Saturday, November 30

Fifty percent of the liquor industry's revenues are derived from alcoholics � people who down at least four drinks every day. OK, you're trying to shock us about how bad the alcohol problem is compared to marijuana, but I'm still struggling with the idea that 4 drinks a day makes you an alcoholic. (Not me, I'm a teetotaler.)
Here's some of what the WaPo should've printed. (via Instapundit)
How the polls go wrong. (link via Occam's toothbrush)
Chi-Dooh Li is thankful for sweet taste of freedom. His parents got him out of China just before the Commies took over and--let's be frank--ruined so many lives. He's haunted by the question of why he was spared the enormous suffering endured by his cousin. Today buying groceries we ran into a friend from Shanghai; unlike my in-laws, his father (also then in the KMT) stayed. He says even now he regrets his decision because of the negative impact on his childrens' lives. "Liberation" indeed. (link via Occam's toothbrush)
New additions to the blogroll; food blogs via Weblog central and most of the China-related blogs via China Weblog.

Friday, November 29

Keith Bradsher blames India's relatively poor economic performance on poor infrastructure, government monopolies, and over-regulation. He also cites wait for it the desire for public service, in other words, Indians supposedly don't reinvest their money, but use it for charitable works.

I note the shoe manufacturer he describes doesn't like Chinese food; maybe that's the reason. My wife wonders if his dislike of the food is because he goes to Guangdong Province, and their food isn't as strongly flavored as one would expect a South Asian to prefer. Too bad the shoe factories aren't in Hunan or Sichuan.

I wonder if Bradsher read Jayanthi Iyengar, who also credits China's infrastructure, but is less bullish on China, noting that China suffers from a lack of transparency, aging population, and growing unemployment, all of which may lead to a crash.
Activists involved in attempts by North Korean refugees to storm into foreign diplomatic missions in China for protection plan to step up pressure on the U.N. refugee agency to "start doing their job" by monitoring the Korean refugees in China, labeling the UNHCR as apathetic and negligent "to the point of complicity." Yeah, but as an earlier report noted, it's tough because of China's behavior. Not that the treatment of the refugees isn't horrible.
Laurence Eyton has an excellent analysis on Chen Shui-bian's plan to clean up Taiwan's farmers' and fishermen's corrupt credit associations, how they've been an important part of the KMT's local power and funding base, which led the KMT to oppose the reforms, and how the whole debacle makes Chen look "vacillating, treacherous, and weak, easy to panic and liable to give in to threats."

Thursday, November 28

A NYT article about blogs by a self-confessed blogger with no links. It can't be NYT policy against printing links, because Katie Hafner mentions A.Word.A.Day and explains it's at Wordsmith.Org. If I didn't get so much spam, I might subscribe.
With regard to the new US trade plan, Ian Campbell argues

Bush and EU leaders must be willing to take on their domestic farm lobbies. They show no sign of having the political courage and the economic sense to do so. While that is the case, developing countries are going to go on being poor, angry, and uncooperative.
Maybe out of a billion, it's not that much, but still, why are so many Chinese willing to poison innocents in order to hurt their enemies? It's anybody's guess about why Yang Bin got arrested. But I'm sure the average Chinese person will believe it's only the capricious nature of the justice system that nailed him while others go free.

Update
Many analysts and diplomats take Yang's troubles as a sign that China is displeased that North Korea launched a plan to develop a free-trade area and named Yang to run it without consultation. Even though North Korea is just imitating the the special economic zones that kicked off China's great economic expansion nearly two decades ago. (Zones that some argue are modelled on similar areas in Taiwan.) So I guess China's behavior is only what one can call neo-imperialism.
Why we're going to be using fossil fuels for some time, from Pete Geddes, with some thoughts on what politicians are doing to "help".
According to Amnesty International, Internet users in China are at risk of arbitrary detention, torture and even execution.
Despite the measures introduced by the authorities to stifle freedom of expression over the Internet, the new technology is a cornerstone for economic growth in a country with over a fifth of the world's population. As the importance of the Internet grows so too will the millions of users and the demands of those seeking justice and respect for human rights in China.
We'll see. (via Blogcritics).
I'm blogging on Thanksgiving because frankly, it's just another day to me. Not that I don't appreciate how happy I am. But as a non-believer, I guess I've got to say I'm not really thankful, except to my fellow humans, or at least those who behave themselves.

So what's for dinner today? Sometimes we have jiaozi. (I hate callling them dumplings, because to me a dumpling is boiled dough with no filling.) Here are some recipes, but I can't vouch for them. The hardest thing is making the wrappers, as this site describes. I can't say much for the fillings, though.

Anyway, for lunch today, we're having leftovers (better than it sounds: pork meatballs mixed with rice). Then for supper, home-made hamburgers. I like mine really rare. A couple of days ago, we had Vegetarian Black-Eyed Pea Stew, with some hot peppers added to the recipe, and served with cornbread. Yum. Last night, we had the Tortilla Pie again. We used cottage cheese and mozzarella from Aldi; maybe that's why it wasn't really tasty. For a snack last night, I had ratlami sev, which I discovered at our local International Grocery Store ("spices and specialty foods from all over the world; including dry foods and fresh fruits and vegetables"). Yum. So I'm thankful for all of that.

However, I'm not so thankful that the tasty French/Belgian dark chocolate tablets that one can find in supermarkets like Monoprix or ED, often own-brand, also C�te d'Or, are not readily available here. I guess we'll have to rent an apartment in Paris.
I found this tool via Cranky Professor. I have found a few blogs I like, but the only one that really stands out is greg allen. The others mostly look like conservative/libertarian ranters--and how much of that can I read? And I didn't realize that's what my politics are. It's a little like the strange suggestions Tivo or Amazon comes up with for their consumers. (link via GeekPress). Not that I'd know. I've only bought one book from Amazon, and Tivo's a little to pricey for me. Actually, I like the idea. Too bad it doesn't seem to work as well as it ought...so far, anyway.
Andrew Sullivan criticizes the mealy-mouthed response to the Muslim Miss World riots. I can't agree with his characterization of the Nigerian columnist Isioma Daniel remark as "crude" that apparently caused the riots. Her joke was that Mohammed might approve of the Miss World pageant since he might pick one of his wives from the throng of beauties. That's not crude! I'd show you crude, except being a college professor living in a politically correct world, I don't dare.

Tuesday, November 26

An article about the deterioration in the way the United States has been treating Saudis says the resulting Saudi unhappiness with the US has taken an economic toll.
"We've scared off a lot of tourism and scared off a lot of medical patients, and the impact on our economy is more substantial than people realize or want to recognize," said Charles Kestenbaum, a commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy here until becoming a corporate consultant last summer.
Hmm. As Matt Welch wrote, Former U.S. diplomats have become Saudi Arabia's apologists. Neither the article nor Mr. Kestenbaum says a single word about the Wahabi fundamentalists the Saudi government won't or can't put the lid on.
I don't see why everything has to be political, but according to Kimerly Rorschach, "'Global political art' is what's happening right now....". Erik Eckholm explains she's using "political" in the broadest sense to refer to works that engage social themes. Ugh.
A letter to the editor offers further evidence of why the Chinese are going to
take over.

While Chinese students do "self-assigned homework" on Sundays to beef up their six-day school weeks, lots of American college students are cutting classes to add a few extra days to their Thanksgiving vacations.
They don't do that here--because we give them a full week. Not that we're all that demanding anyway.

Monday, November 25

Randy E. Barnett on what the Republicans could do to attract more libertarian votes. Funny, I agree with all of them. (link via Eugene Volokh)
The pro-DPP Taipei Times has a couple more editorials criticizing Chen Shui-bian and his policy for reforming the credit unions. But there's nothing criticizing Lee Teng-hui's behavior.
The Chinese stage version of "Animal Farm" still isn't attracting a big audience. Still, at least it wasn't censored, even though a Beijing publishing company received an official warning after several chapters of "Animal Farm" appeared in 2000.

Sunday, November 24

This week I showed my students Eat Drink Man Woman, Not One Less, and The Personals. I thought there might be time to discuss them, but in each case, we ran out of time before we had much discussion. But in preparing for class, I came up with some ideas, which made me realize I don't like analyzing this stuff intellectually nearly as much as I prefer to enjoy the emotional/aesthetic experience without going into it.
Today there was an NPR report on privatizing the publication of government documents. The concern was that government reports would become less accessible, but there's practically nothing about electronic versions. It's true that some of the government sites I've visited don't make it easy to find the documents they have available, so maybe even if we don't need someone to catalog them, we need someone with more websmarts to make everything easily accessible to people who aren't experts in the field.

This reminds me of a meeting we had a couple of weeks ago about how the university library was going to cut some of its dead tree subscriptions in favor of electronic ones. The point of the presentation as I saw it was that the electronic ones come in packages, so if/when there are more cutbacks, it'll be really hard to decide what to cut next. But the faculty seemed mostly exercised about not being able to hold paper texts in their hands. There was also complaining about the fact that the journals weren't getting any cheaper, even though the publishers' costs were plummeting. I pointed out that faculty could get together and publish their own electronic journals, which after all cost virtually nothing. But I was told that such journals probably wouldn't be acceptable to administrators reviewing people's publications. I still don't get it. If academic journals are edited by academics, all the editors of a particular journal have to do is to move en masse to establish an entirely new journal that preserves everything but the name of the dead tree version. In fact, the electronic journals could post the experts' corrections & additions to the original, for which they'd be credited. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it looks like the real problem is conservatism.

Meanwhile, we're about to start building an addition to the library even though years from now, I suspect most everything in it will be digitized. Not the customers, though. Apparently there's going to be a coffee shop. I guess we're competing with Barnes and Nobble.
Last week I wanted to make a blueberry variation on these Cranberry Wreaths, but I stupidly looked at the wrong page of the dead tree cookbook the site is drawn from, and started making Hot Cross Buns. I decided to make those instead, but then discovered I was using sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. I didn't like them much. Today I did bake my "blueberry wreaths". I used a lot more blueberries than the amount of cranberries called for, and ended up with lengths of dough too wide to easily form into wreaths, so I simply had twists. When they came out of the oven, I was surprised to see they turned out to be very similar to a kind of patisserie that a bakery in Paris sells under the name sacristan. Although the sacristans I've seen don't have blueberries, and are richer than the ones I made this morning.

Then I had some leftover evaporated milk, so I made these Crispy Peanut Butterscotch Fudge Squares. Pretty sweet even after I left out the sugar. My wife seems to like them more than I do.

And speaking of tapioca starch, I tried making some coffee cookies with instant coffee, 1/3 tapioca starch, 1/3 soy flour, and 1/3 white flour. Not so good.

Finally, we tried the Tortilla Pie and the Ziti Casserole I mentioned earlier. Frankly, I prefer Chinese food.

Saturday, November 23

Shelley Rigger on Taiwan's political paralysis. I think she blames the KMT and PFP too much and Chen Shui-bian not enough.
But it's clear that with friends like Lee Teng-hui, Chen doesn't need enemies. Lee Teng-hui first chose Lien Chan as his successor, then plotted against him, supporting Chen, then set up the TSU, and is now criticizing Chen for his efforts to reform Taiwan's credit unions and looking for an opponent for Chen. The pro-DPP Taipei Times has an editorial defending Chen. Meanwhile Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong are expected to demonstrate alongside farmers and fishermen protesting the reforms.
Jacques deLisle on a delegation of scholars & officials from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region who came to the United States to see how America votes.
Mao as a deity.
Nicholas Kristof tells us once again that the Chinese are going to take over. Why? He argues:
One reason for Chinese educational success emerges from cross-cultural surveys. Americans say that good pupils do well because they're smarter. Chinese say that good students do well because they work harder.

A growing body of evidence suggests that Chinese students do well academically partly because their parents set very high benchmarks, which the children then absorb. Chinese parents demand a great deal, American parents somewhat less, and in each case the students meet expectations.
Meanwhile, we expect less and less of our students.
An article by Melody Petersen on how advertising companies bankroll and manipulate research on drugs. I'm all in favor of capitalism, but this is what happens when we refuse to fund independent research in academia.

Thursday, November 21

Via Best of the Web: according to Damien McElroy, China has launched a campaign to stop Westerners referring to the world's tallest peak as Mount Everest and instead start using its official Chinese name, Mt Qomolangma, by next year. "'British colonialists raped the sacred mountain of the Tibetans by giving it a false name,' said the report." Here's another article, which doesn't mention the 'rape' business. All pretty silly, if you ask me. By the way, when are we going to start calling China "Zhongguo," hmm?

Wednesday, November 20

China Hand also states that "The life of the average worker or peasant just does not compare with twenty years ago." True, but over the past ten years, peasant incomes have stagnated, especially for those too far from infrastructure to sell to the cities. Meanwhile while younger urbanites have plenty of possibilities, there are still many older workers who worked or are still working in state-owned factories, and their pensions are gone. The government is afraid to stop lending to these inefficient factories so the money can be redirected to new private industries, because they don't know what to do about all the employees. This is not to say that China hasn't made huge progress since Mao died. If they awarded Nobel prizes on the basis of the numbers of lives materially improved, Deng Xiaoping would've gotten one. The trouble is, there are now lots of poor and unemployed. When they see people getting wealthy, they assume, rightly or wrongly, that it's at the expense of the poor.

But I like China Hand's site.
China Hand claims that Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward was responsible for a mere 100,000's of deaths. The standard estimate is 10-30 million. And blaming the peasants for it is a little harsh, since the starvation, as I understand it, was due to overly optimistic estimates: the supervisors over-reported to please their superiors, so people thought they had surpluses, and didn't work. So the starvation was basically bad management, but the whole point of communism is that it makes the decisions on behalf of the people. Still, those deaths weren't intentional, so maybe we should put a footnote after Mao's ranking among the killers; The Straight Dope credits his predecessor Chiang Kai-shek with 10 million.
The most significant thing about this is that it appears on the NYT list of most e-mail articles. I think it's stupid. If you want to do what Jesus would do, there's a lot of other consumerism you ought to reconsider as well. Plus didn't he have some kind of spiritual thing going on? For the record, I'm neither a believer nor an environmentalist, but I drive a subcompact: a Mazda GLC that I bought in 1985, yes, 1985.
Michael A. Fletcher on the yawning achievement gap separating black and Latino students from whites and Asians. What's the reason?
One explanation comes along after another....we run through these explanations the way women's fashions run through skirt lengths without getting much closer to solving the problem.
My sister loves Bowling for Columbine. I'm not pro-gun, but I'm afraid like Mr Cranky I'll find it too heavy handed, with all the leftist ideas sanctimoniously thrown together in the assumption that that's what all right-minded (left-minded) people believe in. I don't like being preached at. It's like being at a Commie political rally.
Charles Murtaugh laughs at the idea of using fiction to teach economics, but likes it for other stuff. I don't think so. Using fiction to teach stuff other than fiction suggests dumbing down to me.
Let's hear it for fascism. As Nicholas Kristof says, China's Communists
are not Communists at all in any meaningful sense. Chinese leaders are not so much Communists as fascists, for they aim to preside over a capitalist economic system with a large state-controlled sector, while using military power to suppress opposition.

Calling them fascists actually puts them in good company. Communist countries stagnated economically and eventually collapsed, while fascist countries (Spain, Taiwan, South Korea, Chile) flourished economically, bred a middle class and eventually proved flexible enough to evolve into greater democracy.

Tuesday, November 19

Robert Reich on the future: If you think prescription drug coverage is a big deal now, wait until medical science promises boomers we can look young and have sex like rabbits and party until we drop. Across the land there'll be outcroppings of "Med-Meds" for boomer geezers--think of Club Meds combined with medical facilities. Snorkeling all morning; extra oxygen in the afternoon. (via Geitner Simmons)
China's Salt Police. I thought it was about the salt monopoly that the Chinese started 2,600 years ago, but it's about forcing people to eat iodized salt to promote healthy brain development and reduce mental retardation.
Ugh. To keep students' attention, we're supposed to break up our lectures with quick entertainment periods.
Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy argues that coverage of the military's proposed Total Information Awareness database is actually "a proposal to create a database to "data mine" evidence the government has already legally collected, not to collect new evidence", and those who claim otherwise are misleading.

Monday, November 18

Someone in France found me while looking for the Oxfam yuppies. As Dave Barry would say, isn't that a good name for a band?
Via Dancing with Dogs: Marxists' Apartment A Microcosm Of Why Marxism Doesn't Work. Pretty perceptive for a satirical site.


Speaking of the Dogs, they claim that wealth brings happiness. I'm not so sure. What it brings is the freedom not to worry about the struggle for daily life, but as humans, we tend to worry about something, so wealth means worrying about things other than one's daily struggle to keep alive. I'd think that after we've satisfied our basic physical needs, the worries that face us then would seem minor, but then we need to satisfy various psychosocial needs, and things that are in the grand scheme of things really very silly loom just as large as life and death matters, unless they pop up and put things in perspective for us.
John Pomfret on guanxi in action.
Racial profiling

An Asian and Caucasian may be the same weight and height, but the Asian is at greater risk for fat-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
In China, more than 60 percent of people do not do any physical exercise, according to a survey conducted by a Chinese government sports research organization. It said less than 8 percent of China's 1.2 billion people exercise with "average intensity" compared to 41 percent of Britons and 20 percent of Americans.
What about all those damn bicycles?

Sunday, November 17

Who's on top? It looks like it's not "Hu's on top". But, "Sooner or later Jiang is going to be forced to step aside."
Philip P. Pan notes how few women made it onto the Central Committee. I can't say I see this as that big an issue, since the party isn't democratic anyway. And if it were, does this mean that people can only be represented by members of their own identity group? Not to mention the fact that:
many Chinese take a dim view of women who aspire to political office. Sometimes, they are seen as ruthlessly ambitious in the tradition of Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, who is blamed for the disastrous Cultural Revolution, or Ci Xi, the cunning Dowager Empress of the last imperial dynasty. Others -- like Wu, the new Politburo member -- are described as nuqiangren, a phrase that literally means a strong or capable woman. In the 1980s, it was mainly considered a compliment. But today, in a sign of growing unease about the role of women in China's fast-changing society, people use it as an insult to describe women who have placed their careers before their families.
What a mess. Deborah Sontag in the NYT Magazine on wife-beaters.
"Mainstream feminism has maintained a stranglehold on our explanations of, and responses to, domestic violence, and it is time to take our voices back."...the black-and-white portrayal of domestic violence that currently guides public policy. In that view, there's a batterer and a victim; the batterer is an ogre molded -- misshapen -- by patriarchal society; the victim, a mouse made helpless by it. There is only one happy ending: the batterer is punished, the victim liberated....Sometimes a woman really has no choice; she's scared that leaving would make him more dangerous, or she doesn't think she can survive financially on her own. But other times she stays for the same reasons that people in other kinds of imperfect relationships do: because of the kids, because of her religion, because she doesn't want to be alone or simply because she loves him....The system...patronizes victims by failing to listen to them, usurping their decision-making power and underestimating them -- underestimating their ability to negotiate their own safety and underestimating their role in the abusive relationship....women, too, are aggressive and violent....arrest makes low-income men more violent than does a simple warning by the police....Arrests generally deterred employed offenders, the studies showed, but provoked unemployed offenders to commit up to twice as many more assaults. That is, if a goal of the arrest policy is to protect women, the policy seems to backfire when applied to the low-income population that is most likely to be arrested for domestic violence....
Will Tapioca Pearl Tea Conquer Starbucks? C'mon, folks, there's room for both cappucino (although it doesn't have to be st*rbucks) and zhenzhu naicha.
I tried modifying this recipe for oatmeal cookies, and they came out pretty well. My modifications included the date version instead of the raisin original, half the sugar (because I've come to find American cakes, cookies, and candies too sweet--probably my wife's influence), two egg yolks for each egg called for, a few tablespoons of tapioca starch, and exercising care not to cook too long. They're OK, but I think I'll cut down on the butter next time. It also looks like I should substitute tapioca starch for flour. In browsing for further info, I see from preparedfoods.com, which also incidentally has this article about artisanal bread, that the issue of food texture is highly complicated.

Saturday, November 16

Omigod!

The news from SCSUScholars: Half the population of which earns below the median household income of about $37,000 -- less than what it would take to provide a "middle class" lifestyle !!
What's up, doc? (via HealthFactsAndFears.com).
Henry I. Miller of the ACSH argues that the risks of widespread smallpox vaccination outweigh the benefits:
In summary, given the difficulty of estimating the risks and benefits of vaccinating against a non-existent disease using a vaccine that carries known, serious, sometimes-lethal side effects, one must agree with the conclusion of Dr. David Busch, head of infectious diseases at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco: "It's inappropriate" to vaccinate the entire country for a disease whose threat is only theoretical, and immunization should only be given "as needed, not as desired."
Elisabeth Rosenthal quotes Li Dongmin, the director of a "a private market research firm". This is a little odd, because anything remotely political is not really entirely private in China.
Just before the Party Congress, the China Social Survey Institute, a private market research firm, polled 3,000 mostly urban Chinese about their views on government performance, offering a a glimpse of how they would cast their ballots if they had a chance to vote. There was widespread satisfaction with Chinese economic growth and the rise in its international standing and influence, said Li Dongmin, the Institute's director. But people also complained of serious anxieties and concerns, about issues like corruption, China's poorly functioning legal system and their lack of voice in government. "Ten years ago, the frequent concern was getting access to decent food, like meat and vegetables," Mr. Li said, "but after a decade of stability and economic development people have aspirations that go way beyond that." They even extend into the political sphere, he said. "There is the general hope and expectation that after the Party Congress, there will be slow steady progress in the legal system and improving our political institutions," he added, noting that people specifically mentioned a desire to expand local elections to higher levels of government and to improve methods for appointing officials. Two-thirds hoped that those new methods would be "quite different and improved from the present one � one that allows expressions of public opinion," he said.
It's hardly surprising that his results are so positive. Still, even if the urbanites are much better off than the ruralites, it's a testament to progress, and it's interesting to see the majority of the sample express interest in elections.
Political Theatre

According to Richard McGregor at the Financial Times, A few hours after the Communist party unveiled its new leaders in Beijing yesterday, another set of actors made their stage debut nearby in China's first theatrical adaption of George Orwell's Animal Farm, even though the Party congress displays all the rigid and hypocritical conformity so darkly satirised in Orwell's classic tale of a workers' revolution gone wrong. NPR's Rob Gifford just had a report noting the same irony. He also notes that the audience member he talked to seemed to have trouble following it, because like half the audience, she was text-messaging and talking on her cell phone during the performance.
Richard W. Stevenson discusses privatization of government jobs,
a trend that has been taking place in government at all levels for the last two decades. State and local governments as well as Washington have been hiring private companies to pick up trash, run prisons, collect traffic tickets and do much of the other mundane business of government. In many if not most cases, the changes have gone smoothly, and have been seen as living up to their goals of saving money and improving services, although there have been problems as well.
But then he concludes by citing Paul C. Light, "an expert on the federal bureaucracy at New York University and the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research group (my italics), to the effect that:
firm evidence of savings in the long run was sketchy, in part because private contractors sometimes won the business with low bids and then pushed their prices up after the government work force has been disbanded. Union officials also cited what they called horror stories of contractors who performed poorly or got into legal or financial trouble after taking over government jobs. Last spring, for example, the Education Department's inspector general concluded that a contractor had improperly kept for itself $6.6 million in student loan interest payments it had collected.
Well, he did make an effort to be balanced.

Update

NPR just interviewed a skeptical Paul Light on privatization. And here he is again, this time as "an expert in the molten turf wars of bureaucracy", although I've got to agree that the Department of Homeland Security, which will necessitate merging almost two dozen slow-moving and highly independent agencies, "will probably become the most complicated government reorganization in American history."
Applied Confucianism

The Washington Post's Doug Struck on Japan's Refusal to let kidnap victims return to North Korea:
There has been almost no debate about the government's authority to prevent the abductees from returning to their families. "Of course we respect the free will of the individual," Katsunari Suzuki, the Foreign Ministry official in charge of negotiations with North Korea, said in a recent interview. But "their state of mind is certainly not normal. We have to give time and the proper environment in which they can quietly think about their future. "We would not agree to return them" to North Korea, he said. "They might have developed some feelings that [North Korea] is their own land."...In a Confucian twist to the argument, the government also has said it is responding to the wishes of the abductees' families, whether or not the five abductees agree.

Friday, November 15

The latest craze in creative cuisine comes courtesy of Papua New Guinea where celebrity cannibal chef Liva Kabok has published an updated edition of The Cannibal Cookbook: Low Cal Meals to Die For.
Peter S. Goodman on China's Bank Bind.


The Chinese government continues to lurch towards a banking crisis by guaranteeing loans to state-owned enterprises, a problem exacerbated by incompetence and corruption.

Thursday, November 14

John Pomfret and Philip P. Pan on Jiang Zemin's victory over Li Ruihuan, who
is believed to have limited the crackdown on intellectuals after the suppression of the Tiananmen Square movement, and his brain trust was rumored to be planning to push limited political reforms at the National People's Congress after Jiang retired. A new book by an anonymous author who appears to be a former aide to Zhu Rongji and who says he had access to internal party personnel files describes Li as the senior Chinese leader most willing to talk about political reform, including expanding elections and reducing censorship of the state media....Li is also quoted promoting greater artistic freedom, urging the party to acknowledge and apologize for its errors, and criticizing party officials who "put themselves on display like flowerpots on a stand."
Too bad.

Update

John Pomfret and Philip P. Pan argue that Zeng Qinghong is another Chinese leader to watch.
upUpdate

China's top nine leaders
The things people come here to find:
1. chinese supersitious story: I'd try something by Pu Songling.

2. pain poilane recipe. Maybe this.

3. smallpox vaccination still good. Hmm, I don't think so.

Blogs are really traps for attracting searchers to sites that just happen to have the stuff they're looking for. Speaking of recipes, the reason we made the cheese nan was because earlier we'd had lasagna, and I'd gotten far too much mozzarella. We've still got some, and I'm thinking of trying Tortilla Pie or this Ziti Casserole.
Chinese literary awards

While the Chinese literati are busy issuing all kinds of awards, readers have shown little interest in such events, experts said. An embarrassing fact is that people now seem to be less concerned about literary works or the development of literature in China. Literature itself - or at least some genres such as poetry and novels for example - are waning. The circulations at some periodicals and novels are currently a fraction of what they were in the 1980s and early 1990s. Wang Meng, a renowned contemporary writer in China, attributed this to the flood of books written for entertainment and leisure reading. "Romantic and swordsman fictions by writers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, various stars' autobiographies, secrets about political dignitaries and even writings full of feudal superstitions are usually more competitive in the market than serious writing," said Wang.
"Feudal superstitions"--now there's a commie buzzword--excuse me, a keyword of the Chinese revolution. Incidentally, it's funny/sad how the articles at that website often want to present themselves as "cutting edge", but the Cultural Revolution is increasingly irrelevant.

Wednesday, November 13

I keep forgetting to mention how the close caption display after the election had something about Jew Dish Air. That's one way of looking at the Judicial system.
Great. I can pick up some betelnut-- a significant risk factor in oral cancer--when I'm in NY. I guess while betelnut is big in Taiwan, it's pretty much a non-Han custom on the mainland. (but didn't I read something where it was chewed in the Qing dynasty?)
Ivory Ban Has High Cost for Rural Africans. Awhile ago, the Economist had a subscription-only article on this elephantine problem.
Dictator e-mail
At the China Internet Information Center, editors answer questions from readers in the tone of a patient librarian. In response to a request for fish recipes, they offer one in which the finished fish "beautifully resembles the shape of a squirrel." The site also includes letters from readers offering opinions on more contentious topics � opinions that seem to line up perfectly with those of China's leaders.
I gotta ask 'em about a recipe. We just had cheese nan for supper with leftover Chinese veggies. Inauthentic as hell, probably. I'm still pining for the chicken biryani that we had in Jurong yea these many years ago. Probably nothing like what this woman's talking about. The recipes I see for biryani all seem to have nuts and raisins, and what we had was just chicken and rice, but it was delicious. We can't seem to get the spices to say what we want to. as far as inauthentic goes, the naan we had in Beijing was pretty good.
Hey, look what I found in the NYT. The Keywords of the Chinese Revolution project seeks to present an account of the ways that the language of politics has shaped and, in turn, has been reshaped by the Chinese Revolution from the early decades of this century to the present. Not as interesting as I'd hoped.
Eric Eckholm reports on the bad news for commies: Zhao Ziyang's unending detention
as well as the total secrecy and back-room dealing involved in choosing China's next leaders have only underscored, some restive party loyalists say, just how far the country's top-tier politics remain from law and democracy.....most of the successful entrepreneurs, the kind being courted by the party, feel that they do well in the cronyish system as it is and see no need to push for major reforms.
Damn straight. Letting the money-makers into the party without any independent mechanism to curb their power is a recipe for lots more corruption. Or as the AP says,
corruption will flourish while the party refuses to open up a political system built on personal ties that lets people with the right friends escape punishment...."The whole Politburo would be behind bars if they were to seriously investigate corruption,'' said Bruce Gilley, co-author of "China's New Rulers: The Secret Files.'' The party that came to power in part by criticizing the corruption of the former Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek fiercely guards its monopoly on power, imprisoning activists who call for democratic elections. And in a country where most people live on less than $700 a year, the cost of such resistance to reform is huge -- in lost economic growth, the added expense of bribes for businesses and stolen government money that would have paid for roads and public services....at upper levels, Chinese leaders regard corruption charges as just another political weapon, Gilley said. "The decision whether to press a corruption case is entirely arbitrary and depends on whether the senior leaders want to end this person's career,'' he said....There are no graft accusations against Hu and others expected to be named this week to the Standing Committee, Gilley said.But that doesn't mean they're clean. Instead, "allegations have been ruthlessly erased from official memory because there was already a decision that these people were going to be promoted,'' he said.

Although this article says it's social inequality that is causing the problem, I agree that the risk
is that China may aim to recreate the dictatorships of South Korea and Taiwan and miss, becoming Marcos's Philippines or Suharto's Indonesia instead. Those two countries also tried to combine capitalist economies with strongman rule, but were felled by economic stagnation and corruption.

Anyway, as Jianying Zha writes, it's no surprise that the Chinese are not interested in current politics.

Tuesday, November 12

Cool! Congestion pricing. But some environmentalists just don't get it: I guess they don't want people to realize the costs they're imposing.
Nicholas Kristoff comes out in favor of payment for organs. Maybe it's all that time he spent in China. Haw! Actually, I think it's a good idea.
I'm on a chewy kick.

This info about bread looks interesting. Too bad their links are screwed up. And why is chewiness necessarily a bad thing? The Quakers seem to feel too that if the "Loaf has a chewy texture", it's an error.

For brownies, chewiness is a question of flour and eggs. For cookies, it's a question of using more fat, brown sugar or honey, egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and slightly underbaking them. Meanwhile, maybe I should try these oatmeal raisin cookies. And tapioca flour is supposed impart a nice chewy taste to baked goods. And here are more cookie tips.
Our bargaining team presents the following issues with regard to a possible strike. The funny thing is, university faculty can be quite aggressive.

Saturday, November 9

So I baked my fennel bread (unbleached wheat & rye with raisins and walnuts). My taste panel (wife & mother-in-law) liked it. It was real purty--I braided the loaf, but it didn't have enough fat and sugar in it for me.

I hear that the guy who invented pain Poil�ne is dead. I've had pain Poil�ne, and while it's nice and chewy, I find the burnt crust taste awful.

Update
But I like the looks of this recipe. Maybe I'll try it.
One-sided views on the war
As an editorial in our college paper points out with regard to recent "teach-ins" about the war, there has only been one student to speak in favor of a possible attack. So much for the suppression of anti-war views. The pro-warriors don't have much of a case, either, if they don't speak up. The (generally anti-war) paper argues for more participation by pro-war proponents.
Instapundit applauded this Victor Davis Hanson piece about the decline of dissident leftism and criticism of anti-Americanism. Interestingly, the representatives he cites (Norman Mailer, Noam Chomsky, and Michael Moore) are all Americans.
...anti-Americanism is neither logical nor empirical. Indeed, it is a fundamentalist secular religion, not a reasoned stance, one entirely inconsistent and unpredictable in its choice of friends and foes � except for one constant: Whatever America does, it hates.
I was going to take exception to this, pointing out that there are people such as Jimmy Carter, who are overly naive, but certainly not anti-American. But then I heard about this: the climax of a conference of anti-globalisation campaigners in Italy is a demonstration against a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. Spokespeople identified as leftists (who'd a thunk?) criticize the U.N. Security Council's unanimous resolution, ordering Iraq to disarm.

I'm undecided about any military action, but with people like that standing up against it, I'm tempted to support it. Rather than strictly opposition to the war, it truly does look like opposition to the US. We've got people on campus, too that are going to make me a warmonger: consider this professor who cancelled class in protest against a war in Iraq. He's trying to frighten people with pictures of supposed victims of depleted uranium weapons, even though there's little evidence that such weapons cause these problems.
A subscription-only article in the Economist argues that broad surveillance (face-scanning systems that are in fact almost useless at spotting terrorists, or widespread wire-tapping and interception of Internet communications) is generally the sign of a badly designed system of security. The failure to predict the September 11th attacks was one of data sharing and interpretation, not data collection. Too much eavesdropping might actually exacerbate the problem, because there would be more data to sift. It would be better to step up intelligence gathering by humans.

Friday, November 8

The army is unable to fill all of its needs for speakers of Arabic, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Russian, as well as Mandarin Chinese. (link courtesy Geitner Simmons)

Thursday, November 7

Hey, I'm famous! Colby Cosh (a fellow of exquisite taste) puts me on his blogroll.
Speaking of Chinese wives, we had home-made jiaozi (Chinese ravioli; the skins were home-made, too) for supper last nite, and home-made zongzi for supper tonite. Eat your heart out. If you know what the hell I'm talking about. If you don't, I can tell you that Mon, Tues, and Wed. I had roast beef sandwiches on home-made rye bread. Baked by yours truly. I almost let it slip to my colleagues, but I didn't want them to ooh and ahh too much. There's a word for this kind of thing, you know. I'm still seething over this comment. I was going to say "outrageous slander", but what if he's right? I don't want to "out" myself.

Meanwhile, I'm all excited about baking something with fennel seeds in it this weekend.
What's the deal with Achewood and Chinese? I don't know where I first heard of it, but I've been reminded of it courtesy Colby Cosh, who also recommends Slow Wave.

Update

Oh, Achewood says his wife is Chinese. Then it's OK to make fun of the Chinese. I just realized it was The Gweilo Diaries who first introduced me to Achewood. (No doubt he's got the aching wood because of that amah.) But why does his blog make my Mozilla browser seize up? Here I am trying to be so politically correct and not use the infamous Microsoft browser.

Tuesday, November 5

Are Americans really this dense? This article touts using the Euro as easy on American visitors, since "the euro and dollar are near parity, no math needed." Hey, is multiplying by seven rocket science?
Hmm. On the one hand, the Economist cited research that concluded that the chance of a child dying within a month of birth doubled if the child's paternal grandmother was alive. On the other, the NYT cites other research that showed the presence of a maternal grandmother cut toddlers' chances of dying in half. Sheesh. I'm lucky to be alive. My maternal grandmother died when I was two.
The natural tendency of teenagers' body clocks is to make them stay up later at night and wake up later in the morning than when they were younger. But that inner clock often clashes with the outer world: early starting times in high school and demanding schedules of sports, clubs, music lessons, homework and part-time jobs. OK, OK, I stopped teaching my 8 o'clock years ago.
More on irrational behavior from a famous economist: losses loom larger than gains, that first impressions shape subsequent judgments, that vivid examples carry more weight in decision making than more abstract � but more accurate � information, the phenomenon of loss aversion (people don't like losing), and although divorced women are are less satisfied with their lives than married women, they're actually more cheerful, and finally, people are really happier with friends than they are with their families or their spouse or their child. (Most people. That's not true of me.)
Watch who you vote for: their election might could mean that "murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught and practiced."
Party time!

According to Audra Ang, writing for the Associated Press, women remain second-tier choices for filling Chinese Communist Party posts. They're classified with ethnic minorities, intellectuals, and youths as groups for whom quotas have been established for lower-level positions. Moreover, many Chinese think women who aspire to high positions are ruthless in the tradition of Ci Xi, the ambitious "Dowager Empress" of the late Qing Dynasty. But nowhere does she mention that the party is undemocratic.

A couple of days ago, an article in the NYT was labelled China's Communist Party Opens Its Doors to Capitalists, but the idea that the association with the rich could worsen already rampant corruption is hardly mentioned. Ditto in this Reuters piece.

On the other hand, according to Erik Eckholm at the NYT, the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly irrelevant to urbanite's daily lives; meanwhile, in rural areas, disaffection with party corruption is widespread.

Monday, November 4

Someone else found me by looking for zhang yimou "happy times" dvd vcd. All I can say is, I hope you found it, brother. All I've got here is this. I've been trying to buy a Chinese grammar book online for several days now. Only one online bookstore seems to have it, and their website isn't working well.
Hmm. Someone found me by looking for problems for starbucks in taiwan, probably because of this post. I can only add that when I was in Taiwan, the local competitors' cuppa kabuqinuo or natie was pretty good--and half the price.

Sunday, November 3

So much for the internet. There's not a lot of information on the web about Tuesday's election out here in the sticks, particularly as regards the more minor candidates and referenda. And everything I find out about our various competing politicos is that whether they're Democrat or Republican, they support policies I don't like.
Today I made sourdough rye with a tablespoon of caraway seeds and just a teaspoon of fennel. Oddly, the fennel made the bread plesantly sweet. But although there was no overwhelming liquorice taste from the fennel, I couldn't taste the caraway as much as I'd like. And there wasn't much loft to the loaf; I used about half rye flour and half whole wheat, together with 3 tablespoons of gluten. I think last time when I used 4 tablespoons of gluten, it rose higher. I've also got to remember that if I want to have this kind of bread for lunch and I've left the dough in the refrigerator overnite, I've got to take it out by 6 am. Anyway, the rest of the loaf will be for this week's sandwiches.

Then this afternoon I made another quick bread: dates and figs. Let's see if I can manage not to sit on it this week.

update

The fig & date bread was OK. Not quite as sweet as the other "quick breads" I've been making. I haven't sit on it--yet.
Last week my wife made zongzi. Pretty good, as long as they've got a bit of fatty meat in them, but the more goodies there are, the harder they are to make. She only does these about once a year.

Apricot-prune bread

Every weekday for breakfast I have a couple of slices of home-made (by me) "quick bread" and a cup of coffee (instant in skim milk that I heat in the microwave). A couple of hours after my ten o'clock class, I noticed a smear on the back of my pants that looked like shit. In fact, it was part of my breakfast. Here's the recipe (which is my own invention, by the way):
Apricot-prune bread
Mix together:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
Beat:
2 eggs
add:
2/3 cup plain yoghurt
1/3 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
mix these ingredients with the flour mixture
Mix in:
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped prunes
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of oil
grease a 9" x 5" pan, bake in preheated 350 degree oven until done; about 1 1/2 hours.

Friday, November 1

This is nice, although it doesn't have lots of my favorites. Via Lileks.
Theodore Dalrymple also has an interesting discussion of the French cit�s, although I think he's a little over the top. These places are public housing projects that encircle many French cities, particularly Paris. Dalrymple says they are inhabited by several million immigrants (mostly from North and West Africa), along with their French-born descendants "and a smattering of the least successful members of the French working class". In fact, Gao Xingjian was living in one of them when he won the Nobel Prize. Anyway, of the residents, who attack not only police but also the firemen who come to put out the fires they set and even the paramedics who come to save their friends, Dalrymple writes,
They are certainly not poor, at least by the standards of all previously existing societies: they are not hungry; they have cell phones, cars, and many other appurtenances of modernity; they are dressed fashionably�according to their own fashion�with a uniform disdain of bourgeois propriety and with gold chains round their necks. They believe they have rights, and they know they will receive medical treatment, however they behave. They enjoy a far higher standard of living (or consumption) than they would in the countries of their parents� or grandparents� origin, even if they labored there 14 hours a day to the maximum of their capacity.

But this is not a cause of gratitude�on the contrary: they feel it as an insult or a wound, even as they take it for granted as their due. But like all human beings, they want the respect and approval of others, even�or rather especially�of the people who carelessly toss them the crumbs of Western prosperity. Emasculating dependence is never a happy state, and no dependence is more absolute, more total, than that of most of the inhabitants of the cit�s. They therefore come to believe in the malevolence of those who maintain them in their limbo: and they want to keep alive the belief in this perfect malevolence, for it gives meaning�the only possible meaning�to their stunted lives. It is better to be opposed by an enemy than to be adrift in meaninglessness, for the simulacrum of an enemy lends purpose to actions whose nihilism would otherwise be self-evident.
An interesting item about bad eating habits by Theodore Dalrymple
(link via Iain Murray). Reminds me a little of this. I can't help it, I think it's funny.
Now why is this banned in China?
Learning Chinese. No, it's not really like that.