Friday, May 30

My favorite French cookies: sablés nappés chocolat noir, and apricot flavor tartelettes, available at the very economical Ed l'épicier grocery stores. They've also got great chocolate: tablets of bittersweet chocolate with hazelnuts or orange peel for a little over a dollar apiece. Too bad we can't get stuff like that in the US.
Andrei Shukshin writes Russia, China Call for Reforms at United Nations. Guess what, it's not about Taiwan and the WHO or human rights. For example, China Rejects Tiananmen Square Appeal
Human rights groups and family member of victims have been lobbying for what they call a "reversal of verdicts'' on Tiananmen for years.
but the government refuses:
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the communist party leadership would stand by its earlier condemnation of the protests.

"This conclusion will remain unchanged,'' Zhang said. "Stability has always remained the top priority for China.''

Meanwhile, ELISABETH ROSENTHAL reports, Four Chinese Given Long Prison Terms for Discussing Politics
The Beijing Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xu Wei, 28, and Jin Haike, 26, to 10 years. Yang Zilin, 32, and Zhang Honghai, 29, were sentenced to eight years, according to human-rights groups and relatives of the men.

The case has long enraged human- rights advocates, in part because the group's activities seemed to be innocuous and in part because the four men had been imprisoned for over two years without a verdict in their trial.

...many human-rights advocates and China scholars considered the harsh sentences surprising, given that many of the liberal ideas expressed by the men in the New Youth Study Group are now regularly published in academic journals here and are the fodder of discussions in university classrooms.

Sunday, May 25

I saw John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) shortly after it came out & I liked it. It's held up pretty well, and I don't find it at all overwrought. Other than that, I pretty much agree with what Chris Dashiell says. Still, it's got to be the bisexual/homosexual angle that earned it a place in our library's collection.

Saturday, May 24

Label me a Cynic:
The Cynics slept on the ground, neglected their clothes, let their beards grow to unusual lengths, and despised the conventions of society, insisting that virtue and happiness consisted of self-control and independence. They believed that human dignity was independent of human laws and customs.
None was more famous than Diogenes:
Alexander the Great, who, on visiting him, asked whether there was anything at all that he could do to please him. Diogenes replied: "Yes, get out of my sunlight."
In The Young Hipublicans, John Colapinto talks about what he insists on labelling as "right-wing" or "conservative" activists. He quotes David Brock, a lefty turned righty turned lefty:
"The right try to instigate polarization so that it looks like the right wing is the alternative to the left."
but then Colapinto admits that
the left has unwittingly helped to energize the conservative movement. Visit any college campus today, and you're struck by the forces of what the conservatives call overweening political correctness that have seeped into every corner of life.
and notes
the degree to which the left has allowed its own message to drift into rigidity and irrelevance
enforced tolerance can create a stultifying air of conformity in college life
Little surprise, then, that these "conservatives" see
themselves as defenders of "individuality" and "freedom" against a campus, and world, overrun by groupthink liberalism and pious political correctness
Although he he awards them scare quotes and insists on labelling them "right-wing" or "conservative" (not to mention the fact that the URL includes "REPUBLICANS"), at the same time, he admits there is "a strong streak of libertarianism" among them, which he explains as
a conviction that the government should stay out of any and all aspects of life, including the bedroom
but that's only thanks to quintessential "liberal" values, something they would "hate to admit". Would they really? What's wrong with adopting new ideas? Is it such a bad thing for political positions to evolve? This point more than anything shows us that for Colapinto, it's a matter of "us" versus "them".

Moreover, he says these groups are "fueled and often financed by an array of conservative interest groups". That sounds like the "outside agitators" that we heard about in the 60's that were supposedly leading our young people astray. This time,
The impact has been felt far beyond the campus quadrangles and classrooms. Scott Stewart, chairman of the College Republican National Committee says that campus conservatives were instrumental to the success of the Republican Party in the last midterm elections. "Students provide the enthusiasm, the excitement and the work that needs to be done for free in political campaigns," he says, "knocking on doors, talking to voters, passing out literature, pounding in lawn signs."
As a matter of fact, influenced by the liberal climate of the 60's, I campaigned for McGovern. Since he lost, I guess that's OK.

Colapinto cites one professor who says that the so-called conservatives' charge
that the university is infected by political correctness and that professors seek to indoctrinate students with a liberal agenda has had an effect in the classroom. "As the conservatives have become more prominent, other students are more prone to believe that they are being indoctrinated....So the openness of a number of students to new ideas and new ways of looking at things has actually moved in a disturbing direction. Students are much more willing to write off something as 'liberal talk' -- oh, I don't need to think about that, that's just ideology -- as opposed to thinking, in a complex way, about all of the different ideas and evaluating them."
A social psychology professor concurs.
Recently she taught a class in which she talked about the theory that news coverage of warfare in Iraq could lead to a rise in homicides in the United States. "I could see the students rolling their eyes," she says. "I could just hear them thinking, 'Oh, there she goes again!'"
Colapinto complains that much of what most any campus conservatives you meet say is "something that someone told them to say." That's probably how many of us adopted our 60's ideology. In fact, it seems to me that if someone parrots one's own ideas, one thinks he's intelligent, whereas if he disagrees with me, he's not open to new ideas.

The funny thing is, although on our campus I don't find a stifling atmosphere of political correctness, when professors were conducting "teach-ins" about the war, they couldn't find anyone to speak in favor of Iraqi liberation.

Finally, Colapinto cites another prof, who says,
"A lot of faculty members talk about the lack of commitment that most students have to anything....It seems that they're about getting a credential and being able to get a good job. That's why you hear faculty say about the conservatives club: 'At least they believe in something. At least they've got convictions.'"
Not unlike the pursuit of knowledge (see below).
In Axis of medieval: The aspiration for knowledge has been turned into a medieval prejudice, Frank Furedi writes that
The new technocratic jargon associated with the ascendancy of "key skills" and "competencies" is now used to justify course outlines. Subject-related benchmarking statements and departmental mission statements promise to provide students with the skills that will make them highly employable.

Unfortunately it is not possible to win the argument against philistinism by competing in the relevance stakes. Such an approach fails to challenge the vocational orientation of current policy on higher education. And by accepting the premise that the worth of a course is affirmed through its relevance, the battle for a more academic focus for higher education will be lost.
British Education ministers have sought
to associate the idea of education for its own sake with some elitist medieval institution. In reality no institution has ever pursued activities for their own sake, in the medieval past or today. The aim of this caricature is to deprecate the idea that the pursuit of knowledge and truth has some intrinsic value in and of itself.

Somehow the aspiration for knowledge has been turned into a medieval prejudice.

Taylorist higher education focused on skills and relevance may sound pragmatic and down to earth. In reality its value to society is open to question. It offers formulaic, off-the-shelf, easily quantifiable bits of knowledge whose contribution to a modern flexible society remains unproven.

Prosperity, creativity and enterprise depend on an environment of creative thought in which people have an opportunity to develop their ideas in relation to a variety of subjects and problems.

So what should be the purpose of a forward-looking 21st century university? We need universities to provide expert teaching and cutting edge research and to provide an environment for the unrestrained pursuit of knowledge. Not the kind of knowledge that flatters authorities. Not knowledge that is deemed to be a stimulant to economic growth but knowledge driven by a complex mix of passions that cannot be given a technocratic label.
(via Of course, the same thing is true of the US. I've got to say his argument appeals to my prejudices. But the use of the word philistine leaves me ambivalent: the unrestrained pursuit of knowledge is fine, but there's nothing wrong with learning, say, accounting, either.
Colum Lynch: the U.N. Bars Taiwanese Official From Briefing claiming it's because of the organization's "one-China" policy. But
the press club has hosted briefings by the Chinese spiritual group Falun Gong, Irish Republican Army members, Chechen rebels and other individuals and organizations whose appearances offended member states. Annan's action today raised concern that other governments would be emboldened to prevent their critics from addressing reporters at U.N. headquarters...

...China's efforts to bar Hsia from addressing reporters have drawn greater attention to Taiwan's cause.
Another reason to ridicule the UN.
Last night we saw Nanni Moretti's Caro diario (1994), and while it's easy to see why someone would dismiss it as a muddled jumble, dull and uninspired, or self-indulgent, it spoke to me. I liked the tour of a deserted Rome he gives us in the first part, and his ridicule of the whiny yuppies in a pretentious movie, his disgust at the bloody cult film "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and the critic who recommended it, as well as what happens to his intellectual friend, who hasn't watched TV in 30 years, becomes addicted to a dubbed American soap opera. It's on Stromboli that the friend has him seek out Americans to find out about the latest episodes of the soap opera. The island certainly has changed since Rossellini filmed Stromboli there in 1949. And the last part, poking fun at doctors misdiagnosing his illness, was a third serving of irony. But it wasn't just that, it was the way he did it, which I have trouble putting into words.

Friday, May 23

Carrie Lee and Alice Hung also write,
The WHO said the spread of SARS on Taiwan was "worrisome" -- the island reported 55 new cases Friday -- but there was not "an explosive escalation in the number of cases," it said in a statement on its Web site (
Awhile ago I heard that the best coffee was from beans that had gone through the digestive tract of foxes, if I recall correctly. Then yesterday, Bitter Coffee Reality reminded me that the world price of coffee is plunging due to low-quality Vietnamese coffee. The report talks about raising the standard of coffee grown in Mexico, but originally, according to Samantha Marshall, the Vietnamese drank caphe cut chon, which is coffee made from ripe robusta coffee beans eaten & excreted by the
civet cat, a creature of the Viverridae family that looks something like a fox but is actually a cousin of the mongoose.Vietnam's development ambitions are badgering the civet cat...

Since the Vietnam War, the government has urged migrant farmers to settle down and grow more coffee for export. Thousands of acres of forest (civet-cat habitat) have been razed. And modern farming techniques have been introduced, such as picking beans before they are entirely ripe, the effect of which is to deprive civet cats of a decent meal.

Another reason caphe cut chon is disappearing from dinner tables: Civet cats are showing up as the main course. At the bustling Bac Map restaurant in coffee country's provincial capital, Buon Me Thuot, barbecued civet cat is a big-selling delicacy among newly rich coffee traders....
By the way, Cecil Adams writes the coffee beans come out of
the Indonesian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) rather than its perfume-ingredient-producing cousins (Viverra civetta and Viverra zibetha)
The latter are subjected to a painful procedure to remove their musk. As for eating civet cats, Carrie Lee and Alice Hung write,
...a top Hong Kong scientist said it was likely that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which has killed nearly 700 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide, jumped to humans from civet cats, eaten as a delicacy in southern China.
This is apparently different from Cecil's two types. Known in Chinese as guo3zili2 (or bai2bi2xin1 or hua1mian4li2), it is apparently the paguma larvata, or masked palm civet (the li2 suggests some kind of fox to scientific illiterates). The Chinese seem mostly interested in them for food. But then there's the question of copulatory plugs in masked palm civets: are they for prevention of semen leakage, sperm storage, or chastity enhancement?

Monday, May 19

Awhile ago (1/28/03) Anthony Kuhn wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the Education Ministry had issued secondary school curricula instructing that Yue Fei was no longer to be considered a national hero. Also stripped of hero status was Song Prime Minister Wen Tianxiang, who was captured and executed by invading Mongols.
The government's logic was that centuries of wars against nomads of the Central Asian steppes were little more than "domestic squabbles" among China's own ethnic groups. The status of national heroes, it asserted, should be reserved for those who fought real foreigners, such as the Dutch or Japanese.
People are still discussing this.

Saturday, May 17

Last night we started to watch Insignificance (1985), but found it so annoying after a few minutes that we stopped. So we watched L'Atalante, (1934), which professional critics seem to universally adore. I've got to agree with marie_D who found it "choppy rather than impressionistic". It's awfully dated--a lot of the actors mugging as if they were doing a silent movie, and scenes where the cats are supposed to be jumping into the frame look like they're thrown. Other scenes, which the critics seem to like, such as Jean's looking for Juliette's face in the water or the separated lovers carressing themselves, seem contrived. There were a couple of interesting things, though. There's lots of accordion music, suggesting that this was a staple of French music at the time, validating the use of the accordion in vulgar stereotypes of France, although I've been going to France since the 1960's, and never heard it. Also, in one dancing scene, there is a couple of blacks (not African-Americans, but African-French), suggesting that there was less animosity against the blacks in the 30's in France than in the US--although there was some remark about blacks in the movie. And finally, I couldn't figure out what kind of place Juliette is found at the end--a place to listen to new music?

I've been told that one reason that Jean Vigo (who directed L'Atalante) is so popular is that he was an anarchist, or perhaps because he was a bisexual. Similarly, Bob Rafelson's Black Widow (1987), features a strong undercurrent of eroticism between the two women, or even lesbianism, which may well be why our library has it, but it seems pretty pedestrian movie to me. Like Insignificance, it also stars Theresa Russell, but I prefer Debra Winger; it's a shame she hasn't gotten very many good roles. We also saw Kurosawa's Dodesukaden (1970), which was a little too arty for me in places, but watchable.

Friday, May 16

Beijing people "have been swaggering around China for years, for centuries. It's the emperor's city this, it's the emperor's city that. I say it serves them right," Ying said. "They've got this weird superiority complex. But it's not such a great place."
Beijing Address Becomes A Stigma, By John Pomfret

Thursday, May 15

SARS Epidemic Worsens In Taiwan--Home Quarantines Are Often Violated By Shu Shin Luh
"Taiwan's too democratic to execute quarantine with an iron fist like Singapore," said Chiang Tung-liang, a professor of public health at National Taiwan University. "But more important, quarantining is disruptive to people's lives. The government needs to stand in the shoes of the quarantined and find a way to accommodate their needs."
How can you accommodate the needs of someone who's quarantined? Particularly when
The government says it has difficulty persuading people who do not feel sick to stay home for the quarantine period. More than two dozen residents of the Hua Chang apartments in Taipei tried to sneak away with their belongings recently when city health officials announced they were isolating the area because of suspected SARS cases. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou threatened to publish the names of those who fled, but the city had difficulty tracking the escapees. The Hua Chang apartments have since been released from isolation.
The Taipei Times decries the fact that an
alarmingly high degree of selfishness is considered normal in this society.

The SARS epidemic is like a magic mirror that exposes demons in their true forms. It has revealed the black holes in the nation's healthcare system. It has also highlighted the government's powerlessness in the face of vicious partisan wrangling that has beset politics in this nation for so long. Above all, it has revealed the deplorable state of civic awareness.

The bloated egotism of the Taiwanese cannot be blamed solely on their selective adoption of Western democracy and human-rights concepts. The Taiwan-ese have inherited the Chinese habit of flouting and bending the law and placing themselves and their family above the needs of society.

A huge ego means that many people have no problem demanding the government and healthcare workers wage an all-out war against SARS, while also demanding their individual freedoms not be abridged the slightest bit. Reflected in the SARS mirror, the Taiwanese ideas about democracy and human rights appear shallow. The people have mistaken anarchy for democracy, selfishness for human rights. Hence the high-flown talk about "rights" at every turn couples with an obliviousness about "responsibilities."

Finally, back in China: ERIK ECKHOLM writes China Threatens Execution in Intentional Spreading of SARS. That's not necessarily a good idea; people with SARS might be tempted to hide instead of seek treatment, not to mention the fact that they might be punished unjustly to provide an example, like the doctor in Man's Virus Infects Town, Killing His Family by JOSEPH KAHN.

Wednesday, May 14

Years of the Dragons By DENNY LEE
...few will forget the screams of kidnapping victims and the crackle of bullets flying through crowded Chinese restaurants that marked the era of gang domination in the neighborhood. For better or worse, gangs were embedded in Chinatown's fabric.

"It's a part of our history that we need to remember,'' another former gang member said. "Gangs were a major part of Chinatown's soul.''

Unlike Cantonese immigrants from Hong Kong and other urban centers who once dominated the social hierarchy, the Fujianese and other recent immigrants were generally rural people. "They were farmers," Mr. Chin said. "They're going to school rather than getting involved with gangs."
In the Pagoda Theater, a teenager was shot to death in the 70's, reportedly for refusing to join a local gang.
I went to the Pagoda in the late 70's to watch mostly Cantonese movies. It wasn't as lawless as the article suggests.
Chinese leader calls for a crackdown on excessive farting

It may be old news, but it's news to me:
Leaders from Sun Yat-sen, considered the founding father of modern China, to Deng Xiaoping, architect of the world's fastest growing economy, have all tried to eliminate the habit [of spitting].

During the years of the Chinese republic between 1911 and 1917, Sun reasoned that foreigners did not respect Chinese in part because they lacked "personal culture." He called for an end to spitting, growing long fingernails and excessive farting.
Oh, come on. Farting is a basic human right! (It looks like I'm a little obsessed with it, doesn't it?)
Latin American Orientalism. What would Said say?
Chinese Turning to Occult to Fight SARS By AUDRA ANG:
While China's government promotes science, thousands of its people are turning to the supernatural to fight SARS.

The resort to tradition has prompted efforts by China's state press and the officially atheist communist government to discourage it...Scores of believers gather at temples or the sorcerer's home, kneeling in prayer before lighted incense and candles. Some burn fake money as an offering to the gods.

He Dazhi, a reporter for the newspaper Sanxiang Metropolitan News, wrote that believers are asked to bow to spiritual scrolls or a statue of Buddha. Gongs or drums occasionally accompany the ceremony...

Farmers and urban residents in the provinces of Anhui in the east, Guangdong in the south and Fujian in the southeast are lighting firecrackers, long used to chase away evil spirits, according to police.

They also are consuming a sugary elixir of boiled mung beans meant to keep the virus away.

The ideas stemmed from a rumor about a baby who purportedly spoke immediately after birth and said firecrackers and "green bean soup" could prevent infection, said an official at Anhui Provincial Public Security Bureau, who would give only his surname, He.
This is not entirely new. And "green bean" is a literal translation of "mung bean" (l� dou). I hate it when journalists do that. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, More turning to herbs for protection by Amber Wang:
Honeysuckle flowers, woad root, pineapple and garlic.

These are just a few of the much sought-after tonics amidst the outbreak of SARS as more people are turning to traditional and alternative remedies to fight off the deadly virus.
And in China, they also go for kimchee, as Brainysmurf mentioned.

Tuesday, May 13

Who says?

Traffic Deadlier Than Wars, WHO Says
Traffic kills four times as many people as wars and far more people commit suicide than are murdered, the World Health Organization said today.

Death rates from road accidents, burns and drownings were particularly high in Africa and Asia, and homicides were three times as frequent as suicides in Africa and the Americas.

But in Europe and Southeast Asia, suicide rates were more than double murder rates.
You evil drivers!

I thought maybe it was the US that was violent, but according to WHO,
The interpersonal violence mortality rates in males in the low and middle income countries of the Americas is twice that in any other region.
But geez, in 2000, Road traffic Incidents accounted for 1,260,000 deaths worldwide, Interpersonal violence, 520,000, and War and conflict is way down the list at 310,000.

Meanwhile, speaking of evil automobilistas, SARS Boosts Bike Travel in Beijing By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN:
Warned by health experts to avoid crowds, Beijing commuters are shunning buses and subways and switching back to the two-wheeler - the classic transportation of China's 1970s "bicycle armies."
Possibly healthier, too, although with the bad air, maybe not.

Monday, May 12

I like this stat:
Britain's favorite takeaway is a curry, not a burger: Indian restaurants there outnumber McDonald's six to one.
Cultural Globalization Is Not Americanization, by Philippe Legrain.
Using Termite Flatulence Against Them By TERESA RIORDAN
Termites eat a lot of roughage, so they have a huge gas problem.
Plangent Peter Plagens' In Defense of High Art:
High art includes sculpture, painting, modern dance, poetry, ballet, opera, classical music, some jazz and certain heavyweight novels which are intended to be: un-sugar-coated, perhaps a little difficult for the uninitiated, seriously contemplated after the fun of the first encounter is over, and of some accrual value in strengthening and refining one�s esthetic sensibilities.

...I'd be surprised if the word "vulgar" is uttered pejoratively more than twice a year in the United States outside of a Tipper Gore tea party.....

Is "Matrix Reloaded" a movie in the same sense that "Talk To Her" is a movie? Or is it a gargantuan videogame whose steroidal special effects have shrunk its, um, soul to the size of a pea?
I know how he feels, and yet, I've just about had it with art that's just trying to �pater le bourgeois, but doesn't speak to me.
SARS Fight in Taiwan Is Impeded by Resistance to Segregation, By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
...the authorities here are struggling to keep their citizens in quarantine...Taiwan is a model of how hard it can be to set up an airtight quarantine in a democracy.

"In Taiwan, a guy who's caught drunk driving will refuse the breath test and curse the policeman to the third generation," said Loh I-cheng, a jovial former deputy ambassador to the United States. "Everyone in Taiwan thinks he's special and smart �� why should he observe the rules? He knows the police won't strike him or arrest him."
The lack of public spiritness is all too common among the Chinese. My Taiwanese friend said quarantining was "inhumane" (bu rendao ���˵�).

Prince Roy disagrees, but Poagao concurs.

Sunday, May 11

Alexander Mackendrick's The Man in the White Suit (1951) is my favorite of the 4 Ealing comedies that we've seen (Mackendrick also directed Sweet Smell of Success, which I saw pre-blog, and The Ladykillers, which I found awfully slow). It was nice to see Joan Greenwood, although I preferred her in Kind Hearts and Coronets. I was also interested in a scene near the beginning which showed a factory's machinery being run off shafts running overhead instead of by electric motors. It was Paul David, in "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox" American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings (May 1990), who pointed out that it took decades for the electric motor to be integrated into industrial production, but I hadn't realized it was so late. The movie was also interesting because it's about a miraculous new textile that both the industrialists and the workers feared would ruin them. I'd just read JANE TANNER's A Bet on Textiles, Despite the Doomsayers:
...the domestic textile industry's demise may be exaggerated. Certainly, Asian and Latin American suppliers of clothing have trounced domestic apparel makers in all but a few niches. On the other hand, many American textile makers, with their technologically sophisticated factories, innovative fabrics and robust operations outside of garments, have staying power....

Nano-Tex, a company in Emeryville, Calif...has developed a fabric finish that repels water and stains. Burlington sells the process to Eddie Bauer, Lands' End, Levi Strauss and the Gap, among others. Simmons applies the finish to children's bedding.

Burlington expects to take Nano-Tex public before long, said Rene� DeLack Hultin, who is in charge of business development at Nano-Tex.

Other so-called smart fabrics are heading for the market. Among them, according to the trade journal Textile News, are car seats to wake up drowsy drivers, bed sheets that monitor health, and cold-weather vests with emergency beacons that trigger if a wearer is suffering from exposure.

Engineered fibers are widely used in products like tires, fiber optic cable and human artery reinforcements. Only a third of textile products made in the United States are for clothing. "The stealth bomber is a textile product," said Mr. Godfrey of North Carolina State. "It's made out of carbon fiber."
So there is such a thing as progress.


In the movie, the protagonist's landlady complains to him that scientists should leave well enough alone, that if clothing never gets dirty, she'll lose a source of income. But then keeping clean isn't necessarily something that people have always done. In a review of Arwen P. Mohun's Steam Laundries, the Economist says,
Keeping clean was a novel idea two centuries ago. The demand for laundry grew out of the discovery, in the 19th century, of links between dirt and disease, and from the emergence of clean clothes as a sign of social superiority.
In his Victorian translation of China: James Legge's Oriental pilgrimage, Girardot comments on Legge's criticism of Chinese filth, suggesting cleanliness was a Victorian thing, and not one engaged in by the masses. He sounds like he's trying to highlight Legge's Orientalism, but then later commenting on Legge's complaints about the filthy temples on Taishan, lets slip that they were still filthy when he himself visited a century later.

I alluded to this Economist review earlier; it also says,
...people in the West, like 19th-century missionaries, are tempted to impose their cultural assumptions on other countries, convinced that West is best.
Sorry, but I don't buy it. Some things, like cleanliness, are better. The trouble is, we don't always know which ones are better and which ones our prejudices favor.
More 'Can I Help You?' Jobs Migrate From U.S. to India Amy Waldman seems to be against the phenomenon, but she quotes others:
"You can't really outlaw outsourcing," said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a professor of economics and political science at Columbia University. "Outsourcing is just trade." the face of rising unemployment in the West, resistance has also grown to importing high-tech professionals from India. In the short term, that may actually prompt moving more work to India to reduce public resentment.

But over time, Professor Bhagwati predicts, visa restrictions may actually loosen as countries decide it is preferable to have foreigners come in to work rather than see jobs migrate abroad. Either way, the movement of work and labor in both directions is likely to continue.

"We don't see the competitive pressures declining, so the notion of being able to cut costs and get quality is only going to grow," said Vivek Paul, the chief executive of the software company Wipro Technologies.

Executives in India, which was long fearful of opening its economy, are now lecturing Americans about the virtues of free trade and contending that visa restrictions effectively constitute trade barriers. "If it takes six months to process a visa, it's like making a fruit shipment sit for six months," said Mr. Karnik of the National Association of Software and Service Companies.

But in the end, the most effective pressure will come from the companies that benefit.
Nowhere does Waldman mention the fact that lower costs are good for consumers, too.
In Bullet Time Again: The Wachowskis Reload, David Edelstein says
"The Matrix" changed not only the way we look at movies, but movies themselves. "The Matrix" cut us loose from the laws of physics in ways that no live-action film had ever done, exploding our ideas of time and space on screen...

The Wachowskis were aficionados of Hong Kong action movies like Tsui Hark's "Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain" (1983) and "Once Upon a Time in China" (1991) -- films in which the actors (many of them rigorously trained at places like the Beijing Opera) engaged in hand-to-hand combat while soaring and somersaulting through the air. A friend once asked me, "How are the characters able to fly around like that?" and I rolled my eyes and said, "It's a convention." What I should have said is that it's a convention rooted in a philosophy essential to many Eastern martial arts: that the material world is secondary, and that the properly directed mind can triumph over matter.
Yeah, that may be true, but I'm afraid the next 2 Matrix movies won't live up to the 1st. And I bet they'll all look pretty dated not too long from now.
We also saw The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). Speaking of Audrey Hepburn (below), she has a tiny role in this near the beginning. I agree with MARY KALIN-CASEY that with movies like Guy Ritchie's Snatch now part of "the common cinematic consciousness", it's pretty dated, but I found I liked it a little better than the other Ealing comedies we've seen recently (The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets).
Yesterday we saw High Noon (1952). (I think maybe they were going to show it to us in high school, but couldn't get it and showed us A Man for All Seasons instead, so I don't think I've ever seen it before, although I was familiar with the Mad magazine spoof, Hah! Noon!.) David Wood says it's
an allegorical tale about the McCarthy witch hunts, penned by HUAC blacklisted writer Carl Foreman, which also offers a number of well-thought-out observations on the nature of violence.

It's a beautifully composed film - courtesy of Floyd Crosby's picturesque sunlight and shadow compositions - which achieves the difficult task of being about morality while avoiding tart sermonising and hollow admonitions. A film about what it means to be a man that manages to avoid the musk of machismo, "High Noon" is truly a film that improves with each and every viewing.
Dennis Prince says,
Many have proclaimed High Noon to be the definitive western picture ever filmed. And while such assertion can hardly be argued, it seems equally appropriate to broaden that statement by noting this may be one of the best pictures of any genre ever filmed.
Absolutely. I don't think I like most Westerns much, if Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a typical example. (Hey, Lee Van Cleef is in both!) Tim Dirks, who summarizes the High Noon's story in great detail, says it
has often been interpreted as a morality play or parable, or as a metaphor for the threatened Hollywood blacklisted artists (one of whom was screenwriter Foreman) who faced political persecution from the HUAC during the McCarthy era due to actual or imagined connections to the Communist Party, and made life-altering decisions to stand their ground and defend moral principles according to their consciences.

It also has been interpreted as an allegory of US foreign policy during the Korean War.

Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford quote the director, Fred Zinnemann, who says that the film
seems to mean different things to different people. (Some speculate that it is an allegory on the Korean War!).... [The scriptwriter Carl Foreman] said it was about 'a town that died because no one there had the guts to defend it.' Somehow this seemed to be an incomplete explanation. Foreman saw it as an allegory on his own experience of political pesecution in the McCarthy era. With due respect I felt this to be a narrow point of view. First of all I saw it simply as a great movie yarn, full of enormously interesting people. I vaguely sensed deeper meanings in it; but only later did it dawn on me that this was not a regular Western myth....To me it was the story of a man who must make a decision according to his conscience. His town - symbol of a democracy gone soft - faces a horrendous threat to its people's way of life....It is a story that still happens everywhere, every day....
No kidding. It's not hard to see how one could compare Europeans, unwilling to join the US' war on the "axis of evil" as similar to the queasy citizens of Hadleyville, as former CIA Director James Woolsey did. I can't help but feel that Inigo Thomas misses the point when he argues that
Woolsey's choice of High Noon to characterise George Bush's war on terror is an odd one, however, when one considers the reaction to the film when it first appeared. The movie was admired by American liberals but loathed by conservatives.
Sure, it's ironic. But still, the parable fits in many ways, as Alistair Cooke argues. That doesn't mean that one couldn't interpret it to fit someone like Noam Chomsky, too. I think that's the mark of a great work, in that it appeals to many different people. For my part, I don't think it's just a matter of the story. Moody, minimalist films (no wonder the film itself didn't win an Oscar) seem to appeal to me. Finally, Gary Cooper is better cast than he was in Love in the Afternoon, but Grace Kelly is too young for him as Audrey Hepburn was in the later film.

Friday, May 9

Hmm. An online Classical Chinese Primer, which I found via Daniel Trent Dillon, who's got lots of interesting Chinese links. And it was Junius who led me to Daniel with his post about the Great Leap Forward.
Speaking of the New York Times most e-mailed stories (below), how about SARAH BOXER's article on Catherine Chalmers: Cockroaches as Shadow and Metaphor:
...during a book signing for "Food Chain," which includes pictures of a snake strangling a rat and a mantis chewing off its mate's head, an angry vegetarian came up to Ms. Chalmers and called her a Nazi.

The upshot, Ms. Chalmers said, was, "I bent over backwards not to hurt anything." With Hollywood movies no one wonders whether people are actually being killed, she noted. But with video, people expect honesty.

That did not stop her from making a video of roaches in a gas chamber. As the video begins, you see the misty gray air inside the chamber. The roaches are dead on their backs. Then a few legs twitch. Soon the air begins to clear. You can see the bricks of the gas chamber and the little pipe through which the gas came in. More and more roach legs and antennae wiggle. The sounds of whispers, giggling and breathing fill the air. Soon the roaches are crawling everywhere. It is the cockroach equivalent of Martin Amis's Holocaust novel, "Time's Arrow," in which time runs backward.

While making this video, Ms. Chalmers said, she got very upset, not because of the Holocaust parallel but because she thought she had actually put the roaches through an agonizing death. Previously she had always knocked her roaches out by chilling them. But Betty Faber, an entomologist, told her to try carbon dioxide. So she put the roaches in the chamber and with a pipe pumped in the gas from dry ice, which is frozen carbon dioxide. The roaches went into "dramatic convulsions," she said. "They tossed themselves all over the place, threw themselves against the walls. Then they all fell on their backs."

She thought: "I can't show this. It's visually too disturbing." But then, as the videotape kept rolling and the dry ice cleared, the cockroaches rose from the dead. Their legs started kicking. "The most beautiful part is their getting up," Ms. Chalmers said. She decided to show the uncut video from this point on. It shows the cockroaches as survivors. "I wanted to show their character," Ms. Chalmers says. "They keep coming back."

You might think that Ms. Chalmers would have been upset because she had, by effectively reversing the gassing process, given her Holocaust a happy ending. Or you might think that she would have worried that she had compared vermin and Jews, which is what the Nazis did. (Her photographs of lynchings bring up the same problem. She seems to be comparing African-Americans and insects.).

I can't say I think much of it as art, but geez, people, take it easy! They're bugs! Although I guess that little frisson people get is what's supposed to make it art.
KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and JOHN TIERNEY write how E.P.A. Drops Age-Based Cost Studies
Instead of the traditional assumption that all lives saved from cleaner air are worth the same, administration officials in two environmental studies included an alternative method that used two values, $3.7 million for the life a person younger than 70 and $2.3 million for an older person, a 37 percent difference.
Too bad; it makes perfect sense to me. John D. Graham, founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and the regulations administrator at the Office of Management and Budget, has been the champion of this "life-expectancy analysis" and "has been urging rigorous cost-benefit analyses for all federal agencies"; he's identified here as "a b�te noire of environmentalists".
The life-expectancy analysis, intended to identify policies that would add the most years to people's lives, also accompanied two cost-benefit analyses at the E.P.A., as well as at other agencies in the Clinton administration....Environmentalists say the problem with Dr. Graham's approach is that it inflates the costs of regulations and diminishes the perceived benefits....
Wow! In other words, they reject it because it shows how much policies cost!
Milton C. Weinstein, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a pioneer of life-expectancy analysis, said it had become routine among medical researchers but still aroused controversy.

"There's an equity argument that every citizen should be entitled to an equal claim on resources and shouldn't be penalized for the fact that they've lived a larger portion of their life span," Professor Weinstein said. "But you can never save a life. You can only prolong it. When you give medical treatment or make the environment safer, the relevant question is how much of a life you can save. Most people, if given the choice between applying resources to save a 10-year-old or a 70-year-old, would choose the 10-year-old."
Seems pretty balanced, coming from the much-maligned New York Times. Interestingly, it's one of their most e-mailed stories. Recently NPR pretty much took the side of the environmentalists withEPA Criticized for Plan to Reduce Value of Seniors' Lives.
The reason we didn't watch any movies last week: we spent 3 hours hiking on a segment of the Tunnel Hill trail from Vienna (Vie-ENNA) to Tunnel Hill (9.3 mi.).
China Brings Back the Bow in SARS Fight
For more than 20 centuries, bowing was the way Chinese mandarins greeted each other, commoners paid obeisance to their ruler and everyone worshipped their ancestors. China's communist rulers did their best to stamp out the practice, believing it reeked of the hated imperial past.

Now, in an unusual turn amid attempts to stop the SARS virus and with the explicit endorsement of the Communist Party, the bow is making a comeback....

It isn't a choice the communists make lightly. Even after 24 years of economic and social reforms that have remade China, the ruling party carefully weighs the political symbolism of every word and gesture. And memories of Chinese being forced to bow to foreigners in colonial Shanghai and Japanese invaders during World War II can still prompt a cringe.

It isn't just any style of bow the party is reviving. The official Xinhua News Agency, outlining the new etiquette, described a greeting used by Confucian gentlemen, a class the communists swept away: "a slight bow with hands clasped at head level."

The government's willingness to embrace such a cultural throwback is a sign of just how desperate the times are...In imperial China, the bow could be as slight as the nod of a head from one court official to another. Or it could be an all-out "kowtow" -- literally, "knocking the head," when a subject prostrated himself before his ruler and banged his head on the floor.

Even the emperor bowed -- though only to his ancestors at the dynastic shrine and to the spirits at temples.

Chinese court officials demanded foreign diplomats bow to them -- and were furious when the 18th-century British envoy Lord Macartney refused. Later Westerners followed suit, and their refusal became a symbol of foreigners' ability to dictate to China.

The bow has stayed in fashion on Taiwan, the island refuge for China's Nationalists after their 1949 defeat in a civil war on the mainland.

Taiwanese political candidates bow to supporters, sometimes dropping to their knees on election eve to appeal for those last few votes. On inauguration day, the winners bow to voters in thanks. Even many modern young Taiwanese couples bow to their ancestors at the family shrine on their wedding day...
From the headline, I thought they were talking about bows & arrows--or violins. Damned English speling.
About the Group of Eight, not SARS

China Shows Interests Converging with Rich World
China's interests are more in line with developed than with developing countries.

Thursday, May 8

Speaking of tacky, see Evan Kirchhoff on Bennett's gambling (link via Colby Cosh):
I think the worst aspect of this story for Bill Bennett isn't the fact that Mr. Book of Virtues turns out to be a feverish Vegas gambler who has burned through sums of money potentially in the high seven figures, but the fact that he's done it in the trashiest possible way....

the revelation that what turns Bennett's crank is squatting on a solitary stool for hours at a time, stabbing at blinking slot-machine buttons like a Skinner-boxed rodent, has got to be hard for a lot of his fans to take....
Hmm...sounds like Bennett's a philistine to me. And this is priceless:
Bennett is not a cold rationalist; he believes in the personal God of traditional Christianity, a deity who takes a direct interest in human affairs. That's fair enough. What interests me is how he integrated the two cosmologies of theism and magical thinking, which would seem to contradict each other. Or did he subconsciously see them as same thing? Did he believe, for example, that slot-machine wins accrue naturally to the virtuous?

Wednesday, May 7

Prince Roy suggests 'tacky' for su2qi. That's not bad. Bartleby defines it as:
2a. Lacking style or good taste; tawdry: tacky clothes. b. Distasteful or offensive; tasteless: a tacky remark.
It's an older expression than I would have thought; the OED has this citation from 1883:
Two little cards (with his name printed on them in gilt. Tackey? Ugh).
(That's from Isabella Maud Rittenhouse's Maud, a journal about Cairo, IL.) I was thinking 'bourgeois', which the OED defines in this sense as "selfishly materialistic or conventionally respectable and unimaginative". Or, if a Philistine is a
person deficient in liberal culture and enlightenment, whose interests are chiefly bounded by material and commonplace things.

But often applied contemptuously by connoisseurs of any particular art or department of learning to one who has no knowledge or appreciation of it; sometimes a mere term of dislike for those whom the speaker considers 'bourgeois'.
then the adjective can mean "uncultured; commonplace; prosaic." That sums up most Americans and even more Chinese.

But I don't like to use either of those words because they sound so snobbish, and there are things in mass culture that I find appealing. Like Girardot in his Victorian translation of China : James Legge's Oriental pilgrimage: in a footnote describing Legge's trip throught the US, he complains that Legge's
accounts of Japan and the United States are also mostly in the genre of tourist literature--e.g., his meandering overland route included stops at Yosemite, the Mormon Temple, and, most egregiously, Niagara Falls!
Ah, yes--visiting Niagara Falls: how egregious! Poor Jimmy Legge. I know how he must feel. And since he lived 1815-1897, he might well have known what 'tacky' meant. I've been told my taste for 19th-century Romantic music is bourgeois, and it stung. I guess it's only OK to like that stuff if you do it as a post-modernist, ironically. (Be detached, not involved).
Reuters reports China farmers fight SARS spirits with firecrackers ("China farmers"?):
Chinese peasants, lacking the medical knowhow and funds to fight the deadly SARS virus, are lighting firecrackers and kowtowing to the Buddha to scare off the "god of plague".

Some farmers in Shanxi, the hard-hit northern province near SARS-infested Beijing, set off firecrackers in the belief they would help to frighten off SARS, the official Xinhua news agency said on its Web site,

Rumours that SARS was a natural disaster "brought on by spirits" or "haunting genies" were circulating in some parts of the countryside, and farmers were burning joss sticks before Buddhist statues and praying for good fortune, Xinhua said.
Sure, that'll help. Funny they don't mention the Chinese herbal meds people think will help.
The Cranky Professor wonders if civil libertarians going to protest the decision by the University of California at Berkeley to exclude students traveling from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and mainland China.
More on Diane Ravitch's book. (Link via Banana Oil). In Merle Rubin's Tests, textbooks: Only men bake cookies in these parts, a review of The Language Police, How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn:

A "bias and sensitivity" panel rejected a number of reading passages for a voluntary national test (which was eventually defeated in Congress), including
a passage about the patchwork quilts made by 19th century frontier women: "The reviewers objected to the portrayal of women as people who stitch and sew, and who were concerned about preparing for marriage." The fact that the passage was historically accurate was considered no defense for its "stereotypical" image of women and girls.
Yeah, this is the kind of stuff I see in many surverys of Chinese history. For most of Chinese history, women didn't have much power, so what do some people want to do? Focus on Nyu shu (women's writing) and non-marrying sisterhoods. Sure, they existed, but that wasn't the way things worked for most women.

Tuesday, May 6

Jane Galt (still banning me, for reasons unknown) links to this: Robert Weissberg, the author of Polling, Policy, and Public Opinion: The Case Against Heeding the "Voice of the People" argues
that polls designed to ask voters if they want more government spending on any given item don't generate politically useful information....Weissberg defends periodic elections as all the democracy we require, thank you very much. He thinks most people don't have the slightest idea what they are talking about when it comes to public policy. That's why, he argues, we should be thankful for having elected representatives to make decisions for us.

He's tough about it too. Not for him the pat-on-the-head doctrine of "rational ignorance." That's the widely accepted notion from the public choice school of economics that says it makes perfect sense, given the high cost-benefit ratio of public policy savvy, for citizens to have only dim notions of what the hell is going on in government.

Economists have gone even further in explaining/excusing public sloth in regard to political beliefs and actions. George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan recently has posited the appropriateness of rational irrationality, whereby we choose an optimal amount of absurd and counterfactual things to believe based on what it costs us to hold these unrealistic beliefs...

Weissberg's findings, which show that people seem to credulously accept the endless possibilities of government goodies, believing they will all deliver exactly the benefits they promise. Weissberg argues that most polls are systematically biased toward manufacturing a vox populi that clamors for an ever-growing welfare state.

To test this thesis, he designed and executed a pair of surveys that he thinks provide a more sophisticated and accurate way of gauging an intelligent, informed decision -- not just an ignorant wish. He used these polls to retest public support for a couple of Clinton-era government expansions: shrinking public school class size by hiring tens of thousands of new teachers, and increasing government-supported day care.

Weissberg found exactly what he was looking for (and one wonders how often that happens in social science research -- there's a poll whose results I'd like to see). If you give longer, more detailed polls that demand citizens balance costs within a necessarily limited total budget, and inform them of both the possibilities of failure and the real dimensions of the problem allegedly being solved, previous apparent support for government action and spending quickly fades.
Jasper Becker writes, SARS unmasks a wider scandal:
It is good that the Chinese government is grappling, albeit belatedly, with severe acute respiratory syndrome. But the real question is: What salutary lessons will the Chinese Communist Party draw from the spread of SARS?...

The arbitrary sacrifice of two senior party officials, Mayor Meng Xuenong of Beijing and Health Minister Zhang Wenkang - both punished for obeying party orders - is not necessarily a good sign. Meng and Zhang hid the real numbers of SARS patients because the party believed its power depended on hitting high economic growth targets and that nothing should interfere with this goal. The two officials were caught only because there happened to be an honest Chinese doctor who dared reveal the truth about the hidden SARS cases in Beijing.

...the party should extend its open market reforms by withdrawing from more public sectors, especially health and the environment, where its involvement has patently failed.

The half-baked reform of China's health system is nothing short of scandalous and the country is now paying for it. Peasants - who can least afford it - must shoulder their entire medical burden, while the wealthy party elite and state employees enjoy a lavishly subsidized health system that consumes most of the state health budget.

Only those who can afford to pay can expect treatment for SARS, AIDS or other modern plagues. The Communist Party should be taxing the rich to subsidize the poor, not the other way around.
Link via The Peking Duck.

Monday, May 5

In When Crises Strike, China's Leaders Adapt to Survive, JOSEPH KAHN writes,
Humanitarian calamities have come and gone in China, often exposing the inhumanity of the Communist system but never really threatening party rule. The system, however authoritarian, paranoid and faction-ridden, has shown it can cope with natural and man-made disasters, which have claimed millions of lives, without relinquishing the levers of power....

"Every time something happens in China people in the West talk about this big challenge to one-party rule," said Dai Tianyan, a political scientist at the Central Party School of the Communist Party, in Beijing. "But we don't see it the same way."...

Longer term, the fear among some liberal-leaning analysts and journalists is that the crisis could actually feed the government's instinct to be heavy-handed. The central government needs more intrusive powers so that local officials do not hide problems, the thinking goes. The press has to be policed so it does not incite panic. Migrant workers must be controlled. Singaporean efficiency is the model.

Sunday, May 4

People used to try to censor printed materials; now we've generally moved to censoring nudity, "foul language" and sometimes violence in audio and visual media. Already, people can photoshop tabooed types of porn. It's entirely possible that in the future virtual reality will enable us to engage in all kinds of immoral behavior. Imagine the most horribly disgusting thing people are capable of. What if they can do it in the privacy of their own home without actually harming another person? Will we allow them to do it?
Alexander Stille, in Did Knives and Forks Cut Murders?, writes,
...murder was much more common in the Middle Ages than it is now and that it dropped precipitately in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Something very important changed in Western behavior and attitudes, and it stood much prevailing social theory on its head. "It was very surprising because social theory told us that the opposite was supposed to happen: that crime was supposed to go up as family and community bonds in rural society broke up and industrialization and urbanization took hold," said Eric H. Monkkonen, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of several works on the history of criminality. "The notion that crime and cities go together made emotional sense, particularly in America, where at least recently crime is higher in cities."...

Randall Roth, a historian at Ohio State University who has recalculated murder rates for the 15th and 16th centuries in many countries. "The data we are getting doesn't line up with most theories of either liberals or conservatives about crime. The theory that crime is determined by deterrence and law enforcement, by income inequality, by a high proportion of young men in a population, by the availability of weapons, by cities, most of those theories end up being wrong."
Which is interesting. First of all, it shows how intellectuals tend to theorize based on their personal experience. It also suggests that the quest for what is "natural" can go too far, especially in human behavior. If we want to live as our ancestors did for most of human history, we'll have to treat each other pretty brutally. Speaking of the intellos' personal prejudice, one has to take what they--we--say with a grain of salt, especially after the journalists get ahold of it. Emily Eakin, in Writing as a Block for Asians, discusses William C. Hannas' "polemical" The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity:
Mr. Hannas's logic goes like this: because East Asian writing systems lack the abstract features of alphabets, they hamper the kind of analytical and abstract thought necessary for scientific creativity.
Although she quotes J. Marshall Unger, a professor of Japanese, who argues
how can you be sure writing � and not some other cultural feature � is responsible?
, she gets some things wrong: few Chinese linguists would call written Chinese a "syllabary". Anyway, Unger's right: correlation is not causation. This book only got published because it might make a little stir.
Michael Pollan in The Futures of Food writes,
The counterculture seized upon processed food, of all things, as a symbol of everything wrong with industrial civilization. Not only did processed foods contain chemicals, the postwar glamour of which had been extinguished by DDT and Agent Orange, but products like Wonder Bread represented the worst of white-bread America, its very wheat ''bleached to match the bleached-out mentality of white supremacy,'' in the words of an underground journalist writing in The Quicksilver Times.

As an antidote to the ''plastic food'' dispensed by agribusiness, the counterculture promoted natural foods organically grown, and whole grains in particular. Brown food of any kind was deemed morally superior to white -- not only because it was less processed and therefore more authentic, but because by eating it you could express your solidarity with the world's (nonwhite) oppressed. Seriously. What you chose to eat had become a political act, and the lower you ate on the food chain, the better it was for you, for the planet and for the world's hungry.
I never really went that far, but I feel that food that has been processed less is more nutritional and, more importantly, tastes better. So I'm skeptical about the uniquely tailored diets based on one's genes that Bruce Grierson writes about in What Your Genes Want You to Eat. It'll be quite awhile before we're that sure about exactly what people need in their diets.

Thursday, May 1

Today I was trying to translate �U�� su2qi, but vulgar or common don't sound quite right to me. Or maybe American culture is so vulgar that most people don't think of it as vulgar.
Michiko Kakutani writes Young Minds Force-Fed With Indigestible Texts, about THE LANGUAGE POLICE: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn By Diane Ravitch. What's excluded?
�Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little (because mice, along with rats, roaches, snakes and lice, are considered to be upsetting to children).

�Stories or pictures showing a mother cooking dinner for her children, or a black family living in a city neighborhood (because such images are thought to purvey gender or racial stereotypes).

�Dinosaurs (because they suggest the controversial subject of evolution).

�Tales set in jungles, forests, mountains or by the sea (because such settings are believed to display "a regional bias").

�Narratives involving angry, loud-mouthed characters, quarreling parents or disobedient children (because such emotions are not "uplifting").
Political correctness isn't just a foible of the left:
While censors on the right aim "to restore an idealized vision of the past, an Arcadia of happy family life" in which Father knows best, Mother takes care of the house and kids, and everyone goes to church on Sundays, censors on the left believe in "an idealized vision of the future, a utopia in which egalitarianism prevails in all social relations," a world in which "all nations and all cultures are of equal accomplishment and value."
Via Radley Balko, The Center For Consumer Freedom adds:
California's textbook review process routinely eliminates reference to foods considered unwholesome -- French fries, sodas, cakes, and even ketchup and butter. Some of the outrageous changes made to textbooks and tests include:

A piece on George Washington Carver, the inventor of peanut butter, was nixed because it might offend children who are allergic to peanuts.

A picture of a birthday party was purged because it included an "unhealthy" birthday cake.

The story "A Perfect Day for Ice Cream" was renamed "A Perfect Day." Also cleansed from the tale were the chili burgers and pizza.
Then there are the people that won't let us use "dirty" words.
Chris Suellentrop asks, Does Hu Jintao really run China? I read on that there's now an on-going struggle between Hu and the Jiang clique, but the article sounds a little hysterical. Laurie Garrett's China's Epidemic Discord talks about "contradictory edicts".

John Pomfret: China Feels Side Effects From SARS: Political Fallout Follows Coverup:
The mishandling of the SARS crisis is feeding tentative calls for political reform in China and has exacerbated a broad power struggle among current and former Communist leaders, according to government sources, journalists and political analysts.

On one side of the divide is an increasingly strong alliance among China's new president, Hu Jintao, its new premier, Wen Jiabao, and senior officials allied with former premier Zhu Rongji, who have been moved quickly into positions of responsibility to deal with the crisis.

On the other side, government sources say, is a network of officials loyal to former president Jiang Zemin....

Officials loyal to Jiang, who stepped down from the presidency in March, are believed to have backed the idea of underreporting the SARS epidemic and lying to the World Health Organization and foreign governments about its spread...

The problem with Jiang's allies, however, is that most of them have little practical experience in handling day-to-day issues. For example, Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who rose to power as Jiang's enforcer within the party, is a skilled politician and is known as a trusted interlocutor by U.S. and Japanese officials. But he had never held a government job.

In his moves against the Jiang faction, Hu has found a willing ally in Wen Jiabao, the new premier, who rose to his position with the backing of his predecessor, Zhu Rongji, who battled with Jiang unsuccessfully for more than a decade in Beijing...

Jiang's allies were slow to respond to the about-face that Hu ordered for April 20, when the government inaugurated a nationwide campaign to begin truthful reporting about SARS. In the first few days, only Hu and Wen were seen on the state-run media. Slowly, each of Jiang's allies has emerged, somewhat halfheartedly supporting the campaign.

Jiang also expressed support for the new SARS campaign, but in a way that illustrated his conflict with Hu. On April 26, he made his first public statement about the virus from Shanghai, leaving many Chinese with the impression that he had fled the capital to escape the disease. Jiang appeared out of touch; Hu and Wen had been seen in the media almost daily on the front lines of the fight against SARS, at hospitals, universities and laboratories. And Jiang's remarks, saying "China has scored notable achievements in containing the disease," directly contradicted the tone being put forward by Hu and Wen that the disease had not been contained and that the country faced a crisis.
Li Yongyan: Chinese media: Whom are they kidding?:
according to the Chinese media, Washington is hell-bent on first destroying China and then going on to dominate the world...

Totalitarianism is propped up by two things: force and lies. It works like this: "We know you don't believe, but we make sure you don't voice your dissent. So we can keep spinning out 'Newspeak'. And we are under no pressure whatsoever to explain or account for anything that we say."...

So in the end, the self-serving rhetoric becomes self-indulging, and self-deluding.