November 30, 2010

The Ignoble Cause of the Confederacy

After the American Century

We are on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and the Confederacy is about to be celebrated, strange as that may seem. The American South often presents itself as the victim in the Civil War. This is patent nonsense. The Southern states succeeded from the United States, and they attacked Fort Sumter. They were the aggressors, and they remain aggressive in promotion of themselves as hapless victims of the North. Pathetic nonsense.

This celebration of defeat would merely be sad and pathetic self-delusion if the same people who are gearing up for the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy did not insist on presenting the commemoration in political terms. They will spend millions of dollars in television advertisements that claim the war was about preserving their own freedom. It was  about slavery.

The rebellion of the Confederates was the worst crime ever committed against the United States. Those who fought against the North were traitors, and they got off all too lightly at the end of the war. More than 300,000 men from the North died in that war, and thousands of them were starved to death in the South's inhuman prisoner of war camps. The South committed war crimes against Northern soldiers, notably at Andersonville, where 13,000 men died of malnutrition, disease, and exposure in the 14 months it was open. There is absolutely nothing to celebrate. The Confederacy was an ignoble cause, a delusion.

The Confederacy represents nothing less than treason, torture, and slavery. It was and remains an abomination. There is no reason to celebrate the Confederacy, as many Southerners are about to do with a grand ball in Charleston. Succession was a crime. It should be remembered with memorial services for the dead. Its symbol should be a shroud.

When the South lost the war, some of its "patriots" conspired to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Will the people of Charleston celebrate that, too? 

Abandoned plantation house, 1930s

November 27, 2010

Move Danish Universities Abroad (following Danish corporations)

After the American Century

This is a thought experiment, making logical deductions from recent actions of the Danish government. If there seems to be anything objectionable (or worthwhile) in this proposal, think about what that government has been doing.

In a globalized world, there is no reason why Danish universities should remain in Denmark, if they can educate their students just as well at a lower price in another place. Just as Danish slaughter houses are moving to Germany and Eastern Europe, just as Danish companies seeking assembly line workers move that part of their activity to Asia, so, too Danish universities should consider the option of moving off-shore.

The advantages of this proposal are obvious.
1. Student SU (grants in aid) will buy more goods and services abroad.
2. Books, clothing, food, and computers will be cheaper, as the faculty and students will not need to pay the 25% Danish VAT.
3. University services can be outsourced more cheaply in other labor markets. There is no reason to pay high Danish wages to cleaners, cooks, and maintenance people, who would be much less costly to hire elsewhere.
4. Careful site selection would place the new Danish universities in mild climates, saving on the cost of heating.
5. Recruitment of non-Danish faculty would not be hindered by the complex and ever more stringent regulations for work permits.
6. In a digitized world, the library resources would be on-line, with no need to build up a physical collection of books and journals.
7. Travel to the new universities need not cost any more than the Danish railways charge to commute from Odense or Aarhus to Copenhagen. Indeed, with the proliferation of budget airlines, it may be cheaper to get to the new universities than to the old ones.
8. Housing will also be less expensive, and at the same time thousands of apartments will be made available in Denmark, solving the housing problems of its cities.
9. Foreign language acquisition will be faster and better, as students will be learning a local language through immersion in another culture, as well as in class.
10. Since Danish business is moving abroad, the Danish students trained overseas will be right where they are needed, and available to work at the lower salaries in the wage markets of those nations.

Since the funds available for university teaching and reseach have declined in real terms for years, this proposal is a rational response to the Danish government's cost-cutting.

Initially the BA programs could be sited off-shore, with the more specialized MA and Ph.D. courses remaining in Denmark for a few years of transition. Logically, the programs in Danish history and Danish language and literature might be left behind to thrive in their native environments, but the natural sciences, much of the humanities, and most of the social sciences would benefit from going off-shore. Indeed, there would be useful synergies with local universities in the host nations that could not be achieved through exchange programs.

By 2030 it should be possible to move most of Danish university education to such places as Ireland, Poland, Southern Spain, Turkey, and Thailand. Those who earlier immigrated into Denmark from these countries would become valuable as translators and bridge builders between the Danes and the host countries.

Once business and the universities have moved abroad, it will be time to think about what else to locate overseas. Quite possibly some hospitals and primary schools also could be moved to the new Danish foreign enclaves.  The eventual result would be to empty Denmark of most university students and many workers, while the number of pensioners abroad would certainly increase as well. They would leave behind a smaller population to operate Denmark as a center for high-tech industries and as a theme park for tourists.

Denmark would thereby become the most completely globalized of all nations. There is no time to delay, as other nations that Denmark likes to compare itself to may be the first movers. The best locations and the biggest savings will go to those who seize the opportunity now.

November 20, 2010

Danish Law Would Discourage Future Nobel Prize Winners From Seeking Work

After the American Century

The Danish government has proposed rules for admission to the country that would discriminate against the vast majority of the world's PhDs. Notably, the new rules would favor only two of those who received the Nobel Prize in 2010. The restrictive regulations that the right-wing government has proposed would give bonus points to anyone with a degree from one of the world’s top twenty universities, as determined by the London Times annual poll. Restricting the list to just the top 20 schools is a serious mistake. It should include at least the first 200 schools, especially since none of the Danish universities are anywhere near the top twenty. The rather nasty implication is that foreigners  (or the Danes themselves!) with Danish PhDs are not really good enough.

In the London Times, DTU is ranked 122, Aarhus 167, and Copenhagen 177. As a group the Danish universities have fallen in the rankings considerably in recent years.

The danger of excluding Nobel Prize winners is by no means a hypothetical exercise. A few years ago, one of this year's winners, Konstatin Novselov was offered a position at the University Copenhagen, but his admission to the country became so snarled in red tape that he went to get his Ph.D. in Holland, at the University of Nijmegen. Just how many top quality doctoral students and faculty are lost in this way? Some never apply in the first place, because Denmark has become known as a nation whose government creates problems for non-citizens.

The list below includes the universities that the 2010 Nobel Prize winners either attended or now teach in.  I have put in parenthesis each school’s position in the London Times world ranking. Note that seven of the universities associated with this year’s winners are not even in the top 200 universities, much less the top 20.

Carnegie Mellon University (20)
Edinburgh University (40)
Essex University (not in the first 200)
Hokkaido University (not in the first 200)
Jilin University (China) (not in the first 200)
London School of Economics (86)
Madrid University (not in the first 200)
Manchester University (87)
MIT (3)
Nijmegen University (not in the first 200)
Northwestern University (25)
Peking Normal University (not in the first 200)
Purdue University (106)
Russian Academy of Sciences, Chernogolovka  (not in the first 200)
University of Delaware (159)
University of Tokyo (26)
University of Wales (not in the first 200)

The world’s top 20 Universities according to the London Times
1            Harvard University        USA
2            California Institute of Technology           USA
3            Massachusetts Institute of Technology    USA
4            Stanford University            USA
5            Princeton University            USA
6            University of Cambridge       United Kingdom           
6            University of Oxford             United Kingdom           
8            University of California Berkeley   USA           
9            Imperial College London  United Kingdom           
10          Yale University   USA           
11          University of California Los Angeles    USA
12          University of Chicago       USA           
13          Johns Hopkins University    USA
14          Cornell University            USA
15          Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland           
15          University of Michigan            USA           
17          University of Toronto            Canada           
18          Columbia University            USA           
19          University of Pennsylvania            USA
20          Carnegie Mellon University, USA

See also World University Rankings, 2011- 2012, elsewhere on this blog (October, 2011)

November 14, 2010

Perils of a Point System for Immigrants to Denmark

After the American Century

Danish politicians, particularly those on the right side of the political spectrum, are toying with the idea of introducing a point system for immigration. The idea is to admit applicants for residence in Denmark based on points that reward such things as advanced education, mastery of Danish before arrival, a strong knowledge of English, and specific skills.  The uneducated, and especially the illiterate, would be pretty much excluded under this system, unless they were excellent football players. The idea clearly is to attract those who can enrich the country and keep out those who would be a drain on its resources.

A related idea being discussed is to make new residents wait for several years before they are eligible for unemployment and some social services. People would earn points toward full membership in the welfare state after  two or even three years. This is a seriously flawed idea. Why should someone who is highly educated and skilled want to come to a country that will treat them as a second-class citizen for years? Danish society will not have paid for their education or training, yet it will immediately benefit from their contribution and from their taxes. It is hard to see any good reason for such a rule, or any way that such a rule can help attract the talented.

Furthermore, the logic of such rules could spread to the Danes themselves. Why should a new university graduate qualify for unemployment before he or she has worked for three years, just like the skilled immigrant? The only difference between them is that the native Dane has already cost society quite a large sum, so, logically, the native Dane should contribute for much longer than just two or three years before eligible for any benefits. I am not advocating this idea, merely pointing out that if the political calculus becomes that of only giving benefits to those who have earned them, then many unlucky Danes would perhaps never qualify for benefits from their own welfare state.

There is one other scenario to consider as well. Suppose a highly trained person, say a physicist or surgeon, comes to Denmark and after two years still is earning points toward full eligibility. Before he or she can "cash in," however, a new job offer comes from a country without such silly rules. The physicist and the surgeon leave, and Denmark loses their services. Worse yet, they decide to sue Denmark for recovery of the value of the "points" they accumulated. Since the government has created such a system, these "points" will have a clear monetary value. Would not the European Court likely rule that at least some of the taxes immigrants paid for welfare services they could never enjoy ought to be refunded? 

This is just an example. Many other lawsuits could be imagined, as lawyers calculate the value of unused "points" lost. The lawyers and the accountants would make money. The government would have to hire more people to deal with the complaints and the lawsuits. And, of course, Denmark's reputation would be damaged by the controversy, regardless of who won the individual cases. A brilliant idea, obviously.

November 04, 2010

CRACPOT: Republican Party Needs a New Name

After the American Century

It is usually best to call things by their right names. There once was a political party in the United States called the Republican Party, which proudly nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. That party would never have considered nominating a bird-brain like Sarah Palin. It was called, affectionately, The Grand Old Party. It made mistakes, of course, but it was the essentially the party of the North, of development, of education, and of fairness, notably in the politics of Teddy Roosevelt. TR was far from perfect, but he did attack corporate monopolies, he often took the side of labor, and he believed passionately in conservation.
The so-called Republican Party of today is not at all the party of Lincoln or of Teddy Roosevelt. It is an angry party, a party of negative campaigning, a party that courts religious fundamentalism, a party that nominates candidates with extremist views. I strongly doubt that Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt would have voted for their candidates in the 2010 election. They were too modern in their thinking. 

The truth is that the Republican Party has become the Christian Capitalist Conservative Party, or CCCP . However, that abbreviation refers to the Communist Party in Russia. So we cannot use it. This new party has its power base is in the old confederacy. Get out a map showing where the slaves were most numerous, and it coincides perfectly with the states that are most staunchly Republican. I am not saying they are racists or that they are Bible beating yahoos, but they are strong in the areas where such people are to be found.

Indeed, if one looks at a map of the election results for the nation as a whole, broken down by county, it is immediately obvious that the Republicans are strongest in the countryside. The Democrats win Chicago, New York City, LA, Philadelphia, and so on, but they lose all those rural counties where people confuse socialism with any form of public services. 

So let me propose a new name for the Republicans, one that expresses their true nature:
Christian Rural American Conservative Party of Tea:   

The name CRACPOT is accurate and descriptive. It is much needed in order to clarify who we are dealing with.
I therefore propose that CRACPOT be used from now on.

November 03, 2010

Women, Minorities, and Low Income Groups Voted Democratic

After the American Century

The Democrats lost badly in the House, but hung on to the Senate, as predicted here yesterday. (Indeed, while results are still coming in, it appears that I was nearly 100% correct.) Is there any silver lining for the Democrats? Yes. Women favor the Democrats by a sizeable margin, often as much as 15% more than men. Had only women been voting, the Democrats would have won the Senate seats in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Likewise, African Americans voted Democratic by overwhelming margins, with typically 20% or less for Republican candidates. Asian Americans also tended strongly to suport Democrats, as did Hispanic Americans, who typically voter 2-1 against the Republicans. These three minorities are all growing, and will have more potential voters each year, The states where they are most numerous, notably California, will be even more bastions for the Democrats than they are already.

Republicans would have won even more seats if only those who made more than $50,000 year had been allowed to vote, or if only those over 40 had voted. In short, Republicans are in some danger of becoming the party of white, old people. You would think this group might want better and less expensive medical care, so part of this constituency could be won over to the Democrats if the new medical system proves a success.

To put this another way, Democrats did best among young people, and also with highly educated people, i.e. those with an MA or a PhD. As the population gets more education, if would seem, they will likely become Democratic voters. 

So, despite the defeat, there are positive signs. The Democrats will need to discover and promote better candidates that can appeal to these demographics.