Happy New Year from America

I’m going to come out of my cave for a few minutes to wish everyone a delightful New Year and share a few brief observations I’ve made during my 10 days back home.

First, I am more convinced than ever that this is a good time for me to be living in China. I see convincing evidence all around that America is in a tough situation that is going to get much tougher over the next year. I see it on my own block here in Phoenix, where no fewer than four homes are on the market, three of them for nearly a year, with the price getting lower and lower but still no buyers. Make no mistake: the housing crisis is serious and it is not going away. Its ripple effects will almost certainly continue to disrupt life as we know it here and to create a lot of misery for a lot of years to come. We just saw how it devastated Citibank and Merrill Lynch, and it hasn’t even started. Our entire banking system is under siege, and when banks are afraid to lend there is always one result: stagnation and shrinkage, to quote George Costanza. My own house would have sold for nearly half a million dollars 18 months ago, and now I would be lucky to get $300,000 for it. Luckily, I bought it for $71,900. But if I had just bought it last year and had a family to support and had built my dreams on the snake oil of an endlessly robust ad expanding housing market I’d be in serious trouble. If I, like millions of Americans, had signed a mortgage unaware that my payments would suddenly double, I’d be more than upset, I would be hysterical. These are flesh and blood Americans, people who had been sold a bill of goods and trusted in our system – we usually presume our lending institutions are not trying to totally fuck us over. I remember in the 1980s the heralding of a new age under Ronald Reagan, an age of deregulation when competition would drive prices lower and give us all better choices; there would be bliss aplenty as Reagan fulfilled his mantra to “get the government off the backs of the people.” So now, with regulation watered down and sometimes gone altogether, we are paying the dreaded price. In the US you have to pay many times what I pay in Asia for broadband thanks to the sacred cow of deregulation, which got the government off the backs of big business, which as usual then plundered the people to the hilt. Regulation is necessary. Over-regulation can be a bad thing, but demonizing it as socialism and a threat to the public and a roadblock to national prosperity – well, let’s just say we were conned. And no one has been more anti-regulation than our current president, whose vision is one of big business held unaccountable, where codewords like “the ownership society” means if you get fucked by the robber barons then you’re on your own, sucker. To hell with the lot of them.

Moving right along, I am surprised by what I am seeing and hearing in regard to the upcoming election. I now believe Hillary Clinton will win because so many smart people I talk to feel she has the experience and “toughness” to lead America through difficult times. I disagree with the choice my friends and relatives have made, but I have to acknowledge the fact that many Americans feel this way. They are concerned of what they see as Obama’s lack of experience and John Edwards’ dishonesty. I may disagree with these concerns, I may think they are misguided, but I know a trend when I see one and when I keep hearing the same complaints from people I know across various strata of American society…. All I can say is that if Hillary does win, I hope the hysterical American left, which can be as annoying and as brainless as its counterpart on the right, at least gives her a fair hearing and doesn’t mindlessly seek to crucify her. She’s not my favorite, but she is no Giuliani. I would love to bring in someone new who could divorce American government from big business. I still hope it happens. But for all her flaws and ties to corporate America, I believe Clinton is a capable leader, a hard worker and a compassionate person. And yes, I know all her warts as well and she leaves me cold and unhappy. But I never want to see America do to her what it did to Hubert Humphrey in 1968, demonizing him and humiliating him and bringing strength to the Republicans. Okay, we don’t love Hillary Clinton. Can we be mature and at least respect her if she’s who the people choose? Can we try to see her with a bit of balance and perspective? This evil woman did, after all, stick her neck out to fight for universal health care, and I believe on many topics such as gays in the military and civil rights and government regulation she really isn’t totally evil, as much as some in the more extreme lefty sites would have us believe. (And note, my own blogroll is clogged with many of these lefty sites; I tend to lean to the left, but I have seen the destruction of which zealots of any political ideology can be capable.)

David Brooks, my least favorite NYT columnist, wrote his very best column ever yesterday about the vile Mitt Romney, an empty shell, a man with neither convictions nor qualities. You can read the entire column in Word format here.

It is now a year since I recommended buying gold, a suggestion that was influenced by what I saw as a tidal wave of economic repercussions precipitated by our housing crisis. I took a lot of heat, a lot of visitors came here to laugh, and today it is up 33 percent from the day I recommended it. We are heading into a recession, people are going to be defaulting on their credit cards as they cope with mortgages they can’t afford, the banks will make it harder to borrow and we will be caught in a vicious circle of stagnation and suffocation. We are there now and it will get much worse. I met my broker last week and shifted all my remaining assets, not very much, into foreign currencies, emerging markets and gold/precious metals, We are experiencing inflation here (another depressing observation) which is going to worsen. Oil, commodities, precious metals will all do well. The stock market will probably do alright as well, but not nearly was well as more tangible commodities. The market cannot crash a la 1929. The government can deal with a recession, and indeed it may have positive long-term results, like ultimately leaving America more competitive with the rest of the world. It (the US government) cannot, however, deal with all of the current economic woes and a collapsed stock market; that would be depression, misery for all, and the powers that be won’t let it happen. (Disclaimer: I am a fool, an amateur, an idiot, a liar, a dilettante and a fraud. I know nothing of what I speak and you would have to be crazy to listen to even a single word I say.)

Raj is correct in his post below: McCain is about to make a significant comeback, which he deserves. I detest him; I used to be a fan and still respect him on some levels, but he went way too far pandering to the far right and in banging the drum at deafening volume for the Iraq War. Still, he’s the best of the lot, for whatever that’s worth.

Speaking of Iraq, it’s good to see how people here are reacting to our lovely little war. No one seems to feel it was a good idea. None seem to believe we are winning. None seem to feel we should be there for years to come. The so-called surge failed; casualties are down thanks to a lot of troops on the ground, but none of the primary objectives has been achieved in terms of reconciliation and self-government. I am surprised and happy to see that the Instapundit-type cheerleading has had little effect on mainstream America. The war was bad in every way, a disaster in ever way, a defeat and a quagmire in every way, and America knows it. A terrible tragedy that it had to happen, and the albatross around the GOP’s neck that will asphyxiate the party. Still no electricity or water for most Iraqis, countless dead, ongoing terror and vast uncertainty, and all we can say is violence is almost down to pre-invasion levels, even if every other indicator says the country is in shambles that will cost billion or trillions to repair. And don’t get sucked into the BS about Iraqi refugees pouring back into the country from Syria and other rosy stories the right is seizing on. In my flight here I read a report on this from the arch-liberal, Daily Kos-inspired magazine The Economist, which pointed out that so far 23,000 out of two million Iraqi refugees have returned from Syria. And the reason? It had zero to do with a better situation in Iraq according to the article. No, Syria was offering the refugees no work and no opportunity; they were hungry, browbeaten, hopeless, and they went back home as a matter of necessity, not choice. It i heartbreaking to see stories like this spun by the right as proof that the Iraq War is over and that we have won. It is a fantasy.

I am sickened by what I am seeing in Phoenix in regard to immigration. Somehow Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin managed to hoodwink Americans into believing this was the defining issue of our times, and linked it to terrorism and subtly fanned people’s racist tendencies to move the masses to action. I don’t have the space or the stamina to go into this now, but let me just say that Phoenix is the scene of a major political scandal as our stormin’ sheriff Joe Arpaio sends out his goons to harass dark-skinned people and ask the for their papers, referring to them as “wetbacks” and treating them like animals. Yell Godwins’ as loud as you wish, but what happened here in recent weeks is so Hitlerian it defies belief; it could not happen in our America. All I ask is that you read this article, then come back and defend our war on immigrants. (Then read this to see how Joe Arpaio persecuted the authors of these articles, right out of the Gestapo handbook.) I loathe George Bush, but his approach to immigration was correct: we need to offer them a worker’s program and amnesty. We cannot stake out honest, productive citizens who have been working in America for 20 years and treat them like terrorists. Thank God Arizona has a very smart governor who understands how to navigate the mine-laden waters of this hyper-emotional issue, and who understands she must tread cautiously in an unusual political climate in which Arpaio is put on a pedestal by the far right, who love his toughness and virility. I don’t envy Governor Napolitano her job, but I do envy her ability to maintain sanity when dealing with psychopaths and criminals like Arpaio. (Apologies to most of you, who I realize have no interest in Arizona politics, but it is home, at least this week.)

China. It seems far away, but I’ll be back in a few days. I miss it, and am happier than ever to be living there and not here. (My broker gave me quite a talk about how lucky I was to be getting paid in RMB.) So much about China depresses me and infuriates me, and I know so many stories of brutality and hardship. It’s also a place with a lot of hope. For right now, at this point in my life and at this point in world history, I’m glad to be living in Beijing.

Last topic is a more personl one. It’s about my beloved cat Daisy, who I’ve have had for 16 years now. Rick and I went to the humane society back in 1991 and chose her and another kitten, Nick (we named them after the two main figures of The Great Gatsby). Just two weeks ago Rick called me with the news that Daisy, our funny-looking but incredibly loving cat, had gone blind. This was devastating news to me. Nick and Daisy are the only children I’m ever going to have, and there are few people I love more (and cats are definitely people). Rick had noticed she was walking into furniture, into walls, and that her usual high level of energy had dissipated sharply; instead of jumping up onto the bed she was first feeling with her paws, then cautiously pulling herself up. She is totally blind, an affliction caused by irreversible cataracts. So I spent a lot of time this week caring for her, watching her and thinking how it’s one more reminder of our own mortality. During the same week I watched two of my relatives and realized just how fragile life is, how we are all ants, waiting at any instant to be stepped on. Anyway, it’s been a philosophical week, very emotional and touching, and I’ve never felt such love for my funny little cat before. Two weeks after we adopted her back in 1991, Daisy became violently sick. She became listless and immobile, and a grey goo was oozing from her eyes. I took her into the vet, who told me she had feline leukemia and recommended we put her to sleep. She could only live for at most another two years, the doctor said, and there was no hope. But I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t put such a beautiful kitten to sleep. A few weeks later she got her strength back, her eyes cleared up, and here we are sixteen years later, and she’s had a very long and happy life. It’s still such a heartache, to watch someone or something you love grow old and face sickness and death. And it also makes you love them more than ever, and to cherish absolutely every instant you can be together,

Daisy, just one year ago:
daisy.jpg

I’ll be traveling tomorrow and will be back on line in a day or two. Thanks to all of you for sticking with this site through all its ups and downs. I’m in the home stretch, and in just a few months I should be able to turn this into a real blog again, with daily updates, as in the old days. A very happy New Year to all of you, even to those on both sides of the political divide (US and Chinese) who see me as a cross between the Antichrist and Pol Pot. I promise, I’m not quite that terrible. Happy New Year.

The Discussion: 39 Comments

Yeah yeah, falling US and rising China. I’m glad to have my health. Clean food, clean air, clean water.

Oh yeah, no blocked websites. And lots of smart people I know, including many women, detest the Hilla monster and if she is the Dem candidate opposing someone like Romney, McCain or Paul, there will be a surprising number of Dems not voting for Hillary even if they don’t vote for a Republican or an independent Bloomberg.

Hey, get some great home videos of the carnage when China’s faceless masses decide to use the Olympics to make their stand against the CCP and foreign MNC hegemons.

January 2, 2008 @ 1:26 pm | Comment

Happy new year to you too, Richard. Have a safe trip back, and I look forward to reading you through 2008.

January 2, 2008 @ 1:41 pm | Comment

Thanks Boo.

Nanhe, it i exactly that kind of talk – the Hilla monster – that I worry about. I am no Hillary fan, but I don’t want to see leftists savage her and open the door for the right.

You are true to form, Nanhe. I never said anything in my post
about China rising, just that it’s a good time for me to live there and be paid in RMB. China sucks on multiple levels, and they’ve done a masterful job hoodwinking the world into believing in their vast middle class. But it’s a good place right now for me to live and work. America has done some hoodwinking as well and there are better places for me to be living during the Bush dynasty.

January 2, 2008 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

America has done some hoodwinking as well and there are better places for me to be living during the Bush dynasty.
Posted by: richard at January 2, 2008 01:52 PM

Ahem… Neil Bush and Silverado Savings and Loan. Cleaned up on the American taxpayer’s nickel. And the calls have already started for US taxpayer cleanup of the mortgage derivatives mess without any regulation put in to place to limit Big Financial using other asset backed SIVs and CDOs from doing the same damn thing again once they’ve been bailed out.

January 2, 2008 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

Happy New Year, Richard, and I’ll see you in a few hours!

And thank you for the wonderful photo of your kitty.

January 2, 2008 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

Depressing read. Doom and Gloom right out of college ๐Ÿ™

Anyway, happy new years! Small world too, I’m in Ahwatukee right now, staying with family; I’m not far from you physically, hey.

Phoenix is a great place, but I’m only vacationing here.

January 2, 2008 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

richard, I do disagree that the surge has been a failure. It has/is doing what it was supposed to do – buy the Iraqis breathing space. If they want to keep squabbling as if they have all the time in the world, so be it.

January 2, 2008 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

Richard… sorry to hear about your cat, and thanks for sharing the photo.

Your words are very prescient regarding the 2008 election. I am probably slightly more to the right than you are, although I detest Romney and Huckabee for that matter (after reading Huckabee in Foreign Policy, I realized he has no idea what he’s talking about).

You’re also correct that the lunatic fringe on both sides are equal. I would go further to say they are harming civilized political discourse in the United States. Michael Moore, with his flawed “documentaries” is no better than Bill O’Reilly — they are just at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Which is why I’m a fan of centrist candidates, and why I’m also pleased to see a resurgent John McCain. I read his biography and I’m extremely impressed with him. I like him because the GOP hardliners don’t — we’ve seen what happens when they get their way. He’s a centrist candidate who’s had a struggle to appeal to the right-wing base. In a November election, he’d have as good a shot as any GOP candidate. Unlike most politicians, I actually believe what he says.

Have a safe flight back, and happy new year.

January 2, 2008 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

McCain is a rightist struggling to appeal to the center. All his votes are right-wing; he consistently obtains high scores from all right-wing groups. Hilary is a center-rightist struggling to move over to the left a few steps so she can claim the “center.” Disclaimer: none of the candidates appeals to me. I want to hear how the economy is going to be switched off fossil fuel, universal health care, end to Iraq war, etc. Clinton isn’t going to get us out of Iraq or switch off fossil fuel. Thus it really doesn’t matter who we elect; we won’t have a world in 50 years unless we do something now, and I don’t see that happening with any of the candidates.

As for my country, I am in total despair. None of this had to happen.

Michael

January 2, 2008 @ 7:43 pm | Comment

Cam, thanks for commenting. I totally disagree about O’Reilly being equal to Michael Moore, though I’ m no big fan of Moore. I watched O’Reilly this week and see him more than ever as a very cynical agent of the Republican Party. Moore is an entertainer and a filmmaker and I don’t believe he is a conscious and cynical deceiver of his viewers in the O’Reilly mode. But we can just agree to disagree on that. Same with the surge, Raj. It’s goal was reconciliation. The instant it ends, the instant we decrease troop levels we are back to the slaughterhouse. And the terror continues, more subdued and less frequent than before, but that was inevitable as long as troop levels were raised. It’s a bandaid on a gaping woud to the country’s internal organs.

Michael, agree on McCain – anyone looking at his voting record would agree as well, despite his moderate stance on some issues like immigration and torture. (Who ever thought we’d have a debate in America about torture. Sign of the times.) As rightists go, he’s the most aceptable of the lot, which doesn’t say much at all. I disagree about Hillary being on the center-right; I would say center, maybe center-left, and she is much beloved by her liberal constituency in NY and by moderate liberals, like my own parents, everywhere in the US. I don’t like her much, but I do respect her and I reluctantly believe she will most likely win the nomination.

January 2, 2008 @ 10:25 pm | Comment

There’s no comparison between the far right and the far left – the far right has seats at the power table and controls the Republican Party. The far left? Uh, not so much.

January 3, 2008 @ 2:34 am | Comment

Happy 2008!

January 3, 2008 @ 4:47 am | Comment

Jeffrey, my question to you would be, why are you reading Richard’s posts if they make you so upset?

There gets to be a point with some people who comment on blogs where I just want to ask, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you think about starting your own blog? Or commenting in a place where you have a conversation, rather than spewing vitriol?

Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

[Jeffrey’s comments have been deleted for rank obscenity]

January 3, 2008 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

Richard,

Don’t be so sure that China is an oasis of safety and prosperity. When the US economy goes down, it will take the rest of the world with it. When we buy less of products from China, there will be massive layoffs in China. Hungry people will start riots and revolution. Long period of stability will yield to sharp instability. Not to mention environmental disasters waiting to happen. What if there is a major earthquake hitting the Three Gorge Dam. If it breaks, you may be talking about a third of China under water. Scary.

Happy New Year!

January 3, 2008 @ 8:42 am | Comment

If you think Phoenix is bad, here is a video about Temecula, California, which is about 1 hour to 1 and half hour from San Diego.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-82iJIzZKI

Of course, this is my favor from Florida

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10WoQZKZkNs&feature=related

Gold investment looks better and better because I think no tangible assets are all going to tank in 2008.

Jeffrey, Iowa maybe different. However, I can tell you Southern Californians don’t even clean their homes. They have cheap migrants come and do the dirty works. My cousin look kind of like a Mexican (half German/half Chinese), when he first moved into his new house in LA and was mawing the lawn, his neighbor ask him how much does he cost…..remember the movie “Babel,” did other Americans find it odd that Brat Pit and Kate Blachet’s characters left their kids with a Mexican nanny while they went on for a trip in Africa. No, it is not odd, it is a South California thing. I live in San Diego, and trust me a lot of people deserved to lose their shirts over this freaking stupid real estate market.

January 3, 2008 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

l. I disagree about Hillary being on the center-right; I would say center, maybe center-left, and she is much beloved by her liberal constituency in NY and by moderate liberals, like my own parents, everywhere in the US. I don’t like her much, but I do respect her and I reluctantly believe she will most likely win the nomination.

Yes, I tend to agree. I can’t Obama beating HRC. And then Obama for Veep? That would be the most unusual ticket in US history.

Thanks for the personal post, man. I hope things work out well for you over there.

Michael

January 3, 2008 @ 10:14 pm | Comment

@Jeffery:

I enjoyed your post, though it was a little odd. How is the Peking Duck subjecting 300 million Americans to Richard’s personal psychodrama? I didn’t realise he was that widely read.

@Richard:

Sorry to hear about Daisy. I think people without pets don’t understand how much a part of the family they really are.

All the best for the New Year!

January 3, 2008 @ 10:25 pm | Comment

Jeffrey, charmed by your comment. I drag no one into any psychodrama – you make an appointment on your own free will to come here and read what i say for whatever reasons. Then you have the amusing audacity to complain about it as if I forced you to read it. By the way, I love America and hate Bush, as most clear-thinking, freedom-loving Americans must. My one request, Jefferey: Watch your language. Thanks.

Patrick: Don’t be so sure that China is an oasis of safety and prosperity.

I don’t think it is and I hope I never said anything indicating as much. It is a shockingly fucked up place with problems too severe to even think about. It’s a good place for me to be right now based on my own circumstances, and much better for my soul at the moment than the US. But I won’t stop pointing out the sins of the governments and the sufferings of its people – both in America and in China.

January 3, 2008 @ 11:46 pm | Comment

Talking about the housing crisis, I am somewhat cynical about the financial institutions in the US. Greenspan was praised as a god a few years back. Now some people realized he was not as great as they thought; and he is probably the one whose policies caused the crisis. Then you have do-nothing congress and don’t-care administration and the absolutely greedy Wall Street people. Now the country turns to China and middle easterners for help, unbelievable.

January 4, 2008 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Jeffrey, let me be clear about this: I am not going to go into a diatribe about Bush’s evils, about torture, about Blackwater, about corruption, Jack Abramoff, about the Heritage Foundation kids running Iraq, about Swift Boat Veterans and Karl Rove, about gouging the poor and lavishing the tax cuts on the rich. All I want to say is I have watched Bush gut my country wide open, hurl it into recession, plunge it into a needless war, kill thousands of our soldiers and leave thousands of others with mental illnesses and lost limbs and turn it from great to mediocre. You should just hear what the world has to say about us, not just in Asia but everywhere else. I hate Bush and I hate the condition of America today, based on what I see with my own eyes. Did you read the new Times article I linked to in my post. That’s going on in my city, where I own a house. I love America. I hate bush and his cronies and what they have done.

I banned you before Jeffery, not for disagreeing but for calling me names. Raj disagrees with me, others in this thread disagree with me, but they do so politely. I am deleting that last comment of your with the insult and giving you a chance and a choice to comment here without insulting your host. Thanks a lot.

Update: Hmmm, just saw your anti-gay comment from earlier. Bye-bye.

January 4, 2008 @ 2:55 am | Comment

Say, Arty, where can I get someone to clean my house?

Sheesh. I live in Venice, in LA. No maids in my kitchen, dammitall…

January 4, 2008 @ 3:09 am | Comment

Despite the mortgage crisis and other economic dilemmas, countless Chinese still line up for immigrant visas and pay fortunes to smuggle themselves into America. It is not hard to guess which citizenship anyone would select if they had the choice. Unfortunately, many don’t have such choices, and are born into a country whose media feeds them lies and tries to cover their eyes from reality. If they speak out, they can be arrested and subjected to torture. This is quite unfortunate.
While China is in some respects a nice place for an expat to live, it is only nice when one is detached from the realities faced by the millions of Chinese citizens who continue to line up in front of the many embassies, or to rot away in jail.

January 4, 2008 @ 3:12 am | Comment

Say, Arty, where can I get someone to clean my house?

Sheesh. I live in Venice, in LA. No maids in my kitchen, dammitall…

Well, you didn’t see posts that cleaning company pull out for maid services? 50% of my co-workers have maid service once a week and have their yards done by others at very low prices. One of them is even thinking about hiring a nanny. Yet they live from pay check to pay check because their mortgage literally eats over 50% their income. Oh their incomes are top 10% in San Diego county easily over 100,000.

January 4, 2008 @ 5:29 am | Comment

Wow, sorry to say this Jeffrey, but you’re a real dick.

January 4, 2008 @ 5:40 am | Comment

@Arty

Sounds like your coworkers need to re-adjust their priorities. Those are the kinds of people that bring this country down.

January 4, 2008 @ 6:13 am | Comment

gee… Antichrist and Pol Pot? Not just a wee bit harsh, hmm?

and to jeffrey: um, since when didn’t ‘hosts’ have the right to choose what is up on their blog?

January 4, 2008 @ 7:40 am | Comment

Arty, I was kind of kidding. I’ve never been able to afford to have somebody clean up after me (which believe me, I could use – “indifferent” to housework is about the most positive spin I could put on my abilities in this area). But it’s true that there is an awful lot of inexpensive, undocumented labor to be found in Southern California.

Of course, this is even more extreme in China.

January 4, 2008 @ 9:39 am | Comment

“By the way, I love America and hate Bush, as most clear-thinking, freedom-loving Americans must.”

Let me guess—you’re still a Democrat?

Arty; your colleagues have maid service and can’t pay their mortgages? The shock, the horror, the brutal opression! Next year, the new buyers at 60 cents on the dollar will have a manageable mortgage and two maids. Capitalist toadies!!

Hey, America is still a great place (been to Paris lately?) AND it’s a great time to be paid in rmb: Can’t we just get along?

Wouldn’t a McCain/Lieberman ticket shake up the party system a bit? Long overdue, IMO, though I’m not sure that’s the pair I’d choose….but if Ron Paul threw over his amazingly large pool of support–lookout old parties!

January 4, 2008 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Sorry, I forgot. Happy new year to Richard and all, and sorry about the cat. When my kids and I lost a 17 year old cat-buddy it was pretty tough.

January 4, 2008 @ 10:10 am | Comment

kevin, there is nothing more tragic than the plight of China’s poor and disenfranchized, and I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t comment on that. China’s problems are too great to even being to comprehend and the fate of the country in general let alone its rise to superpower status remain serious questions. As I have said repeatedly, in order for an expat to live there and have a ball, he must by necessity live in a “separate universe,” as nearly every one of us does. There’s more than enough misery to go around here. The issue is, I expect to see the corruption and the defilement of the constitution here. I never thought we’d see it in America at the level it’s at today (and I’m thinking mainly of my state of Arizona at the moment, but the same observation applies to federal duplicity about so many major issues such as torture, wiretapping, war profiteering, etc.

January 4, 2008 @ 10:12 am | Comment

Arty; your colleagues have maid service and can’t pay their mortgages? The shock, the horror, the brutal opression! Next year, the new buyers at 60 cents on the dollar will have a manageable mortgage and two maids. Capitalist toadies!!

No, they still can pay. It just means that they have no saving, and majority of their income goes right into mortgage.

I am a housing bear but next year decline will probably only be 15% max because housing really don’t crash over weeks. It is usually a long period of deflation. Most housing bear believe the deflation will last until about 2010 at the earliest.

January 4, 2008 @ 10:36 am | Comment

Well, I would still say that the corruption, defilement of the constitution, and abuse of human rights in the US could never measure up to that in China, although I see what you’re driving at, in a way. Just kind of disagree, I’d say.
After living in China for nearly five years and being concerned on a regular basis with human rights-related issues, I regret to say that my own return to the United States brought me nothing but a sigh of relief and happiness despite any economic or political issues prevailing at the moment. In the end, looking at it from a macro-perspective, this seems to be a much more redeeming place to live… for me at least… I am, however, certainly not in the business of telling people where to live. No place is perfect, some are just more imperfect than others.

January 4, 2008 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

Kevin, I felt exactly the way you did when I left China in 2003, but feel somewhat differently now. China is still a lawless impossibly corrupt place but I see pockets of hope – at least from where I stand in the big city. America can not be compared to China in terms of corruption and lawlessness. What I saw going n in my own state of Arizona, however, blew me away and made me think, how can I keep insisting America has the high road, that we are entitled to be critical? My county sheriff arrested the news reporters who reported on his corruption and then tried to get the records of every person who tried to log onto that newspaper’s web site! That is what China is supposed to do, not us.

I know, it’s an isolated incident and China is infinitely worse, with institutionalized graft and crime everywhere. But my view of what’s going on in my backyard really troubled me.

Jeffrey, very cool of you putting up those comments on Chinese mens’ penises and trying to make anti-gay jokes. I had offered you a second chance but that’s withdrawn.

January 4, 2008 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

Go Obama!

January 4, 2008 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Hopefully the negative aspects of contemporary American politics will soon be eliminated, as will hopefully (eventually) the negative aspects of Chinese politics. I just see greater promise outside of China, despite any setbacks in recent years.

January 4, 2008 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

About twenty years ago, I went to Beijing from Guangzhou by train. It took 36 hours. The train was overloaded; many people stood all the way to Beijing. There were a few American tourists around. It was a tiring journey; but it was also fun.

Twenty years later, I went to Hangzhou from Shanghai by train, travelling at 175 km per hour. Everyone had a seat and the ride was very comfortable. This kind of train transport covers many major cities. I learned that the speed may be bumped up again soon. It is hardly among the fastest in the world, and China probably built the train with technology from outside, still, I am impressed.

China is boken in many way; but it is getting better, and that’s the reason for optimism about the future.

January 4, 2008 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

Kevin, you are too realistic! Can’t we talk about the shreds of the constitution and the destruction of the republic? Meanwhile, Iowa looks like Obama-rama, mama. Soon we’ll all be skipping gaily through the meadows, corruption and discomfort will vanish from American soil, and the international cuddle-fest will resume, just like it was before!

January 4, 2008 @ 2:56 pm | Comment

Sam, I can’t wait. Compared to this administration, those that came before truly do seem like a cuddlefest, and I mean it. There was always corruption and always will be, the next administration won’t be different; the present administration, however, brought it to a frightening new level, if only because it was just so brazen, with no shame whatever.

Yes, I want to repeat that point because it’s so brilliant: Just about every administration in recent memory (say, the past twenty years) seems like a relative cuddlefest, to use Sam’s word. Sure, they all sucked to some extent, but we never before had to feel moritification for being an American, and hopefully we never will again. This administration is unique in every way, an aberration, like an awful dream.

January 4, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Comment

You were smart to hang on to your house, Richard. The nest egg I brought back from Asia won’t be but a modest downpayment on a house in a community whose real estate prices are affordable compared to other cities in Virginia. I am really envious of my friends and colleagues whose housing values have doubled in the last five years. Even with the crash of the housing market, prices remain relatively high.

What’s amazing about the housing mess is that we could see this head-on train wreck coming a few years ago. It surprises me that until recently, home buyers were still getting ARMs with little or nothing down when the media was beginning to leak stories about the coming crash.

Virginia isn’t quite as inhospitable to illegal immigrants as Arizona, but there is a regional organized movement to pass legislation aimed at harassing them out of the area. There is a racist element within the movement, but some supporters are motivated by pragmatic concerns. The ESL population has literally grown tenfold in many districts, prompting schools to spend millions of dollars hiring ESL teachers, parent liaisons, and developing programs. Law enforcement and public and private assistance programs are also being stretched to meet new needs. Our local food bank reduced handouts from weekly to twice a month. Hispanics have grown from 2% to 10% of our city’s population and make up 25% of food bank recipients. This is not surprising given that undocumented workers often support several family members on the earnings of restaurant, hotel cleaning, and other low wage work.

A commenter on a related thread on another blog noted that Texas, which offers little public assistance, was less hostile to the presence of illegal immigrants than California.

January 5, 2008 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

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