More on the outsourcing myth

[Update: A commenter tells me that the Boston Herald is unreliable and has its own agenda (sorry, didn't know), so I wanted to offer other sources for the same story here and here and here. The co-author of the study is Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Lawrence R. Klein, founder of Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates. This is not just a Boston Herald story.]

I hope word spreads that the outsourcing threat is a myth, and that more IT jobs in India and China will not spell doom for America’s IT workforce. From the Boston Herald today:

Outsourcing white-collar jobs to low-wage countries such as India and China has thrown some Americans out of work, but a new report predicts that the trend will ultimately lower inflation, create jobs and boost productivity in the United States.

The Information Technology Association of America, in a survey set for release Tuesday, acknowledges that the migration of tech jobs to low-paid foreigners has eliminated 104,000 American jobs so far, nearly 3 percent of the positions in the U.S. tech industry.

Software engineers have been particularly hard hit. Researchers at Global Insight Inc., which prepared the report for the ITAA, predicted that demand for U.S. software engineers would shrink through 2008.

But ITAA leaders emphasized that outsourcing has damaged the job market far less than the dot-com meltdown of early 2000, when Internet startups, telecom companies and other companies eliminated as many as 268,000 positions.

“The myth is that we’ve started this long decline into the midnight of the technology work force,” ITAA president Harris Miller said. “This report shows that, assuming the recovery continues, the number of IT jobs will actually increase.”

I hope the Dems decide not to make this a centerpiece for their platform. It’s way too wobbly an issue.

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Latest GOP smear: “Richard Clarke is GAY!”

[For an explanation of the strikethroughs, see my follow-up post.]

From Wonkette, via Kevin Drum via Mark Kleiman. (You should see all three posts to get the whole picture.):

We have it on semi-reliable authority that the Bush administration’s next attempt to discount Richard Clarke’s credibility will consist of alleging that he’s a big gay. We have a little trouble figuring out how being gay makes you unable to assess threats to a country’s national security — after all, we trust them to tell us what to wear. Still, it is a great strategy.

That is, as long as you don’t believe there any other homosexuals on the Bush national security team.

The new smear effort apparently emerged after CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said on the news that unnamed officials are alluding to “weird aspects” of Clarke’s private life. Kevin Drum, usually more reserved and proper, responds: “What a disgusting gang of thugs and cretins. Hell, I hope they do go public with this, just to show the country their true colors.”

Kleiman also bristles, and says the White House now has three options:

1. Say that they approve of the attack, and that Clarke’s sexual orientation is a legitimate reason to doubt his veracity or his acuity.

2. Say that they don’t think that the attack is really relevant, but that any tactic is legitimate if it weakens a critic of the President.

3. Claim that Wolf Blitzer was making it up, and explain why he would.

4. Denounce the attack in strong terms.

Ï can’t really see a fifth option. This is truly the case where silence gives consent. Anyone who has been attacking Clarke personally has been, in effect, playing on the White House team, and has an ethical obligaton to call the foul.

And since the argument of the Clarke-bashers has been that inconsistencies in his statements mean that anything he says stands discredited, I’d like to hear them explain why this sort of tactic from the White House (on top of the massive internal inconsistencies in the White House anti-Clarke spin) shouldn’t lead us to ignore anything Condi Rice or Dick Cheney says from now on.

This is an administration that will live in infamy. Nothing surprises me now. Shocks, yes. Surprises, no.

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A foolish Kerry campaign ad about China

[UPDATE Apparently this ad is not a true Kerry ad, but one created by an independent group. Personally, I'd say they didn't do Kerry any great favors, as viewers will inevitably associate the ad with Kerry, as I automatically did. Stephen Frost has a great post that tells us exaxctly what the Chinese characters in the ad say, who placed the ad and where you can see it for yourself.]

I will do everything I can to support John Kerry in the race against George W. Bush. That said, I was highly disappointed to view a Kerry TV commercial that I find misguided, deceptive and inappropriate. And Kerry and his team have to know it.

The ad begins by showing a group of factories that resemble what you’d find in America’s Rust Belt. The announcer says something along the lines of, “During his administration, President Bush created more than 3 million new jobs.” There’s a brief pause, and the announcer continues, “In China.” With that, the camera pans upward and pulls back to reveal huge signs over the factories, all in Chinese characters. The rest of the ad warns of the horrors of outsourcing and how Kerry will fight for US workers, whereas Bush caved in to big industry.

I find this unacceptable on more than one level. First, it creates anti-Chinese sentiments, positioning them as an enemy/threat. It also implies the president can easily “do something” about US jobs lost by outsourcing. And, possibly worst of all, it makes a relatively small issue appear ominous, playing on people’s fears. It’s populist politics at its most unattractive.

Outsourcing brings real benefits to most Americans, and when it comes to all the jobs lost it is not nearly as big a factor as the Kerry ad would have you believe. There are so few jobs out there because employers don’t want to hire when they’re still anxious and unsure about the economy. I know, that’s not much consolation to the poor factory worker whose job has been exported to Guangzhou. But that’s part of the price of free markets and globalization.

It really hurts me to write anything negative about Kerry, but I’m worried that if he doesn’t get more substantive he will appear phony and insincere. He’s also got to get more aggressive in dealing with the charge that he says whatver his latest audience wants to hear. Karl Rove is making the waffling charge the No. 1 issue, and so far Kerry has done a poor job countering it.

The China ad should be scrapped. With so many real issues out there, why they would make outsourced jobs to China a key issue is beyond me.

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Richard Clarke and the GOP slime machine

I watched rather dumbfounded last week when Richard Clarke testified in front of the 911 commission. It was almost as though we were back at the hearings on Clarence Thomas or Watergate. I was mesmerized from the start, when Clarke uttered his now famous apology, which was surely the shrewdest, most brilliant snippet of politcal oratory I’ve heard in years.

Equally remarkable, however, has been the take-no-prisoners smear campaign spearheaded by Bush’s lieutenants against Clarke, an ugly reminder of how nasty this administration gets whenever it feels threatened. (Remember Paul O’Neill just a couple of months ago? Same scenario, same full-frontal-assault tactics, same game of lambasting the accuser while ignoring the issues he brings up.)

Andrew Sullivan is quick to point out the lunacy of the administration’s response to Clarke:

I agree with the Washington Post yesterday that the more worrying sign is the way the White House has responded. They have been close to hysterical, defensive to an absurd degree and therefore unpersuasive. Their response to Clarke evokes far more doubts about their pre-9/11 conduct than anything Clarke could have mustered by himself. More evidence that they’re losing it. I think they realize they’re in trouble and don’t know quite how to right themselves. Hence the policy lurches – from Mars to [gay] marriage to steroids.

Determined to dig their own graves, the White House continues its refusal to let Condi testify before the commission in public and under oath. To understand just how convoluted, how deranged her argument for not testifying is, you simply must read Josh Marshall’s precious post using Condi’s own words to show how idiotic her reasoning (i.e., lack of reasoning) is.

So far the White House and various Republicans have spent an entire week spinning their wheels to make Clarke look bad by whatever means possible. One of the very slimiest was Senator Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert questioning whether Clarke had committed perjury because his testimony was contradicted by things he had said earlier.

But nothing is sticking. Having served under the last four presidents, in which capacity he has built a reputation for intelligence and fairness, Clarke simply can’t be torn down with dirty tricks, the only weapons the White House now has at its disposal. It was a real pleasure reading Josh Marshall this morning on the folly of the Frist/Hastert perjury charge — and how Clarke beat them at their game.

I think the early signs are that this perjury attack on Clarke was a major, major blunder. I don’t think the perpetrators of this ugly stunt even thought they’d ever get into a courtroom. That wasn’t the point: this was watercooler ammo. Something you get on to the news so that when Mr. X asks Mr. Y over the watercooler what he makes of Clarke’s testimony, Mr. Y responds, “Hell, that guy? He’s probably gonna get indicted for perjury. You can’t believe anything that guy says.”

Still, Clarke — who was unflappable on the shows this morning — and Hill Democrats seem to have immediately called Frist & Co.’s bluff. Not only have they welcomed the release of Clarke’s materials, they’ve called for the release of more documents, correspondence and testimony from him and Rice. Selective declassification would be very difficult in the current context — and could complicate efforts to keep so much other stuff out of the public’s view.

He’s made a clean sweep so far; out of nowhere, this bureaucrat many of us never heard of two weeks ago managed to turn the Bush administration on its head and call into question its main raison d’etre, national security. Something of a miracle, don’t you think?

So far the polls aren’t showing any significant change in public opinion toward Bush, but I think we’re just getting started. Condi eventually will testify, and between now and the moment she’s put under oath, the government will continue to lose credibility, as Sullivan says above. And Clarke is not going to vanish into the night. He has captured the media’s attention, ascending overnight to super-stardom, and at this very instant the first story on the evening news is all about Clarke and Condi.

This obviously has Bush and Rove twisted into knots. From now on, all praise of Bush’s national security policy will bring to mind Clarke’s charges calling that policy into deep doubt. Again, for a single-issue candidate this is nothing short of a catastrophe. And it didn’t have to be; the Condi Rice omerta exacerbated it infinitely, and has made the Administration appear frightened and defenseless in the wake of Clarke’s testimony. Amazing.

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Condi Rice, meaner than a junkyard dog

condi.jpg

You really have to be in America to have a feel for just how badly Condi has blundered by refusing to testify under oath on 911. Forget about whether she did anything wrong (or right) and just look at it from the perspective of appearances:

Here we have the No. 1 issue on which George W. Bush is campaigning; it’s all he’s got, what with the economy a mess and unemployment high. So what do the Bushies do? They reject pleas from the most respected members of their own party, like former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who said today that if Condi refuses to testify under oath and in public before the 911 commission, the American people will inevitably believe she (and the government) have something to hide. He said that in effect the GOP was cutting its own throat.

I really had a lot of respect for Condi following the 911 attacks, and it’s sad to see her implode by adopting this bunker mentality (not to mention her recent junkyard-dog demeanor). After appearing on every talk show under the sun to combat Richard Clarke, her refusal to testify in public is particularly galling. She’s obviously got the time, and obviously has a lot to say. But refusing to do so under oath, on the topic of supreme importance to all Americans? It’s nothing less than bizarre, and I suspect she’ll either have to relent and testify or else face political ruin. And maybe both.

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China warns Hong Kong it had better learn from Taiwan’s example

Predictably, the CCP is pointing to the Taiwan elections as proof that democracy opens the door to chaos, and warning Hong Kong that this is exactly why true democracy there would be a bad thing.

China’s official mouthpiece Friday warned Hong Kong for the first time of the chaos it can expect if it presses ahead with demands for speedy democratic reforms, using Taiwan’s election turmoil as an example.

“Democracy is promising as a theory, but in reality it is something entirely different,” the official China Daily said in a commentary written by Xiao Ping.

“If it is fostered in a radical way that is more than the local community can handle, the inevitable outcome is the disruption of the original social order while a new one is not yet established, resulting in the paralysis of governance and social chaos.”

There’s no question that there is a price for freedom, and the people of HK and Taiwan have made it perfectly clear that they are willing to pay that price. If only China’s leaders understood why this is so — why men are willing to march and riot and risk their lives for political freedom — they could save themselves an awful lot of trouble trying to convince people who are free that they’d be better off under the authoritarian rule of the CCP.

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Getting ripped off in Yunnan

This can happen anywhere and is not unique to China. But surely as China develops and people make more money, we’ll be seeing more of it. I am posting briefly about it here because the victims of this particular story are people very important to me.

Yesterday one of my closest friends in Beijing sent me an email that was obviously written in a state of panic: his naive father had been tricked by con artists who managed to walk away with his life savings. This is a man in Yunnan with no job whose wife sells vegetables in a local market. The amount that was stolen sounds negligible to Westerners, but it was all the security they had.

We spoke on the phone and exchanged several emails, but there was little I could say to make the situation any better. Today, he told me his parents have adjusted to their new reality and are altering their lives accordingly.

This accident is too terrible to believe, like a nightmare. My parents still went to vegetable market to sell this morning. My mother planned to sell her few stock to other vendors, then stop this business which he worked hard for 15 years. I told my parents that I hope they take good care of themselves, nothing could be more valuable than their health. I also tried to ask my brother-in-law to stay with my parents as long as possible, I do not let them alone at this special time. My brother-in-law planned to take my mother to another town which he is teaching in.

All my family including me should learn the lesson from this accident. We should be more cautious and choose proper personal finacial management model that could reduce risk. Maybe for my parents, they are too old and traditional. But for me, this will be a lesson I must learn from. I plan to buy an insurance for my mother, she never worked for any corporate and isolated from social security system. (My current security status is the same with my mother, but I will change it in few month).

I will take my parents to visit Beijing, it is their dream even for my dead grandmother. My parents are almost 60 years old, they worked hard for more than 40 years, but they never lived in any star-hotel for one night……for my mother, she never be out of Yunnan. All this will become my motivation to work hard to let them experience best life, they deserve it!

Apparently this sort of story is not that unusual in China, and there’s no mechanism in place to stop or prevent it. That’s not a criticism; it’s just one more thing China will need to learn to deal with as it progresses. I hope that as the leaders focus more attention on its poor citizens in the countryside that they will help educate them and protect them from the exploitation and trickery that have plagued them through the centuries. This example drove home to me just how tragic the consequences of ignorance and naitvete can be.

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Getting around China’s Great Cyber-Nanny

Below are the suggestions some affected bloggers in China have offered for circumventing the Great Firewall. Several unblocked bloggers like myself are posting it, and hopefully this will filter down to readers in China affected by the blog-out.

The Nanny does not care about blocked blogs. If Typepad can’t find a
way to sort it out, then affected websites in China will have to find
different ways to stay online.

In the meantime, here are some notes about how to get around the Nanny
if you are in China.

The easiest way to get around an Internet block is to use a proxy
server. Two popular proxies that are really easy to use are:

http://www.unipeak.com
http://anonymouse.ws/anonwww.html

Just go to either of those pages and enter the URL of the blocked site
into the box. Hey presto, up yours Nannny!

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The banning of blogs in China

It was only about 15 months ago — back when this blog was hosted by blogspot — that I had my first personal experience with the CCP’s censors. It was a rude shock to wake up one morning to find I could not access my own blog or any others on blogspot.

From that day on until I uprooted to Singapore, I could never again see my own blog except via proxy servers, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. (There were some odd days when, inexplicably, I would be able to access blogspot sites. But within a few hours, without fail, they’d be inaccessible again. I called it Chinese water torture.)

Four days into the ban, I still wanted to believe there was hope, and that maybe enough coordinated outrage would impel the man behind the curtain to end the ban.

Yes, it appears the Chinese government has imposed a permanent nationwide ban on all Blogspot.com sites. At least, after four days, the story has spread. Maybe the blogger outcry will convince our leathery leaders that a staple for a robust and thriving society is the free exchange of information. Are they really afraid that some “subversive” blogs (anything interesting seems to be subversive here) can cause their system to come toppling down? C’mon guys, lighten up!

Evidently my pleas went unheeded. Not only does blogspot remain blocked to this day, but as we all know, the censor’s tentacles have recently reached out to embrace local blogging services like blogcn and another of the big blogspot-like services, typepad. This means some of my favorite sites, like danwei.org, cannot be viewed in China, at least not by those who don’t know how to get around the Great Firewall.

I’ve seen all sorts of theories. I’ve read posts urging greater understanding of the CCP as well as posts advocating “violence” against the wicked system. Coming to the conversation weeks after the fact, there’s not really much I can offer that’s new, aside from my own sympathy and anger.

To me, this outrage drives home once again that freedom of speech is something the government of China is not ready to deal with. No big shock there, except we’ve all been hoping that freedoms were being expanded, not contracted. That they feel so threatened by blogs, of all things, speaks volumes to their paranoia and insecurity. And I have no patience for such nonsense, only contempt.

Just imagine being a blogger in China and suddenly having the fruits of your labors erased, seeing it all taken away from you. As Adam wrote recently:

If I were a blog owner that’s been blocked, I would be livid that all my effort is now not available to the very audience that I wish to reach. Hell, I haven’t been blocked and I’m livid as it is.

Well, I was blocked, and I can assure you that you are absolutely right: I was livid as hell. This was the first blow that caused me to question the notion that China was reforming and becoming freer. It was so nice to take it on faith and believe, but when I could no longer read my own blog, I knew the world had become intoxicated on a myth: China was still hell-bent on controlling the minds of its people by whatever means possible.

Some are posting that they expect the ban to last only a short while, that it will be lifted and things will soon be back to normal. Speaking from experience, I have no choice but to see this as hopeless naivete. I thought the same about the blogspot ban, now in its 15th month. If the censors are so convinced that these sites are worth their blocking, what on earth is going to suddeny enlighten them and convince them they were wrong? Nothing, I suspect (although I’d love to be proven wrong).

A lot of bloggers are shrouding their sites in black, a sort of cyber-armband indicating solidarity and outrage. Fair enough; I think we should be protesting, and this is as good a way as any. But again, based on experience, I suggest you not keep your hopes up too high, and get used to the fact that black may be a key color of your site design for a long time to come, if not forever.

Isn’t it terrible?

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China lashes out against US “hypocrisy” on human rights

China Daily today attacks the US for its alleged hypocrisy in harping on China’s human rights violations, and points out some of America’s own gross violations to prove its point.

While pointing the finger at other countries over alleged human rights violations, the self-appointed monitors in Washington are practising exactly what they censure in others.

And what exactly are the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the US? I hope you’re holding onto something:

Showing no respect of the human rights of Chinese citizens, the United States began demanding fingerprints and photos from Chinese applicants for visas to the United States on Monday.

The move infringes the human dignity and right to privacy of Chinese citizens.

So now we all know. What right does the US have of pointing fingers at China with documented examples of religious persecution, murders in prison, the arrest of reporters — how dare we come forward with such claims when at the exact same time we are inflicting such mental torture on the Chinese….by asking that they (and many others coming into America) be fingerprinted and photographed?

Don’t get me wrong. I think King-of-the-world Bush and his cronies are barking up the wrong tree by demanding the fingerprinting and photographing of arriving visitors. But to compare it to charges of blatant repression, arbitrary/illegal arrests and murder — give me a fucking break.

The same article ends with an, ahem, outspoken conclusion about us wicked Americans:

They can kill anyone they think is a potential threat to their precious lives. That is their idea of human rights.

One can almost visualize us evil Americans stalking the world, killing anyone at will on the slightest pretext, totally unaccountable to anyone. For the government that has honed political repression into a fine art to accuse Americans of killing anyone who threatens our “precious lives” — well, it’s a bit extreme, don’t you think? I mean, we weren’t the ones who massacred our own civilians some 15 years back for staging anti-government demonstrations. Few essayists in the US are locked up for the best years of their lives for posting an essay on the Internet.

There’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around in just about every government. But this sort of slam is beyond comprehension and beyond belief. When our leaders fuck up, there are hearings and investigations and banner headlines — not necessarily justice, especially under the current administration, but at least we can do something without fear of reprisal. If the fingerprinting is the best example China could come up with of America’s murderous ways, I think they’re on pretty shaky ground.

On a more personal note: I’ve been away a long time. There’s been a lot of recent news on stories that normally I would be shouting out about, like the obscene blog ban, the arrest and persecution of more reporters in Guandong, and the tightening of restrictions on the Internet, to name a few. With my new move home and the job search and an ever-nagging mid-life crisis, it’s been impossible for me to post the past several days. But I’m back in the mood now and I plan to post at least once a day, starting today. Thanks for your patience.

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