Wednesday, September 29

A hero?

In Bullying Taiwan, Tim Lehmann critizes China's efforts to thwart Taiwan. He also points out how U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan bowed to a demand by China. Journalists had originally been scheduled to view--from inside the U.N. building--an address by Chen Shui-bian (via video-link from Taipei, because he's generally not allowed into the US). But without the consent of the head of the U.N. Correspondents Association, Annan forced them out of the building. Sure, the Chinese are being typically petty; this was after the Taiwanese bid to join the UN was rejected, at their behest. But Annan looks pretty bad, too.
It was curious that Chen should be singled out in not being allowed to speak at the UNCA. After all, the UNCA has traditionally been a "free speech zone," Jenkins pointed out to Annan, noting that the UNCA has in the past permitted a wide range of individuals and groups to speak on its premises, including a number of groups of dubious repute, such as the IRA, the Taliban, and the Iranian People's Mujahadeen.
Tim Lehmann also discusses a humiliation for Taiwan at the Paralympics:
Taiwan's first lady, Wu Shu-jen, arrived in Athens a week ago Sunday with the intention of leading Taiwan's delegation at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Paralympic Games, a parallel event to the Olympics dedicated to athletes with disabilities. Wu, the emeritus president of the Chinese Taipei Paralympic Committee (CPTC), has been paralyzed from the waist down since 1985.

Once it became clear that Wu would lead Taiwan's athletes, China attempted to strong-arm the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) into revoking Wu's status as head of the "Chinese Taipei" (Taiwan's name at international events) team. China, which claims sovereignty over self-governing Taiwan, had averred that Wu's presence at the Paralympics would politicize the games.

Early in the week, the IPC bent to China's will and disqualified Wu from leading the team, stripping her of her National Paralympic Card on the ostensible grounds that she was not the official head of the CPTC. This decision, too, was taken at China's insistence, even though the IPC knew her status in August when it issued her the card. In response, Taiwan submitted an official protest to the IPC, pointing out that many of the other delegations to the games--including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, and Korea--were not headed by the presidents of their national paralympic committees.
My italics. So how does Lin Chieh-yu of the Taipei Times spin the humiliation? Huang returns a real hero of the most famous heroes of Taiwan's delegation is not an athlete but the Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidential Office James Huang (黃志芳), who outmaneuvered China's diplomatic machinations and helped first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) accomplish her trip to Athens.


Responding to criticism of Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen's (陳唐山) blunt assessments of Singapore during his meeting with pro-independence activists on Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) yesterday said the foreign minister apologized for his inappropriate choice of words.

"I deeply apologize for the words I said which made others uncomfortable," Lu quoted Chen as saying.

In response to press queries on Chen's remarks, a spokesman for Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said, "This is not the first time Singapore has stated our concerns about Taiwan. Many other countries also believe that Taiwan is pursuing a dangerous course towards independence. Resort[ing] to intemperate language cannot assuage these concerns."

Infuriated by his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo's criticism of Taiwan during the recent UN General Assembly, Chen called the city-state "a tiny nation no bigger than a piece of snot."

He also said, "Singapore holds China's lam pa (爛疤) with its hands, if I may use these ugly words."

In the Hoklo language, also known as Taiwanese, lam pa means testicles; saying that someone holds another's lam pa means that the former is fawning over the latter...

[A] KMT lawmaker, Bill Sun (孫國華), said that Chen's words were "a severe example of misspeaking in the international arena."

"In fact, Chen's comments were made to attract votes from the pro-independence camp," Sun said yesterday. "However, the nation's people will pay a considerable price for this eventually."

"Most of Taiwan's diplomatic allies are much smaller than Singapore. The ministry should immediately apologize for such inappropriate criticism," Sun said.
So much for Mark Chen being a stalwart Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member.

Tuesday, September 28

My Kid Could Paint That

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl By MICHELLE YORK
The hottest new abstract artist in town has reason to celebrate.

This summer, she went from selling her work in a coffee shop to having her own gallery show.

After a local newspaper's feature on her, about 2,000 people came for opening night - everyone from serious collectors to the artist's preschool teacher. She earned more money than she could comprehend. The gallery owner said it was his most successful show ever and scheduled a second one for October.

So celebrate, the artist did. During a recent visit, she climbed on a big bouncing ball shaped like a frog, grabbed the handles and bounced around the house with laughter pealing and pigtails flying.

The artist is Marla Olmstead. She is 4.
Poor abstract artists like Mark Wolak! This is what they have to compete with! There were already elephant abstract painters.

Wednesday, September 22

It looked like snot

Swimming in syrup is as easy as water by Michael Hopkin:
It's a question that has taxed generations of the finest minds in physics: do humans swim slower in syrup than in water? And since you ask, the answer's no. Scientists have filled a swimming pool with a syrupy mixture and proved it.

"What appealed was the bizarreness of the idea," says Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, who led the experiment...

while you experience more "viscous drag" (basically friction from your movement through the fluid) as the water gets thicker, you generate more forwards force from every stroke. The two effects cancel each other out.
via geekpress.

I'm OK, you're not

Professor Bainbridge quotes an email from Eric Muller:
The reluctance of bloggers to note the blogospheric take-down of Malkin's work while allowing her to join the post-Rather blogospheric self-congratulation is a story on its own, and you don't need to be an internment expert to see it. For more on this, see [this post]. And in the meantime, the call for Arab internment now spreads upward into the pages of US News & World Report.
Too right. Last night NBC noted the role of the bloggers in exposing Rather's fraud and also mentioned their role in Trent Lott's takedown (check out my search: bloggers "senate majority leader" hairpiece), but nothing on Malkin.

Tuesday, September 21

Death rates among the elite are rising

China Study: City Dwellers in Poor Health By ELAINE KURTENBACH
Up to 75 percent of all urban Chinese suffer from ill health, and life expectancies are declining for skilled and educated workers as modern lifestyles exact a deadly toll, according to a study by the Chinese Red Cross.

The survey of 16 Chinese cities with more than 1 million people found that 75 percent of Beijing residents were in poor health, along with 73 percent of those in Shanghai and the southern city of Guangzhou, the state-run newspaper Shanghai Daily reported Monday.

The findings illustrate a darker side of China's economic success story: deteriorating public health and a decline in well-being for many Chinese, even in the country's richest cities.

The Red Cross study defined poor health or "sub health" as illness causing reduced levels of energy and fitness but with no specific diagnosis of a disease...

The Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that the average life span of an educated person is 58, more than 10 years lower than the national average of 72 years.

A separate study found that among the 380,000 information technology professionals working in Zhongguancun, Beijing's equivalent of Silicon Valley, the average life expectancy was only 53 years - five years lower than a decade ago, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday...

Urban Chinese are getting gaining weight as they switch from diets heavy in vegetables and staple grains to much higher consumption of fats, meats and sugar. Physical labor has given way to more sedentary work, and stress levels are rising as workers lose cradle-to-grave employment and struggle to make ends meet in a competitive job market.

Meanwhile, China's industrial boom and soaring number of vehicles have spoiled water and air to the point where its cities are among the worst polluted in the world, and respiratory diseases are the No. 1 cause of early death.

Although Shanghai has claimed progress in cleaning up its notoriously noxious Suzhou Creek, upstream canals remain heavily polluted. Most waterways are unsafe for drinking, and some are not fit even for agricultural use.

The population of cities is also aging quickly, raising the percentage of people more likely to be suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart problems...

The government once touted the country's broad provision of basic services, such as medical care and education, as obvious benefits of Communist Party rule. But for many, those services have been dismantled.

Farm families in the countryside can no longer count on "barefoot
doctors" for basic health services. And although city dwellers have
access to the country's best medical facilities, the lack of a
comprehensive health insurance system means that many cannot afford
medical care.
I'm skeptical that rural people are quite as healthy as this article suggests. With virtually no insurance, are they really that much healthier than urbanites? Still, it's ironic that the elite is so unhealthy.

Sunday, September 19

Asian parents

I heard the moderator on the Justice Talking program about school desegregation ask something about how Asian parents pushed their kids to study hard, but I missed it if either speaker felt that had anything to do with the education of black or hispanic students. In other words, people don't feel it's the parents' job to push their children to study. Unbelievable.

Saturday, September 18


In China, Farmers' Labor Bears Too Much Fruit By KEITH BRADSHER
As in many industries, from television sets to washing machines and now to cars, early success by a few producers led to a flood of investment, overproduction and the evaporation of profits.

While business success often draws new competitors in Western countries, the effect is outsize in China.

Each state-owned bank branch tends to funnel huge loans at very low interest rates to investors in any industry that seems profitable, almost regardless of whether other lenders are doing the same, bankers said. And with a long tradition of news media censorship and a distrust of official pronouncements, business executives and peasants alike tend to barrel ahead, leery of believing admonitions against over-investment - until prices plunge.

Among litchi producers, the problem was not so much loans, though these played a role, but rather a kind of folk wisdom that litchi trees would always be a good investment for families' savings...

After three years, the trees were three feet tall and producing five or six pounds of fruit apiece. After six years, the trees are expected to be double that height and would yield 35 pounds of fruit apiece if all the litchi were allowed to mature, Mr. Zhao said.

In another decade, his trees will be fully grown, more than 10 feet tall and each producing up to 170 pounds of litchis, swelling the oversupply.

The Chinese government has banned the planting of any more litchi trees, and banks have stopped lending to litchi farms. But the current glut is not only going to grow worse as more trees mature, but is also likely to last a long time.

Once a tree reaches full size, it can continue producing litchis for centuries, although the poundage does decrease somewhat with age. Detailed production records show that a few litchi trees in western Guangdong Province are 1,200 years old, and they are still bearing fruit, [according to a professor of horticulture]...

A lack of a futures markets for commodities in China has made it hard for farmers to foresee the long-term direction of prices. Some litchi growers associations now allow the trading of rights to future deliveries, but only up to six months ahead, and the availability of these trading rights comes too late to stop the soaring output now.

Fresh litchis are something of an acquired taste in any case, as they are time-consuming to peel for the modest fruit they contain, especially in the case of heiye litchis. [hence the name black leaf litchis; they bear fruit with a blackish-red peel, and the seed is so large that there is little flesh. The meager flesh is watery and nearly transparent, and has a weak flavor.]

Yet the litchi, long a symbol of China, is in danger of becoming passé in its home country. A canned litchi-flavored drink sold across the nation for many years has been losing sales lately, as young people choose newer and more fashionable drinks, like Coca-Cola.
An acquired taste? That means he doesn't like them. And as for cola, I suspect that's a temporary phenomenon exacerbated by the lack of marketing know-how. In Japan and Taiwan, it hardly has the market for drinks cornered. Anyway, what he means by a symbol of China may have something to do with the Emperor's concubine Yang Guifei 杨贵妃 (719-756) and her legendary fondess for litchi 荔枝 from Lingnan 岭南.

No worries about sounding middle of the road

Yesterday on NPR the teaser sounded something like "Dead on the Campaign Trail". The segment was Before Bush Speaks, Partisans Preach to Faithful and the summary goes:
When President Bush makes a campaign appearance, neither he nor his media entourage arrive in time to hear the opening act. But those who do hear speakers and entertainers with a strong point of view and no worries about sounding middle of the road. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
It's certainly not the kind of stuff I support, but there was no word on whether Kerry does the same thing.

On the other hand, there was the first segment (by Melissa Block) of a series on gross anatomy and body donation. Speaking of organs...

Organ concert

It was the annual organ concert (free because of the endowment by Marianne Webb and David Bateman). Last night it was Peter Conte. It was better than I expected, given that he was promoted as the organist of the Wanamaker Organ in a Philadelphia department store now owned by Lord & Taylor. He claimed that that is the largest pipe organ in the world, and explained that originally the boss of Wanamaker was a music lover, so I guess it's not as strange as it sounds. He was also promoted as a transcriptor, and for some reason I've got a prejudice against those, even though last year's was OK. He did a good job with those. However, it wasn't as exciting as last year's, speaking of which it also included Guilmant & Vierne.

  • Grand Choeur in D (alla Handel) (Alexandre Guilmant)--light but engaging

  • Concert variations on The Last Rose of Summer (Dudley Buck)--not bad

  • Pieces de Fantasie; Dedicace & Tocatta (Vierne)--the first was awfully gloomy and meandering, but the Tocatta was nice

  • Concerto in G Major (Johann Ernst, transcribed by Bach)

  • Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Brahms, transcribed by Conte)--not bad

  • A silly improvisation. I think he was tired.
How dreadfully bourgeois once again!

I didn't mention one peculiarlity: we were not allowed to sit in the balcony rows nearer the organist, supposedly at his request, but people who arrived just before the concert started were. Worse, one young man was allowed to enter shortly after the concert started; a few minutes after the intermission was over he came in again after the organist had started playing and then left before he had finished.

There were a couple of other annoyances: the man in front of us who kept his keys on a clip on his belt, permitting them to clash against the metal seats twice; and the woman behind us who not only failed to turn off her cell phone before it started ringing, but also had to whisper to her companion.

Thursday, September 16

Money, money, money

In Lewis Lapham Phones It In: Figuring out what's wrong with Harper's magazine by Jack Shafer, the most interesting part to me was not the Lapham stuff, but the money talk:
[Democratic Party operative Rob Stein] and Lapham would have you believe that conservative foundations both outweigh liberal foundations and suppress the liberal message with their big spending. But that's not the case. Stein estimates assets of $2 billion for the eight major conservative family foundations in 2001, which sounds gargantuan. But that's chump change compared to the holdings of liberal foundations. Writing in the American Prospect in 1998, Karen Paget notes that none of these conservative foundations rank in the top 10 American foundations measured by assets, and most don't even break into the top 50.

What sort of media do liberal foundations fund? The liberal John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which reported assets of $4.2 billion in 2003, made grants of $7.5 million to various liberal media projects, including Public Radio International ($2.5 million), WNET documentary films ($800,000), WGBH documentary film ($400,000), and other TV, documentary, and radio initiatives, according to the foundation's annual report.

The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy (assets of $60 million in 2002) gave money to liberal media organizations in 2003 at rates that would make a Scaife faint. The group's federal Form 990 records it giving $4.3 million away to Florence Fund ($2 million), Sojourners magazine ($500,000), an investigative fund for ($277,785), the Nation Institute ($115,000), and various radio, film, and magazine projects (the Washington Monthly and the American Prospect got piddly amounts). It also paid Bill Moyers, host of PBS's Now, $200,000 to serve as its president.

Paget argues persuasively that conservative foundations are more effective than liberal foundations because they're better at giving money away, not because they give more of it away. Conservatives tend to 1) give general support, letting the grantee decide how to spend the money; and 2) they tend to renew those gifts year after year, letting the grantee take root as an institution and freeing it from running in circles on the fund-raising wheel. Conservative magazines such as Commentary, the American Spectator, the National Interest, the Public Interest, the New Criterion, and Policy Review have flourished because of steady funding by benefactors.

Liberal foundations, on the other hand, tend to limit their donations to specific projects and don't make multiple deposits over the years. In other words, a liberal propaganda mill exists; it just operates under different philanthropic principles than the conservative one.
Still, the "persuasive" claim here is that conservative foundations are more effective. I still think the media has a slight liberal tilt. Do they cancel each other out? (via Nick Gillespie)

I'm a minority, too!

Speaking out in favor of immigration in Go Ahead, Leave the Door Open, Brian Doherty mentions a
Samuel Huntington-style concern for "cultural integrity" and "national identity," the protection of which is not among the granted powers in the Constitution, as near as I can tell.
In his article, Huntington claims "America is becoming a dangerously Balkanized country." This is the other side of identity politics. The more one insists on one's cultural identity, which is usually minority and in contrast to a perceived majority, the more the majority is going to feel threatened, and react with this kind of idiocy. I say this as one of the intelligent minority (oops...).

Eat Your Vegetables

Don't Play a Numbers Game, Experts Say, Just Eat Your Vegetables By MARY DUENWALD
...the gathering evidence in support of low-glycemic index eating has lent new validity to a bit of age-old nutritional wisdom: a healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts, and relatively few sugary foods and drinks and refined starches.

...for the average person wishing to eat a lower index diet, it is best to ignore the index numbers and simply aim to eat less refined starches. "Just eat abundant quantities of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and reduce your consumption of white bread, prepared breakfast cereals, white rice and potato products...

Danish researchers who tried to predict the glycemic index of entire breakfasts based on the glycemic index values of the carbohydrates in them were unsuccessful. The only way to predict the glycemic response prompted by the various breakfasts was to consider the total calories.
Don't forget to exercise.

Euthanasia, anyone?

Alzheimer's in the Living Room: How One Family Rallies to Cope By JANE GROSS says,
a substantial majority of Alzheimer's patients are cared for at home by family members; estimates range from two-thirds to 95 percent. This growing army of caregivers props up the nation's health care system with free labor, worth, economists and researchers say, more than $100 billion a year, or more than twice the cost of nursing home and paid home care combined.

But these largely invisible caregivers, who buttress the nation's health care system, pay a terrible price. The architecture of the family is turned upside down, turning children into parents and parents into children. Emotional bonds and financial resources are strained, even in the most resilient households. Caregivers get sick from the stress.
But the rest of the article is about a single family's problems, and I didn't notice any tips on how to vote in their stead.

Snooty is as snooty does

In I'm Cooking as Fast as I Can By WILLIAM GRIMES, he states that his goal is "putting a respectable meal on the table in 30 minutes or less". He admits,
is worth stating at the outset that there is good fast food and bad fast food, and speed has nothing to do with the difference between the two. Canned onion rings over canned green beans, a casserole dish I recall from childhood, may be the bad fast dish par excellence. At the opposite end of the scale I might place veal chops in sage-butter sauce spiked with a little vermouth, a simple Italian entree I have made many times. Both dishes take about 10 minutes to prepare. One is satisfying and delicious. The other is a crime against nature. No one should ever dine at a quality level lower than veal in sage-butter sauce. At least not at my house.

I am happy to report that Betty Crocker does not call for canned onion rings in her "Quick and Easy Cookbook," but the recipes do cater to a middlebrow concept of fine cooking that leaves me cold. Betty takes a nonjudgmental attitude toward margarine versus butter. Frozen or canned ingredients she accepts as a fact of life and frozen fish, too. If you don't want to mince garlic, it is O.K. to buy it minced in a bottle.

Betty has a new look and a new hairdo. She knows about couscous, chipotles and salsa. But her heart belongs to the 1950's. How else to explain dishes like cheesy tuna broccoli skillet casserole or maple-mustard syrup as a sauce for asparagus? The recipes have a train-wreck fascination to them, and some of the photographs seem almost forensic. Fudge pudding cake, for example, looks like a heaping helping of Alpo.
All very amusing, no doubt. But the Chinese meals my wife prepares often take an hour or more to prepare. Sometimes there's a price to pay for eating something good. Why must he sneer at people who are willing to sacrifice time to taste? I guess it makes him feel better about himself. (That's why I'm sneering at him, of course.)

Wednesday, September 15

Truth not allowed in China

China has internet blacklist By Richard Spencer
Chinese computer hackers have discovered a list of officially banned words and topics, casting new light on the shadowy world of the country's 30,000 internet police...

Some topics were predictable: human rights, democracy and phrases used to describe the Tiananmen Square massacre.

But others showed the full sensitivity of the authorities, The list included the name of President Hu Jintao and the words liberty, Christian, truth, sex and brassiere.
Here's a similar list: Hu Jintao 胡锦涛、democracy 民主、liberty 自由、Christian 基督教、truth 真理、sex 性、brassiere 奶罩、June 4th 六四、human rights 人权、and Jiang Zemin's personal favorite, Falungong 法轮功。

I suppose the 性 that's disallowed is 性 as a single word, for as Lin Yutang's dictionary points out, 性 is

  1. the equivalent of -ness, -ity for expressing abstract notions: 可能性 possibility, from 可能 possible, etc.
  2. Nature, inborn nature: 天命之謂性,率性之謂道,修道之謂教 (中庸) "What is God-given is called nature; to follow that nature is called the way; to cultivate the way is called culture",
  3. What is instinctive, inherent...天性,本性 man's inborn nature, also original nature of man.
  4. Sex, sexual desire or impulse: 兩性 the two sexes
  5. Gender: 陰性,陽性,中性 feminine, masculine, neuter gender
  6. Personal temperament, character, personality: 性情
It's not until (4) that we get to sex.

No tenure???

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has an interesting new report: Measuring Up 2004: The National Report Card on Higher Education. Their analysis concludes bleakly that
There have been real but modest gains in rates of associate and baccalaureate degree completion, but participation in college and completion of degrees remain among the weakest aspects of performance. In addition, far too many students still do not graduate from high school on time or at all. Without a high school diploma, most of these young people will face sadly diminished prospects of getting additional training or of ever finding employment that will support a middle-class standard of living. Communities and the nation lose as well, for having a pool of educated workers is the greatest asset in today's knowledge-based global economy.

Pervasively dismal grades in affordability show that for most American families college is less affordable now than it was a decade ago. The rising cost of attending college has outpaced the growth in family income. Although financial aid has increased, it has not kept pace with the cost of attendance. Every state should reexamine college tuition and financial aid policies, and each should formally link future tuition increases to gains in family income. In the meantime, the conclusion from Measuring Up 2004 is clear: The vast majority of states have failed to keep college affordable for most families.
I feel that tuition is going up too fast, but what's the solution? I can't say how to make people finish high school. As for holding down tuition, John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College, wrote that tenure is an outmoded concept:
tenure is a great solution to the problems of the 1940's, when the faculty was mostly male and academic freedom was at genuine risk. Why must institutions make a judgment that has lifetime consequences after a mere six or seven years? Publication may take longer in some fields than in others, and familial obligations frequently interrupt careers. Why not a system of contracts of varying length, including lifetime for the most valuable colleagues, that acknowledges the realities of academic life in the 21st century?

Moreover, when most tenure documents were originally adopted, faculty members had little protection. Today, almost every negative tenure decision is appealed. Appeals not upheld internally are taken to court. Few if any of these appeals have as their basis a denial of academic freedom.
I've got to say if I hadn't had the prize of tenure, I wouldn't have spent all that time and money getting a PhD.

The Only Way to Create Jobs

Outer Life writes about the only way to create jobs:
A politician who promises more jobs has as much credibility with me as a politician who promises more sunny days. When it comes to jobs, politicians can either create more government jobs -- something they never brag about -- or interfere with the market's creation of private sector jobs.

Innumerates II

Alex Tabarrok cites research to the effect that the minimum wage is not a good thing of the best ways to get a high-paying job is to get a low-paying job and work your way up. The minimum wage can put the least employable out of work and have permanent negative effects when training and work skills not acquired in youth are difficult to accumulate later on.

...teenagers who grow up in states with a minimum wage that is significantly and consistently higher than the federal minimum have lower earnings and work less a decade or more later when those workers are in their late twenties. The negative effects are larger for blacks, for whom the minimum wage tends to be more binding.
Democrats and unions seem to worry more about trying to help adult minimum wage workers, who are a minority, right? And if one tries to oppose such counterproductive help, the left seems to think one is not being kind enough. It's the feeling that counts, not the numbers.

Alex Tabarrok also links to Robert Musil's discussion of a New York Times' front page weeper full of meaningless numbers and touching anecdotes:
..a New York Times survey comprising scores of detailed interviews exploring the families' [of September 11 World Trade Center victims] emotional, physical and spiritual status. That survey found lives colored by continuing pain. Almost half still have a hard time getting a good night's sleep. A few said they no longer flew on airplanes. About a third have changed jobs or quit. About one in five have moved since 2001, and a fifth of those who still live where they did on Sept. 11 would move if they could. Very few who lost a spouse have remarried.
Musil provides a lesson in statistical thinking.

Tuesday, September 14


Ruling Class War by David Brooks:
There are two sorts of people in the information-age elite, spreadsheet people and paragraph people. Spreadsheet people work with numbers, wear loafers and support Republicans. Paragraph people work with prose, don't shine their shoes as often as they should and back Democrats.

C.E.O.'s are classic spreadsheet people. According to a sample gathered by PoliticalMoneyLine in July, the number of C.E.O.'s donating funds to Bush's campaign is five times the number donating to Kerry's.

Professors, on the other hand, are classic paragraph people and lean Democratic. Eleven academics gave to the Kerry campaign for every 1 who gave to Bush's. Actors like paragraphs, too, albeit short ones. Almost 18 actors gave to Kerry for every 1 who gave to Bush. For self-described authors, the ratio was about 36 to 1. Among journalists, there were 93 Kerry donors for every Bush donor. For librarians, who must like Faulknerian, sprawling paragraphs, the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1.
Then he comes up with an idiotic theory to explain it. As for myself, according to my "prosaic" background as a paragraph person I'd be expected to back the Democrats. However, I'm fond of humbers. My feeling is that a lot of Democrats are innumerate, and are unwilling or unable to understand explanations involving numbers. Of course, Bush seems to be innumerate as well. There goes that explanation.

Not that bad?

Rivers Run Black, and Chinese Die of Cancer
By JIM YARDLEY reports
The central government promotes big solutions but gives regulators little power to enforce them. Local officials have few incentives to crack down on polluters because their promotion system is based primarily on economic growth, not public health.

It is a game that leaves poorer, rural regions clinging to the worst polluters.

"No doubt there is an economic food chain, and the lower you are, the worse off your environmental problems are likely to be," said Elizabeth C. Economy, author of "The River Runs Black" (Cornell University Press, 2004), a study of China's environment. "One city after the next is offloading its polluting industries outside its city limits, and polluting industries themselves are seeking poorer areas."
However, the Economist says of Economy's book
Until more people get richer, China may not have the resources or the willpower to care much about pollution. Ms Economy more or less ignores this trade-off and concentrates on the negative consequences of economic growth. And at times she uses questionable statistics to support her argument—for example, her assertion that children living in Chinese cities are doing the equivalent of smoking two packets of cigarettes a day is lifted from a local newspaper and is hard to verify.

Ms Economy holds out the hope that local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will compensate for China's institutional shortcomings. By one count there are now 2m of these, and the book includes profiles of several courageous individuals who are trying to change things. But the vast majority of them are no more than individuals fighting single issues with little funding. The Communist Party immediately outlaws anything more ambitious that could threaten its authority.

The book pays insufficient attention to another influence for change: the positive impact of foreign multinationals. While these may not operate with quite the same clean technology as they do at home, their standards are still far higher than those of their local rivals.
Despite her name, she's less interested in what economists have to say.

Voters are idiots

Dementia and the Voter: Research Raises Ethical, Constitutional Questions By Shankar Vedantam
Florida neurologist Marc Swerdloff was taken aback when one of his patients with advanced dementia voted in the 2000 presidential election. The man thought it was 1942 and Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. The patient's wife revealed that she had escorted her husband into the booth.

"I said 'Did he pick?' and she said 'No, I picked for him,'" Swerdloff said. "I felt bad. She essentially voted twice" in the Florida election, which gave George W. Bush a 537-vote victory and the White House...

Jennifer Mathis, a Washington lawyer at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a disability rights group, said: "Our voting system does not require intelligent voting or informed voting. The Supreme Court has said the idea of informed voting is too susceptible to abuse."..

[Stephen McConnell, of the Alzheimer's Association, a nonprofit science and advocacy group], said a group of experts wrestled with the issue in August 2003 and agreed that patients even partly cognizant of the election should be allowed to vote...

Adam Butler of the Disability Rights Center in Little Rock said such talk holds people with disabilities to a higher standard than the rest of the population. No tests of mental competence are required to stand for office, and no law prevents "competent" voters from choosing candidates for questionable reasons: "People may vote because they like the way George W. Bush looks or because they like Heinz ketchup."
Well, we already know that voters are idiots.

It's not just poor countries

Bad regulations are a huge brake on global growth
Overall, businesses in poor countries shoulder three times the administrative costs and have to struggle through twice as many bureaucratic procedures as their counterparts in rich countries. A popular myth holds that this does not matter, because the rules in poor countries are rarely enforced. Not so. Because it is so hard to obey all the rules, businesses in poor countries tend to remain informal. That is, they remain outside the law and pay no taxes. They stay small to avoid detection. They cannot raise credit from the formal banking system in any case.

Governments often try to make their people richer by fiat, for example by ordering firms to pay their workers more. This rarely works as intended. Minimum-wage laws, if set too high, destroy jobs. Poor countries, which tend to have the most unrealistic labour standards, accordingly suffer the most unintended consequences.

A Korean identity problem

I heard most of this report about this woman's search for identity. She doesn't know who she is? She now seems free to be whoever she wants, so what's the big deal? Typical NPR crap. But this morning they had a great report about Korea by Rob Gifford.
Mrs. KIM YONG SUL: (Through Translator) It's simple. People in the south do not want reunification because it will impinge on their prosperity.

GIFFORD: This accusation is common among North Koreans who've fled here. In addition, they, and NGO workers who help them, say the current South Korean government in its attempts to engage with North Korea and avoid military conflict seems to ignore the horrific human rights abuses in the north. Tim Peters is founder of Helping Hands/Korea, the Christian organization that assists escaping North Koreans to resettle in the south.

Mr. TIM PETERS (Founder, Helping Hands/Korea): The people are starving, the people are utterly bereft of human rights, the right of free speech, the right of assembly. There are disturbing cases of human experimentation, of chemical weapons in the prison system. It's a situation that needs desperate international attention, and it needs it now.

GIFFORD: Peters is extremely critical of the South Korean government's approach. He says while South Korean donations of food and cash to the north have increased, North Korea has conceded nothing. And has not improved the treatment of its people. Activists are especially angry because this South Korean government is made up of many of the progressive activists who fought so hard for democracy and human rights for South Korea when it was run by a military dictatorship in the '70s and '80s. The issue of North Korean human rights has now become a political football in the highly partisan atmosphere of South Korean domestic politics. Each side uses it to score points against the other. The helpless North Koreans sometimes fall between the cracks. So Do Hune(ph) of the South Korean Unification Ministry says its less confrontational approach toward the north is the only way, though it could take time to see results.


Bush is not a free trader. Like that's a surprise. But then, neither is Kerry: U.S. May Limit Chinese Imports: Restrictions Likely On Some Clothing By Peter S. Goodman
China asserts that these claims are unfair, maintaining that it is being made the scapegoat for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Bush's Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), has accused the White House of failing to champion the interests of American workers in the face of the Chinese juggernaut.

The Bush administration has already limited imports of some Chinese goods to stem surging volumes, capping shipments of bras, dressing gowns and knit fabrics. Last month the Commerce Department accepted a petition from textile producers seeking limits on socks from China. The next round of petitions will likely seek limits on knit shirts and twill trousers, Aldonas said.

At the center of the conflict is the lifting of the quota system that has limited the volumes of clothing that China can ship to the United States. The quotas have forced American buyers to import textiles and clothing from dozens of countries around the world. Once that system expires at the end of this year, buyers will be free to import as much as they like from wherever they choose.

Apparel industry executives say that will almost surely mean a dramatic reordering of global production, with huge volumes shifting to China, where labor is cheap, plentiful and productive. Raw materials are abundant. Trade groups in the United States assert that about 650,000 American textile jobs hang in the balance -- most of them in southern states that constitute key election battlegrounds such as North Carolina.
It's all about the votes, of course.

Then there's A boundless vision, alas, which argues "George Bush's economic agenda is full of bold ideas, but it does not add up"
Mr Bush's refusal to acknowledge any fiscal constraints means that, despite the bold ideas in his speech, it is hard to say what a second Bush term might really bring. Most policy wonks guess that tax reform will be a big issue, if only because the AMT mess will force more changes to the tax code. But what does Mr Bush mean by tax reform? Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute sees the possibility of "1986 Redux", when Mr Reagan pushed through a base-broadening, rate-reducing reform in his second term. Others worry that tax reform may involve no more than simplifying procedures so that millions of Americans no longer have to file tax returns. The truth is that no one—including Mr Bush—appears to know.
Meanwhile, Fred Bergsten writes on The risks ahead for the world economy. At least one of them will lose.

And finally there's Report Cited Drawbacks to Tax Reform: Treasury Study Examined Simplifying U.S. System By Jonathan Weisman
Treasury economists were unambiguous in calling for the reform of a tax system that they said has grown needlessly complex, economically inefficient, unpredictable and unfair.

But they identified serious drawbacks -- both economic and political -- with each of the five reform proposals they drafted, especially a "flat consumption" tax that shifts the tax burden from savings and investment to wages and spending.

"The transition accompanying any fundamental tax reform may be disruptive and produce windfall winners and losers," the report said, but "the economic benefits of any fundamental tax reform are uncertain."

Moreover, it added, "Any reform is likely to have vocal losers and largely silent winners. In other countries, adoption of a consumption tax has led to election losses for the incumbent party."

Finally, the study said, fundamental simplification of the tax code would "run counter" to Bush's other tax policy goals. The president doubled the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 and has championed a significant expansion of tax credits for charitable donations, proposals he wants Congress to make permanent.

But such "social policy goals" are precisely what has complicated the tax code, the Treasury said. Recent studies have suggested three successive tax cuts signed by Bush have made the tax code significantly more complex. And with the political constituencies of such tax credits now firmly entrenched, "it is not clear that widely popular preferences in the current tax system . . . can be eliminated or even reduced," the Treasury found.

The Treasury report documents the trade-offs inherent in tax policy. A tax system can be progressive, for example, and tax the wealthy at a higher percentage than low-income families, or be used to encourage social objectives such as homeownership, affordable child care or charitable giving. But such policies run counter to other goals of tax policy, such as simplicity and economic efficiency.

For instance, the study examined the "flat tax," the long-held proposal of many economic conservatives to scrap the graduated income tax for a flat rate that is applied to earnings but exempts interest income, capital gains and dividends. According to the report, such a system would increase economic efficiency and would eliminate what Treasury economists see as a "disincentive to save and invest."

"But because it would effectively exempt most capital income from taxation, it would necessarily reduce the tax burden of high-income individuals," the study said.

Similarly, creating a "value added tax" -- a sales tax levied on business as well as consumer transactions -- could eliminate the need for most taxpayers to ever file a tax return, but it "would likely lead to an increase in the tax burden on lower-income taxpayers."

Are there no universal moral values?

The spectacular rise of the female terrorist by Alexis B. Delaney and Peter R. Neumann
The scholar Clara Beyler, who analyzed public reactions to suicide bombings, found that "female kamikazes" tended to be portrayed as "the symbols of utter despair ... rather than the cold-blooded murderers of civilians." If a woman was involved, the media focused on "what made her do it," not on the carnage that she had created. In other words, if the attacker was a woman, it was the bomber who became the victim, and whose grievances needed to be addressed.
Typical. I thank the mindset promoted by post-modernism for this.

Human society--feh

Being seen to be green by Rob Lyons
The act of buying organic is far more important than the act of consuming organic because it makes a statement about your awareness of the world around you - and you expect to feel the warmth of other people's approval in return.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that sales of Honda's Civic hybrid have been much weaker than for the Prius, even though the Civic's technology is similar and it is almost as fuel-efficient as the Prius. What's the difference? 'The Prius is a fashion statement', said Art Spinella, a consultant with CNW Marketing Research, who surveys car-buying trends. 'It looks different. Other people know the driver is driving a hybrid vehicle. It clearly makes a bigger statement about the person than does the Civic, which basically looks like a Civic.'

The recycling box outside your house is a symbol of virtue Spinella added that hybrid buyers in focus groups gravitate to the Prius 'because of its unique design and will candidly admit they expect to receive some acclaim from friends, relatives, co-workers for their concern about the environment and/or fuel efficiency' Green is
the new black, it seems.

Being 'ethical' or 'aware' is now part of the zeitgeist. It is both a fashion statement (look at me, I'm ethical) and a moral statement (if you're not ethical like me, you're a lout).

This is also the way with recycling. There is little financial incentive for recycling, and recycling is generally, with a few exceptions, more expensive than dumping and making new goods from virgin materials. Yet there is a growing campaign for recycling, particularly promoted by local government - and more people are taking
it up. The 'black box' outside your house is becoming a symbol of virtue, to reassure yourself that you are doing your bit.
This all rings true, but it's just the behavior of the rest of most American society--and probably most other societies, too, if they only had the chance.

Saturday, September 11

Rather Untrustworthy?

Rather Defends CBS Over Memos on Bush, By Howard Kurtz:
Dan Rather vigorously defended his "60 Minutes" story on President Bush's National Guard service yesterday, saying the 30-year-old memos he disclosed on the show this week "were and remain authentic," despite questions raised by some handwriting and document experts.

"Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not, I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill," the CBS anchor said. "My colleagues and I at '60 Minutes' made great efforts to authenticate these documents and to corroborate the story as best we could. . . . I think the public is smart enough to see from whom some of this criticism is coming and draw judgments about what the motivations are." says,
Serious questions have been raised about the authenticity of four documents that CBS News said it had obtained from the personal files of Bush's former squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard. We are removing reference to them in our September. 8 article on the "Texans for Truth" ad until these questions are settled to our satisfaction.
Not that this does much for Bush and the Republicans, if the rest of what's on the site is to be trusted.


We're watching Simon Langton's miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice (1995). It's really much more enjoyable than most of the movies we see. I suspect that it would be better to film most novels as miniseries. Many short stories could be filmed as 2 hr. movies, but I believe that happens less because novels are better known. So when will we learn?

It's no surprise I also liked Nicholas Renton's Wives and Daughters (1999), another BBC miniseries, also authored by Andrew Davies.

Maybe Jerry Bruckheimer can come out with a two-hour version of Pride and Prejudice. Something like The Specialist (1994), or Daredevil (2003), with Sharon Stone/Jennifer Garner as Elizabeth Bennet, and Sylvester Stallone/Ben Affleck as Darcy, and eleventy-bleven 'splosions and a couple of car chases. Actually, the troops are stationed in the area in which the story takes place, and there is a bit of cart riding, so it's just a matter of spicing things up a little.


We finished watching Pride and Prejudice. It showed me something, for once, that I don't remember coming across on the printed page, and that is Darcy's (Colin Firth) awkwardness. Incidentally, even though he has top billing, Elizabeth Bennet's (Jennifer Ehle) screen time is much longer. No doubt my enjoyment of his awkwardness is partly due to my wife, who finds social awkwardness hugely amusing; it may be a Chinese thing. I remember when we were watching Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986) and she cracked up at the scene in the jail where Roberto Benigni's Roberto was trying to act tough. (Back then I didn't realize he was a comic). An older couple was leaving the 3/4 empty hall, but slowly the rest of the audience--including me--caught on to the humor.

We also watched Jacques Rivette's Va savoir (2001). My wife gave up on it, but I slogged through. I'm afraid I lean towards the IMDb amateur critics rather than the professionals at the Movie Review Query Engine. It's just far too long.

Why not just kill 'em all?

Somebody asked about these quotations on a translation listserv. Mao Zedong is reputed to have said, "以千分之五的比例杀人" ("Kill five out of every thousand") and Deng Xiaoping to have said, "杀他个二十万,稳定它二十年" ("If you kill 200,000, you will have twenty years of stability")

Is he running for president?

Alleged U.S. Deserter Jenkins Surrenders By Eric Talmadge
Saluting and standing at attention, accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins surrendered to U.S. military authorities Saturday to face charges that he left his army unit in 1965 and defected to North Korea.

Jenkins, 64, turned himself in at the U.S. Army's Camp Zama accompanied by his Japanese wife and two daughters, taking a major step toward settling a diplomatic quandary between Washington and Tokyo.

The North Carolina native, who had been hospitalized since arriving in Japan in July, saluted and stood at attention before entering the provost marshal's office to be put back on active duty as a sergeant.

"Sir, I'm Sergeant Jenkins and I'm reporting," Jenkins declared as he met the provost marshal, Lt. Col. Paul Nigara, after arriving in a minivan from his Tokyo hospital.
Get it? Like Kerry at the Democratic convention? Now don't you think that's uncalled for?

Friday, September 10

奥运汉语 100 句

From China Daily, a report apparently compiled from foreign sources (the picture on the site has no little connection to the report):
Chinese has a reputation as one of the world's hardest languages, but Beijing is hoping a slick new primer will get foreigners ready to at least greet locals with a friendly 'ni hao!' when they come to town for the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese phrase for hello is the first lesson in 'Basic Chinese 100 for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games', which works up to more complex, cheery statements such as, 'the sports facilities are very good, everything is exceptionally well organised and the service is great'. A file photo shows Chinese calligraphy on a car. [Reuters]

The Chinese phrase for hello is the first lesson in "Basic Chinese 100 for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games", which works up to more complex, cheery statements such as, "the sports facilities are very good, everything is exceptionally well organised and the service is great".

The colourful, picture-filled text book, put together in part by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), was released on Tuesday in Beijing before the start of international distribution.

Each chapter includes text in English and French and follows the increasingly complex adventures of American visitor "Mike" as he boards a Beijing bus, buys a suit in a shopping mall and has a pizza delivered to his hotel room.

Though Mike catches cold in chapter 20, he has nothing but praise for China's capital: "The sky is bluer, the water is clearer and Beijing is becoming more and more beautiful".

By 2008, Beijing plans to have spent $37 billion (20.5 billion pounds) to host the Olympics, including $2 billion on venues, $2 billion in operating costs, $24.2 billion on infrastructure and $7 billion on environmental clean-up.

In the past few years, Beijing has tried to teach taxi drivers and police basic English in preparation for the influx of foreign Games-goers.

The central government has thrown all its weight behind the 2008 Games, a badge of legitimacy to the ruling Communist Party and a yardstick by which the world will judge three decades of reform.

"We need everyone to work together to help more foreign friends understand China," Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG vice president said Tuesday.

Zhang Xinsheng, vice minister of education, gave more down-to-earth goals for "Basic Chinese 100".

"Visitors will want to greet and talk a bit with ordinary Beijing people and that requires studying some Chinese," he said.

"If every visitor can learn to speak 10 to 20 phrases of Chinese, that would be an amazing achievement."

Students that make it to chapter 18 will not only have met that target, they will be able to order a dinner of Peking duck and a bottle of firey, 50-plus-proof Maotai spirits.

"Let's drink to the success of the Olympic Games! Cheers!"

From the Economist: A phrasebook for the 2008 Olympics:
"LET'S drink to the success of the Olympic Games! Cheers!" This, itseems, is what the Chinese government wants to hear from foreigners, and in flawless Chinese, too. To that end, it has drawn up a handy new phrasebook "Basic Chinese 100 for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games", which will allow novice Chinese speakers to render such phrases, not to mention praises.

The phrasebook is China's latest propaganda tool: colourful, slick and heavily subsidised. The book, edited by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, will be distributed globally to promote a conveniently stripped-down version of the Chinese language for visitors to the games.

Judging by the tone of the book, China is expecting to blow the world away with its Olympic extravaganza. After careful study of its pages, sentences like "the sports facilities are very good, everything is exceptionally well organised and the service is great" should simply roll off the tongue.

Phrasebook users will get up to speed on the lingo through the adventures of an American tourist called Mike. From simple greetings to room service, public transport to poetical observations ("The sky is bluer, the water is clearer and Beijing is becoming more and more beautiful"), millions of Mikes will be equipped to say just the right things. As with Orwell's Newspeak, dissent is impossible, since there are no words in which it could conceivably be expressed.

Beijing's city authorities have already started teaching English to taxi drivers, policemen, and ordinary citizens to ensure the communication effort goes both ways. With Athens now over, the world is turning its attention to Beijing, and there is no time to waste.

The next Olympics will crown 30 years of economic reform in China, and the government hopes they will be recognition of its pretentions to be a great power. By 2008, China aims to have spent $37 billion on the games, dwarfing the $8.7 billion spent by Greece. Small wonder that the organisers assume that Beijing 2008 will be a success, well worthy of a florid toast.
Liftmeup claims that in the title "The road to Beijing", "Beijing = Serfdom". It's an intruiging interpretation, but I don't think so.

Thursday, September 9

War not a problem

The Bulk of violent deaths are suicides, WHO says
The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, more than 1.6 million people died in violent circumstances in the year 2000.

Of that total, 815,000 committed suicide, 520,000 were murdered and 310,000 died in armed conflicts, including terrorist attacks.
Who says? Oh, WHO. That's in Chapter Seven. Anyway, somebody put me in a straightjacket before I kill myself. The rest of you are on your own. And don't forget, Traffic Deadlier Than Wars, WHO Says

The nanny state will save you

And the graph below suggests a way to lower the suicide rate among Chinese rural women.

Poorer people more likely to die in homicides

I guess that's no surprise.

Via Instapundit

Edward Wasserman complains,'s hard enough to get the story right, without holding it hostage to an open-ended negotiation with zealots who believe they already know what the story is.
Guess what? He's not talking about Mikey Moore. Nicholas Stix discusses the AP booing scandal, an example of what Wasserman clearly feels is no problem at all, and Susanna Cornett has a superb response to Wasserman.

Too late

JOHN KIFNER develops the AP report that I mentioned below. He says that
Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the widely watched satellite television station Al several other commentators, singled out Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a senior Egyptian cleric living in Qatar who broadcasts an influential program on Al Jazeera television and who has issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling for the killing of American and foreign "occupiers" in Iraq, military and civilian.

"Let us contemplate the incident of this religious sheik allowing, nay even calling for, the murder of civilians," he wrote. "How can we believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of mercy and peace while he is turning it into a religion of blood and slaughter?"
And he mentions several others. It's too late, though. Even if, as I imagine, most Muslims are not in favor of terrorism, and even if they listen to these commentators, the terrorists are too radicalized, and will only stop when they've killed themselves off or grown out of it.

Mostly white

I imagine many people will find it disappointing that so few minorities are dying, because now they can't say it's a racist war. Nonetheless, the blurb for the article accompanying the original of the graphic below states,
The roster of the dead is a portrait of a military in transition, with ever-widening roles and costs for part-time soldiers, women and Hispanics.

Power Struggle

Feng Liang reports
A couple of rare dissenting websites that indirectly criticized the attitudes, policies and cronies of China's military strongman, Jiang Zemin, were shut down early this month. But, voila, thanks to the apparent intervention of his rival, moderate reformist President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, they are back in business. For how long, no one knows, as the plot thickens on the eve of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) crucial meeting and battleground in the middle of this month.
Feng also provides links to the two: China Petition Network, and Supervision By Public Opinion of China. By giving them more publicity, I'm probably contributing to their shut-down.


JIM YARDLEY on Chinese race-based thinking:
Liu Xiang 刘翔, a high hurdler, has proved what many Chinese have long felt was not possible: that yellow men can jump, and sprint, too.

"It is a kind of miracle," Mr. Liu, 21, exulted at a post-race news conference after tying the world record and winning gold in the 110-meter high hurdles. "It is unbelievable - a Chinese, an Asian, has won this event."

He added: "It is a proud moment not only for China, but for Asia and all people who share the same yellow skin color."

In many countries, particularly the United States, this kind of racial stereotyping often touches a raw nerve in society. But among Chinese, the proposition that genetic differences have made Asian athletes slower in sprinting than their American, African or European rivals is a widely accepted maxim, if an unproven one.

The Communist Party apparently thinks so, too. At the midway point of the Athens Games, with China in a surprisingly tight competition with the United States for the lead in gold medals, the party's chief newspaper, People's Daily, cautioned that track and field events were about to begin.

While Chinese are "suited" to sports like Ping-Pong, badminton and gymnastics that require agility and technique, the newspaper noted, purely athletic events are different. Chinese had "congenital shortcomings" and "genetic differences" that created disadvantages against black and white athletes.

In an effort to give this halftime pep talk a positive spin, the commentary urged Chinese athletes to work harder. "If Chinese people want to make their mark in the major Olympic competitions, they have to break through the fatalism that race determines everything," the newspaper advised...

There are no credible scientific studies to underpin the idea that Asians are physically inferior to other athletes in sprinting. Nor are Chinese alone in succumbing to ingrained racial beliefs: the Olympics victory of the white American sprinter Jeremy Wariner in the 400-meter dash startled a fair number of people in the United States. He was the first white winner of the event in 40 years.

This looks like one of the articles that YARDLEY's quoting. It's titled 别拿短处跟人家比 (Don't Use Our Shortcomings to Compare Us to Others). The author 萧鸣 points out that someone who at 185 cm. (about 6' 1") really stands out from the crowd 鹤立鸡群 ("a stork among chickens") in China is just an ordinary-sized person in Greece, the author goes on to say,

As for the Liu Xiang quote, this is one source:
Links would have been nice.

We will bury you

KEITH BRADSHER reports the Chiang family plans to finally bury Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石 and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo 蔣經國, failing to identify the latter as the person responsible for introducing democracy to Taiwan, probably because
the family's decision has awakened old ghosts of a sort: the anger and resentment of the relatives of tens of thousands of people who were tortured or killed or both under martial law, in the name of eradicating Communist sympathizers.
I can't help but feel all the fuss over corpses is a little silly. Then there's this:
A small group in southern Taiwan has even erected a little temple for the worship of Chiang Kai-shek, whom they revere as divine.
That's what happened to admired officials in ancient China.

Wolcott Weeps

James Wolcott roots for damaging hurricanes, but This Time, Man Defeated Nature.

Wednesday, September 8

Boost physical activity

In The Glycemic Index, Simpler, Sally Squires notes,
In China, where white rice is a staple, rates of obesity and diabetes have been relatively low until recently. Not only is a more Western diet creeping into the country, but physical activity is declining. The glycemic index "probably doesn't matter at all, provided that you keep your body mass index under 23," Jenkins said. "If you stay skinny and physically active, you don't have to worry about all this nonsense."
As Inas Rashad and Michael Grossman argued, people are better off when they're poor. So which presidential candidate will impoverish us?

The current deficit is not a record breaker

Deinonychus antirrhopus writes,
...if we look at deficits as a percentage of GDP this current deficit is even "smaller" in that it comes in as the 17th highest deficit. The years 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1976, 1982, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 are all higher as a percentage of GDP.
When will we hear this on the news? I think it's innumeracy as much as anti-Bush sentiment in the media. They similarly spout numbers not adjusted for inflation with regard to gas prices.

Tuesday, September 7

Why oh why doesn't J. criticize Kerry?

J. writes, the post-World War II world, it seems clear that the U.S. has gained much more than it has lost from the economic development of its trading partners. The U.S. as a whole benefits enormously from the fact that Japan is a rich industrial economy rather than something like Indonesia. The producer and consumer surplus the U.S. gains from trade with rich western Europe far exceeds what it gains from trade with poor eastern Europe. The way to bet seems to be that examples like the growth of other producers to compete with the cotton south are the exception, and win-win benefits are the rule.

If this is not to be the case in the future, there needs to be an argument made as to why the normal post-World War II pattern will be broken. And I haven't heard anybody make such an argument yet.

Moreover, it is important to distinguish between situations in which foreign countries do not acquire the capabilities to produce goods traditionally made in the U.S., and situations in which the U.S. imposes tariffs and quotas to protect domestic industries. The first may leave America better off: we sell them good stuff at expensive near-monopoly prices. The second does not: we can't make them buy our (now overpriced) exports, and trade barriers simply cut off the benefits from mutual specialization in areas of comparative advantage that David Ricardo identified long ago.

This leaves the question of what is the appropriate public policy response to successful high-tech "outsourcing": Imposing tariffs and quotas to protect domestic demand is surely a bad idea, for standard Ricardian reasons. Attempting to slow the rate at which modern technologies are transferred to other countries is surely a bad idea too: there is no surer way to store up huge amounts of economic and political trouble for the future than for the United States to embark on a policy of trying to slow economic growth in India, China, and elsewhere.

I think that the correct policy response is the one outlined by Robert Reich in his Work of Nations of a decade and a half ago: First, get our people out of industry segments where we are about to lose comparative advantage and where wages are about to take a big dive--this is the reason we Democrats like various forms of Trade Adjustment Assistance, for those who work in such industries are about to get shafted and have done nothing to deserve it (and have the ability to impose enormous costs on the rest of us through trade barriers if the political dice roll their way). Second, make sure the public investments in basic research are there to spark applied research and development to create new industries and new forms of high-tech in which our labor and our capital can be very productive (NIH, NSF, DARPA anyone?). Third, remember that the principal determinants of our prosperity and our productivity come from within: get public investment in infrastructure right, private savings and investment high, and investment in education high as well.

Remember: few would be worried about "outsourcing" if the U.S. unemployment rate were still close to four percent, rather than at the above six percent level that it is. To the extent that a structural cure is being proposed for what is really a macroeconomic problem, do not expect it to end well. And remember: a network-design job artificially kept in Sacramento when it could be done more cheaply in Singapore produces extra income for a network engineer in Sacramento, but has costs as well: in a diminished capital inflow that reduces construction and the earnings of construction workers, in higher costs for businesses installing their networks that shows up in lower salaries they pay their workers, in lower earnings and stock prices for HP. Given the all-thumbs hand the U.S. government has to try to guide industrial development through tools other than maintaining the infrastructure of a market society and the provision of basic research and other public goods, it is hard to imagine that the costs to the country as a whole will not greatly outweigh the benefits.
I'm skeptical about the help the gov't can provide to those who lose their jobs, but certainly Kerry could use this argument instead of whipping up anti-trade sentiment. Or maybe he can't win without it. Sigh.

This sounds convincing, but...

Asian values lead suicidal parents to kill kids
"In 2001, 2,500 Taiwanese committed suicide. Of those, there were 18 parent-child suicides, accounting for 0.72 per cent of the total number of suicides," it said.

"This is three times higher than the number of parent-[child] suicides in the US," the report said.

Most of the Taiwanese parents were middle-aged when they killed their children and committed suicide, the report said. They ended their lives for reasons of unemployment, debt, marital troubles or mental problems.

The children they killed were mainly infants.

Taiwan mothers are twice as likely as fathers to kill their children when they commit suicide.

The high number of parent-child suicides results from Asian traditions, in which adults are seen as having the right to decide their children's life and death.

When the parents want to commit suicide, they take along their children under the excuse that if they left their children behind, no one would care for them, the report said.
Less than one percent is a pretty small figure to hang your hat on, though.

Monday, September 6

Where the sun don't shine

Seoul Tries Hard to Keep Its 'Sunshine Policy' Free of Clouds
Being able to promote an image of peace and harmony on the peninsula helps South Korea keep its bond ratings low and offers a justification for reduced military spending. So South Korea goes to great length to avoid offending North Korea.

After North Korea's military grumbled this summer that when its soldiers looked across the demilitarized zone at night they saw neon-illuminated crosses atop churches, South Korea unplugged the crosses...

Few South Korean overtures are reciprocated. For example, under bills now in the National Assembly, South Koreans would be allowed to freely access North Korean Web sites and to travel to North Korea. South Korea's official defense papers would no longer describe North Korea as "the main enemy." Other bills would end national security laws banning advocacy of North Korea's Communist system.

None of these moves has been met with a wisp of a concession from North Korea. Instead, North Korea recently restricted cellphone use and travel to China.

"What is needed is a phased development program that draws the North Koreans out and opens them up," said C. Kenneth Quinones, an American aid worker who recently spent several days in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. "But South Korea is doing a hodgepodge that is not going anywhere. The North Koreans are getting everything they need, without giving anything back."

The South Korean Unification Ministry likes to publicize the growth in inter-Korean travel and trade. But almost all the travel is from South Korea to North Korea. Much of the trade consists of South Korean gifts of rice to the North.

During the first six months of this year, 9,866 Koreans crossed the border for visits, a 74 percent increase over the same period of last year. But 9,545, or 97 percent, were South Koreans traveling to North Korea, compared with 321 North Koreans traveling to South Korea.

Those numbers do not count the 1,000 South Korean tourists a week who cross the demilitarized zone in buses to visit Mount Kumgang, a tourism enclave in the North. With minimal cost to North Korea, the resort was built with hundreds of millions of dollars invested by a South Korean company, Hyundai Asan. Even though North Korea levies a tourist tax estimated at $100 a head, South Korea's government promised in August to spend $2.6 million to build and pave roads in the area.

Mount Kumgang "is just a cash cow, it has no impact on the rest of North Korea," said Mr. Quinones, a former American diplomat who lived in Pyongyang in the mid-1990's.

...South Korea's government goes to great lengths to promote the image of reconciliation taking hold on the Korean peninsula.

In August, the two Koreas prepared to present a unified front to world television viewers, marching together behind a neutral "unification flag" at the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics. But North Korea realized it did not have an athlete tall enough to match South Korea's flag bearer, a 6-foot-1 volleyball player named Koo Min Jung.

South Korea broke with protocol and agreed to let Kim Sung Ho, a North Korean coach, be a flag bearer. Mr. Kim, a 50-year-old former basketball player, is an inch taller than Ms. Koo. He also stood head and shoulder above most of North Korea's athletes, members of a generation whose growth was stunted during the famine of the mid-1990's.

Saturday, September 4

Time for a reformation

Siege Prompts Self - Criticism in Arab Media
Muslims worldwide are the main perpetrators of terrorism, a humiliating and painful truth that must be acknowledged, a prominent Arab writer and television executive wrote Saturday, as Middle East media and officials expressed horror at the bloody rebel siege of a Russian school.

Unusually forthright self-criticism followed the end of the hostage crisis, along with warnings that such actions inflict more damage to the image of Islam than all its enemies could hope. Arab leaders and Muslim clerics denounced the school seizure as unjustifiable and expressed their sympathy.

Russian commandos stormed the school Friday in Beslan, Russia; it had been taken over by rebels demanding independence for Chechnya. Russian officials said Saturday that the death toll was in the hundreds -- many of them children.

Images of terrified young survivors being carried from the scene aired repeatedly on Arab TV stations. Pictures of dead and wounded children ran on front pages of Arab newspapers Saturday.

"Holy warriors" from the Middle East long have supported fellow Muslims fighting in Chechnya, and Russian officials said nine or 10 Arabs were among militants killed.

"Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture," Abdulrahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya television wrote in his daily column published in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. It ran under the headline, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!"

Al-Rashed ran through a list of recent attacks by Islamic extremist groups -- in Russia, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen -- many of which are influenced by the ideology of Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of the al-Qaida terror network.

"Most perpetrators of suicide operations in buses, schools and residential buildings around the world for the past 10 years have been Muslims," he wrote. Muslims will be unable to cleanse their image unless "we admit the scandalous facts," rather than offer condemnations or justifications.

"The picture is humiliating, painful and harsh for all of us,"
al-Rashed wrote.

Contributors to Islamic Web sites known for their extremist content had mixed reactions on the hostage crisis, with some praising the separatists. Others wrote that people should wait until the militants had been identified before implicating Arabs in the drama.

Ahmed Bahgat, an Egyptian Islamist, wrote in his column in Egypt's leading pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram, that hostage-takers in Russia as well as in Iraq are only harming Islam.

"If all the enemies of Islam united together and decided to harm it ... they wouldn't have ruined and harmed its image as much as the sons of Islam have done by their stupidity, miscalculations, and misunderstanding of the nature of this age," Bahgat wrote.

The horrifying images of the dead and wounded Russian students "showed Muslims as monsters who are fed by the blood of children and the pain of their families."

Mohammed Mahdi Akef, leader of Egypt's largest Islamic group, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, said in general, kidnappings may be justified, but killings are not. He said the school siege did not fit the Islamic concept of jihad, or holy war.

"What happened yesterday is not jihad because our Islam obligates us to respect the souls of human beings; it is not about taking them away," Akef told The Associated Press.

Ali Abdullah, a Bahraini scholar who follows the ultraconservative Salafi stream of Islam, condemned the school attack as "un-Islamic," but insisted Muslims weren't behind it.

"I have no doubt in my mind that this is the work of the Israelis who want to tarnish the image of Muslims and are working alongside Russians who have their own agenda against the Muslims in Chechnya," said Abdullah.

An editorial in the Saudi English-language Arab News put some blame for the bloody end to the school siege on Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he couldn't afford to lose his "tough-man image." But it added that "the Chechens, with the choice of their targets, had put themselves in a position where no one would shed tears when the punishment came. They reached a new low when they chose toddlers as bargaining chips."

Heads of state from Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Yemen offered their sympathy Friday to Russian officials and to the families of people caught up in the hostage drama. A prominent Muslim cleric also denounced it.

"What is the guilt of those children? Why should they be responsible for your conflict with the government?" Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, was quoted as saying during a Friday sermon in Banha, 30 miles north of Cairo.

"You are taking Islam as a cover and it is a deceptive cover; those who carry out the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims," Tantawi, who heads Al-Azhar University, the highest authority in the Sunni Islamic world, was quoted by Egypt's Middle East News agency as saying.

It's not a question of human rights

If you can believe the AP, mug shots of litterers
are posted on the Taipei government's Web site, along with an appeal to the public for help in identifying the messy offenders.

So far, four people are in the gallery of shame. There's an elderly man in brown-framed glasses and a blazer. A laughing man in his 30's who appears to show no contrition. And a man in his 20s who seems to be fleeing. All are guilty of flicking their cigarette butts on the ground, the city says.

Police snapped their photos because they refused to provide ID so that tickets could be issued, according to the Department of Environmental Protection's Web site.

But some think the city's policy, which began in May, is heavy handed.

"It's an obvious invasion of human rights," activist Wu Hau-jen told the Apple Daily newspaper. "I wonder which idiot came up with the idea."
I can't find the pictures, but this kind of reaction is typical selfish Taiwanese crap. It seems as if anytime you ask a Taiwanese to be public-spirited, they whine about human rights. Is the right to litter a basic human right? Oh, wait, that's in simplified characters, and anyway, it's from the UN, to which Taiwan doesn't belong. I'm sure if the commies let them in, Taiwanese conditions would be just as good as China's. (That's a joke, by the way. Despite its problems, Taiwan is a better place to live than China.)

Friday, September 3


凡事都有個開始,但經常不了了之,沒個結果。Everything has a beginning, but some things never end. From the Odes 詩經.

Extreme ironing

Yeah, it's dumb, but I like it.

Movies again

I didn't cotton to Odd Man Out (1947), and didn't even finish it. The Interview (1998) was good, but not quite as good as I had expected (I made the mistake of reading the blurb.) Ghost World (2000) was hugely over-rated; I had thought I'd love it. Gosford Park (2001) was pretty good. In a meeting with an audience, one of the actors asks Altman if he's an American. Haw! And finally, Black Hawk Down (2001), which wasn't bad, particularly given that Jerry Bruckheimer was involved.

Three election sites

Tradesports, the Iowa markets, and the Electoral Vote Predictor. I suspect they're more reliable than polls.


I generally find Andrew Sullivan a little too shrill, but this is convincing and depressing:
...conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised last night: an astonishingly expensive bid to spend much more money to help people in ways that conservatives once abjured. He pledged to provide record levels of education funding, colleges and healthcare centers in poor towns, more Pell grants, seven million more affordable homes, expensive new HSAs, and a phenomenally expensive bid to reform the social security system. I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives. It was also jaw-dropping to hear this president speak about tax reform. Bush? He has done more to lard up the tax code with special breaks and new loopholes than any recent president. On this issue - on which I couldn't agree more - I have to say I don't believe him. Tax reform goes against the grain of everything this president has done so far. Why would he change now?
This is great. There are things about both candidates I dislike, and at least one of them has got to lose, right?

Does Globalization Work?

Arvind Panagariya reviews Martin Wolf's Why Globalization Works?

Flip a coin

THE UNPOLITICAL ANIMAL by LOUIS MENAND cites the political scientist Philip Converse's 1964 article on "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics"
Converse claimed that only around ten per cent of the public has what can be called, even generously, a political belief system. He named these people “ideologues,” by which he meant not that they are fanatics but that they have a reasonable grasp of “what goes with what”—of how a set of opinions adds up to a coherent political philosophy. Non-ideologues may use terms like “liberal” and “conservative,” but Converse thought that they basically don’t know what they’re talking about, and that their beliefs are characterized by what he termed a lack of “constraint”: they can’t see how one opinion (that taxes should be lower, for example) logically ought to rule out other opinions (such as the belief that there should be more government programs). About forty-two per cent of voters, according to Converse’s interpretation of surveys of the 1956 electorate, vote on the basis not of ideology but of perceived self-interest. The rest form political preferences either from their sense of whether times are good or bad (about twenty-five per cent) or from factors that have no discernible “issue content” whatever. Converse put twenty-two per cent of the electorate in this last category. In other words, about twice as many people have no political views as have a coherent political belief system.

Just because someone’s opinions don’t square with what a political scientist recognizes as a political ideology doesn’t mean that those opinions aren’t coherent by the lights of some more personal system of beliefs. But Converse found reason to doubt this possibility. When pollsters ask people for their opinion about an issue, people generally feel obliged to have one. Their answer is duly recorded, and it becomes a datum in a report on “public opinion.” But, after analyzing the results of surveys conducted over time, in which people tended to give different and randomly inconsistent answers to the same questions, Converse concluded that “very substantial portions of the public” hold opinions that are essentially meaningless—off-the-top-of-the-head responses to questions they have never thought about, derived from no underlying set of principles. These people might as well base their political choices on the weather. And, in fact, many of them do.

Findings about the influence of the weather on voter behavior are among the many surveys and studies that confirm Converse’s sense of the inattention of the American electorate. In election years from 1952 to 2000, when people were asked whether they cared who won the Presidential election, between twenty-two and forty-four per cent answered “don’t care” or “don’t know.” In 2000, eighteen per cent said that they decided which Presidential candidate to vote for only in the last two weeks of the campaign; five per cent, enough to swing most elections, decided the day they voted...
He mentions three theories, but this first one is my favorite:
The first is that electoral outcomes, as far as “the will of the people” is concerned, are essentially arbitrary. The fraction of the electorate that responds to substantive political arguments is hugely outweighed by the fraction that responds to slogans, misinformation, “fire alarms” (sensational news), “October surprises” (last-minute sensational news), random personal associations, and “gotchas.” Even when people think that they are thinking in political terms, even when they believe that they are analyzing candidates on the basis of their positions on issues, they are usually operating behind a veil of political ignorance. They simply don’t understand, as a practical matter, what it means to be “fiscally conservative,” or to have “faith in the private sector,” or to pursue an “interventionist foreign policy.” They can’t hook up positions with policies. From the point of view of democratic theory, American political history is just a random walk through a series of electoral options. Some years, things turn up red; some years, they turn up blue.
So awful it makes me laugh. Via aldaily

It's a miracle I found this article

Michael Shermer writes,
The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that one-in-a-million miracles happen 295 times a day in America.