Indian Company to Outsource to the US

Skilled workers, moderate labor restrictions, and the weak dollar continue to make outsourcing to the United States attractive, even for countries with very low labor costs such as India.

Wipro plans to open more centres in the US in a continuing trend of “reverse outsourcing”, as Indian information technology outsourcing companies recruit in the US and Europe.

Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, India’s third-largest information technology outsourcing company, this week said it aimed to hire more than 1,000 people in the US to staff two new software development centres in Michigan and Atlanta.
See the article here.

Still No Sunspots

The graphic above is a NASA prediction circa March 2006 of when solar cycle 24 would arrive. Click here or on the graphic for a larger image.  As you can see from the graph, solar cycle 24 was expected to begin in late 2006 or early 2007.  It is now March of 2008 and solar cycle 24 has not arrived.  The latest solar observations, photographs of which are posted here, continue to show that there are still zero sunspots.  According to NASA's prediction, we were expected to be well into solar cycle 24 and experiencing upwards of thirty sunspots per month at this time. 

Global Relative Tax Burdens

From the Economist.

BMW Shifts Production from Germany to U.S.A.

German auto company BMW will reduce its workforce in Germany while increasing production in the United States by 50%.

"This is completely driven by the plunge in the dollar," said Greg Gardner with Oliver Wyman, publisher of the Harbour Report on automotive manufacturing activity. "It is untenable to produce at a much higher cost in Germany."

The euro climbed to record heights Friday, reaching $1.5463 before falling back to $1.5335 in late trading after the Federal Reserve announced it would provide more cash to banks that need it. That means European goods cost more for Americans to buy.

By building the cars in the U.S., BMW can save money on the lower dollar and on wages because its South Carolina workers make less than German workers, Gardner said.

The declining dollar also means BMW and other foreign automakers probably will start buying locally for more of the parts used by their U.S. plants, he said. That shift in production has led to the cuts at home for the Munich-based luxury car maker.
Go here for the full story.

What Has Obama Ever Accomplished Anyway?

The Cost of War in Context, Part III

The Bush administration is seeking $108 billion in funding for the War in Iraq in 2008. While this is a sizable sum by any measure, how large is it in the context of the $14 trillion US economy? An interesting data point for comparison was given today by the American Automobile Association and Cambridge Systematics. According to research performed by Cambridge Systematics for the automobile association, auto accidents in the United States cost consumers $164 billion annually.  In comparison to the often decried cost of war in Iraq, the even greater cost of auto accidents is incurred almost without notice.

The Cost of War in Context, Part II

What percentage of active duty United States Army and Marines does the war in Iraq require? The pie chart below shows the percentage of Army and Marine troop deployment at the peak of the "surge" in September of 2007. The percentage of active duty military deployed to Iraq is much smaller when all branches of the military are considered, however, since the war in Iraq primarily drains ground troop resources only Army and Marine forces were included in this pie chart. For the source of these figures, see here.

Is the Liberty Dollar Legal?

A couple of days ago I posted on  NORFED's fascinating attempt to create an alternative currency in the United States. According to the U.S. Mint, this is illegal. According to NORFED supporters, it is not.  Who is correct? The law that the U.S. Mint cites to as making NORFED's activity illegal is 18 U.S.C. § 486.

Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
According the the U.S. Mint,
Under 18 U.S.C. § 486, it is a Federal crime to pass, or attempt to pass, any coins of gold or silver intended for use as current money except as authorized by law. According to the NORFED website, "Liberty merchants" are encouraged to accept NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions and offer them as change in sales transactions of merchandise or services.
In all fairness, the law is very clear, it is illegal to "pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money."   Setting aside the fact that the NORFED coins look an awful lot like United States currency, 18 U.S.C. § 486 outlaws minting coins for use as current money whether you are counterfeiting or whether you are minting coins of "original design."   NORFED denies that the coins are intended for use as current money, however, their website states,
The Liberty Dollar is private, inflation proof REAL money that is devoid of inflation and debt. It's a currency of the people, for the people, and by the people.
NORFED supporters claim that 18 U.S.C. § 486 only applies to coins and that NORFED only intended the paper notes it created to be used as currency and not the coins. This is a nuance that is likely lost on the casual observer and seems to be refuted by NORFED's rather self-incriminating web site, which states,
The Liberty Dollar is available in three forms: metal Gold & Silver Libertys (which are by far the most popular), paper Silver Certificates, and in digital form for use on-line and via email.
Unless those "Gold & Slivery LIbertys" are something other than coins, NORFED will have a very difficult time establishing their innocence.  

The Cost of War in Context

Although the loss of even one human life is a tragedy, the toll in the Iraq war is low by historical standards, not only in comparison to other wars but also in comparison to years of peace. When all causes are taken into account, the number of deaths of active duty military personnel during the Iraq war has not reached the number of peace time deaths during the 1980s. This is primarily do to the fact that the number of active duty military was much higher during the Cold War. See the graph below.

For source data see here.