Tuesday, May 31

Baby Ruth

One day in the bottom of the pool back home in the US, I saw something on the bottom of the pool that looked like a dog biscuit or a turd and told the lifeguard after completing my swim. I never found out what it was. Maybe I should have told him earlier, but then we'd all have to get out:
...the visit was blissfully uneventful until a floater was found in the water during the 3:15 "safety break."

Everybody got out of the water, except of course for the floater, which bobbed brown and serene, near the lap lanes. The teenage lifeguards stood in a semi-circle at the edge of the pool, their bare feet twisting uncomfortably, their faces tragedy masks of oppression.
Go here for the rest of the Baby Ruth saga.

Roofed Pool

Speaking of swimming pools, 前鎮游泳池 has been roofed over now for a couple of years. 前金游泳池, which never was roofed over, closed when it rained, but Qianzhen was open today even as it rained. That's progress. The other thing the roof does is to keep the water cooler, which is fine with me. That may keep out those annoying water aerobics people. On the other hand, they don't put up the ropes at Qianzhen. And the men's clothes-changing cubicles have neither hooks nor curtains, making them pretty useless, while the individual shower cubicles have curtains but no hooks placed where one can keep one's things.


Every pool I've been to in Taiwan and in Paris has clothes-changing cubicles, which is odd, since in the US locker rooms we can see each others' shrinky-dinks. Aren't Americans supposed to be individualists and the other guys collectivists? Meanwhile, our locker rooms are segregated by sex. I assumed the rationale is so we don't ogle the opposite sex, although my wife tells me that I'd want to gouge my eyes out after seeing most of the women in her locker room. Anyway, if the rationale is against oging, what if a gay guy looks at me carnally? Doesn't that mean they should have separate locker rooms for gays? But what if a gay guy looks at another gay guy carnally?! So for the sake of consistency we should either have individual changing rooms, or just one big locker room where everyone lets it all hang out. And maybe they should have a spoon for gouging out one's eyes.

High Conviction Rates

According to Travellers' Tales
If you were falsely accused of a crime, would you prefer the trial be held in:
A. China
B. South Korea, or
C. Japan
Give up? The correct answer is D. None of the above.
That's because in all three countries, the conviction rate is 99%.
But there are no citations. In Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High? J Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen say "...the high conviction rates reflect case selection and low prosecutorial budgets; understaffed prosecutors present judges with only the most obviously guilty defendants."

Nobility in Every Profession

Are you proud of your job? By Del Jones lists the professions with the top prestige. How one feels about one's own work also matters. As the article says,
...the most satisfied workers were those who felt they had a positive impact on others, to the point that many firefighters wished they could fight more fires.

Marcus Buckingham is author of The One Thing You Need to Know and an expert on employee satisfaction and productivity, known as employee "engagement." He says there are plenty of engaged workers doing the most menial work. He learned that years ago when he studied the best hotel maids at the Walt Disney resorts. Likewise, some of the most disengaged people he has encountered are those at the very top of companies.

There is nobility in every profession....


Amongst all the reasons that the French ought to have voted "yes" was the desire to create a "multipolar" world, that is, one not dominated by the American "hyperpower". But French disgust with their current domestic economic problems seems to have trumped that. How much of it was Chirac's fault? Plenty of people have a low opinion of him: "Chirac, the tired old dinosaur who seems increasingly uncomprehending of today's world...." Peter Preston writes,
The great French referendum debacle is much more than wriggling humiliation in the Maastricht manner. It writes the obituary of a presidency which doesn't deserve to survive. Jacques Chirac's performance, from start to finish, has been inert and empty. Who could trust a single word he uttered?
And David Ignatius blames Chirac's Failure To Lead
France's stunning rejection Sunday of a new European constitution was, most of all, a noisy protest against the disruptive, leveling force of economic globalization. You could see that in television images of the "no" voters as the result was announced -- burly arms raised in the air, fists cocked -- as if by rejecting a set of technical amendments to European rules they could hold back a threatening future.

And you could see the result on the faces of the losers -- glum establishment politicians being interviewed after the vote, trying to put a brave spin on a devastating defeat. For this no vote had been opposed by nearly all the luminaries of the French political class in both the socialist and conservative parties.

It was a no that resonated on many levels: a rejection of the document and the wider Europe it came to symbolize, a rejection of a market-driven way of life that's taken for granted in America, and above all a rejection of President Jacques Chirac, who tried to trick and cajole France into embracing the realities of the global economy, rather than forthrightly explaining them.

Fear of the future is always a powerful political force, and one that often has unfortunate consequences. And it's hard in this case to see much positive coming out of the French no. Europe will go on as before, but European politicians will be tempted to waste even more time soft-pedaling the fact of global competition rather than helping their people adapt and change.

Chirac will be a chief victim of Sunday's vote, and he richly deserves the scorn that will be shoveled his way. His mistake was far larger than what commentators were citing Sunday night: his decision to put the constitution to a vote even though that wasn't technically necessary. Chirac's real failure was his inability over two terms as president to level with the French people about the changes that are needed to protect the way of life they cherish. He played games with economic reform -- tiptoeing up to the edge and then pulling back at any sign of public displeasure.

Living in France for four years, I came to appreciate what a wonderful country it is, with a quality of life that is truly the envy of the world. Not surprisingly, it is also an intensely conservative country, for all its reputation for liberality. Whatever their class, age or political orientation, French people want to conserve what they've got. They want to maintain inflexible management and labor unions, six-week vacations, a 35-hour workweek -- and also to be a growing, dynamic, entrepreneurial economy. Chirac never had the guts to tell the French they couldn't have it both ways. He never explained that rigid labor rules had led to a high unemployment rate, currently 10.2 percent.

The French could use a Bill Clinton, whose most powerful theme as president was his 1996 campaign slogan of building "a bridge to the 21st century." Clinton assured American workers that he felt their pain about outsourcing and global competition -- and so would provide the training and other help for people to find jobs in the new economy. He never pretended that workers could opt out of competition. Chirac was never able to sound that positive theme in his "yes" campaign.


Académie Solemnly Mans the Barricades Against Impure French By CRAIG S. SMITH.

The Académie Française
...has been toiling for 70 years on [their] dictionary's ninth edition and has reached only the letter P.... The pace is so slow that by the time the edition is done, the early letters of the lexicon will be largely out of date.
"P", eh? Do they put their own picture under "pathétique"? Well, probably not. Under "pitoyable", maybe.

Structures of Power and Violence

In The good in barbed wire Edward N. Luttwak reviews Reviel Netz's An ecology of modernity. After pointing out that Netz doesn't know what he's talking about, Luttwak goes on to describe
...the highly successful procedures employed by Reviel Netz, which can easily be imitated – and perhaps should be by as many authors as possible, to finally explode the entire genre. First, take an artefact, anything at all. Avoid the too obviously deplorable machine gun or atom bomb. Take something seemingly innocuous, say shoelaces. Explore the inherent if studiously unacknowledged ulterior purposes of that "grim" artefact within "the structures of power and violence". Shoelaces after all perfectly express the Euro-American urge to bind, control, constrain and yes, painfully constrict. Compare and contrast the easy comfort of the laceless moccasins of the Indian – so often massacred by booted and tightly laced Euro-Americans, as one can usefully recall at this point. Refer to the elegantly pointy and gracefully upturned silk shoes of the Orient, which have no need of laces of course because they so naturally fit the human foot – avoiding any trace of Orientalism, of course. It is all right to write in a manner unfriendly or even openly contemptuous of entire populations as Professor Netz does with his Texans at every turn ("ready to kill. . . they fought for Texan slavery against Mexico"), but only if the opprobrium is always aimed at you-know-who, and never at the pigmented. Clinch the argument by evoking the joys of walking on the beach in bare and uncommodified feet, and finally overcome any possible doubt by reminding the reader of the central role of high-laced boots in sadistic imagery.

That finally unmasks shoelaces for what they really are – not primarily a way of keeping shoes from falling off one’s feet, but instruments of pain, just like the barbed wire that I have been buying all these years not to keep the cattle in, as I imagined, but to torture it, as Professor Netz points out. The rest is easy: the British could hardly have rounded up Boer wives and children without shoelaces to keep their boots on, any more than the very ordinary men in various Nazi uniforms could have done such extraordinary things so industriously, and not even Stalin could have kept the Gulag going with guards in unlaced Indian moccasins, or elegantly pointy, gracefully upturned, oriental shoes.
Yeah, that goes for a lot of literary criticism, too. On the other hand, in Morris Dickstein's Postmodern Fog Has Begun to Lift
...for many contemporary academics, especially those who bought into postmodern theory in the last few decades, the idea of the "real" raises serious problems. Reality depends on those who are perceiving it, on social forces that have conditioned their thinking, and on whoever controls the flow of information that influences them. They believe with Nietzsche that there are no facts, only interpretations. Along with notions like truth or objectivity, or moral concepts of good and evil, there's hardly anything more contested in academia today.
I hope he's right. But I'm not sure I agree when he says,
Novels like Dreiser's "Sister Carrie" and Wharton's "House of Mirth" showed how fiction paradoxically could serve fact and provide a more concrete sense of the real world than any other form of writing.

This is how most readers have always read novels, not simply for escape, and certainly not mainly for art, but to get a better grasp of the world around them and the world inside them. Now that the overload of theory, like a mental fog, has begun to lift, perhaps professional readers will catch up with them.
People read books for all sorts of reasons, and while for some it may be to get a grasp of the world around them, sometimes it is for art, sometimes it is for escape, and sometimes it's to detect a socially-constructed reality. It's a free country.

Monday, May 30

Zongzi 粽子

It's zongzi 粽子 time again. I guess I can stop complaining about not enough fatty pork. This time my sister-in-law got some meat zongzi with so many pieces of fatty pork it was a little disgusting and I had to pick them out. Kaohsiung people are eating more fat, I guess.

This morning we went for a walk on 西子灣 beach, which is much cleaner than last year. Despite the possible pollution, we walked in the surf. On the way there in the 鼓山 district, in one of the places that serves the semi-Chinese semi-foreign breakfasts, they were serving french fries. Why not just eat half a dozen donuts?


I just saw most of The Counterfeit Traitor (1962). Pretty good. Only recently have I come to appreciate William Holden. The setup for the classic line is that Holden's character and Lilli Palmer need a cover for their spying, and so they're collecting intimate details about each other, and he asks her someting like, "Your hair is most beautiful. Iis that the natural color?" Classic! I didn't catch Klaus Kinski, though.

Sunday, May 29

Another Silly Test

(Via Redneck Feminist):

Your Political Profile

Overall: 60% Conservative, 40% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

That's if I mark "Some people have less luck than others" "False", since while I do believe that some are less fortunate, unless the policies to help them are very carefully targeted, they will often not help or even be counterproductive. And that's even before the middle class steps in to take what they come to see as their entitlement.

Walking Away from the House the Left Has Built

Keith Thompson's Leaving the left argues,
America must now focus on creating healthy, self-actualizing individuals committed to taking responsibility for their lives, developing their talents, honing their skills and intellects, fostering emotional and moral intelligence, all in all contributing to the advancement of the human condition.

At the heart of authentic liberalism lies the recognition, in the words of John Gardner, "that the ever renewing society will be a free society (whose] capacity for renewal depends on the individuals who make it up." A continuously renewing society, Gardner believed, is one that seeks to "foster innovative, versatile, and self-renewing men and women and give them room to breathe."

...A certain misplaced loyalty kept me from grasping that a view of individuals as morally capable of and responsible for making the principle decisions that shape their lives is decisively at odds with the contemporary left's entrance-level view of people as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces, hence political wards who require the continuous shepherding of caretaker elites.

Leftists who no longer speak of the duties of citizens, but only of the rights of clients, cannot be expected to grasp the importance (not least to our survival) of fostering in the Middle East the crucial developmental advances that gave rise to our own capacity for pluralism, self-reflection, and equality. A left averse to making common cause with competent, self- determining individuals -- people who guide their lives on the basis of received values, everyday moral understandings, traditional wisdom, and plain common sense -- is a faction that deserves the marginalization it has pursued with such tenacity for so many years.

All of which is why I have come to believe, and gladly join with others who have discovered for themselves, that the single most important thing a genuinely liberal person can do now is walk away from the house the left has built. The renewal of any tradition that deserves the name "progressive" becomes more likely with each step in a better direction.

Sympathy for the Devil?

Christopher Hitchens concedes the credibility of the allegation that a whole pile of Qurans had been stepped upon at Guantanamo.
But mere objectivity requires us to note that this is partly because every prisoner is given a Quran, and that thus there are a lot of them lying around, and that none of this "scandal" would ever have occurred if the prison authorities were not at least attempting to respect Islamic codes. Do Christian and Jewish prisoners in Muslim states receive Bibles and Talmuds? Do secular detainees in Pakistan petition with success to be given Thomas Paine's Age of Reason?...A Wahhabist version of the Quran, containing distortions of the original and calling for war against "unbelievers" of all sorts, is now handed out by imams in our very own prison system! Do we demand in return that Saudi Arabia allow churches and synagogues and free-thought centers on soil where the smallest heresy is punishable by death? No, we do not. Instead, we saturate ourselves in masochism and invent the silly, shallow term "Quran abuse."
I thought he was exaggerating about Quran abuse, but it gets plenty of citations on Google.

And Jeff Jacoby writes,
Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers -- ''They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols" -- was any reader surprised?

The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people.

Saturday, May 28


This year I'm swimming at 前鎮游泳池.

The 前金游泳池 has been eliminated; where there used to be a pool and stadium seating is now a field of dirt. I hope the discoloration I had last year does not return.

The US Supports Terrorism

Indirectly, anyway. In Drug Prohibition Is a Terrorist's Best Friend by Ted Galen Carpenter:
The harsh reality is that terrorist groups around the world have been enriched by prohibitionist drug policies that drive up drug costs, and which deliver enormous profits to the outlaw organizations willing to accept the risks that go with the trade.

The Extremists' Volatility

Butterflies and Wheels' sardonic comment to Demonstrations Over 'Koran Abuse' is: "Some in places where woman abuse goes unprotested."

Meanwhile, in Newsweek Lutefisk Story Sparks Fury Across Volatile Midwest, Iowahawk writes:
The debris-strewn streets of this remote Midwestern hamlet remain under a tense 24-hour curfew tonight, following weekend demonstrations by rock- and figurine-throwing Lutheran farm wives that left over 200 people injured and leveled the Whippy Dip dairy freeze. The rioting appeared to be prompted, in part, by a report in Newsweek magazine claiming military guards at Spirit Lake's notorious Okoboji internment center had flushed lutefisk down prison toilets. Newsweek's late announcement of a retraction seems to have done little to quell the inflamed passions of Lutheran insurgents in the region, as outbreaks of violent mailbox bashings and cow tippings have been reported from Bowbells, North Dakota to Pekin, Illinois...

"It is important that we remember that Lutheranism is a religion of peace," said Army spokesman Maj. Richard Lehrman. "And we need to remember to avoid insensitive behavior and remarks that will cause these peaceful Lutherans to go on another bloody killing rampage."

Let's Hear It for the Effete!

A.Word.A.Day on effete, which it defines as:
  1. Worn out; no longer fertile or productive.
  2. Weak, ineffectual.
  3. Marked by decadence or self-indulgence.
  4. Effeminate.
The usage example:
Many people who have grown up in socially, deeply conservative societies have a very hard time coming to terms with the freedoms available in liberal countries. Indeed, they take this personal liberty as a sign of decadence, and often despise Westerners as effete and irreligious. Unfortunately, they have no idea of the centuries of strife and struggle that have gone into attaining this level of secularism and freedom from the church, society, and the state.
Irfan Husain; Existential Dilemma Forced by Clash of Civilisations; Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates); Dec 2, 2004.

Thursday, May 26

Three Times as Many

Gish Jen cites Chinese Restaurant News to the effect that "there are now more Chinese restaurants in America than there are McDonald's franchises—nearly three times as many."

Although I can't say Chinese Restaurant News (中餐通訊) seems very authoritative.


In Kick the Doughnut Habit, and Make Your Nutritionist Smile By MARTICA HEANER
No matter which route Reginald Burns takes when he drives to work each morning in Houston, he knows every doughnut shop along the way. Almost every day, he stops for a fix: a Diet Coke and six doughnuts -- any kind as long as they have just emerged from the fryer.
Six donuts? Six donuts A DAY?!! How about buying a few less? I like donuts, but one A WEEK is my limit.
Doughnuts have long been an American breakfast staple. At the same time, their lack of quality nutritional content makes most nutritionists cringe. This contradiction makes them a perfect talking point in the debate over how strict dietary recommendations should be....

The recently released 2005 U.S.D.A. dietary recommendations give a green light to "discretionary calories" from foods that may be high in fat, sugar or alcohol. For example, a person eating 2,000 calories per day is allowed 267 discretionary calories -- or about the amount in one glazed doughnut.

Of course, this junk food allotment is only risk-free if a person is not trying to lose weight and has met all nutrient requirements, eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the guidelines. It also assumes that people are able to eat in moderation.

In fact, few people can stop at one doughnut, and consuming six is likely to lead to overeating and to displace nutritious foods...

"Foods containing both sugar and fat are the most palatable and have an appealing mouth feel," said Dr. Kathleen Keller, an appetite researcher at the Obesity Research Center, adding that companies "conduct extensive research to determine the exact sugar/fat proportions that are the most enticing."

Such feel-good foods are not only hard to resist, they may actually be addictive in people with a stronger than normal genetic propensity to like foods that are especially high in fat and sugar. Brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging show that lean and obese people react differently not just to eating tasty foods, but even to looking at them.
So are they going to make them illegal because some people can't control themselves?

My favorite chain donuts are Dunkin Donuts, but those are not available where I live. Nor are Krispy Kreme, which I think are awful: they're far too sweet. Meanwhile I'm in Kaohsiung right now, and at the Carrefour supermarket we got a donut that didn't have enough fat. I suspect it was baked, not fried. A few years ago, the Isetan dept. store had some delicious donut-like cakes but they stopped making them. I suspect the Taiwanese market doesn't like that much fat.

What's the Matter With Thomas Frank?

That speck in your brother's eye by J. Peder Zane points out that Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?"
...articulates the self-righteous anger and self-satisfied worldview that infects liberal thought...

[Frank] reminds us that Democrats do stand for something quite far-reaching: the certitude of their own virtue in a wicked world.

Like fire-and-brimstone preachers of old, they are less interested in leading than in warning us about those who might lead us astray. It is a moral vision defined by the negative: We are good because our opponents are evil; believe us because you cannot trust them; we are right because they are wrong.

This mind-set leaves Frank with a gnarly problem: Why have so many forsaken reason to worship false gods? More prosaically, he poses a question that has become a key Democrat talking point: Why do so many working-class Americans vote against their own economic self-interest and support Republicans?

Frank, of course, has little interest in conclusively demonstrating that Republican policies have hurt average Americans -- or why, if this is so, people are moving from blue states to red states. He doesn't attempt to show that such voters would be better off under Democrats. For him it is an article of faith....

Perhaps rafts of his fellow Kansans...do not believe they are as impoverished as Frank maintains. Maybe experience has taught them that the government can't solve all their problems. Or maybe their moral beliefs make cultural issues such as abortion and school prayer paramount in their minds.

Rather than interview a representative sample of these folks to understand their thinking, Frank arrogantly concludes that they suffer "derangement." What else but a mental condition -- and a healthy dollop of ignorance -- could prevent them from seeing Frank's light?
Not that conservatives don't do the same thing, but still, Zane's spot on.

Why Not Just Pulp It?

Theodore Dalrymple on another literary "hoax". One Rahila Khanwas supposed to have written Down the Road, Worlds Away, published in 1987 by the Virago Press as part of a series of books for girls and young women. Miss Khan turned out to be the Reverend Toby Forward, a Church of England vicar.
Needless to say, the revelation of Rahila Khan’s true identity caused both hilarity and anger. The publisher, Virago, felt that it had been made a fool of and was the victim of a distasteful hoax, pulped the book soon after its publication and turned it into an expensive bibliographical rarity (my own copy is in excellent condition but for the yellowing pages that emit an acrid, throat-catching smell which so many British books, printed on the cheapest and nastiest of paper, nowadays emit after a few months of existence). Virago asked Reverend Forward to return the advance he had been paid and to pay for the cost of the printing. He did not accede to the request.

Virago felt it necessary to stand by its purely literary judgment, namely that the stories were written “with hard-eyed realism and poignant simplicity”—it had to do so, or it would justly have been accused of applying double standards to work by Asian women and white men, which would have revealed a frankly racist condescension. But Virago decided that politics in this instance was the better part of literature, and was more important, indeed, than whether the book had anything worthwhile or important to say. It therefore refused to sell any more copies of the offending work. This, as we shall see, was ironic, because the author was drawing attention, not before time, to the truly oppressed condition of certain women, a condition in which one might have supposed that feminists would be interested. The personal identity of the author thus came to be all-important just at the very moment when, elsewhere in the literary world, the death of the author was being confidently announced.
Not unlike the case of Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins

Monday, May 16

It's the PhD.

According to "Components of Class", the first tab in Graphic: How Class Works, I'm around the 83rd percentile classwise. It's the PhD. that puts me way up there. Nice graphics, BTW.


Barbie’s Taiwanese Homecoming by Holiday Dmitri
"Taiwan presents a textbook case of the economic and political merits arising from globalization," says Christopher Lingle, an economist at Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala and the author of The Rise and Decline of the Asian Century. “Its linkage to the global trading system brought enormous riches that have been widely shared. These material improvements provided the national self-confidence that transformed Taiwan from a dictatorial, one-party political regime to one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia.” The island, which is approximately the size of West Virginia, is the fifth largest economy in Asia, among the top 25 economies on the planet, and America’s eighth biggest trading partner.

Extremely Partisan

The Pew Political Typology survey categorized me as a member of "the Enterpriser typology group". Yes, I favor business, but not the social values that the researchers associate with them. For example, I "Strongly agree" with the following:
  • It's acceptable to refuse to fight in a war you believe is morally wrong.
  • Religion is not that important to me.
  • Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society.
  • Public school libraries should be allowed to carry any books they want.
  • It IS NOT necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.
Besides, the researchers describe the Enterpriser group as an "extremely partisan Republican group’s politics...driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda." And yet, they describe Liberals as "the most opposed to an assertive foreign policy, the most secular, and take the most liberal views on social issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and censorship. They differ from other Democratic groups in that they are strongly pro-environment and pro-immigration." That sounds a little partisan to me. Meanwhile, Patrick Ruffini claims that "The Upbeats are moderate, pro-choice, and pro-war; in this site's poll last month, they flocked here from blogs like the Volokh Conspiracy and InstaPundit. They frequent blogs like OxBlog, Joe Gandelman, Roger L. Simon, and Daniel Drezner." I would've thought that I was an "Upbeat", too, not to mention the fact that those are some of my favorite blogs. Plus at the end of the survey, they ask, "In general, would you describe your political views as very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal or very liberal?" I never know how to answer that question, because I'm a so-called conservative on a lot of economic policies, but a so-called liberal on questions of personal freedom. Hey, I'm not alone.

Tuesday, May 10

The Other Abu Ghraib

Abu Ghraib Isn't Guernica By Christopher Hitchens
To the Iraqis, [Abu Ghraib] was a name to be mentioned in whispers, if at all, as "the house of the end." It was a Dachau. Numberless people were consigned there and were never heard of again. Its execution shed worked overtime, as did its torturers, and we are still trying to discover how many Iraqis and Kurds died in its precincts. At one point, when it suffered even more than usual from chronic overcrowding, Saddam and his sons decided to execute a proportion of the inmates at random, just to cull the population. The warders then fanned out at night to visit the families of the prisoners, asking how much it would be worth to keep their son or brother or father off the list. The hands of prisoners were cut off, and the proceedings recorded on video for the delight of others. I myself became certain that Saddam had reached his fin de régime, or his Ceauşescu moment, when he celebrated his 100-percent win in the "referendum" of 2003 by releasing all the nonpolitical prisoners (the rapists and thieves and murderers who were his natural constituency) from Abu Ghraib. This sudden flood of ex-cons was a large factor in the horrific looting and mayhem that accompanied the fall of Baghdad.

I visited the jail a few months later, and I can tell you about everything but the stench, which you would have to smell for yourself. Layers of excrement and filth were being shoveled out; cells obviously designed for the vilest treatment of human beings made one recoil. In the huge, dank, cement gallery where the executions took place, a series of hooks and rings hung over a gruesome pit. Efforts were being made to repaint and disinfect the joint, and many of the new inmates were being held in encampments in the yard while this was being done, but I distinctly remember thinking that there was really no salvaging such a place and that it should either be torn down and ploughed over or turned into a museum.

Instead, it became an improvised center for anyone caught in the dragnet of the "insurgency" and was filled up with suspects as well as armed supporters of Baathism and Bin Ladenism. There's no need to restate what everyone now knows about what happened as a consequence. But I am not an apologist if I point out that there are no more hangings, random or systematic. The outrages committed by Pvt. England and her delightful boyfriend were first uncovered by their superiors. And seven of Saddam's amputees—those whose mutilations were filmed and distributed as a warning—have been flown to Houston, Texas—Texas, capital of redneck barbarism!—to be fitted with new prosthetic hands. A film about this latter episode, titled A Show of Hands, has been made by Don North and was, I believe, shown on the Al Hurra network. But I don't think that 1-in-100,000,000 people has seen it; certainly nobody in comparison with the universal dissemination of photographs of recreational sadism....

How shady it is that our modern leftists and peaceniks can detect fascism absolutely everywhere except when it is actually staring them in the face. The next thing, of course, if we complete the historic analogy, would be for them to sign a pact with it. And this, some of them have already done.


Taboo (via Tyler Cowen): "The aim of this activity is to tell you something about your moral intuitions." My results:
  • Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.03.
  • Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
  • Your Universalising Factor is: 0.00.
Your Moralising Quotient of 0.03 compares to an average Moralising Quotient of 0.25. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured in this activity are concerned you are more permissive than average.

Your Interference Factor of 0.00 compares to an average Interference Factor of 0.12. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured in this activity are concerned you are less likely to recommend societal interference in matters of moral wrongdoing, in the form of prevention or punishment, than average.

Your Universalising Factor of 0.00 compares to an average Universalising Factor of 0.43. This means you are less likely than average to see moral wrongdoing in universal terms - that is, without regard to prevailing cultural norms and social conventions (at least as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured in this activity are concerned).
I seem to remember an earlier survey that showed my thinking was full of contradictions.

Chinese enrollments are up

The chart is from Know thine enemy: America is still struggling to address its shortage of Arabic linguists, an article that says nothing about Chinese.

Monday, May 9

Have the Chinese Suffered More from Communism than from the Japanese?

Like Japan's, Chinese Textbooks Are Adept at Rewriting History, by Mark Magnier, cites Sam Crane:
"...the embarrassing fact for the Communist Party, and one that is not taught in Chinese schools, is that the party itself is responsible for many more deaths of Chinese people than those caused by Japanese militarism."

Tuesday, May 3

Me too

In Social Security's Progressive Paradox: Retirement "insurance" as a Rube Goldberg machine, Julian Sanchez wrote:
First we had a "conservative" Congress and president pushing through expansions in Medicare and federal control of education that would make Lyndon Johnson blush. Now we have liberal pundits horrified at the notion that President Bush, by proposing progressive indexing of Social Security benefits, would contemplate transforming a universal social insurance program into a de facto welfare program. Progressives decrying welfare? Have we slipped into some strange mirror universe?
This occurred to me, too.

Do the Opposite of Chirac

In Does the Future Belong to China? Fareed Zakaria writes,
How to handle China? The best guide is to listen to what French President Jacques Chirac says, and do the opposite. Chirac, the tired old dinosaur who seems increasingly uncomprehending of today's world, recently denounced China's "brutal and unacceptable invasion" of Europe. He was referring to the fact that China's textiles have swarmed into the European (and American) markets following the abolition of textile quotas. Unfortunately, Chirac's advice, to reimpose quotas in some way, may soon be taken by both Europeans and Americans. (The textile issue is putting a damper on what has been a growing love affair between Europe and China.)

It's an understandable impulse. Textile exports from China have soared since Jan. 1—a 534 percent increase in pullover-sweater sales in Europe for example—but this is largely the result of free trade, not unfair practices. More generally, tariffs and walls are not the way to prosper in the emerging global economy. It's not just China but India, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand, among others, that are all entering the global market with sophistication and skill. The answer for Western countries cannot be to shut themselves off from this new reality. After all, they benefit from the expansion of global commerce. The European Union's exports to China have risen 600 percent in the past 15 years. More broadly, countries that have tried to wall themselves off from the rest of the world in the past—to maintain their economy or culture—have stagnated. Those that have embraced change have flourished. China is simply the biggest part of a new world. You cannot switch it off.

What you can do is be better prepared. For Americans, this means a renewed focus on the core skills that have propelled the American economy so far: science and technology....
"Chirac, the tired old dinosaur". Priceless.