Saturday, July 19, 2008

No Mas Mr. Obama

For those who you who haven’t heard (and welcome back to Earth by the way), Democratic Presidential hopeful Barak Obama made another verbal snafu. On July 9th, Mr. Obama complained that the problem with Americans is that we don’t speak Spanish, not that immigrants don’t speak English (you can hear the entire speech for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6gfcAe3-as&NR=1). But, here’s a tidbit of what Obama said in his speech:

"Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English - they'll learn English - you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

"You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], 'Merci beaucoup.' Right?"


Obama is embarrassed that Americans don’t speak every language before we go abroad, but sees nothing wrong with immigrants refusing to learn our language. Obama loses sight between Americans simply going on vacation to foreign countries and moving there, which is a big difference. This is the second time one the Obama’s have commented about how “embarrassed” they are of Americans and this country. The first was Michelle Obama when she said “What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country”. And to think that this guy wants to be President without having a basic grasp of either the serious of the situation or the pride we have in being Americans. Personally, I don’t think he gets it in any language.

Here’s the way I see it. America is the world’s most successful melting pot. We’ve taken in every ethnic group on the planet. Every culture and every religion is represented throughout these 50 states. Practically every language in the world in spoken in this country. No one has been excluded. All we ask is that they come here legally with a desire to work, and learn to speak English. In fact, basic conversational English should be a requirement before you’re even considered for entry into this country, let alone apply for citizenship.

Lately, I’ve noticed seeing more and more contracts and legal documents printed solely in Spanish. That’s ok if you’re doing business south of the border, but these documents are being issued by US companies to individuals and other businesses here in the States! Why? Doesn’t that simply add to the problem? By enabling these individuals and companies, they have no incentive to learn English. Companies who do this seem to be fixated on quick profits rather than upholding American standards and values.

The same goes for US businesses who print contracts and agreements in dual languages and utilized “Press 1” for English phone systems. In case you’re not doing it yet, every time you come across with a “Press 1” phone system, demand to speak with a supervisor and insist that they make English only their first priority. You can also go to their website and comment through email as well.

Americans are tolerant people. After all, we’re all immigrants. But it’s our common language which unites us and allows the many wonderfully diverse cultures to blend together. I remember from my American History classes that one of the very first things immigrants did when coming to this country (some even before), was to learn English as quickly as possible. They were proud to be called Americans; not a hyphenated American, but simply an American. They desperately wanted to speak English; sometimes trading work for English lessons. It symbolized their passage into a new life. Even where small enclaves were established, especially among the Jews, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, and Italians, they still considered themselves American first and foremost. They also worked hard at becoming Americans, and that meant learning to speak the language of their new homeland. It was those people who made American great, and it is to those same types of people we will continue to welcome.

China's Pollution Olympics
By Peter Navarro

China's coastal waters are also suffering mightily from a growing epidemic of "red tides" - an oceangoing version of eutrophication. The problem is particularly acute in the relatively shallow Bohai and Yellow Seas off northern China where Qingdao is located and where there is minimal tidal exchange.

These red tides are rapidly destroying fish stocks and devastating marine life for both the country and its neighbors while China has seen an astonishing 40-fold increase in the incidence of red tides in just the past few years.

The broader picture that emerges from this little story is a big country choking to death on a wide variety of pollutants. Because of the toxic nature of China's water and air, many Olympic athletes are training in adjacent countries like Japan and South Korea and will fly into China only for brief stopovers for their events next month.

What that says about today's China speaks volumes about the country's need to deal with what is emerging as one of the most far-reaching and irresponsible environmental disasters the world has ever seen. Perhaps the global embarrassment of China’s Pollution Olympics will be a catalyst China needs to responsibly confront its environmental problems.

In fact, this kind of event is far from atypical in the world's most polluted nation. Today, fully 70% of China's seven major rivers are severely polluted, 80% of its rivers fail to meet standards for fishing, and 90% of the country's cities suffer from some degree of water pollution. As a result, over 700 million Chinese drink fetid water of a quality well below World Health Organization standards. Meanwhile, liver and stomach cancers related to water pollution are among the leading causes of death in the countryside, while 21 cities along the Yellow River are characterized by the highest measurable levels of pollution.

As for this particular - and particularly extensive - algal bloom in Qingdao, it is being caused in large part by equally massive misuse of fertilizer. As the world's largest fertilizer user, China consumes more than 50 million tonnes annually. Far too often, untrained peasants apply far too much fertilizer to their meager plots in the false hopes of boosting yields. The result has been a new kind of "flooding" problem, that of excess fertilizer runoff flooding into rivers and streams.

With this runoff, fertilizer nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates have triggered an explosion of algal blooms as part of a broader process of "eutrophication". This eutrophication process literally sucks the oxygen out of the water and kills all fish and plant life. The net result is an extremely foul-smelling and turbid dead body of water.

A case in point is the algal blooms that keep hitting China's third-largest lake, Lake Tai. Famous for its classic beauty, the lake is more than a major tourist attraction. It also supplies water to 30 million people. Cleaning up of this lake alone is going to cost more than US$14 billion while panic buying of bottled water during Lake Tai's repeated algal blooms have driven the price of bottled water as high as $1.50 per liter.

As we see now in Qingdao, China's algal blooms are hardly restricted to its rivers and lakes. China's coastal waters are also suffering mightily from a growing epidemic of "red tides" - an oceangoing version of eutrophication. The problem is particularly acute in the relatively shallow Bohai and Yellow Seas off northern China where Qingdao is located and where there is minimal tidal exchange.

These red tides are rapidly destroying fish stocks and devastating marine life for both the country and its neighbors while China has seen an astonishing 40-fold increase in the incidence of red tides in just the past few years.

The broader picture that emerges from this little story is a big country choking to death on a wide variety of pollutants. Because of the toxic nature of China's water and air, many Olympic athletes are training in adjacent countries like Japan and South Korea and will fly into China only for brief stopovers for their events next month.

What that says about today's China speaks volumes about the country's need to deal with what is emerging as one of the most far-reaching and irresponsible environmental disasters the world has ever seen. Perhaps the global embarrassment of China’s Pollution Olympics will be a catalyst China needs to responsibly confront its environmental problems.

Peter Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine, a CNBC contributor, and author of The Coming China Wars (FT Press). Visit his website at www.peternavarro.com.


Utility Rate Increases

On July 4th, the day which is supposed to mark our successful revolution against England and unrepresented taxation, I sent an email to folks I know in and around Louisville. I had just read where Louisville Gas & Electric wanted to raise our rates an additional 2%. Now that doesn’t sound like much I know, and normally no one would notice. But I did. You see, the rate increase wasn’t for emergency usage such equipment repair. It was simply so that LG&E could have shiner new equipment. It was, basically, for nonessential updates.

America is in the midst of a recession. Some would even say a mild depression, and indeed, I would have to agree. Gas is unrealistically high (and why it’s higher in different parts of the county or state by as much as 20 cents has me puzzled). Unemployment is running at 9.9%. Major businesses are closing, shutting down shifts, or simply laying off employees. Some companies have even added an additional “gas fee” such as garbage companies to cover the costs of their gas (I thought that was part of their overhead already and covered in their monthly pickup charge. Silly me).

Utility rates increases aren’t unique to Louisville. Cities across America are facing far worse. In New Jersey, residents are looking at an 18% hike on top of a 7.5% increase. Some residents in Pennsylvania are facing an increase of around 19%. Rhode Island residents may have to pay 21.7% more for their gas and electrical power. Folks in Idaho may end up paying 9.9% more. The wonderful people in Tulsa are going to get an additional 11% increase, on top of costs which have increase 50% over the last year already according to Tulsa World in an article dated July 19, 2008. (http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/article.aspx?articleID=20080712_49_A1_spancl994419).

These are just a few samplings, but the trend is nationwide. Now is not the time for these massive increases. I would ask you to contact your Public Utility Commission and ask that any non-essential or non-emergency rate increases be denied. Many times utility, water, sewer entities will seek increases to simply update their equipment. When Americans are struggling just to buy food and put gas in their cars, every penny counts.

For those who would like to voice their opinion on the propose LG&E rate increase, you can call the Kentucky Public Service Commission at 1-800-772-4636 and ask them to deny LG&E’s rate request. It won't cost you a quarter (remember when it was a dime?) and tell them we just simply can't afford an increase at this time. You can also email them at psc.consumer.inquiry@ky.gov,

I just finished reading a terrific book about national security by Richard Clarke. It’s great book for anyone interested in knowing where we failed on foreign policy.

"Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters"
by Richard Clarke: A Review

9/11; Massive national intelligence failures; the Iraqi War; Oil and the current energy crisis; International and domestic terrorism. What happened? Where did we go wrong? Who is to blame? These are just a few questions the American Public deserves answers to as a result of our government’s failure to fully investigate, cooperate, and act on intelligence leads. Richard A. Clarke has written an explosive expose’ of what went wrong agency by agency, and believe me, he spares no one. In his book, “Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters”, Mr. Clarke outlines the history of how we got to where we are, what went wrong, and how we get out of the mess we’re in.

Richard A. Clarke is a foreign policy professional. He served in the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Agency; working side by side with the key policy makers in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. This is a guy who has “been there and done that”.

If you are tired of all the partisan finger pointing and want to know the unvarnished truth, then I urge to read this book. The American People deserve noting less than honest answers, and Mr. Clarke provides them in spades.

Poll Results

I asked you how many countries have modeled their national government on the American Model. 10% of you thought the correct answer was more than 100, while 29% of you said 1 to 50. But a whooping 61% said zero. The correct is none. Despite all of our “nation building” efforts and the billions of dollars we’ve poured into countries to become more “democratic”, none have chosen to base their government on the American Model. Instead, the vast majority chose the British Parliamentary form of government. I wonder if they know something we don’t? Anyway, well done everyone!
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