November 2009

Nov 3  China is talking about a transformation from being a large producer to a large consumer. This means an increase in imports, which will help the world economy.

Nov 3  In China it is announced that light rail trains will be delivered to the city of Ismir in Turkey in April 2012.

Nov 4  In the US the political commentator Glen Beck is gaining a lot of attention. His style is theatrical and his language riles. It is the language of victimhood. Today, for example, he says that "the mother of all government programs is being SHOVED on Americans." He is describing a democratic process: Congress working on a health care bill.

Nov 7  The weight of international approval affects Madagascar. Failing to win international backing, Andry Rajoelina agrees to form a power-sharing goverment with Marc Ravalomanana, overthrown by a military coup back in March. An election for president is scheduled for next year.

Nov 10  Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychistrist who killed 13 and wounded 28 on November 5 on the Fort Hood base in Texas, has been described as having had communications with a Muslim cleric now living in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Maj. Hasan worshipped. He takes a view that has little support among Muslims in the United States. He describes Hasan as a "hero” and "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.” That this explanation and Hasan's strategy is rational is open to question. For Hasan it was a suicide mission. What it accomplished that could not have been accomplished by his simple refusal to be shipped out remains undescribed.

Nov 10  In her first policy speech since being sworn in for a second term, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkle says that the “full force of the economic crisis will hit us next year." She adds that "problems will get bigger before things can get better.”

Nov 11  China's response to the swine flu is being compared to that of India and the United States. According to the New York Times, India has reported 505 deaths from the swine flu. The US, with only 300 million people, reports about 4,000 deaths. China, which has around a billion people reports 30 deaths. China has taken tough quarantine and medical detention measures, with complaints from around the world. Edward Wong's article in the New York Times headlines:
"China’s Tough Flu Measures Appear to Be Effective."

Nov 12  According to Cody Williard of Market Watch the median S&P 500 stock in 1982 was selling at about 7-8 times earnings and today that figure is 15 times earnings. He goes on: homes were more affordable in 1982, costing about 3.5 times medium annual income, and today despite the drop in home prices it is 4.1; in 1982 government spending was about 30 percent of GDP and today it's about 50 percent; in 1982 the national debt was about 30 percent of GDP and today it's 85 percent. Williard adds up credit cards and mortgages, bringing the total debt obligation to 75 percent of GDP, up from 40 percent in 82. Today interest rates are already at zero and can't be lowered to stimulate spending. To all this, Williard adds inflation for everyday items like band-aids and toothpaste to 2.5 and 3.3 percent annualized. Yesterday the Dow reached a new high at 10,340. Williard writes that his data says that buying stocks at a Dow level of 10,200 this month is probably not a good long-term bet.

Nov 17  The world is watching President Obama's visit to China. The US dollar has been declining in value. The US Commerce Department reports a disturbing rise in the US trade deficit, which is widely perceived as threatening a greater fall in the dollar. It appears that the only way the US will correct its trade deficit is by a dollar devaluation, discouraging buying from abroad. This would damage the economic recovery. The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, says he is watching the situation. The Obama administration sees remedy in China buying more from the US and selling it less.

Nov 18  In the US, an imbalance in trade remains a primary concern. President Obama's visit to China has produced no sign of relief from what he has described as the Chinese selling everything to Americans and Americans not selling anything to them. On the Huffington Post, Robert Reich writes discouraging words about an increase in buying by the Chinese consumer, and he describes putting hope in this buying as "wishful thinking." Reich adds: "The dirty little secret on both sides of the Pacific is that both America and China are capable of producing far more than their own consumers are capable of buying. In the US, the root of the problem is a growing share of total income going to the richest Americans, leaving the middle class with relatively less purchasing power unless they go deep into debt. Inequality is also widening in China, but the problem there is a declining share of the fruits of economic growth going to average Chinese and an increasing share going to capital investment."

Nov 22  A segment on 60 Minutes describes many in the US failing to accept the inevitability of death and a lot of money going to medical procedures that make doctors and hospitals money but do not prolong life. Health care costs in the US are as high as they are, according to the piece, because Medicare pays for it, or private insurance, which drives up premiums. It adds that the US is the only industrially advanced nation that does not have a cap on spending for health care. The segment could be titled "Let Grandma Die." Instead, it is "The Cost of Dying."

Nov 23  A team of scientists at the Lare Hadron Collider in Europe has successfully collided beams of protons. They are hoping to find in the wreckage of the collision a scientific breakthough associated with what is called Higgs boson, which is expected to explain the origin of mass.

Nov 29  On his television program GPS (Global Public Square) Fareed Zakaria shows Pakistani citizens blaming foreigners – Americans or Jewish intelligence – for the string or murderous suicide bombings in their country. It is a disbelief that fellow Pakistanis would not do such a thing, even though a spokesperson for the Taliban in Pakistan was in the past, but not lately, outspoken in taking credit for the bombings. A recent opinion poll in Pakistan gives Osama bin Laden a 46 percent approval rating. Former President Musharraf's rating was 38 percent, and the poll gave President Bush an approval rating of 9 percent.

Nov 29  Economist Paul Krugman continues to downplay dangers of the national debt. He wants people not to panic. It's not the debt that matters, he says, it's the economy. An adequately stimulated ecomomy, he believes, will correct the debt problem.

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