Sunday, February 29

Discussing the self-confidence, dignity and optimism of young Indians working call center jobs, Thomas L. Friedman says,
Five months ago, I was in Ramallah, on the West Bank, talking to three young Palestinian men, also in their 20's, one of whom was studying engineering. Their hero was Yasir Arafat. They talked about having no hope, no jobs and no dignity, and they each nodded when one of them said they were all "suicide bombers in waiting."

What am I saying here? That it's more important for young Indians to have jobs than Americans? Never. But I am saying that there is more to outsourcing than just economics. There's also geopolitics. It is inevitable in a networked world that our economy is going to shed certain low-wage, low-prestige jobs. To the extent that they go to places like India or Pakistan — where they are viewed as high-wage, high-prestige jobs — we make not only a more prosperous world, but a safer world for our own 20-year-olds.
We also learn that he's originally from Minnesota, near Canada, and so can teach a Canadian accent.
According to EMILY EAKIN, T. H. Breen's The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence claims that

Even before America was a nation, Mr. Breen insists, it was a society of consumers.

Deceptively simple, his argument goes like this: two and a half million strong and scattered along 1,800 miles of coastline, the colonists had little in common besides a weakness for what Samuel Adams derisively termed "the Baubles of Britain." When Britain imposed stiff taxes on this appetite for stuff — without granting any political representation — Americans responded with an ingenious invention with instant and widespread appeal: the consumer boycott. By the time the First Continental Congress was convened in September 1774, transforming mass consumer mobilization into a successful political rebellion was a relatively straightforward task...

Or, as he put it on the telephone, "the American revolution has a bourgeois foundation, but it's no less radical for that."
Say No More, about dying languages, By JACK HITT:
The Kawesqar are famous for their adaptation to this cold, rainy world of islands and channels. The first Europeans were stunned. The Kawesqar and the other natives of the region traveled in canoes, naked, oiled with blubber, occasionally wearing an animal skin. The men sat at the front and hunted sea lions with spears. The women paddled. The children stayed in the sanctuary between their parents, maintaining fire in a sand pit built in the middle of the canoe. Keeping fire going in a land of water was the most critical and singular adaptation of the Kawesqar. As a result, fire blazed continuously in canoes and at the occasional landfall. The first European explorers marveled at the sight of so much fire in a wet and cold climate, and the Spanish named the southernmost archipelago the land of fire, Tierra del Fuego...

According to Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine, authors of ''Vanishing Voices,'' the last time human language faced such a crisis of collapse was when we invented farming, around 8000 B.C., during the switch-over from highly mobile hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture. Then the multitude of idioms developed on the run cohered into language families, like Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Elamo-Dravidian. The difference this time is that with each language gone, we may also lose whatever knowledge and history were locked up in its stories and myths, along with the human consciousness embedded in its grammatical structure and vocabulary.
He refers to Kenan Malik's "Let Them Die"
When Nettle and Romaine suggest, in Vanishing Voices, that 'the right of people to exist, to practice and produce their own language and culture, should be inalienable', they are conflating two kinds of rights - individual rights and group rights. An individual certainly has the right to speak whatever language he or she wants, and to engage in whatever cultural practices they wish to in private. But it is not incumbent on anyone to listen to them, nor to provide resources for the preservation of either their language or their culture. The reason that Eyak will soon be extinct is not because Marie Smith Jones has been denied her rights, but because no one else wants to, or is capable of, speaking the language. This might be tragic for Marie Smith Jones - and frustrating for professional linguists - but it is not a question of rights. Neither a culture, nor a way of life, nor yet a language, has a God-given 'right to exist'.

Language campaigners also confuse political oppression and the loss of cultural identity. Some groups - such as Turkish Kurds - are banned from using their language as part of a wider campaign by the Turkish state to deny Kurds their rights. But most languages die out, not because they are suppressed, but because native speakers yearn for a better life. Speaking a language such as English, French or Spanish, and discarding traditional habits, can open up new worlds and is often a ticket to modernity. But it is modernity itself of which Nettles and Romaine disapprove. They want the peoples of the Third World, and minority groups in the West, to follow 'local ways of life' and pursue 'traditional knowledge' rather than receive a 'Western education'. This is tantamount to saying that such people should live a marginal life, excluded from the modern mainstream to which the rest of us belong. There is nothing noble or authentic about local ways of life; they are often simply degrading and backbreaking. 'Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial for a Breton or a Basque to be a member of the French nationality, admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship... than to sulk on his own rocks, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world.' So wrote John Stuart Mill more than a century ago. It would have astonished him that in the twenty-first century there are those who think that sulking on your own rock is a state worth preserving.
Hitt doesn't like this, but he reveals the Kawesqar were installing their first flushable toilet:
Does anything say Western dominance quite like the flush of a private john?
He has an amusing anecdote about another dying language:
I discovered that the ''last speaker'' of Yaghan is accustomed to charging passengers from the cruise ship that arrives each week for the privilege of taking her picture or hearing a few of the last words in her unusual-sounding language. From me she wanted impossible sums of money. When I tried to sneak in early one morning for a quick interview, word traveled in the village so fast that within minutes her granddaughter/booking agent was through the door and a screaming match broke out (not in Yaghan).

That night, Aguilera and I decided to pursue a rumor that there was in fact another Yaghan, a penultimate speaker named Emelinda, who hadn't mastered the cruise-ship racket. We managed to get inside Emelinda's house without attracting attention.

She was a kind old woman whose Yaghan, according to Aguilera, was authentic. Our conversation was brief and brittle. When I asked Emelinda what could be done to keep Yaghan alive, she said she was already doing it, as if a formal program were under way.

''I talk to myself in Yaghan,'' Emelinda explained in Spanish. ''When I hang up my clothes outside, I say the words in Yaghan. Inside the house, I talk in Yaghan all day long.''

I asked her if she ever had a conversation with the only other person in the world who could easily understand her, Cristina Calderón, the official ''last speaker'' of Yaghan.

''No,'' Emelinda said impatiently, as if I'd brought up a sore topic. ''The two of us don't talk.''
And finally:
In America, the drift in high-school curriculums has always been toward a second dominant language -- French, Spanish, German, maybe Chinese if you're a rebel.

Saturday, February 28

The Beeb reports Tories disown cockler joke MP but won't say what it was. Yahoo-AFP reports:
She reportedly referred to two sharks who were sick of eating tuna and so one said: "Let's go to Morecambe for a Chinese."

Mr Howard said: "Ann Winterton's remarks about the tragic deaths in Morecambe Bay were completely unacceptable. Such sentiments have no place in the Conservative Party...

Two years ago she was sacked as shadow rural affairs minister by then leader Iain Duncan Smith after she joked about Asians being "10 a penny" during a speech at a rugby club dinner in her constituency.
Insensitive, definitely. But racist?
Bush Ejects Two From Bioethics Council: Changes Renew Criticism That the President Puts Politics Ahead of Science By Rick Weiss:
President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his handpicked Council on Bioethics -- a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."..

The three new appointees are Benjamin Carson, the high-profile director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University; Diana Schaub, chairman of the department of political science at Loyola College in Maryland; and Peter Lawler, a professor of government at Berry College in Georgia. All are respected members of their fields. And their writings suggest their tenures will be less contentious than their predecessors'.

When not performing some of the most difficult surgeries in the world, Carson is a motivational speaker who often invokes religion and the Bible and has lamented that "we live in a nation where we can't talk about God in public."
Jesus fucking Christ. These guys talk about God all the fucking time. Bush's anti-gay stuff annoyed me, but I was going to grit my teeth and go along with it. He's about to lose my vote.

Phew, that sure made me mad; I wouldn't have thought something like that could get to me. I'm still pretty annoyed. I should remember that next time I see someone else frothing at the mouth about something that's really irrelevant.

Thursday, February 26

The Daily Ablution links to Italians play gay to avoid army service, which reveals what the authorities no doubt think is a clever way to figure out who's gay.
Italian military conscripts have to undergo an attitude test in which they are asked such searching questions as: "do you like flowers", "do you like women" and "have you ever felt yourself attracted to members of your own sex".
Actually, I like women and flowers. As a matter of fact, I sowed about 50 Gloxinia July 13, and they germinated August 3. A couple dozen are still growing; they seem to have started to grow a little faster in the past few weeks.
The next time I need to figure out who's partisan, I can consult lying in ponds. Judging by this list, I almost never read the more partisan ones.
Nicholas Kristof:
Arabs erupt at every outrage by Israel, but seem unmoved when Arabs abuse other Arabs.
The majority of U.S. adults are overweight, nearly one in five are daily smokers, and one in five consumed at least five alcoholic drinks in a day at least once in a year
according to a report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.
John Pomfret, a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, was named yesterday as the winner of the second annual Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism from the Asia Society.
Of course, he's not a China correspondent anymore.
At, Andrea Hopkins writes:
The fury over Mankiw's open declaration of what many consider a core tenet of economics -- that a free flow of goods and services benefits consumers over time by lowering prices -- sent a ripple of self-censorship through political circles. This is not the year to muse about the benefits of free trade....

"There's no question that this would not be as much of an issue if it was the first year of a presidential term instead of the last year," said Catherine Mann, an economist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Institute for International Economics in Washington...

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan -- who is appointed, not elected -- has been one of the few prominent officials to warn against attacks on free trade, saying more attention should be paid to boosting the skills of American workers to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

While acknowledging the pain inflicted by the outsourcing trend, Greenspan said it had opened a worrying chasm between those hurt by the phenomenon and economists who back the benefits of trade liberalization...

Still, Mann believes political rhetoric may cool once the campaign spotlight dims, as lawmakers -- already struggling with tight budgets -- tally the cost of paying U.S. workers to provide work that can be done much more cheaply overseas.

"When people start to cost out some of these restrictions, the legislation quietly goes away," Mann said.

Besides, she argued, all the attention might just prompt politicians to begin the painful task of reshaping the U.S. workforce for the future -- a process that will require big changes in education and retraining programs.

In a subscription-only article from the Financial Times, CHRISTOPHER SWANN writes of Nafta & US jobs:
While jobs have been lost in some sectors, they say the agreement's overall impact has been beneficial. As Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics think-tank in Washington, points out: "The problem for advocates of the pact is that the losers from free trade are easy to identify and have faces, whereas those who have benefited are invisible and unaware they have been helped. The costs are highly concentrated and the gains are larger but diverse."

Because the benefits of free trade are delivered by countries focusing on areas in which they have a comparative advantage, some gross job losses from free trade are inevitable. If workers are able to move smoothly from declining to growing sectors, however, this should be more than offset by net job creation elsewhere.

"Since the US is widely seen as the world's great example of a flexible labour market, it might be expected to be a beneficiary from free trade," says Bruce Kasman, head of economic research at JP Morgan...

If some Americans have seen their jobs disappear it is because they have been undercut on price, says Mr Hufbauer.

"This means cheaper goods, which raises the spending power of everyone else and this should be positive for employment," he says. "It makes no sense for the US to be producing goods that can be produced elsewhere more cheaply."

Wednesday, February 25

Robert B. Reich had this commentary on marketplace:
Every Democratic candidate knows the only way out of this box is by growing the economy faster. That means that once the Democrats have selected a nominee, the big economic debate dividing Democrats and Republicans will be how best to grow the economy.

Republicans think you grow the economy by giving rich people tax breaks so they'll turn around and invest in new factories and equipment and research and development.
Of course he goes on to argue in favor of having the government decide how to spend people's money, but the Republican solution sounds good to me. At the same time, the two parties don't sound all that far apart.

Tuesday, February 24

Three cheers for Yu Pengfei!
"China is a developing country," Yu Pengfei, a city employee and critic of the bike ban, was quoted as saying in Shanghai Daily. "Instead of banning bicycles, the government should consider banning private cars in certain areas."
From Shanghai May Relent on Bicycle Ban By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN.

Sunday, February 22

Even as a non-believer, I can only say the question of What Did Jesus Really Look Like? is totally irrelevant.
According to the CDC report Trends in Intake of Energy and Macronutrients --- United States, 1971--2000, total reported daily calorie intake increased for both men and women. For men, the increase was on the order of about 170 calories and for women over 300 calories. Despite a decrease in the percentage of calories from fat during part of the period, there was an increase in total calories consumed; absolute fat intake in grams increased. (Link thanks to Ruth Kava).
Back on Wednesday November 19, 2003, the Guardian amongst others printed DARLENE SUPERVILLE's report Lack of Arabic Translators Hurting U.S., but it's now only available in Google's cache. Anyway, the key quote:
"It's easier to train someone to fly an F-14 than it is to speak Arabic," said Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association.
So what is speaking Chinese harder than? Flying an EP-3 or an F-8 jet?

Saturday, February 21

I wonder if I'll have time to read Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, maybe even in the original. Maybe not.
A couple of items from the Atlantic.

According to I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook
With respect to [the great piece of shit Kim Jong Il's] rice, before cooking it a waiter and a kitchen staff member would inspect it grain by grain. Chipped and defective grains were extracted; only those with perfect form were presented.
Caitlin Flanagan cites The Equality Trap, where she writes that Mary Ann Mason
reveals that there were in fact two distinct groups of mothers who entered the work force in the 1970s, for two distinct sets of reasons. There were middle-class women, fed up with housework and eager for the challenge, the respite, the intellectual engagement, of work....It is these women, and now their daughters...who have driven a tremendous amount of the public debate and policy on the subject of working mothers.

But there was a second group of women, a quieter and more invisible group, who were not at all pleased as punch. Mason writes,
The dramatic shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, which occurred in the seventies, rendered the concept of a "family wage," earned by a relatively well-paid union member father, an anachronism. Their husbands' lower wages were driving mothers into the labor market in unprecedented numbers.
The feminist movement, from its earliest days, has always proceeded from the assumption that all women—rich and poor—constitute a single class, and that all members of the class are, by virtue simply of being female, oppressed. In many regards this was once entirely true: all women were denied the vote; employment law discriminated against all women; and all women lacked the right to legal abortion. But this paradigm has led to a new assumption: that all working mothers—rich and poor—constitute a single class, that they are all similarly oppressed, and that they are united in a struggle against common difficulties. At its best this is vaguely well-intentioned but sloppy thinking. At its worst it is brutal and self-serving and shameful thinking.
Typical sanctimonious bullshit, where certain parties, in this case on the left, presume to know what is better for everyone else.

On the other hand, although much of what Flanagan says seems to be the product of much soul-searching, I can't help but feel some of her concerns about caring for children, as nuanced as they are, are a little overwrought. That's what she gets for the nuance!
Rock-a-Bye-Bye Baby: Saudis to Ban Lifelike Dolls by Adnan Malik
Even stuffed animals that look too much like the real thing are out on the grounds that they violate Islamic law.
It's easy to laugh. But then we like to try to suppress depictions of unclothed people.
China Likely to Dominate Textile Trade By Evelyn Iritani.
The ITC report probably will fuel an election-year push by U.S. manufacturers for increased protection from China.
Economists say the elimination of quotas
probably will accelerate the loss of jobs from higher-cost U.S. clothing manufacturers, including some in Southern California. But it will lower prices for retailers and other importers, which can pass along those savings to consumers.
Consumers! One doesn't hear a lot about them!
China's rulers to aid farmers
Many farmers struggle with primitive tools and harsh conditions
China's top governing bodies have set out new policies to close the wealth gap between farmers and city dwellers, the official news service has said.


Farmers' protests against unfair, unaffordable and arbitrary taxes imposed by local officials are commonplace in China.
No word on how the government is going to keep local officials in line. It's hard enough keeping informed about what's going on at the local level: Rosy Reports From Underlings Leave Chinese Leaders in the Dark: Workers are conditioned to give bosses only good news By Mark Magnier:
Leaders in every nation face problems marshaling information to make good policy. But China's systemic limits on telling the truth arguably result in a less solid foundation for making decisions and a longer lead time before the "Houston, we have a problem" message hits their desks.


Although reforms are underway across Chinese society and the new leadership appears to be more open, there are clear limits. Newspapers still downplay or ignore sensitive topics in favor of positive news. Civic groups are in their infancy and are closely watched. There is no political opposition. The Internet is restricted. And the glass is mostly half full when it comes to official Communist Party and government reports.

"Traditionally, our way of handling bad information has been to keep it secret," said Ma Ling, a biographer of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. "With SARS, they realized they were getting information late. It was a real turning point in Chinese politics."

Although the severe acute respiratory syndrome fallout made pointedly clear the cost of traditional Chinese information policies and the benefits of more accurate reporting, analysts say old habits die hard in a system that has long relied on party reports, news organizations and personal emissaries to inform decision makers. Nor is it clear whether these lessons will stick without pressure from the top.

Government and party reports are among the most formal information sources for China's decision makers. But their authors remain under some pressure to support the leaders' current campaign — or say what they think leaders want to hear, analysts say.

"Generally there's a 90% gap between what's in the reports and reality," one party member said. "I know. I worked as a party secretary and had to draft many of those reports."


Many information channels, historians say, echo those used by Chinese emperors hundreds of years ago.

"Hu and Wen sending private emissaries to get information in secret, for example, is exactly like the Song Dynasty," which lasted from 960 to 1279, said Deng Xiaonan, a Beijing University history professor.
Tung Chee-hwa, running dog

Hong Kong Leader Urges Patriotism, Reform By MARGARET WONG.
"I hope everyone can view the matter in a farsighted manner, standing firmly from a point of view patriotic to both China and Hong Kong, and seriously considering the matter calmly and rationally," Tung said.

"By patriotic we mean people who respect our nationality, who wholeheartedly support 'one country, two systems,' and who won't do anything to damage the interests of China and Hong Kong," he said.

Thursday, February 19

Thinking about language standards, I did a search for "Academie Francaise" "Jack Lang" "Minister of Culture", and the sole hit was this from The Buggy Professor. Things are worse than I thought.
Hong Kong Reminded That China Is in Charge: Beijing Issues Warnings Against Direct Elections By Edward Cody.
In a statement last week issued through the official New China News Agency, government authorities in Beijing recalled the admonition of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping that Hong Kong must be ruled by "patriots," meaning politicians loyal to the central government. At the same time, again speaking through an official news agency statement, Chinese authorities explained that "one country" is the premise on which "two systems" depends, suggesting Beijing's authority has to come first in any disagreement.
So let's just say, "one country, one system".
Awhile ago we saw The Devil's Disciple (1959), with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, and Janette Scott. Aside from Scott's role being pretty pathetic, and a ridiculous action sequence, it was pretty good. They changed a few things, but it was generally faithful to George Bernard Shaw's play. However, the play does a better job of explaining Scott's character. In speaking of the American rebels, Olivier's Burgoyne says,
Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like: it is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.
Nice line. It was also interesting to see that the historical Burgoyne was himself a playright.
Democrats Can't Get Firm Grip on Jobs Issue By Jonathan Weisman:
Democratic presidential candidates have made the loss of U.S. jobs to international competition the centerpiece of their campaigns, but even some of the candidates' economic advisers acknowledge that remedies offered -- such as closing tax loopholes on overseas income and offering tax breaks for domestic hiring -- would probably do little to stop the bleeding.


The movement of jobs to low-wage countries such as China, India and Mexico has been driven by powerful forces of economic globalization that may be beyond a politician's control, economists say. The two leading Democratic candidates have fallen back largely on one economic factor that Washington does control: the tax code.


But virtually no one would say that taxes are a primary -- or even a significant -- factor in the movement of as many as 300,000 white-collar jobs and many more manufacturing jobs abroad in the past several years. No matter how sweet the tax incentive is to expand in India, for instance, it could not be more enticing than lowering a software developer's pay from $60 to $6 an hour, a figure cited recently by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Hypocrital Democrats.

Wednesday, February 18

Power and Population in Asia By Nicholas Eberstadt:
Between 2000 and 2025 China’s median age is set to rise very substantially: from about 30 to around 39. According to unpd projections for 2025, in fact, China’s median age will be higher than America’s. The impending tempo of population aging in China is very nearly as rapid as anything history has yet seen. It will be far faster than what was recorded in the more developed regions over the past three decades and is exceeded only by Japan. There is a crucial difference, however, between Japan’s recent past and China’s prospective future. To put the matter bluntly, Japan became rich before it became old; China will do things the other way around. When Japan had the same proportion of population 65 and older as does China today (2000), its level of per capita output was three times higher than China’s is now. In 2025, 13.4 percent of China’s population is projected to be 65-plus; when Japan crossed the 13.4 percent threshold, its per capita gdp was approaching $20,000 a year (constant 1990 ppp dollars). One need not be a “Sino-pessimist” to suggest that China will be nowhere near that same economic marker 22 years from now.

Although China’s population will hardly be as elderly as Japan’s by 2025, its impending aging process promises to generate problems of a sort that Japan does not have to face. The first relates to its national pension system: Japan’s may be financially vulnerable, but China’s is nonexistent. Government or enterprise-based retirement programs cover only about one-sixth of the contemporary Chinese work force — and nearly all of the pieces in this haphazard patchwork are amazingly unsound in actuarial terms. Although Chinese leadership has been committed since 1997 to establishing a sturdy and universal social security system, actions to date have lagged far behind words and the system remains only in the planning stage.

For most aging Chinese today, the pension system is the family, and even with continuing national economic progress, Chinese families are likely to be placed under mounting pressure by the swelling ranks of seniors. By 2025, there will be nearly 300 million members of China’s 60-plus population, but, at the same time, the cohorts rising into that pool will be the same people who accounted for China’s sub-replacement fertility patterns in the early 1990s and thereafter. Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. One need not be a novelist to imagine the intense social tensions such conditions could engender (to say nothing of the personal and humanitarian tragedies).

Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries: The employment structure is weighted toward categories more likely to require intense manual labor, and even ostensibly non-manual positions may require considerable physical stamina. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives.

Data on the health status of older people in China and other countries tend to be spotty and problematic, and comparability of method can never be taken for granted. However, some of the survey data that are available through Réseau sur l’Espérance de Vie en Santé (reves), the international network of “health expectancy” researchers, are thought-provoking. According to a 1989–90 “health expectancy” study for Sichuan province, a person 60 years of age would spend less than half (48 percent) of his or her remaining years in passable health. By contrast, a study in West Germany for 1986 calculated that a 60-year-old woman could expect to spend 70 percent of her remaining time in “good health.” For men the fraction was 75 percent. Although one probably should not push those findings too far, they are certainly consistent with the proposition that China’s seniors are more brittle than older populations from more comfortable and prosperous locales.

Thus, China’s rapidly graying population appears to face a triple bind. Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in oecd countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas.
For the references, see the original.
Hailey Xie's journal

Nutrition Making for Bigger Kids in China but
Almost a quarter of children in Shanghai, China's most prosperous city, are reported to be malnourished because they eat too much junk food and not enough fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, February 17

'Black Hand' of 1989 China Protests Back at Work:
A Chinese academic branded a "black hand" mastermind of the 1989 Tiananmen protests has quietly returned to work at a private think-tank 15 years after many of its researchers were jailed, sources said on Tuesday.

Chen Ziming, 52, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail, resumed work at the Beijing Social Economic Research Institute in late January, a development analysts saw as evidence China's new generation of rulers, led by Communist Party chief Hu Jintao, are more tolerant than their predecessors.
The think-tank can't afford to rent an office, but they've got a website: 北京社会经济科学研究所.

Monday, February 16

Incense Blamed for One of Two Deadly China Fires:
In Wufeng, site of the temple fire, a local government official said investigators suspected the blaze was caused by incense offerings.

But it was not the final conclusion and Yan Caihong, a resident of Qunle village about 10 miles away, said by telephone that it may have been caused by smoldering cigarette.

"The fire was caused by a woman smoking cigarettes outside. She's still alive," Yang told Reuters.

Police arrested a man they said had organized the prayer session in the thatched, bamboo hut, which was less than 650 square feet, Xinhua said.

Police and state media said the villagers were engaging in "superstitious activities" -- banned after the Communists took power in 1949 and cracked down on an array of beliefs, including traditional folk religions common in the vast countryside.
The government's really reaching here.

Sunday, February 15

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN writes on a conference called "Fear: Its Uses and Abuses":
...the dominant idea was that, as the conference's thematic statement put it, fear was being "encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media."

...after a while it became evident that "fear itself" was what many speakers wanted to inspire, not just to describe.

For the most part...fear of the administration was strenuously cultivated.


There was a reluctance to use the concept of an enemy to refer to anything but domestic political opponents.
Human Cloning Marches On, Without U.S. Help:
...if American researchers lose their technical lead, Washington will also forfeit the chance to set the ethical rules of the game.

...last week's announcement in Seoul highlighted the limits of the American approach. The rest of the world is not standing still, and deriving new cell lines is an important part of progress.

"By this policy we are ceding leadership in what may be one of the most important medical advances for the next 10 to 15 years," said Dr. Irving Weissman, a stem cell researcher at Stanford University. He also expressed disappointment that the Korean advance could not have been made in the United States. "That's a very telling lesson for us,'' he said. "It says we are going to watch it happen."


Politics aside, Dr. Kass and many other ethicists feel strongly that medical progress is not an absolute good that should be allowed to override all other values, like the natural limits on human life and the cycle of generations...
All in all, another triumph for the backward-looking.
Speaking of jobs, awhile ago the Economist pointed out that NAFTA wasn't actually meant to create jobs:
So far as its economic effects are concerned, the right question to ask of NAFTA is simply whether it indeed succeeded in stimulating trade and investment. The answer is clear: it did (see charts). In 1990 the United States' exports to, and imports from, Canada and Mexico accounted for about a quarter of its trade; now they account for about a third. That is a dramatic switch, especially when one notes that the United States' non-NAFTA trade has itself grown strongly over the period. There is plenty of economic evidence to suggest that expanded trade, as a rule, raises incomes and future rates of growth. So it is pretty clear that NAFTA achieved as much as one could sensibly have expected it to achieve.
Well, you can't see the charts unless you have a subscription.
EDUARDO PORTER reports on The Bright Side of Sending Jobs Overseas:
... while debate is raging over globalization's costs and benefits, Mr. Mankiw's comments are based on solid, age-old economic arguments. Most economists agree that higher productivity - whether it comes from trade, outsourcing or technology - is good, even when it creates pain for many workers.

"Outsourcing does not reduce the total number of jobs in America," said Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. "If other countries can do something cheaper we ought to let them do it, and concentrate on what we can do best."

Indeed, despite the hemorrhage of jobs since Mr. Bush took office, the past performance of the American economy - particularly the pattern of job creation and destruction over the past several years - supports Mr. Mankiw's case.

In many ways, the economists' argument for outsourcing is as straightforward as the case for importing products. If an Indian software programmer is paid a tenth of an American's salary, a company that develops software in India will save money and - provided competitors do the same - the price of its software will fall, productivity will rise, the technology will spread, and new jobs will be created to adapt and improve it.


A report released last December by Catherine L. Mann of the Institute for International Economics, a Washington research group that backs free trade, calculated that lower costs due to globalized production accounted for 10 percent to 30 percent of the decline in hardware prices during the technology boom of the second half of the 1990's, when computer prices fell 10 percent a year.

...lower prices also muted inflation, allowing interest rates to be lower than they otherwise would be - thus boosting investment and growth. And the Asian countries that made computers and chips spent some earnings buying other American services - like legal and financial assistance.
Catherine L. Mann's pdf article here.

STEVE LOHR writes:
Senator John Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, castigates "Benedict Arnold companies and C.E.O.'s" for moving jobs overseas.


Senator Kerry introduced federal legislation last November that would require call center operators to disclose where they are located.


These steps, some economists warn, are part of a misguided drift toward protectionism that would increase costs to consumers, make American businesses less competitive and risk more trade conflict.

"This anxiety about outsourcing is not a bad thing, as long as it forces you to make the right choices," said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a professor of economics at Columbia University. "You have to move on and upgrade your skills. We have no choice. And America, as probably the most innovative society in the world, does a pretty good job of it."
Kerry's lost my vote.
Thomas L. Friedman says:
The terrorists know that if they can wreak enough havoc, kill enough Iraqis waiting in line to join their own police force, they can prevent the U.N. from coming up with a plan for elections and a stable transfer of U.S. authority to an Iraqi government. Once authority is in Iraqi hands, the Baathists and Islamists have a real problem: They can't even pretend to be fighting the U.S. anymore. It will be clear to all Arabs and Muslims that they are fighting against the freedom and independence of Iraq and for their own lunatic ideologies. Which is why they are desperate to prevent us from reaching that tipping point. Their strategy is to sow chaos, defeat President Bush and hope that his Democratic successor will pull out. Which is also why at this moment the most important statement on Iraq that can be made — one that could even save lives — is nothing President Bush could say. No, the most important statement on Iraq right now could only come from the likely Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry.
Over to you, JFK.
Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China: Pakistanis Resold Chinese-Provided Plans By Joby Warrick and Peter Slevin.
U.S. intelligence officials concluded years ago that China provided early assistance to Pakistan in building its first nuclear weapon -- assistance that appeared to have ended in the 1980s. Still, weapons experts familiar with the blueprints expressed surprise at what they described as a wholesale transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to another country. Notes included in the package of documents suggest that China continued to mentor Pakistani scientists on the finer points of bomb-building over a period of several years, the officials said.

China's actions "were irresponsible and short-sighted, and raise questions about what else China provided to Pakistan's nuclear program," said David Albright, a nuclear physicist and former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. "These documents also raise questions about whether Iran, North Korea and perhaps others received these documents from Pakistanis or their agents."


"This design would be highly useful to countries such as Iran and North Korea," said Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security has studied the nonconventional weapons programs of both states. The design "appears deliverable by North Korea's Nodong missile, Iran's Shahab-3 missile and ballistic missiles Iraq was pursuing just prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War," he said.

Such a relatively simple design also might be coveted by terrorist groups who seek nuclear weapons but lack the technical sophistication or infrastructure to build a modern weapon, said one Europe-based weapons expert familiar with the blueprints. While such a bomb would be difficult to deliver by air, "you could drive it away in a pickup truck," the expert said.

The device depicted in the blueprints appears similar to a weapon known to have been tested by China in the 1960s, officials familiar with the documents said. Although of an older design, the bomb is an implosion device that is smaller and more sophisticated than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Implosion bombs use precision-timed conventional explosives to squeeze a sphere of fissile material and trigger a nuclear chain reaction.


The evidence of China's transfer of nuclear plans to Pakistan confirms something that U.S. officials have believed since at least the early 1980s. A declassified State Department report on Pakistan's nuclear program written in 1983 concluded that China had "provided assistance" to Pakistan's bomb-making program. "We now believe cooperation has taken place in the area of fissile material production and possibly nuclear device design," the report said.

While the discovery of direct evidence of such cooperation was disturbing, it was noteworthy that China's views on proliferation have changed dramatically since the 1980s, and its leaders now generally cooperate with the United States and other countries in stopping the leaking of sensitive weapons technology, said Jonathan Wolfsthal, a nonproliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Aside from the wholesale transfer of sensitive nuclear technology, there's no real big surprise. The Chinese got a lot of help from the Russkies with that 60's design, although what I've seen gives them credit for remarkable progress. I do wonder if espionage was involved.

Saturday, February 14

David Brooks points out that
Massive retaliation works. We now know that Saddam Hussein felt free to defy the international community because he thought that casualty-averse Americans would never actually invade his country. At worst, we'd drop a few bombs, which he could survive. Now our enemies know us better, and respect us more.
Jessica Seigel complains about push-up bras. She claims when lingerie manufacturers stopped selling supportive bras, breasts ballooned, bras shrank, and
women turned to implants. They paid for 225,818 augmentations in 2002, according to American Society of Plastic Surgeons member reporting. Demand for breast implants and lifts rose 584 percent in the last decade — a higher increase than any other cosmetic surgery, ahead even of slimming procedures like liposuction (up 333 percent) and tummy tucks (up 392 percent).

Now we are so accustomed to stick-thin celebrities, models, beauty queens and our neighbors displaying orb-like breasts that it's difficult to believe (or remember) that this shape is rarely found in nature. But the drastic changes in the feminine silhouette in the last 100 years tell the story.

In the latter 19th century, women's most important undergarment was the corset, which cinched the waist but did little to support the breasts. Instead women had a low-hanging monobosom, as documented in histories like "Uplift: The Bra in America" by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.

According to their research, the first American patent for a prototypical bra was granted in 1863, but breasts got a life of their own only when bras became de rigueur for the fashionable in the 1930's. The new lift and separation evolved into the torpedo shape of the 1940's, which went nuclear with underwire in the 1950's, when the war's end freed metal for domestic use.

The struggle to buttress what is naturally low-lying has produced its own mythology, like the legend that in the 1940's Howard Hughes used airplane technology to build a better bra for Jane Russell in "The Outlaw." As Miss Russell, the queen of sweater girls, explained in her 1985 autobiography, the "ridiculous" contraption hurt so much that she wore it only a few minutes. Then she secretly slipped back into her old bra, tightened the shoulder straps, and returned to the set. The famed bra ended up in a Hollywood museum — a false witness to the push-up myth.

A British engineering professor, John Tyrer of Loughborough University, risked professional ridicule when he applied science to the brassiere. Using laser tools, he measured how the current minimalist underwire styles unnecessarily shift the full breast load onto the front chest wall, causing pain and discomfort, and even "wire rash," in larger women.

It took a rocket scientist to prove what women complain about in private, but don't act on, believing, or hoping, that a comfortable yet uplifting bra is just another shopping trip away.
First of all, I'm skeptical that it's the fault of the lingerie manufacturers that women are getting implants. I suspect it was changing mores encouraged women to buy increasingly revealing clothing, which leads many of them to get implants. The other thing is, if earlier underwear did "little to support the breasts", why does she want something "uplifting"?
Adam Wolfe says,
France and Germany are pushing for an end to the embargo largely for economic reasons. The E.U. is China's third largest trade partner and, according to an October strategy paper, China expects the E.U. to become its largest source of foreign investment within five years. China's military spending has been growing by an annual rate of 17 percent even though the state has not recently been involved in any major conflicts.

Germany's and France's economies have suffered since the late 1990s and may be subject to E.U. action for government deficit spending above the maximum levels allowed as members in the Union. The coming growth of the E.U. from 15 states to 25 will weaken the two countries' negotiating position within the trading bloc. Both countries are hoping that investment in China will help to pull their economies out of stagnation and near flat growth rates. China has used this situation to make ending the embargo its top priority with the E.U.

The U.S. objects to the dropping of the prohibitions because it threatens to upset the balance of power in the region and because China has not advanced on the human rights issues that triggered the embargos. The lifting of the sanctions will certainly exacerbate the tensions surrounding the March 20 presidential elections in Taiwan. Currently, Taiwan has been protected from a Chinese invasion by U.S. guarantees of security and the island's technological edge. Should weapons sales resume between the E.U. and China, including Mirage jets from France and missiles from Germany, this technological superiority could diminish without the U.S. releasing new weapons to the island for purchase. The possibility of this situation is beginning to stoke the nationalistic streak in Taiwan that even the U.S. has not been able to support.

The economic and geopolitical rise of China also threatens the ability of the U.S. to act as a unique balancing power in the region. As China emerges as a great power, and Japan's slacking economy continues to marginalize its regional influence, the power structures that the U.S. has relied on in the region are being overturned. Although the bilateral security alliance and access to Japanese naval bases will remain important to the U.S. for the foreseeable future, Washington has been trying to maintain its influence in the region through other state players.

Although some individuals in Washington have begun to see China as a security collaborator, rather than a "strategic competitor," the U.S. is not prepared to strengthen the Chinese government's military power out of concern for other regional allies such as Taiwan and South Korea. France and Germany are not as hesitant to disrupt the balance of power in the region because the European powers have not had strong ties with Japan, Taiwan or South Korea.

The U.S. also objects to the dropping of the embargo because the ban was put in place for human rights abuses, and Washington argues that the prohibitions should not be lifted simply in reaction to the liberalization of the Chinese economy. China continues to occupy Tibet and suppress free speech in the press. However, E.U. members claim that China has made progress on these fronts and should not be lumped into the same category as North Korea, Myanmar, Liberia and Sudan.

Even if the E.U. does lift the embargo, which looks increasingly likely, it seems that any weapons sales to China will still be illegal under the 1998 code of conduct on arms exports. As China continues to direct some 450-plus missiles at Taiwan, there is little chance that any long-range missile technology could be sold to the country. Some in the E.U. argue that this code would provide a safety net to the easing of the embargo -- that it would prevent the sale of any technology that could be used to threaten another state.

The motivations for France and Germany are strongly tied to their countries' economic weaknesses. But this may also be one route that the countries are pursuing in the attempt to create a multi-polar world to balance the power of the U.S. This may explain why they are pushing for a vote on the subject before the March inauguration of 10 new members, many of which have close ties to Washington. If the E.U. pursues the path of boosting China to a position to challenge the power in the region that the U.S. currently controls, the effects of this realignment could spread around the world. Any move by the E.U. to arm China will have to account for the reaction that this power shift could unleash.
Via Asia Times

Thursday, February 12

A Kinder View of Uncle Sam: Iranians' Affinity Grows After Encounters With Troops in Iraq
Iranian pilgrims returning from Iraq are spreading admiring stories of their encounters with American troops.
Hastert Rebukes Bush Adviser : Speaker Challenges Mankiw's Statements on U.S. Job Losses. But NPR interviewed Daniel H. Pink, mentioned below.
Ariana Eunjung Cha writes, Fearful Iraqis Weigh Working With U.S.: Bombings at Recruiting Sites Could Hamper Security Handover. But Alissa J. Rubin writes, Strikes at 'Collaborators' Sow Fear but Not Flight: Campaign to intimidate Iraqis working for the occupation is blunted by economic need.
"What we are seeing is that all of these people who are being killed are viewed as collaborators," said Robin Bhatty, a senior analyst for the nonpartisan International Crisis Group's office in Amman, Jordan, who recently visited Iraq. "But these atrocities and attacks don't seem to be having the desired effect on people. People are still applying for these jobs. What we don't know is if the economy were better, whether people would still take these positions."
So far, anyway.
According to a recent study,
Rape is more common on college campuses with higher rates of binge drinking - and alcohol use is a central factor in most college rapes, finds a new study released today.
According to a co-author of the study,
"Men need education about what constitutes rape, and women should be better informed of strategies to avoid risky situations. Previous research shows that more women get raped while under the influence of alcohol than under the influence of any other so-called 'date rape' drug, such as GHB and Rohypnol."


"College prevention programs must give increased attention to educating male students that one of the first questions they must ask themselves before initiating sex with a woman is whether she is capable of giving consent," write the authors of the study. "College men must be educated for their own protection that intoxication is a stop sign for sex. College women need to be warned not only about the vulnerability created by heavy drinking, but also about the extra dangers imposed in situations where many other people are drinking heavily."


College student binge drinking, as defined by College Alcohol Study researchers, is the consumption of five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.
It's funny how people crave the need to relinquish control, even though the consequences can be serious.

Wednesday, February 11

The originator of the designation Third World was a French socialist: Alfred Sauvy, who invented the original French expression in 1952.
I missed this yesterday:
Shipping jobs to low-cost countries is the "latest manifestation of the gains from trade that economists have talked about" for centuries, said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Just as U.S. consumers have enjoyed lower prices from foreign manufacturers, so too should they benefit from services being offered by overseas companies that have lower labor costs, he said...

"I know there will be jobs in the future," Mankiw told reporters at a news conference, "because I know this is a vibrant economy, a dynamic economy."

Those comments echoed a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last month. Greenspan counseled that workers hurt by outsourcing "can be confident that new jobs will displace old ones as they always have."
They're right, but for most people, losing their job is pretty stressful. Sure enough, today:
Democrats from Capitol Hill to the presidential campaign trail lit into President Bush's chief economist yesterday for his laudatory statements on the movement of U.S. jobs abroad, seizing on the comments to paint Bush as out of touch with struggling workers.
Newsweek reported:
And you thought the flap about Super Bowl XXXVIII's halftime show was over Janet Jackson's so-called wardrobe malfunction. Turns out that while jaws were dropping over Jackson's right breast, exposed by duet partner Justin Timberlake at the end of their act, the National Football League was already dealing with another offensive halftime image—the famous, and politically sensitive, still shot of a man blocking a procession of tanks during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The image had just aired as part of an ad encouraging Americans to vote.
(link via Brainysmurf)
I wonder if Splendors of China’s Forbidden City will be as great as one reporter claims. How will it measure up to the collection in the Palace Museum?

Tuesday, February 10

'Vagina Monologues' Silenced Before Shanghai Debut
The word "vagina" is repeated more than 100 times in the play. The slang word for vagina is considered so offensive in China it is usually written as an "X" in print media.
Heh. Shouldn't that be "B"? Anyway, the slang word for vagina is considered so offensive in the USA that it's virtually never seen in "respectable" publications, even with a bowdlerizing asterisk.
Competing to Supply Retail Giants: Report Finds Long Hours, Low Wages for Females By Kirstin Downey does indeed raise the issue in the headline. But she quotes another view at length:
David Dollar, director of development policy research at the World Bank, said the workers' situation needs to be viewed in a larger context. Even if one group appears to be what he called the "losers" today, the long-term economic benefits of free trade and globalization mean that entire countries will benefit eventually. He said that investment flows to countries that raise their standards, rather than to those that allow living conditions to deteriorate.

"Over a short-term horizon, it's hard to see that everyone is benefiting, but this is the best economic system we've found," Dollar said.

He said workers compete aggressively to work at these factories and corporate farms.

"Those are coveted jobs," Dollar said. "It's a choice they are making compared to other choices that might make. Factory employment can be a relatively attractive option in places with high rural unemployment."

Sunday, February 8

Bernard Lewis often tells about an encounter he once had with a Jordanian, who said, "We have time, we can wait. We got rid of the Crusaders. We got rid of the Turks. We'll get rid of the Jews."

Hearing this claim "one too many times," Mr. Lewis says, he politely shot back, "Excuse me, but you've got your history wrong. The Turks got rid of the Crusaders. The British got rid of the Turks. The Jews got rid of the British. I wonder who is coming here next."

Saturday, February 7

Hu rekindles Maoism by Ching Cheong:
According to Chinese veteran Marxist theorist Su Shaozhi, who led the criticisms, by showering Mao with such praises, Mr Hu hoisted him much higher than any of his predecessors ever did.

In fact, the scholar added, it far exceeded the official verdict on Mao as carried in the Resolution On Certain Historical Issues adopted by the CCP in June 1981.

That document said Mao made great achievements - but also serious mistakes.

According to Professor Su, who took part in drafting that document, the consensus within the party at the time was that 70 per cent of Mao's work was a success while the remaining 30 per cent comprised mistakes.

That 70-30 split was widely seen as far more generous than what the multitudes of Chinese who had suffered during Mao's reign would have said about the late leader.

To this day, many hold him responsible for the unmitigated disasters his reign unleashed on China. According to the World Health Organisation's First Report On Violence (2002), the total number of unnatural deaths in China between 1949 and 1976 exceeded 50 million.

Thus, the official verdict on Mao was a gross understatement of the gravity of his mistakes.
Aside from the fact that it makes my skin crawl to see anyone, particularly a presumed reformer, praise Mao, it certainly is an understatement. I can't find the World Health Organisation's report that the reporter mentions. Perhaps the reporter means the World Report on Violence and Health, but the only relevant reference I saw was to "millions of people who perished in China during the Great Leap Forward". Matthew White summarizes a bunch of sources, suggesting a total of between 40-50 million, pointing out that the numbers are pretty much guesses, and may be much higher, but I don't see a reference to NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS FAMINE, VIOLENCE SPARED FEW, a two-part Washington Post article from July 17 & 18, 1994 available here, which says,
Chen Yizi of Princeton University's Center for Modern China did research for years in China, first as a student and then as a government official, and determined that 43 million had died in the famine, a figure recently matched by a report from a think tank in Shanghai. According to Chen, this made the total number of Chinese who died as a result of Mao's policies 80 million.
Incidentally, the Chinese express Mao's proportion of errors & achievements as 三七开, meaning 3/10 errors and 7/10 achievements. (The story goes that Peng Dehuai said they had it wrong about Mao: it was 七三开: 3/10 achievements 7/10 errors.)
Jayanthi Iyengar on Wal-Mart in China & India. This leapt out at me:
Both countries were die-hard socialists prior to opening up economically. Yet resistance to everything foreign lingers more strongly in the Indian psyche than that of the Chinese, possibly because of the promotion of swadeshi meaning national self-sufficiency, and swaraj, or self-rule. These have been propounded as powerful and defining goals by national leaders, from Mohandas K Gandhi, the Mahatma, to former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
So, Mao was good for Chinese capitalism in that he made such a complete hash of socialism?

Meanwhile, Peter S. Goodman and Philip P. Pan unequivocally paint Wal-Mart as the bad guy exploiting workers, although they admit that most prospective workers are
still poor enough to willingly move hundreds of miles from home for jobs that would be shunned by anyone with better prospects.
While the Chinese government could certainly do more to ensure safer working conditions, the more government regulation, the higher the cost of labor, and the less jobs for Chinese workers. If they didn't have these jobs, they'd have something even worse, or maybe nothing at all.
Richard Bestic, formerly working as a journalist for Rupert Murdoch's Sky News, writes,
Whenever I wished to cover a story in China, I would first need permission from officials. If they agreed, I would be obliged to take along a "minder" at £55 per day - plus money for food and hotel accommodation.

It is not unusual to be refused permission to cover a story in China. The reasons vary, but they don't really matter. Lazy officials would often say "no" for what they called "a variety of reasons". My favourite was the universal "it is not convenient at this time".
Ahh, the old 不方便. Don't we love it? (link via Brainysmurf, who also mentions Asian Labour News).
What's a Maoist, Anyway? Or someone who believes in perpetual class struggle in the form of perpetual revolution. (link via The Peking Duck)

Thursday, February 5

Uh-oh. Sichuan Food's Signature Fire Is Becoming Hard to Find. It's a US ban on 花椒.
Earlier Willy Lam wrote CHINESE CORRUPTION CRUSADE CAUSES NEW FACTIONAL INFIGHTING, claiming that Jiang Zemin has tried to stand in the way. I don't think Hu & Wen will manage to push through much of a reform without democracy, but we'll see. I understand the Brits were fairly successful in Hong Kong with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and H.K. certainly wasn't democratic.
Outsourcing is good for the economy. So says Bruce Bartlett:
Any jobs saved in the short-run by restrictions on outsourcing will come at the expense of better jobs in the future that will not be created.
(Link via instapundit.) Bartlett refers to Daniel H. Pink's article The New Face of the Silicon Age, where Indians argue that outsourcing is only fair, and he concludes,
What begins to seep through their well-tiled arguments about quality, efficiency, and optimization is a view that Americans, who have long celebrated the sweetness of dynamic capitalism, must get used to the concept that it works for non-Americans, too. Programming jobs have delivered a nice upper-middle-class lifestyle to the people in this room. They own apartments. They drive new cars. They surf the Internet and watch American television and sip cappuccinos. Isn't the emergence of a vibrant middle class in an otherwise poor country a spectacular achievement, the very confirmation of the wonders of globalization - not to mention a new market for American goods and services? And if this transition pinches a little, aren't Americans being a tad hypocritical by whining about it? After all, where is it written that IT jobs somehow belong to Americans - and that any non-American who does such work is stealing the job from its rightful owner?
How come I found that via google at The Acorn but couldn't via Wired's search engine? The Acorn's got other outsourcing stuff, too.
In addition to the item below, Peter S. Goodman writes Citibank Offers Credit Card in China:
In symbolic terms, the arrival of credit cards bearing the logo of the largest bank in the citadel of capitalism, the United States, in this still nominally Communist country underscored just how far the People's Republic of China has moved from its roots. Yet, the immediate impact was marginal....

Except in major cities, few businesses accept plastic, and the country lacks central databases to check creditworthiness, as credit culture is still mostly alien in this debt-averse Confucian society. For now, Citibank's new cards will be available only in Shanghai, China's financial capital.
I'm not sure that means an awful lot.
But as China embraces credit, it confronts some unpleasant recent history. In South Korea, more than one in 10 credit card accounts are in arrears, and scores of banks have seen their profits wiped out following a disastrous credit binge that resulted from a government-led drive to spur transactions using plastic.
Still, it will have some plusses, I hope:
China also apparently has big plans for Citibank. China's banks are choked with some $500 billion in bad debts, the result of an enduring culture of politically motivated, often-corrupt lending. China's leaders are relying on the prospect of competition from foreign entrants to force domestic institutions to clean up their balance sheets and operate on commercial terms.
Anyway, I get a kick of the fact that Citibank is known in Chinese as 花旗银行 (Flower-flag bank), and 花旗 is a Chinese nickname for the US (the stars on the flag were interpreted as flowers).
President Hu and his advisers are reportedly so happy with U.S. cooperation that they have privately expressed support for Bush's reelection. It is understood that in an internal address last month, Hu repeated a dictum attributed to Chairman Mao Zedong after the latter had met with former President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s: "It's easier to deal with American rightists rather than politicians with liberal inclinations."
The CCP's Leading Group on Taiwan Affairs (LGTA), which is headed by Hu,
is beefing up united front work among mainland-based Taiwan businessmen. They have been reassured that Beijing's struggle against the DPP will not jeopardize their commercial prospects. Cadres in Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office have also encouraged Taiwan businessmen and technicians to return home to vote in the March 20 polls. The Taiwan media has reported that opposition parties are arranging inexpensive flights for mainland-based Taiwan residents to return to the island to cast their ballots. Beijing's hope is that in return for commercial opportunities on the mainland, Taiwan executives will work hard to prevent Chen's reelection.
And sure enough, Taiwan Businessmen Join Political Lobby: Many of the leaders of the estimated 400,000 eligible Taiwanese voters working in China
say they'll support opposition Nationalist Party candidate Lien Chan, who promises to forge friendlier ties with China.

For the first time, the business leaders say they're organizing a mass migration of voters who will return to the island of some 23 million people to vote against President Chen Shui-bian, who's distrusted by China's communist leadership...

But appearances are usually deceiving when it comes to Taiwanese politics. Ruling party officials and some analysts suspect that many of the businessmen are just putting on a show to please Chinese leaders and protect their investments.
Or is their support of Chen just a show to make sure he doesn't make life difficult for them?
M.D. Nalapat writes on THE CHINA FACTOR IN INDO-PAKISTANI DETENTE, and argues that while India's emergence as an alternative to China for foreign direct investment (FDI), China is more concerned about US-Indian rapprochement:
Should India emerge as an alternative destination for FDI, the PRC would be a loser of the India-Pakistan detente. However, for Beijing, what is of even greater importance than this economic cost is to ensure that New Delhi and Washington do not enter into a military alliance that would subvert the PRC's determination to displace the United States as the primary power in Asia. Thus, China can be expected to continue its current policy of robust and conciliatory engagement with India, a policy that in turn will increase the pressure on the Pakistani Army to continue to search for a stable detente with New Delhi.
Still, China and India May Reduce Poverty by 2015:
A U.N. report assessing progress of the millennium goals also noted that the "Asian miracle" allowed a dramatic reduction of overall poverty incidence in the region from 34 percent to 24 percent between the early and late 1990s, although 768 million people in the region still live on less than $1 a day.
Let's hope both economies develop.
Made in China -- With Neighbors' Imports: Region Growing Dependent on Giant Market (by Peter S. Goodman). But
as Chinese manufacturing grows in sophistication, it likely will eat into the flow of finished products those countries send directly to the United States, Europe and Japan.
Still, as one poultry executive is quoted,
"If you make Chinese people richer, they are going to want all those things people want," he said. "Can you imagine 1.3 billion people eating the way Americans eat? There might not be enough chicken in all the world."
And meanwhile,
Southeast Asia's leaders are now intent on preserving their place in the global supply chain by raising their production standards and shifting into more high-tech goods, avoiding price competition with China...

Now, Penang is making a push into biotechnology...
Why not stem cell research, while they're at it?

Tuesday, February 3

Melanie Phillips sure does hate ENCOD, even if
current policy is extremely harmful to public health and a violation of human rights at huge financial costs
A Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. report funded by Wal-Mart claims its
entry into the Southern California grocery business will produce a net increase in jobs, as benefits of its lower prices offset the downside of its lower wages....
Previous studies failed to account for consumer savings on groceries.
After Wal-Mart is firmly established in California, those savings would amount to $524 a year for the average household...adding up to annual savings of $668 million in the city of Los Angeles and $1.8 billion in Los Angeles County. If consumers spent all that money, it could create 17,300 jobs....
OK, but
Some economists questioned the findings of the LAEDC, a nonprofit organization funded by the business community.

"Among the working-poor families of Los Angeles, what would be gained from a small amount saved on household food costs if wages are declining and other costs, such as healthcare, keep rising? It seems like an empty proposition," said Patrick Burns, a senior researcher at Economic Roundtable in Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that studies jobs and the local economy.

"In our research, we've found that L.A. County already suffers from an overabundance of low-wage jobs with few, if any, benefits, not to mention a disproportionate share of the nation's 'under the table' jobs," said Burns, who read the LAEDC study. "This is the wrong direction for the L.A. economy."
The Economic Roundtable leans to the left, judging by these links, and Patrick Burns says his
scholarly interests include: labor migration and the new international division of labor, the neo-liberal model of international development and its impacts upon the U.S. domestic economy, world cities & urban geography, environmental sustainability & justice, and the uneven geography of modern capitalism.
The phrases I italicize show his hostility to capitalism. Meanwhile, Ira Kalish, global director for Deloitte Research (OK, their research is for big bidness) says
the vast majority of people vote with their purses....The American and global consumer has internalized discounting as important to them....Many workers might make less money, but to the extent that millions of consumers pay less, they free up money to buy other stuff - making them and society in a sense wealthier.
There's still plenty of opposition, though.

Monday, February 2

Taiwan Downplays U.S. Referendum Concerns
After a day of meetings with Chinese leaders Friday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the island's referendum "raises some questions about those who want to put it forward."...

Asked at a public event about Armitage's comments on Taiwan's referendum, Vice President Annette Lu said they were just polite words for the benefit of his hosts.

"When he's a guest under China's roof, he will say things like this, but after his return to Washington, he might talk differently"...
Aggh! They just won't listen!
Asia Is Traditional Cradle of Influenza because:
All flu viruses probably originate in birds, and the best environment for making the jump to humans is one where densely packed people live closely with birds and animals.

"In Asia we have a huge animal population, a huge bird population and two-thirds of the world's people living there," said Klaus Stohr, chief influenza scientist at the World Health Organization.

The population of China alone is bigger than that of the whole of Africa, and 80 percent of the new human flu strains the last few decades appeared in China first....

Asia's traditional situation of peasant farmers keeping ducks, chickens and pigs together with the family has long created opportunities for influenza to jump the species barrier.

And now industrial-scale commercial chicken farming is exacerbating the problem, said Robin Weiss, a professor of virology at University College in London....

Asians' fondness for shopping at live animal markets also adds to the chances for flu jumping species, experts say.

And climate may play a role. "Respiratory viruses, like orchids, do seem to like the Asian climate, because they have influenza viruses nearly all year round. It's not so seasonal as it is in the rest of the world," said John Oxford, a flu expert from Queen Mary School of Medicine in London.
There's something odd about this.

Research Around the World Links Religion to Economic Development
What really stimulates economic growth is whether you believe in an afterlife — especially hell....

"Our central perspective is that religion affects economic outcomes mainly by fostering religious beliefs that influence individual traits such as honesty, work ethic, thrift and openness to strangers," the researchers, Robert J. Barro and Rachel M. McCleary, wrote in a recent issue of American Sociological Review....

Oddly enough, the research also showed that at a certain point, increases in church, mosque and synagogue attendance tended to depress economic growth....

...the widely discussed secularization thesis — the idea that a country becomes more secular as it becomes richer and more industrialized — did not apply to the United States, one of the most religious nations in the world.

And over the last 30 years, many East Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, have experienced both rapid economic growth and the spread of Christianity...
And then we come to this:
Some of the lowest levels of religiosity were found in China and North Korea.
Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist, says,
"Confucian countries are now the most Protestant countries on earth, in terms of a moral imperative to work hard, save money, to do well," Mr. Inglehart said.
As God, man and growth points out,
The most striking conclusion, though, is that belief in the afterlife, heaven and hell are good for economic growth. Of these, fear of hell is by far the most powerful, but all three indicators have a bigger impact on economic performance than merely turning up for church....

All this is intriguing, but does religion make much difference? Japan, where there are many sects but little fear of hell, has grown far faster since the second world war than the Catholic Philippines. Officially atheist China is growing at a cracking pace.
Exactly what I was thinking.

Sunday, February 1

Things I had in France that I liked:
  • snails (Helix lucorum) in garlic butter

  • Tomme
  • canned tuna (it's so much better than American tuna)

  • Vollkornbrot

  • salami

  • saurkraut with frankfurters from the market

  • manakiche (a lebanese flat bread flavored with thyme and olive oil)

  • croissants for breakfast

  • baguettes for breakfast; (while some bakeries have nice baguettes, I'm sad to say that the ones I bake myself are a lot better than some others)

  • dark chocolate tablets, available not only at ED (200 gram tablets with hazelnuts or orange for €1.39) but also at G/20 and FranPrix, for 1.29 (hazelnuts only)
But now I find that Aldi, the German counterpart to ED, which has a store here in the sticks, is sellling 200 gram tablets with hazelnuts for $1.69 under the Choceur label, and it tastes pretty much like the French stuff.
How trying to crack down on the drug trade creates other problems:
...the crackdown has not slowed the flow of drugs. "It has only created tremendous violence"...
I ran across Jacob Sullum's summary of Thomas L. Friedman's enumeration of the four reasons for the war:
  • the stated reason (Saddam had WMDs and might give them to terrorists for an attack on the U.S.)

  • the moral reason (saving Iraqis and their neighbors from a brutal, murderous tyranny)

  • the real reason (after 9/11, the U.S. had to smack a Muslim country around to show it meant business)

  • the right reason (defusing the anger that leads to terrorism by transforming Iraq into a model of liberal democracy)
Three of those still sound pretty good to me.
A couple of interesting NPR reports.

States Eye Slots to Boost Education Funds explains how state gov'ts legalize gambling, explaining the funding is for education. And then they stop other funding for education.

Family Bonds Strengthen Terrorism Networks reports on the feudalistic marriage ties used by terrorists. One says her husband, involved in the Bali bombings, only meant to teach the foreigners a lesson about their evil ways, but didn't mean to kill so many. Well, that's all right, then.
China, Korea Dispute Ancient Kingdom:
Koguryo ruled much of Korea and Manchuria, now China, until it vanished from maps 1,300 years ago. It has been dragged into the headlines by a Beijing-backed study that deems the kingdom to be an integral part of China. Koguryo ruled much of Korea and Manchuria, now China, until it vanished from maps 1,300 years ago. It has been dragged into the headlines by a Beijing-backed study that deems the kingdom to be an integral part of China.
Sounds like China is turning into another hegemon to me.