“We Shoot! We Kill!” The PLA tries its hand at rapping

From the BBC, I learned that the People’s Liberation Army has a new high-budget, “action-packed rap recruitment video.”  Seriously! It includes memorable lyrics such as:

“Are you afraid? No! Are you afraid? No! Just need the order to kill kill kill!”

“We Shoot! We Kill! We’re Loyal to the Party!”

I’m sure it sounds catchier in Chinese.  I love how the PLA claims loyalty to the party, not the people or the nation!  Of course, the party would say “what’s the difference?”  Here’s the video and it’s well worth checking out.  I just wish I could understand all of the lyrics.

Irony overload, China edition

This news piece on China is almost stranger than fiction.

First, a gigantic (121 feet tall), gold plated statue of Mao appears in the empty farm fields of Henan.  This is terrifying and bizarre in itself. Imagine seeing this every morning on the way to farm your crops:

mao_yikes

Second, what a spectacular waste of money.  Who in the world, besides a corrupt government, would spend almost a half a million dollars on such a monstrosity?  It’s so bad that I think we should rename the term “white elephant” to “gold Mao”.

The AFP reports that it was local entrepreneurs!  Seriously.  This is funny in a couple of different ways: (a) how did said local entrepreneurs make so much money if this is the way they think is a good way to spend it; (b) Henan is the “the centre of a famine in the late 1950s resulting from Mao’s economic policies estimated to have killed as many as 40 million people.”  Hmm, maybe the entrepreneurs are trolling the Chinese public?

Lastly, the Chinese government just decided to demolish the statue and the reasoning is awesome:  “Mao’s likeness was not registered or approved” by the local government.  It took 9 months to build the frickin monstrosity!  You think the local government might have made their decision before now.  Obviously we are not getting the full story but I’d love to hear it.  Sounds like a good one.

Two strong hands?

We at Cherokee Gothic are very happy to see that The Bernank has not lost any of “The Courage to Act” that he used to save the world while running the Fed.

He’s now working for both a hedge fund (Citadel) and mega-investment firm Pimco.

I feel like Ben must be a disciple of Joseph Heller, who wrote “The Lord gave Central Bankers two strong hands so we could grab as much as we could with both of them” (or something like that, anyway).

The least subtle example of cheating ever

In what seems like a natural follow-up to Kevin’s post yesterday about the poor state of Indian public education, QZ documents the blatant cheating that has been going on “students taking the state’s class 10 standardized test.”  According to the article,

“Because the government has such low incentive to invest in education, there are limited seats in class 11 and a miniscule acceptance rate at India’s most competitive colleges. So in order to get one of those seats, it’s not enough to just study and do well on these tests, you have to be the best.”

So the parents (putting more faith in the infrastructure of the building than I would), climb the walls of the school and pass the answers to their kids.  Here’s a photo:

India Education

Apparently it isn’t much better at the university level, at least not in Bihar.  Amitava Kumar, the author of a book called  A Matter of Rats, writes that “In Patna University, a faculty member told me, it is entirely possible for examinations to be delayed by two or three years, and when examinations are finally held, everyone feels free to cheat.”  

If everyone can cheat anyway, why the years-long delay?

“As though we were a bunch of idiots who don’t know how to do things”

The WSJ had a recent article called “Hope Fades in Brazil for a World Cup Economic Boost.”  It was the sub-title that really caught my eye though. It reads “Amid Unfinished or Canceled Infrastructure Projects, Hopes Wane That Soccer Tournament Spending Could Spur Long-Term Growth.”  Given the grim experience of history, it surprises me that governments (or anyone) truly believe that these types of events will bring about long term economic growth.

It does make for a good news story though.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:

1. “In Fortaleza, another poor northeastern city hosting six games, builders finished the Castelão stadium for $230 million. But fans arriving at Fortaleza’s airport will find a giant tent rather than a new planned terminal. Federal prosecutors are looking into whether corruption played a role in the failure of the $78 million terminal expansion project.”  Hmm, I wonder…

2. “The signature project was to be a $16 billion bullet train between Rio and São Paulo. Brazil put the São Paulo-Rio rail project out to bid in 2010, and then-President da Silva used the bidding ceremony to rebut critics of Brazil’s preparations. “They are already pressuring us: Where are the airports? Where is the subway? As though we were a bunch of idiots who don’t know how to do things,” Mr. da Silva said.”

Yikes, better for politicians not to ask questions like that.  So, was Lula right to cast aspersion on the doubters?

“But that 2010 bidding round was canceled. Potential rail builders balked on concerns that government-set limits on fare prices meant the train might not be profitable. Firms also feared cost overruns since Brazil’s legal system makes it easy for a single lawsuit to shut down a project. Brazil tried and failed to come up with terms that made sense. Bid rounds were announced and canceled three more times before the government shelved the project in 2013.”

3. My favorite politician quote though goes to Ms. Rousseff, who has on TV defending the government’s decisions.  Here is one of the least convincing defenses I’ve heard in a long while:

“The legacy of the Cup is ours. No one who comes here will leave with an airport, urban mobility projects, or stadiums, in their luggage,” Ms. Rousseff told hotel and tourism workers in Brasília.

That should quiet the protesters!

Heroes of Democracy

The WSJ has a fun piece today on the travails of being a poll worker in India.  The country has a rule that there must be a poll station no further than 2 km from every residential community, which means that the polling agents assigned to rural areas have their work cut out for them.

The US Postal Service has the motto “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed round” but that’s nothing compared to what these poor guys face. They should come up with a similar motto including crocodiles, snakes, elephants, mountains, and crushing heat.

Here are some details of the trials they face:

“There are basically two ways to get to Hanspuri (a town with 261 voters). Going overland would require hacking through dense jungle filled with snakes and across the mountain ridges that serrate North Andaman island—all while carrying the polling machines and other equipment in backpacks. The more practical water route—through the mangrove forests and up the coast—has its own risks, among them: hungry crocodiles and the risk of capsizing.”

Poll workers travel with camel caravans to reach settlements in the deserts of Rajasthan.

Election officials recently had to contend with a herd of wild elephants that blocked the way to two polling stations. Eventually, forest rangers came to the rescue.

Polling officials trekked five hours through a forest carrying a 10-plus-pound polling machine to reach a settlement with just two voters near the Chinese border.

Phase two of the journey required lugging the two voting machines—a precaution in case one malfunctioned—as well as water, food and camping gear to the village. On sections of the path, the poll workers and their escorts had to walk in single file over makeshift bridges roughly the width of gymnastics balance beams.”

Click here for a slideshow of some these obstacles.

Of the 261 voters in Hanspuri, roughly 80% voted.  While that’s a pretty high turnout, if I were that poll worker who took days to trek there, I would be plenty hacked at those who didn’t vote.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Mexico: A Primer

Two new scandals have shocked Mexicans in recent weeks, no mean feat in a country that has known its fair share of corruption. If only political corruption were a medal event in the Olympics…

First, the leader of the PRI in Mexico City was charged with pimping.  seriously!  He stands “accused of hiring women for sex and putting them on the party payroll.”

Second, a secretly recorded conversation shows that Mexican congresspeople are routinely using federal money as a way to blackmail mayors.  According to the article, the Congress has been relatively untouched by corruption scandals, at least compared to other institutions.  This might be just an issue of transparency though.  I thought it was funny that Barbara Botello, mayor of Leon and head of the Mexican association of mayors, reacted in this way:  “It’s unprecedented for something like this to come out into the open.”  Not that it’s unprecedented for something like this to happen, just for it to be publicly known.  Nice.

The whole thing unfolded when the mayor of Celaya informed his staff that “congressmen were requiring him to inflate a paving contract by 35 percent in exchange for $12.2 million in federal public works money…[and]…they demanded he go with the contractor of their choice.”  One of his staff recorded the talk and then leaked it to Reforma, one of the largest newspapers in Mexico.

From the mayors that have come forward so far, it’s alleged that “senators and congressmen routinely skim off the top of federal funds they allot to cities, money that can add up to three-quarters of the budget for local jurisdictions.”  Hence the “filthy rich” in the title of this post.

Botello goes on to say that many more mayors have faced this pressure/extortion, but are afraid to come forward.  She notes “Many are afraid of reprisals, of their federal funding going down.”

 

 

 

 

“The Theft of the Century”

The Mexican government wisely decided that before the educational system in Mexico could be fixed, they first needed to figure out what they were dealing with.  For that reason, EPN ordered the first ever Census of Schools, Teachers and Students of Basic and Special Education (basic meaning primary and middle schools).

The results show the magnitude of the problem.  Here are some key findings:

1. “39,222 people supposedly assigned to a school in which no one actually knows them (“aviators”)

2. 30,695 people who claim to be teachers, but who in reality work for the SNTE [National Union of Education Workers] or the CNTE [National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers—a dissident teachers group];

3. 113,259 people who claim to be in a school, but who are located “in another place of work” (fugitives)

4. 114,998 people who receive pay as active teachers, but who do it in the name of people who have already retired or passed away.”

And this is a gross underestimate, since the states with “the with the most corrupt and backwards systems (Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero), refused to participate and were not included in the census.” Yikes.

Here’s a nice figure from the Economist on the issue:

mex_educ_census

and a great summary of the sad situation:

“The first ever government census of schools in Mexico shows that 13% of all people registered on the schools’ payrolls do not turn up to work (see chart). That is 298,000 out of a total of 2.25m, divided among those who receive a paycheck but appear to be figments of someone’s imagination; who work somewhere else; who are on leave (often as union representatives); or who have quit, retired or died. Organisations that represent outraged parents call it the “theft of the century.””