Monday, September 29

China Scientist Sentenced Over Iridium
A Chinese nuclear scientist has been given a suspended death sentence for planting radioactive materials in the office of a business rival, sickening the man and 74 other people, official newspapers reported Monday.


Scientists say iridium could be used to create a radiological "dirty bomb," and its possession is usually tightly controlled.
That inspires confidence.

Sunday, September 28

Taking on the Party in Rural China: Reformer Risks Livelihood for Direct Elections By John Pomfret
One reason for the pressure for direct elections in townships is that in 1998 China began allowing elections for the heads of its 700,000 villages. A crisis of legitimacy has erupted, pitting village chiefs, who often have popular support, against township governments, which are appointed.

"The township governments have a choice," said a government researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They can either try to fix the village elections and derail the process or they can push for democratization as well. But if they do that, then the county government above will be faced with the same choice."
Here's hoping democracy will creep upwards.
Study Finds Net Gain From Pollution Rules: OMB Overturns Past Findings on Benefits By Eric Pianin.
A new White House study concludes that environmental regulations are well worth the costs they impose on industry and consumers, resulting in significant public health improvements and other benefits to society. The findings overturn a previous report that officials now say was defective....

John D. Graham, director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which produced the study, said: "Our role at OMB is to report the best available estimates of benefits and costs, regardless of whether the information favors one advocacy group or another. In this case the data show that the Environmental Protection Agency's clean-air office has issued some highly beneficial rules."...

Many environmentalists had initially expressed fears that Graham, founder of a Harvard University-based risk analysis institute, would lead a Bush administration assault on regulatory safeguards. But Graham has sided with environmentalists on several key issues, including new rules to sharply reduce diesel engine emissions and the fine airborne particles that contribute to asthma and other serious respiratory ailments. The activists were quick to embrace this month's report.
It looks convincing, but after a while you don't know who to believe.
Either I hadn't seen the entire The Gold Rush (1925) or my memory is really bad; I only remembered the starvation scene of eating a stewed shoe, the teetering cabin on the edge of a cliff, and Chaplin's dancing dinner rolls routine. I didn't remember the girl at all.

Inherit the Wind (1960). This play was a favorite of mine when I was a teenager.

One notable difference between the play and the movie was that in the play, Drummond, the lawyer defending Bert, the schoolteacher on trial for teaching evolution, says of his client
Can you buy back his respectability by making him a coward? I understand what Bert's going through. It's the loneliest feeling in the world--to find yourself standing up when everyone else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say, 'What's the matter with him?' I know. I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your own footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren't sure whether you're walking towards something, or if you're just walking away.

(This simply reinforced lessons my eccentric parents taught me.) In the movie, Drummond shows a way out, but continues in the same vein, condemning those who give in:
But all you have to do is knock on any door and say, "If you let me in, I'll live the way you want me to live, and I'll think the way you want me to think," and all the blinds'll go up and all the windows will open, and you'll never be lonely, ever again. If that's the case, I'll change the plea - that is, if you know the law's right and you're wrong.

Spencer Tracy played Drummond, Fredric March his opponent, and Gene Kelly the cynical reporter. I didn't realize that Gene Kelly was so young in 1960. Because of their later TV roles, Dick York as the schoolteacher and Harry Morgan as the judge were both a little distracting. I realize that if Dick York was going to teach "evilution," I guess it wasn't so surprising that he ended up marrying a witch. Also Norman Fell had a very brief appearance as a radio technician.

Back when I read the play, I liked the attacks on religion, and was a little annoyed when the cynic got his comeuppance and Drummond showed he wasn't entirely opposed to religion. But now I feel that was a good lesson to teach. It wasn't until I saw the movie that I realized it could be about McCarthyism, but I still don't see that as the main point.

Mandingo (1975). I'm not sure what this is doing in our library collection. Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader liked it, calling it
One of the most neglected and underrated Hollywood films of its era....doubtful whether many more insightful and penetrating movies about American slavery exist.

Even though he concedes it was widely ridiculed as camp when it came out. Yes, it shows how badly slave-owners treated their slaves, but there's something prurient in the way the movie shows the sex. The accents and the language the characters use is pretty false-sounding, especially James Mason's. Perry King acts well, even though the idea of a sensitive white guy who likes his black slave is a little silly. Brenda Sykes manages the lingo, but completely fails to render the accent, sounding like a college girl.

Alan & Naomi (1992) Lukas Haas, Michael Gross, and Amy Aquino all did a good job. I didn't like Vanessa Zaoui so much, maybe because of her character. I hadn't realized it's really a kid's book.

Friday, September 26

Richard Bernstein's obituary of Edward W. Said mentions his Orientalism, and
its theory that the Orient and especially the Arab world have been created by the Western imagination as a series of demeaning, reductive stereotypes.

"Orientalism" established Dr. Said as a figure of enormous influence in American and European universities, a hero to many, especially younger faculty and graduate students on the left for whom that book became an intellectual credo and the founding document of what came to be called postcolonial studies. Central to Dr. Said's argument was the notion that there was no objective, neutral scholarship on Asia and especially on the Arab world. The very Western study of the East, in his view, was bound up in the systematic prejudices about the non-Western world that turned it into a set of cliches. Since the enlightenment, Dr. Said wrote, "every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric."

This view did not go unchallenged, even among specialists on the Middle East who found many of his points valid but who rejected numerous assertions as overdrawn, hyperbolic and oversimplistic.

"It is a pity that it is so pretentiously written, so drenched in jargon, for there is much in this book that is superb as well as intellectually exciting," wrote the British historian J. H. Plumb in The Times. But Plumb and others contended that Dr. Said made no effort to actually examine the real, historical relations between West and East, or "to sort out what was true in the Western representation" of the East from what was false and caricatured.

They argued that Dr. Said's assumption was that the Orientalists simply invented the East to satisfy the requirements of cultural superiority and Western imperialism and that he ignored the vast body of scholarship that grappled with the East on its own terms.
Scholars shouldn't let their prejudices overwhelm them--but that's not what he was saying. Like the postmodernists who inspired him, he insists that objectivity is impossible.

Moreover, there's another problem. In American English, "oriental" as a noun suggests "an Asian". (Although thanks in no small part to Said, I believe, "oriental" as a noun sounds outdated or even offensive.) "Oriental" as an adjective means "Of or designating the biogeographic region that includes Asia south of the Himalaya Mountains and the islands of the Malay Archipelago." The Orient is "The countries of Asia, especially of eastern Asia."

What I found extremely annoying about the book was that for him, "the Orient" nevertheless meant the Middle East. There's practically nothing in his book about eastern or southeast Asia. Talk about a huge blind spot. So does that mean he's right? That objectivity is impossible? Great! I don't have to believe a word he wrote.


Keith Windschuttle had something on Edward Said's Orientalism at The New Criterion.

Here's a little more evidence of what I dislike about Edward Said and his ilk: in My Encounter with Sartre, dated 1 June 2000, he praises Sartre for a number of things including Sartre's "gutsy appearance as a Maoist radical during the 1968 student demonstrations in Paris". Apparently being a Maoist radical is still something good.

Part of my dislike of Said is not so much for what he wrote, but for the postmodernist/postcolonialist claptrap he and people like Foucault helped inspire. First of all, I cannot accept the Marxist assumptions that the theorists insist on. Postmodernism is supposed to be emblematic of the late stage of capitalism; that means the postmodernists believe that capitalism is coming to an end, right? As far as I can see, the only reason they know that is because Marx told them so. Second, and far worse, is the assumption that objectivity is impossible, that one's ideas about reality are all based on identity, and that's identity, pretty much restricted to race, gender, and culture. And finally, and worst of all, is the incomprehensible language these people use.
Dalai Lama Return to Tibet May Be Simpler for China By Jane Macartney, Asian Diplomatic Correspondent:
China appears to have shifted from a long-held view that his demise would deal a death blow to independence movements in Tibet and restarted talks with his representatives.
Quoting Geremie Barme (author of In the Red), she goes on,
"There was a view that once he was dead the Tibet problem would be resolved because there would be no central figure to muster resistance," said Barme.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington may have helped to spur a change.

"With 9/11, they see that once the Dalai Lama is dead then many cells of resistance will abandon his message of a peaceful resolution of the Tibet question and become militarized," said Barme.

"They could face a serious terror threat," he said. "I would be shocked if the Chinese are so crude and simple that they think this can be resolved by the death of this man in exile."
But even if he dies in China, won't "many cells of resistance will abandon his message of a peaceful resolution of the Tibet question and become militarized"?
In Clinton 'History' Doesn't Repeat Itself in China, JOSEPH KAHN writes about the censorship (and popularity) of Hillary Rodham Clinton's biography in China. The Simon & Schuster website he mentions can be found here, and as of this writing, it was apparently accessible in China. Still, I can't help but feel that the Senator is happy to have a chance to speak to her American audience about her opposition to various Chinese policies. And it's not just her: the Chinese on the Simon & Schuster website is *.gif files, so one doesn't need Chinese fonts to read it. That can only be for the sake of people who don't usually read Chinese on their computers. Or is it fear of piracy?

Tuesday, September 23

Chinese Adages tells us the supposed derivations of some Chinese idioms, including:
  • Pat the back of the horse became a colloquialism meaning to flatter somebody thanks to the odious eunuch Wei Zhongxian who became successful after winning the emperor's favor by patting rather than whipping his horse.

  • Blowing Into the Cow Hide (bragging) comes from people who used their "hot air" to blow up hides to make rafts.

  • Eating Vinegar (meaning being jealous of a rival in love) comes from a story about Wei Zheng's wife who drank vinegar that she thought was poison when told he was going to have a concubine.

Monday, September 22

Dying to Kill Us By ROBERT A. PAPE:
[W]hat nearly all suicide terrorist campaigns have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel liberal democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective.
His solution?
In the end, the best approach for the states under fire is probably to focus on their own domestic security while doing what they can to see that the least militant forces on the terrorists' side build a viable state on their own.
Well, good luck with that.
Via All work and no play in new China By Louisa Lim: "Coming back to Beijing after almost a decade away has been a disorientating experience."
It's a different world.

"And not nearly so much fun," Mrs Zhang said, with regret in her voice.

"We all work so hard now. We never have any time to see each other and we are all so stressed."

Talking to her, I could see how the harsh realities of a market-driven economy had finally reached my old work unit. It had managed to reshape itself and focus on making money.
Capitalism's really no fun at all. Maybe people truly are happier under Communism. There may be no progress, but you don't miss what you don't see.
A New Can Of Worms links to Jonathan Rauch 's Will Frankenfood Save the Planet?
The trade-offs are fundamental. Organic farming, for example, uses no artificial fertilizer, but it does use a lot of manure, which can pollute water and contaminate food. Traditional farmers may use less herbicide, but they also do more ploughing, with all the ensuing environmental complications. Low-input agriculture uses fewer chemicals but more land. The point is not that farming is an environmental crime--it is not--but that there is no escaping the pressure it puts on the planet....

For reasons having more to do with politics than with logic, the modern environmental movement was to a large extent founded on suspicion of markets and artificial substances. Markets exploit the earth; chemicals poison it. Biotech touches both hot buttons. It is being pushed forward by greedy corporations, and it seems to be the very epitome of the unnatural.
China's Hippies Find Their Berkeley: Tourists and Big-City Dropouts Flock to Tibet to Sample a Simpler Existence By Philip P. Pan. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of a Chinese hippie. (Do they live in communes?) Still, as the article shows, most Chinese are pretty ignorant about Tibet, and the government wants to keep them that way.
A bunch of articles about etiquette from the People's Daily Online:

Good manners, an expectation for Chinese, foreigners alike

Chinese returning from abroad encounter reverse culture shock

Chinese tourists' unsocial behavior sparks concern at home

Foreigners see social graces and disgraces in China
Niki Law writes, HK filmmakers censor sex and ghosts for the mainland
Ghosts, nudity, homosexuality and extramarital affairs may be cut from the scripts of local films as movie producers sacrifice Hong Kong audiences to get into the mainland market.

One of the first victims of film industry self-censorship is the sequel to vampire action movie Twins Effect. According to the film's writer and producer, Bey Logan, the sequel will not have any vampires because mainland officials do not like superstition.

"Twins Effect 2 will become a period film and will not focus on vampires. Mainland officials had an issue with the vampire theme in part one," he said.
I've seen enough HK movies to suspect that these are pretty schlocky, and as far as that goes I don't particularly like horror movies. Still, this kind of censorhip is stupid. It's a movie, guys! Are you going to censor your beloved Pu Songling, too? I thought the days of Stories About Not Being Afraid of Ghosts were long gone.

Sunday, September 21

I just found out that
The Harvest Moon is a help to farmers anxious to complete the garnering of their crops. It is the full moon which occurs nearest the date of the autumnal equinox. It is not brighter than other full moons, as some seem to believe. Its virtue lies in the fact that, for several nights, less time elapses between its successive risings than for any other full moon of the year. This gives farmers an extra-long sequence of evenings with bright moonlight.

Saturday, September 20

A bunch of ButterfliesandWheels stuff:

Abundance is a threat to the values of snobbery of the critics of modernity. What can I say? I'm a Thomas R. DeGregori fan.

Also Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly:
The case for astrology is that a warm and sympathetic astrologer provides low-cost non-threatening therapy that is otherwise hard to come by. You get emotional comfort, spiritual support, and interesting ideas to stimulate self-examination. In a dehumanised society astrology provides ego support at a very low price. Where else can you get this sort of thing these days?

In short, there is more to astrology than being true or false. But note the dilemma - to get the benefits you have to believe in something that is untrue. The same dilemma can apply elsewhere as in psychotherapy and even religion, so it is not unique to astrology.
That's why I try not to be too anti-religious. And how, indeed, do I delude myself into believing my life is meaningful? It's elephants all the way down.
Movies about the rich.

Exhibit A: The Magnificent Ambersons, which I neglected to say is about "the decline of the fortunes of the wealthy Amberson family" (see Tim Dirks' exhaustive summary).

Exhibit B: A Place in the Sun (1951 Tagline: I'm in trouble, George... bad trouble), based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1925), a nifty summary of which by one Jude Davies is available from, which I can only access here. (The original works again.) JD says, "An American Tragedy movingly illustrates the damage done by the American ideology of success." The novel is in turn based on the story of the Chester Gillette � Grace Brown murder case.

As for the movie, Montgomery Clift looked pretty sleazy back then. Elizabeth Taylor sure was pretty (God must love her to turn her into what she is now, eh?). Was there some joke about having Raymond Burr's character, a detective-like prosecutor surnamed Marlowe? (And is this role what got him typecast as a legal type?) Shelley Winters wasn't bad, but I kept thinking of her role in Alfie (1966). Here's a sad sign of senility: I could only remember her as the woman who spurned a younger man, and didn't remember who that was. Now I see there are some interesting parallels there. It's as if Winters has in Alfie aged into a middle-aged slut. On the other hand, Michael Caine tries to do what the Monty should've, so I guess there's some progress there.

Of particular interest to me is that An American Tragedy involves Cortland, New York, where I went to high school. It's a shame to say I never read the novel, even though my mother, then a high school teacher in another school, assigned it to her students. And now her dementia doesn't allow her to even recognize the name of the book.

Exhibit C: The Great Gatsby (1974), based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, with the script credited to Francis Ford Coppola. Maybe it's because I'm getting a little tired of the adoration of the rich, but I couldn't help but feel the actors here were basically playing their regular roles. Robert Redford did the handsome guy thing he always did, Mia Farrow was the flighty sparrow, Bruce Dern the turd, Karen Black the woman who's not as pretty as she thinks she is (although later she got pretty scary-looking), and Edward Herrmann the geek. OK, I did get a kick out of seeing Herrmann. And seeing a young Sam Waterston as the narrator was funny, especially as he's much better looking now, 30 years later in Law & Order (which incidentally I like better than most of the movies I see these days).

At first I was quite annoyed with the movie, given my impression of Fitzgerald as an idiot besotted with the wealthy. While he did write a story ("The Rich Boy") that began, "The rich are different from you and me," it was in the story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" that Hemingway wrote, "someone had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money." This is even though Scott's story continues, "They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand." See John Updike's Poor little rich boy.

Anyway, I don't know if Coppola flubbed the closing of the movie, or if the novel's ending wasn't cinematic enough, but I really missed the famous last lines of the novel. Gatsby was pining for Daisy, the woman who long ago spurned him because he was too poor (a rejection that spurred him to become rich), and looked yearningly at her dock across the water from the mansion that he now has. But now he's discovered she's no damn good
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter � tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning �

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Medium Cool (1969; yeah, yeah, real clever that he combines real & fictional. So what; it's just not very well done.)

Aside from crummy movies like that, we're on a regular literary tear. Last week we saw Noon Wine (1985), a made for TV movie based on the Katherine Anne Porter story, with Fred Ward, the poor man's Charles Bronson, Stellan Skarsgard, the poor man's Max von Sydow, and Lise Hilboldt, the poor man's Susan Sarandon. It was OK, but the last half hour dragged a little, and it didn't really seem reasonable for Fred Ward's character to behave as he did.

Speaking of Max von Sydow, he sure has been in a strange collection of movies. Or maybe not--I guess that sardonic/ascetic aspect serves him well.
It was the annual organ concert (free because of the endowment by Marianne Webb and David Bateman). Last night it was David Briggs. And although we haven't been to all of the concerts in the ten-odd years they've been given, nor are we (in spite of my B-3 surname) organ connoisseurs, it was far and away our favorite concert. I realize the organists must get bored, and feel they've got to be creative, but all too often they play stuff that's not really suited. This was LOUD:
  • Prelude & Fugue in B minor (Bach)--great, and not one I'm familiar with.

  • Naiades & Adagio (Vierne)--the first was OK for displaying technical virtuosity, I guess.

  • Promotheus (Liszt)--great, even though it was a transcription.

  • Popular Song (from Facade, by William Walton)--cute.

  • Sonata #1, Op. 42 (Alexandre Guilmant)--I've never heard of the guy. This was wonderful.

  • An improvisation. I was afraid we wouldn't get it, or it would be muddled, but it was clever of him to base it on "America the Beautiful", a tune that everyone in the audience knew, and the improvisation was very appealing.
It was all listenable. How dreadfully bourgeois! How we liked it!
Congratulations to me! I'm #5 for excessive farting. Although pace Sun Yat-sen, is there such a thing? Gee, talk about deep philosophical questions.

We've made pesto sauce with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in the past, but it's only been recently that we've finally figured out how to properly process the basil leaves: they mustn't be chopped too fine. Also, we ran out of pine nuts and used walnuts instead, and we put in more than was called for. That's better than pine nuts, in our book. And my wife minces some habanero peppers for me. And I eat it with Aldi's Parmesan; so sue me. I was worried because garlic makes me fart, I'd give the organist at the concert last night some multi-media competetition (poot!). Not to worry.

Friday, September 19

Steel Tariffs Appear to Have Backfired on Bush: Move to Aid Mills and Gain Votes in 2 States Is Called Political and Economic Mistake By Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman.
In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection.

Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy.
Emphasis mine. Of course, they're still not sure if they're going to repeal them.
U.N. Official Criticizes Education In China By Philip P. Pan cites a U. N. representative saying:
China spends only 2 percent of gross domestic product on education, compared with the minimum 6 percent recommended by the United Nations. She also said the government covers only 53 percent of school funding, with parents paying the rest in fees -- a much lower percentage of government funding than in almost all other countries that have compulsory education policies.

Thursday, September 18

The Dissident looks pretty interesting. I hope it lasts awhile. Via Nick Gillespie, who links to an article by Will Wilkinson. I also like The Real Roots of Islamic Extremism by Stephen Schwartz:
Those who argue that Islamist extremism is a product of American support for corrupt regimes have a point. But they overlook the main source of ideology, incitement, and funds for Islamist terror: the government of Saudi Arabia. The rulers of the Saudi kingdom now try to confuse Western opinion by proclaiming that they, too, are targets of Osama bin Laden, to mask their own complicity in his financing and organization. In reality, Islamist terrorism is only in part a protest movement by Saudi subjects such as Osama bin Laden who are aggrieved at the monarchy�s alliance with the West. It is, in much greater part, a phenomenon directly controlled by the Saudi authorities.

....[T]he reactionary faction of the Saudi monarchy has financed terrorism and infiltration in Central Asia, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Balkans, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, the Philippines, Indonesia, and, finally, in the ultimate form of al-Qaida.

Yet Saudi Arabia has never been humiliated by the West. Rather, its rulers have been pampered, coddled, and bribed by the West....[T]o its own population, the Wahhabist regime preaches a toxic mixture of ferocious separatism, exclusionism, and violence directed against non-Wahhabi Muslims and non-Muslims. Its dependence on American aid has led gullible policy experts in the West to view the Wahhabi faction around King Fahd and princes Sultan and Nayef as allies, and to stigmatize all opponents of the regime as extremists.

Far from being extremists, however, dissident Muslims under Saudi rule generally call for religious liberty � to accommodate Arab Christians now underground, the many thousands of Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist guest workers in the kingdom, and foreign Christian and Jewish visitors.
So the roots of terrorism may be Saudi, but it's the Americans who have lavished care on them to make them grow.
Kaushik Basu on The Economics of Child Labor via Tyler Cowen. It's subscription only. In addition to what Tyler says,
If controlling child labor is not an end in itself but an instrument for enabling children to grow up into productive and happy individuals, then policies have to be evaluated against this larger yardstick and not just the immediate one of whether it halts child labor. In the poorest regions, society may in fact have to permit children to work a few hours each day. Studies in Peru and Brazil have shown that children's labor is often the only way they can finance schooling for themselves or their siblings and thereby ensure an eventual escape from poverty for their progeny. Such findings raise troubling moral questions, but if policy is to be effective, it must account for the reality of people's lives.

Many commentators have argued--and I agree--that legislative action is not the best way to control child labor, barring some special cases, such as when we have reason to believe that there are multiple equilibria (and so a benign intervention will work). In general, policymakers should work to improve the conditions and earnings of adult laborers so as to diffuse the conditions that foster sending children to work. For instance, during an economic downturn, fluctuations in income may compel parents to withdraw their children from school. Even if the kids return to school later, they find it difficult to catch up and often drop out altogether. Providing parents with access to affordable credit and insurance can help them ride out hard times without resorting to child labor. Small incentives, such as providing children with a midday meal in school or giving parents a subsidy for sending their kids to school, can also sharply reduce child labor, as has been shown in Brazil and Bangladesh.
Interesting stuff at Distributive justice (via Julian Sanchez), according to which I believe in a meritocracy. Because I've done well out of it right? But funny, a lot of intellectuals, who have also done well, don't agree.
Chinese destroy the Amazon
Today soybeans are eating up larger and larger chunks of the Amazon, leading to a 40 percent jump in deforestation last year, to nearly 10,000 square miles.

...experts are unanimous in warning that as soybean farming continues to spread through the adjacent southern Amazon states of Mato Grosso and Para, the threat to the Amazon ecological system is likely to worsen in the next few years....

Economists say that the main spur to the soybean boom is the emergence of a middle class in China, much of whose newly disposable income has been spent on a richer, more varied diet. During the past decade, China has been transformed from a net exporter of soybeans to the world's largest importer in some years of whole soybeans as well as oil and meal byproducts.
From Relentless Foe of the Amazon Jungle: Soybeans, By LARRY ROHTER.
Dalai Lama Says Terror May Need a Violent Reply By LAURIE GOODSTEIN. What, she didn't read SCOTT LINDLAW's article in the WaPo? But she does add this:
He said one reason he advocated that Tibet remain part of China is that "we are materially very much backward."
Not exactly news: Taiwan Again Fails to Win U.N. Recognition.

Tuesday, September 16

Prince Roy (his comments are currently down, like mine) suggests that "May you live in interesting times" may be related to the phrase he links to here about how being a dog in peaceful times is preferable to a human in turbulent times. The citation uses gou3, the common vernacular word for dog, but most citations prefer the more classical quan3, even though the phrase apparently comes from an early vernacular story (The Oil Peddler Courts the Courtesan). Probably sticklers will say using gou3 here is wrong, but classical and vernacular Chinese are close enough that it's grammatically correct. Besides, plenty of Chinese sayings change the original.
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deson't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteetr by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Can You Raed Tihs?
Cultural Revelation: In China, a Picture of Its People Takes Shape One Snapshot at a Time By Peter S. Goodman tells of pictures poor villagers take:
The photos are an outgrowth of a project being conducted here by the Nature Conservancy that has placed cameras in the hands of villagers to capture glimpses of their lives as they see them. The project is part of a larger undertaking -- the fashioning of a patch of land roughly the size of West Virginia into a collection of nature reserves. The photographs amount to data being collected as the environmental group works with provincial and national authorities to design the protected area. They are visual aids guiding efforts to accommodate the needs of local people by illustrating how they farm, build their homes and generally go about their lives in one of the more remote regions of China....

The images and the connected narratives have become a visual database drawn on by social and environmental scientists as they try to balance the everyday needs of local people with their mandate to preserve the surroundings. As they have studied pictures of people collecting wood for their cooking fires, they have responded by handing out low-tech but efficient stoves that need less timber. They have used photos of people trudging long distances to collect buckets of water as a way of pressing local and provincial governments to install much-desired tap systems....

But if the project began as a creative way to acquire basic information, it soon evolved into something larger, delivering a wholly unexpected outcome: Many of the images are stunning in their composition. Many are intensely personal, accessible and open in a way that has drawn an emotional response -- from the local people who saw them first, to the audience in Shanghai that saw them last month as part of an international art show....

The photos and stories evince a pride in workmanship in the daily tasks of producing food and the travails of not always succeeding. Two dugout canoes float empty against a riverbank. "Life is hard for the fishermen," reads the story. "They have to sleep in the cabin on the boat whenever they guard their fishing nets." A man cloaked in a brown felt poncho lies on a moss-covered boulder, his dog at his side. "They went hunting one day and came back empty-handed."

The images illustrate a tendency toward collectivism that predates the advent of communism in China and still endures. "After wheat is harvested, the land needs to be trimmed before rice is planted," reads the story attached to a panoramic view of golden stalks, mist-covered mountains looming in the background. "Villagers help each other in the work." Older men in blue cotton robes encircle a table, playing cards. A family kneels in a half-cut wheat field, over a pot of rice they eat together....

Perhaps the most striking thing about the collection is how these images challenge the notion -- common in the West -- that upland villagers in remote places are not built to handle change and abhor it as an assault on their pure way of life.

The glimpses of life in these photos reveal how even this corner of the world -- seemingly as far from the capital markets and advertising dens as one can get -- is nonetheless imbued with a palpable sense of upward mobility. Modernity is not the enemy so often portrayed by those intent on preserving village life and villagers themselves as if they were breathing display pieces. While the photographs revel in scenic beauty and tradition, they are not hung up on the conceptions of innocence that underlie every narrative about the next destroyed Shangri-La.

In the village of Wenhai, a settlement of 800 beneath the often rain-obscured peak of Jade Dragon Mountain, the arrival of cameras last year produced an abundance of photos of the new drinking water system. One villager took a picture of a water buffalo pulling a cart set against yellow flowers. The viewer sees a pastoral scene; the villager is focused on the fact that the cart is full of bags of cement. "Now we know how to use cement and don't have to hire workers from the urban areas," he says.

One of the photographers, He Huanzhen, 50, speaks emphatically of his desire for a road connecting the village to Lijiang, the largest town in the area, allowing more goods to flow to the shelves of the local shop, where a bare light bulb illuminates packages of instant noodles, toothpaste and bottles of Dali beer. He shows a picture of people carrying sections of pipe on their shoulders, another of people carrying in the pieces of a disassembled tractor. He shows a photo of his family threshing grain by hand in their muddy courtyard. "We need machinery," he says. "This is too traditional." He shows a picture of the table saw that one of his neighbors brought in. The whine of its blades now fills the valley.

He is a physician, one of the original "barefoot doctors" trained in the days of Mao to provide a basic level of care in the hinterlands. His green jacket is shredded and fraying, his blue pants worn down to holes. Many of his photographs document his working conditions in a thatched-roof house with a single thermometer and blood pressure machine. In one picture, an old man lies on a bed suffering from pneumonia, a small child sleeping next to him. In another -- a photo taken by his daughter -- He kneels on the porch of his clinic examining a 5-month-old infant cradled in her mother's arms. His doctor's kit, a weathered leather suitcase, is propped on a log. Mud cakes his boots.

For He, every click of the shutter is a kind of political act, an effort to focus the attention of the people who run China on injecting more resources here. He wants more equipment for his clinic -- a stomach pump, tools to extract abscessed teeth, oxygen canisters for respiratory troubles. "We feel our life is very poor," he says. "We were happy to have this camera to show people how we live. It's kind of a tool to report to the local government."

In the village of Xuehua, where Hong Zhengyong grew up, a satellite dish now dominates the courtyard of the family home, its metallic shine strikingly anomalous against its surroundings -- the soot-stained boards of the house, the tattoos on his mother's arms that identify her as a member of this family, the long pipe his father smokes, the scroll he nestles in his hands.

Hong's brother brought the dish from Lijiang last year. Now the television is almost always on, bringing in 18 channels, the sound blasting as smoke from the cooking fire fills the room.
Television! How bourgeois!

Monday, September 15

I'm inspired to post a few links (mostly via here) by a comment on Prince Roy's posting on mooncakes where Matt asks about so-called 1000 Year Old Eggs, aka 100 Year Old Eggs, or in Chinese pidan. In fact, they're only a few months old.

Kate Heyhoe characterizes the flavor as "rich, pungent and cheese-like." Well, not as pungent as some European cheeses.

Chef Meng has a picture here, and recipes for pidan and tofu salad, which is really easy to make, and pidan and lean pork congee.

RecipeSource tells you how to make them.

However, so fearsome is their reputation, even though Fear Factor admits they're not literally 100 years old,
But they could just as well have been. They are preserved well past their prime and taste like no egg you have ever tasted before. The yolk turns into a horrible green mold and the white becomes a dark brown gel with an alkaline taste. Sounds yummy, eh?
Nonsense. The yolk may be greenish, but it's not moldy, and if that's what an "alkaline" flavor is, they taste fine to me.
I couldn't swim my usual mile this morning and I probably won't be able to swim all week because I burnt my arm yesterday baking our weekly baguettes. I'm all bent out of shape about that.

I should be happy, because my baguettes are improving. The recipe is still basically this recipe, but I've discovered a couple of things. Not only is over-priced King Arthur flour not necessary; even bread flour isn't. All-purpose unbleached white flour has worked just fine the last few times. I let the dough ferment all week, which seems to add to the flavor a little. I've also finally noticed that the dough is supposed to "rest" after folding into a sausage shape & before lengthening. My trouble slashing the risen loaves just before putting them in the oven was apparently because I covered them with oiled plastic wrap. I've discovered a floured cloth works better. And now that I can slash them, the crust is just a little crisper, if still not as good as the real thing.

Also, I put in 3 Tablespoons of wheat bran and 3 Tablespoons of wheat germ to be just a little healthier; it doesn't seem to hurt the texture.

They're so good that the past couple of weeks on Sundays our lunch consists of nothing but a tomato and olive oil & balsamic vinegar & garlic salad and bread. The juice of the tomatoes mixes with the dressing, and we dip pieces of the bread in it. It's delicious. Once the fresh summer tomatoes are no longer available, we'll have to go back to bread & butter. Life is tough, but we live with it.
Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope:
Freudian practice is pseudoscience (quackery, if you will) because it fails an essential test of a true science--that is, it does not produce propositions that, in principle, can be shown to be false.
And yet so many educated people still eat it up. It makes you wonder what other nonsense we believe.

Sunday, September 14

OldTasty is yet another China blog. He's got pictures, too.
John Pomfret's Chinese Fight A New Kind Of Land War: Many Citizens Battling Tide of Development
limited property rights have become a flash point at which people are confronting authorities, as well as a platform for unprecedented civic activism. Citizens groups are accusing local governments and government-backed developers of expropriating farmland to enrich themselves, failing to offer a fair market price for buildings and homes they condemn and routinely violating contracts on the size and quality of new apartments....

The political stakes are high as well. In the cities, a generation of grass-roots leaders is emerging from newly formed associations of middle-class apartment owners to fight the often corrupt entanglements of developers and local Communist Party functionaries. In recent elections in the southern city of Shenzhen, 10 candidates running for positions in the local People's Congress came from apartment-owner associations. The Communist Party was so threatened that it ensured that only one of them -- a loyal Communist Party member -- won, according to sources in that city's bureaucracy....

Zheng Enchong, a lawyer who has helped people in the burgeoning metropolis of Shanghai bring more than 500 cases against developers, was tried last month on charges of revealing state secrets in what other lawyers have said was a move by the government to stop lawyers from taking such cases. He has yet to be sentenced.

Zheng was arrested because he told his clients that Shanghai's wealthiest man, Zhou Zhengyi, obtained a 360,000-square-foot swath of land in the city's center for free by bribing senior party officials.

Ranked as one of China's richest men by Forbes, Zhou apparently will receive a slap on the wrist for the deal. He was arrested last week but charged with minor violations, including falsifying reports on registered capital and manipulating securities prices, according to Chinese news reports.

Widespread corruption is the main factor fueling the real estate war in China. Local government officials, factory bosses and other Chinese in positions of power sell the rights to use chunks of land to developers for a low price plus a hefty kickback. They then collude with gangs to oust villagers or urban residents of the area. The compensation paid to those residents, if any, is often a fraction of what the property is really worth....

When a development is built, corruption kicks in again.

Saturday, September 13

I made English muffins according to the recipe in the old Joy of Cooking, which claimed they were much better than store-bought. Well, maybe. But too much trouble for what they are. On the other hand, the good points are: you can cook them on a stove top so you don't need an oven, and they cook faster than a loaf of bread. Otherwise, you might as well just bake an ordinary loaf.
What happens when people are allowed to get all the medical care they can demand? According to Patients in Florida Lining Up for All That Medicare Covers, by GINA KOLATA, costs mushroom, without any apparent medical benefit; in fact, mortality rates may be even higher.
Colby Cosh writes:
Ronald McDonald is the cousin of Joe Camel. Jack Daniels and Samuel Colt, unquestionably, are his uncles. If there were some convenient personification of the sport utility vehicle, he'd be the squalling baby brother.
Here on campus smoking is banned inside all buildings and will soon be banned within 25 feet of them. I don't smoke, or as far as that goes, eat much fast food, drink alcohol, own a gun or an SUV (I don't even drive much). Yet I fully realize people are capable of all sorts of stupidity, but I do wonder where all this is will end. If I were to decree that people should live according to my standards, I suspect they'd be pretty miserable.

Update For instance, I don't like sugary carbonated beverages or sugary uncarbonated beverages, either, and I don't see why schools should sell them. Back in my day, they didn't. In fact, I don't know why they sell them on our college campus, either. And then there's the question of why students spend money on them.
Colby Cosh also wrote a National Post piece quoting Mickey Kaus:
Isn't it possible that when people tell surveyers they are self-employed they are actually self employed? If we're entering a new economic era--one in which traditional cyclical employers won't start rehiring, as this excellent WaPo analysis suggests--isn't it likely, even, that workers will adjust by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities? And if entrepreneurship is real, what does calling it "involuntary" mean? I might prefer to have a full-fledged "job" at Microsoft, complete with stock options, health insurance, etc. Instead, I'm a freelance contractor. Calling my entrepreneurship "involuntary" might be accurate, but it doesn't mean I'm not working and feeding myself. In the "newer" economy, you'd expect such self-employment to increase, no?
Why doesn't he cite the author of the "excellent WaPo analysis"? It is Jonathan Weisman, by the way. And for the record, the Doom-laden title reads: Casualties Of the Recovery: Jobs Cut Since 2001 Are Gone for Good, Study Says. And yet,
The vast majority of the 2.7 million job losses since the 2001 recession began were the result of permanent changes in the U.S. economy and are not coming back, which means the labor market will not regain strength until new positions are created in novel and dynamic economic sectors, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York study has concluded.
He characterizes this as "sobering news". Although I can't find the article on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York site, he cites one of the authors saying,
Instead of seeing a recession as something just to weather, managers this time seem to have seen it as an opportunity or even a mandate for permanently changing the way they operate
Weisman also says,
When a firm ships a $60-an-hour software job to a $6-an-hour code writer in India, the most obvious benefit goes to the Indian. But, the McKinsey study reports, the U.S. economy receives at least two-thirds of the benefit from offshore outsourcing, compared with the third gained by the lower-wage countries receiving the jobs.
I was impressed with his marshalling of these reports. However, the McKinsey study actually says,
Of the $1.45 - $1.47 of value MGI estimates is created globally from every dollar spend a domestic company chooses to divert abroad, the U.S. captures $1.12 - $1.14 while the receiving country captures on average 33 cents. In other words, the U.S. captures 78 percent of the total value.
So 78%=2/3, eh?

Friday, September 12

Jonathan Watts writes China bans police torture of suspects.
While welcoming the move, some analysts warn that it will require an independent complaints system - something that China does not have.
That's the thing about the laws and regulations the CCP promulgates with great fanfare--they aren't necessarily applied.
The 300 Tang Poems online, with Witter Bynner's English translation (originally published as The Jade Mountain). I found it via Yefei He.
The movies we've seen over the past couple of weeks:

Matchmaker (1997) was pretty awful; Janeane Garofalo was miscast, but the real problem was the dumb script. Yet we had to watch it to the end.

Eugene O'Neill's Desire under the elms (1958) wasn't bad. It was interesting to see Sophia Loren so young, and Burl Ives not as his usual avuncular self. We didn't have a TV when Bonanza was on, so although Pernell Roberts looked really familiar, I couldn't place him. Somehow Anthony Perkins seemed to be getting ready for Psycho. Loving his mother figure too much, ya know. But the behavior of Sophia Loren's character seemed too unlikely.

I never think of myself as a fan of Spike Lee, but his She's gotta have it (1986) was like the other movies of his that I've seen so far, really watchable. It was odd to see S. Epatha Merkerson looking pretty good. It's funny to realize that a minor character on a TV show can have a big career elsewhere. Not to be cruel, but she should lose a little weight.

I think I refused to watch Coming home (1978) when it came out, because I had somehow contracted a dislike of Bruce Dern. I don't know why now; he was OK. It's easy to see how Hanoi Jane in particular wanted to teach that the war destroyed every American who went. Although that indeed became the mythology, I don't think that's actually true, so that was annoying. Still, it's not a bad movie.

We just watched a little of D.W. Griffith's Broken blossoms or, the yellow man and the girl (1919). I had forgotten that it actually has some Chinese actors in it. We watched up until the part where Lillian Gish tries to force a smile.

Before sunrise (1995) was pretty dumb; we watched about 2/3 of it and then looked for something else, which turned out to be Eric Rohmer's Le Genou de Claire (Claire's knee; 1970), which I may have actually seen when it came out; at least the title made a big impression on me. In our library collection, it's next in line after Before sunrise, which seemed like a poor imitation of it, but we didn't feel like watching the whole thing.

The first videocassette of Gone with the wind had something wrong with it, so I still haven't seen that.

I believed someone who once dismissed Orson Welles as over-rated, but The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was probably my favorite among all of these, even if there was a little missing. (Of course I knew that because the video had to tell me that). I've got to mention Agnes Moorehead . Even though I didn't watch that much TV, I seem to remember an awful lot of it.

Update I don't think much of the pronouncements of either Janeane Garofalo or Jane Fonda, but I like to watch them act, even if Janeane's range is pretty narrow.

And I also forgot to mention Come Back, Little Sheba (1952). Shirley Booth's pathetic "Are you mad at me, Daddy?" echoes my mother's relationship with my father (not that he's an alcoholic). And TV again: Shirley Booth wasn't much different from her annoying Hazel. It was OK, but the symbolism of the lost dog was a little heavy-handed. I seem to remember the character in some hard-boiled novel sneering "Come Back, Little Sheba" in some forgotten context. I've got a feeling it's Raymond Chandler, who I did not realize had serious alcohol problems. Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make it illegal!

Thursday, September 11

Via China Now's Book Review section, I found this on Irving Babbitt & his influence in China.

There's also a reprint of Can India Overtake China? by Yasheng Huang and Tarun Khanna.

And an article about artist Jiao Yingqi�s proposal to invent new characters, by Yu Rongfu
�The radical chart of a Chinese dictionary,� says Jiao, �is a laundry list of pre-20th century, pre-Industrial Revolution concepts. But there is no reason it has to be that way.�

To address the disconnect between China�s writing system and the post-steam engine world, Jiao embarked on a personal and theoretical project he calls New Characters (Xin Hanzi). Via a trial-and-error process that tightly integrates his artistic, design and theoretical interests, he has thus far created 32 new radicals.

Each new radical, combined with existing or new radicals, carries the potential for hundreds of new characters and words.
What's the character for "tool"?
Tyler Cowen links to Michael Huemer's Why People Are Irrational about Politics. To read later.
Dalai Lama Assesses Iraq, Afghan Wars By SCOTT LINDLAW:
The exiled Tibetan leader, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, said the Vietnam War increased suffering and was a "failure." But, he said, some wars, including the Korean War and World War II, helped "protect the rest of civilization, democracy."

He said he saw a similar result in Afghanistan - "perhaps some kind of liberation."

"The people themselves, I think, suffer a lot under their previous regimes," he said.

The Dalai Lama urged Bush, in a letter on Sept. 12, 2001, to "think seriously whether a violent action is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation and people in the long run."

Asked whether the Iraq war was just in light of that plea, the Dalai Lama said the situation there is "more complicated" and will take more time before he can judge.

"I think history will tell," he said....

The Tibetan Buddhist leader, who is on a five-city, 20-day tour of the United States that is timed to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary, called on Americans to channel their lingering grief "into a source of inner strength."

"Big, unthinkable tragedies happen," he said. "Now, instead of keeping that and developing hatred or sense of revenge, instead of that, think long-term. The negative event, try to transform into a source of inner strength."

He likened the terrorist attacks to Tibetans' struggle to reclaim their country from Chinese rule. Communist troops took over Tibet in 1951, and the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 during a failed uprising. He now lives in India....

The White House meeting irritated Chinese authorities, who said in the official China Daily newspaper that the visit to the United States "constitutes a serious intervention into China's internal affairs."
As usual.
Shanghai Airlines Orders Boeing 757-200s in partial repayment for snubbing the Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu, no doubt.

Speaking of her, in Taiwan's Vice President Dismisses Polls, by WILLIAM FOREMAN, she "told The Associated Press in an interview that President Chen Shui-bian will be re-elected because the island's economy is recovering." I wonder if she agrees with the PRC that Hong Kong's opposition to article 23 would die down once the economy there improves.

Wednesday, September 10

Randy Barnett links to and summarizes a WSJ report on a survey on What Iraqis Really Think. I wonder how much we'll hear about this good news. As the article says, "journalists have a bad-news bias".
In Tibet Torn Between Tradition and China's Bounty, Philip P. Pan shows how
the people of Tibet are engaged in a different kind of struggle: a quiet, often personal battle between their deep desire to be rid of the Chinese and their increasing dependence on the money and opportunities that Chinese rule brings.
Human rights and religious freedom are important, but so is economic progress.

Tuesday, September 9

In Hong Kong and the Future of Freedom, Arthur Waldron explains how the flap over Article 23 (a security law for Hong Kong that would have allowed searches without warrants; long prison terms for the disclosure, for instance by journalists, of so-called state secrets (in China, economic data can be thus classified); and the banning in Hong Kong of groups banned in China, which includes the Roman Catholic Church). If the bill passes, the Hong Kong government will presumably want to enforce it, but if it does it will alienate the people of HK. If it doesn't pass, the Communists look impotent. Link via The Gweilo Diaries; as he points out, this is mostly the Communists' own fault.
John Ruwitch writes how while speaking to students and faculty members at Peking University, Jimmy Carter Nudges China Toward More Democracy. The students interviewed exhibit typical sensitivity to criticism and toe the Communist Party line on the Tiananmen massacre:

Carter's speech was well received by the students.

"I thought what he had to say was very sincere and pertinent. He didn't say things like 'the U.S. model is better than the Chinese', or 'you should learn from us'," said public administration student Deng Xuan....

Carter referred to Peking University's role in the China's democracy debate stretching back to the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which strove for democracy and intellectual freedom and also spawned the Communist Party.

He steered clear of mentioning the role of students from the prestigious university as leaders of the May Fourth inspired the pro-democracy protests of 1989, which the army crushed on the evening of June 3-4 in and around Tiananmen Square.

"Looking back, analysing the students' actions at the time, we think the government's actions were right, in light of the bigger picture," said a government student who would only give his surname as Wang.

"The students who participated had perhaps an enthusiasm for democracy and patriotic hearts," he added.

"But they neglected one point, that direction is more important than pace. China in the late 20th century needed economic development more than political democracy."
Of course, such a small group means the participants were carefully screened.

Monday, September 8

Sam Howe Verhovek on the Rebellion of the Displaced.
residents have launched a vigorous public protest and lawsuit that has attracted considerable attention here, in no small measure because the would-be developer of the site is at the center of a real estate fraud scandal that is being investigated by Beijing authorities and could yet ensnare other developers and even government officials here...Many of the plaintiffs and others who have taken part in increasingly public protests over their forced relocation say their real goal is not so much to preserve the old housing. Few wax nostalgic about the confined, dingy tenements where they live now, and a common goal of most protesters is to secure an affordable apartment in one of the new high-rises planned for the spot where they were living.
Hmm. That's all very well, but there's nary a word about Chinese government accusations that Zheng Enchong, the lawyer helping the residents, was "revealing state secrets". Or how Zhou Zhengyi's case may reflect badly on Jiang Zemin.
Reuters In an effort to boost the language capabilities of its agents, the CIA said Thursday it was launching a new advertising campaign for linguists who can teach languages like Arabic, Farsi and Chinese...Experts have often pointed to poor foreign language skills as one of the greatest weaknesses of the U.S. United States' intelligence agencies.
For Many Chinese, America's Allure Is Fading, By DAVID W. CHEN
They have more options at home, with jobs available in small businesses, steel factories or construction sites.

"America is no paradise," said one man surnamed Zheng, who returned to the village of Shengmei a few years ago. He described a seven-year odyssey that started in New York but took him to many other places. "It was the same routine every day for six or seven years," he droned. "Get up. Work for 16 hours. Go to bed. Get up again. I was a fool. A machine."

In village after village, people outlined the same choices. If they got a good job here, they would stay. If not, they would try to borrow enough money to leave. Not one person talked about politics or human rights here, or China's one-child policy. The issue was money.
Of course it was for money! I can't believe that people actually thought it was for human rights.

Sunday, September 7

In The Futile Pursuit of Happiness, JON GERTNER writes,
we overestimate the intensity and the duration of our emotional reactions -- our ''affect'' -- to future events. In other words, we might believe that a new BMW will make life perfect. But it will almost certainly be less exciting than we anticipated; nor will it excite us for as long as predicted....[T]est participants through the years have consistently made just these sorts of errors both in the laboratory and in real-life situations....On average, bad events proved less intense and more transient than test participants predicted. Good events proved less intense and briefer as well.

Thursday, September 4

Jonathan Watts reports:
Authorities in the Chinese capital unveiled plans yesterday for a "morality-evaluation index" that will rank communities according to the refinement and ethical virtue of their residents and local environment.
The ten criteria for rating neighbourhoods that Watts singles out:
  • Patriotic spirit

  • Shared housework

  • Potted plants per family

  • Books per family

  • Rubbish separation

  • Licence violations by karaoke bars and internet cafes

  • Politeness

  • Spitting

  • Traffic accidents involving residents

  • Noise complaints

He also mentions these in the body of the article:
  • regularly reading a newspaper

  • alcohol abuse

  • pollution

  • speaking a foreign language (ahem!)

Of course it's a little odd to us. (Although some US homeowners' associations do have intrusive rules, the residents generally agree to them when they move in.) I'm guessing the Beijing one about "politeness" doesn't mean politeness to one's family & close friends so much as to outsiders.
An article in China Daily discusses how several creative people are contributing to the development of the Chinese language. It's a strangely mixed bag; although Jin Yong is a popular writer of martial arts novels (The Deer and the Cauldron has been translated into English), he's not considered very literary, and intellectuals consider Qiong Yao's novels to be pretty trashy. (She's a Taiwanese writer; perhaps the mainland authorities are trying to reach out to Taiwan.) On the other hand, the literary reputations of Wong Kar-Wai, Bei Dao, and Wang Shuo are much better--Geremie Barm� discusses Wang Shuo at length (Please don't call me human and Playing for thrills have been translated into English) and Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai is an international favorite among cinema buffs.

And note that the title of the article doesn't make sense and that it gets Wong Kar-Wai's name wrong.

Wednesday, September 3

Prince Roy and his commentators have lots of interesting stuff to say about Kristof's NY Times piece comparing Russia & China.

Prince Roy also has an item about US Korean War POWs who wanted to live in Maoist China.
A better tomorrow has gone to Taiwan, and has many interesting posts, including one on Taiwanese pearl milk tea vs. the mainland version.
China Denying AIDS Makes It Worse By MARGARET WONG writes that Human Rights Watch criticizes China's AIDS policy of denial & discrimination.
Macabe Keliher of the Asia Times reports:
Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu received a rude change to her summer travel plans. After helping inaugurate Paraguay's new president, Lu's itinerary was to put her in the US city of Seattle to tour the Boeing factory, among other things. But while still in the Southern Hemisphere, and just a few days before the scheduled factory tour, the Taiwanese entourage received a call. "Boeing called and said it was not convenient for me to visit," Lu told Asia Times Online.

History's first female Chinese vice president was angry, but by no means surprised. "My first reaction was to just forget it," she said, "but I was very unhappy that Boeing yielded to pressure from [mainland] China. It comes as a humiliation to myself as the vice president, and to the Taiwan people."
I thought it was funny that Boeing's excuse was "it was not convenient". "It's not convenient" is what the Chinese often say when Americans would say "no".

As for the reporter, he says "[mainland] China" I guess because he wants to stay on China's good side.

Tuesday, September 2

The BBC reports, New Taiwanese passports are being issued on Monday, with the word Taiwan printed on the front for the first time.
The decision has been denounced by China as an excuse for the province to pursue independence.
Note from the picture the word "Taiwan" is in English. As Huang Tai-lin reports, the word "Taiwan" is in Roman script: the Communist Party is mostly worried about other countries taking Taiwan seriously.

I wonder why the BEEB uses passive voice here? Is the fact of denunciation really more important than the fact that it's China making the denunciation?

Monday, September 1

On NPR, ROB GIFFORD interviews a young Chinese woman who says:
The situation now in North Korea is something like the situation in China while we in cultural revolution. So I was so surprised 'cause China is more open and more urban. So we have much freedom. North Korea people--they don't have the same right, the same freedom as we have.

GIFFORD: When Chinese people stop pitying those in other countries for having a lack of freedom, you know something's changing. China may still be run by a Communist Party, but it's being transformed so rapidly that's it's completely unrecognizable from persistently Stalinist North Korea.
In China Is Resisting Pressure to Relax Rate for Currency, Peter S. Goodman points out that
while some U.S. industries, such as textiles and furniture, have been hammered by cheap Chinese imports, others benefit from the low yuan. U.S.-based multinational companies such as Dell Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. use cheap labor here to make products that are shipped for sale in other markets; if the yuan rose in value against the dollar, it would raise these companies' labor costs because they would need more dollars to pay the same salaries here. And with a fixed currency, companies that make and sell goods within China, potentially the world's largest consumer market, are girded against any change to the lucrative status quo...

many economists take issue with the notion that China's economic growth is a malevolent force. Consumers around the world are enjoying ever lower prices for a widening range of goods produced here. More and more of China's new wealth is being spent on imported goods, fueling growth in other economies, particularly in Southeast Asia and Japan.

"Everyone is focusing on what China is exporting, but in fact China is creating lots of jobs," said Nicholas R. Lardy, a China expert at the Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Many analysts say China is being cast as a scapegoat for manufacturing weakness in countries that would be suffering the pains of such restructuring regardless.

"The U.S. simply cannot have manufacturing," said Larry Lang, chairman of the department of finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "It's not the American comparative advantage. There's no point in focusing on China. Even if these cheap products weren't coming in from China, they would be coming in from the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia. This debate is all politics, not economics."

The perception of China as an economic threat is largely the result of its exports....But China's imports are growing faster than its exports...

the strongest argument for holding the line was voiced indirectly on a recent afternoon outside the deafening assembly line at Galanz by a former farmer named Sang Zeyang. He left his village in inland Anhui province to look for a way to sustain his wife and two children. He found it here, making ovens for families in lands he can only imagine.

"In Anhui, I had no work," he said. "We lived on several thousand renminbi a year [about $400.] Here, I make more than 1,000 renminbi in a single month."