, rare earths. Used in my flat-screen TV,” That will impress them.