China's export sector, moreover, is far less robust than it appears. Authorities conducted extensive "stress tests" on more than 1,000 export companies in the first quarter of this year to determine the effects of any significant yuan appreciation. The vast majority of firms were making do on profit margins of 2 to 4 percent. The results revealed that for every 1 percent rise in the yuan against the dollar, the profit margin of the labor-intensive exporters would decline by around 1 percent.
Today, we will discuss another item that is important to the security of Israel, to its economic security, and which will, in the long term, also affect our geo-political status. In the coming decade, the state of Israel will invest almost NIS 2 billion in developing alternative fuels for transportation. I spoke about this at the beginning of my tenure as Prime Minister and I asked National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel and the relevant ministers to coordinate and look for a framework in which we might be able to meet the need for alternatives to petroleum - alternative fuels for motor vehicles.
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I view this as a national goal of the highest importance because the addiction to oil has led to the Western world being dependent on the oil-producing countries and harms the standing and security of the State of Israel. Of course, it significantly harms the environment as well. 40% of emitted greenhouse gases originate in the use of oil; therefore, there are many aspects and advantages here in finding good alternatives for transportation fuel. Today, we are, in effect, launching the first discussion so that we will be able to make practical decisions to advance this important research.
I would like to thank the National Economic Council, its Chairman, Prof. Eugene Kandel, the inter-ministerial team, and the various ministers and their aides. We will need to work together in order to resolve several items. There are still various opinions on how to organize this activity and I intend to solve these problems and advance this project, which is so important for the security and the economy of the State of Israel.
Hamed Abdel-Samad makes a rather good point in his two part essay about the impending collapse of the Muslim World. Personally I prefer some moderation against reaching such dramatic conclusions. Nevertheless, the essay is well written and certainly worth reading. Here are the links to both parts of the essay with my commentary below.
In the western world, an astounding number of people believe that Islam is overpowering and on the rise. Demographic trends, along with bloody attacks and shrill tones of Islamist fundamentalists, seem to confirm that notion.
In reality, however, it is the Islamic world which feels on the defensive and determined to protest vehemently against what it perceives as a western, aggressive style of power politics, including in the economic sphere.
Comparing the Muslim world of today with the Titanic just before its sinking, some powerful parallels come to mind — sadly so.
That ship was all alone in the ocean, was considered invincible by its proud makers and yet suddenly became irredeemably tarnished in its oversized ambitions. Within a few seconds, it moved in its self-perception from world dominator to sailing helplessly in the icy ocean of modernity, without any concept of where a rescue crew could come from.
The passengers in the third-class cabins remained asleep, effectively imprisoned, clueless about the looming catastrophe. The rich, meanwhile, managed to rescue themselves in the few lifeboats that were available, while the traveling clergy excelled with heartfelt but empty appeals to those caught in between not to give up fighting.
Now my two cents on the subject. First of all, South East Asia (Indonesia/Malaysia) and Turkey aside, it's obvious that most Muslim nations are facing massive challenges that include the aftermath of the demographic explosion, overpopulation and the climate change. In particular the bulk of the Arab World is affected simultaneously and gravely by all three, but other Muslim nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan may be doing only marginally better, if at all. The growing scarcity of resources against the backdrop of a rapid population increase is one issue. Another trend is a tremendous pressure on labor markets as a result of the same population increase exacerbated by droughts that turned thousands of farmers across the Middle East into climate refugees.
Now, it's no secret that fertility rates have been rapidly normalizing across the Middle East and North Africa with some nations having slipped below the replacement level. However, it's important to understand why this fact does not really matter right now. For one, the Middle East as a whole may be already overpopulated to the breaking point. Some nations may be no longer capable of sustaining even a moderate population growth. Never mind that we still have some countries around exploding demographically and exporting their demographics to the rest of the region. Two, the population growth remains high, though it's decelerating, because the population structure is dominated by age groups associated with child bearing. Three, the current decline in population growth provides little relief to the economy and in particular unemployment which are conditioned by demographic events that happened 20 years ago. For a more detailed explanation of this process, check this post.
The bottom line is that with or without a genuine democratic transformation and Islamic reformation, parts of the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim World may well collapse by the end of this decade for purely technical reasons. It's perfectly possible. This Titanic looks rather massive because it's loaded with the end product of several decades of uninterrupted demographic explosion in the Middle East and elsewhere. But it's precisely for this reason, that the ship is increasingly prone to suddenly sinking without early warning. What is perceived by some in the West as the Muslim World's greatest strength, namely its demographics, is in fact the Muslim World's Achilles' heel and, with a little help from the global warming, may easily become the cause of its untimely undoing.
And the last one. There exists a very common misconception in the West that the crux of the problem with the Muslim World lies in its lack of democracy. The Middle East in particular has spent the entire post WWII period in chains of authoritarian regimes set up by kings and dictators. Remove the chain, this school of thought reasons, and one hundred flowers will immediately bloom. Regardless of the root cause of the extreme persistence of this lunacy, it has very little to do with reality and is not supported by recent experiments in democracy in the Middle East and Pakistan that ended in astonishingly brutal civil wars.
While it's true that the kings and dictators have contributed tremendously to creating this problem, they are the only ones who can clear the mess. What the Middle East and Pakistan need is not democracy, but technocracy and modernization which can be provided only by reform minded autocratic regimes. It all boils down to this: Only the dictators themselves can reform their countries and take them into modernity. And if they don't want to do it, then it's not going to happen because nobody else can. There are several reasons for this situation, but the most immediate one is that too many countries in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim World feature impossible ethno-sectarian configurations that make creation of functional democratic systems impossible in principle.
One thing that indirectly follows from the Titanic part of the essay is that both the West, namely Europe, and the Muslim World are basically traveling on the same Titanic. Europe's inability to control migration inflows has made the continent hostage to the situation in the Middle East and sub Saharan Africa. This is a good enough reason for the West to start exercising caution with the idea of how the magic wand of democracy is going to cure the Middle East, Pakistan, or whatever Islamic nation for this matter, of their ills. Otherwise the West can easily find itself with no Musharrafs around to help it to keep the tsunami at bay. All advise and pleading on this issue from the intellectual circles of the Middle East and elsewhere should be dismissed and ignored, if only because in the past the very same intellectuals were all too often instrumental in bringing the regimes to power and spreading virulent anti Western propaganda among the population.
To put it short, breaking chains may look all fun at the first glance but engaging in this activity in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim World for any prolonged period of time is very likely to have a surprisingly unhappy ending for all parties involved and first of all the Muslim World itself. Muslim intellectuals should be the first to keep this point in mind. The West should be the second.
This conspiracy thing is such a common place that I occasionally saw it mentioned even in the Guardian. I have two FB Greek friends one of whom called Greece the Christian Middle East precisely for this reason and another one once wrote me a page long comment to explain the historical background of the conspiracy mindset.
As to Tali, I invited her to the blog with a permission. I can't know who on Kishkushim can grant such a permission and who can't. Neither Tali could know this. Anyway, she came to explain herself. How is it called in your liberal jargon? She came to have a dialog. :D :D
And I think that was nice. There was no reason why she should have been ignored. She is not a Nazi or something. And she is no bureaucrat. She is an archaeologist who is doing a lot of field work. Really, her coming here was a very nice, very human event. The best thing about having Internet. I see no reason why she should be repeatedly called "bureaucrat".
I really think people should go slow about rooting for minorities. It consumes so much human energy that it leaves some people with nothing to share with other people from the non minority population.
John Kerry thinks Syria is committed to peace and is essential to the process.
United States Senator John Kerry said Thursday that Syria is committed to achieving peace in the Middle East and is essential to the process.
"Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region," Kerry said.
Speaking from the headquarters of major militant groups of the region that also acts as a transit point for weapons and Jihadists heading for Iraq, John Kerry was musing that Syria can enhance its contribution to the peace process even further by doing something about its arms supplies to Hezbollah. For some reason Kerry is less concerned about Syria and its allies involvement with other resistance groups reaching as far away from Syria as Yemen.
However, the Democratic senator, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after a three-hour meeting with Syiran President Bashar Assad in Damascus that Washington is concerned about the flow of weapons from Syria to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
"That is something that must stop in order to promote regional stability and security," Kerry said about the weapons.
In the wake of this exciting news, the leader of the M14 coalition Saad Hariri was reported to have resumed practicing crawling on all four in preparation for a visit to Damascus. You thought Walid Jumblat has gone nuts recently out of habit or something? You dupe, the old fox can sniff a shitstorm approaching from a thousand miles away.
On the bright side, it's worth mentioning that the West has a rich history of selling and reselling Lebanon to Syria while crawling is practiced in Lebanon with so much passion that it can be considered a national sport and martial art. With Damascus regularly holding crawling tournaments for Lebanese politicians, it's about time for Saad Hariri to visit Damascus to show to Bashar Assad how he can outcrawl Walid Jumblat and Michel Aoun.
John Kerry - the man of peace
September 13, 2010
I was wrong so many times... I quit
That was Saad Hariri, the leader of what's left of the M14 coalition after defections, in an interview to Asharq al-Awsat.
"At a certain stage we made mistakes and accused Syria of assassinating the martyred premier. This was a political accusation, and this political accusation has finished."
After years of accusing Syria in assassinating his late father, mr. Hariri "admitted" that the charge was politically motivated. Verily it's said that in Lebanon they can sell their mothers in time of need, an impressively pragmatic and business oriented nation.
And if Walid Jumblat is still deluding himself, he should better remember that, unlike him, Saad Hariri still has his mother around. The Lebanese PM is yet to use his trump card. The crawling contest is far from over.
The next link is basically about the controversy around Sarazzin and Muslim immigration in Germany. However, Muslim immigrants are contrasted with the immigration from the Far East to make the point. The obsession with education, evident in other links above, is present here too. For those who don't know, Vietnam used to be firmly within the sphere of influence of the Chinese civilization. Throughout much of its history and until quite recently the Vietnamese used the Chinese writing system and the vocabulary is heavily dominated by words derived from Chinese.