November 30, 2006

Technology in the Third World

Computer per Child Campaign. This is a project designed to get low costing ($150) laptop computers to third world countries. The article I read was dealing with this project. It seems to have sparked a debate as to will this actually be an obtainable goal and will it actually lead to educating children in third world countries. Intel believes that this can happen are trying to make computers cheaper and ones that can teach the children. Microsoft on the other hand does not believe this will work because the technology is too advanced and that they do not have the capabilities in the rural areas to maximize their usage.

I thought about the culture topic we had in class and I think that Microsoft could be right. I mean these people don’t have Internet or have ever used a computer. It just is not apart of their culture. One major question would be is, do these people want a computer? Or would they rather have something more productive like farm equipment or something that will actually help out these third world countries. I don’t think these business types are thinking this project through. I don’t really see this as a good idea. It is almost forcing our way of learning and our culture onto another. We know this does not work. Bill Gates describes it as, “just taking what we do in the rich world and assuming that that is something good for the developing world, too.?

Globalization - A Necessity for Every Country and Business.

In another one of my classes we are currently on the topic of Globalization and the pro's and con's of the ever-changing and developing world. I found an article about British controlled companies caught in a conundrum on whether to remain privately owned or sell out to internationally run organizations or American organizations. Many believe that the open-market and free trade are revolutionizing the industrial world and they must not be left behind. While others believe that these Multi-National Organizations pinch every dime they can out of various companies while producing inferior goods because they have a lock on the international market. It is a debate that can be argued both ways but most see that nations with open economies prosper vastly greater than those that have a closed economy. It is a matter of how a country perceives itself in the realm of world and how they can generate a profit by going in a new direction or continuing with their old plan.

I am in favor of globalization because I believe it helps extinguish primordial conceptions of third world countries. Of course I subscribe to the definition of Globalization as the development of a country to make possible international influences or operations. I believe that a country has every advantage to be an open-market with the financial backing of America or NPO's or MNO's. Third-world countries have a chance to prosper for themselves if they are conditionally better at making a quality good that the world needs and wants. Technology is the future of this world and the recent globalization phenomenon is helping to develop very rural cities in the Far East and African nation's so they can enhance their way of life and develop into a contributing force on the international front.

November 29, 2006

Faith based economics is not what it sounds like

I am writing in response to an editorial by Lou Dobbs so this is obviously an opinion article and warrants scrutiny. The reason I chose to write about it, however, is it introduced a new concept to me called faith based economics. This article is a commentary about American free-trade policies and the resulting effects on our economy and our dollar. The US has delt with trade deficits for 30 consecutive years so deficits are something America is relatively accustomed to but each of the last four years trade deficits have hit record highs and there have been record highs in two of the past three months. Studies from the Federal reserve have acknowledged a need for policy adjustments and this is concidered by some to be the threshhold of a major financial crisis. This has lead to a growing concern over the strength of the dollar especially as the value of the Euro against the dollar continues to rise hitting a 20 month high. The term faith based economics is what Dobbs calls open free trade agreements that place as few limitations on trade as possible. Nafta is an example of such trade agreements where the US trade deficit in North America jumped from 9.1 billion in 1993 to 128.2 billion in 2005. THis is all stemming from the concept of free trade with the faith that other contries will buy from us regardless of trade restrictions. DObbs blames this system on corporatists nad multinationalists with their outsourcing and globalization being strong contributers to the deficit. THe current policy structure on trade may be the closest real-world working model of Laizze Faire politics in action and Dobbs believes that it will spell doom for the AMerican middle class. He may have a point.

Starbucks Craze in China

A recent article on writes about the Starbuck craze in China. Even though the majority of Chinese commonly drink tea as their prefer choice of beverage, Starbuck has found a niche to market their coffees. Like elsewhere in the world, they are aiming there products at the young people who are open to change and who follows popular trends. Initially, people went to Starbucks as a hangout place, but soon became addicted to the coffee as time went on. Now Starbucks has around 200 stores in their China chain, and is still looking forward to expand their market because they believe that China is the next big thing. This is the current philosophy in China, “Coffee represents the change.?

It’s not surprising to see Starbucks merging into China’s market. There have been other predecessors like McDonalds, KFC and Wal-Mart who have already utilized the potential in China’s market. This globalization trend is possible in China because the Chinese have opened their doors to the foreign market and their investors. If change is what China want then these opportunities are good for them because it has provided more jobs to the people. In the other hand, this capitalistic approach has not made China anymore democratic. Shaeffer argues in chapter 8 that this change has only made the Communist Party stronger. This makes sense because China has never wanted to democratize. This flow of money going in and out is only fueling and helping China to remain as a power country.

November 28, 2006

Vietnam Experiencing Economic Growth

An article on BBC news international writes that Vietnam is now experiencing an economic growth. A country that everything once was owned by the state has opened its doors to a transition into privatization. Many people have dwelled on this opportunity to start their own businesses and interact with the international world. This has also lured many people from the countryside to come into the cities and participate in their share to make some money. Its acceptance as a member of the World Trade Organization has also fostered more opportunities for the country to be prosperous. The lookout for this is good in that many are expected to benefit from this change.

This reminds me of how Shaeffer talked about how democratization is spreading around the world. Even though Vietnam is not yet up to the level of a peaceful transition from a dictatorship to a democratic government, its once communists economy is gradually turning more capitalist. Similar to its China counterpart, gradually shifting to a capitalist economy would allow its economy to grow substantially. I think that Vietnam is heading this way because it has seen the downfall of many countries that did not have an open economy. Particularly as outlined by Shaeffer, Latin America and countries in Europe like Spain or even North Korea today. It is probably modeling after other Asian countries like China as I’ve mentioned above and Taiwan, South Korea and Japan because these countries have experienced tremendous growths in their economy.

Darwin's Nightmare

The documentary film Darwin’s Nightmare talks about Tanzania’s economic problems, especially how the introduction of the Nile Perch has affected the people there. No one knows for sure when or how the Nile Perch was put into Lake Victoria, but its introduction has had a profound impact not only on Tanzania’s economy, but its ecological system as well. The Nile Perch has taken over the lake and has killed off many native species to the point of extinction. Even with this negative impact, the Nile Perch is now the most profitable fish in Lake Victoria. It is exported to Europe, Japan & the United States; making huge profits for the companies running it, but having no benefits for the people of Tanzania. The Tanzanians can’t afford the fish; even if they fish it themselves they would rather sell it for money to buy rice. Another important issue that the movie brought out was the fact that this exporting of the fish only brings the problem back home. The planes that bring these fish out also bring in ammunitions that go to foster the wars in Congo and the nearby countries. Tanzania is caught in the middle with no firm ground to establish itself to compete with the world and have upward mobility.

This is definitely a huge problem not only concerning Tanzania but the world as well. It’s the riches countries in the world that are consuming these fish not the Tanzanians. Tanzania and countries like it are being exploited to fulfill the needs and lifestyles of the modern world. It’s ironic that these fish exporting companies are not run or owned by Tanzanians but outsiders who have really no interest for the country. While the fillets of the fish are exported, the Tanzanians are only left with the skeletal fish to eat. Many of these sites where the fish skeletals are processed are overrun by maggots and infused with ammonia causing many of the people working there serious health problems. As a majority middle class society in the US, we can’t really see how our actions and decision may impact or influence these third world countries that are providing the goods for us, but something as little as buying the fish can have an impact. It seems that according to Mrs. Vogel’s talks about caring and making a difference in the world, the US would stop consuming the Nile Perch if it knew where it came from and the problems behind it.

The Giant Middle Class

As soon as I began the readings for this week, I was reminded of a class I took last year. The class topic had to do with social class and inequality. I distinctly remember the first week of class when our professor asked everyone to write on a sheet of paper what social class they thought they were a member of. We then anonymously put our papers in a pile and our professor looked through them and tallied the number of people in each social class. It was very interesting because, even though it was completely anonymous, everyone except three people in our class of 40 identified with the middle class. A few people specified lower-middle or upper-middle, but only one person identified with the upper class and two people identified with working-class. Everyone else was simply “middle?.

In chapter 1 of “One Nation, After All?, Wolfe discusses this tendency to identify with the middle class in America. People are generally reluctant to admit to being members of the upper classes or lower classes in society. Although many people think of class standing to be purely decided by economic factors, Wolfe suggests that the middle class in America also has to do with morals and beliefs. He refers to the middle class as a “moral class? and says that they are “ordinary people trying to live by traditional rules of working hard, saving for the future, and being loyal to family and country (Wolfe 10)?. So maybe the reason so many people identify with the middle class is not because they are afraid to be different. Perhaps it is the morals of the middle class that appeal to people who fit into other classes economically.

November 25, 2006

Teaching the "REAL" Thanksgiving

So, we're all post turkey glow and happy to have had a few days off school . . . Do you remember Thanksgiving week when you were in elementary school? Hand trace turkeys and construction paper pilgrims hats. It is what would be considered romanticization of the first Thanksgiving.
I just read an article on; “Teaching Thanksgiving from a different perspective.? In this article it talks about the sensitivity that some people have about the holiday and how elementary teachers are starting to teach that the first Thanksgiving was more than full tummies. Teachers are now trying to teach children what really went on during these first few years of our country and not sparing children the dark side.
Do you remember when you found out that Thanksgiving was kind of a hoax and that Christopher Columbus was not the good-natured adventurer that we’ve celebrated all these years?
I never thought about it. I thought that they must have taught us in that happy vague way because children could comprehend it better. I never considered it different as much as maybe an alternative spin. I wonder why we were taught in that way.
I mean, we all know that the winner writes history, but if you’ll inevitably find out anyway, what’s the point of glossing this over to such an extent? Are we afraid to own up to our past? I think that it would be interesting to do a sociological study or psychological study about how people view the United States when they have learned about the past of our country in different ways. Will those that have learned the fuzzy rose-colored story have a higher level of nationalism than those that do not? I think that this is one of those overlaying study areas that we were talking about at the beginning of Pinker. How has the past of the country been, historically, portrayed to children and how do the views of our country differ for those groups of people? I guess I just want to know if there’s a reason for glossing over our atrocities rather than owning up and moving on.
If you’d like to read the article it can be retrieved at :

October 31, 2006

Commodifying the Human Genome

While reading the ‘genomics’ chapter of my genetics text book, I was shocked to find out how today’s world is trying to commodify everything. The beginning of this chapter opens up with the story Kari Stefansson, a Harvard geneticist, who returned to his homeland, Iceland, in 1997 in order to launch a company that identifies human genes that are linked to specific diseases, and then develop new pharmaceutical drugs to combat the genetic diseases. Decode is the company he launched, and in 1998, the government of Iceland gave Stefansson and his Decode company the right to access and use the country’s health records. It turns out that the Icelandic people have been genetically isolated from the rest of humanity for a very long time. In fact, the population of Iceland has been reduced many times by draught, famine, and volcanoes, therefore preserving the gene pool of the population. Hence, the Icelandic genes are very unique to the island’s people. In addition, Iceland is one of the few countries in the world that posses a perfect hospital records of their people (in terms of keeping the records, recording genetic disease from generation-to-generation). The generation to generation hospital records of families are instrumental in providing the key steps in finding out which genes code for which diseases. Stefansson’s company, therefore, uses the opportunity provided by the hospital records. The company negotiated a $200 million deal with Hoffmann-Laroche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, and one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, in which the Swiss company will have exclusive rights to any drugs/diagnostic tests resulting from the work of Decode.

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work exploitation

From time to time, the idea or the concept of capitalism has been brought up in class. Capitalism according to Karl Marx is an economic system based on classes. Classes and the means of production are owned by the bourgeoisie and the proletarian are the workers. The bourgeoisie supply the wealth and the product, thus they profit greatly from it. Workers are alienated/exploited from the product of their labor, they don't control their work, or how and when they would work and they are socially alienated from their fellow workers.

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International Law

Article found here:

The article is about the cosmopolitan principles, "which is the view that human well-being is not defined by geographical and cultural locations, that national or ethnic or gendered boundaries should not determine the limits of rights or responsibilities for the satisfaction of basic human needs, and that all human beings require equal moral respect and concern." Cosmopolitanism builds on the basic principles of equal dignity, equal respect, and the priority of vital need in its preoccupation with what is required for the autonomy and development of all human beings.

The other part of the article talks about "international law which really started up from the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights to the 1998 adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Many of these developments were framed against the background of formidable threats to humankind - above all, nazism, fascism and the Holocaust. The framers of these initiatives affirmed the importance of universal principles, human rights, and the rule of law when there were strong temptations to simply put up the shutters and defend the position of some nations and countries only. The response to the 11th of September could follow in the footsteps of these achievements and strengthen our multilateral institutions and international legal arrangements; or, it could take us further away from these fragile gains toward a world of further antagonisms and divisions - a distinctively uncivil society."

Basically this article argues the fact that since 9/11 there are no more individual states, but one international community. The articles talks about how international laws are used as a double standard using 9/11 as an example. Basically, international law says that any act of terorism allows that state to track down people responsible. Hence the declaration of war on terrorism. Although we as an international state have a right to fight, the article brings up the point about do we have a right to fight within another state where many innocent people have died? The same innocent people protected under international law.

This is important to globalization becuase the world is changing and evolving. Economics is not the only issue that is within globalization. War has become a huge part of globalization, but war today has many faces. The line between justice and terrorism has become a grey area. Is bombing another country an act of terrorism or justice? 9/11 in our eyes is terrorism, but what about the civilians in Baghdad that saw bombs rain down on there homes. From their perspective would that be terrorism as well? Who is to decide what is right and wrong during a time of war? Is a change in international law needed? I found this article very interesting and hard to really understand, but it really hits home on how and where the world is going globally on a more life or death topic like war and terrorism.

America Drops, Asia Shops

In the October 21-27 issue of The Economist, the cover story features the place of America's retail power in the global economy. This article explains how the retail support of America is not necessary for the global economy in light of increased retail activity in Asia and Europe, "So the big question is how much the rest of the world depends on exporting to America. And the answer is: less then is generally thought," (pg.11). In short, America is buying less and Asia and Europe are buying more. This tips the balance of the global economy because other nations are not dependent on exporting goods to the United States with the advant of additional markets. When other economies become less dependent on selling to the United States, they can demand more from buyers; anything from higher prices to fair trade and labour policies.

This is revelant to this course because it shows the impact that global commerce can have on labour and politics. if America is forced to be more competitive for goods, the official policies of commerce will be changed to appease these countries. Commerce, especially on a global scale, has an effect on government policies. This is also revelant to this course because it shows how nations come into power and how these struggles can lead to conflict. A threat from China to dominate the retail market will force America to compete. When these countries are competing for a small amount of resources, this can lead to a conflict.

Occupy, Resist, Produce, Profit

Many here have written about reclaimed factories as shining examples of the failure of capitalism, and the realization of a Marxist ideal. The reclamation of factories is no more pure socialism than the United States is a pure democracy. Rather, I would argue, it is a mix of capitalism and socialism, operating at different levels, and importantly, with a conscience. Take the example of Chilavert book publishing factory. The factory itself is a small one, run by less than a dozen people. It embodies many tenets of socialism, by operating through consensus, paying all workers the same salary, and running without a boss. But at the same time, the reason the factory can keep operating is because of its success in the free market.

Continue reading "Occupy, Resist, Produce, Profit" »

October 30, 2006

Coca Cola and McWorld

Barber's statement that free market does not neccesarily mean democracy is dead on. Especially in the case of the Coca Cola company. I would argue that this company expanded globaly to escape democracy.

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Gender and Debt Crisis

It's nice of Schaeffer to consider the effects of globalization on women, but it really comes off as a half assed attempt to pacify liberal readers. Especially after surfing activist sites such as the Associations for Women's Rights in Development.

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U.S./Mexico Border

On October 12th CNN posted an article about the U.S./Mexico fence that is going to be built in attempts to control immigration in the U.S. Mexico’s new President Felipe Calderon says that the relationship with the U.S. will become “a very difficult relationship?. Mexicans are very upset with the new fence especially after the old President was trying to come to an agreement with the U.S.
After our class discussions about Latin America, their economic problems and other political issues, I find this article very interesting. The U.S. is going to limit and hinder the relationship that it has with Mexico. It is surprising that the U.S. would want to hinder and ruin that relationship. Immigration is a problem, and there should be better ways to solve the immigration issues with out ruining the relationships between bordering countries. Ruining the relationship with your closest neighbor is never a good way to solve any issues.

World Hunger Remains a Problem

An article on Yahoo! News writes that there is literally no progress in the fight against world hunger. Even though a goal was set during the World Food Summit, held in Rome in 1996 to slash the problem in half by 2015, there are no results big enough to see. The problem is that there is not enough political will to carry out the objective to solve and help world hunger. Right now most of the problems lie in Africa because of their many ongoing wars and HIV-AIDS epidemic. To solve this problem, the results from their report says that if the agriculture sector grows then the food supplies will expand resulting in lowered food prices.

I agree that this is a huge problem. I don't think that we will be able to solve this in this lifetime. The problem is just so complicated. It's not surprising that Africa still remains on the list. With so many wars still being fought over between many countries, of course so many people are hungry. Many of the concepts that Shaeffer discussed in his book can be used to describe these problems. First of all, like many of the countries in the middle east who were at war with each other, the government neglected to spend money on the people and instead spent it on the military. In Africa it was the same thing. Due to this lack of governmental involvement, many of the Hungriest people in the world are from these war torn zone areas. There is no mission to solve hunger in these areas but to win wars instead. All the energies and money are not even invested into something as simple as agriculture. Even though some people see the future as optimistic, there is still a lot of ground to cover if we were to end world hunger all together.

Global Warming cliche

"Warming Seen as Causing Second Depression," quotes Tony Blair saying "This issue [global warming] is the definition of global interdependence." He pleas to other countries, primarily to the U.S. to join Britain in raising money to combat global warming. The article speaks of industrialized nations pledging money and regulations to reduce greenhouse emitions. It only speaks in passing of nonindustrialized countries' contributions to global warming, let alone the economical reprocutions of their contributions.

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Fast Food Worldwide

So apparently KFC is eliminating their oil that contains thrans fat from their cooking operations. They are looking to build a more healthy fast food chain and at some locations like Tiburon, Denmark have already banished this old cooking methos. It aims to make the food less fatening and so people will hopefully be more inclined to purchase there instead of at a McDonalds or Burger King. Apparently the food chains of Wendy's, Chilis, and Ruby Tuesday's are also on this bid for a more healthy way of cooking their products. However, McDonalds hasn't changed yet and has no plans to do so. Whatever the case might be, this might effect sales at McDonalds and other unhealthier fast food chains or restaurants. While the ban isn't supposed to take place for a couple months as they progressively establish it, people are talking about how McDonalds will experience significant losses in profits once the word gets out that other chains are healthier. Still, many of the FDA's policies will start to crack down on trans-oil users in the next couple years. This WILL affect McDonald chains as they will be sued if they don't change their ways. My question is, if you're going to change to a healthier oil, do the fast food chains really believe that there will be significant changes to the trans-fat oil users? Unless the FDA does something, McDonald's loyal brand user will probably still stick with their ways no matter what. I guess it's just a matter of opinion in taste and location/access to better or worse food.

WTO in Vietnam

Vietnam, which is currently controlled by the communist party, has just been given permission to join the WTO. The government sees this step as essential to getting off the list of the world’s poorest countries by 2001. Many people are moving out of the country into the cities to find better work. This influx of workers in urban areas has created a new pool of cheap labor for corporations to take advantage of. According to the article, Vietnam is the most recent country where corporations are flocking. The article stated that Vietnam has been reasonably successful at spreading the benefits of its recent economic growth. However, income differences between rich and poor continue to widen with increased development. The poorest are located in the rural areas where industry is almost non-existent. Many leading economists fear that this increasing economic inequality will lead to social tension. Joining the WTO will rapidly increase economic development and this will cause in a much greater leap in economic inequality. Protests have already begun.

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Goodyear will close down 2 North America plants

This article "Goodyear wokers strike to Stop Closings" talks about Goodyear is planning to down their two plants in North America. About 2400 people are going to lose their jobs. In recent years their employees had made concession to reduce their wages and benefits. The company profits 7% (337 millions) increase in the last year. It is the largest tire and rubber company in North American. They own more than 100 plants in 29 countries. The steel union was on a strike right on Oct 5 of 2006.
This is an example of globalization. It has huge impact both on the native country and the foreign countries. People in North American are losing jobs each year, as large corporation goes globalization. The pro is the products will be cheaper. The cons are it has a big impact on the city. The plants they are trying to close are the largest employer there. The economy of the city depends on it. It not only impacted the lives of the employees, but the whole city. The foreign countries will have a boost in the economy and it creates thousands of jobs of the people. People living conditions are better than before. The negative side is the human rights; the corporation is paying the workers at a very minimum wages and in not a very healthy working condition. Globalization is a good idea but it need some work. If all corporations close their plants then people in America can’t work and will not have money to buy their products. More rules and regulations should put in globalization and especially a large percentage of plants have to stay in United States. Corporation should not only think of the profits of themselves, but think of other people happiness too.

Hotel Bauen

Last Thursday's video on factory workers taking over factories in Buenos Aires, Argentina really intrigued me and the process that was being made. I found a webpage that told the stories of many of the now factory-worker operated companies. One in particular is Hotel Bauen. Hotel Bauen opened in the late 1970's under corporate ownership and prospered under the communist run regime. Most of its clients were business executives and political leaders with strong influences. In 1997 owner Marco Iurcovich sold his company to a Chilean company and the company quickly plummeted as the Argentine economy floundered. The company went bankrupt and the factory went out of business. 90 Argentineans went without work for up to 14 months and finally took back the company and reopened it under factory control where not everybody is paid the same wage but everybody has a say in policy making and decisions.

Capitalism is not the ideal economy for any and all countries and this is no more true than in Argentina. Under communist rule the government spread the wealth around everything managed for years if not prospered. After an infusion of capitalism policies and ideals the country crumbled as corruption ran rampant throughout the government stemming from the very top, President Menez. A vast majority of workers lost their jobs and many companies completely dumped any stock they had invested in Argentine businesses. I believe that what the factory workers are doing is great and that they need their jobs but I don't see how the government can authorized the workers taking over owned property and buildings and hand them to workers along with government kickbacks. I believe the mission of the factory workers is inspiring but I'm afraid that their tactics for keeping government intrusion and various efforts to remove employees from the factory could back fire on them. If things become too violent and people begin to get seriously injured or even murdered these factory workers and their coalitions might see drastic government intrusions and suffer sever setbacks to their cause.

Marx and his Argentinean Oasis.

After seeing “The Take? I’m reminded of Karl Marx. I know that a lot of us are taking sociology classes and Karl Marx is prevalent in many of these classes but his ideas were just screaming from the screen when we were watching the movie.

For those of you who missed the movie, it was about the collapse of the economy in Argentina after the economic reconfiguring from IMF and World Bank (I think). Argentina had always been a prosperous country but the government ruined the economy in less than 10 years and unemployment was up to 25%. Businesses stood vacant and people’s life savings left the country. Some desperate people decided to take over the factories in which they had worked and start working again. There were no bosses. Everyone voted on every decision that needed to be made and everyone was paid equally or close to equal.

So, looking at this movie all I could think about was the kind of Communism that Karl Marx had at heart. A criticism of Communism has always been that people will not work harder without any incentive to do so. He also said that the kind of change that he was looking at would have to be when workers hit rock bottom. Not working for 2 or 3 years is pretty rock bottom for some workers. Some of the workers in the video admitted that they worked hard and were focused because they had a vested interest in the company succeeding. I remember one man saying that he didn’t sneak behind a piece of machinery to smoke when it wasn’t his break because he needed to work. People were depending on him.

For me, it begs the age old sociological question; Is Capitalism the best system for all countries?

Lula and Brazil's economy.

This is a sort of addendum to my last blog post. There was a recent election in Brazil for President and Lula was re-elected. In my last post I wrote that he paid off his country’s debt to the IMF completely.

This article addresses the aftermath. The economy of Brazil is weak after the extensive outflow of cash to pay off international debt. Even though Brazil is experiencing a weak economy, Lula has instituted some strong social measures to help the country’s poor. Some are criticizing him for doing this during an election year but some are saying that Lula has always been a champion for the poor.

The article also mentioned that the economy is weak because of additional measures to support growth. The article notes that “[i]n order to create the basis for a sustainable development, Lula had to cut expenditures, reduce tax and the burden of interest and reduce bureaucracy. . .?

This article had fairly negative overtones (it talked about election scandals and Lula’s critics) but I find it encouraging. Lula seems to be a farsighted leader. He seems to be more concerned with Brazil’s future generations than about right now. Brazil has always been known for the great divide between the haves and have-nots. I think that right now Brazil’s economy is fragile but it’s always darkest before the dawn.

You can find this article at the following site:

October 29, 2006

All The Shah's Men

In the book "All The Shah's Men," by Stephen Kinzer, the 1953 coup to overthrow Iran's democratically elected government in favor of a tyrannical government that lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. A link on the main page for this class lead me to listen to an interview with the author.

Perhaps the most disconcerting element of this interview is the link between the 1953 coup and involvement in Iraq today. Most notably, links exist between oil supplies and overthrowing governments. In the 1953 coup, the origin of the conflict lies in the ample oil supplies available. At this time, the British owned and operated much of the oil fields in this region and received the profits from these fields. This separation between the owners of the fields (British) and the workers (Iranians) spurred much conflict.

Additionally, the United States supported a coup to overthrow an elected official because they supported the change of oil ownership. This coup harbored an Anti-American sentiment because the Shah that was instituted was a tyrannical government. Iranians felt much resentment towards Americans because the democratic government was overthrown and a faulty government was replaced.

These conflicts are mirrored in the current conflict in the Middle East. Much like this coup, America attemped to overthrow governments in Iraq and institute democracy. Again, oil is a determining factor in these actions. The coup in 1953 shattered once positive feelings about America to the Anti American sentiments that are prevalent today. Had the 1953 coup been handeled differently, much of the Anti American sentiment may have been avoided. More importantly, it is important to learn from histoy and understand the difficulty of overthrowing a regime and the possible ramifications of these regimes.

October 28, 2006

Outsourcing: A Hindu Perspective

The article is from "The Hindu Business Line Magazine." The link is

This article is really interesting because it gives a perspective on U.S. job outsourcing from the Indian perspective. The author talks about how outsourcing is not the cause of job loss in the U.S. The article sites various reasons to support this arguement. First the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report "Shift Towards Service" shows, the predicted 3.4 million service jobs to be outsourced from the U.S. till 2015 seems insignificant compared with the average turnover of four million jobs every month. Another reason is, ITAA (Information Technology Association of America) and Global Insight 2004, cites that only 2.8 percent of all IT software and service jobs in the US were lost to outsourcing between 2000 and 2003. The UNCTAD report predicts that call center activity will grow from 3 percent in 2001 to 5 percent in 2005 and the number of IT-related jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow by 43 percent by 2010. One thing I found interesting was the study by Jagdish Bhagwati titled "Defence of Globalization," which found that during the 1980s when the real wages of U.S. workers remained stagnant, prices of labor intensive goods actually rose in relation to prices in the global market. But in the 1970s prices of goods fell while real wages rose. Hence, cost of products cannot always be linked to wages.

This article relates to the Schaeffer readings we have been doing. The study by Bhagwati is somewhat supported by Schaeffer. In Chapter 7 of Schaeffer he talks about the collapsing commodity prices in the 80s. He basically reinforces the study of Bhagwati and gives a U.S. perspective on how and why cost f production cannot always be linked to wages. One main example given by Schaeffer is that of technolgical advances lead to the process of dematerialization.

I think this is a really good article because it gives a first hand view from another developing country on a huge issue within the U.S. I find it really interesting that Schaeffer's arguements are striking similar to that of the article. Some questions I thought about in regards to this article are what will eventually happen if technology continues to grow increasing dematerialization? Will a bell curve effect occur? Could to much technology cause a negative affect on globalization?

October 27, 2006

Oaxaca Uprising

Recently, major protests have flared up in Oaxaca, Mexico, some people labeling it an uprising. The situation broke out during a regular protest by local teachers which was met with excessive force by police, but there have been many other developments leading up to the uprising.

Oaxaca is one of the poorest areas in Mexico, with about half of the population living in abject poverty. A plan to help the people of this region was put in place by Vicente Fox and praised by the USA called Plan Puebla Panama. What the plan consisted of is taking the land from people living there in order to build a highway to ship sweatshop made goods more easily, and it would be surrounded by tourist destinations and sweatshops owned by multinational corporations. In addition, the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, is a supporter of these policies, and therefore extremely unpopular.

When the teachers staged their yearly strike for improved schools, it was met by violent repression from the police, and people of the community quickly came to their support, seeing it as another assault on their chances of succeeding. The uprising, which started in May, has grown greatly, and there is currently a large encampment in the main square of Oaxaca City. There are also encampments/takeovers of buildings around the city and in 200 other towns in the state, and leaders around Mexico are becoming increasingly worried of the protests becoming violent and spreading further throughout the nation.

Despite the fact that the teachers have voted to return to class, they have stated they will not stop fighting until the governor resigns. And because the movement has now spread to many other states in Mexico, most think that the situation will not end anytime soon.

October 24, 2006

The Shifting Face of Globalization is a corporate watchdog group that goes about it's mission in an unconventional way. Their goal is to "chronicle and resist corporate attacks on democracy, worker's and human rights, fair trade, business ethics and the environment." And they do it by going straight to consumers. They have no affiliation with any political party, and aren't connected with any PAC. They don't lobby Washington. They just gather information on different companies, guided primarily by the interest of their users, and post an analysis that anyone can edit. relies on the consciences of consumers to seek out information about the companies that make the products that they buy, then judge for themselves, and either support or punish companies with their spending power.

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October 21, 2006

High Hopes

Recently, while reading the news on the internet, I came across an article which raised a solution for struggling developing countries. The article stated that the exportation of illegal drugs may be the best way to help developing countries spring out of poverty. The following statement sums up the argument of the article:

"In order to improve the lives of poor workers and farmers, lessen environmental degradation, and combat terrorism, allowing subsistence farmers to cultivate and export cannabis, coca and poppy may be the facet of globalization that best matches the supply of the developing world with the demand of the developed world – the great equalizer that rapidly increases the wealth of poor and rich people in all nations."
*read the entire article at:

By legalizing illegal drugs on the international market and making them available for international trade, we can allow countries who do not have the natural resources necessary to make them rich, the chance to do so. So, can drugs level the playing field of the global economy? The answer to that would lay in the governmental structure of each country in question. It may help poor countries with few resources rise out of debt. Whether it would work or not is unclear, but i think we can all agree that it would be really funny to watch Tommy Chong and Bill O'Riley debate the topic on the O'Riley Factor.

Nike & Globalization

After going over the debt and globalization discussions in class, the part in which we talked about sweatshops sparked my interest. As I looked through the topics of sweat shops on the Internet I came across a site in which ask the most frequent questions regarding the Nike Corporation and their sweatshops that are placed all around the globe. One in particular struck my interest. “What happens if the world runs out of poverty?? This is a question that the Nike corporation was asked; the answer that they gave was, "Nike is doing everything it can to prolong the existence of this profitable resource. Firstly, any services it runs in any Sweatshop™ community are oriented towards keeping the community at the poverty level...It should be noted that if Nike educated the Sweatshop™ community well and actually encouraged its people to "pursue the American Dream?.?
How is it that Nike wants to encourage its people to pursue the “American Dream? when its workers are being kept at a poverty stricken level? On the other hand, if Nike were to remove its sweatshops from the regions in which they are located, the community would simply be worse off, seeing that the incoming money would be no longer there. These communities then are dependent on the Nike Corporation to help support their community even though it keeps them at the poverty level. to continue reading.

October 15, 2006

Coca-Cola, Globalization, and the U (updated)

You have probably all noticed the overwhelming presence of Coca-Cola on our campus and the debate surrounding it. I am a member of the student group, SUCRE (Students United for Corporate Responsibility and Ethics) and we are very centrally involved in this debate on campus. This issue relates directly to globalization for several reasons. First of all, Coca-cola is a “TNC? like Shaffer refers to them, or trans-national Corporation, and therefore, it is incredibly hard to hold them accountable for their actions. I’ll go over quickly what the allegations are so we can understand better why it is so difficult to prosecute them.

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October 12, 2006

Commanding Heights

As I mentioned in class, the documentary Commanding Heights is available to watch online at Click on "Storyline," and then go chapter by chapter. (If you choose the "Rich Media" version you get more choices and can choose to watch entire episodes at a time, though I couldn't get it to work properly this morning.)

A look at "The Rise and Fall of Mass Transit"

In the Feagin and Parker article "The Rise and Fall of Mass Transit," the authors argue that the current reliance of Americans on the private automobile is not due primarily to consumer choice or preference, but rather the systematic deconstruction of mass transit infrastructure by the auto-oil-rubber industrial complex. By forming alliance companies to buy up corrupt and mismanaged, though still popular, mass transit systems, neglecting to maintain them, and subsequently replacing them with less efficient buses, these industries were able to dictate trends in American transportation. What struck me as the most interesting part of the article is that this is not a new insight. It was publicly criticized in the media in the 1930s, and even brought a conviction of General Motors on charges of conspiring to destroy electric transportation to advance their business interests, but the punishment was trivial.

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October 4, 2006

Crime and Suburban Life

After reading the readings for this week, I turned to the internet to find a story that I could relate to the topic of sprawl and suburban life. Immediately I spotted the article, “City schools often safer than urban ones.? The article was written in light of the recent school shootings that have occurred. The article points out that the shooting in an Amish community in Pennsylvania and another in Wisconsin were both in rural communities. This is interesting because it is the opposite of what many people think of when they picture life in a rural community. In the beginning of Chapter 5 in Wolfe, Wolfe interviews people to see why they decided to move to the suburbs. A common response from people is to escape the crime of urban life. However recent stories in the news such as the school shootings seem to provide proof that this “ideal life? that people associate with suburban life may not be all that real.

This article also made me ponder reasons why suburban life might not be as safe as so many people assume it to be. It’s true that suburbs are far from inner-city crime and tend to segregate people into homogenous neighborhoods based on their race and class. This transition might lead one to think that fewer differences among people in one neighborhood would be linked to less conflict and therefore less crime. If this were the case, then where is all this crime coming from?

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September 28, 2006

God Loves the Wealthy?

Time magazine's September 18th issue was devoted to followers of television evangelists. Putnam would have a hay day with this topic, being that media can now change religion. Evangilist have gone from being the crazy cartoon like figures of Tammy Faye Baker, and the creepy guy that pushes people's heads as "healing", to a more superficial tag of "Megapastors and authors". Although always contraversial, the new day evangilists have expansed to a new level.
Perhaps in a self serving rightening of these evangilists own lives the message today is that of God wanting you to be rich in order to have a better life. "God wants you to own land. The entire Old Testament is all about land. Land represents that God is with you and God has blessed you," claims Kirbyjon Caldwell, "who pastors Windsor Village, the largest (15,000) United Methodist church in the country". Or Joyce Meyer, author and TV preacher states, "who would want something where you're miserable, broke and ugly and you have to muddle through until you get to heaven?". To me this can only be seen as an excuse for these pastors to make the salaries they recieve for "spreading God's word", or "doing God's work" a deserved, and in fact divined luxury from God himself, since he would never want you to be *gasp* poor, or unsucessful. The scariest thing about these pastor's is that their message is spread through the media to thousands to hundreds of thousands of people.
However there are people like Ron Sider an evangelical antipoverty crusader are rebutting these high power, highly compensated Megapastors by saying, "They have neglected the texts about the danger of riches. Prosperity Gospel Lite is one of the most powerful forms of neglect of the poor". Also in the battle against these Megapastors, is one of their own, Rick Warren, who says, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? Baloney. It's creating a flase idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net-worth".
So how can we whom rely on media for much of our information and entertainment believe. Is it the wealthy Megapastors that we go to to feel sanctified for wanting more because we think we deserve it, or that we all should aspire to be like the Rothschilds, and the Guggenheim's, because that is the goal God wants for us, in order for our happiness? Or do we follow the beliefs of the past, that pastors whom are not as medially connected still preach, that God puts us on earth for the trials and tribulations as well as the happy times, as a lesson to learn before we obtain our places in heaven. That Its okay to go through the tough times, and regognize others struggles to really experience life and you will not only be rewarded in heaven, but that you have done all you could with the time he gave you. I am not a religious person in the organized sense, however upon seeing this article, I knew that the media's reach have gone beyond what I could imagine.

September 26, 2006

OPIC's Unusual Mission

It was recently announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, would be part of a group investing hundreds of millions of dollars in projects to help rebuild war torn Lebanon. Looking into OPIC shows that it is an unusual organization, outwardly contradictory of itself in several ways. To begin with, it is a US government agency, but it is funded without any taxpayer dollars. The proposed goal of OPIC is to "mobilize and facilitate the participation of United States private capital and skills in the economic and social development of less developed countries and areas, and countries in transition from nonmarket to market economies." This seems to be a noble cause, and the list of projects underwritten by OPIC loans would attest to that. For example, they have recently partnered with a Utah based company to decrease the content of salts in water used for irrigation in Pakistan. They partnered with a Chicago based company to build a fully-integrated pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Ghana that will produce ingredients and drugs used to combat tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. On the other hand, some of the projects take a far less humanitarian approach. A recent $1.5 million loan was granted to establish the first Ruby Tuesday restaurant franchise in Seoul, South Korea. In comparison, the loan for the pharmaceutical facility in Ghana was $4.9 million, the irrigation project in Pakistan was $3 million. OPIC does not seem to know whether or not it wants to be a organization that works to promote humanitarian causes, or to pursue change and progress through market-driven economic means.

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September 24, 2006

The diminishing union.

I currently work in a union. I am a woman in the service industry, so granted, it’s a less represented group. Until recently I thought that the union was a crutch. I thought it was an excuse for people to squeeze more money out of the poor defenseless companies that they work for. I thought it was a way for workers to complain about things that they should just live with.

I thought it was pretty useless until this summer.

Our union contract was expiring, as it does every three years. The union usually gave up some small amenities because we all wanted to keep our jobs. The general mentality at work was that this would happen again this year and that the union contract would be ratified without incident. That is not what happened.

The union handed out red shirts as a show of solidarity. Only a few of the older employees who worked for the country longer than I’d been alive wore their shirts. I almost threw mine away.

The first few weeks of contract negotiations were pretty uneventful. We didn’t hear anything. Then we started getting emails about the HUGE subjects they were trying to iron out. One was that MY job was slated to go away. Words like “strike? and “federal arbitration? were thrown around.

The representatives with the company started to play mind games with the union’s contract negotiating team. Barely anyone is wearing his or her shirts. The employees feel like they are part of the company first and the union second. You should just give up and go home.

Slowly more people started to wear their shirts, put signs up in their cars, and started informational picketing in front of our building. There was a deep-seated connection there that no one took advantage of because we didn’t think anything major would happen.

Then the company released information they were trying to keep quiet but felt necessary to release because of pressure from our union. Not only were they planning to take my job away but those of half of the people in the state. There are 3 call centers in Minnesota and they said there was a possibility of all three of them closing if contract negotiations didn’t go well. It was a thinly veiled but ugly threat. The union held their ground for the most part and got most of what they wanted. My job is still going away but I’ll easily be absorbed into a different department when that happens.

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North Alaskan Slope

An article by Joel K Bourne, Jr. called “The Alaskan North Slope? was recently assigned in my biogeography class. This article spoke about the interests of the big oil companies, wild creatures, and the native population colliding in the largest U.S wilderness known as the North Alaskan Slope. There were many advantages and disadvantages that these oil interests brought into the area. First, according to Bourne’s article, “The activity provides jobs for some in the village, but locals claim it’s also pushed the caribou away, forcing them to travel ten or twenty miles farther from home to find meat for the table.? The activity that Bourne refers to is the oil drilling in which oil companies bring into the area, thus providing jobs for the native Inuit, bringing economic prosper to the United States. On the contrary, many of these oil companies, for example, ConocoPhillips, a major oil company mentioned in the article, have drilling sites along main rivers and freshwater lakes in the North Slope area. Many oil spills have been recorded throughout history; an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil are lost each month, which then, leak into the rivers, destroying all environment and villages along the way.

Joel K. Bourne’s article, “The North Alaskan Slope? can relate to the class discussion about globalizing production in the way that corporations such in this case, oil companies, wanting economic growth and profits off the land; not thinking about the environmental destruction. Competition is also another factor that comes into play with major corporations, for example, the auto industry. The competition among the auto industry world leads to the fierce competition among oil corporations such as ConocoPhillips, thus brining rise in oil and its prices. The topic of “oil shortage? is also brought up in discussions as well. America is one of the top “gas guzzling? countries in the world today, forcing us to think of different ways in which we can produce oil, being environmentally safe, within our own country and being less dependent on foreign oils.

September 13, 2006

Myth of Meritocracy

Last week in my Social Organizations class we read an article in The Economist titled "Inequality and the American Dream." This article talked about how globalization is making the rich richer and the middle class poorer. The author talks about how little of an impact immigration has on the average American wage and talks about the various arguments about how America's economic system is immoral. The author of the article thinks that meritocracy is the most important thing for Americans to worry about; insomuch as the country isn't a true meritocracy. "A meritocracy works only if it is seen to be fair." There are also examples on how the rich set themselves up to stay that way for generations.

I thought that this article tied well with the individualistic ideas of "Bowling Alone." The idea that Americans are holding tighter to ideas of individualism are more important than thinking of ourselves as members of a community is, I think, ingrained in ideas of meritocracy. If someone can't do something it's their own fault. Individual culpability for a social problem. An interesting thing that the article says is that in European countries it is easier for the poor to rise up than it is in America. In America, where we say that a person can pull themselves up by their bootstraps it's very improbable. The Economist points out that it's very disconcerting given the fact that America is becoming the model for the world. An interesting note; the author made a very first world western assumption. They say " [G]overnment should not be looking for ways to haul the rich down. Rather it should help others . . . to climb up..." The interesting assumption here is a world with unlimited resources. The United States only holds 5% of the world's population, but they use 25% of the world's resources. The assumption that everyone can have everything that they want if they try hard enough is in the fiber of the author's mind even though they are saying it's fairly impossible.

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Wal-mart Blacklisted in Scandanavia

The widely heard, but infrequently acted upon (in America) concerns that Wal-mart is exploiting its workers and suppliers is now being taken up by Sweden and Norway. Both countries have sold all of their stock holdings in the company, which were parts of national pension funds for the respective governments. Norway deemed Wal-mart to be in violation of their Ethical Investment guidelines, while Sweden cited persistent human rights violations. The economic impact of this criticism is minimal, but the message it sends demonstrates how seriously the global community is concerned with Wal-mart's practices.

While the actions of these two nations may come as a surprise, the reaction of the United States ambassador to Norway was even more surprising. Ambassador Benson Whitney accused Norway of betraying the values of "fairness, transparency, justice, dialogue and ethics," while arbitrarily investigating and banning solely American companies. Wal-mart is not the first to be nationally blacklisted. Kerr-Mcgee and Freeport-Mason were both banned previously. Interestingly, Ambassador Whitney did nothing to defend the business, ethical, and human rights practices of Wal-mart, but rather criticized the Norwegian process of evaluation, and the lack of established standards for this process. While Whitney may not have stepped up to bat for Wal-mart, others in the Bush administration have. Vice president Cheney, for example, lauded praises on Wal-mart as embodying "some of the very best qualities in our country."

All of this posturing raises several questions about how America should react. Is it best for us to stand up for an American company, and protect our economic interests in situations where we do nothing to criticize that company's practices? Should we assume a hand-off, laissez-faire stance, and let investors, be it individuals, groups, or governments, buy and sell as they choose? Or is it time that we step back and objectively evaluate the practices of the companies we sanction? Ambassador Whitney drew the distinction between individuals buying or selling a certain stock on ethical grounds and a national government doing the same. If the case is that Scandinavians truly feel that they are part of the government, and that it is representing their interests, then is there any difference?

August 31, 2006

Nationalism, Autonomy and Group Boundaries

David Berreby, the journalist who wrote the book "Us and Them," has a blog spin-off from the book, appropriately named "Us and Them: The Blog". He's started a series of entries called "Forbidden Questions," and the first entry is titled "Freedom for Our People" -- is it snake oil?" Like the Barber article on "Jihad vs. McWorld," Berreby draws attention to the tension between group claims to autonomy, on the one hand, and the globalizing forces that contradict those claims. From both sides, democracy gets tossed around as a justification but in both cases, democracy can suffer. Berreby focuses on the outbreak of violence surrounding nationalist movements around the globe. As anthropologists and social psychologists have long pointed out, a group boundary both includes and excludes. In particular, Berreby questions whether we should favor the idea of a nation as a valid group boundary:

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