Friday, May 22, 2009

The End Is Nigh!

It is now five minutes until midnight, midnight for the human race, as the link associated with the title of this blog indicates. Midnight, of course, represents total darkness, the end of life, or, at least, the end of human life. Cockroaches will, of course, survive whatever damage we do to the planet.

The clock in question is offered up by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and began "ticking" in 1947 and gave us just 7 minutes to live:
As the Bulletin evolves from a newsletter into a magazine, the Clock appears on the cover for the first time. It symbolizes the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine's founders--and the broader scientific community--are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world.
This clock doesn't tick and actually doesn't even count down. After dropping to 2 minutes in 1952, it soared to 12 minutes in 1963. It then had plummeted to 3 minutes in 1984
U.S.-Soviet relations reach their iciest point in decades. Dialogue between the two superpowers virtually stops. "Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda," a concerned Bulletin informs readers. The United States seems to flout the few arms control agreements in place by seeking an expansive, space-based anti-ballistic missile capability, raising worries that a new arms race will begin.
It then bounced up to an optimistic 17 minutes in 1991 but since then has been falling to 14, and then 9, and then 7, and now 5. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was the cause of the jump to 17 minutes. It began to fall again during the Clinton administration with the 9 minutes left "prediction" being due both to some tough talk about Russia reverting to the ways of its past and to the beginning of concerns about terrorists getting ahold of nuclear weapons. At the time of the next drop, Pakistan and India were testing nuclear weapons. Then comes a post 9/11 prediction that we had only 7 minutes to survive when the Bush Administration was talking about developing nuclear weapons capable of taking out hardened, deeply buried targets (e. g., the underground nuclear labs in Iran) as well as an announcing that the US would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The drop to 5 minutes in 2007 is due to concerns about N. Korea's and Iran's development of nuclear weapons and a concern with global warming.
Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place; flooding, destructive storms, increased drought, and polar ice melt are causing loss of life and property.
While one might want to grant atomic physicists a certain expertise in the area of nuclear threats in the world, I am not at all sure that they have any special expertise as to whether or not there is global warming, not that I doubt that that there is, to say nothing of what threats it imposes or how imminent they are.

The clock of the physicists has no predictive power. It doesn't even count down the way any respectable clock does. It is like the wall clock I hear ticking right now which is powered by two descending heavy weights and which runs out when the weights touch the floor and cannot descend further. We have to reset it constantly due to our inattention to its needs and, somewhat like the clock of our atomic scientists, we have to turn it backward to reset the time. A clock that goes back and forth is no clock at all. I keep threatening to shoot this clock but my wife would have me committed to a mental hospital. I am not yet ready for that.

Much more interesting is the notion that the world will end on December 22, 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out. I cannot say whether any Mayans think the world will end then but religious crazies are happy to tell us that the Rapture is nigh upon us. Maybe. It seems that their Doomsday Clock is a bit like that of the atomic physicists.
Bible Prophecy is driven by human free will and the evil path that nations choose. Free will can accelerate us or slow us down to the inevitable: The Apocalypse, The Great Tribulation, the "Time of Testing".
So it too can back up as well as go forward.

The author of this colorful and entertaining page gave a time frame between
"SEPT 2006 and DEC 22 2012 AD." We lucked out and survived past the 2006 date. Can we make it into 2013? I think not. "13" is an unlucky number after all.

Tweet This!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What is an American Auto Company?

I see in the morning New York Times that the US government has approved the sale of most of Chrysler to Fiat. and that the bankruptcy judge has denied a claim of creditors that liquidation of the company, among other things, might yield greater value. The last time I checked, Fiat is an Italian auto maker. So we are not exactly saving an American auto company. What then are we saving?

Jobs, of course. I do not oppose this but we do need to be clear about what is going on. Had anyone suggested that we should be alert to the needs of Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai, all building cars in the USA and all suffering cutbacks, I suspect that the American people would have raised holy hell. However, the moment Chrysler and Fiat executives sign on the dotted line, Chrysler will join Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai and cease to be an American auto company.

There is another way of looking at this and that is to see any auto company building cars in the USA as an American auto company. They do hire American workers and, we hope, pay taxes here. The only downside is that should the world go to hell in a hand basket and we need the auto companies to start making tanks and other military vehicles, will these foreign owned companies agree to do this? There are complicating factors, less with Fiat than the Asian companies, and one is that we might be fighting China and China may threaten Japan and Korea should they in any way assist us. This war is very unlikely. More to the point, we could just nationalize the companies. In such a circumstances, there could be no blow back from Korea or Japan.

There are going to be some major benefits from Fiat ownership of Chrysler. The first is that there will be Americans working in the auto plants. Second, any technology Fiat has that is superior to what Chrysler had will surely be employed in the Chrysler plants. This technology will become de facto American technology. Third, any skills the American workers acquire will reside in the brains of these American workers. Should a set of American investors want to recapture Chrysler, they would acquire workers who are more skilled than before who are using more advanced technology.

You say, "But the profits will flow to Italy." I reply, "Who cares since American capital and jobs have been flowing out of the country for years and Italian capital will, in fact, be used to rehabilitate Chrysler's plants." In the 60's a couple of leftist friends trying to convert me to their way of thinking argued that nasty American companies were creating factories or buying farms in Latin American countries and rather than plowing the profits back into enterprises that benefit the people of these countries, these American companies were bring it back here. Moreover, we paid the people there a pittance. This is an hellaciously bad argument. First, note that American capital had already flowed into these foreign countries by way of building the factories or clearing the land and planting banana trees or whatever and these efforts employed people there. Second the businesses themselves employed people. Did they pay as much as they should have? "No," let's say, but when have any companies anywhere been any more generous to their employees than they had to?

As for acts of benevolence by foreigners owning companies here, I draw attention to this NY Times report last December:
workers at the Toyota Tundra truck factory here are taking classes: how to handle tools safely, how to get along better with colleagues of varying backgrounds. Some have even cleaned local parks and fed the hungry while Toyota paychecks.
I suggest that when we refer to American auto companies, we cease to refer to just those owned by Americans and include Fiat and the Asian companies mentioned earlier. What matters most is not who owns the company but the fact that it is that Americans who are being employed and that we are receiving taxes (I presume) from all cconcerned.

Labels: , ,

Tweet This!