Wednesday, March 31

Robert J. Samuelson writes, Chinese working conditions don't look too different from those in the U.S. a century ago.
The AFL-CIO says that repressive labor practices have depressed China's factory wages by 47 percent to 86 percent, lowered the prices of Chinese exports and cost about 727,000 U.S. jobs.
But
China's economic liberalization has been a vast engine of human progress that, in turn, has depended heavily on trade. In the past 25 years, reports economist Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley, China's economy has expanded by a factor of almost nine, but exports have grown 45 times. Here are some measures of social gains from the World Bank:
  • From 1978 to 2002, the average annual per-person income rose from $190 to $960. It's probably now above $1,000. (The U.S. figure: about $36,000.)

  • Life expectancy increased from 61.7 years in 1970 to 71 in 2002.

  • Adult illiteracy fell from 37 percent in 1978 to less than 17 percent in 1999.

  • Infant mortality dropped from 41 per 1,000 live births in 1978 to 30 in 1999 (the U.S. rate: about seven)
And
Ironically, the AFL-CIO trade complaint actually debunks the popular notion that a job drain to China is a major cause of the weak U.S. labor market. Assume that 727,000 jobs were lost to "repressive" labor conditions (and some economists doubt the estimate). They're equal to less than 1 percent of total U.S. employment, about 4 percent of manufacturing jobs in 2000 or about three months' job growth in the late 1990s. The main problem today is not massive job loss abroad. It's feeble job creation at home.

A cynical (but plausible) theory is that the trade complaint aims to embarrass the White House in an election year.
Via Russell Roberts
Let them eat Les Big Macs McDonald's: The French have grown fond of the ubiquitous American fast food.
France has 1,008 McDonald's restaurants, second in Europe only to the 1,235 in Britain and the 1,244 in Germany, and though each country's total sales are a closely held company secret, France is leading them both.
Via Daniel Drezner
China Rebuts U.S. Criticism on Rights By Edward Cody
Accused by the United States of backsliding on human rights, the Chinese government issued a 40-page white paper on Tuesday describing 2003 as "a year of great, landmark significance for progress in human rights in the country."

The document amounted to a detailed response to the Bush administration's March 22 proposal for a resolution by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights condemning China's human rights record.

...even as the white paper was being distributed here, the New York-based organization Human Rights in China reported that three women active in a group called Tiananmen Mothers were arrested Sunday, citing unspecified sources in China...

The white paper on human rights, the seventh since 1991, underlined the Chinese government's irritation at the Bush administration's decision to seek a condemnation of China in Geneva this year after abstaining from doing so last year.

"The Chinese government remains extremely sensitive to international pressure and this white paper is an attempt to rebut that criticism in a comprehensive fashion," Liu Qing, president of Human Rights in China, said in an e-mail from New York.
Why are they so sensitive? It sounds to me like a good reason to censure them. Meanwhile, China Retaliates Over U.S. Fingerprint Visa Policy. I guess they hope they can influence this American policy, but like the sensitivity over US criticism, it looks like the Chinese gov't is playing to its home audience. However, retaliation seems counter-productive to me; it means less Americans are going to visit China.
Study: Outsourcing Tech Jobs Aids U.S.
Outsourcing white-collar jobs to low-wage countries such as India and China has thrown some Americans out of work, but a new report predicts that the trend will ultimately lower inflation, create jobs and boost productivity in the United States...

Outsourcing dramatically reduces labor costs, allowing companies to sell goods ranging from software to tax-preparation services at lower costs or higher profit margins. Greater profits theoretically allow companies to buy new equipment, build laboratories and conduct scientific experiments - even in expensive Silicon Valley and other U.S. tech hubs.

Savings from outsourcing allowed companies to create 90,000 new jobs in 2003, with more than one in 10 of them in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in California, researchers said. The report predicts that in 2008, outsourcing will create 317,000 jobs - 34,000 in California.
From the Information Technology Association of America.

Tuesday, March 30

Taiwan's President Maintains Hard Line By Philip P. Pan and David E. Hoffman
President Chen Shui-bian declared Monday that his narrow reelection victory was a mandate from voters to press ahead with an aggressive agenda to develop Taiwan as an 'independent, sovereign country' despite the risk of war with China...

Chen's comments came days after Beijing issued an unusually strong warning that it would not tolerate turmoil in Taiwan and announced plans to issue a legal ruling as early as Friday that could quash growing demands in Hong Kong for direct elections to choose the territory's leaders. By speaking out at such a sensitive moment and drawing a link between Taiwan's future and China's approach in Hong Kong, Chen raised the stakes for those in the Communist Party leadership who want to stifle the pro-democracy movement in the territory.

"In Taiwan, we have full democracy, and our freedom and democracy are fully protected," he said. "We do not wish to return to the era of authoritarianism. We don't want our freedoms to be restricted or taken away. . . .

"Right now, the people of Hong Kong are fighting for direct elections for their chief executive and general elections for the entire legislature, but the Beijing authorities are unable to consent," Chen said. "They even say, 'Wait another 30 years and we'll see.' I think this is very ridiculous.

"For the 23 million people of Taiwan, this is the greatest warning, and also the clearest signal. 'One country, two systems' is totally unattractive to the Taiwan people," he added, referring to the formula under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and which Beijing says Taiwan must eventually accept. "What has happened in Hong Kong has shown that this system, this formula, is a total failure."

Chen said Taiwan has noted "major problems" with Beijing's administration of Hong Kong, recalling that about 500,000 people turned out there for a demonstration last July "because they felt their freedom and democracy had been infringed upon."...

Chen defended his plan to write a new constitution for Taiwan, approve it in a referendum in 2006 and enact it by 2008, when Beijing is scheduled to host the Summer Olympics. China has argued that a new constitution would sever Taiwan's legal ties with the mainland, and senior Chinese military officers have declared that China is willing to go to war against Taiwan over the issue, even if it means a global boycott of the Games.
According to the Associated Press' WILLIAM FOREMAN: "The Americans have been analyzing bullets, blood samples, medical photos and other evidence from the March 19 shooting that grazed Chen's stomach. The bullet hit Chen as he was campaigning in an open Jeep in the southern city of Tainan.
Some skeptics say it's highly suspicious that the bullet conveniently ended up in the president's jacket.
But a ballistics expert with the U.S. team, Michael G. Haag, told cable station TVBS that "it's not unheard of for bullets to be just about to pump out of somebody who's been shot, or out of their skin, and to be found in somebody's clothing.''
Doubters have also said that it was suspicious how one bullet pierced the Jeep's windshield and hit the vice president's knee. They say the bullet couldn't have followed such a trajectory.
But Haag told TVBS: "As soon as (the bullet) changes the medium that it's in, air to glass, air to wood, or air to water, then deflection ... occurs and the bullet's path can change.''
Some have said Chen's injury doesn't resemble a gunshot, because a bullet wouldn't leave such a long scar.
But another team member told TVBS that many factors could influence the wound's shape and size.
"That varies greatly depending on the nature of the ammunition, how close the wound is, what part of the body,'' said Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, a forensics expert who investigated Kennedy's assassination. "

Monday, March 29

James Wood, in his review of John Le Carré's Absolute Friends writes that the reason people see him as a literary novelist
may be that his books seem to reproduce on the political level what the great novelists are prized for doing on the human level. The complexity, the ambiguity, the command of moral grayness, the willingness to raise questions rather than answer them--these, at the level of character, are what the liberal humanist novel is supposed to do....
Later on, Wood argues that a great writer reveals something new, deep, or truthful. Anyway, it looks like he's so annoyed by Le Carré's strident anti-Americanism that he decides there's nothing about the book to like. I know how something like that can greatly reduce my pleasure in a work, but I still think he's being a little unfair.
The New Europe: After May 1, East Europe's 'Haves' May Have More
As Europe expands in a quest for prosperity and elusive unity, many among its new members in the East fear that hundreds of thousands of people may be left behind in a new underclass, throwbacks to the lost era of command economies and state control.

The European Union has always known its relative disparities, and to create a unified whole it has over the decades self-consciously transferred wealth from richer countries like Germany and Luxembourg to poorer ones like Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

But never before has the union invited into its well-padded ranks the kind of economic malaise to be found in rural Poland, the eastern reaches of Slovakia and Hungary and the countryside of the Baltics.

So daunting is the challenge that the 15 current members have decided that leveling the playing field is not an option, at least not fully, not for the foreseeable future.
Most of the agricultural subsidies that take up almost half of the European Commission's annual budget of $120 billion will not be available to farmers...in the other new eastern members, because extending the benefit was deemed too costly.
Farm subsidies for the new entrants will start at just a quarter of the western levels, rising to parity only by 2013. In the meantime, small-scale farmers in the East worry that they will be wiped out by agribusiness in the West, where subsidies on average provide a quarter of the income of most current European Union farmers.
That really stinks. Welcome to Europe!

Sunday, March 28

Peter S. Goodman has a cute juxtaposition in In China, Socialism With a Lifted Face (washingtonpost.com):
Once, Chinese mothers bound the feet of their daughters in the name of securing acceptable futures and making them fit brides. On this day, mother and daughter waited for an appointment with a plastic surgeon. For about $118 -- about half of their monthly household income -- he would stitch double folds into the young woman's eyelids, making her eyes appear rounder and, as current fashion dictates, more pleasing...

Forty years ago, when the plastic surgery unit at the hospital opened, it focused on accident and burn victims, soldiers wounded in the Korean War and people born with defects. So it went through the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s, when female film stars wrapped their chests in sackcloth lest they appear buxom, which was tantamount to being bourgeois. Now the same white-tiled rooms of the hospital are used to insert silicone implants imported from the United States into the breasts of any woman with $2,500 to spend.

"Young people today accept Western culture," says Cao Yilin, who heads the plastic surgery unit at Shanghai's Ninth People's Hospital. "They think the breast is a symbol of the woman, so a woman without a breast is not really a woman." Moreover, artificially enhanced breasts have become a status symbol, an indication of an ability to afford the accouterments of a wealthy life. "Now, no one derides this as capitalist," Cao says. "In China now, the person who has money is seen as someone who ought to be proud."

A decade ago at Beijing's Plastic Surgery Hospital, nearly all the patients were actresses and entertainers, says Chen, the surgeon. They still amount to nearly one-third of the patients. Bar hostesses, concubines and mistresses make up an additional one-tenth, Chen believes. But now one-fifth to one-third are people looking for jobs and hoping to enhance their prospects. Of the total, a third are between 30 and 40 years old people who, Chen says, "have a lot of money and a lot of time." Ninety percent of the patients are women.

Saturday, March 27

This Chicago Tribune editorial seems reasonable. The message from Taiwan
As for relations with China, the people showed a mature understanding that Taiwan's de facto independence is too valuable to risk by gratuitous unilateral steps toward formal independence--which run a great risk of provoking a military response from China.

If Chen ultimately is found to have won, he ought to recognize that on this issue, he has been repudiated by his constituents, who prefer conciliation to confrontation.

He should back off his campaign to distance his territory from the mainland and concentrate on preserving Taiwan's freedom, autonomy and prosperity, while putting off difficult issues for the future, when they may be easier to resolve.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the presidential election, the message to Beijing is that the island's people value their right to determine their future in a democratic system. If the Chinese government hopes to win Taiwan's citizens over to peaceful reunification, it has a lot to learn from this election.
The Associated Press doesn't seem to think much of the blues: Half-Million Taiwanese Protest Election:
Lien's handling of the controversy has been confusing. Sometimes he demands a recount, and other times he talks about holding the vote again. Sometimes he treats the unexplained shooting as the most important issue.

Many believe an internal power struggle is going on between moderates who just favor a recount, and hard-liners who want a new election. Lien is presiding over a coalition of his Nationalist Party and the smaller People First Party.

On Saturday, one of the most popular moderates in the Nationalist Party, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, said that Lien should just accept the results of a recount.

But the hard-liners have been more visible, and at times they have used violence to push their points. On Friday, members of the People First Party helped incite a crowd of about 2,000 to storm the Central Election Commission as it prepared to certify Chen's victory. The angry mob broke windows, tossed eggs and scuffled with riot police.
On the other hand, Ching Cheong has a pretty low opinion of Chen as seen in Chen in a quandry - MARCH 28, 2004
President Chen now has a chance to prove his innocence. He should be under no illusion that there is real anger simmering because of a string of dubious acts which he and his DPP perpetrated in order to win the election.

Among these was his attempt to bundle a so-called defensive referendum with the March 20 election to boost his chances.

A number of retired high court judges had come out warning that such a move was unconstitutional. He turned a deaf ear to them.

But the most outrageous to the average Taiwanese was the bizarre shooting on the eve of the polls. Though no public figure has been bold or reckless enough to say it was faked, choosing instead to say only that the incident left many unanswered questions, the track record of Mr Chen and the DPP suggests that the worst could not be ruled out.

Taiwanese author Kao Chi-ming wrote a book a few years ago disclosing that Mr Chen had masterminded a plot to accuse the KMT of poisoning him when he was running for a local election in Tainan. After the latter became president, Mr Kao went into exile in the United States.

Even if the March 19 shooting was a genuine attempt on the President, the DPP had clearly exploited it to its advantage.

By ordering a national security alert, it effectively barred military and police officers, traditionally KMT supporters, from voting.

The Cabinet first claimed that not a single man in uniform was affected but after the abrupt resignation of Defence Minister Tang Yao-ming, it was forced to admit that only 13,000 officers were affected.

The under-reporting angered those in uniform and they called the media volunteering evidence, thus forcing the Cabinet to admit a second time that the number affected was about 35,000.

This figure was more than sufficient to turn the result around had they voted as the DPP's margin was less than 30,000.

Most unethical of all, after the incident, the opposition alliance, out of respect and sympathy for Mr Chen and concern for national security, called off campaigning.

However, in southern Taiwan, which is DPP country, the party used all means - broadcasting vans, unlicensed radio stations, cellphone messages and so on - to spread the word that the opposition had collaborated with China to kill the President.

This led effectively to a swing of votes away from Messrs Lien and Soong, whose goodwill was repaid with venom.

Hence the refrain from the many thousands who braved the elements to demonstrate outside the presidential palace: 'We are not just supporting Lien and Soong, but more important, truth, justice and fairness.'

Taiwanese people do have an innate sense of fair play.
It's that last sentence I can't really agree with; I see an awful lot of partisanship amongst the Taiwanese, and it seems the foreign reporters tend to fall on one side or the other.

Friday, March 26

Sydney Smith, aka MedPundit, is dubious about the Actual Causes of Death I cite below, pointing out that the
Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper deceptively titled Actual Causes of Death, 2000 that claimed that obesity was gaining on tobacco as the number one cause of death in the United States. Except that the paper's objective wasn't to quantify actual causes of death, it was to attribute the risk of death to various behaviors -- behaviors that were preselected by the researchers.
She then cites SCIENCE WITHOUT SENSE on attributed risk:
ATTRIBUTABLE RISK MAY NOT BE SCIENTIFICALLY JUSTIFIABLE. IT IS CALCULATED FROM VERY UNCERTAIN STATISTICAL ASSOCIATIONS. THESE ASSOCIATIONS MAY NOT REFLECT TRUE BIOLOGICAL CAUSE-AND-EFFECT. AT BEST, A STATISTICAL ASSOCIATION IS A REPRESENTATION OF WHAT WAS OBSERVED IN A PARTICULAR POPULATION STUDIED AND IS NOT APPLICABLE TO OTHER POPULATIONS NOT STUDIED.

Thursday, March 25

Sane Weight Loss in a Carb-Obsessed World: High Fiber and Low Fat By JANE E. BRODY, who writes on the expense of low-carb products, and points out that the world's slimmest people, the Far Easterners who mainly subsist on rice, don't eat a low-carb diet. She then explains how to avoid gaining weight:
As a recent 12-week study of 34 men and women in their 60's so clearly demonstrated, those who consumed, without caloric restrictions, a diet high in fiber-rich carbohydrates (63 percent of calories, with 26 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories), low in fat (18 percent of calories) and moderate in protein lost more weight and a higher percentage of body fat than did those who ate the same number of calories of a typical American diet, that is, one high in fat (41 percent of calories) and relatively low in carbs (45 percent of calories).

The study showed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet could result in weight loss and reduced body fat while preserving muscle mass, even without any change in caloric intake, as long as the carbs were low in added sugars and refined starches. And the weight is lost without having to avoid delicious, health-promoting fruits and instead eating lots of fiber-free and fat-laden eggs, cheese and meats. (The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock and was published in January in Archives of Internal Medicine).

How can this happen? It happens because fiber-rich carbohydrates offer three major benefits to the weight-conscious eater: they hold water in the gut, take longer to digest and some of their calories are eliminated unabsorbed. In other words, they can fill you up before they fill you out.

In fact, some of the so-called low-carb products now on the market seek to cash in on this well-established dietetic principle. In foods like low-carb bread and pasta, producers substitute fibrous carbs for some of the more refined ones, resulting in a product that is claimed to provide fewer "net carbs" than the original.

But will such foods result in a leaner population any more than the low-fat, fat-free food fad did? Not very likely, given the lack of attention most Americans pay to portion control. All that many people did on low-fat and fat-free products was gain more weight because they figured that fat-free gave them license to eat as much as they wanted, without regard to serving size and calories per serving...

A diet high in fat and low in carbs has yet to be tested for long-term safety and effectiveness. But fiber-rich balanced diets, replete with whole grains, fruits and vegetables along with reasonable quantities of fish, poultry, meat and dairy products, have been repeatedly shown to be conducive to enjoyable eating and to achieving and maintaining a normal body weight and long-lasting health.
She advocates eating mostly
whole grain breads and cereals; lots of vegetables, salads and fresh and dried fruits; poultry, fish, meat and dried beans and peas and skim milk.
and less
white rice and pasta, potatoes, winter squash, avocados, regular cheese, eggs, cookies and ice cream and an occasional piece of cake or pie.
She also advocates "portion control" (eating less of the high calorie stuff) and regular daily physical exercise.
In Pledge Case, Passing the Test:
'Do we know what the vote was in Congress . . . to adopt the 'under God' phrase?' Rehnquist asked, feigning ignorance of the fact that it passed unopposed in 1954.
When Newdow acknowledged as much, the chief justice pounced: 'Well, that doesn't sound divisive.'

But Newdow would not be ambushed. 'That's only because no atheist can get elected to public office,' he countered, evoking spontaneous laughter and a sound rarely, if ever, heard at oral argument in Rehnquist's tightly run courtroom -- applause.
That's all very well, but this is an issue that the Democrats are going to run even faster away from than gay marriage. According to CNN,
A new poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly support the reference to God. Almost nine in 10 people said the reference to God belongs in the pledge despite constitutional questions about the separation of church and state, according to an Associated Press poll.
Karl Rove will be happy with this case.
Our city council: COUNCIL TO DECIDE WHETHER TO FAVOR LOCAL BUSINESSES FOR CONTRACTS
The Carbondale City Council will vote tonight on whether to favor Carbondale businesses within state and federal guidelines when awarding contracts.

A "yes" vote from the council will create an ordinance amendment giving a slight edge to Carbondale businesses in city purchases or contracts of more than $10,000. The ordinance as it reads now awards contracts to the "lowest responsible bidder" regardless of where the bidder's business is located. This amendment would allow the council to award the contract to a local bidder instead of to the lowest bidder if the local bid is within two percent or $2,000 of the lowest bid...

Councilwoman Sheila Simon said she believes the amendment "strikes a good balance" in that it gives an edge to Carbondale businesses -- but not too much or too expensive an edge.

Councilwoman Maggie Flannagan, though, said she felt the amendment was unnecessary.

"Fundamentally, I feel our budget process should be open," she said. "Our (Carbondale) vendors are strong enough to compete in the marketplace. When the field is level, everyone has an equal opportunity."
The local paper didn't follow up, but the campus paper, the Daily Egyptian did: City council has busy night of basketball honors, bids:
The Carbondale City Council adopted a resolution, which would give preference to local companies in regard to contract bids at their meeting Tuesday night.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously, will provide a 2-percent or $2,000 advantage to local companies when being considered as the lowest bidder. Allowing the city keep local dollars in Carbondale as well as maintain fiscal responsibility.
Maggie Flannagan wimped out. Thanks for the 2% tax, folks!

By the way, Sheila Simon is the late Paul Simon's daughter, and is backing Barack Obama for the US Senate. Is this what I should expect of Obama? He's a little too anti-trade for me, advocating "Protecting Workers Under Trade Agreements", and "Ensuring Free and Fair Trade", code expressions for protectionism. Another thing--Sheila Simon is suggesting in ads that her father would endorse him, but according to Fundrace.org (a campaign finance site not quite as extensive as opensecrets.org), Paul Simon contributed to Carol Moseley Braun's presidential campaign.

Update
That doesn't say much in favor of Paul Simon's judgement to me, although maybe he was a little more Machavellian than I give him credit for: he knew she didn't have a chance, or had to support her because she was from Illinois.

Wednesday, March 24

The Daily Ablution fiskin' Rifkin, with a bonus showing the high price of oil.
Frédéric Bastiat: World-Class Economic Educator (via Dan Drezner)
Chomsky backs 'Bush-lite' Kerry. That's no recommendation for me.
George Koo mentions that some have characterized the alleged assassination attempt as "kurouji" 苦肉計 (loosely translated as deception via self-inflicted wounds), which Brainysmurf also mentioned. Kurouji (not to be confused with 黑氏, a place in Japan) is supposedly one of the (apocryphal) 36 strategies, of which is said, 三十六計,走為上計 ("of the 36 strategies, leaving is the best").
PCB Case Payouts Roil Alabama City
A $300 million settlement of federal claims over PCB contamination in Anniston, Ala., will give plaintiffs an average of $7,725 each while paying their attorneys millions apiece -- including $29 million to the firm of California lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr...

Attorneys in the case said about 27 lawyers, working for eight law firms, would share the $120 million approved for legal fees. That works out to an average payment of more than $4 million for each lawyer.

After the attorneys and other costs are paid, the 18,447 plaintiffs will get an average of $7,725 and as little as $500 each, according to documents from claims administrator Ed Gentle.

Cochran's firm recruited plaintiffs with TV commercials and a community meeting and helped guide the litigation.

Despite what I said earlier, I can't get Proxomitron to work with Blogger; I'm trying the Google toolbar now.

Tuesday, March 23

The Economist reported
the government-affiliated Social Survey Institute of China published the results of an opinion poll on Taiwan's referendum conducted in cities around China. Curiously, more than 20% of the 2,150 respondents said they weren't interested. Li Dongmin, the institute's director, says that 5.6% even expressed tolerance of the idea of Taiwan's independence. This is a remarkable finding in a country where the government allows no questioning of its territorial claims, and a person's views on the Taiwan issue are regarded as a key test of patriotism...

Nationalist sentiment in China is shaped to a considerable degree by government attitudes. Few, for example, show any interest in taking Mongolia, which China regards as independent but which Taiwan officially regards as part of Chinese territory.
and this week, they report a government sponsored opinion poll
showed that 43% of mainland Chinese think Taiwan should be reclaimed by force, while about 55% said it should be brought back to the fold peacefully. However, more than 20% of respondents said they were not interested in the matter.
Still, 43% is not inconsiderable.

On a related note, they've got a fairly negative survey on doing business in China.
John J. Tkacik Jr. really seems to have it in for the KMT:
THE KMT MIGHT HAVE ATTRACTED that extra margin of support it had not treated last Friday's election-eve assassination attempt on President Chen and his running mate with such callousness. The president was in Southern Taiwan on Friday on a whistle-stop motorcade city tour in an open-air Jeep when a bullet shot through the front windscreen. Rather than ripping head-on into President Chen's stomach, the bullet struck at the very instant President Chen turned to wave and carved a bloody half-inch deep groove 8 inches along his abdomen--the wound required 11 stitches. A second bullet apparently ricocheted into Vice President Annette Lu's knee. Ear-splitting strings of firecrackers masked the two pops from the assassin's pistol, and the unknown assailant (police believe there might have been a second shooter) disappeared into the crowd...

That evening, eight hours after the president had been attacked, Jaw Shao-kang and legislator Sisy Chen, of the KMT coalition's far right wing, presided over TV talk shows which openly accused the president of faking his medical reports and clucked approvingly while others postulated that President Chen had arranged for himself to be shot in the gut. I watched two separate programs Friday evening and was appalled by the vitriol and outright lies that these people countenanced. Most Taiwanese I spoke with on voting day were equally horrified.
Gay-basher John Derbyshire seems more balanced to me. But neither of them deals with the DPP's nativism, which I find troubling.
According to the China Post,
Many experts have suggested that, if the 337,000 invalid ballots cost the election of the "pan-blue" presidential candidate Lien Chan, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is to blame.

The MOJ, under minister Chen Ting-nan, has made the identification of invalid ballots more stringent.

The ministry has stipulated that a vote is valid if the stamp is made in the box above the photo of the candidate. The rule is sharply different from the one carried out by the Central Election Commission (CEC) for decades, allowing a ballot to be valid if the stamp is made over the candidate's name or its ballot number.

Sunday, March 21

The Sackler online exhibition of Return of the Buddha is better than the Royal Academy's. Their contention about colors on Buddhist sculpture is convincing, even if I can't help but feel it's awfully garish. On a related note, there's an informative online Circle of Bliss exhibition.
Antonio Muñoz Molina:
...from its outset after Franco's death in 1975, democratic Spain has suffered from the constant threat and cold cruelty of ETA — even as the world has viewed ETA members romantically as "activists" and "guerrillas" instead of as the terrorists they really are.

I have nevertheless had the unsettling feeling these past days, since the election, that many Spaniards, jubilant over the Socialist victory, have forgotten the larger, external threat of Al Qaeda. It is as if the slaughter of March 11 were merely one more episode in Spain's internal politics. The day before the elections there was an urgent desire to know who was to blame for the carnage. Mr. Aznar's government was accused of covering up information. No one accepted the argument that caution and secrecy were needed in the pursuit of the most vicious criminals in the recent history of Europe.

Then, once the results of the elections became known, the identity of the terrorists seemed secondary, even forgotten: it was no longer useful as a tool against the ruling party. These days in Madrid, one has the disturbing impression that for many prominent leftists, the enemy was the Popular Party, not terrorism. Their belief seems to be that with the Aznar government gone, terrorism will vanish without our having to do anything other than showing a unconditional wish for peace. Even the signs of mourning — the black crepe flags and candles — are disappearing much too quickly, as if a hurried will of forgetfulness is overtaking us.
Yeah, well, all politics is local, right?
Ben Blanchard makes a joke that few are going to get: The True Story of Ah Shu: Interview with a Snakehead
Want to go to England to seek your fortune? No passport? No visa? No problem. For 60,000 yuan ($7,250), snakehead Ah Shu can help...

Ah Shu, from his shop in a seaside town near the provincial capital Fuzhou, says the days of sneaking people into foreign countries in tightly packed cargo containers or the backs of trucks are gone.

"We don't dare do it that way any more," he said. "You get executed for doing it like that now if you're caught."

People smuggling has become a sophisticated business, involving real passports and in many cases real visas, he said.

Ah Shu offers to help with the bribes to get a Chinese passport -- it takes just a few thousand yuan to grease the palms of the right officials.

Then he has middlemen in the local government and in England issue false letters of invitation from schools or businesses, which he says are accepted by embassies.

The preferred route is through one of the growing list of countries which have opened to Chinese tourism in recent years.
Bloomberg's George Hsu reports,
The apparent assassination attempt on the president Friday triggered national security measures that included activating more police and servicemen. As a result, at least 200,000 police and servicemen were deprived of their right to vote, the Nationalist Party said in a statement.
Also,
The U.S., Taiwan's chief military protector, urged calm in resolving the election dispute.

"It's very significant that up to now, Chen hasn't got a congratulatory note from the U.S.," said Bruce Gale, a political analyst at Hill & Associates Ltd. in Singapore. "That means the U.S. is standing back. They are not giving him their blessing, so he's going to have to earn it. He's going to have to say 'I'm a team player here and I'm not going to rock the boat.'"
George Wehrfritz writes,
...even if Chen's victory is upheld in the courts, he faces a decidedly constrained future. The referendum he had called to boost Taiwan's defenses in reaction to a Chinese missile buildup—irking both Washington and Beijing—failed to pass. And, as George W. Bush did in 2000, he now faces an electorate split down the middle, with half questioning his legitimacy as national leader...

Chen triumphed by less than 30,000 votes—out of more than 13 million cast—a victory margin of just 0.24 percent. Some 337,000 ballots were declared invalid for still-unclear reasons, a suspiciously high number and the basis for the KMT's court challenge...

Most analysts think Chinese leaders will initially continue to try to undermine Chen by refusing to engage him, as they have done since 2000. "Deadlock will mean procrastination on the China issue," says S. H. Lo, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong. Establishment of direct transport links "will be delayed for the medium term," he adds, while "[harsh] rhetoric and verbal attacks will continue for some time to come."

Similarly, Taiwan's own political culture is likely to turn more venomous. The Taiwanese people have been polarized in recent years by the issue of identity, which pits Taiwanese nationalists in the DPP against KMT supporters who identify themselves as Chinese...

The KMT's legal challenge puts the election in the hands of judges, who must rule in time for a new president to be inaugurated on May 20. Some experts see the suit as a desperate act of self-preservation on Lien's part, and question the stridency of —his response. "I think he has demonstrated that he's not a leader and shouldn't be in government," says Australian Taiwan specialist Bruce Jacobs of Monash University in Melbourne. Lien's aim, he adds, is to galvanize his fragile coalition by portraying the DPP victory as illegitimate, shifting blame for the loss from his own shoulders...

At some point, though, the narrow interests of coalition partners Lien and Soong could clash with those of their younger comrades. Analysts say that the next generation has greater incentive to focus on rebuilding the KMT than on dragging out the election. Cracks in the KMT-led alliance are already appearing. When Lien moved to declare the election results invalid, his own campaign manager Ma, Taipei's popular mayor, kept silent. Another younger party man, lawmaker Wang Jyng-ping, was not onstage at the rally. Both Ma and Wang represent moderate groups within the KMT that are likely to oppose any strategy seen as weakening democracy on Taiwan. "I don't think they'll be deeply sympathetic," says Jacobs. "The party could fall apart over this, or the younger guys could step in and fix it up by instituting real reform."...

Even if the courts rule the election results valid, the furor is sure to be rekindled as key legislative elections scheduled for December approach. In the meantime, the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination attempt made on Chen and Lu will only grow more elaborate, unless the crime is solved to the public's satisfaction. Investigators are exploring an intriguing, if bizarre, theory: that gangsters who had wagered on Lien sought to win by killing the president. If so, they achieved just the opposite, handing Chen a narrow victory. At what price, Taiwan is now going to find out.
Michael Kramer of Reuters writes,
After the attack, Chen activated a national security protocol, meaning 200,000 military and police -- traditionally Nationalist supporters -- could not vote.
Asia Pacific News notes,
Conspiracy theorists have pointed to the fact he bypassed other major hospitals on the way to the Chi Mei, that little information was made available shortly after the attack and its timing, hours before the election...

Hwang Kwang-kuo, a respected professor who teaches social psychology at National Taiwan University, said the police investigation would be crucial to Chen's legitimacy.

"I think the investigation of the incident is very, very important because the series of events in this election violates the process of justice.

"I feel that the lack of news about the gunman means police are not trying hard enough to uncover a suspect.

"If the clouds are not clear, people will suspect someone is manipulating the outcome of the election.

Hwang said his doubts about the shooting were mainly because it took place in Chen's home county, where the DPP leader won almost 65 percent in Saturday's vote compared with just 54 percent four years ago.
Dirk Beveridge of the Associated Press, cited at the pro-DPP eTaiwan news, says,
An opposition lawmaker was already asking why President Chen Shui-bian had been taken to a hospital more than 5 kilometers from the shooting site in Chen's hometown of Tainan and not rushed to the nearest facility.

The lawmaker, Sisy Chen, also raised questions about a bullet slug that was found, claiming it did not match a shell casing that was recovered as she suggested that the shooting seemed suspicious. Police said the shells and casings matched, but it was not immediately clear if they had come from the same gun...

Sisy Chen - a defector from President Chen's party who is now an outspoken foe - also noted that his security detail had visited the shooting scene and the hospital beforehand...

One theory being floated had a distinctively Taiwanese twist: That the shooting was carried out by gangsters who placed big bets on the election and wanted to tilt the outcome by creating a sympathy vote for Chen.

Taiwan has a vast but illegal gambling industry and millions of dollars had been placed on the outcome of yesterday's race that was viewed as extremely close...

A former head of Taiwan's presidential bodyguard corps appeared on television and criticized what he called lax security, saying those protecting Chen should have been positioned to block any shots.

And how would it be that a would-be assassin or assassins could get close enough to the nation's top two political leaders to hit both of them, yet miss badly enough to leave both with superficial wounds that barely slowed them down?
3q2u mentions "video footage of 6 year olds voting."

And someone said something about Chen Shui-bian claiming several years ago that his IV had been poisoned by the KMT (I've lost the link and can't find it). Not that they didn't do some nasty things in the old days, but still....

Saturday, March 20

Taiwan's President Appears to Win Election By KEITH BRADSHER and JOSEPH KAHN, with regard to the apparent assassination attempt against Chen Shui-bian:
The shooting had odd elements. Among them was the seemingly relaxed security around the president. He stood in a roofless vehicle driven through a crowded, two-lane street. Neither he nor Ms. Lu wore bulletproof vests. Spectators freely exploded firecrackers along the route, and police said no one, including the president's bodyguards, had heard shots being fired.

Among other unanswered question were why both the president and vice president suffered light surface wounds the president near his abdomen and the vice president on her knee despite being struck by bullets. The bullet that hit the president ended up lodged in his clothing and was discovered after he arrived in the hospital, medical officials said.

Police said one or more handguns were used in the shooting and that the bullets found, one made of lead and the other of copper, were likely to have been homemade. The pace of the investigation seemed somewhat casual for a presidential assassination attempt. Cordons had been removed from the suspected shooting site by Friday night and car and pedestrian traffic around the area, and in Tainan generally, appeared normal.
It does look odd.

Thursday, March 18

The NYTimes comes out in favor of raising interest rates, agreeing with the Economist.

NORIMITSU ONISHI
"China is a big continent and has an inclination to think that it is No. 1 and that others are uncivilized," said Minoru Shibata, a researcher at NHK, Japan's public broadcast network. "Therefore, they feel that giving Chinese names to foreigners is doing them a favor."
What load of crap.

Xinhua likens Hong Kong's Martin Lee to Chinese traitor
China's government mouthpiece Xinhua compares Hong Kong's democracy campaigner Martin Lee (李柱銘) to Wu Sangui (吳三桂), one of the most notorious traitors in Chinese history.
As if that will encourage the Taiwanese to love China. But it just shows that for the Chicoms, democracy is as fearsome as terrorism is for those of us who love life.

Ian Buruma, writing on the dangers of the assumption that the United States represents what we assume to be universal values, and that freedom to pursue happiness, to elect our own leaders and to trade in open markets, should be shared by all, regardless of creed, history, race or culture:
France's armed intervention was deeply resented. Some nativist reactions were relatively benign: romantic poetry celebrating the native soul, or a taste for folkloric roots. But in other cases the native soul, especially in Germany, turned sour and became anti-liberal, anti-cosmopolitan, and anti-Semitic. Some 19th-century nativists claimed that Napoleon was a Jew. This was not just because he liberated the Jews from their ghettoes and declared that France would be their homeland, but also because universal ideals, promising equality for all, have often been associated by nativists with rootless cosmopolitanism, which in their eyes is synonymous with Jewishness.
Yeah, my cosmopolitainism makes it hard for me to understand nativists.

Wednesday, March 17

Bright Graduates Sink in Flooded China Job Pool By Jonathan Ansfield
BEIJING (Reuters) - Just a few years back, Pei Pei might have been headhunted home to China from London, lured with a fat salary and tagged a "sea turtle" -- a Chinese pun for overseas returnees.

Instead, friends call her "seaweed" -- a less amusing play on words. It means she's out of a job.
海龟(海归)变海带(海待).

Monday, March 15

Peter Schneider, a German novelist and essayist, writes on fundamental differences between Europe and the United States, without touching on economic policy. I've finally figured out that many on the left simply aren't interested in economic questions.

Sunday, March 14

Nicholas D. Kristof on the number of American lives claimed in a typical year by various risks:
  • 43,000 a year--automobiles

  • 36,000 a year--flu & pneumonia

  • 26,000 a year--guns

  • 5,000 a year--food-borne illness

  • 500,000 in an instant (possibly)--a single nuclear bomb

This needs a little context. According to the CDC, the 20 Leading Causes of Deaths (the cause of death is followed by the number of deaths, which is followed by the percentage of all deaths from the entire group) are:
  • Heart Disease 699,597 29.3%

  • Malignant Neoplasms 553,694 23.2%

  • Cerebrovascular 163,426 6.8%

  • Chronic Low. Respiratory Disease 122,971 5.1%

  • Unintentional Injury 100,441 4.2%

  • Diabetes Mellitus 71,369 3.0%

  • Influenza & Pneumonia 61,730 2.6%

  • Alzheimer's Disease 53,852 2.3%

  • Nephritis 39,346 1.6%

  • Septicemia 31,926 1.3%

  • Suicide 30,607 1.3%

  • Liver Disease 27,026 1.1%

  • Homicide 19,944 0.8%

  • Hypertension 19,250 0.8%

  • Pneumonitis 17,289 0.7%

  • Parkinson's Disease 16,544 0.7%

  • Aortic Aneurysm 15,233 0.6%

  • HIV 14,163 0.6%

  • Atherosclerosis 14,084 0.6%

  • Benign Neoplasms 13,625 0.6%

  • All Others 302,318 12.7%
So he singles out Influenza & Pneumonia; but what about the other leading causes, which I'm guessing are linked to lifestyle choices like smoking, diet, and exercise (or lack thereof)?

The 20 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths are
  • Unintentional MV Traffic 42,271 27.2%

  • Suicide Firearm 16,863 10.8%

  • Unintentional Fall 14,992 9.6%

  • Unintentional Poisoning 14,053 9.0%

  • Homicide Firearm 11,326 7.3%

  • Unintentional Unspecified 7,192 4.6%

  • Suicide Suffocation 6,198 4.0%

  • Suicide Poisoning 5,188 3.3%

  • Unintentional Suffocation 4,941 3.2%

  • Unintentional Fire/burn 3,370 2.2%

  • Unintentional Drowning 3,179 2.0%

  • Homicide TransportationRelated 3,008 1.9%

  • Adverse Effects 2,994 1.9%

  • Undetermined Poisoning 2,899 1.9%

  • Homicide Cut/pierce 1,966 1.3%

  • Unintentional Other Transport 1,509 1.0%

  • Homicide Unspecified 1,388 0.9%

  • Unintentional Natural/ Environment 1,387 0.9%

  • Unintentional Other Spec., classifiable 1,350 0.9%

  • Unintentional Other Land Transport 1,290 0.8%

  • All Others 8,138 5.2%
OK, about a quarter of injury deaths are traffic deaths, and if you add suicide by firearm together with homicide by firearm, it's a smidgen higher than that. Still, death by firearm would come about #10 on the list of all causes.

The 20 Leading Causes of Unintentional Injury Deaths are:
  • Unintentional MV Traffic 42,271 42.1%

  • Unintentional Fall 14,992 14.9%

  • Unintentional Poisoning 14,053 14.0%

  • Unintentional Unspecified 7,192 7.2%

  • Unintentional Suffocation 4,941 4.9%

  • Unintentional Fire/burn 3,370 3.4%

  • Unintentional Drowning 3,179 3.2%

  • Unintentional Other Transport 1,509 1.5%

  • Unintentional Natural/ Environment 1,387 1.4%

  • Unintentional Other Spec., classifiable 1,350 1.3%

  • Unintentional Other Land Transport 1,290 1.3%

  • Unintentional Pedestrian, Other 1,236 1.2%

  • Unintentional Other Spec., NECN 1,034 1.0%

  • Unintentional Struck by or Against 890 0.9%

  • Unintentional Firearm 800 0.8%

  • Unintentional Machinery 648 0.6%

  • Unintentional Pedal cyclist, Other 206 0.2%

  • Unintentional Cut/pierce 85 0.1%

  • Unintentional Overexertion 8 0.0%
"Unintentional Overexertion"? Not a big cause, huh? (Sneer at those who virtually never exercise, or only exercise virtually).

Finally, a bonus: the 20 Leading Causes of Violence-Related Injury Deaths are:
  • Suicide Firearm 16,863 33.1%

  • Homicide Firearm 11,326 22.2%

  • Suicide Suffocation 6,198 12.2%

  • Suicide Poisoning 5,188 10.2%

  • Homicide TransportationRelated 3,008 5.9%

  • Homicide Cut/pierce 1,966 3.9%

  • Homicide Unspecified 1,388 2.7%

  • Homicide Other Spec., NECN 812 1.6%

  • Suicide Fall 650 1.3%

  • Homicide Suffocation 646 1.3%

  • Suicide Cut/pierce 458 0.9%

  • Suicide Drowning 339 0.7%

  • Homicide Struck by or Against 330 0.6%

  • Legal Int. Firearm 323 0.6%

  • Suicide Other Spec., classifiable 278 0.5%

  • Suicide Other Spec., NECN 246 0.5%

  • Homicide Other Spec., classifiable 199 0.4%

  • Suicide Fire/burn 148 0.3%

  • Homicide Fire/burn 147 0.3%

  • Suicide Unspecified 146 0.3%

  • All Others 288 0.6%

The stats are for 2001, All Races, Both Sexes, Ages: 1-85, which is probably a little misleading, since not everyone is going to need to be worried about all of these. But of course the more you look into it, the more complicated it gets. Like if guns weren't available, would the suicide rate be much lower? And if so, by how much? And how many of the cause of death for old people are basically old age? And why doesn't the CDC have a food-borne illness category?

Update
Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000 ("Actual causes of death are defined as lifestyle and behavioral such as smoking and physical inactivity that contribute to this nation's leading killers including heart disease, cancer, and stroke." I can't help but feel "actual cause" is hardly the best term they could have chosen.)
  • Tobacco 435,000 18.1%

  • Poor Diet/Physical Inactivity 400,000 16.6%

  • Alcohol consumption 85,000 3.5%

  • Microbial agents (e.g., influenza, pneumonia) 75,000 3.1%

  • Toxic agents (e.g., pollutants, asbestos) 55,000 2.3%

  • Motor-vehicles 43,000 1.8%

  • Firearms 29,000 1.2%

  • Sexual behavior 20,000 0.8%

  • Illicit drug use 17,000 0.7%
Robert J. Samuelson has some commentary at The Afflictions of Affluence. True, lots of Americans are afflicted by problems such as obesity, the "time squeeze", and "choice congestion", but these are basically self-inflicted. (Not one of them is a problem for me.)
What school rules? by Dave Perks
This problem is compounded by the official preoccupation with retention rates. At the same time as attempting to drive up behavioural standards, the government is attempting to force schools to keep more and more students in sixth form education to study A-level subjects for which they don't see the point. By insisting that schools increase retention rates, the sanction of not tolerating poor academic performance is removed.
He's not talking about higher education, but I feel the same holds true for our university.
An edited extract from Solomon Volkov's Shostakovich and Stalin
Shostakovich's lucky ticket seems to have been writing music for the movie Counterplan, released in 1932 for the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution. One of its highlights is a charming and perky song, The Morning Greets Us with Coolness, written by Shostakovich. Its catchy melody made it the first Soviet hit song to come from the movies.

The whole country, from peasants to government leaders, sang The Morning Greets Us. Subsequently the melody won international acclaim: it was sung during the Second World War by members of the French Resistance; and in the United States, with new words, it was performed as the song The United Nations. In 1936 the song may have saved Shostakovich's life.
(Via Arts & Letters Daily.)
Watch your step

According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto's review of Genghis Khan: life, death and resurrection by John Man (via Arts & Letters Daily), Genghis Khan supposedly made the streets of Beijing "greasy with the fat of the slain". But
In the long run, however, he was a constructive destroyer. His empire , at his death in 1227, spanned Eurasia, creating havens of peace around the silk roads and steppelands. Accelerated contacts enriched Eurasian civilisations. Technologies that trans- formed Europe's future - gunpowder, the blast furnace, paper money - arrived in the West. Traditions of scientific empiricism, dormant in Europe since antiquity, revived as Westerners began to share attitudes to nature formerly confined to China. Italian merchants, French craftsmen and Franciscan missionaries met in the depths of the Gobi.
Italics mine. I think the biographer has fallen a little too much in love with his subject.
David Stanway on Maoist irrationality.
Stupid people I: Pig Caught in a Battle Between Future Farmers and PETA.

Stupid people II: Bowhunting in the Back Yard? McLean Pair's Answer to Deer Damage Riles Neighbors By Timothy Dwyer
"The deer population, whether you are talking about Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, when you get into these suburban areas, you have deer problems," said Doug Hotton, a biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "And it is because you have excellent deer habitat and very low deer mortality. The only thing that takes care of deer overpopulation is probably Buicks or BMWs."

Dan Lovelace, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said the deer population has grown so much recently that the department added three months to Fairfax's hunting season this year and next. He said bowhunting is the most effective way of hunting deer in the suburbs because it is safer than using rifles.

But either way, hunters and biologists hear from those opposed to suburban hunting using what they derisively call the Bambi argument. Killing deer brings an emotional response from people, but Lovelace said that allowing the deer population to grow unchecked is ecologically unsound.
Eric Huppert, president of the bowhunter organization that's going to conduct the hunt, said
Bowhunters are carefully screened for their marksmanship and sensitivity before they are allowed to join the organization, Huppert said. Whitetail does not charge homeowners for its services, and most of the deer that are killed are donated to Hunters for the Hungry, which distributes the venison to soup kitchens...

Huppert said he explained that the bowhunters are 15 to 20 feet off the ground in a tree stand. When the deer pass below, the hunters fire down, so if any shot misses, the arrow goes into the ground. Once a deer is hit, hunters follow the deer until it drops, which is usually, Huppert said, "not very far." The deer is wrapped in canvas and removed. He said the hunters use metal detectors to recover errant arrows.

Those opposed to the hunt are fearful of such shots hitting their children or pets. Others do not want their children to see a deer staggering through the neighborhood with an arrow in its hide or dying in their back yard.
Chinese Leaders Speak of Reform, But How Quickly? By Philip P. Pan: President Hu Jintao and the other 23 members of the ruling Politburo as well as
dozens of other high-level officials summon two scholars to deliver a briefing on reform:
One of the scholars, Li Lan, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he and his colleague addressed the room for about an hour and a half. They suggested the party could strengthen its rule by adopting elements of Western political systems, just as it had by developing a market economy. And they singled out general elections, checks and balances, rule of law and representative democracy as practices worth studying.

None of the Politburo members objected to the presentation. Instead, Li said, they peppered the scholars with questions for 30 minutes, asking about separation of powers, for example, and the relative advantages of bicameral and unicameral legislatures...

In effect, according to party officials and scholars who have participated in internal discussions, Hu and his colleagues are searching for a new political model for China. They argue that this country, with its huge population and its history of political turmoil, is not suited for multiparty democracy. But they also appear to have concluded that China's current system is crippled by corruption and increasingly unable to manage rising social discontent or implement economic reforms needed to ensure growth...

Many party officials and scholars who favor faster political liberalization are skeptical. "They want the benefits of competitive elections without taking the risk of losing power, and that won't work," said a party official who asked not to be identified. "We haven't seen anything from the new leaders that suggests they are serious about real political reform."..

One complicating factor is the incomplete leadership transition, party officials say. Jiang has not surrendered his last remaining position as chief of the military, and Hu remains surrounded by Jiang's allies on the Politburo Standing Committee...

The divide already appears to be an important factor in the government's response to demands for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Beijing adopted a moderate approach after 500,000 people participated in a rally on July 1, and backed off controversial anti-subversion legislation. That policy was associated with Wen, because he had just visited the territory.

Soon afterward, however, the Hong Kong issue was assigned to Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Jiang's longtime aide and Hu's main rival on the Politburo. The central government then took a harder line against political reform in the former British colony and began questioning the patriotism of democracy advocates.

A senior editor at a party newspaper said his paper had been told to prepare 10 editorials on the patriotism theme. Then, in a sign of disagreement with the harder line, after the first editorial appeared in print, he suddenly received orders to stop publishing them.
And Now, Taiwan a travel piece By Cindy Loose. I'm happy she had a nice time, but maybe that's because she didn't visit Kaohsiung. What a dump.

Friday, March 12

Old testimony found at Harpers:
From testimony given in June 2001 by Wang Guoqi, formerly a doctor at a Chinese People's Liberation Army hospital, to the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the U.S. House of Representatives. China has executed more than 5,000 people in the last year, more than all other countries combined, often for crimes such as tax evasion. Organs are routinely harvested from executed prisoners, and revenues from transplants are estimated to earn Chinese hospitals tens of millions of dollars annually.
Dr. Wang has applied for political asylum in the United States, and currently works as a sushi chef in New Jersey. There's a joke there. Here's the nasty part:
At the site, the execution commander gave the order, "Go!" and the prisoner was shot to the ground. Either because the executioner was nervous, aimed poorly, or intentionally misfired to keep the organs intact, the prisoner had not yet died but instead lay convulsing on the ground. We were ordered to take him to the ambulance anyway, where urologists extracted his kidneys quickly and precisely. When they finished, the prisoner was still breathing and his heart continued to beat. The execution commander asked if they might fire a second shot to finish him off, to which the county court staff replied, "Save that shot. With both kidneys out, there is no way he can survive."
OK, so we see the potential abuses of paying organ donors. MICHAEL FINKEL wrote This Little Kidney Went to Market for the NYTimes, also showing the dark side.

The Indiana University Center for Bioethics has an extensive Annotative Bibliography on organ donation (don't they mean annotated?), which includes the following:

Cherry, Mark J. (August 2000). "The body for charity, profit and holiness: Commerce in human body parts." Christian Bioethics. 6(2):127-138. This article uses Christian analysis to reveal, oral arguments and theological concerns which incline strongly in support of the creation of a for-profit market in human organs. The author says that current nationalized bureaucratic procedures for organ procurement and allocation do not appreciate the Christian body as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Shannon, Thomas A. "The kindness of strangers: Organ transplantation in a capitalist age" Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2001 September; 11(3): 285-303. The paper examines how and in what ways the possible Commodification of organs will affect our society and the impacts this may have on the supply of organs. The author feels that it would be a tragedy if we tried to solve the problem of organ shortage by commodification rather than by the kindness of strangers who meet in community and recognize and meet the demands of others in generosity.

Cohen, Cynthia "Public policy and the sale of human organs" Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2002 March; 12(1): 47-64. The author concludes that protecting the dignity of persons and their bodies and supporting our sense of altruism and interconnection with one another overcomes the importance of individual choice and a faith in the power of money as an incentive with respect to the provision of organs for transplant. Selling organs diminish the respect for persons and the interconnected as human beings.

Cherry, Mark J. "Is a Market in Human Organs Necessarily Exploitative?" Public-Affairs-Quarterly. O 00; 14(4): 337-360. The author argues that if there are not independent moral grounds to show that the sale of organs is immoral, then the purchase of organs from the poor will be exploitative if and only if either such independent grounds of impropriety can be established or the policy on balance will cause more harm than benefit for the poor. Assessing the latter condition will require recognizing that allowing the poor to choose on their own view of the good both protects the poor from being demeaned by being considered unable to make moral choices about their own future and helps to educate individuals in their faculties of free and responsible choice.

Ross, Lainie Friedman "Solid organ donation between strangers" Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2002 Fall; 30(3): 440-445 19.5; 19.6; 2.1. The author argues that organ donation by altruistic strangers represent a morally legitimate expansion of the living organ pool. But before such donations are widely embraced, protocols should be developed that are ethically sound with respect to procurement and allocation.

It sounds to me like Mark Cherry and Lainie Friedman Ross in the last two know what their talking about.
Taiwan Opposition Pulls Campaign Ad Featuring Hitler
The full-page newspaper advertisement likened incumbent President Chen Shui-bian to Hitler and read: "Change the president -- put an end to A-bian's dictatorship." A-bian is Chen's popular nickname.
How dumb is that? Everyone knows Bush is Hitler. Does that mean Bush is Chen Shui-bian?

Thursday, March 11

Hello Rattie. Click on A Nice Chinese Dish to see the tasty ratties.
The three main Chinese search engines: Baidu.com, styled after Google, Yahoo subsidiary 3721.com and Zhongsou.com. I follow Forbes' order, which seems to be the order of preference. Zhongsou seems pretty lousy.

Tuesday, March 9

培塿無松柏 Pines and cypresses won't grow from a small mound. I thought I saw the first character was to be pronounced pou3 instead of the usual pei2, making for a nice rhyming binome, but via Baidu.com, I find:
“坆謱”,疑读“部娄”。《左传·襄公廿四年》“部娄无松柏”,注“小阜”。或作“坆嵝”(《淮南子·原道》)、“培塿”(《墨子·佚文》)、“杯楼”(《史记·滑稽列传》索隐)、“附娄”(《说文》)等,皆一音之转。
Geez, how are you supposed to find anything if it has so many variants? The phrase seems to be used to mean that breeding shows.
Proxomitron messes up posting on blogger unless you deactivate "Frame Jumper-Outer" (edit HTML Web Page Filters, and uncheck "Frame Jumper-Outer"). Thanks to Stumblings in the dark. I'll show you stumblings. I mean, I'm really ignorant. Given Proxomitron is free, I shouldn't complain, but "Frame Jumper-Outer" is such awful English.

Update

I can't make it work; I'm giving up.
Inflation Calculator (via Tyler Cowen)
2004 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia.

Monday, March 8

Man Says He Sold UCLA's Cadavers By Charles Ornstein and Richard Marosi and earlier Sale of Body Parts at UCLA Alleged By Charles Ornstein, where he reveals,
Authorities, who first became aware of problems Feb. 26, said they are trying to determine the full extent of the alleged wrongdoing and potential charges.
This news led me to Profit Drives Illegal Trade in Body Parts By Alan Zarembo and Jessica Garrison:
The trade in human body parts is a seller's market.

Pharmaceutical companies buy everything from fingernails to tendons to use for research.

Medical instrument firms conduct training seminars for doctors, filling anatomy laboratories — or hotel event rooms — with trays of knees or heads that surgeons can use to acquaint themselves with new devices and techniques.

Then there are at least 50 surgical products made from human skin, bones and heart valves that are used in procedures ranging from lip enhancements to fracture repairs.

Bodies also end up as crash-test dummies and are used in other product-safety research...

By some estimates, a single body can be used to make products worth more than $200,000.
Funny the article doesn't refer to an earlier one by Alan Zarembo from the same paper: Cutting Out the Cadaver: Dissecting human bodies in medical school anatomy labs, long a gruesome rite of passage for doctors, is going the way of house calls.
Most medical schools have scaled back the time students spend in the anatomy lab to give them more time to study molecular biology or genetics. A few have eliminated dissection as a requirement for being a doctor. When UCSF, one of the top medical schools in the nation, did away with the requirement two years ago, it sent shudders through the field of anatomy.

The future is moving toward ready-to-view, professionally dissected specimens (known as "prosections") that allow students to scoot in and out of class with a minimum of mess, and computer simulations that do away with cadavers entirely...

In the old days, cadavers were not always treated respectfully. Some doctors and anatomy professors remember intestines being used to jump rope or stiff lips jammed with lighted cigarettes, pranks born from mix of testosterone and nervousness.
So did Alan Zarembo find out something funny was going on? Anyway, pranks with my body wouldn't bother me, but I'd much prefer to get my money's worth. OK, I know I wouldn't get $200,000, but it seems an awful waste to deny my heirs the chance to get some money for my body.

Sunday, March 7

I've seen a bunch of films that I didn't like all that much: Bulworth (1998) (no comment); Black & white (1995?), an inconclusive indie with Elena Shevchenko and Gilbert Giles about an American black man and a Russian woman; François Truffaut's Les Deux anglaises et le continent (1971), a remake of his Jules et Jim which I probably liked just for that reason, as well as the voice-over that I seemed to be in the mood for at that time; Suture (1993), an atmospheric but silly indie, John Huston's The Dead (1987), long & pointless, based on the long & pointless James Joyce story; and Woody Allen's overly talky Husbands and Wives (1992), apparently filmed while he was showing Soon-Yi (then 22?) his woody.
First we saw Lina Wertmüller's Ciao, Professore! (1993), then her Swept Away (1974), which I remember making a huge splash when it came out. The former was pretty lame, if watchable, and the latter a little disturbing with the man-on-woman violence, even if it's a female fantasy. It also had too much screaming (like the Albee thing below), and I was surprised to find that Giancarlo Giannini was such a poor actor.
Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (2002) was great. From the blurb I expected it was going to be about mistreated women, but it was far more nuanced than that. But I've got little to say about movies I really like. I think the library got it like Lois Weber's (and Phillips Smalley's?) The Blot, (1921), which I also liked. Hey, the bizman wasn't a bad guy! Nor was his somewhat spoiled son!
We saw A Raisin in the Sun (1961). It was watchable, but I felt the poor family was in some ways foolish. Sidney Poitier's Walter Lee Younger in particular was a loser. His sister's aspirations were admirable, but she was an awfully silly romantic (OK, I liked her atheism, though). Still his mother had quite a bit on the ball, but a little too eager to relieve her grandson of his burden to study, and far too trusting of her foolish son with her money. The long-suffering wife had a good deal of my sympathy, but what I had trouble was their absolute rejection of the payment their future neighbors offered. I mean, how much was it? I know, all for dignity. Speaking of dignity, Louis Gossett Jr. showed a good deal of that in a minor role.

The next day, we saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), which I believe I once saw. Funny to see such a young George Segal. Anyway, it's another overly long filmed play, with an awfully lot of screaming, but I still liked it a little more than "Raisin", probably because I'm more familiar with the milieu of drunk academics. Still, it's not one I need to see ever again.
Vali Nasr writes that
Anti-Shiism is embedded in the ideology of Sunni militancy that has risen to prominence across the region in the last decade. Wahhabi Sunnis, who dominate Saudi Arabia's religious affairs and export their philosophy to its neighbors, have led the charge, declaring Shiites "infidels" and hence justifying their murder. (The legacy of Wahhabi violence against Shiites dates back to at least 1801, when Wahhabi armies from the Arabian Peninsula invaded southern Iraq and desecrated the holy shrine at Karbala.)

...

To contend with Sunni militancy in Iraq, America must contain it throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Among other things, this means putting pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to stem the tide of anti-Shiite rhetoric in their mosques and media. It also means insuring that Iraqi Sunnis do not feel left out of the emerging democratic Iraq, and working with Ayatollah Sistani to quell Shiite rage over the attacks. What happened in Karbala must not become a sign of things to come for the whole region.
He seems to agree with Michael Scott Doran.
In A Prius-Hummer War Divides Oscarville SHARON WAXMAN writes,
The culture wars roll on in Hollywood, this time on wheels, and nothing divides people like that nine-mile-a-gallon former military truck or the tiny Japanese-made sedan with dual engines under the hood. It's Hummer versus hybrid, Hollywood hedonism versus holier-than-thou Hollywood political correctness...

...some Oscar-night hybrid flaunters were merely driving loaners. Evidently, they had not put their money where their green principles are. It is a good bet that more than one flies by private studio jet, burning hydrocarbons as wastefully as the Daytona 500.
She concludes with an anecdote about Howard Drake, an owner of the Hummer dealership:
Every once in a while, he acknowledged, the culture wars seep onto the lots of the dealerships. Mr. Drake said he was approached by a well-known actress, whose name he declined to share.

"She told me she wanted to buy a hybrid, and she was concerned about the Hummer and its effect on the environment," Mr. Drake recalled. "I asked where she lived. She said Beverly Hills. I said, 'Out of curiosity: How big is your house?'

"She said: 'What does that matter? It's 20,000 square feet.' "

He said he replied: "I don't know what's less correct. Having three people live in a 20,000-square-foot house, with a pool and heaters and air-conditioners. Or me driving my Hummer 500 miles a month."

Mr. Drake's house, he said, is 3,000 square feet.

Wednesday, March 3

Tuesday, March 2

In the campus newspaper, a student columnist writing on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ celebrated the importance of quasi-religious faith in a brighter future, and quoted Confucius' "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles." Yet as one sees from the original context of James Legge's translation of 1:8, 忠信 doesn't mean religious faith 忠 and sincerity 信 so much as trustworthiness:
The Master said, "If the scholar be not grave, he will not call forth any veneration, and his learning will not be solid.
"Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
"Have no friends not equal to yourself.
"When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them."
See also this translation or Charles Muller's, which translates 忠信 as loyalty and good faith.
Like Japan in the 1980's, China Poses Big Economic Challenge By KEITH BRADSHER is convincing as far as it goes. But nothing about how low prices are good for American consumers.
China loses the face of the Chinese people again

China Holds Group From Hong Kong For Espionage By Philip P. Pan.
China has quietly detained a group of Hong Kong residents, including at least three British citizens, and begun to prosecute them on espionage charges, according to people familiar with the cases. The prosecutions may signal a new push to enact the stringent internal security bill that prompted huge demonstrations in the territory last year before it was withdrawn.

Monday, March 1

N. Korea May Be in 'Anybody but Bush' Camp. Partly because they think another prez will be easier to deal with, but also because lil' Kim has apparently been enraged by the "evil empire" stuff. It's all along the same contintuum.
A couple of things from Statistical Assessment Service

In Does Salmon Study Stoke Needless Fears?, Trevor Butterworth adds to what I said earlier. He argues "The case against farm-raised salmon is far from clear", referring to this article by Gina Kolata quoting Michael Gallo as saying
PCB's have not been proven to cause human cancer, and industry workers who would be typically exposed to higher levels have not been shown to suffer a higher rate of cancer
and which tells us that he's not funded by the fish or chemical industries. I've tried to find articles by him, but haven't been successful. It also links to Is Farm-Raised Salmon Bad For Your Health After All?
Mark Woodin, PhD, an epidemiologist at Tufts who specializes in occupational hazards, adds that while “farm-raised salmon probably does have higher levels of PCBs than wild” and while those chemicals certainly do present a problem, it’s very difficult to say just how toxic they are. Scientists cannot expose study volunteers to a substance that is suspected of causing harm, he explains, so most studies are limited to workers exposed to PCBs before they were thought to be dangerous. Workers were oftentimes “wearing no protection and sloshing around in the stuff,” he remarks. That diminishes a study’s usability for the public at large. Then, too, because there is so much variation among the people studied—how much they were exposed to and for how long—scientists are left with imprecise data from which it’s hard to draw firm conclusions.

Even if the strict EPA guidelines were known to be the right ones, they are based on the amount of PCBs that are thought to be capable of causing one additional cancer case in 100,000 people over a 70-year lifetime. Compare that, Dr. Woodin says, to "very good, consistent data that show a couple of coldwater fish meals a week can lower your risk of heart disease, which is the biggest killer in developed nations."
New York Times Hypes Methamphetamines, reports Maia Szalavitz:
The New York Times ran a front page story on the dangers of toxic methamphetamine labs on February 23. It wasn’t enough that these labs do more damage than other drug manufacturing businesses, it wasn’t sufficient that one in five labs is discovered due to an explosion: The drug had to be harder to kick than crack or heroin as well.

But the data is inconvenient. All the research shows that stimulant addictions tend to be shorter in duration than alcohol or heroin addictions, which means that the latter are harder to end. And research comparing success rates in traditional treatment doesn’t find that methamphetamine users have higher relapse rates than anyone else.*
And she's got another item that says:
...research on addictions shows that the vast majority of people quit them without formal treatment—or even self-help groups.
She links to Stanton Peele's copy of What We Now Know About Treating Alcoholism and Other Addictions (originally from The Harvard Mental Health Letter of December 1991) which says among other things,
Researchers at the Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto found that many untreated middle-class cocaine users were able to cut back or quit on their own when they found that they had begun to lose control. Cocaine addicts and alcoholics often testify that tobacco is the hardest drug of all to give up, yet more than 40 million Americans have done so. During the 1980s, according to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 47.5 percent of smokers who tried to quit on their own succeeded—twice the success rate of those who used treatment programs.
According to one authority,
the most important single prognostic variable associated with remission among alcoholics who attend alcohol clinics is having something to lose if they continue to abuse alcohol...

The best way to discourage addictive behavior is to show people how to meet the demands of life without drinking or drug use.
Freeing Children of Convicts: In China, the disgrace of imprisoned parents is passed to the offspring, who are often shunned. A private shelter offers love and protection by Ching-Ching Ni
Unlike in the West, China has no laws that require the state to care for children left behind by incarcerated adults, estimated at 300,000 annually. Nor can the children rely on friends or relatives in a culture that believes in guilt by family association. Some children drift from one abusive home to another; others wander the streets or become criminals themselves.
Zhang Shuqin, a 53-year-old former correctional officer runs several homes for such children.
It is not easy to run a nonprofit in China. Philanthropy is still a foreign concept in a society that is new to personal wealth and unfamiliar with nongovernmental organizations. Every year, Zhang must raise at least $430 per child to cover food, school fees and other living expenses. About 60% of her funding comes as gifts from foreign enterprises and aid groups and the rest from Chinese donors.

The shelter also rents farmland where the children grow their own vegetables and tend thousands of date trees as well as about 100 ducks, chicken and pigs. In the summer, they bring the produce to market or sell it on the street. All those older than 10 help for four hours a week "so they understand that money doesn't come easy," Zhang said.
Palestinian Authority Broke and In Disarray: Collapse Is 'Real Possibility' By John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore
Three years and five months after Palestinians began their second uprising against Israel, the Palestinian Authority is broke, politically fractured, riddled with corruption, unable to provide security for its own people and seemingly unwilling to crack down on terrorist attacks against Israel, according to Palestinian, Israeli and international officials.

The turmoil within the Palestinian Authority is fueling concern that the agency -- created almost 10 years ago to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- is disintegrating and could collapse, leaving a political and security vacuum in one of the Middle East's most volatile regions, many of those officials said...

Because of budget shortfalls in recent months, the authority has taken out loans from Arab-owned commercial banks to pay salaries while also imposing pay cuts on its 140,000 employees. Frustrated by allegations of corruption and the slow pace of economic reform, foreign donors are reducing funding to the authority or diverting money to nongovernmental organizations.
It sounds to me like the main problems are failure to develop economic opportunities and corruption, but some quotes Arafat saying, "Let it collapse. It will be the fault of Israel and the Americans." And yet,
French prosecutors recently revealed that they were investigating whether Arafat's wife, Suha Arafat, who resides in Paris, improperly received more than $10 million in authority funds. The International Monetary Fund said in a report issued last fall that more than $900 million in public funds were "diverted" to Israeli private bank accounts controlled by Arafat and his financial adviser or to other uses for which the IMF said it could find no full accounting.
Chinatown Is a Hard Sell in Italy: Romans Say Immigrant Area Isn't Doing as They Would Do By Daniel Williams.
"There are no butchers, no laundries. I have to go miles to buy mortadella."

City hall has laid down rules to limit Chinese commerce in Esquilino and make it less of an immigration magnet. Wholesale outlets, a main source of livelihood for the Chinese, are banned in the district. New occupants of commercial space where one form of business existed for 15 years or longer are not allowed to change the nature of the business for two years. In effect, a bakery must remain a bakery, a cafe, a cafe...

The conflict is rooted in the Romans' view of themselves and their city. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" has become a rallying cry because, in the Roman view, the Chinese are doing as the Chinese do -- and in upsetting ways. They open shops that sell products in bulk, raise signs in Chinese characters, work long and odd hours and keep to themselves in a way that many Italians consider unfriendly and mysterious.

Even matters of taste are a factor. When Chinese merchants recently began to hang red paper lanterns outside their shops, other residents raised an uproar. The city banned the decorations, with police enforcing a 1920s regulation that required signs in foreign languages to be smaller than those in Italian...

About 90 percent of the Chinese population in Rome comes from the eastern province of Zhejiang, and most of them from the port city of Wenzhou and hamlets around it....
Interestingly, Paris has a large Wenzhou contingent, too.