Monday, May 31

Anti-Globalism = Anti-Americanism By Jean-Francois Revel
The enfeebling of the Europeans’ position in the world is self-caused: They alone are responsible for their own heaped-up aberrations and follies over the first half of the past century. This weakening entailed the corresponding and virtually automatic rise of the United States.

Strikingly, Americans continue to increase their lead, even since the consolidation of the European Union. That a united Europe hasn’t yet risen to the challenge is obviously not for lack of material and human resources, but rather for lack of understanding of how to use them. Inhibited by ideological prejudices, Europe, despite her successes, continues to live overshadowed by America. Witness the fact that the health of her economy is dependent on the state of America’s economy: Whenever the latter goes into recession, as in the beginning of 2001, Europe falters.

Elsewhere, American-style market capitalism is equally successful and dominant. Third World countries have developed at sharply different rates basically according to the degree to which they have respected free markets, and left economic activity to private enterprise rather than to undertakings of the state. Even in nations like China where political communism has artificially prolonged its existence, it has done so only by thoroughly expunging economic socialism through privatization, appeals to foreign investors, deregulation of commerce, and establishment of cross-border trade agreements. Only Cuba and North Korea have clung to economic collectivism, with utterly disastrous results...

Resentments that lead to the rejection of every idea that comes from America simply because it is American can only weaken countries. To follow such a course is to let phobias become guiding principles. Does anyone really believe today that nations which substitute government edicts for economic markets are likelier to prosper? Must we close our eyes to the achievements of the last 50 years of increasing economic liberty, when worldwide production grew by a factor of six and the volume of exports by a factor of 17? Must investment capitalism abroad, the engine of extraordinary, racing progress for many previously poor countries, be banned just because it often brings links to America?

We French have had little to say against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, the imams of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the bosses of China and Vietnam. We reserve our admonitions and our contempt and our attacks for the U.S., for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and for Europeans like Margaret Thatcher, Silvio Berlusconi, and Tony Blair, because they are insufficiently hostile to capitalism. Our enemy is not the dictator but the free market economy.

Anti-globalizers make the same mistake. What’s important to them is not the eradication of poverty. Rather, it is the propaganda value they gain from linking poverty to the spreading market economy. But this puts them on the wrong side of all evidence, of reality, of history.

Life expectancy in Third World countries has more than doubled during the free-market dominated second half of the twentieth century. In India, food production has grown by a factor of ten, leading to the elimination of massive famines. In Latin America, per capita income doubled between 1950 and 1985. Over the past 50 years, Latin America on the whole has experienced an annual growth of 5 percent. No European country can boast an equivalent rate. These figures show to what an extent the mantras about ever-increasing poverty spring from ignorance or simple dishonesty. Where poverty continues to exist today it is almost wholly due to ruinously inefficient public sectors.

This is most obvious in Africa, the only Third World continent to have actually declined. Impoverishment there has political, not economic, causes. It is statism, not the market, and socialism, not capitalism, that has destroyed the African economies. After independence, the African elites who formed the political leadership generally adopted the Soviet and Chinese systems. Thus they were able to assume absolute power with access to the levers of personal enrichment. And from communism they borrowed an infallible recipe for agricultural ruin: collectivizing the land, from Algeria to Tanzania, setting up “cooperatives” that quickly became unproductive.

In these fatal mistakes the Third World has had false friends. In particular, the privileged pseudo-revolutionaries of Seattle and Göteborg have encouraged them down the primrose path of anti-capitalism. Lacking any real knowledge about the African cataclysm, and careless about finding remedies, the anti-globalist agitators prefer hurling brickbats at their perennial hobgoblin to the moral imperative of saving and improving lives.
And here's something else on Africa from Anthony Daniels' review of Robert Guest's The Shackled Continent: Africa's Past, Present and Future:
For many years, the whole purpose of education in Africa, from the pupil's and student's point of view, has been to obtain a position in government from which to extort and expropriate from others. "Seek ye first the political kingdom", said Kwame Nkrumah, and that is precisely what Africans have been doing ever since, with disastrous results.

The more African bureaucrats and politicians extort and expropriate, the less there is to extort and expropriate, which makes the competition for power ever more desperate and violent. And the wholly parasitic nature of the elite explains why both the expansion of education and the existence of natural resources in an African country conduce not to prosperity, but to civil war and impoverishment.
Finding the Perfect Dog - There is no such animal. So, stop looking. By Jon Katz: "Trainers say it requires nearly 2,000 repetitions of a behavior for a dog to completely absorb it." How many reps do people need?
In Central Asia, an American Professor Finds Hostility Spiked With Cynicism By ELINOR BURKETT
"Where have we attacked Muslims?"

"I don't know. That's what people say."

"In Bosnia and Somalia, we were supporting Muslims," I said. "And in the war against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, we were supporting Muslims who were attacked by other Muslims."

A stony silence, more of bewilderment than hostility, enveloped the room, as if I'd just announced to a group of American students that the earth wasn't round, or that Utah was just a cartographer's fantasy. It was the first of many retreats in the face of an unaccustomed challenge to official truths.

Tired and cranky, I filled the void by turning a table: "Can you explain to me why there's never been a call for a jihad against Russia?"

The room tensed. "Why should Muslims be angry at the Russians? The Russians are our brothers."

"But your 'brothers' have been attacking Islam for decades," I countered, ticking off the list: the suppression of Islam in Central Asia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the war in Chechnya.

"But the Russians are poor," they responded.
Via aldaily

Sunday, May 30

At (Your Name Here) Arena, Money Talks
Still, the notion of public companies spending millions on such endeavors rankles Nell Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, an independent research firm that specializes in corporate governance. She wonders about shareholder returns from these deals.
'Are they about pride?' she said. 'Ego? Are they about schmoozing or returning value to shareholders? I'm not sure that brand recognition, unassociated with the product or service you sell, is valuable. If Nike wanted to do it, I could see it, but why a bank would do it is beyond me.'
Definitely ego.
To get your attention, they say, Mold blamed for breathing problems, but then, "Insufficient evidence for other ills, study finds"
Respiratory problems, including some asthma, can be caused by mold, but an extensive study released Tuesday failed to indict the fungus for a host of other, often major illnesses that some have sought to associate with it.
I remember some consultant on TV claiming that mold would be the next big real estate problem, after asbestos. Maybe not.
For Soldiers Back From Iraq, Basic Training in Resuming Life
Most of all, the moods of new veterans may be changeable. As more soldiers are sent to Iraq for repeat tours, the stress grows more complicated. Experts on veterans' issues say public attitudes also affect how well soldiers and their families cope with resuming ordinary lives. In recent weeks, with mounting rebel insurgencies, a growing scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and the beheading of an American in Iraq, the polls have shown support for President Bush's policy slipping.
Well, how about this: I support the war in Iraq.
Pawns in China's Power Struggle: Taiwan, HK Line Reflects Rivalry By Philip P. Pan
China's former president, Jiang Zemin, is strengthening his hold on power by promoting a hard-line approach toward Hong Kong and Taiwan, making it more difficult for the country's new leaders to consider concessions on either issue, according to sources in the government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party...

A prolonged struggle for power between Jiang's allies and those who support Hu has created a dynamic in which any senior leader who argues for even a slightly more moderate policy risks being attacked by rivals in the other camp as too weak to govern, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity and said they favor neither faction.
Sounds like the US "drug war"--everybody loses.
Pentagon: China Rethinking Its Strategies By ROBERT BURNS:
The speed with which U.S. ground forces captured Baghdad and the prominent role played in Iraq by U.S. commandos, have led China to rethink how it could counteract the American military in the event of a confrontation over Taiwan, the Pentagon says.

The Chinese also believe, partly from its assessment of the Bush administration's declared war on terrorism, that the United States is increasingly likely to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan or other Chinese interests, according to the Pentagon analysis.

"Authoritative commentary and speeches by senior officials suggest that U.S. actions over the past decade ... have reinforced fears within the Chinese leadership that the United States would appeal to human rights and humanitarian concerns to intervene, either overtly or covertly," said the Pentagon.
I'd say that's a good thing, except I don't want Chen Shui-bian to draw the US into a war.

Saturday, May 29

A couple of Kaohsiung-area restaurants that we visited recently: Karabour 卡拉包 Thai Food, at 54 Chung Cheng Rd. in Kaohsiung wasn't bad. The other was the "European-style buffet" (歐式自助餐; I think they're just trying to convey that it's not the usual cheapo cafeteria style) Shanghai Vegetarian Food 上海素菜館 in Pingtung, half an hour from here. Those are old prices on the website; now it's NT$220 weekends and holidays per person for all you can eat, but they've got a huge selection, I was impressed and I'm not much a vegetarian. I was told the other locations aren't as good, though; we'll check 'em out.
According to the Economist's Cultural evolution, a lot of culture is random:
Dr Bentley is finding that random copying seems to drive many forms of cultural change, from patterns on ancient clay pots to preferences for breeds of dog.

For some, this is disappointing. Many students of cultural evolution hope to find analogies with biological evolution by natural selection, not just random drift, when they look at cultural change. Hence the appropriation from biology of the term "mutation rate". There is even a word for what they hope will turn out to be the cultural equivalent of a gene. This word is "meme".
Another blow for cultural critics.
According to Mark Magnier,
Hu and Wen control the economy, social issues and most areas of foreign policy, while former President Jiang Zemin retains control over the military and most issues related to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
As of May 29, 2004
SARS Cases in Asia Show Labs' Risks: As Scientists Battle Diseases, Accidents Can Infect Public By David Brown
The Beijing case is the most mysterious and troubling. There, a 26-year-old graduate student developed SARS in late March, just two weeks after she started working at the virology institute. In mid-April, a 31-year-old man in the same lab also came down with the disease. Neither had been working with the SARS virus.

The graduate student went home to Anhui province, where she infected her mother, who died. The student then became ill enough to be hospitalized and infected a nurse. The nurse, in turn, infected five others -- three relatives, a patient and a relative of that patient -- in a "third generation" of infection.
Or so the Chinese claim. I think they're lying.
The biggest disease outbreak that may have arisen from a laboratory was the mini-pandemic of 'Russian flu' in 1977 and 1978.

Despite its name, that strain of influenza virus appeared in Tientsin, China, in May 1977. It spread around the world, causing mild infection that almost exclusively hit people younger than 20. Millions of people became ill, although overall flu mortality did not increase.

What is curious is that this virus had a genetic fingerprint virtually identical to a strain that had last circulated in 1950. Flu viruses evolve at a fairly predictable rate 'and it is extremely difficult to explain why the . . . strains . . . are so strikingly familiar,' a team of scientists wrote in 1978.

There are two possible explanations. The first is that the 1950 virus was somehow 'genetically frozen' in nature -- possibly in ice or perhaps in some human or animal carrier that has never been discovered. The second is that it escaped from a laboratory in China.

Many scientists think the second is the more probable.
So what was that? An experiment in biological warfare gone wrong?

Friday, May 28

In Balancing U.S. Interests in the Strait, Ronald N. Montaperto blames Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui for Taiwan's loss of international recognition, and states that
Canberra, Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore all mistrust Chen Shui-bian. Their unofficial economic contacts with Taipei are regarded as a price to be paid rather than an intrinsic good. Mindful as they are of China's growing comprehensive national power, they are not willing to risk ties with Beijing for the sake of Taiwan. Simultaneously, they see the U.S. presence in the region as an effective counter to China's rise.

Accordingly, maintaining the effectiveness of Washington's relations with Beijing and Taipei is a matter of the highest priority. If the U.S. can balance Chinese insistence on the One China principle against the growing separatist feeling in Taiwan, and if Washington is able to uphold the commitment to a peaceful solution, it gains strategically. To the extent that it fails to do so, it loses. The effectiveness of U.S. strategic leadership is evaluated according to how well it "manages" the Taiwan issue. If Taiwan's future becomes the issue that forces the nations of the region to choose between the U.S. and China, American management will have failed and U.S. influence will diminish.
In At Arms Length: China's Move to Further Isolate Taiwan, Willy Lam says,
While the CCP leadership may for the near term lack a casus belli for the military option, Beijing's Taiwan policy has taken a radical--and possibly violent--turn. Li, who used to head the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted the Chinese leadership was switching from a houfa zhiren posture ("winning through crafting an ingenious reaction to the enemy's ploys") to a "strike first" policy. One disturbing manifestation of this new-found aggressiveness is the revelation first made by Premier Wen Jiabao in early May that Beijing was considering a National Reunification Law (NRL).

Chinese sources say it is well-known in Taiwan-related think tanks in Beijing that legal and strategic experts under the CCP Leading Group on Taiwan Affairs (LGTA), headed by President Hu Jintao, had begun drafting a statute on reunification more than a year ago. And at least one version of the law being mooted would obligate the central government and its military forces to "use whatever means to accomplish the holy task of national reunification." The Hu-Wen leadership is still debating whether the statue should contain a "deadline," say the year 2008, by which reunification must be accomplished.
Well, I'm spooked. I'm not sure of the origin of houfa zhiren 後發制人. Maybe it's a martial arts term?
Last night someone invited us for dinner here in Kaohsiung and introduced us to three women from the mainland and the guy who had helped them come over. Taiwan has all kinds of restrictions against mainland immigration and on mainlanders working, but they still come illegally. The guy who hired them explained to my mother-in-law that they weren't good looking enough to be prostitutes, so they worked (illegally) in other jobs. One of them volunteered that her marriage to a Taiwanese man was fake; I was surprised that she'd admit this to strangers. The other two women were also married, but they didn't say it was fake. Anyway, they said they could make more money here in a couple of years than they could in a lifetime in China.

Monday, May 24

The iced cappuccino 冰卡布奇諾 served at the Crown cafe 金鑛咖啡麵包 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan is absolutely delicious. And cheaper than Starbucks, which the couple of times I've had it didn't taste like proper cappuccino.
Soldiers Vented Frustration, Doctor Says By R. Jeffrey Smith:
Much of the language in Nelson's study supports the Army's contention that the abuses were a product of a distorted environment at Abu Ghraib last year, amounting to a wartime version of the malicious conduct by marooned children in the novel "Lord of the Flies." But the report is at odds with recent congressional testimony by top Army and military intelligence officials that the prison abuse involved only low-ranking soldiers and was not known by more senior officers...

A vindictive attitude was not the only psychological problem, Nelson wrote. "Clearly some detainees were totally humiliated and degraded" by people who were practicing a "perversive dominance." He said the events were "a classic example" of the formula that "predisposition plus opportunity" can produce criminal behavior.

"Inadequate and immoral men and women desiring dominance may be attracted to fields such as corrections and interrogations, where they can be in absolute control over others" in the absence of appropriate supervision, Nelson wrote...

It is important, Nelson wrote, "to remember dominance in and of itself is not improper. In fact, interrogators knowingly dominate their subjects and sometimes intimidate their subjects. But clearly, behavior at Abu Ghraib crossed the line."
Someone is sure to make the argument that dominance is never permissible.

Sunday, May 23

I'm looking for a definition of 計較 in the sense of overly insistent on getting one's fair share. With some help, I've come up with calculating, mercenary, petty, and penny-pinching as adjectives, and haggle or dicker as verbs.
David Warsh writes:
This is, in truth, a remarkably difficult moment for the United States, in its embarrassment over the widespread prisoner abuse in Iraq. If American military police had not been prepared to act severely toward their more defiant captives, they would have been derided as innocents who didn't know how to conduct a war against an army whose leadership had been hardened by a long bitter war with Iran. Since they acted brutally, they have been derided for having been inhumane (as indeed they were.)
Yes indeed. Whatever we do is wrong--well, unless we disband our government and let the lights of freedom at the UN (like Cuba, Sudan, and um, France) govern us.

Saturday, May 22

We made our corn pancakes, for which I brought WalMart's off-brand corn meal from the US.
Mix:
1 cup cornmeal
1 t salt
1 T sugar
1 cup boiling water
set aside to cool.
Beat
1 egg
add:
1/2 cup milk
2 T oil
and mix in to the cornmeal mixture.
Sift before measuring:
1/2 cup flour
resift with
2 t baking powder
mix in to the cornmeal mixture.
pan fry in frying pan, or in our case, a wok. My Sichuanese mother-in-law said they were just right, but my wife & sister-in-law said they were too salty.
Last week Brad DeLong quoted BHUSHAN BAHREE, Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: "China's exploding demand for oil -- one factor that helped drive petroleum prices above $40 a barrel this week -- has put energy markets at increased risk of disruptive price spikes and crashes, according to a study by an influential forecasting group...."
Cecil on the Death Touch. He's dubious, but admits there may be something. I've read about people who believe their beatings by the Chinese secret police have caused such damage, but I'm still skeptical.
Bill Hinton, the author of Fanshen, and other books praising the Communist Chinese land reform in the late 40's and 50's, died. On the MCLC LIST, someone posted an obituary by John Mage of Monthly Review:
Hinton again and again challenged the one-sided negative account of the Cultural Revolution that is now official dogma in China, no less than in the global imperium of the United States. His belief in the revolutionary transformative power of the peasantry, of ordinary people, cannot be shaken because it has been based on what he had himself experienced.

Straightforward and passionate, farmer and revolutionary, Bill Hinton's life demonstrates the universal core of Marxist revolutionary practice. Neither cultural nor generational differences proved barriers to his learning and teaching. Live like him.
Michael S. Duke took issue with this, referring to the
"time warp" factor in Monthly Review discourse. Also, I think very few of them know Chinese. The one abiding legacy of Marxism is sympathy for the poor and downtrodden, but capitalism plus liberal democracy has done more for the poor, laboring, huddled masses than any form of socialism or communism ever has.
In response to a defense of his ethics, he writes,
As for the ethics of anyone who espoused Maoism to the world and enjoyed special treatment from Zhou Enlai et al., especially from within the protection of the liberal democratic societies Marxism and Maoism were trying to destroy at the time, I find them to be a perfect example of what Michael Polanyi called "moral inversion" -- sanctioning the most immoral actions (Maoist style anything) for passionately moral reasons. (Polanyi's Personal Knowledge). National Socialism and Communism were always shot through with moral inversion.
Here's the NYT obit, which says his books
offered an authentic — if, some critics said, an occasionally overromantic — peek at the patterns of life for the peasants...
Booming China Devouring Raw Materials: Producers and Suppliers Struggle to Feed a Voracious Appetite By Peter S. Goodman. That pretty much says it all. Of course if there's a crash, they won't be needing those raw materials for awhile.
I'm trying to figure out what the hard-core Taiwanese independistas think of Chen Shui-bian's slavish caving in to the US. I suppose they blame the Americans for forcing him to speak.
Comments enabled.

Monday, May 17

Sunday, May 16

I am not at all impressed by the way the sidewalks along Si wei Road 四維路 in Kaohsiung 高雄 have been revamped to facilitate access by motorcycles and automobiles, the better to run me down.

Saturday, May 8

This is cute: back-to-back stories about U.S. Job Creation in April Gives Strength to Recovery and Outsourcing Delivers Hope to India. Outscourcing is not incompatible with job growth. A good thing for Kerry he can beat on Bush about the Iraqi prison.
A. O. SCOTT writes on the relationship between legal consumables and public health and the question of responsibility:
Does it rest with those of us who eat, drink and inhale the products that clog our arteries and corrode our livers and lungs, or with the companies who sell and advertise them?
But then he comes down on the side of passive dummies:
There is a heartbreaking moment when an overweight girl worries that she will never lose weight because she can't afford to eat two sandwiches a day from Subway, the diet that made Jared Fogle into the chain's favorite spokesman.
How about making your own sandwich, fattie? I eat home made sandwiches (on whole wheat) every work day that I bring to school: cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce and mayo; tuna salad; egg salad; peanut butter & celery; avocado, tomato and lettuce; roast beef occasionally; and home made hummus when I'm feeling energetic.

Meanwhile, while the Bush administration doesn't care what you eat, they're playing nanny government, trying to keep morning-after Plan B pills out of our grubby little hands.
In My Life as a Guard, TED CONOVER writes:
In the prison where I worked (and in most prisons, I suspect), there are two sets of rules. There are the official rules, which you learn during training and carry in a booklet in your pocket. And then there are the real rules-- the knowing what you can and cannot get away with.

Prison officers, in charge of people who are usually not nice, are bound to overstep the rules occasionally. The infractions may be relatively minor, like forgetting to unlock the cell of a difficult inmate when it's recreation time, or more serious, like participating in an 'adjustment' of an abusive inmate. And when and if the incidents are made public, the test is always: will your superiors back you up? Is the boss a good guy or a jerk? Which rule book does he follow?

JOHN SCHWARTZ writes about the banality of evil:
In 1971 researchers at Stanford University created a simulated prison in the basement of the campus psychology building. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks.

Within days the "guards" had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners' heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts...

"It's not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches."

So what are people so surprised about? And I find a lot of the outrage somewhat suspect: domestically, much of it is anti-Bush rhetoric, and internationally anti-American. As Fouad Ajami said on a broadcast, where's the outrage against Arab abuses?
Beijing Warns HK Democracy Politicians on Criticism
Beijing has warned pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong against criticizing the Chinese parliament, saying doing so was unlawful and would challenge the authority of the country's top legislature.
I hereby criticize the so-called Chinese parliament as a bunch of lackeys of the communist dictatorship, pushing for hegemony over East Asia.
We saw Deliverance (1972). I never saw it, but I still remember my high school classmates laughing about "Squeal like a pig". The movie was OK, but kind of fell apart towards the end. My mother taught high school English back then and used the novel in her class. Quite a shocker for some of her students, I imagine. We also saw The Lacemaker (La Dentellière; 1977). A little long (there seems to have been a run on bare-bones love stories in the 70's French movies), but the last take of the woman driven mad by a broken heart almost made it worth it.

I prefer Carrington (1995), about the artist Dora de Houghton Carrington (1893-1932), played by Emma Thompson, who looked much younger than she was, and her love affair with author Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), played by Jonathan Pryce, and directed by Christopher Hampton. Strachey was full of bon mots, many of which they used in the movie, and the irony of a homosexual man and a heterosexual woman not only being in love but also making it work. Much better than Total Eclipse (1995), which Hampton wrote to be directed by Agnieszka Holland. I just couldn't get over the churlishness of Rimbaud or Verlaine.

Tuesday, May 4

Another Leap by China, With Steel Leading Again:
Concerns are growing from Beijing to Pittsburgh about this breathtaking ramp-up of Chinese steel making, but not because anyone thinks the 1950's disaster will be repeated. Instead, executives and industry analysts are worried that the world will be stuck with an enormous glut of steel that could wreck profits and touch off mass layoffs at steel mills around the world, including those in the United States.
JOSEPH KAHN reports how Taiwan Casts U.S. as China Intermediary, which is where we don't want to be:
President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan is pressing the Bush administration to approve his plans to change the island's Constitution, casting the United States as an intermediary in the most delicate issue dividing China and Taiwan, Taiwanese officials said Tuesday...

Mr. Chen sent Chiou I-Jen, the secretary general of the presidential office, to Washington this week to outline changes he plans to make to the Constitution during his second term in office, the officials said. If Taiwan gets the blessing it seeks, Mr. Chen may make constitutional change a centerpiece of his inaugural address on May 20, they said.

...Taiwan's supporters in Congress and some neoconservative thinkers in Washington are also urging the administration to offer greater support to the island, which they view as a democracy under threat from China's Communist Party-controlled military....

Mr. Chen hopes to persuade the United States that his proposal for changing the Constitution will focus on the legal framework of Taiwan's central government and its legislature, which he argues must be overhauled because it is irrelevant and ineffective in present-day Taiwan.

But Taiwanese officials said Mr. Chen will pledge not to change Taiwan's official name, the Republic of China. He will also promise to keep the red-and-blue flag of the Republic of China and refrain from rewriting references to the territory Taiwan claims as its own. Those are among the most sensitive issues that China sees as symbolizing Taiwan's national status and maintaining its links to the mainland....

While Taiwanese officials present Mr. Chen's plans as conciliatory, Chinese analysts say they fear that any constitutional reform in Taiwan could easily lead to a direct challenge to the mainland. They say Mr. Chen has not lived up to pledges he has made in the past to improve ties with China.

Moreover, Mr. Chen is not expected to detail how he wants to overhaul the Constitution until after legislative elections in December.
There's the rub. While Taiwan's constitution is overdue for change, the fact that Chen loves to go back on his word makes it very likely that once he gets some sign of support, he'll be tempted to please his hardcore by pushing for something that may very well push the commies over edge. So that's why Armitage pressed Chen to reaffirm his 'five noes' pledge, which Chen Shui-bian indicated during his first inaugural speech in 2000, saying, as long as the Chinese communist regime does not intend to use force against Taiwan, he promised what he would not do during his term:
  • I will not declare independence,

  • will not change the name of the country,

  • will not push for the incorporation of a special state-to-state model of cross-strait relations into the Constitution and

  • will not push for a referendum on the independence-unification issue that will change the status quo.

  • Nor will there be any question of abolishing the National Unification Guidelines and the National Unification Council.
Still, as Gerrit van der Wees wrote
The fact is that the "five noes" were never popular among his core followers.

They saw the "five noes" as unnecessary roadblocks on the road to full democracy in Taiwan and full acceptance of the nation in the international community.
Then Mr. van der Wees goes on to excoriate the Americans for not supporting Taiwanese independence. Not a word about how this might drive the commies ballistic. Elsewhere he writes,
From the European perspective, we congratulate Chen and the DPP on his re-election, and for making democracy work in Taiwan spite of mountainous challenges.
(Those are the same Europeans who want to sell weapons to China, and are far less supportive of Taiwan than the US.) In the same article, he claims
Anyone who loves Taiwan is considered Taiwanese, irrespective of ethnic origin. The present leadership in the KMT/PFP, on the other hand, has whipped up ethnic discord by twisting and distorting Chen's position.
I suppose it's all in your definition of loving Taiwan. There's plenty of prejudice against people whose families came over from the mainland with the KMT.
China Races to Reverse Falling Grain Production:
The rapid urbanization of China is eating up the land of millions of farmers. Millions more have stopped growing grain because it is not profitable. The resulting shift in the Chinese countryside has left government leaders worried about China's ability to feed itself and prompted an emergency campaign to curb land losses and increase grain output.

In an era of global trade, many economists find the political fixation on grain outdated. But it underscores the historic resonance of food security in China, where 30 million people died in the famines of the Great Leap Forward and where 1.3 billion people must be fed with only 7 percent of the world's arable land....

China has been increasing its imports and tapping into grain reserves. It is already the leading buyer of American soybeans. This year, for the first time in five years, China will import wheat. The political ramifications clearly worry China's nondemocratic leadership, even if many economists say imports are logical in a global economy.

"This isn't only an economic issue," said Robert Ash, a University of London economics professor with a specialty in Chinese agriculture. "China in a general sense doesn't want to be dependent for such a fundamental good. But, really, China doesn't want to be dependent on the United States."
(Emphasis mine). So in other words, all that blather about how much arable land China has is just blather.

Sunday, May 2

Chris Strohm writes in Drugged:
It's hard to unpack the extent to which the war on drugs detracted directly from the war on terrorism before 9/11. Government spending, after all, is complex, and it's hard to prove that drugs and terrorism were locked directly in a zero-sum game. But the Commission's staff report argued that government officials who wanted to prioritize counterterrorism faced choices about whether to divert experienced agents and scarce resources from criminal or drug cases.
(via Hit & Run)

Saturday, May 1

I just heard Scott Simon unctuously pontificating. I know I'm being tautologic, but I have to explain to others why I find him so annoying. According to the subscriber-only OED Online, unction implies "that the feeling or manner is superficial or assumed, or is tinged with obvious self-complacency". M-w.com says unctuous is "revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality". OED says to "pontificate" is to "act the pontiff, assume the airs of a pontiff (a chief or high priest); to behave or speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner." So I guess I'm being doubly tautautologic. Anyway, he was pontificating about the selling of Ferdinand for horse meat. A couple of years ago, in Americans squeamish over horse meat Bill Maxwell wrote,
Many horse owners who cannot or are unwilling to pay for caring for injured or old mounts.... These owners do not want to pay hundreds of dollars for traditional disposal, which involves injection, perhaps burial or transport to a dump.

Another surprising supporter is Dr. Tom Lenz, president-elect of the 7,000-member American Association of Equine Practitioners. "The issue is what do you do with unwanted horses," he said. "Some people can't afford to keep them."

Lenz, who has witnessed slaughters at Beltex, said the industry kills horses "humanely." The companies use the same method used to kill cows and other live stock that we eat: a quick killing blow of a stun gun to the head. Veterinarians worry that if the Texas network succeeds in banning horse meat processing in this country, our unwanted animals will be sent to the busy killing floors of Canada and Mexico.

A mystified Kemseke believes that Americans' sentimentality has made the horse a sacred cow. Further, the closing of U.S. plants would result in the needlessly expensive, unintended consequence of euthanizing and burying tens of thousands of horses annually. Kemseke reasons that if we are going to kill horses anyway, why not use the meat as food? In reality, he said, Americans cannot stop horse slaughtering everywhere in the world.
In A.Q. KHAN'S CHINA CONNECTION, writing on China's role in nuclear weapons proliferation in violation of their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments, Mohan Malik concludes,
Many U.S. officials believe that embarrassing revelations about the transfer of Chinese nuclear weapon designs to Libya and possibly other countries by a Pakistani proliferation network would force Beijing to reevaluate the strategic costs of its proliferation activities in the larger interests of stability in the Middle East and China's desire to project its image as a responsible great power. Beijing's recent decision to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group is cited as another indication of China's desire for full participation in the nonproliferation regime and a move away from the balance-of-power approach that has hitherto characterized its proliferation policy.

However, many long time China-watchers see no evidence of Beijing abandoning its national security strategy based on the principle of "containment through surrogates" that requires proliferation to countries that can countervail its perceived rivals and enemies. Believing that proliferation is inevitable, the Chinese military has long practiced what John Mearsheimer calls "managed proliferation" it calls for providing nuclear or missile technology to China's friends and allies (Pakistan, Iran, North Korea) so as to contain its rivals through proxies (India in South Asia, the United States in the Middle East and Japan in East Asia). Beijing has also engaged in proliferation to pressure Washington to curb its arms sales to Taiwan.

Many proliferation-watchers believe that China will not stop playing "the proliferation card," as it is the most powerful bargaining chip Beijing possesses, leaving "the China shop" open for business to a select few. Given the Pakistani nuclear program's heavy dependence on external suppliers, a complete shutting down of the Khan nuclear bazaar could lead to the progressive degradation of Pakistan's nuclear deterrent - an outcome that Beijing cannot accept because China's geostrategic interests require a nuclear-armed Pakistan to pin down India. In other words, having made huge strategic investments in Pakistan over the last four decades, China will not remain a mute spectator to the gradual denuclearization of Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad's dependence on Beijing for both missiles and nukes will increase, not decrease, if it is to keep up with India.
And yet,
The Chinese, who launched their first astronaut into space last year, are "shocked" the United States has not welcomed them into the tight-knit community of space-faring nations, a leading U.S. expert said on Tuesday.
(via gweilodiaries)