Thursday, April 29

From Notable narratives: "A number of Aesop's fables illustrated by the Art students of the University of Massachussetts are found here.

Wednesday, April 28

U.S. Farmers Get a Lesson In Global Trade ( "Edward Gresser, a trade expert at the Progressive Policy Institute. 'But we get foreigners to make the same sort of promises to us.' As an illustration, he cited China, which joined the WTO in 2001.
'In 2000, American cotton farmers earned $46 million from selling cotton to China,' Gresser said. 'In 2003, they earned $733 million from selling cotton to China, and in just the first two months of 2004, they earned $428 million. This is because the Chinese agreed to join the WTO, and made a series of promises to open their markets to the world's cotton. So [even for] cotton farmers, there's a pretty big payoff in our being a member of this organization.' "

Tuesday, April 27

Eric Schlosser writes Make Peace With Pot: "More than 16,000 Americans die every year after taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. No one in Congress, however, has called for an all-out war on Advil. Perhaps the most dangerous drug widely consumed in the United States is the one that I use three or four times a week: alcohol. It is literally poisonous; you can die after drinking too much. It is directly linked to about one-quarter of the suicides in the United States, almost half the violent crime and two-thirds of domestic abuse. And the level of alcohol use among the young far exceeds the use of marijuana. According to the Justice Department, American children aged 11 to 13 are four times more likely to drink alcohol than to smoke pot."

And yet, as Gary Alan Fine says in his review of Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: "Fast food is, certainly, a choice, and one's food choices ought to be personal matters. There seems to be no market as open and as accessible with as many options as the restaurant industry, with thousands of choices in any mid-sized city.

The explosive growth of fast food restaurants over the course of the past several decades should tell us something: Fast food does not always satisfy one's highest aspirations -- much less the refined sensibilities of journalists. But it certainly fills one's tummy passably well."

So choose your drug and choose your food.
In her Commentary: Grades vs. Perfection on NPR : All Things Considered for Monday, April 26, 2004 we hear about a worried college professor: "Commentator Meredith Small is an anthropology professor at Cornell University and she was shocked when a student carrying a solid 'B' average came by her office to ask if she could drop her course. Small sees a rise in students for whom anything short of perfection is not enough -- and worries about what they'll find outside of school." And she says, "As a university professor, hundreds of students pass through my hands each year...." Yeeouch!

Saturday, April 24

Roger Kimball writes on Political Correctness, Or The Perils of Benevolence: "Major newspapers in the United States refuse to accept advertisements for houses to let that mention that their property has 'good views' (unfair to the blind), is 'walking distance' to the train (unfair to the lame), is on a 'quiet street' (unfair to the deaf). I know it sounds mad. It is mad. Nevertheless, it is true." Gee, I hope not. Anyway, he warns against political correctness, which tends to breed unaccountability: "At its center is a union of abstract benevolence, which takes mankind as a whole for its object, with rigid moralism." He concludes that this combination, while found amongst communists,
is by no means peculiar to communists. It provides the emotional fuel for utopians from Robespierre to the politically-correct bureaucrats who preside over more and more of life in Western societies today. They mean well. They seek to boost all mankind up to their own plane of enlightenment. Inequality outrages their sense of justice. They regard conventional habits of behavior as so many obstacles to be overcome on the path to perfection. They see tradition as the enemy of innovation, which they embrace as a lifeline to moral progress. They cannot encounter a wrong without seeking to right it. The idea that some evils may be ineradicable is anathema to them. Likewise the notion that the best is the enemy of the good, that many choices are to some extent choices among evils--such proverbial, conservative wisdom outrages their sense of moral perfectibility.

Alas, the result is not paradise but a campaign to legislate virtue, to curtail eccentricity, to smother individuality, to barter truth for the current moral or political enthusiasm. For centuries, political philosophers have understood that the lust for equality is the enemy of freedom. That species of benevolence underwrote the tragedy of communist tyranny. The rise of political correctness has redistributed that lust over a new roster of issues: not the proletariat, but the environment, not the struggling masses, but "reproductive freedom", gay rights, the welfare state, the Third World, diversity training, and an end to racism and xenophobia. It looks, in Marx's famous mot, like history repeating itself not as tragedy but as farce.

It would be a rash man, however, who made no provision for a reprise of tragedy.
We saw Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958); not bad. It was the first time I'd seen it, although I'd seen Vertigo Then and Now, so several scenes looked vaguely familiar.

And La Reine Margot (1994), which we liked much better than a lot of American critics, who got all bent out of shape over the French history aspect. Too many characters at the beginning confused them. That's the way I felt about Burnt by the Sun, but this was good. Plus I had a reminder of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and 16th century religious extremism, resulting in about 70,000 killed. (I wonder how many you have to kill to call it a massacre? Here's a list.) And I finally got the context for Henry IV's "Paris is well worth a Mass." (However, I didn't see "I want every peasant to have a chicken in his pot on Sundays." Incidentally, while a similar expression is attributed to Herbert Hoover, apparently Hoover never said it; the slogan appeared in an ad paid for by "Republican Business Men, Inc.") Another thing: at one time someone (Margot?) is dismissed from someone else's room when he says "I'm taking a bath today." The funny thing was that the subtitles left out that last word. I'll take Mike Lorefice's word for it that Isabelle Adjani was around 38 at the time the film was made. Daniel Auteuil was OK.

When we watched A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), I couldn't get it out of my head that all of the women should have been played by men in drag. Clearly Blanche and Stella and even Eunice were actually toy boys like the ones in Niezi. But then watching Niezi maybe I thought all the little boy toys should have been played by women.

Now this is embarrassing. We also saw Benny & Joon (1993), which I somehow thought was going to be about Henry Miller; no, that's Henry & June (1990). Anyway, it was pleasant if a little too intent on making sure everyone got a happy ending, and being intent on showing that crazies could be really impossible to live with. (Not the first movie trying to be sympathetic to the insane.) Maybe we'll have one about how the Columbine killers were just a couple of sweet misguided kids.
Is China's Economy Overheating? By David Ignatius. Yes. Li Ruogu, the deputy governor of China's central bank
cautioned that the United States shouldn't assume that China will keep buying U.S. Treasury securities indefinitely. If the United States doesn't protect the value of the dollar so that it is a stable "anchor," China will eventually move to hold its reserves in a basket of currencies, he said.

China's debate about overheating has received relatively little attention in the West, but the issue could be the most important challenge for the global economy. The Chinese locomotive has been pulling Japan and other Asian nations into recovery. If China slowed suddenly, the global economy would feel the crunch.

China's leaders seem to understand that the world is counting on them to get economic policy right. "Neighboring countries are dependent on us," Li said. "If we have a hard landing, they will be affected."

Friday, April 23

Philip P. Pan reports on hurting the feelings of the Chinese people again: A Study Group Is Crushed in China's Grip: Beliefs Are Tested in Saga Of Sacrifice and Betrayal. Yes, it's the Chinese government.

Tuesday, April 20

Chinese Infants Die From Malnutrition ( "Dozens of infants in eastern China have died from malnutrition from drinking fake milk formula with virtually no nutritional value, state media reported Tuesday. "

Monday, April 19

What's wrong with the placebo effect?: "If you wanted to maximise everyone's health, then doctors would confidently lie to their patients about effectiveness of treatments, the way they did before we began championing choice and informed consent over efficacy; and people like me would stop debunking placebo alternative therapies." (via Butterflies and Wheels)
In Police Lineups Falling Out of Favor, a factoid about lineups: The members of the lineup wear the numbers 2 through 9 "because it is considered too suggestive to make anyone display the No. 1."
Gang of 12 Deaf Thieves Jailed in China:
Most of the members, who robbed scores of shops, were jobless and homeless youngsters....

Handicapped people suffer widespread discrimination in China and are often shunned by employers and offered little in the way of special education, particularly in the poor countryside....

For decades, China put deaf and disabled people to work doing menial jobs in subsidized factories but many of the factories have gone bankrupt with the decline of the state sector.
Johann Hari (via aldaily), no conservative, admits that the American invasion has saved far more lives than it has ended:
The Human Rights Centre (HRC) in Kadhimiya has been set up by Iraqis themselves from the ashes of Baathism. They have been going methodically through the massive - and previously unexplored - archives left by the regime, which document every killing in cold bureaucracy-speak. The HRC have found that if the invasion had not happened, Saddam would have killed 70,000 people in the past year. Not sanctions: Saddam's tyranny alone.
Elsewhere, he quotes an an Iraqi medical student living in London, who recently returned to Iraq:
Sama says: "If we hadn't been to Iraq, we'd be really depressed right now. I came back, saw the news and thought, 'Are they talking about the same Iraq?'" Is this, I wonder, because the media can only deal with Arabs as victims or terrorists?

The IPO members don't think so. Rather, Yasser says, there are several reasons why the reporting from Iraq is stressing the negative over the positive. "First, buildings being bombed is a much better story than the formation of the Baghdad city council to clear up the rubbish and sort out the sewers. Angry Iraqis make a better story than hopeful Iraqis.

"Second, a lot of the media was openly anti-war, so now that there are hundreds of thousands of mass graves being opened up and all the evidences shows that the Iraqis supported [the war], the media are latching on to the few things, like the looting and, of course, the weapons issue – that was always a red herring – that seem to vindicate their position. And third – I know this sounds like a petty point, but it's very important – a lot of journalists are using the same guides and translators that they used before the war, because they know them. They don't seem to realise that those people were carefully selected by the regime because of their loyalty to Saddam's line. So most journalists are getting a totally distorted picture."

Sunday, April 18

3 Die in Shootout Between U.N. Police in Kosovo. (via mudvillegazette8.html)

Hmm. I haven't heard about this from NPR or the evening news; they're too busy caterwauling about American casualties in Iraq.

Saturday, April 17

Taiwan's foreign minister resigns: "Two days after the resignation of Therese Shaheen, chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan, Foreign Minister Eugene Chien also resigned. Chien took responsibility for the ministry's role in preparing a letter of congratulations for President Chen Shui-bian from Shaheen's office after last month's election, the results of which are still contested by the opposition.
Chien's office reportedly drafted the letter for Shaheen to sign to congratulate Chen upon his re-election. Shaheen was head of the de facto U.S. mission in Taiwan. The unauthorized letter angered Beijing and upset the White House, leading to Shaheen's resignation on Wednesday."

Get a load of The Epoch Times headline: US Representative in Taiwan Quits Following Chinese Complaints. Still, they note: "State Department officials said problems with Ms. Shaheen emanated not from Chinese complaints but from concerns that her statements on the sensitive U.S.-Taiwan relationship sometimes were at variance with official U.S. policy. She is understood to have drawn internal criticism last year for telling Taiwanese reporters that the long-standing U.S. policy of 'not supporting' Taiwanese independence did not mean the United States opposes the concept."

Taiwan foreign minister resigns: "Shaheen created a stir by congratulating President Chen Shui-bian for his March 20 re-election before the White House or U.S. State Department sent messages - a departure from long-standing diplomatic tradition.
The matter was especially sensitive because the opposition has disputed Chen's narrow victory.
Shaheen conveyed early congratulations to the president by calling Taiwan's representative in Washington.
The Taiwanese diplomat passed on the message to the Foreign Ministry and it quickly became public, giving the president a boost in his postelection feud with opposition candidate Lien Chan. " "Chien's resignation followed that of Therese Shaheen, head of the de facto US diplomatic mission to the island, who quit earlier this week after voicing her support for Chen Shui-bian's re-election before the White House had issued an official statement.

Chien said he had bungled the handling of Shaheen's resignation, but declined to elaborate on his move which observers said was linked to his push for Shaheen's congratulations on President Chen's March 20 re-election."

Friday, April 16 is an interesting site about Chinese history and the mistreatment of the peasants.
Eric Teo Chu Cheow at The Jamestown Foundation writes about
a telephone survey done in the days following the Taiwan election and stalemate. A Social Survey Institute poll of 1,263 Chinese in 12 cities had a sampling size of more than 2,000, it followed a first survey taken just before the election. 9 out of 10 Chinese polled stated that they were following the Taiwanese election closely; it had jumped from 79.1% before the polls to 93.2% after (+14%); those who were not bothered plunged from 20.9% to 1.7% (-19%).

Besides the increase in interest in Taiwan, those who opposed Taiwan's independence grew from 88.4% to 97.4% (+9%) whereas those who would not oppose it fell from 5.6% to 1.7%. What came out of these findings was the growing sense of crisis over Taiwan. But significantly, the percentage of those calling for reunification by force dropped from 42.8% to 29.1%, whereas those who advocated peaceful reunification increased from 54.9% to 70.9%. Hence, despite the sense of crisis felt over Taiwan, cool heads still prevail regarding reunification. The results of this survey clearly demonstrate a sharper division of the two sides of the Straits, as nationalism gains ground in both China and Taiwan.

Cross-Straits analyst Zhang Tongxin also highlighted the fact that the rejection of Chen's referendum meant that the Taiwanese people would not wish to see relations with China worsen. There was also a growing confidence amongst the Chinese for a peaceful reunification process despite the sharp divergence in opinion. Nevertheless, nearly 92% of all respondents agreed that China should exercise its sovereign rights to deal with chaos in Taiwan, whilst 4.6% opposed this move.
Nicholas R. Lardy asks, Testimony: Do China's Abusive Labor Practices Encourage Outsourcing and Drive Down American Wages?, and answers with a resounding NO:
  • The estimate that if China were to end its persistent repression of workers' rights then the average wage would rise by 90 to 595 percent is based on a series of poorly supported assumptions.

  • Labor productivity in China is too low to support the postulated wage increase. The estimated wage increase would lead to the bankruptcy of most firms.

  • Despite assertions that wages have fallen since 1993, in real terms, wages have actually increased by at least 45%.

  • Contrary to the contention that China's comparative advantage arises from the denial of workers' rights, which in turn provides China with an unfair cost advantage, foreign affiliates pay the highest wages in China and have better health, safety, and environmental standards than Chinese-owned firms, yet these foreign affiliates have enjoyed the greatest success in contributing to China's export performance.

  • China has become far and away the fastest growing among the large export markets of US firms, contributing to US manufacturing jobs.
(via Daniel Drezner)
Cicada: The Other, Other White Meat discusses
the hard slog of the enterprising American entomophage -- the eater of insects. In many parts of the world, people ingest bugs with regularity and even delight. In Western countries, insect-eating triggers the gag reflex.

Is eating live insects a bad idea? cites Tom Turpin, an entomologist at Purdue University:
Turpin says he is prone to a spot of entomophagy (eating insects) himself, mainly as part of demonstrations to students and the public. 'Each insect is different but as a package they probably bring a better nutrient balance than almost any other single thing you could eat,' he claims.
And the taste? 'Mealworms have a taste very closely associated with whatever they've been eating,' Turpin explains. 'But take them off their food for a few days so you can really taste the mealworm, and then frankly I can't describe it.'
According to FDA/CFSAN Defect Action Level Handbook, there are present in food
Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans
(via Insects in Your Everday Foods, which exerpts the mouthwatering insect details. Geez, they left out mold, rodent hairs, mammalian excreta, and pus pockets. Well, some people like pus pockets.
On this page, click on the fish mouth picture, which brings you to the explanation:
Tongue-eating isopod, Cymothoa exigua (middle)
This isopod causes degeneration of the tongue of its host fish the rose snapper, Lutjanus guttatus, and it then attaches to the remaining tongue stub and floor of the fish's mouth by hook-like pereopods. In this position the isopod superficially resembles its host's missing tongue. Brusca & Gilligan (1983) hypothesize that these isopods serve as a mechanical replacement for the fish's tongue and represent the first known case in animals of functional replacement of a host structure by a parasite. This relationship is so-far known only from the Gulf of California.

Thursday, April 15

Adam Smith has a blog. I didn't know he was still alive!
The Dubious Value of Recycling

Writing some time ago in an article on Sweden's Skeptical Environmentalist and his campaign against indiscriminate recycling, Waldemar Ingdahl wrote:
technological improvements have made incineration cleaner and the process could be used to generate electricity, cutting dependency on oil. They rejected collecting household cartons as very unprofitable and time-consuming. Used bottles and glass cost glass companies twice as much as the raw materials, and recycling plastics was uneconomical, they said. 'Plastics are made from oil and can quite simply be incinerated,' they argued. Glass mixed with household waste improved the quality of slag residue and could be used for landfill. Tin cans could be removed by magnets and sent for recycling. They stressed, though, that the collection of dangerous waste, such as batteries, electrical appliances, medicines, paint and chemicals, must be further improved. Their final point was the controversial conclusion that protection of the environment can mean economic sacrifices, but to maintain the credibility of environmental politics the gains must be worth the sacrifice.

More recently, Rob Lyons wonders:
But the question is whether recycling actually makes economic and social sense at the moment. Is it appropriate to devote more of society's energy to recycling waste on this proposed scale?

It is still cheaper in the UK to landfill or incinerate most waste, despite the levying of a landfill tax to skew the market in favour of other forms of disposal. Apart from the south east of England, there seems to be little difficulty in finding land suitable for landfill. And even with recycling, landfill will still be required for the residue....

It seems that recycling household waste is a costly distraction from more useful social priorities, and will actually make little difference to the amount of waste we produce. So why the obsession with promoting it in the UK?

The discussion about recycling has far more to do with a moral message than with economics. In the absence of any widespread belief in God, Queen or Country, the need to 'save the planet' is one of the few certainties that society has left. If we accept that human beings are wasteful and polluting, as we are clearly supposed to, then who could disagree with the notion that we should all do our bit to undo the damage we do? Recycling is a physically tangible way that individuals can express this outlook. By separating out our waste paper, cans and bottles, we offer some kind of penance for our sinful consumption (and, better still, be seen to do so).

The real aim of recycling schemes is change individuals' relationship to the rest of society. The government wants to create active, responsible citizens - in other words, people who take their lead in their everyday lives from the edicts of the authorities. Caring for the environment fits into a wider pattern of apparently non-political activities through which the government attempts in one way or another to get us to accept its authority.
He makes some good points about the inefficiency of recycling, and I'm certain that many people feel they're being virtuous, but I don't think it's really a plot by the government to make us accept their authority, even if they certainly think that's a good thing.

Indeed, Saint Cecil wrote:
Do most recycling programs lose money? Of course. So does plain old garbage collection. The question is whether disposal programs involving recycling are more expensive than the old-fashioned variety. Answer: at the outset, yes. After a few years, however, many municipalities find that recycling saves money. Some don't, and eventually those folks may want to reconsider the wisdom of their recycling program. The fact remains that recycling in response to an arbitrary government fiat is a useful exercise. Municipal waste disposal historically has been considered an unavoidable expense, with little thought given to whether it could be done more cheaply. Mandatory recycling compels you to give it that little bit of thought: do we really need to throw all this junk away?
I pretty much lost respect for him there.

Julian Morris stated the economic argument with great clarity when he wrote wrote:
Markets minimise waste

The fundamental objective of any business enterprise is to create added value - to sell goods at a price greater than the costs of production. So the entrepreneur is always vigilant for ways of improving product performance and reducing costs. Cost reductions can be made in numerous ways, including by reducing the use of raw materials and from using residuals more efficiently....

The notion that this system can be improved upon by government intervention - as many argue - is implausible. The government's (or regulator's) knowledge of what use of resources is most efficient is likely in most cases to be less complete than that of the individual manufacturers, who must day after day assess the costs of inputs and prices of outputs.

Wednesday, April 14

Do they eat Fried Man in China?
Hit Movie Rings True in China: "The film's depiction of suspicion, deception and mobility have hit such a realistic chord with Chinese audiences that 'Wo zai kaihui,' 我在开会 or 'I'm in a meeting,' has become a running social joke."

When are Feng Xiaogang's movies going to make it to US audiences?
I saw this on affirmative action, and thought of Carl Cohen's review of Thomas Sowell's Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study:
  • Politicians buy support by confirming preferences and extending them to more and more ethnic groups. Enlargement is the easiest course. Race preference does not wind down; it winds up. Proliferation is the rule.

  • The inferior performance of some ethnic groups is not always a consequence of discrimination against them. On the contrary, even the imposition of discriminatory advantages favoring a majority cannot obscure the fact that some groups prove less competent than others.

  • Preferences promote racial conflict.
(via aldaily)
Criticizing Kerry's "middle class misery index", Easterblogg has these nuggets:

"It would be easy to reduce health care costs--just stop paying for heart surgery over the age of 70, stop paying for most dialysis, stop paying for nonessential procedures that only relieve pain, stop trying to save very premature infants, and so on. (I cite these because they are the real-world ways that some European health care systems restrain costs.)

"And college costs are rising but so are benefits, with university enrollment setting records and an ever-higher percentage of high-school graduates having at least some college experience. College costs seem to be up right now mainly for standard supply-and-demand reasons--demand (number of students wishing to enter) is rising faster than supply (freshman slots). You could certainly restrain college costs by reducing demand (number of students wishing to enter). But it's good that ever-higher numbers of students wish to enter college! This tells us many favorable things about trends in American middle-class life, as sending the children to college, once a rarity, has become the national norm."

Tuesday, April 13

Reason: Emotional Choices: What story you choose to believe about antidepressants reveals a deeper truth about who you are.
In Heading Off the Next War, David M. Lampton and Kenneth Lieberthal argue,
"Chen apparently believes that China's threat to use force is a bluff and that the U.S. commitment to back Taiwan militarily is unrestricted -- the logic being that a democratic America and a supportive U.S. Congress would back Taipei no matter what sparked a conflict.
"Chen and his predecessor Lee Teng-hui have been so sure of U.S. support that defense spending on the island has continually declined over the past 12 years. But Chen's two assumptions are flawed, and they could well lead him to take actions that precipitate war." They call for "establishing a stable framework across the strait", including "Taiwan can continue to assert during the decades-long period covered by the agreement that it is an "independent, sovereign country," but it must abjure additional steps to turn this island-wide sensibility into a juridical fact. Beijing can continue to assert that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of it, but it must give up its threat to use military force to change Taiwan's status." Sounds nice, but I don't see China giving up its threats.
A New Use for Good Earth: Chinese Farmers Pay Price in Drive to Build Golf Centers by Peter S. Goodman.
We saw the Russian Burnt by the Sun (Утомлённые солнцем; 1994), which won the 1994 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. However, I felt it was just too long, with the first hour plus meandering endlessly. When the secret policeman finally drags off his rival, it seems only fair, even if he feels suicidal about it later. Still, the director Nikita Mikhalkov and especially his daughter Nadezhda Mikhalkova act well.

Sunday, April 11

Somebody was just a little naive.

Reflections on the oldest profession by Theodore Dalrymple. After reading E. W. Hornung and Guy de Maupassant, Dalrymple says he "learned what my subsequent experience, which includes an acquaintance with several hundred burglars at least, has confirmed, namely not to place too great a reliance on a haphazard knowledge of imaginative literature for an accurate picture of the world.

"I do not regret my literary initiation into the world of crime and prostitution, and a world without literature would be, to me, an intolerable one, in which life would hardly be worth living. But had my life taken a different turn, had I not been able to test E. W. Hornung and de Maupassant against certain experienced realities, had I lived entirely through books, as I might easily have done, had I lived in a pleasing ivory tower, for example by being a university teacher (as my temperament might easily have inclined me to be), I think I should have had a much distorted and reduced, though no doubt much more comfortable, Weltanschauung, an altogether more pleasing view of life and the human condition."

No wonder he's so put off by the losers he runs into.

(via aldaily, as is the item below)
In Asia Times, John Parker writes: "All across the globe, from Sydney to Siberia, from Quebec to Patagonia, there is one sporting obsession that unifies the entire human race. Young and old, male and female, black, white and every shade in between, there is one pleasurable activity that unifies them all.

"I'm speaking, of course, about America-bashing. (Why, did you think I was talking about something else?) "
China's Martha Stewart, With Reasons to Smile: "Christmas has taken root here for the first time in the Communist era, not as religious rite but as a commercial frenzy"

Saturday, April 10

I've just been alerted to the History and Commercial Atlas of China (1935).

And on a totally unrelated note, FlyChina.
Earlier I mentioned Actual Causes of Death. I forgot before that I'd mentioned What are the odds of dying?. But I notice the National Safety Council uses some EPA numbers. Does that mean I shouldn't trust them?
The 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors is summarized here. On the same topic, nearly 80 percent of adult Americans take at least one walk of five minutes or longer during the summer months. Yeah, we've seen that; we walk year 'round, and only recently as the weather has started warming up do we see a few more walkers. But 5 minutes?

This lobbyist site has info about Pedestrian Safety, including this nugget:
While only about 5 percent of all trips are made on foot, about 12 percent of all traffic deaths are pedestrians, making walking one of the most dangerous modes of travel... While 12 percent of all traffic deaths are pedestrians...less than one percent (0.7 percent) of federal transportation construction, operations, and maintenance funds are spent to ensure a safe walking environment.
At least a few years ago, well over 4000 pedestrians died. OK, to a certain extent it's convincing that government transportation spending privileges automobilistas, pedestrians have a certain responsibility. Even the full Mean Streets 2002 report says nothing about the role of alcohol.

According to Pedestrian Statistics
  • 4,808 US pedestrians were killed and 78,000 injured in traffic crashes.

  • Alcohol was involved (either driver or pedestrian) in 46% of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities. Of the pedestrians involved, 34% were intoxicated with a BAC of .08 or greater.

  • Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 86% of non-occupant fatalities, 12% were bicyclists and 2% were skateboard riders, roller skaters, etc.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • Thirty-eight percent of all pedestrians 16 years of age or older killed in traffic crashes in 2000 had alcohol in their system. (NHTSA, 2003).

  • The driver, pedestrian, or both were intoxicated in 41 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2002. In these crashes, the intoxication rate for pedestrians was nearly triple the rate for drivers — 34 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Both the pedestrian and the driver were intoxicated in 5 percent of the crashes that resulted in a pedestrian fatality. (NHTSA, 2003)

According to Traffic Safety Facts 2002: Pedestrians:
  • Most pedestrian fatalities in 2002 occurred in urban areas (71 percent), at nonintersection locations (78 percent), in normal weather conditions (89 percent), and at night (65 percent).

  • More than two-thirds (68 percent)of the 2002 pedestrian fatalities were males.

  • Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 86 percent of all nonoccupant fatalities in 2002.

  • Alcohol involvement — either for the driver or for the pedestrian — was reported in nearly one-half (46 percent) of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities. Of the pedestrians involved, 34 percent were intoxicated.

Fat city? Nope, it's the 'burbs by Laura Pulfer
You can't be too careful, you know, jumping to conclusions, so for $4 million I guess we'll find out for scientific certainty. I myself have observed that city people don't appear to be any more svelte than suburban people. But, of course, I am no scientist.

My friend Jan and I discussed this over lunch. She eats like a bird, so she did not take advantage of the opportunity to accessorize her half-pounder with cheese and bacon. I, myself, was drinking a diet cola with my Nuggets of something fried but unrecognizable and Biggie Sized with a bale of fries for only an additional 39 cents.

We agreed that our neighborhood could use more sidewalks. Sometimes we almost have to stand in the street when we're waiting in line at Graeter's during the summertime.

There has to be a link.

Porky America

From 1975 to 1995, when cities were seriously sprawling, there was a 42 percent decline in walking, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. (So far the links between urban sprawl and the divorce rate, babies born out of wedlock and violence on television have not been explored, although these things too escalated during that same couple of decades.)

Of course hiking in the French countryside is presumably much safer.

Thursday, April 8

A fascinating broadcast report by Jeff Tyler on Homeless Economics at At least some homeless people want to be that way, and don't see it as a bad life.

Then the next day, Robert Reich had one on Middle East Economics, noting that the Middle East was relatively unintegrated into the world economy. In other words, globalization is an enemy of terrorism.

Here's an earlier report where various other Democrats made the same point.

Paul Blustein in the Washington Post made the same connection earlier.
I like Classical Values, discovered via Instapundit, particularly what he says about Ashcroft's war on porn. Then there's Eugene Volokh on the ultimate outcome: either it'll be ineffective, or they'll have to violate everyone's rights.

Wednesday, April 7

Strange. Last night we watched a NOVA program on the coelacanth, and today I finally notice my rickety richwin software presents "...还生存著的中生代的一种腔棘鱼" as an autocomplete option for 现在. In other words, they expect people often intend to go on to say "there still exists a kind of coelacanth from the Mesozoic Era" when they type "now" in Chinese. Sure, someone's going to say, hey, I type that all the time. The weird thing is that I've never noticed this before. The only other autocomplete option was "...不遵守交通规则" ("not respecting traffic regulations") for 走路 ("walking"). Bastards. What about the Chinese drivers that fail to respect traffic regulations?

Tuesday, April 6

Why do they do it?

Much taken by a speech of the lawyer towards the beginning of the movie, I skimmed through the text of Le colonel Chabert (available in pdf format here)
Combien de choses n'ai-je pas apprises en exerçant ma charge! J'ai vu mourir un père dans un grenier, sans sou ni maille, abandonné par deux filles auxquelles il avait donné quarante mille livres de rente! J'ai vu brûler des testaments; j'ai vu des mères dépouillant leurs enfants, des maris volant leurs femmes, des femmes tuant leurs maris en se servant de l'amour qu'elles leur inspiraient pour les rendre fous ou imbéciles, afin de vivre en paix avec un amant. J'ai vu des femmes donnant à l'enfant d'un premier lit des goûts qui devaient amener sa mort, afin d'enrichir l'enfant de l'amour. Je ne puis vous dire tout ce que j'ai vu, car j'ai vu des crimes contre lesquels la justice est impuissante. Enfin, toutes les horreurs que les romanciers croient inventer sont toujours au-dessous de la vérité. Vous allez connaître ces jolies choses-là, vous; moi, je vais vivre à la campagne avec ma femme, Paris me fait horreur.

Here's a mediocre English version:
How many things have I learned in the exercise of my profession! I have seen a father die in a garret, deserted by two daughters, to whom he had given forty thousand francs a year! I have known wills burned; I have seen mothers robbing their children, wives killing their husbands, and working on the love they could inspire to make the men idiotic or mad, that they might live in peace with a lover. I have seen women teaching the child of their marriage such tastes as must bring it to the grave in order to benefit the child of an illicit affection. I could not tell you all I have seen, for I have seen crimes against which justice is impotent. In short, all the horrors that romancers suppose they have invented are still below the truth. You will know something of these pretty things; as for me, I am going to live in the country with my wife. I have a horror of Paris.
The thing is, in the movie, this is near the beginning, but in the story, it's pretty much a conclusion. And why did the movie have Chabert living near stinky bears (!!!) instead of stinky cows, as in the original. Maybe they thought people don't know cows stink, but they have smelled bears at the zoo?

Last night we saw Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray (Sundays and Cybele; 1962). I can't say it did much for me.
Mentioning the highly successful Infernal Affairs (無間道), Peter Tsi, a Hong Kong film fest guy says, says: "To be screened on the mainland, Hong Kong films have to pass stringent censors and the Chinese government will have the right to remove sections they deem offensive or 'politically incorrect,' he said.

Taboo subjects such as supernatural or superstitious beliefs, explicit sex scenes, politics and homosexual love stories are hard to get past the censors.

Infernal Affairs -- co-produced with a state-owned studio -- was shot with two different endings. In Hong Kong, the bad guy gets away with murders under the nose of the befuddled police. In the mainland version, the bad guy's cover is blown and is promptly arrested."

Monday, April 5

Friday's Joke - New jokes every weekday from Sick and Twisted Jokes: "A man goes into a bar and says 'Give me two doubles.'
The bartender says, 'Wow, You must really be thirsty!'
The man says, 'No, I'm celebrating my first blowjob.'
The bartender replies,'Well, in that case, they're on the house!'
The man smiles, 'I just hope it's enough to get the taste out of my mouth!' "
ugly baby joke -- Jokes for the week 03/08/04:

A woman gets on a bus and immediately becomes involved in an argument with the driver after he calls her baby ugly.

She pays her fare and storms off to get a seat.

A man asks, "what's the matter love?"

"It's that bloody driver, I've never been so insulted in all my life", she replies.

"Okay" says the man, "you go down there and sort him out and I’ll look after the monkey."

Sunday, April 4

This Chinese homestyle cooking site has nice pics. I guess it's mostly pay, though.
Arrest of Journalists Seen as Payback for A Bold Voice in China cites Wang Jianmin, a journalist at Asia Week (that apparently means Yazhou zhoukan 亞洲週刊)
called the journalists' arrests on embezzlement charges "the newest method to persecute Chinese intellectuals."

For Wang and others, Cheng's case has become an example of the frequent gap between liberalizing reforms announced by national leaders in Beijing and day-to-day experiences of people who deal with provincial, municipal and rural officials. As the Southern Metropolis News case went forward, for instance, the Chinese government published a white paper in Beijing hailing 2003 as a landmark year for progress in human rights, including freedom of the press.

"Although the central government wants to rule the country in a legal way, the provincial and municipal governments still have a lot of power," said Chen Feng, an editor who formerly worked under Cheng at the Southern Metropolis News. "Whether you break the law depends on what the local leaders believe, and not the law."

According to an anonymous journalist quoted by Arnold Zeitlin at The Jamestown Foundation:
'The thing that angered the government and the police is the coverage of Sun Zhigang, the college graduate who was beaten to death by some police last year,' said the journalist.

'The Sun Zhigang affair is very, very important to the Guangzhou police department. When the incident happened, the head of the police department had a chance to be promoted to the head of the police department of Guangdong province. So, Mr. Zhu, then the head of the Guangzhou police went to the Southern Metropolitan to ask the newspaper with tears not to report it. But they did. The report crashed the political future of Mr. Zhu and other police officers. The SARS report didn't. So, at the trial after the beating incident, one guilty police officer told another police officer, 'I will kill you if you don't manage to crackdown on the Southern Metropolitan'. Yes, that time has come.'
Not to long ago something finally possesed me to read Henry James' The Turn of the Screw; I've always found James pretty unreadable, and though this was a hard slog, it wasn't as bad as I was afraid. But I still couldn't see what the fuss was about. Yesterday we saw The Innocents (1961), which I hadn't realized from the blurb was based on the James story, and the movie seemed to be pretty much the same as what I remembered of the story, but I still don't get what the fuss is all about. Anyway, nifty summary and discussion of the story here.

Saturday, April 3

Ananova - Man cuts off penis and testicles
A man who cut off his penis and testicles, was found running naked down a Canadian city street screaming 'Repent, repent, fornicators.'
I was looking to see whether "repent" was usually used in a religious context.
Bush Administration Shows More Support of Free Trade:
The Bush administration, still sparring with Senator John Kerry over the issue of trade, said the practice of exporting work overseas had little to do with the loss of jobs in the United States.

John W. Snow, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer that the practice of moving American jobs to low-cost countries 'is part of trade' and that 'there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger.'
It sounds like Bush wants my vote after all. I wonder if he'll lose the election now.
David Brooks is coming out with more cultural criticism:
...if you are driving across the northern band of the country -- especially in Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin or Oregon -- you are likely to stumble across a crunchy suburb. These are places with meat-free food co-ops, pottery galleries, sandal shops (because people with progressive politics have a strange penchant for toe exhibitionism). Not many people in these places know much about the for-profit sector of the economy, but they do build wonderful all-wood playgrounds for their kids, who tend to have names like Milo and Mandela. You know you're in a crunchy suburb because you see the anti-lawns, which declare just how fervently crunchy suburbanites reject the soul-destroying standards of conventional success. Anti-lawns look like regular lawns with eating disorders. Some are bare patches of dirt, others are scraggly spreads of ragged, weedlike vegetation, the horticultural version of a grunge rocker's face.

Then a few miles away, you might find yourself in an entirely different cultural zone, in an upscale suburban town center packed with restaurants -- one of those communities that perform the neat trick of being clearly suburban while still making it nearly impossible to park. The people here tend to be lawyers, doctors and professors, and they drive around in Volvos, Audis and Saabs because it is socially acceptable to buy a luxury car as long as it comes from a country hostile to U.S. foreign policy.

Here you can find your Trader Joe's grocery stores, where all the cashiers look as if they are on loan from Amnesty International and all the snack food is especially designed for kids who come home from school screaming, ''Mom, I want a snack that will prevent colorectal cancer!'' Here you've got newly renovated Arts and Crafts seven-bedroom homes whose owners have developed views on beveled granite; no dinner party in this clique has gone all the way to dessert without a conversational phase on the merits and demerits of Corian countertops. Bathroom tile is their cocaine: instead of white powder, they blow their life savings on handcrafted Italian wall covering from Waterworks.

You travel a few miles from these upscale enclaves, and suddenly you're in yet another cultural milieu. You're in one of the suburban light-industry zones, and you start noting small Asian groceries offering live tilapia fish and premade bibimbap dishes. You see Indian video rental outlets with movies straight from Bollywood. You notice a Japanese bookstore, newspaper boxes offering The Korea Central Daily News and hair salons offering DynaSky phone cards to Peru.

One out of every nine people in America was born in a foreign country. Immigrants used to settle in cities and then migrate out, but now many head straight for suburbia, so today you see little Taiwanese girls in the figure skating clinics, Ukrainian boys learning to pitch and hints of cholo culture spreading across Nevada. People here develop their own customs and patterns that grow up largely unnoticed by the general culture. You go to a scraggly playing field on a Saturday morning, and there is a crowd of Nigerians playing soccer. You show up the next day and it is all Mexicans kicking a ball around. No lifestyle magazine is geared to the people who live in these immigrant-heavy wholesale warehouse zones...

Suburban America is a bourgeois place, but unlike some other bourgeois places, it is also a transcendent place infused with everyday utopianism. That's why you meet so many boring-looking people who see themselves on some technological frontier, dreaming of this innovation or that management technique that will elevate the world -- and half the time their enthusiasms, crazes and fads seem ludicrous to others and even to them, in retrospect.
Sure it's partly crap, but there's even more when the leftist critics complain about American culture.
Vancouver Journal: Chinese Prosper in Canada, and Eagerly Read About It:
Leaving the mainstream media out of the political dialogue is not unusual anymore in a city whose Chinese population has exploded from a tiny minority to 30 percent of all residents in just one generation. By making his pitch directly to the 40 percent of his district's voters who are ethnic Chinese, Mr. Chan was giving a nod to Vancouver's parallel worlds.

The Chinese population in Canada has doubled in the last two decades to 1.1 million, or more than 3 percent of all residents. But nowhere is its presence felt more than in this metropolitan area of 1.8 million, of which 342,665, or 19 percent, are ethnic Chinese, according to the 2001 census.

The rise in the ethnic Chinese population has stimulated meteoric growth in the Chinese media and made them an influential player on the Canadian political landscape. Their influence is even beginning to be felt back in Asia, particularly after their aggressive reporting on the SARS epidemic, which reached into Canada last year.

Just as there are shiny new malls here that operate entirely in Cantonese and Mandarin, there is a commerce of ideas, news and entertainment in the local media that is beyond the comprehension of a shrinking majority.
Hmm, the last line sounds a little paranoid.
Study: Asian Suicide Rate Higher in Women, and it's not just China:
In a study this week in The Lancet medical journal, researchers give the first picture of suicide among young people in India. In a region near Vellore in southern India, more than twice as many young women aged 10 to 19 committed suicide as men in the same age group...

"Almost everything we know about suicide comes from Western countries, particularly Europe. So far, we had not looked into other cultures," said Dr. Jose Bertolote, who heads the mental and brain disorders division at the World Health Organization and was not involved with the study.
I sympathize with this guy:
Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington had been playing its new chimes for only a few days before a disheveled man burst into the clergy office and stood at the front desk, breathing hard and wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a sleeveless undershirt.

"He was going crazy. He said it was disturbing his peace," recalled church secretary Tina Marcus. "He wanted to explain his deep, deep concern over the bells ringing."
I couldn't read the end of the article. It's got to make a Poe joke.
Nicholas Kristof
With Democrats on the warpath over trade, there's pressure for tougher international labor standards that would try to put Abakr Adoud out of work.

Abakr lives with his family in the desert near this oasis in eastern Chad. He has never been to school and roams the desert all day with his brothers, searching for sticks that can be made into doors for mud huts. He is 10 years old.

It's appalling that Abakr, like tens of millions of other children abroad, is working instead of attending school. But prohibiting child labor wouldn't do him any good, for there's no school in the area for him to attend. If child labor hawks manage to keep Abakr from working, without giving him a school to attend, he and his family will simply be poorer than ever.

And that's the problem when Americans get on their high horses about child labor, without understanding the cruel third world economics that cause it. The push by Democrats like John Kerry for international labor standards is well intentioned, but it is also oblivious to third world realities.

Look, I feel like Scrooge when I speak out against bans on sweatshops or on child labor. In the West, it's hard to find anyone outside a university economics department who agrees with me. But the basic Western attitude — particularly among Democrats and warm-and-fuzzy humanitarians — sometimes ends up making things worse. Consider the results of two major American efforts to ban imports produced by child labor:

In 1993, when Congress proposed the U.S. Child Labor Deterrence Act, which would have blocked imports made by children (if it had passed), garment factories in Bangladesh fired 50,000 children. Many ended up in worse jobs, like prostitution.

Then there was the hue and cry beginning in 1996 against soccer balls stitched by children in their homes (mostly after school) in Sialkot, Pakistan. As a result, the balls are now stitched by adults, often in factories under international monitoring.

But many women are worse off. Conservative Pakistanis believe that women shouldn't work outside the home, so stitching soccer balls is now off limits for many of them. Moreover, bad publicity about Pakistan led China to grab market share with machine-stitched balls: over the next two years, Pakistan's share of the U.S. soccer ball market dropped to 45 percent from 65 percent.

So poor Pakistani families who depended on earnings from women or children who stitched soccer balls are now further impoverished.

I'm not arguing that child labor is a good thing. It isn't. But as Jagdish Bhagwati, the eminent trade economist, notes in his new book, "In Defense of Globalization," thundering against child labor doesn't address the poverty that causes it.

In the village of Toukoultoukouli in Chad, I visited the 17 girls and 31 boys in the two-room school. Many children, especially girls, never attend school, which ends after the fourth grade.

So a 12-year-old boy working in Toukoultoukouli has gotten all the education he can. Instead of keeping him from working, Westerners should channel their indignation into getting all children into school for at least those four years — and there is one way that could perhaps be achieved.

It's bribery. The U.N. World Food Program runs a model foreign aid effort called the school feeding program. It offers free meals to children in poor schools (and an extra bribe of grain for girl students to take home to their families). Almost everywhere, providing food raises school attendance, particularly for girls. "If there were meals here, parents would send their kids," said Muhammad Adam, a teacher in Toukoultoukouli.

School feeding costs just 19 cents per day per child.

So here's my challenge to university students: Instead of spending your energy boycotting Nike or pressing for barriers against child labor, why not sponsor school meals in places like Toukoultoukouli?

I spoke with officials at the World Food Program, and they'd be thrilled to have private groups or individuals help sponsor school feedings. (See for details.) Children in Africa will be much better off with a hot meal and an education than with your self-righteous indignation.
Erguotou, Chinese Drink, Heads Stateside. Even if it's "a superior blend", I don't think it'll become that popular. But what do I know. The theory goes:
Primate ancestors of homo sapiens were highly dependent on fruit, and so, the new theory goes, they developed a strong attraction to the ethanol that naturally spikes lusciously ripe and overripe fruits. This predilection was then passed on to humans.
But they can't find any drunken monkeys. According to Katharine Milton, a primatologist
"in apes, there's nothing like human consciousness", so why should they drink? "Humans might be the only animals that wish to escape from their own consciousness," she said.
Ah, let's hear it for relinquishing control over ourselves. Slavery, anyone?
Chinese Capital Scraps Bullfights
Organizers have scrapped plans to hold bullfights in Beijing after complaints that the event would be cruel to animals, Chinese media reported Friday.

The first bullfight was to have taken place May 1 in a new 6,400-seat bullring billed as the biggest in Asia.

But members of the Beijing city council complained that the fights would be inhumane and have 'the potential to tarnish Beijing's and China's image,' China Radio International reported. They called such events 'uncultured in Chinese tradition.'
Yeah, killing and torturing people is more the Chinese tradition.
Last week we saw Le Colonel Chabert (1994), which was pretty good. I've gotten a little tired of Gerard Depardieu's tendency towards scenery-chewing, but he was more restrained here. Then last night we saw Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). I'm not sure I would have recognized Albert Finney if I hadn't seen his name in the credits--we'd just seen him in The Dresser (1983) last week, when he looked pretty old, and awhile ago in A Man of No Importance (1994). It was very reminiscent of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), another Tony Richardson/Alan Sillitoe story, and of Tony Richardson's A Taste of Honey.

Friday, April 2

Kerry, Candidate and Catholic, Creates Uneasiness for Church: "Mr. Kerry is the first Roman Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket in 44 years, but the obstacles for Catholic politicians have turned inside out since 1960, when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to win the White House.

"President Kennedy had to overcome accusations from non-Catholics that he would follow the bidding of the pope. Now, Mr. Kerry faces accusations from some within his own church that he is not following the pope's bidding closely enough."

Times change. Another thing: Kerry "learned only last year that his paternal grandfather was a Czech Jew named Fritz Kohn, who changed his name and converted to Catholicism before emigrating to Boston." So he's a Jew? But Jewish ancestry comes from the mother's side, right? And she's a Boston Brahmin, and they're WASPs. I also find that her family, the Forbes, supposedly derived their wealth from dealing opium in China. Even if he did, so what? Have we ever been able to prove how harmful opium is?
Science & Technology at Scientific Fossil Illuminates Evolution of Limbs from Fins: "compared with the anatomy of other tetrapods of the same age there is a large space for chest muscle attachment, the scientists report. This added brawn would have enabled a motion similar to a benchpress or push-up. "

Thursday, April 1

Wecht probe shows leader of Taiwan was shot
Taiwanese president Chen Shui-ban was indeed shot, but his assailant is unlikely ever to be found because he used a homemade gun and homemade ammunition and it is impossible to pinpoint precisely when Chen and his vice president were wounded, Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht said yesterday.
Report: China Jails Woman Over Web Post By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
A woman who posted an article on the Internet criticizing the way China's government handles public complaints has been sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp, a human rights group said Thursday.

Ma Yalian used several Chinese legal affairs Web sites to post the article documenting her fruitless efforts to petition over the destruction of her Shanghai home, New York-based Human Rights in China, or HRIC, said in a statement.

Ma described police violence and harassment of her and other petitioners, the group said. She said some protested by committing suicide outside government offices.

HRIC said Ma was sentenced on March 16 by Shanghai's Re-education Through Labor Management Committee. It said the committee accused her of 'falsely accusing Shanghai authorities of causing her physical injury,' and having 'turned petitioning into pestering.'

Shanghai police said they had no information about Ma, and the phone number for the Re-education Through Labor Management Committee was not listed.

Chinese law permits such committees to sentence people to up to three years in labor camps without trial. Intended to punish minor criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, the system is also frequently used to quiet political and religious dissenters.

Critics call the system unconstitutional, but officials say it's needed to maintain order across the huge nation.