China has demanded that the US government require all US airlines to change the name of Taiwan in their computer systems to reflect China's stance that the island is Chinese territory, along with Hong Kong and Macau. The original deadline was May 25, but it was extended to July 25. Air Canada, Lufthansa, and British Airways have already done so. The White House termed the demand "Orwellian nonsense."
"The U.S. government should urge the relevant companies to scrupulously abide by the one China principle and rectify their websites as soon as possible," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, trying to isolate Taiwan.
Some will be tempted to write off China's demand as mere nationalistic bluster, but there are serious follow-on implications with respect to computer technology. The US foolishly plans on a quarterly corporate basis, but China plans long-term.
It wasn't that long ago that China stopped shipments of rare earths, necessary for semiconductors, iPhones, hybrid cars, and other high-tech products, first to Japan and then to the US and Europe. Rare earth refining is done on a large scale in only two places, China and a plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, the latter of which lies on the coast of the South China Sea which China believes "belongs to China," with China building military bases on reefs and islands to defend its historically-challenged claim.
All PC motherboard manufacturers worth worrying about are based in Taiwan: Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI, ASRock, ECS, Biostar, and Foxconn, with the last being the largest contract manufacturer. In case you don't know what a motherboard is, it's the large printed circuit board that all parts in a PC or Mac plug into. The essential elements of a PC are motherboard, processor, memory (a/k/a DRAM), storage (both hard drive and SSD), and power supply, with the motherboard containing Ethernet, wireless, and audio.
Foxconn, the largest private employer in Taiwan, is a major subcontractor for Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies. It purchased Sharp, a major Japanese supplier of LCD televisions and monitors.
Other important Taiwanese companies in the computer sector include Compal Electronics, D-Link, Foxconn, FSP Group, JMicron, MediaTek, Nanya, Pegatron, Phison, Powerchip, Quanta Computer, Realtek, Seasonic, TSMC, UMC, VIA Technologies, Winbond, Wistron, and ZyXEL.
These are not household names for most people, but their computers, whether Windows laptop or desktop, Mac, Linux system, tablet, or smartphone, are full of components from these companies.
TSMC is the largest independent semiconductor foundry, with UMC being the third-largest (the American GlobalFoundaries is the second-largest). TSMC manufactures silicon products for Qualcomm (smartphone processors), NVIDIA (graphics for PCs), AMD (processors and graphics for PCs), Marvell (controllers for SSDs), MediaTek (wireless), and other companies. TSMC sometimes manufactures products for companies that have their own foundries, for example, Intel and Texas Instruments. Qualcomm and Samsung signed an agreement back in 1993 that prevents the latter from using its own processors in smartphones sold in the US market.
Nanya, Powerchip, and Winbond are DRAM manufacturers, supplying almost 4% of world production.
Quanta Computer is the largest contract laptop manufacturer, with Compal Electronics being the second-largest. Pegatron was the laptop manufacturer for ASUS in the past, owns ASRock, and is one of the contract manufacturers used by Apple for the iPhone. Wistron manufactures tablets, mobile phones and other devices for Microsoft.
Seasonic is the premier manufacturer of PC power supplies, selling both under its name and via OEMs such as Corsair. FSP Group is another important power supply vendor. PC power supplies are all made in China or Taiwan, though the best use Japanese capacitors.
Realtek supplies Ethernet, audio, and wireless chipsets for a large percentage of motherboards. VIA Technologies is the largest independent manufacturer of motherboard chipsets, albeit a fabless one.
Intel, JMicron, Marvell, Phison, Samsung, SandForce, SK Hynix, and Toshiba are the major manufacturers of SSD controllers -- SSDs are a combination of NAND, a controller, and usually DRAM to serve as a buffer -- though some of the aforementioned companies use their controllers only in their products.
ASUS and D-Link are major suppliers of wireless routers. ZyXEL supplies wireless routers to CenturyLink and other OEMs.
Televisions and monitors are a different story, with Samsung and LG, both South Korean companies, taking the top two slots in terms of sales. Chinese companies take the next three slots, followed by Sony.
Apple may be disliked by China due to the way it washes its hands of responsibility regarding its subcontractors. 18 workers at an Apple-subcontracted Foxconn plant killed themselves by jumping from the rooftop of the factory. Apple and Foxconn's solution was to install nets. Other Apple-subcontracted factories owned by Foxconn and Pegatron experienced explosions caused by aluminum dust, killing 4 and injuring at least 59, even though the hazards of aluminum dust have been known for years.
One does not have to be an IT consultant to realize that if China were to annex Taiwan, it would be able to squeeze the world with respect to virtually all computer systems. Remember that while US Navy ships and US military aircraft generally employ custom computers and electronics, the command and control centers of militaries around the world use largely off-the-shelf PCs.
China's action vis-à-vis Taiwan is the latest tactic in its "Made in China 2025" initiative, which is designed to allow China to become 70% technology independent by 2025. China is making leaps and bounds in computer technology because Chinese high-tech companies enjoy massive state backing.
AMD's joint venture with China, Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Company (THATIC), licensed AMD server processor IP, with production already started. ARM's joint venture with China, ARM Mini China, licensed ARM processor IP, with ARM's architecture being used in 90% of mobile devices. And the third company to manufacture processors with Intel x86 / AMD x86_64 technology, VIA Technologies, has a joint venture with the municipal government of Shanghai, Zhaoxin Semiconductor.
State-supported tech conglomerate Tsinghua Unigroup tried to buy a 15% stake in Western Digital, the largest hard drive manufacturer, but that fell through due to national security concerns. Then Tsinghua Unigroup tried to buy Micron, the fourth-largest NAND supplier -- Samsung, Toshiba, WDC, Micron, SK Hynix, and Intel supply over 99% of NAND -- but Micron declined for national security reasons. Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), an affiliate of Tsinghua Unigroup, will be the first NAND supplier in China, with product expected in late 2018 or 2019. Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (XMC), another affiliate of Tsinghua Unigroup, is working on 3-D NAND, the state-of-the-art for NAND. SSDs require controllers, so China's Netcom arranged a strategic partnership with Marvell, a major supplier of controller chips. China's Innotron and Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit (JHICC), which work on mobile DRAM and specialty DRAM, respectively, were both founded with the help of the Chinese government, but they have a lot of work to do to catch up with the West. Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron currently supply over 95% of DRAM, with Nanya, Powerchip, and Winbond taking the next three slots.
Chinese President-for-life Xi Jinping told Chinese media that China will not accept the loss of "even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors," even though China is the only country that believes it has ever owned the entire South China Sea, with Taiwan residing at the northeastern edge. China severely restricts knowledge of inconvenient events such as the uprising at Tiananmen Square, because no new flowers of thought are going to be blooming.
Being able to control Taiwan's technology sector would immediately enable China to create a chokepoint for PCs, smartphones, and components for the entire world. And even if China didn't interrupt the supply of computers, it could embed backdoors in the hardware. Taiwan isn't perfect, but world leaders should understand what's at stake, as the West outsourced its technological soul many years back. The US, Canada, the EU, Australia, and Japan should immediately start an initiative to create computer hardware free of Intel's ME, AMD's Secure Processor, government spy agencies, and other potential backdoors, perhaps starting with ARM IP, with it being manufactured someplace other than China.
Around five years ago, my father, Al, who never smoked or drank alcohol, discovered blood in his urine. He went to the doctor, driven by my sister, as he stopped driving years ago, only to be told he had bladder cancer. On the way to the hospital, he declared that he did not want to go there, as it was clear this would be major surgery and might be the end of his life. He told my sister, "I want to go to Red Lobster," which she ignored.
Around half of his bladder was removed, meaning that he had to urinate quite often. However, he was able to return to the only activity left for him, going out to eat, with his favorite restaurants being Red Lobster and Outback. He only ever wanted one meal at each restaurant: Sailor's Platter at the former and Victoria's Filet at the latter. Red Lobster discontinued the Sailor's Platter for a time which really annoyed us, though it was eventually brought back due to popular demand. We were able to take him to both restaurants many times since then. Every Veteran's Day, a stranger would pay for our meal, though sometimes they were too shy to approach us directly, asking the manager to notify us.
He started using a walker, though he postponed it as long as he could. His ability to walk became progressively worse each month. A few times while walking out of the restaurant, he started moving in slow motion, sometimes coming to a complete halt. He said that his legs just didn't work. I needed to carry much of his weight back to the vehicle.
When we were growing up in the Chicago area, he kept the car radio tuned to an AM news station. He always watched the evening news on television, though that was before 24-hour cable news and the Internet. I don't remember exactly when, but he stopped watching the news in this time period. When I was there at the appropriate time, I'd offer to turn on the television, but he declined, saying that he'd rather rest in his recliner. Of course, the fact that his hearing and vision were rather poor no doubt had something to do with it.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should have demanded that he use a wheelchair in the last year, though when we broached the subject, he told us he wanted to continue using the walker. One day when I was taking him to Perkins, just to try someplace different, I turned my head to watch where I was going. As I turned my head back to him, he fell onto the pavement. I was barely able to get him back in my truck and I'm really strong. I looked back at the handicapped ramp and realized that the transition between the parking lot and the ramp was not as smooth as it should have been.
He had trouble walking at home, so off he went to the hospital again, where we discovered that he had a cracked pelvis. He spent a few days in the hospital and was transferred to a rehab facility because hospital stays cost Kaiser Permanente too much money. He hated that facility, as it was rather Spartan, with the cuisine being not much better than fast-food. And then he caught the flu, most likely from an employee who only worked part-time and therefore did not have sick days. The flu really hammered him, with his cough not going away for many weeks. He never recovered his strength after that.
He eventually returned home, but he could not walk to the bathroom on his own any more. We hired a private company to supply care-givers to be at the house to assist him with going to the bathroom, with my business-owning brother paying for the service. One day my father started acting like a zombie, sitting in his chair but being unresponsive. We put food in front of him, but he just kept moving his hand around the tray. We weren't sure what to do, but after we discovered he had a fever, we called an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
After another day of being mentally catatonic, he awoke, telling us that he wondered how he got to the hospital. He had no memory of his behavior at home or his ambulance ride. The doctors never did figure out what had been wrong with him, but then again, he had signed a DNR. The doctors recommended that he be put into hospice care.
We found an assisted-living facility with more comfort than the rehab facility, once again on my brother's dime. My father arrived there just before Easter Sunday, which seemed appropriate given that he was Catholic. I brought him downstairs in a wheelchair for Easter brunch which was actually quite nice. I put eggs, bacon, and other breakfast items on his plate, but I saw that he could no longer use a fork, so I fed him myself. That was the first and last time he went to the dining room to eat, with all subsequent meals being brought to his room.
I would often arrive either just before or just after lunch with a cup of coffee, though I had to insert a straw to allow him to drink it. However, there were more and more days when he was sleeping when I arrived and I could not bring myself to wake him up to say hello. Eventually he told me that coffee just kept him awake, which I took as a hint to stop bringing it. My sister sometimes brought a takeout Sailor's Platter at dinnertime. She told me that initially he ate every bite, but eventually he became disinterested in eating.
One of the care-givers at the assisted-living facility, Melissa, stood out. She wore a cross around her neck, with her actions proving that it wasn't merely for show. She fed my father breakfast and lunch whenever she was working. She told me that some of the other care-givers thought there was little point in feeding a hospice patient. Eventually the only meals he could eat were soft ones, for example, mashed potatoes and gravy. He became very thin.
Sometimes he would be in the aforementioned zombie state, though with his eyes closed, slowly waving his right hand around as if he was conducting an orchestra.
My sister and I thought we'd improve upon the bed that was provided by hospice care. We moved his bed from home, one with controls to raise the head and feet. The hospice workers, who arrived every 2-3 days to give him a sponge bath or check on his health, then told us that it was necessary to use the provided hospice bed, as it allowed for the bed to move up and down to diminish the strain on worker's backs. So we brought his bed back home.
One day I arrived before lunch to find him conversing with a volunteer, with him in a wheelchair, not a bed. He was as lucid as he had been for months. Being optimistic, something for which I'm not known, I thought he'd be around for a few more months.
A few days later, I found him delirious, something which was not rare. He was telling me things I could not understand. He finished his story by telling me that he thought his only option was to kill himself. Perhaps he had just awoken from a nightmare; perhaps he was experiencing a daymare. I told him that it was okay, which seemed to calm him down a bit. My response was inadequate, but it was all I could think of.
The last time I saw him lucid, I heard the care-giver ask him what he wanted, with his response being, "I want to get out of here." My visit was all too brief.
He died eight days ago, early in the morning. I got to the facility just before they took him away. He looked just like he did the day before, only without the breathing. Melissa was the one who found him, even though she had been transferred to another wing, with my dad no longer her responsibility. Some would say he died peacefully in his sleep, however, given his daymare, I can only hope that was the case.
He served in both WWII and the Korean War. His WWII duty was fairly low-stress, as he was assigned to guard the airbase on Ascension Island which was used as a halfway point for military aircraft traveling across the Atlantic Ocean as well as for anti-submarine operations, with the next stop going west being Natal in Brazil. The Nazis did not attack the island on my father's watch. The Korean War was another thing entirely, as he was a participant in the bloody battle at Heartbreak Ridge. He stayed in the Army and retired as a master sergeant.
His military service entitled him to a military funeral. The funeral was held on May 25 at Fort Logan National Cemetery, about as close to being buried on Memorial Day as one could get. The US Army officer who gave the sermon had an accent I could not place at first, but then I realized he was Korean. He thanked my father for his service in the Korean War, as it contributed to his native country remaining free.
Happy Memorial Day, Dad! I displayed your old US flag on the outside of your garage this weekend. I'll display it again on Flag Day on what would have been your 98th birthday. A long time ago, you joked that those displaying the flag on Flag Day were doing so in honor of your birthday. I'm sorry we couldn't make it to one of your favorite restaurants on your final outing.
Look closely at the second photo in the Denver Post article regarding co-working and see how many things you can find that are wrong:
- Everyone is using their own laptop, i.e. the office is a BYOD (bring your own device) shop. Employees think it's wonderful, as they have their personal apps, but IT departments hate it because employees decide if they install questionable apps or have antivirus software, with all of these devices being behind the corporate firewall. It's not a coincidence that cyber-breaches such as the one at Equifax are multiplying like rabbits. When someone clicks on a phishing email, its malware will spread.
- There is no separation of any kind between employees, so all personal odors will waft throughout the work space. If your co-workers eat beans and onions for lunch, wear strong scents, or eschew regular showers, there's no place to escape. And some people just stink.
- Not one monitor is at eye level, forcing the person to look down all day. My neck hurts just looking at them, especially the ones using laptops with a display not much bigger than a smart phone. In the old days, we'd use telephone books to serve as a platform, but these companies don't have landlines.
- Some people cannot help clearing their throats or making personal noises. One solution is to wear headphones, but if someone wears ear buds or the open style of headphones, everyone in the vicinity will hear the escaping noise.
- Some people have annoying habits: knuckle-cracking, leg-bouncing, finger-tapping, etc. Quoth the raven, "ever more."
- Any personal or business conversation, whether on the phone or nearby, will distract.
- Movement of people will attract the eye. It's human nature.
- There's been quite a few articles and lawsuits regarding sexual harassment in the office. Look at the people sitting across from one another. Every time one of them looks up, perhaps to ponder a point, they will be looking directly at the other person, which might not be interpreted innocently.
Texting and other smart phone activities which require finger presses by the driver of a moving vehicle -- including, but not limited to automobiles, trucks, busses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, trains, tricycles, bicycles, unicycles, and all terrain vehicles -- traveling on any road which was financed even partially via federal funds shall be illegal. It shall not matter if the smart phone activity was accomplished in a hands-on or hands-free manner. The penalty for this behavior shall be equivalent to the existing one for driving under the influence of alcohol.
All law enforcement officers -- federal, state, and local -- shall be allowed to stop, detain, investigate, and issue citations for any driver suspected of texting and other smart phone activities which require finger presses. Law enforcement officers shall be allowed to do so after witnessing erratic behavior, receiving notice of erratic behavior via official channels, or witnessing a driver using a hand-held device, or if they are in the process of investigating a traffic offense.
All motor vehicles built after the passage of this statute -- including, but not limited to automobiles, trucks, busses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, trains, and all terrain vehicles -- shall be required to disable texting and other smart phone activities which require finger presses via onboard and connected phones while the vehicle is in motion.
Suppliers of wireless services for smart phones, cell phones, disposable cell phones, tablets, PCs, and all other computers capable of texting and other smart phone activities which require finger presses shall be required to establish and maintain a communal telephone inquiry service for law enforcement officers, making it possible for them to inquire if a particular user was texting in a specific timeframe, with the call being toll-free. If a user is illegally using a wireless service, with the service being unable to positively identify the user, the law enforcement officer shall be allowed to detain the user and confiscate the phone until positive identification is established.
This statute shall take effect on the day after its passage.
If any provision of this statute is declared unconstitutional, the remainder shall remain in effect.
I started fooling around with electronics as a kid. I found an old AM radio and some headphones, but I could not make it work. I eventually realized that one of the tubes was broken. I learned this by bringing the tubes to the tube tester in a large drug store, as tube testers were common in those days. Being only ten years old, the fact that the broken tube was no longer available stumped me.
So I wrote a letter to a magazine. I believe it was Electronics Illustrated. My letter was not a work of beauty, with it being something like, "I'm only ten years old, but I do not understand how to replace an XYZ tube now that it is obsolete."
The next month's issue not only did not contain an answer, it contained a smart-ass remark from the editor: "I'm only 113 years old, but I don't know either."
So that's the way adults are, I thought, just as nasty and unhelpful as children.
A few weeks later I received a fat envelope in the mail. In it was an apology, of sorts, that explained how the editor thought his response was uprorious, but then he received some letters from sympathetic readers upbraiding him for being so insulting to a child, especially one who was interested in their hobby.
In the envelope were all of the letters the magazine received. Most of them explained how to solve the situation, including references to a book which listed all tubes and equivalents thereof.
But one letter stands out in my mind even today.
The man offered to sell me some used equipment for $100, which was a lot of money to a child in those days. Even at my tender age, I knew something was wrong with his offer, not to mention that this was many years before eBay and other Internet sites made such transactions reasonably safe.
I did not reply to his letter.
I did not appreciate until years later that he was a predatory asshole who thought nothing of taking advantage of children, with this occurring years before Ayn Rand's social Darwinist philosophy became widespread.
The current tax system is a grab bag of special favors and arcane regulations, often favoring specific companies and/or friends of politicians. The effective corporate tax rate hovers around 20%, yet outsourcing is rampant because CEOs covet even higher compensation. This does not benefit the U.S.
We should delete the entire current system, every last statute, and replace it with a system specifically designed to increase jobs and reduce favoritism.
The theory is rather simple in concept: corporate taxes would be inversely proportional to the percentage of American employees an entity has.
There would be two parts to the calculation, direct and indirect employees. The former refers to the American workers a company has on its payroll. This portion is straightforward. The latter refers to foreign parts and services a company uses to produce its products, and to partial and completed products a company imports to sell in the U.S.
Every company would be master of its taxes and could lower them simply by moving more operations to the U.S. We wouldn't need to worry about whether a company was American or foreign because the jobs a company brought to the U.S. would be the only detail of importance.
Some examples will help to illustrate the concept.
A company making furniture using American trees in the U.S. would pay zero tax. There wouldn't be too many companies on the zero end of the scale.
One of those we-ship-it businesses with more copiers than employees would still pay a decent tax due to the foreign-made products being sold and the foreign-made equipment in use. However, an owner could actively seek out American-made products and reduce his taxes.
Amazon and Walmart would pay hefty taxes because they import the majority of their products, even though they have a large number of employees in the U.S. All of the people producing items for Amazon and Walmart in foreign factories would be considered indirect employees.
Many companies, e.g. Target, Cigna, Comcast, and many airlines, would be a mixed bag, because while they have many employees working in the U.S., they also have customer service, IT, accounting and/or other departments in India. Target would be hammered because it imports most of its products.
Apple would pay a large corporate tax because all of its products are manufactured overseas, largely in plants which abuse their employees.
Companies such as Microsoft which have located a large portion of their business in India would pay a high tax rate.
Companies that only maintain a small office in the U.S. to track their foreign imports would pay a tax rate approaching 100%. The free ride would be over.
Employees using H-1B, L-1, and other business visas would not be counted as Americans. We'd have to force corporations to reveal the depths of their outsourcing and business visa use.
Speaking of free rides, we'd need to reverse the mindless acceptance of Uber's business model -- its investors and management hope to become a driving monopoly -- which is based on the federal government allowing it to ignore laws created long before ago with respect to labor agreements, not to mention its treating workers as low-paid contestants on Survivor. The best solution would be to force Uber to follow local agreements that taxi companies do, especially with respect to vetting its workers to prevent them burglarizing homes of passengers from Delaware to Denver and raping passengers from Boston to Anaheim. It is clearly unsustainable to allow companies to essentially transfer the salaries of middle class workers to CEOs and venture capitalists, not to mention that a senior executive proposed to dig up dirt on critics of the company, making it no different than Scientology.
Discussions would need to take place in order to assign the value of all groups of direct and indirect employees. Walmart would be relatively easy given that the vast majority of its employees, both in the U.S. and overseas, are not well-paid. Apple would not be so easy, given that its management would claim that most of the work was done by its American designers.
And we'd need to rework our free trade treaties to avoid bringing in Chinese-made products disguised as ones made by our treaty partner.
But the increase in employment would result in enormous gains for American companies, the way things used to be.
I've worked out for decades at school gyms, YMCAs, facilities at work, recreation centers, and health clubs. At every facility there was a certain etiquette. People didn't sit on machines or benches when they weren't using them, except for the clueless New Year's resolution types who rarely lasted more than two weeks. Guys were open to allowing someone else to work in with them (I met a number of friends that way). Cameras were never brought into the facility. And people kept their workout a safe distance from others.
I cannot definitely state when things changed because different clubs have slightly different cultures, but it was at least five years ago. Now it is common to see self-proclaimed hipsters sitting on machines or benches while checking messages or texting. They are completely oblivious to the fact that they are preventing someone else from using the equipment.
In the days before smart phones, taking video or a photo of someone was difficult because the devices were relatively large and cumbersome. But now, all someone needs to do is aim their smart phone at an unsuspecting person as Playboy bimbo Dani Mathers did to an older woman. Since the new year, a sign was posted to the effect that videotaping or photography in the locker room is not allowed. I would have thought that such behavior was contrary to common sense, but Glassholes have already demonstrated their lack of same via their use of Google Glass, essentially a smart phone integrated into glasses, to capture video of anyone at any time. Some enlightened bars and restaurants have banned the use of Glass and similar products.
In previous years if someone wanted circuit training, i.e. exercise involving weights while keeping one's pulse near a certain target rate, he would use a machine, then run up and down the stairs, use another machine, etc. Some people used jump ropes, but they always moved to a corner of the club so to not injure others. But now a few self-important youngsters are using a machine and then jumping rope without moving away from the machine they just used. Just the other day I saw a narcissist do this without looking behind him, with the jump rope swinging about one foot from another guy's head, with the second guy moving his head to increase the distance between himself and the rope. I would not have been so gracious.
There are signs in the health club notifying people that gym bags are not allowed in the areas with machines. I used to think the purpose of the signs was to forestall the dishonest from placing gym equipment in their bag and absconding with it, but now I realize there is another reason. Some selfish cretins simply drop their gym bags on top of equipment, preventing anyone else from using it. Usually this takes the form of dropping bags on top of benches or machines where the user needs to lie down on top of a padded surface.
It used to be exceedingly rare to see someone monopolizing multiple machines. Now that behavior is seen every day, with these pompous persons dropping a towel on one machine, a water bottle on another, and another item on a third machine, marking their territory like a dog on a walk. And it's not just guys, as women do it too. I try to avoid the machines being monopolized as long as I can, but I can only wait so long. If I need to use one of "their" machines, I simply push their property onto the floor. If they complain, I inform them that it's not their private gym or that they were actually trespassing on "my" machine. If everyone monopolized three machines, the maximum number of people a health club could accommodate would be 1/3 the number of machines, excluding the cardio machines.
One guy was walking to the exit. I was lying on the floor doing a stretch in an area where people are often stretching. He walked through the area -- right over me -- like a moose who has gotten used to the idea that he can walk anywhere he pleases, only this moose wasn't very intimidating.
There is a great deal of obfuscation and duplicity with respect to H-1B visas. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, the globalization cheerleader of The World is Flat fame, proposed to "[remove] all limits on H-1B visas for foreign high-skilled knowledge workers." Reuters, a user of H-1B visas, reported on 'specialty' occupations that generally require higher education, often using phrases such as "high-skilled workers." NYT columnist David Brooks, who only PBS considers to be a conservative -- okay, he's really a neo-con -- pleaded with us to support the "free trade and skilled immigration that fuel growth." Senator Marco Rubio, a charter member of the Gang of Eight which constantly pushes for increased immigration, declared: "I, for one, have no fear that this country is going to be overrun by PhDs."
If one does not understand the H-1B program, one might accept that these so-called high-skilled workers are necessary for the growth of our economy. The problem is that there are actually two very different parts of the H-1B visa program, with the two being intentionally conflated by parties with conflicts of interest. And your author, who possesses a B.S. degree, would not classify someone with one as "high-skilled."
The first H-1B category consists of 20,000 visas reserved for applicants with an M.S. degree or higher. These people often end up starting companies and creating jobs. However, policing must be done to weed-out applicants from below average schools.
The second consist of 65,000 visas reserved for those with a B.S. degree or higher, but practically speaking, they are always used for people with only a B.S. degree, often for applicants of ordinary talent from India. This category of visa is regularly abused, e.g. at Disney, Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities, and Microsoft, often after forcing American workers to train their foreign replacements.
There are currently around 400,000 workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas., though that number is only approximate because even the GAO admits that "the total number of H-1B workers in the U.S. at any one time -- and information about the length of their stay -- is unknown."
One of the myths regarding H-1B visas is that companies are required to search for American workers before hiring foreign ones. Senator Charles Grassley, an expert on the subject, noted that "under the law, most employers are not required to prove to the Department of Labor that they tried to find an American to fill the job first. And, if there is an equally or even better qualified U.S. worker available, the company does not have to offer him or her the job. Over the years the program has become a government-assisted way for employers to bring in cheaper foreign labor, and now it appears these foreign workers take over -- rather than complement -- the U.S. workforce."
Another myth is that there is a shortage of STEM workers, forcing employers to look outside U.S. borders.
"If there was really a STEM labor market crisis, you'd be seeing very different behaviors from companies. You wouldn't see companies cutting their retirement contributions, or hiring new workers and giving them worse benefits packages. Instead you would see signing bonuses, you'd see wage increases. You would see these companies really training their incumbent workers," noted Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "None of those things are observable. In fact, they’re operating in the opposite way."
"There is no doubt that the [H-1B] program is a benefit to their employers, enabling them to get workers at a lower wage, and to that extent, it is a subsidy," said Nobel economist Milton Friedman.
Those who doubt that H-1B visas are a huge business should search for "H-1B visa" using their favorite Internet search engine -- and note the many firms making money on them.
And while millions of Americans are unable to find full-time work -- U6, which takes into account people who have only been able to find part-time work, currently stands at 9.2% -- immigration has held steady at around one million per year since 2001, with the only blip in the data occurring due to 9/11 -- and no blip at all following the 2008 crash.
There are other visa categories which are used to import foreign workers, including L-1A and L-1B which were designed to give multinational companies the freedom to transfer managers and specialists within the company to their U.S. offices, but they are regularly abused as an H-1B loophole. Senators Grassley and Dick Durbin found that some companies have hundreds or even thousands of them. And there is no cap on them.
B-1 visas are intended to be used for temporary events, e.g. meetings, but they are regularly abused. Infosys, one of the top-ten users of H-1B visas, was fined a record $34 million for using B-1 visas to bring in long-term employees.
There are five categories of entrepreneur visa -- O-1A Extraordinary Ability and Achievement, EB-1 Extraordinary Ability, EB-2 Classification and National Interest Waiver, EB-2 Advanced Degree Professional, and EB-2 Exceptional Ability -- which ostensibly require the employer to "certify ... that there are not sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job opportunity in the area of intended employment and that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers." These are also regularly abused, though not nearly as much as H-1B, L-1, and B-1 visas.
There's even a visa for nationals of a treaty country, E-1 Treaty Traders, which might be expanded if a stake is not driven into the heart of the TPP.
Donald Trump should order the State Department to stop approving the second category of H-1B visas, and for all other visa categories, he should seek the advice of Senator Grassley, Senator Durbin, Ron Hira, and other concerned Americans with respect to eliminating corporate welfare. And companies which abuse visas must be barred from dealing in them for a number of years, as well as being fined an amount that inflicts corporate pain.
AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) currently occupies second place in the PC and server processor business after Intel. The field was narrowed to three -- VIA Technologies is #3, though it is only responsible for around 1% of the market -- because of the enormous investment required to manufacture processors. Ten years ago, a company could build a silicon fabrication plant for $2-3 billion, but now the cost is closer to $10-12 billion. And as the lithography decreases in size, the required investment will only become larger. AMD's market share historically ranged between 5% and 20%, with many people believing that Intel refrained from crushing AMD only to avoid being charged with anti-trust violations.
But Intel is not a powerhouse in all areas of the processor business, as Qualcomm has 64% of the global cellular baseband chip market and 51% of the smartphone applications processor market. Other players in this market include HiSilicon (owned by Chinese Huawei), MediaTek (a Taiwanese spin-off from United Microelectronics Corporation), Marvell (a top supplier of SSD controllers), and Samsung. After trying and failing for a decade to dominate the mobile market, Intel is eliminating 12,000 jobs, and that in a twelve-month period which witnessed the loss of 72,333 jobs in the tech sector. Intel declared that its new focus will be on the cloud, but it's already a major player in that arena, having 95% market share in enterprise servers and more than that in enterprise cloud. Intel will also focus on the IoT (Internet of Things), the realm of chatty lawnmowers, eavesdropping televisions, come-hither baby monitors, gossipy oxygen monitors, tattletale mattresses, vincible buildings, and perceptive penis rings. AMD, on the other hand, does not intend to enter the IoT market, though it is betting heavily on corporate data centers.
The push to migrate everything to the cloud will result in Big Data firms having access to your entire online life, quite a price to pay for access to music, videos, and data via any platform around the world. You are the product being sold, not the customer.
The computer business is dog-eat-dog -- just ask CDC, RCA, Honeywell, Sperry Univac, Burroughs, and GE, all of which were former computer manufacturers -- and so AMD farmed out its fabrication business in 2009 with the creation of GlobalFoundries to manufacture its processors, making AMD a fabless manufacturer, unlike Intel which still controls its processors from beginning to end. AMD did this to obtain some much-needed cash to continue its business.
AMD filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Intel in the 2004 to 2009 time frame for Intel's monopolist behavior, along with the European Commission and graphics chip maker Nvidia. Intel eventually settled for $1.25 billion to AMD, $1.45 billion to the European Commission, and $1.5 billion to Nvidia. After GlobalFoundaries was created, Intel threatened to terminate AMD's license to manufacture x86 processors because GlobalFoundaries did not necessarily inherit the licensing agreement.
In October 2014, AMD announced that the Taiwan-born Lisa Su, who joined AMD in January 2012, would become President and CEO.
Last June AMD was reportedly considering breaking up the company. Last September, AMD split its graphics chip unit into a separate business internally called Radeon Technology Group. Like Intel, it had failed to gain a foothold in the mobile market.
One of the reasons Intel does not have a cash-flow problem is its use of H-1B visas which are used to replace American workers with cheaper foreign ones, mainly from India, with 6% of Intel's U.S. workforce being here on an H-1B visa. Intel depends on them to such an extent that it even has a Director of Immigration Policy, Peter Muller, who advocates not only for more foreign workers, but also for work authorization for their spouses to double the number of lost American jobs. Microsoft, Intel, and Facebook were three of the top-five companies lobbying Congress for more H-1B visas in 2013, with politicians such as Marco Rubio cheerleading the effort. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of H-1B visas are not used for people with advanced skills, with the exact figures being 65,000 for applicants with a B.S. and 20,000 for those with an M.S. or PhD. Not to mention that the H-1B visa program is not attracting the best and brightest workers.
Another myth regarding H-1B visas is that it is illegal to use them to replace Americans. It's not. The law “is designed to make sure you can replace American at will, while making it look like you can't,” said John Miano, an attorney for Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.
Moore's Law is often misquoted, with many people believing that it ordained a doubling of performance every 1-2 years. In truth, Intel's Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors would double every year. In 1975, he revised his estimate to cover a two-year period. The performance increase from Lynnfield (2009) to Sandy Bridge (2011) was 10-50%, hardly a doubling, with most models closer to 10-20% improvement. Moore's Law substantially slowed down with the transition to a 22nm lithography, starting with Ivy Bridge (2012). The transition to 14nm lithography, starting with Broadwell (2014), caused Intel to revise the tick-tock model into a tick-tock-tock one. The transition to 10nm lithography promises to slow it even more.
AMD announced that it is licensing the design of its new Zen processor and SoC (system-on-chip) technology to Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Company (THATIC), a joint venture with China. This is something that Intel has never done, although it has partners in China and Israel, with Intel being the top private employer in Israel with many locations there. Worldwide, Intel has fifteen fabs and GlobalFoundaries has five.
"Intel will give you a black box, but not the keys to the kingdom," Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, said.
The industry press articles that referenced the report from IDG News Service referred to the technology as x86 when in fact that specific technology is owned by Intel (the term "x86" stems from Intel's 16-bit 8086 in 1978 and 32-bit 80386 in 1986). AMD's 64-bit extension of it, x86-64, a/k/a amd64, is more important given that all current PC and server processors support it. AMD and Intel are tied together with golden handcuffs given that each licenses the other's IP.
Both AMD and Intel are suffering from the shrinking PC market, though detachable tablets, i.e. tablets that double as laptops, may offer growth in the low single digits. Many people are still using five-year-old Intel Sandy Bridge or AMD era-equivalent Bulldozer and Piledriver processors with an SSD, with the days of PCs being overwhelmed by software a short time after sale long behind us. Intel has not done itself any favors with its naming scheme that mainly insiders appreciate. AMD reported that its Q1 2016 operating loss was $70 million, compared with a Q4 2015 operating loss of $99 million.
One curious thing regarding the licensing arrangement is that Q1 2016 revenue was lower than expected due to lower demand for its graphics chips used in consoles and reduced demand from China. China accounted for 42.2% of AMD’s revenue in 2014. AMD may be betting on past behavior.
The administrations of Bush the Younger and Obama gave hundreds of billions of dollars to ensure that pampered Wall Street executives could continue to purchase luxury cars, yet they failed to see the strategic importance of having the processor business centered in the U.S. and Europe. Having multiple, reliable sources for processors and chipsets is necessary to guarantee that our military and infrastructure hardware does not contain backdoors, whether in the firmware or baked into the silicon.
Another issue regarding the announcement is that it claims that AMD is only transferring high-performance processor technology, but x86-64 architecture is used in servers, desktops, and laptops. China is not known for enforcing the IP of foreign entities, with the technology transfer to THATIC actually being under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a national research institution.
AMD should have done its due diligence.
China announced trial runs of its own magnetic levitation train less than two years after the opening of Shanghai's German-designed Transrapid system. The technology required for magnetic levitation trains could not possibly have been developed independently in a two-year period. Chinese engineers were filmed breaking into the Transrapid maintenance room in the middle of the night and taking measurements of the new train.
"Dozens of Chinese manufacturers are shamelessly copying our machines," said Rainer Hundsdörfer, the CEO of Weinig AG, a German company that manufactures machine tools. "And when I point this out to the Chinese in their booths, they're not even embarrassed. On the contrary. They're proud of the quality of their copies and want to know how they can improve them even further," he added, referring to his discovery of copies of his company's products at trade shows.
All of the leading railway companies wanted to do business in China which demanded cutting edge technology to be licensed to Chinese companies. Not surprisingly, China aggregated all of the various technologies to create its own world-class railway company. The Western companies received only a token amount of business, but now, not only are they locked out of the Chinese market, they have to compete world-wide with a company which has better technology.
As Siemens and the other companies discovered, China plays by very different rules. As Der Spiegel noted, "zizhu chuangxin," or "independent innovation," is the Chinese way of describing how Chinese firms further develop foreign technologies.
"Deutsche Bahn thinks first and foremost about Deutsche Bahn, and Siemens first and foremost about Siemens," explained deputy chief engineer of China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock, Lu Renyuan. "But, in China, each person thinks about how we can all advance our nation together."
My first project at Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin, was Autonomous Land Vehicle (ALV), an eight-wheeled truck chassis controlled by artificial intelligence (AI). The government agency sponsoring the work was Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the lead R&D agency for the U.S. military. My task was to write the main real-time control loop which I will refer to as RTCL because I don't remember its official name. All equipment on the vehicle would be controlled by RTCL in a binary sense, i.e. either on or off. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that it had to include a dead man's switch, a mechanism to stop the vehicle if things ran amok, even though the concept was not mentioned anywhere in the requirements handed down by systems engineering. My dead man's switch was actually quite simple; if RTCL ran through a small number of cycles without receiving input from Navigator, the project's name for the AI which would decide in which direction to point the vehicle, it would stop and safe the vehicle. The dead man's switch wasn't strictly necessary for the first test because a safety officer would walk alongside ALV holding a kill-switch attached to the vehicle via a long cord, but it would be essential for subsequent work when the vehicle was truly autonomous.
At the design review, I noted that the dead man's switch was indispensable, as it would be the only thing preventing an out-of-control vehicle from going on a slow-speed rampage. The systems engineering manager -- a jovial fellow who once remarked that none of the women he dated in Colorado knew how to give a proper blowjob -- exclaimed, "Boy, we sure put the right person on this task," with his group having missed such an important requirement. I joked that the vehicle should talk, like the 1928 Porter touring car in My Mother the Car.
The dead man's switch was not the only surprise. The first time the vehicle traveled down the test track of slightly greater than one mile, it ran right off the road and onto the grass, forcing the safety officer to kill the engine. We quickly realized that there was very little contrast between the well-worn road, the dirt shoulder, and the brown grass. So management decided to oil the asphalt to make it as black as possible and paint the grass green. This gave Navigator sufficient contrast so it could determine where the road ended. Besides, Martin Marietta and the Air Force had already dumped so much hydrazine and other noxious chemicals into the ground that a little green paint wouldn't make any difference (the water taps in the small building next to our mobile homes up the hill from the main buildings had signs reading "not potable," with the area being a SuperFund site).
Later I was told that RTCL had been used throughout the life of the project, the only software to do so.
Perhaps others on the project did, but I never dreamed of autonomous cars similar to how Philip K. Dick's androids dreamed of electric sheep. But Google did. Autonomous vehicles, now often called self-driving vehicles, still have many of the same problems.
Volvo's North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, became angry as his company's self-driving prototype occasionally displayed recalcitrance during a press event at the Los Angeles Auto Show, saying: "It can't find the lane markings! You need to paint the bloody roads here!"
That's because its AI and associated sensors have trouble distinguishing between the road and the shoulder, and between the various yellow and white painted stripes and dashes. It's not a trivial problem. On a freshly paved and painted road, humans can easily drive down the center of the lane, but as the road wears, even they sometimes have trouble. An estimated 65% of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the Department of Transportation, with many parts of the country experiencing snow which temporarily obscures the road, not to mention snowplows which mar the surface by removing lane markings and other road indicators. Ford is testing its self-drivers in snow for these reasons, while Google's next testing venue is in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.
Most of the self-driving has occurred in California, where snow is a rarity, so Google and the other companies have not really tested their vehicles in real-world conditions. That has not stopped some people from making outrageous comments, for example, Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google, who wants his 11-year-old son to never have to take a driver's test, which is a lot like saying that his son should not learn to swim because he'll probably never be thrown into deep water. But then again, given the high percentage of young people who think nothing of texting while driving, perhaps it is a good idea that the next generation never drives a motor vehicle.
I want to see a self-driver running in one of Denver's summer hailstorms, when the pavement is a mix of water and ice, with visibility for man, beast, and beastly inventions sometimes dropping to just a few meters, not to mention the noise and damage that large ice particles can cause. The sensors of a human are protected by the car's exterior, but a self-driver's sensors are at the mercy of the elements. Not to mention the LIDAR sensors having an electronic cow with thousands of small, constantly changing reflections per second.
An uncommon, but nonetheless possible scenario would be if a criminal or terrorist steps in front of your car holding a weapon pointed your way. With a normal car you can stomp on the gas and aim directly at him. If he moves out of the way, he'll be too busy to shoot at you. If he doesn't move out of the way, well, he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. But with a self-driver, the car will stop and allow him to shoot the passengers and/or carjack the vehicle. The day the car stood still, if you will, when it becomes your ex-machina.
Some people suggest that cars should surrender control to the human in ambiguous cases, but that person will usually be taking a nap, texting, reading, watching a movie, or having sex. People riding mass transit already do these things. Good luck obtaining a quick, lucid response.
But the real issue here is money. Google wants to eliminate drivers because it intends to use passengers to feed Google AdSense. The combination of smart phone data, verbal conversations, and destinations will be a goldmine for Google's advertisers.
In 2012-13, Google was caught red-handed capturing Wi-Fi transmissions as its Google Street View cars traveled around the world. This was not done by accident, it was done intentionally, collecting so-called payload data, which includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, passwords, e-mail, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from Internet users. Google paid just $7 million for its actions. It was fined $25,000 by the FCC for "willfully" ignoring subpoenas and delaying investigations.
All of these fines are a slap on the wrist given Google's 2013 earnings of $57.86 billion, the second consecutive year that Google earned over $50 billion in revenue. Leibowitz must not be good at math.
In 2013-14, it was revealed that Google was reading and mining user emails even before users had a chance to read them. Google's legal team desperately wanted to avoid having a single class action suit because then it would be Goliath v. Goliath, instead of mere individuals taking on the 124th largest corporation in the world. Judge Lucy Koh -- the same one who handles Apple v. Samsung lawsuits and LinkedIn lawsuits (here's one regarding excessive emails and here's one regarding blind references) -- eventually gave Google what it wanted and dismissed any notion of a class action lawsuit. Koh, who controls much of the Internet via her rulings, has been nominated to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Barack Obama
Later in 2015, despite publicly promising not to do so, Google mined the emails of 40 Million K-12 students, collecting the browsing history and other data for use with Google AdSense. This episode proved just how low Google would sink, given that students are often required to use school-approved services. Google knew its actions were unacceptable because it had signed the Student Privacy Pledge, agreement signed by 254 technology companies. The pledge begins with: "We Commit To: 1) Not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student. 2) Not sell student personal information."
It's safe to say that the conversational tidbits Google collects in vehicles won't be limited to, "Are we there yet?"
It started in July 1971 with National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China. Later that month, Richard Nixon wanted to grease the rails for his reelection and announced that he would visit China the following year. Shortly thereafter, in October 1971, we threw Taiwan under the bus and neglected to veto the UN resolution which replaced Taiwan with the PRC. Then in February 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong welcomed Nixon to China, with every president since Nixon stopping by, from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama. George W. Bush was the most frequent traveler, with visits in October 2001, February 2002, November 2005, and August 2008.
The first economic sucker punch to strike was NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which, contrary to popular belief, was created by George H. W. Bush who signed a draft of it in October 1992, but he had to leave it to Bill Clinton to finalize, which he did in two stages, in September and December 1993. Clinton slickly promised: "NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement." Daniel Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute breathlessly declared in July 1998 that NAFTA "has been a success by any measure."
Griswold also opined that "NAFTA and other market reforms softened the severity of the crisis and spurred Mexico's recovery," but to paraphrase from Genesis 4:9, are we our neighboring country's keeper?
Giving PNTR (permanent normal trade relations) to China was next. PTNR, also known as most favored nation status, is a required element of free trade. It was passed in October 2000, almost at the end of Clinton's reign. Once again the Cato Institute stood on the wrong side of the American worker, with Deroy Murdock professing that PNTR "will pressure China from inside and out" and that "Americans will enjoy more Chinese-made apparel and appliances at reasonable prices if PNTR passes." Of course the question we should have asked was, would Americans still have good jobs to purchase those low-quality imports from Walmart, Home Depot and other firms?
The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow cajoled: "The silliest argument against PNTR is that Chinese imports would overwhelm U.S. industry. In fact, American workers are far more productive than their Chinese counterparts ... Moreover, Beijing's manufacturing exports to the United States remain small, about half the level of those from Mexico."
The knockout blow came when we allowed China into the WTO (World Trade Organization) in December 2001. Clinton had disingenuously pledged that granting PNTR to China would "increase U.S. jobs and reduce our trade deficit." George W. Bush refused to slow the WTO train even though a Chinese military pilot had intentionally directed his aircraft into a U.S. EP-3 spy plane in April 2001, forcing it to land on Hainan Island where the plane was reverse engineered by Chinese intelligence personnel and the crew interrogated for ten days. Bush was so concerned that the incident might derail China's WTO membership that he wrote a personal letter to the widow of the Chinese pilot who caused the crash. Then one month after 9/11 he flew to Shanghai to work on the Doha Development Agenda in Shanghai to facilitate even more free trade.
The Cato Institute's Daniel J. Ikenson promulgated in 2006: "In fact, since China joined the WTO in 2001, U.S. exports to China have more than doubled." He went on to avow: "And the notion that importing from and offshoring to China is hollowing out American manufacturing is not supported by the facts."
Not according to CNN which recently reported that manufacturing jobs in the U.S. actually increased from 1994 to 2000, but then sank like a stone after that, with a loss of five million.
Pat Buchanan astutely noted in February 2007: "To the devout libertarian, free trade is not a policy option to be debated, but a dogma to be defended. Nowhere is this truer than at that lamasery of libertarianism, the Cato Institute." He went on to say: "For contrary to free-trade mythology, every nation that has risen to pre-eminence and power -- Britain before 1860, the United States from 1860-1914, Germany from 1870-1914, postwar Japan, China today -- has pursued a mercantilist or protectionist trade policy ... It is no accident all four presidents who made it to Mount Rushmore were protectionists."
1985 was the year that Chinese imports into the U.S. became equal to U.S. exports to China and also the first year Census Bureau trade data is available. The below graph depicting trade with China from 1985 through 2015(see Census data here) depicts a lopsided trade relationship, good for China and multinational corporations which import goods, but not so good for the average American workers who witnessed their jobs being whisked away to foreign lands.
The below graph depicting trade with Canada from 1985 through 2015 (see Census data here) is interesting, especially for 2015 when it dropped below the level of that for 2011-14. The U.S.-Canada trading relationship was until recently the greatest the world had ever seen, but now China has taken Canada's place. The balance of U.S.-Canada trade really hasn't changed much since 1985.
The below graph depicting trade with Mexico from 1985 through 2015 (see Census data here) clearly shows the effect of NAFTA, as in 1994 exports pretty much equaled imports, but that's not true any more. Note that, contrary to Bandow's assertions, imports from Mexico are only about 3/5 those from China.
The below graph depicting trade with Central America and the Dominican Republic from 2005 through 2015 (see Census data here) via CAFTA-DR (Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement) illustrates a fairer agreement. Neither party dominates the other, though the U.S. has benefited the most for eight out of the eleven years the treaty has been in effect. Most Americans would probably not mind if most years were similar to 2013 given the abject poverty in these regions. That said, we cannot say that it has been a roaring success given the unprecedented levels of gang and drug-related violence.
The below graph depicting the overall balance of trade from 1960 through 2015 (chart uses Balance of Payment basis; see Census data here) shows a number of things, but keep in mind that the graph is inverted, in other words, the more negative our balance of trade, the higher the graph rises. Perhaps I should have referred to it as the imbalance of trade.
First, it hints at economic problems of the times. From 1972 to 1975, the trade balance went from -6,416 to 911 to -5,505 to 8,903. Your author suspects this blip originates in the 1973 gas crisis, when for the first time Americans started buying more gas-efficient foreign cars. At first people stopped driving, which slowed their buying, but after the gas crisis departed, many returned to purchasing gas hogs. There is no comparable blip for the 1979 gas crisis, but that was not nearly as bad as the first, not to mention that many people had already bought a foreign car.
Second, it shows a clear correlation between the entrance of China upon the world stage and our increasingly negative trade balance. Our last positive trade balance was in 1975, with the value of 8,903 being the highest figure supplied by the Census Bureau (the second-highest was 7,006 in 1964). But then the trade balance went negative for good and almost quadrupled between 1976 to 1977, from 7,820 to 28,352. In 1982, the trade balance was 27,510, about average for the period of 1977-82. But in 1983 it jumped to 52,409, in 1984 it jumped to 106,702, and in 1987 it jumped to 152,119.
And third, it indicates a precipitous rise just after the passage of NAFTA. The trade balance rose at a downright disturbing pace until 2006, when it leveled off just in time for the Wall Street crash. The trade balance became much better because many people lost their jobs and did not buy anything, foreign or domestic. The trade balance has mostly regained its depressing volume, but it has not climbed back to the level of George the Younger's final ruling days because job growth has been pathetic.
At this point you might be thinking that employment moves in the same general direction, so it's all a wash. Not hardly.
The ever-increasing trade deficit with China cost 3.2 million jobs between 2001 and 2013, with job losses in every state.
As the below BLS graph (duplicate it yourself by visiting the BLS website and setting the starting year to 1948) indicates, the labor participation rate has dropped ever since the late 1990s. Currently it is equal to the rate for 1978, coincidentally when the balance of trade was just starting to become overt.
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch savaged NAFTA on its 20th anniversary and documented that it has been an unmitigated disaster, comparing it to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) which has been rather difficult to kill. Public Citizen noted: "The reductions in consumer goods prices that have materialized have not been sufficient to offset the losses to middle-class wages under NAFTA. U.S. workers without college degrees (63 percent of the workforce) have likely lost an amount equal to 12.2 percent of their wages under NAFTA-style trade even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods."
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have called for the end of free trade and the beginning of fair trade because the former benefits mainly multinational corporations. Countering them are Ted Cruz who recently announced that Phil Gramm would be his economic adviser, with him being one of the people most responsible for the 2008 crash, Hillary Clinton who previously declared the TPP to be the "gold standard," and the Cato Institute which doubled-down on its previous statements, maintaining that opposition to the TPP is based on "nine myths."
Remember Einstein's definition of insanity.