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Globalization and Politics

I wasn't going to bore everyone with the backstory on the new design, but on second thought I think it offers some insight into politics, so here goes.

After nearly 8 years, the design I hacked together in a couple of hours in 2004 and modified only a bit since then was showing its age, so I decided to get a new one. Not being a graphical designer, I looked around the Web and discovered the site It works like this. The customer (me) writes brief saying what he wants designed, such as a Website, business card, letterhead paper, poster, or anything else and how much he is willing to pay for it. The job is then displayed to the site's hundreds of thousands of freelancers and anyone who wants to compete for the prizecan post a design for the customer to inspect. The customer can interact with each designer and ask for changes as well as pass out praise or complaints. After a week, the customer selects a winner, who then gets paid. 99designs gets a small cut and the losers get nothing for their efforts. I had over a dozen entries and, after consulting with a number of other people, chose the current design. My designer lives in the Philippines, but I didn't know where anyone lived during the contest.

Four hours before the contest ended, a new designer submitted a design. I didn't like it and said it was a pity he was so late because there was no time left for me to work with him to improve it, as I had done with all the others. 99designs strongly encourages their customers to work with the designers to have everyone make the best possible design. They want happy customers, naturally.

This guy was furious, called me an idiot, and some other nasty things. I can take the heat but I was totally surprised. I wanted to get a new design and went to a site that offered the services of many graphical designers and played by their rules. Why was I such a terrible person? We exchanged messages for a while, but each one was meaner and more vitriolic than the one before. I genuinely didn't understand. Other losing candidates just dropped out or sometimes sent a message saying they hoped to work on one of my future projects.

Out of curiosity, I looked up what a middle-class person in the Philippines earns per month. What I found was that a teacher or police officer makes about $300/mo. It began to dawn on me slowly why this guy was so angry. For the designer in the Philippines, he could put in 2-3 days work and have a 10% chance of getting $1500, which was five months salary. If he entered 15 contests, he'd have about an 80% chance of winning five months' salary. And he could work from home and have no expenses. This probably made economic sense for him.

For the American designer who was so angry, was eating his lunch. This idea, dreamed up by a couple of Aussies who formed the company, suddenly forced him to compete with people in third-world countries with wages 1/10th of what he needed to survive. The Australian company had made it easy for a design customer to go global without even knowing it, much to the detriment of American designers who were used to much higher fees. That is why he called them rank amateurs and said I was stupid to use such low-grade talent.

Then it got worse. The designer produces a Photoshop file with hundreds of layers separating each graphical element in a separate layer so it can be linked to. So I asked my manager at 99designs for a couple of companies that could build the style sheet and HTML from the Photoshop. She immediately gave me links to two companies she said did good work. I asked them for bids. Company A bid $216 and promised 48 hour delivery. Company B wanted $63/hour and thought it would take 25 hours, but gave no promises about how long it would really take or when it would be finished. I went with company A. They delivered everything as promised in 48 hours.

I now believe company A is in Russia and company B is in the U.S. Again, I had unknowingly outsourced work to a low-wage country. Had I known this, I might have at least tried to get company B to come down in price, but I didn't know.

Now think of the situation of workers whose jobs in manufacturing have been shipped to China or some maquiladora 20 miles south of San Diego. Or graphical designers who have to compete with peole in Asia. Or programmers who have to complete with people in Eastern Europe. These changes have upended their lives and they are naturally very angry and probably don't know who to blame. Probably whoever is in power now is a likely target though. Thus many voters are sympathetic to Mitt Romney's claims that he can somehow create jobs, even though his work at Bain Capital destroyed more than it created and when he was governor of Massachusetts, the state ranked 47th in the nation in job creation. But when people realize that the system is not working for them any more, they are open to anyone who offers a glimmer of hope, not that Romney has any plans at all to reverse globalization. But people hurt by globalization are often desperate. Of course there are also "winners," like people working at companies whose products sell worldwide, from Coca Cola to Disney to Microsoft to Boeing, but that is of little help to the "losers."

Perhaps a bit long, but this whole procedure gave me some insight into why some people are very angry with the direction things are going and why they feel they have no control over their lives any more.

Cell-Phone-Only Voters are Very Different

Marist College, which is doing a lot of polling this cycle, has an interesting article out on the difference between polling on cell phones and polling on landlines. In Florida, for example, Romney is +3% on landline voters but Obama is +23% with cell phone voters. That's a 26% difference. Same story in Virginia and similar stories in other states. A lot of that has to do with demographics. Cell-phone-only voters are much younger than landline voters and younger voters skew heavily Democratic. Their bottom line is that pollsters absolutely have to call cell phones to get a representative sample.

Clear Your Cache!

Quite a few people said they were getting a strange layout with the new design. In 99% of the cases, this is due to the browser's cache have some current files and some outdated ones. If you get a weird layout, the first thing to do is clear your cache completely. Usually there is a menu item for this, but for many browsers CTRL + F5 does it.

Correction on Natural-Born Citizens

Several people pointed out that the law on foreign births prior to 1986 was different from the current one. It was a bit complicated between 1795 and 1986, See this article for more on the subject. Sorry for the confusion.

Also several people thought that the rule of automatic citizenship by being born on U.S. soil is in the constitution proper. It is not. It was introduced in the 14th amendment to prevent Southern states from denying citizenship to the newly freed slaves born on U.S. soil. Here is an article about that amendment.

Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Missouri 45% 44%   May 24 May 27 PPP
Wisconsin 51% 43%   May 23 May 26 Marquette Law School

Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Ohio Sherrod Brown 47% Josh Mandel 42%     May 29 May 29 Rasmussen