Friday, January 31

When I come back from LA on Monday, I'll be looking forward to reading more of Andrew Northrup's blog.

Also, our "faculty association" (professors' union) has voted to strike. Will they accept the administration's final offer?
The phrase �cheese-eating surrender-monkeys� makes it to a subscriber-only article in the Economist, which credits "a recent article in the National Review", instead of mentioning Jonah Goldberg by name. (It's in an article where he refuses to apologize for joking about the Chinese eating dogs. As a matter of fact, many Chinese do eat dogs.) I guess the Economoist writers are miffed they can't use their own names.
A subscriber-only article in the Economist says:
Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at the People's University of China in Beijing, says the government has tended to treat protests by unpaid migrants with restraint, fearful that being tougher might only make things worse. But he argues that the practice of withholding wages from migrant labourers will persist as long as such people are treated as second-class citizens in urban China. �China has 10m slaves. The definition of a slave is someone who is given work and food but no wages. That's what these people are.�
That says it all, really.
I found this quite annoying.
Mandela said Bush and Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, were undermining the United Nations and suggested they would not be doing so if the organization had a white leader.
I can explain it as a legacy of apartheid, but I still can't really excuse it.
On today's morning edition, the report on American objections to European hysteria against genetically modified crops was a bit slanted. I heard a college professor claim that the only Asian country that permitted genetically modified crops was the Phillipines. Not so. According to New Scientist, China's genetically modified crops are proving a success:
IT'S not what campaigners against genetically modified crops want to hear. Not only are GM plants taking over China's rice paddies and cotton fields, but millions of poor farmers are benefiting as a result, according to a survey of the country's GM crop programme, the largest outside the US.
That's a pretty big mistake.

Thursday, January 30

David Boaz:
I'd like to hear a presidential candidate say, "I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in a woman's right to choose whether to have a child. I believe in a woman's right to choose any job someone will hire her for. I believe in a woman's right to choose to own a gun. I believe in a woman's right to choose the school she thinks is best for her child, public or private. I believe in a woman's right to choose what kinds of art she will spend her money on, even if she prefers Madonna or Randy Travis and Congress wants to give her money to Robert Mapplethorpe or Luciano Pavarotti. I believe in a woman's right to choose to drive a cab, even if she doesn't have a license. I believe in a woman's right to choose the employees she wants for her business, even if they don't fit some government quota. I believe in a woman's right to choose the drugs she prefers for recreation, whether she chooses Coors or cocaine. I believe in a woman's right to choose how to spend all of her hard-earned money, without giving half of it to the government."
I don't think we'll be hearing any of that anytime soon. (via Radley Balko).
Child abduction hysteria

Awhile ago, Iain Murray cited a Dennis Byrne Dubious Data Awards article which said that "In fact, only 3,000 to 5,000 such abductions are reported annually". A few days later, Jane Brody claimed: "Each year, the Department of Justice reports, about 69,000 children are abducted, 12,000 of them by people who are not family members. In nearly two-thirds of these abductions, the kidnapper is not a stranger to the child." I asked Iain, who responded with the greatest alacrity, pointing out that "Brody's figure of about 4,000 stranger abductions is perfectly consistent with my comments." Geez, so now I can't trust Brody.
Can those who are not Asian American properly appreciate peaches?
NPR's Michele Norris talks with David Mas Maumoto, a writer and farmer in Central California, about the quintessential symbol of summer -- the peach.
What a couple of donkeys. Norris says in that unctuous NPR way that in the winter, "grocery stores are stocked--as they should be--with the seasonal fruits of winter--bananas, pears, and a wide variety of apples." Get that! Bananas are a winter fruit! They grow especially well in the snow! True, fruit does taste better when the farm is close to the market, but anyone who has been to a big Asian market in the winter in a big North American or European city can find many more tasty fruits than what Norris finds. If that's not bad enough, Maumoto thinks that because he's Asian American, he has a special affinity with peaches. Apparently he doesn't know that Chinese like their peaches crunchy, not soft. And he too believes that we should only eat what's in season. I guess he's never been to a big Asian market, either.
NPR's Lynn Neary "talks with" (why don't they interview people?) Yoon Youngmo, a "a South Korean labor activist and organizer of recent anti-American protests in South Korea" actually comes off as not all that anti-American, although of course he doesn't see the American military's side of it, and the reporter didn't raise that either. However, Yoon thinks North Korea won't attack South Korea because of its own economic problems. Actually, it's when a country has problems that it often attacks others: for example, Argentina and the Falklands.
Michael Weissenstein on the murder of a Chinese-American "activist" couple. For once, "activist" means Republican. I always thought the Republicans were a better fit for the Chinese (my wife certainly thinks so), but we also know those Chinese-Americans who have fallen for the Democrats' racial politics.
I like to give credit where it is due: Cheryl W. Thompson, Marcia Slacum Greene and Sarah Cohen write about schools that function as "I-20 mills", enabling foreigners to get student visas even though they never study. Scandalous as it sounds, the problem isn't easy to solve.

Wednesday, January 29

Marian Burros quotes Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, saying:
"There is nowhere in the world where a large population has eaten large amounts of irradiated food over a long period of time. It makes me queasy that we are going to feed it to schoolchildren."
But check out this PBS Frontline Interview, posted on the Consumer Federation of America website:

Frontline: Do you support irradiating ground beef?

[Carol Tucker Foreman]: I'm not opposed to irradiating ground beef. If I were supplying a nursing home, I'd probably make sure that the meat came in irradiated. My concern is that I don't want a system that says you can have fecal matter all over it, and then irradiate it. Irradiated poop won't make you sick, but it's still poop. ...

There are some worker safety concerns with irradiation. There are some environmental safety concerns. It's very expensive, and if it's not used exactly right, it makes the meat taste really bad. Those last two are important reasons why irradiation hasn't been adopted more widely. .."
It looks like what she meant is that irradiation alone isn't going to solve all the food-borne illness problems, while Burros is trying to scare people.
Ted Bridis:
Many top experts believe the programming for the Internet worm was based on software code published on the Web months ago by a respected British computer researcher, David Litchfield, and later modified by a virus author known within the Chinese hacker community as "Lion."
"Honker" is some linguistically-impaired Chinese person's version of hongke, which is a play on the Chinese word for hacker; in the original, it suggests something like "red hacker". But what a mistransliteration! This hurts the feelings of all of us big-noses (some Chinese use "big-nose"--da bizi--as a rude reference to whites). Let's demand they change this!
Cassie Biggs writes how the Chinese government is closing down unlicensed schools for migrant children. The children attend such schools because they and their parents from rural areas are second-class citizens in the cities.
Migrant schools have officially existed since May 1998, when they were given five years in which to meet governmental standards for registration. Non-governmental groups have estimated that of the three million children who accompany their parents to cities seeking work, more than half lack education, either because their parents lack the relevant hukou (residence permit), or because of lack of access to schools catering to their needs. "By closing those poor ones, we hope to focus our efforts on well-managed private schools that offer quality education and a sound environment," explains Mao Fang, an official with Shanghai's city's education commission.
But the urban schools still resist enrolling the migrant children. Even if they do get the much desired urban residence permit, there is still prejudice against "peasants":
"The discrimination is subtle, but in China very deep-rooted," says Yi. "Migrants are looked down upon because they dress differently or don't speak the standard Mandarin. They are thought of as rude, dirty and a drain on a city's resources."
I can't help but wonder whether it's actually an effort to improve the schooling for the migrant children or an effort to control everything; so much of what the Chinese government does is about maintaining control.

A China Daily article saying the Chinese government issues a decree to protect migrant workers. They issue a lot of decrees, but it's better than nothing.
Stephanie Hoo writes about the Chinese reception of Gavin Menzies' claims that the Chinese discovered America before Columbus:
At Peking University, archaeologist Lin Meicun says that in 20 years of studying ancient Chinese migration, he has found no convincing signs of China's early settlement of the Americas. Such talk, he said, "is not science. It's science fiction."

Tuesday, January 28

John Pomfret cites "an economist at the government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul" who says that the failure of North Korea's new economic policy--an attempt to promote economic activity and improve living standards--is what has led to the current crisis, so the US is a scapegoat. Chinese sources close to North Korea's government argue Kim Jong Il has also manufactured the crisis because he fears without security guarantees and access to international lending institutions, his economy may collapse.

But why did the reforms fail?

Chinese experts noted that when China undertook its first major economic reform in 1979, it increased the price of grain by only 25 percent. Second, they said, when China began this process, 80 percent of its population lived in rural areas, so there was a huge pool of potential beneficiaries from the liberalized agricultural policies. But North Korea is highly industrialized: Two-thirds of its people live in cities.
Or, says Marcus Noland, at the Institute for International Economics in Washington:
the changes were either a desperate attempt to jump-start a half-dead economy or a backhanded attack against North Korea's nascent private economy. Increasing prices would reduce the value of currency held outside the state system, breaking the back of private entrepreneurs. But then again, he said in a recent paper, "the possibility that economic decisions are being made by people who do not grasp the implications of their actions should not be dismissed too hastily."
So the current Korean problem is not the US's fault, according to a South Korean expert, a Chinese expert, and an American (he's a free-trader, so I guess statists won't believe anything he has to say).
Erik Eckholm writes, China's "charm offensive" towards Taiwan reflects an emerging view among scholars in China that so long as Taiwan can be dissuaded from declaring independence, which could mean war, time may be on Beijing's side. Maybe. But I'm afraid they discount the strength of ethnic rivalry.

Sunday, January 26

Charlotte Packer interviews a bunch of food snobs to find Twenty things you must eat before you die. I've had stewed pig's ear (not fried), and didn't especially go for it. Peking duck is absolutely worth it. So is the durian. The other stuff--I guess I'll have to find out. Although most of it is pretty pricey. I wonder what the people who love George Monbiot think of this food.
China is to soon become the world's largest Internet and information economy, according to Edward Tian, the president of one of the Chinese government's two main telecommunications companies. Whereas now it's a market for Western technology companies, he thinks future investment will focus more on the software side and service sector, possibly for export to the West. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the Economist argues that instead of undermining repressive regimes like China's, the internet might strengthen them. Tactics the Chinese have used include blocking or partially blocking access to some sites, monitoring of e-mail traffic and chatrooms, hacking attacks and viruses aimed at hostile websites, and encouragement of self-censorship among internet service providers, content companies and users. And so far, it seems to be working.
Arthur Bovino on Falun Gong practitioners getting political asylum in US. It's one of the NYT's "neediest cases" series. Yeah, they're needy, and they may deserve asylum by our rules. But there are plenty more where they came from, and I'm guessing Americans may not welcome all of them.
Nobel Peace laureate Norman E. Borlaug on the hysteria against genetically modified crops (via Instapundit).


Clyde Prestowitz, claiming he's a "trade hawk", argues taking action against the European Union because of its ban on imports of genetically modified foods would be counterproductive. The argument sounds good, but it looks like his thing is making nice-nice. It may work, and it may not. And despite his claims, isn't he a protectionist? Not to mention his loony ideas about the "Japan, Inc." economic model. But just because he was wrong once doesn't mean he's always wrong.
Cindy Rodriguez quotes the prospective husband of a Chinese "e-mail bride" saying,
I've always been attracted to petite, dark-haired women, but it's their demeanor that I really like.
Being the husband of a Chinese woman, talk like that always makes me a little defensive. But I think a lot of these guys are going to get more than they bargained for. Quite a few Chinese women are pretty strong personalities. And quite a few just want to live in the US. But I've got to admit, some of the marriages will work out. (also via Rice Cooker).
Daryll Ray writes on a major improvement in Chinese lifestyles: in 1976, the per capita daily calorie consumption was 2,051. By 2000, the per capita calorie consumption had risen to 3,029. They still eat far more grain and less meat, sugar, and oil. The point is, policies of the past couple of decades have made for a much tastier diet. I'm guessing the consumption of meat, sugar, and oil is going to rise, and grain will decline, which is pretty much in agreement with Ray. (via Rice Cooker).
Reason Express criticizes the anti-SUV hysteria. Critics of the SUV say people don't "need" them, but:
Define "need" narrowly enough and everything outside of a 5-door econobox is positively insane. Take it further and all manner of inventions that make life a little easier can be seen as wants rather than needs. Air conditioning is a wasteful luxury -- and think how much more exercise we'd get if we'd lose the indoor plumbing! The problem with this view is that the great insatiable human want machine has a habit of driving humanity toward a better life. Look for a way to stop crapping in the woods, and you end up greatly improving hygiene and health. Morford doesn't seem to understand that wants can solve needs, and actually declares a huge blind spot with regard to improvements in automotive technology that have made the world a better place. He claims that there has been "absolutely zero significant revolution in automobile-engine technology in the past 50 years," and that this is "because of the oil and auto industries. It is not even a question. Of course it's because of the titanic truckloads of cash to be made by continuing to exploit the world's oil reserves."....In fact, we've seen -- and are seeing -- amazing leaps in engine efficiency, weight, and durability. Computer-designed combustion chambers get more horsepower and burn fuel more completely than anything dreamt of in the 1950s. Well-designed and maintained modern engines are closer to a closed system, spewing out much less pollution from tailpipes with virtually none of the ancillary drips and oozes. Back in the day, engines were expected to leak a little oil.
That's what gets me about a lot of Americans who claim to be concerned about the environment: they aren't willing to change their lifestyles in ways that show they really want to help protect the environment. Instead, they want to impose solutions on everybody.

Ironically, while I think that most of those concerns are over-blown, I live a life that is relatively environmentally correct--not because I feel obliged to, but because that's the way I prefer it for unrelated reasons. For example, I really like to walk, and live near enought my job that I can walk to and from work. We keep the heat turned down in the winter, partly to save money, but also because our skin is dry. My wife prefers freshly cooked stuff, so we eat very little pre-processed food, incidentally saving money that way. I like to bake things from scratch partly as a kind of hobby, but also because the stuff I prefer simply isn't available here commercially.

And both my wife and I are consitutionally opposed to the typical American lifestyle of buying lots of material goods, so that also involves saving a certain amount of energy. As a result, I feel that many supporters of environmentalism are hypocrites.
I finally read The Good Women of China. It's not very well written and it's also badly translated (it's an overly literal translation). But the title is a cute twist on Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan, cute since he was a Communist and the book is in large part a criticism of how Chinese Communism hurt women (the other part is how nasty men hurt women). I'd always thought that the Chinese Communist Party had been good to women, but this book is forcing me to reconsider. Anyway, it's a worthwhile, quick easy read, even if it's not so very well done.

Saturday, January 25

Yesterday I made fougasse; I changed the recipe a little, using ordinary Gouda and of course ordinary bread flour. It's been decades since I've used french fried onions; for awhile I thought they didn't exist anymore. But then even though I've never eaten the famous Green Bean Casserole, I've seen the TV ads, and that's where I found them--next to the beans. I can't believe how that casserole has caught on. Anyway, I was kind of disappointed in the result, though my wife said it was better than the fougasse we got at a Paris boulangerie. (Is there any higher praise?)

Friday, January 24

Ted Anthony item:
Signs of frostbite were visible on the bodies of two foreigners who plummeted from an Air France flight as it prepared to land in Shanghai, authorities said Friday, raising the possibility that the two died during the flight from Paris.
[your joke here]
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF points out that Bush was a beneficiary of affirmative action, (pointing out by the way an example of his political integrity). He concludes:

The University of Michigan system promotes diversity of many kinds. It gives points to applicants from underrepresented counties (mostly white), to athletes, to poor applicants, even to men who seek to study nursing � as well as to children and grandchildren of Michigan graduates. Each reflects a retreat from pure performance criteria, and one can argue about the wisdom of each trade-off. But it seems deeply unfair for the White House to jump up and down about the injustice of preferences for blacks while acquiescing in preferential admissions for jocks, rich kids, Oregon farm boys � and yes, Texans with names like Bush.
Like I said, I think it's all unfair. But then again, why so many people confine their complaints to racially-based diversity, and not about the others?

Thursday, January 23

It's been a long road to the top for the toothbrush. The first was built in 1498 by a Chinese emperor who had hog bristles embedded in a bone handle, so says the American Dental Association.
According to CNN, but I can't find any confirmation.
Libyan Elected Head of U.N. Rights Panel (via Radley Balko):
Riding on a wave of African solidarity, Libyan ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji received votes from 33 countries....To oppose the nomination, the United States had to break with the half-century U.N. tradition of sharing such jobs on a rotating basis among regional groups....Al-Hajjaji said the U.S. move set "a bad precedent" because it undermined respect for the regional groupings and worsens divisions in the world by labeling countries as "bad guys or good guys."
Riiiiight! Regional groupings are what matters. That's how China gets elected. And how dare the U.S. label anyone bad guys! Can't all the dictatorships just engage in repression & genocide at home and abroad, with the occasional stab at international terrorism, without being criticized? It hurts their feelings, you know!
Iain Murray remarks that there is "no evidence that class sizes have any real effect on the quality of education". I've heard that before, and my experience in Taiwan years ago was that despite the huge class size, students did well. Here's evidence beyond the anecdotal:
The Class Size Reduction (CSR) evaluation was conducted by a research consortium comprising the American Institutes for Research (AIR), RAND, WestEd, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), and EdSource.
Among other things, it says:
Our analyses of the relationship of CSR to student achievement was inconclusive. Student achievement has been increasing since the first administration of the SAT-9 in 1997, but we could find only limited evidence linking these gains to CSR.
CSR is an enormously popular program in California among elementary parents and teachers. It is also clear that local educators and parents may value reduced class sizes for many reasons other than improved achievement as measured by statewide test scores. Therefore, maintaining small K�3 classes in California is likely to remain a priority.
Well, as they say, politics is the art of the possible. But it's infuriating that people want something that doesn't do much good, but costs a lot of money.

Erik Hanushek argues that "the evidence about improvements in student achievement that can be attributed to smaller classes turns out to be meager and unconvincing....While policies to reduce class size may enjoy popular political appeal, such policies are very expensive and, according to the evidence, quite ineffective."
Aaron Freeman has a bittersweet comment on raising his daughters "relatively unburdened by racist culture" here (audio here).
Some self-hating, knee-jerkily insecure part of me wants them to suffer racism as I know it.
But he fights that. Admirable!

Tuesday, January 21

The headline talks about Bush invokes faith's power to cure society's ills, but Richard W. Stevenson writes about race. Anyway, I'm dubious about the power of religion "to cure society's ills"; just as often, it's an excuse to piss all over people who don't believe in your brand of crap. (So says the non-believer, pissing over anyone who doesn't believe in his brand of crap.)
Valerie Strauss reports that schools often overlook the need to put study skills in the curriculum.
Studying is a highly personal process, and many students say their methods mesh with their own learning styles....Though college professors assume students know how to study when they arrive, many don't....As a result, many colleges and universities offer newcomers seminars, courses and tip sheets on how to study.
I'm rolling my eyes at that.
I'm least like you!

Richard Morin and Claudia Deane report that Americans view Atheists, Muslims and Mormons as the least like themselves in terms of basic beliefs and values, according to a national survey by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. Apparently it has no web site.

Monday, January 20

Richard McGregor writes on a new scourge afflicting China

The success of KFC in China, and to a lesser extent, other global fast foods giants, like McDonald's, is the result of a rapid transformation of Chinese lifestyles, which are becoming more geared to speed, convenience and choice.
I have no moral objection to this stuff. I just feel it's not very good food. There's plenty of better American fast food, not to mention Chinese food.
Hamish McDonald profiles Mo Shaoping, a brave lawyer defending Yao Fuxin. (via Rice cooker. Hey, they mention me!).

A NYT editorial.
Audra Ang reports on growing dissatisfaction among people forced from their homes to make way for the giant Three Gorges Dam. More info here and in this PDF report. Meanwhile, Benjamin Kang Lim, private entrepreneurs, taxi drivers and fishermen were given the opportunity to choose the worst performers in the local county government. The "winners"
were suspended for six months. Their salaries were halved and they were forced to undergo self-criticism, Communist jargon for reprimand.
Shades of this. Of course, top officials even at the county level were off-limits.
I've been thinking over what FELICIA R. LEE (I neglected to provide the link below). I can't seem to find the original article of David B. Grusky and Kim A. Weeden (why not tell us where the info came from?). Anyway, while it seems obvious, I'm haunted by the fact that people who work together tend to have similar beliefs and habits. It suggests that people who spend a lot of time together assimilate each other's ideas. Very nice, I suppose. I guess this supports "diversity" in the classroom: if students are exposed to more & different ideas, then they'll be more open to different thinking. But where's the rationality?

Sunday, January 19

My wife and I use free weights three times a week, in addition to swimming 45 minutes a day and walking another fifty minutes. I'm skeptical about Alex Kuczynski's report on slow lifting (under fashion?). And so is Clarence Bass, although all I can say about his pic is ewwww. Maybe later I'll look for the article by Richard Winett that he mentions. I found another, "Potential Benfits of Resistance Training", not available to the hoi polloi.
This morning I got up at 4:30, and decided to go ahead and bake the dough I'd prepared: following the directions for the pain Poil�ne recipe (at the end of this post), I'd let the yeasted sponge rise 24 hours, even though I had my doubts when I found it had started to ferment and had an alcoholic taste. As instructed, I had added the second dose of flour and water to the sponge, let it rise another 24 hours. So this morning it was ready. I added the last dose of flour, kneaded it, let it rise, shaped it into baguettes, let it rise. I slashed them with a razor (not very well; I just can't find anything sharp enough), and baked it. Pretty good. There was a slight alcoholic odor if you sniffed the dough, but it was still pretty good. I might've baked it a tad longer for a properly crispy crust, but some of my eaters don't like too much crispiness.

I guess this is the "Poolish method"
This method was first introduced in France by the bakers of Marie Antoinette of Austria, wife of the king of France, Louis the xvi (both were guillotined during the Revolution of 1794). It mainly consists of fermenting for a period of twelve hours a given amount of flour and a minute quantity of fresh yeast (1gr/kg of flour and even less during the summer) and enough water to make this dough quite liquid and elastic (approx. 1lt/kg of flour). At the moment of kneading, we then add the rest of the flour and a bit of fresh yeast. This long process of fermentation with little yeast added permits the development of great amounts of organic acids which imparts the bread an excellent taste as well as long lasting freshness. This technique can be applied to many cereals but convenes particularly well to white (unbleached) wheat flour, and in the making of the traditional baguette. Needless to say, the baguette has become symbolic to Paris but is in fact of Viennese origin, as well as, croissants, since both have been introduced in France by Austrian bakers.
(courtesy Owl's Bread Bakery). Mon dieu! Baguettes are not French!? This will take me a while to digest. Anyway, next week, guess I'll try using a little less yeast. Also, I think I'll refrigerate the dough at some point:
Bacteria are important flavor builders as well. There are bacteria in the dough from the beginning, but as long as the yeast is very active, it consumes sugars as quickly as they're produced, leaving no food for the bacteria, which also like sugar. But when bakers chill a dough and slow down its rise, the cold dramatically reduces yeast activity. The bacteria, on the other hand, function well even in cold temperatures, so they now have an opportunity to thrive, producing many more marvelously flavorful acids.
(from Shirley O. Corriher at Fine Cooking) Mmm. Bacteria! Also, several other links I want to save. This one is a bread with pre-ferment and a minimum amount of yeast; it uses a little rye flour "because it has bacteria that readily develop for enriched flavor". This is a discussion of pre-ferments, including biga and poolish. And here's another. And with these minute quantities of yeast, I could either just wing it, or get a scale.
Gina Kolata quotes Dr. Joanne Lynn, who directs the Washington Home Center for Palliative Care Studies, saying
People talk as if the stopping of dying from heart disease is always a good thing. It is as if just extending life is always terrific. That may be true if you are talking about a heart attack in a 45-year-old man, but if you are talking about an 85-year-old man, what is often left is frailty and dementia. Is it worth it? At the very least we ought to know what we are doing.
Quality of life counts for something, doesn't it? But still, how many people will prefer death? And of those, how many will be allowed to die? Meanwhile, there's less money to treat younger people with many healthy years ahead of them.
Each year about 50,000 horses
are stunned by a four-inch retractable bolt shot into the brain, then hung up by a hind leg to have their throats slit so they can be bled out. The method, required by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, is the same used for beef cattle....Rescuers will buy sick, lame, malnourished or blind horses at auction to either rehabilitate them or have a veterinarian euthanize them, with the carcass then hauled away to a rendering plant for disposal. Euthanasia and rendering can cost an owner a few hundred dollars, which explains why some refer to slaughter as "the poor man's euthanasia."
After all,
the horse was going to be put down anyway...and the method of slaughter has been federally sanctioned as humane...why shouldn't the meat go to feed people rather than to "a big hole in the ground?"

Texas prosecutors are threatening criminal charges against the last two equine slaughterhouses in the United States under an obscure 1949 state agricultural statute unearthed by animal welfare activists. Meanwhile, a bill being drafted in the U.S. Senate would make slaughtering a horse for human consumption a federal offense, even if the meat is for export only.
Although the laws would not prevent slaughterhouses
from continuing to slaughter as many horses as they wanted, in the same manner, for premium pet food or other byproducts.
So it's basically all about not permitting dead horses to be eaten, even though they're going to die anyway. Meanwhile, other meat can be eaten by humans.

whoops, this was from Tamara Jones.
Doug Struck writes that various experts are blaming the US for not feeding the North Koreans, but
Some analysts say the hardships in North Korea have made the government desperate for assistance and vulnerable to new pressure from the cessation of food aid. Others point to the government's stubborn refusal in the 1990s to aggressively seek outside help that would belie its state policy of juche, or self-reliance. They say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il would allow more people to starve rather than submit to U.S. pressure.
What a great man!

Saturday, January 18

Fareed Zakaria says,
A century ago, when East Asia seemed immutably poor, many scholars (most famously German sociologist Max Weber) argued that Confucian-based cultures discouraged all the attributes necessary for success in capitalism. A decade ago, when East Asia was booming, scholars turned this explanation on its head, arguing that Confucianism actually emphasized the essential traits for economic dynamism. Then the wheel turned again, and many came to see in Asian values all the ingredients of crony capitalism.
Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.
What Would Mao Say?

FELICIA R. LEE writes (link via Charles Murtaugh) researchers find that lumping people into social classes
on the basis of their incomes ultimately had little to do with what they bought, what they watched or whom they voted for. Rather, cultural and political similarities are more likely to be found among people who are in the same profession or do the same type of work, reinforced first by educational training and then by work experiences.
So class doesn't matter? But then, other researchers look at the question in economic terms, and conclude that class mobility has decreased. One says
"Twenty years ago, going to college was enough. Now, it has to be an elite school. The American dream is being sorely tested."
Oh, yeah? That's not what this report says. (courtesy Jacques Steinberg). While women's salaries will be somewhat higher if they graduate from an elite school, it's not by a whole order of magnitude. And for men, going to an elite school helps even less. Is the gummint lying?
Pilot Patrick Smith disagrees with the Economist article that said "No large airliner has ever made an emergency landing on water, for example." He cites a few examples.
Glen Owen writes of the danger of teaching in China. When one man complained, he says,
the principal of the school took umbrage, and said that I couldn�t leave and took my passport. Her husband, who appeared to be running a prostitution ring, kept throwing naked girls into my room at night. Then, even though I am gay, he accused me of sexually assaulting his wife. He was later caught drink-driving and took the fine out of my pay.�
(via rice cooker) Still, I don't think this happens every day.
Macabe Keliher on what looks to me like the beginnings of Chinese crony capitalism:
"The whole system has developed in a way in which the official and the capitalist belong to the same group and the peasants are left far beneath," says Chen [Chih-jou], who is a research associate at Academia Sinica, Taipei. "A type of network capitalism or clique capitalism has emerged and been reinforced in the privatization process."
Meanwhile, profits have been shrinking production declining. Now local governments are competing to bring in foreign investors, but with politics still in command, it's not working.
Antony Gormley plans to create a 120,000-strong terracotta army with the help of Chinese villagers. He says,
the earth of a particular region is given form by a group of local people of all ages. It is made of clay, energised by fire, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes.
Why do artists have to talk so much crap?
People like Glenn Rifkin ought to be crying out for road congestion pricing.
Steven Den Beste writes about why any attempt by China to actually invade Taiwan would fail.
Bill Pennington writes,
Faculty leaders and university trustees know what they do not like in the current state of collegiate athletics: low graduation rates for athletes in most major sports at the Division I-A level, spiraling athletic costs, the growing interrelationship of commercial interests with athletic departments, and what is often referred to as the embarrassment of bad behavior by college athletes.
The faculty movement to restrain the growth of big-time college sports
had its origins at the University of Oregon, where in 2000 faculty members first learned of an $80 million expansion of the football stadium when they read about it in the local paper. Professors were outraged, especially since academic department budgets had been severely slashed for years, class sizes had ballooned and a study had listed Oregon's faculty as among the lowest paid when compared with institutions of similar size.
I realize that amongst those who watch them, sports create enormous good feeling, which translates into money for the universities, but I still feel the primary mission of universities is academic. But maybe I'm wrong. The admissions officers certainly don't seem to think so. Meanwhile, in the humanities the post-modernist crap means that a lot of college study is a joke, anyway.
Resumes with white-sounding first names elicited 50 percent more responses than ones with black-sounding names, according to a study (via everythingwrong). People won't like it if I tell them to change their names, but it's tempting.
Joshua Kaplowitz tells the sad story of his short career as an inner-city teacher. What stood out for me was this: "I quickly learned from such experiences how essential parental support is in determining whether a school succeeds in educating a child." A lot of American parents really don't raise their children responsibly by teaching them proper behavior. And then they go and blame the teacher when their brats prove incapable of learning anything.

Also, he says
the training program skimped on actual teaching and classroom-management techniques, instead overwhelming us with sensitivity training. My group spent hours on an activity where everyone stood in a line and then took steps forward or backward based on whether we were the oppressor or the oppressed in the categories of race, income, and religion.
As a non-believer, I suppose that I ought to feel oppressed, since I'm in the minority. Sorry, I don't. (link via max power).

Kids can really be monsters: in Denver, "a group of fifth-graders tried to poison a schoolmate by putting pills, glue, lead and chalk in her drinks."
Nicholas Kristof says,
I'd like to see American bases remain in South Korea, but right now we're taken for granted. We can't want to protect South Koreans more than they want to be protected. So we need to convey the message: "Look, if you don't want us, we're out of here. Why should we pay $3 billion a year, not counting the cost of the tanks and the planes, to keep 37,000 troops here so Korean ingrates can slap them around on the subways?"

Friday, January 17

In response to Howard Kurtz's aside
Of course, the folks who seem most upset by affirmative action don't seem terribly concerned about preferential treatment for children of alumni.
Instapundit argues,
You hear this all the time. But I think it's a bogus comparison. The reason why we have laws against race discrimination, rather than laws demanding strict meritocracy in all things, is -- or at least so I thought -- that race discrimination is much, much worse than merely favoring alumni.
This will mark me out as some awful kind of techno-turd, but I've never really understood why universities prefer to tinker with the admissions in all kinds of ways, refusing to simply seek out academic excellence, but also seeking not just racial diversity, but also ethnic, economic, ideological and geographical diversity; and for the really big name places, whether your parental units went. I know, Admissions' hearts are in the right place, but I believe it's a dubious experiment in social engineering. For the record, I attended this undergrad school. My admission to grad school was presumably on the basis of my GRE and undergraduate grades.
bussorah reminds the kids how good they got it. And I'm even older, so lemme tell you, things were even tougher in the sixties.
Joshua Kaplowitz tells the sad story of his short career as an inner-city teacher. What stood out for me was this: "I quickly learned from such experiences how essential parental support is in determining whether a school succeeds in educating a child." A lot of American parents really don't raise their children responsibly by teaching them proper behavior. And then they go and blame the teacher when their brats prove incapable of learning anything.

Also, he says
the training program skimped on actual teaching and classroom-management techniques, instead overwhelming us with sensitivity training. My group spent hours on an activity where everyone stood in a line and then took steps forward or backward based on whether we were the oppressor or the oppressed in the categories of race, income, and religion.
As a non-believer, I suppose that I ought to feel oppressed, since I'm in the minority. Sorry, I don't. (link via max power).

Kids can really be monsters: in Denver, "a group of fifth-graders tried to poison a schoolmate by putting pills, glue, lead and chalk in her drinks."
Sam Crane, a white, middle-class, American college professor, says he's Chinese on account of how Chuang Tzu helps him cope with his son Aidan's profound disability.
Taoism can seem enigmatic, but it clearly finds a place in this world for Aidan. Chuang Tzu affirms disability, finding in it a counterpoint to overwrought expectations of bodily perfection, intellectual achievement and self-righteousness. In his worldview, Aidan's life is just as meaningful and valuable as any other: He is real and sufficient unto himself. In dealing with my son, Chinese cultural resources have served me better in my most intimate need than more familiar American ideas and practices. I also now see many things in a different light. Taoism is famous for its skepticism toward grand human designs to shape the pattern of nature and the course of history. It favors doing nothing over doing something that may unleash terrible unforeseen consequences. So, just as I am more accepting of Aidan's reality, I am also more aware of my limitations.The Chinese sensibility I have absorbed through my reading and reflection is of ancient lineage. It is a part of a universal definition of civilization, or Chinese-ness, open to anyone who cares to study the philosophic classics and live the good life.
Via rice cooker.
Antoaneta Bezlova writes that there is open discussion of eliminating the death penalty in China. Hard to believe. As hard to believe as this report about reforming the Chinese government. What next? (both via rice cooker).

The 2nd item is from the Financial Times via Transparency International. According to Shenzhen's mayor, China's top leaders have ordered political reforms to be tested in Shenzhen, including, circumscribing the powers of the Communist Party, which is currently above the law. "The plan seeks to separate the powers of the party, the government and the people's congress (legislature) - a conscious imitation of the separation of judiciary, executive and legislative functions that underpins Western democracies".
I'm bowled over.
According to the mayor, "The party's role is to be restricted to "drawing up the overall economic development strategy for an area and for setting some other important policies", but the party will be forbidden from "going over the heads of the government to get involved in the (executive) work of the government". The article goes on, "The responsibilities of each branch of power are to be spelt out clearly and published so that the public can complain if the guidelines are not being followed. Already in Shenzhen, people can complain to a local agency if officials fail to comply with strict published guidelines on how they should do their work."
Why the interest in reform? "The motivation behind the political reform programme has been China's accession to the World Trade Organisation in late 2001 and the need to please multinational investors who increasingly insist upon a transparent, law-based environment".
So letting China into the WTO was the right thing to do!
Catherine Armitage on driving in Beijing it's "like being permanently stuck in a stadium carpark after a grand final." No one yields, everyone plays chicken. (via rice cooker)

Thursday, January 16

William Foreman writes that Taiwan's diplomacy takes desperate tone. Yeah, but, that's not exactly news. That's been true for a long time now.
According to an Associated Press piece,
Social Security benefit cuts, tax increases, a higher retirement age or a combination of those steps will be needed to fund the system in the long term, regardless of President Bush's idea for personal investment accounts, the head of a congressional agency said yesterday.
Maybe Congress will get to work.

Wednesday, January 15

The Chinese government loves to whine about how criticisms of China are hurting the feelings of the Chinese people. But Stephanie Hoo's report about the Chinese government putting two labor activists on trial for subversion (a charge that can carry the death penalty) for leading worker demonstrations, seems pretty hurtful, too.

Philip P. Pan writes that there was an angry crowd holding a vigil in sub-zero temperatures outside the trial. "'How is it a crime to ask for our wages?' asked one unshaven worker, stamping his feet to stay warm. 'How can that be subverting state power?'" I'd say their feelings were hurt.
This NBA site doesn't look like it says "ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh". Am I missing something?
With reference to the following post, why is it that artists are so often leftists? Is it perhaps the aesthetic type is a little too impractical or idealistic to understand that this communal stuff just doesn't work?
I've really got to get to work, but earlier I saw this article by Caryn James. I'm going to mention this when I talk about Mao's approach to art and literature. (Link via Charles Murtaugh). Brought to mind by the Big Arm Woman on Tolkien's interpretation of Beowulf.


What I mean is that I can't believe how people insist that art must serve some grand social purpose. As far as I'm concerned, whether it's a canonical great work or a piece of schlock, the primary function is aesthetic. It reminds me of "Get Me Rewrite: Class Warfare on 'Titanic'", an opinion I read a few years ago by one Steven J. Ross. The blurb goes, "For all its money and modern technological wizardry, 'Titanic' is an extremely old-fashioned movie that reinforces conservative ideas about the inevitability of class hierarchies and class injustice in America." Ross wanted the movie to show the rich dying and the poor living on, even if that's not what happened.

Even though the thesis is the opposite of Caryn James', who apparently wants movies to show the poor how irremediably awful their lives are, both of them, and many others of their ilk, think that art is supposed to tackle "social issues". I put the phrase in quotes, because it generally turns out to be the leftist cause du jour, and I suspect many of the same people would balk at the demands of conservatives that the movies portray squeaky-cleanliness. While I don't specifically rule out messages, the purpose of the arts is art: if they fulfill some political goal, that's fine, the critic who demands something like that is going to narrow the focus of what is good art. (I mean, critics who think this way are going to find an awful lot of decent art unacceptable, and find they have a paucity of choices.) So if a movie doesn't push your agenda, tough, or better yet, create your own piece that instructs the masses on whatever topic is dear to your narrow little mind. Good luck in getting them to watch it.

Monday, January 13

Yesterday I baked some rye bread. Vaguely sourdough. I started off with 3/4 cup of raisins 1 cup milk and 1 cup rye flour--whoops, too dry, add some water. It fermented after a day or so, and I stirred it down and after another longish wait I saw tiny bubbles. I refrigerated it but decided I didn't want whole raisins in my bread when I made roast beef sandwiches, so I put it in the blender, which nearly choked. It's much thicker than I thought. Then I refrigerated it again. A few days later I took it out to let it bubble up, but it was too tired or something. I added a little yeast, some more rye as well as whole wheat, 1 tablespoon gluten, oil, salt, and water, kneaded it, and let it rise, shaped it and let it rise again. After 40 minutes of baking it looked done, but my quick read thermometer showed it wasn't 200 degree yet. It took a whole hour. Today's roast beef sandwich was OK, but not as good as it's been in the past.
Yao Ming in an ad for the new PowerBooks (via Chi-Chu Tschang); it doesn't sound to me like Ming's saying "ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh" (thanks to Shanti for the link).


I mean this link. And I should've said Yao as that's his surname, not Ming.

Sunday, January 12

My mother-in-law can't speak English, but she can understand Fear Factor. She, my wife & I look at what they eat and if it's guts or whatever, we say, yeah, I could eat that. Mouse testicles? No problem! (via
Some religious stuff: Cecil Adams on how courts swear in atheists.

Another article (not quite as old) by Ian Buruma on the Chinese worship of Mao Zedong; it's via Edward Driscoll, who has some observations on the leftist fondness for evil men. I was led to Edward Driscoll via Kathy Shaidle.

By the way, if you don't want to go on a pilgrimage to Mao's hometown of Shaoshan, how about going to the Killing Fields in Cambodia (via Orrin Judd, who also reminds us of George McGovern's "wise" words: "The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean...."). I had forgotten where I'd read about this; on google I looked for mcgovern cambodia skulls and was led to Nonsense Verse. It's interesting to see where the skulls and McGovern end up. Incidentally, former senator Paul Simon recently had local broadcast on how war was such a bad idea, and he put forward how although the right excoriated Truman, he did the right thing. Wait a minute! If we'd gotten rid of the North Koreans, we wouldn't be in this mess! I'm still undecided on the war in Iraq, but the opponents are making a pretty good argument in favor of it.
Rob Stein on the latest in a series of reports by the "Cochrane Collaboration, an independent nonprofit group based in Oxford", "on various aspects of medicine and dentistry that have never been subjected to careful evaluation. As part of a growing movement toward "evidence-based medicine," the Cochrane organization and others are beginning to evaluate many long-accepted and widely used procedures and treatments that have never been proven effective.

But at least a couple of studies suggest that acupuncture may be effective in certain treatments. Like this study.
David Brooks: Americans don't resent income inequality and do not have Marxian categories in their heads.
Baguette update

I've got to modify this recipe; I've been doing things wrong: the chef took about 36 hours to fully rise after the 1st addition of flour and water. After the 2nd addition of flour and water it took about 12 hours. Maybe the times were so long because it had been frozen? Or because our house is now a fairly chilly 68� or so? Anyway, this made a difference: for the first time, the flavor of the baked baguette inside the crust was closer to the real thing. And there is no need for over-priced King Arthur flour. I used some old bread flour and that worked just fine. Now I've got to figure out how to make the crust properly crispy.

I suggested my wife use the same fermented/long rise dough to make baozi, which are steamed buns filled with minced pork, mushrooms, veg, bean threads etc. When she takes them out of the steamer, they sometimes collapse, and we can't figure out why. But this dough didn't work any better. Still, they were pretty good.
Rama Lakshmi: India encourages emigrants to invest in their homeland, offering dual citizenship to the Indian diaspora in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore (sort of the Anglosphere, what?). Indians have noted that "The Chinese diaspora contributes almost 60 percent of China's total foreign investment, while Indians abroad contribute 4 percent of India's foreign investment." (Not that the Chinese get dual citizenship. This is the kind of thing that Jagdish Bhagwati also advocates for poor countries generally.

The Economist also recently had something about how emigrants could influence their home countries. But it's not always to the good. Eritrea taxed the personal income of its citizens abroad to help finance its stupid war with Ethiopia. (Note that Bhagwati also suggests taxing �migr�s.) Similarly, Tamil exiles supported the Tamil Tigers against the government of Sri Lanka. And in the 1970s and 1980s, Irish-Americans raised huge amounts of money for republican terrorist groups such as the IRA.

Amy Waldman: "foreign direct investment by Indians abroad is only $1 billion, compared with about $60 billion invested by 55 million overseas Chinese."

Saturday, January 11

What are the odds? Showing that walking is risky behavior. But as The Agitator, from whence the links comes says, many pedestrians die because they're drunk. (I suppose thats WWI or WUI?)
The Australian complains about gullible journalists who fell for the clone hoax:
The same media will be reporting on the coming war. It should worry us � and this applies whether you're a bloodlusting wardog who won't be happy until Saddam's head is on a stick, or a milk-drinking pacifist girly-boy who believes in the healing power of hugs � that the conflict will be covered by a press that has abandoned scepticism.
(via Tim Blair). Anne Applebaum agrees. That's via Tim Blair, too. I guess I should just recycle his whole blog.
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick argues that drugs are inanimate material; they are not an autonomous malign power over individuals and society.

This line in particular jumped out at me:
"The belief that one is powerless and that one's actions are somehow controlled by forces other than one's own choices is discouraging and demoralising." The quote is from Jeffrey A Schaler's controversial Addiction is a Choice, where he also says, "Many people who oppose the 'war on drugs' say that the 'solution' to the 'problem' is 'treatment'. This is baloney. Addiction treatment is a scam."

Fitzpatrick goes on to cite Tom Carnwath and Ian Smith's Heroin Century, which argues that many heroin users spontaneously give up the drug of their own accord, without benefit of detox, rehab or any other professional intervention. "At least five to 10 percent manage this every year"; the average length of a "serious heroin-using career is about 15 to 20 years...independent of treatment....There is no evidence to date that any form of treatment makes any difference to length of heroin use....People give up when they are ready to do so. Events in their lives are much more important in making this decision than anything that occurs in the clinic."

Of the AA, Fitzpatrick writes,
After the end of Prohibition in the USA in the 1930s, the AA movement combined the evangelical fervour of the Temperance campaign with the modern theory that alcoholism was a disease rather than a moral failing. The first two of the now-famous '12 steps' through which AA guides its adherents to sobriety require that they admit 'powerlessness' over alcohol and submit themselves to 'a Power' greater than themselves (six of the steps refer to the deity).

For my part, I've always been disturbed by the cultlike nature of the AA. He further says the AA model:
"is 'religious and dogmatic', demanding strict adherence to the group policy and not allowing personal choices or individual variations; it 'undermines individual confidence' by insisting on members' weaknesses and predicting the worst outcomes for those who violate group policies; it reinforces the 'addict identity' and discourages people from emerging out of it; it focuses on the addiction and the group itself, ignoring the quality of members' lives outside the group"....The basic premise of AA - that the individual is powerless and should seek to replace the control of one external force (drugs) with another (God, or, in the interim, the group) - can only intensify the loss of autonomy that leads to drug abuse in the first place.
But then again, many people delight in surrendering their autonomy to all kinds of entities, including religion a presumed "ethnic group", and political and quasi-political groups like environmentalism.
Basque philosopher Fernando Savater criticizes ethnic-totalitarian ideology (what Cinderellabloggerfeller) calls identity politics. I hope the Chinese note my italics:
For historical reasons, the borders and area of modern Spain are not those of 1,000 years ago and may be different again in 1,000 years� time. The same goes for the United States or anywhere else. But that doesn�t have anything to do with minorities. The world has about 200 countries and more than 5,000 languages, which means most countries contain many languages and ethnic groups....We all belong to minorities that are caricatured by others�to groups of enthusiasts, interest groups or religions. I belong to the minority of people who love horse-racing, but anthropologists don�t talk up for us and we�re not represented at the United Nations. The world is full of such groups, and there�s nothing wrong with that.
I don�t think we need to crave difference or be horrified by similarity. Being different is not good in itself. Some differences are valuable and enriching and increase the joy of human existence, but others are terrible ancestral leftovers best forgotten as soon as possible. So slavery is different to an employment contract, but an employment contract is better and it would be silly for the sake of diversity to have some people with work contracts and others as slaves. I would like the whole world to be educated, have social security and give protection to children, pregnant women and old people.
His mention of social security is a disappointment to me; although he's opposed to identity politics, he still doesn't fully recognize that one of the strengths of capitalism is for people to take control of their financial destiny. And he doesn't really like capitalism:
It�s a pity that the world is becoming more uniform only in commercial terms, with speculative capital rushing back and forth, and not in desirable things like education and the defence of human rights.
A lot of us feel that "speculative capital" actually rewards those who do what people want. Anyway, in these days of diversity gone mad, it's nice to hear someone say:
Conservation of some oddity because �it�s always existed here��when in fact it�s a matter of four or five folklore experts, archaeologists or anthropologists conjuring up a historical identity that everyone then has to conform to�really doesn�t help at all....The whole history of humanity is a constant process of mixing. The greatness of the human species is precisely that we�re all a mixture of something. When the human race started in Africa, we were probably all black and identical, but bit by bit we became different, taking on various ethnicities, colours and sizes. Those multiple mixtures are the salt of the earth, and will be even more so in a century, when you�ll be able to travel and circle the world in just a few hours, or communicate through a computer at the other end of the planet.
And of course I love this:
You say education can also change things and describe it as �supreme anti-fatalism, the only way to free people from their fate.� Please explain.

Societies where education plays no part are stratified societies, in which each group is supposed to follow in the footsteps of its ancestors or the minority they belong to. The peasant�s son learns from his father how to till the fields, mothers exchange information about children and childbirth, and soldiers learn how to shoot arrows or ride horses because that is the destiny society has given them. Education, on the other hand, moulds open-minded humans who can fit any number of roles within society.
Tony Gilland writes, "Defending the necessity of animal experiments is not just about defending the consequent benefits to human welfare, although this is important. It is also about defending the spirit of rational enquiry, experimentation and engagement with nature."
John Ray points out that it is not Christianity that makes America rich. Damn straight.
Increasing numbers of Chinese Americans are building churches, part of a revitalization of American Christianity by immigrant groups; many are evangelical. The US is a free country (unlike, say, China), but I can imagine lots of things better to do with one's time.
Christopher Hitchens' objections to Mother Teresa's beatification (via Arif): she campaigned against divorce and abortion (well, geez, she was Catholic, OK?) took money from dictators with which she built convents, not hospitals, and . Nothing really juicy, but still, not very pretty.

Friday, January 10

Amy Chua has an interesting opinion about how countries with "market-dominant minorities" (ethnic minorities who, for widely varying reasons, tend under market conditions to dominate economically the indigenous majorities around them) often have problems when they try laissez-faire capitalism and free elections. (Actually, she's flogging her book.) But Paul Craig Roberts has a word for her. I'm afraid humans generally love to congregate in in-groups and hate the out-group; it may involve ethnic groups, but sometimes it's other perceived qualities, like class.
U.S. Threatens to Act Against Europeans Over Modified Foods. And so we should.
Craig Smith on one reason the French have to hate Americans. France's 35-hour workweek
law, conceived at a time when the national unemployment rate was nearing 13 percent and French pessimism was at a peak, was supposed to usher in a utopian era of greater leisure and more jobs. But many workers complain that it has not led to enough hiring and has instead squeezed the same amount of work into fewer hours.
Well, plenty of people told them it wouldn't work.
Unemployment has dropped to 9 percent since the law went into effect, and the government, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize new jobs, claims some of that reduction is because of the shortened workweek.
Post hoc fallacy.
In the 19th century, Marxist influences helped define work as a means to achieve leisure rather than an end, as it was to many Americans. Some French were even taught that ambition could make them ill, said Theodore Zeldin, a British sociologist and keen observer of French society. Karl Marx's French son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, wrote a political tract entitled "The Right to Idleness," which argued for a three-hour workday. "It fits in with a French idea of what life is about � the enjoyment of one's senses and the company of others, sitting in the cafe watching people go by"...
Well, it does sound nice, but
A sense of immobility in the traditionally class-conscious society also saps many people here of the get-ahead ambition that drives their counterparts in the United States.
Still, I often wonder if this admittedly socialistic attitude doesn't benefit the French quality of life (particularly Parisian). Food and aesthetics.
I believe that ''Wailing Monkey Clasping a Tree'' and ''Wild Geese Flying on Their Backs'' aren't really Chinese.
Philip P. Pan argues that there's not much China can do about North Korea.

Thursday, January 9

Howard Fienberg writes that acupuncture is still unproven.
Paper cut illustrations of the 108 heroes from Shui hu zhuan, aka The Marshes of Mount Liang, or the Outlaws of the Marshes or All Men Are Brothers (link via Lance Knobel).
10 Things you wish you didn't know (via Geekpress)
I heard about this NPR report about Gavin Menzies, who claims that the Chinese discovered America 70 years before Columbus. Jack Hitt is more skeptical. Me too. Anyway, even if the Chinese did visit the Americas, there has not been much enduring influence. So what's the point?
I thought Walter Nicholls said people ate northern snakehead (���) on nearly every street corner in Texas. I have to start reading more carefully.
China Hand writes,
even after 21 years as a family member they will still talk me about in the third person as �the gweilo' in Cantonese during meals....Once when I told my brother-in-law off for the �third person� thing � my wife was angry with me for losing his face. Gweilo are not expected to have any face.
Funny, I wonder if it's a Cantonese thing or what. In my experience, with Taiwanese people, speaking Mandarin (and not even Taiwanese), I'm considered practically Chinese. Only on those occasions when I do something un-Chinese do my wife's relatives give me the benefit of the doubt as a waiguoren.

Also from China Hand: His teacher told him
that anyone in MacArthur's China monitoring unit would have seen the clear change in the propaganda line as MacArthur approached the 39th parallel. From the early fiercely anti-US imperialism line, China then began to make clear, albeit subtly, that China would not intervene if MacArthur halted at the 39th parallel.
Yow! So we should have wiped out the North Korean Commies when we had a chance! On the other hand, I've heard some sinologists claim that it was the Korean war that radicalized the Chinese Communists. I wonder what the truth is.

Tuesday, January 7

Kenneth Chang writes, Dr. Michael A. Guillen, "the science journalist who agreed to oversee tests to determine whether a 12-day-old baby is the first human clone suspended his participation yesterday, saying the entire project might be 'an elaborate hoax.'" Good for him. I apologize about those nasty things I said.

Monday, January 6

California's Supply of Surplus Water Shut Off
State Must Now Find Ways to Cut Its Consumption. How about making people pay for water what it's worth?
Jennifer 8. Lee (yep, that's her name. I think she's Chinese--8 is lucky) has something about the Chinese diaspora. They're everywhere! Not that I mind.
Paris is a wonderful city, but as Elaine Sciolino points out, it's pretty gloomy in the winter.
The darkness has such an effect that the French government's generous medical insurance program covers medical consultations for those who grow depressed because of the waning light of winter. The syndrome � clinically known as seasonal affective disorder, more commonly as the winter blues � affects as much as 20 percent of the population, according to studies.
Consultations cost about $30 in public medical practices and are covered by medical insurance. The light treatment itself, in which patients sit in front of a special light for a specific period of time, costs about $5 a session and must be paid for by the patient. Dr. L�ger, who did an internship at Stanford University, is lobbying for full insurance coverage.
Now if the French would just get their collective heads out of their collective a**es....Seriously, I wish I were there.

Sunday, January 5

Steven Pearlstein has an interesting article on business plans:

Changes in business plans, of course, go on all the time, but during the long boom of the 1990s, the process was largely put on hold. With the economic momentum generating strong increases in sales and profits, executives saw little need to rethink their fundamental strategies. And that was true even after there were indications in many companies that profit margins and market shares were beginning to erode.

"The truth is that companies always take a good thing and push it so far that it becomes a bad thing," said Roger L. Martin, dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. "And the longer the boom, the farther they pushed."
Jacques Steinberg writing on affirmative action points out, the
frenzy to secure the imprimatur of an Ivy League institution is irrational, at least economically. In 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the federal Department of Education, examined the earnings of a group of college graduates five years after their graduation and concluded that the selectivity of their alma maters had had a minimal impact. A more important predictor of income was the person's undergraduate major.
but, "In a nation of few formal class distinctions, the college sticker on one's car may be the most potent." Dummies.
David Frum reminds me of reasons for me to dislike George W. Bush: his party is less economically libertarian than the Republican Party of the 1980's and 1990's, the tax code continues to bulk up with benefits meant to encourage government-preferred activities, there is not much talk of a deregulation agenda, he's presiding over the growth of entitlements--the expansion of Medicaid, the biggest farm bill in history, while he jettisoned school vouchers and abandoned Social Security reform. Meanwhile, he's been more aggressive on his social agenda, banning most stem-cell research. And speaking of which, Gina Kolata explains the difference between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning:

therapeutic cloning, which would create replacement cells for sick people, cells that their bodies would not reject because they would be genetically identical to their own. They want to cure diseases, not create cloned humans.
What Clonaid said it did is reproductive cloning, which creates humans but has no role in curing disease.
Not that I've got anything against asexual reproduction! Philip Boffey dismisses all the criticisms of reproductive cloning, only to say, "For the immediate future, Congress would be wise to ban reproductive cloning as far too risky while allowing therapeutic cloning to proceed." I don't get it.
Joseph Kahn says,

China is no longer the impenetrable enigma and inevitable money pit it long seemed. Plenty of foreign investors still lose money. But they are increasingly outnumbered by multinationals making profits that if not quite justifying the exaggeration of the 1990's, at least make China an indispensable part of their global operations....Just as remarkable is the way they are making money....many multinationals have shifted their sights to the domestic market, which has become more lucrative and more openly competitive than many imagined even a few years ago....the Chinese buy more cellphones than consumers anywhere else. They buy more film than the Japanese. They now buy as many vehicles as the Germans. Foreign companies dominate sales in those categories and have a hefty presence in scores of others, like DVD players, electrical power, heavy equipment, shampoo, software, even hamburgers.
and quotes Huang Yasheng who "disputes the idea that foreigners routinely lose money." Well, I hope it's true.
I suppose it's too much to ask why there's no talk of having people pay for water what it costs.
I just don't get the average American's love affair with cars and trucks, for instance how they feel about an automatic gearshift positioned between the seats instead of on the steering column. Or that Buying a car can be a healthy statement of defiance. People say things like "I needed a car in order to get a new relationship." Sounds insane to me.

Saturday, January 4

Peter S. Goodman on China's sex trade:
an increasingly significant channel for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, according to health officials. Since 1995, cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have increased more than 30 percent annually, according to government data. Experts say those numbers are surely low given that most patients seek treatment in private clinics that do not report data to central authorities. More than 120 million Chinese are already infected with hepatitis B, and at least 1 million have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the government.
In some countries -- notably Thailand and the Netherlands -- governments have acknowledged the scope of their local sex trade and targeted prostitutes with programs to encourage condom use to prevent the spread of infections. Not in China. Local governments are enmeshed in prostitution through their ownership of hotels that draw customers and profit from the trade, but for the Communist Party, whose legitimacy rests in part on having supposedly eradicated such social vices, the thriving industry is deeply embarrassing. That has stymied efforts to regulate it and limit its harm.

And it's a big money maker
Four years ago in Shenyang -- an industrial city in China's northeast -- the mayor, Mu Suixin, urged the opening of bars and massage parlors as an antidote to unemployment.
He gave prostitutes licenses and applied 30 percent taxes to their earnings. The resulting windfall encouraged other cities to follow suit.

One woman
tells her parents she is a waitress.
"In China, daughters are not very important," she said. "It's the son that matters. Unless I leave and find work, there's no way that my little brother can continue his education."

Another woman's family is in debt. She knows

what the job description of a hostess usually means. Here, she could at least be sure she would not run into anyone she knew from home and suffer the disgrace of being discovered by her parents. "If they knew, they would throw me out of the family," she said.
And who says filial piety is dead?

And there's this, about how young teenagers are kidnapped and forced into prositution. (link via rice cooker)

Friday, January 3

I can't say I think much of James K. Glassman. Here he says,
mutual funds do no better than monkeys throwing darts at the stock pages (in the immortal metaphor of Princeton economist Burton G. Malkiel). But what is truly remarkable is that hundreds of funds do worse than the rules of chance would seem to allow.
But in the same article, he still pushes managed funds. And here again:
Put together an intelligent diversified portfolio, and, chances are, it will come close to performing the way that the market averages do. As a result, the argument for putting your money into a low-cost index fund is a powerful one. After fees, about two-thirds of managed U.S.-stock mutual funds failed to beat the S&P over the past 10 years. Part of the reason, as I pointed out last week, is that many fund managers trade too much and make poor choices; the other part is the fees themselves.
I haven't completely given up on managed -- that is, human-run, as opposed to computer-run, mutual funds. I still think a few gifted managers can beat the market with consistency. But how much time and effort should a small investor expend in trying to ferret out such geniuses? And, since past performance is no guarantee of future success, is there even a rational way to find them?
Sheesh. Buy an index fund! He's got a link to a fund cost calculator, though.
I've listened a couple of times to this NPR broadcast about the USDA's "check-off" programs that force farmers to subsidize campaigns to promote pork ("the other white meat"), milk ("got milk?") beef, etc. Each time I hear about how many producers are unhappy with the program. Apparently it's the government that's responsible for these programs. The reporter says, "The government has staked much of its defense (of the programs) on the idea that these promotions promote 'government speech'". I don't get it--what's the government doing? Don't we believe in free markets? Why should the government be involved in any program encouraging us what to buy? If that's the government's responsiblity, shouldn't there be similar "check-off" programs to help other businesses? And why is it the government's responsibility to encourage Americans to eat more meat and drink more milk? I drink milk and eat meat almost every day, but most Americans, of all people, already consume more than enough than is good for them.

Thursday, January 2

Chinese Protest Leaders Charged. Mentioned in this earlier report, they include Yao Fuxin, who refused to cooperate with authorities, and Wang Zhaoming. According to the earlier article, Wang was released last week, but ordered both to stay away from other workers and to spy on them. This time, he "was taken into custody again on Tuesday after he hired an attorney to sue the police over his nine-month detention." I did leave something out below: it's common for the police to arrest anyone who sues them.

Wednesday, January 1

I have mixed feelings about this idiot. He believes "Shoppers have little regard for how or where or by whom the products they buy are made." Quite rightly. Why should they care? "They have almost no resistance to the media messages that encourage them, around the clock, to want things and buy them." That's their problem, isn't it? He considers smiley-faces "one of the most nefarious of marketing tools. He found them on signs, on children's pajamas, on stickers. Few of the shoppers, however, were smiling, he noticed. And that is part of the problem. 'The smile has been so thoroughly appropriated by transnational capital,' he said. 'They discovered that smiling makes money.'" So there we have it. Those annoying smiley-faces are bad because it's wrong to make money. Why? "Creeping consumerism threatens the fabric of society, in the form of chain stores, sweatshops and more. But to the public, it mostly just means more stuff to buy at a good price." He would no doubt prefer to force everyone to pay more for everything and raise wages to the point where companies would be forced to hire less people, raising the unemployment rate. Hey, it works in France and Germany, doesn't it? (The scariest thing about the report is that the reporter Constance L. Hays takes all this as gospel without challenging it--and she's a business reporter for the Times.)

Nonetheless, this I do agree with: "He sees a population lost in consumption, the meaning of individual existence vanished in a fog of wanting, buying and owning too many things." However, although I agree with him on the futility of excessive materialism, I can't agree that it's "at the expense of the spiritual". Here I am, a non-believer who doesn't shop much, while most of the shoppers are religious believers. Maybe it's because of their rampant materialism.

And yet, if Americans didn't spend so much, although there would be more money for investment, the American economy would suffer in the short term. And even for people like me who don't consume much, I still like low prices, without this rampant materialism, I couldn't enjoy the stuff I do eventually buy.

(link via Virginia Postrel)
There was an article by Paul Blustein in the January 26, 2002 Washington Post "Unrest a Chief Product of Arab Economies" that I lost the link to. He wrote:
It is not poverty that drives their discontent so much as an economy that provides few chances for interesting work and upward mobility. While many countries in Asia and Latin America have taken advantage of Western money, technology and markets as a means to fashion dynamic economies, much of the Arab world remains stuck in a time warp, with large state bureaucracies weighing down the private sector and government service offering the most appealing option to much of the workforce.
He writes how there are simply not enough jobs. Unemployment "is particularly prevalent among the relatively well-educated." So much for poverty giving rise to terrorism.