Saturday, February 20

Occupational Safety and Health in China

...after a while, with too many fines being docked off their salaries, workers began to leave the factory in droves to work at other factories where stringent health and safety requirements were not in place. So the factory gave up the scheme.

Oddly enough, it's not only factory bosses who don't care much for worker safety. It appears that workers themselves don't care much for their own protection either. Unlike in the West, where things have almost gone to the other extreme, there is no health and safety culture among folk in China. The only way health and safety standards can be improved in Chinese factories is for tougher laws to be introduced and for stricter enforcement of existing health and safety legislation.
If workers don't want a safe and healthful workplace, is it right for us to force it on them?

The Obama administration complains about rising health care costs, but...

Make it more expensive for insurers to do business, and insurance will become more expensive.

Thursday, February 18

Politicians don't believe people respond to higher prices

Opponents of [a proposed tax on high-cost health insurance plans], including many House Democrats, doubt it will slow the growth in costs, arguing that consumers have a limited role in driving health-care spending.
No wonder their plan's such a mess.

Tuesday, February 16

Recognizing reality?

Roger Pilon:

...suggesting that some Golden Age of congressional comity has been lost, a candid look at our history shows that comity has been the exception, not the rule. And it’s occurred mainly when one party dominated Congress, as Democrats did during a fair part of the post-War period while Republicans were searching for their identity. So why not over the past year, when those conditions seemed to be in place? Is there something about today’s congressional divisiveness that distinguishes it from the past? I submit that there is, that it’s not narrow policy differences that mainly underpin what we’re seeing, but that the nation is up against a fundamental reality that much of the public is coming to see, even if many in Congress are slow to grasp it.

To barely summarize the matter, the Constitution sets forth a plan for limited government, not for government engaged in all manner of “problem-solving,” as Bayh put it – the problems of private life, mostly, from retirement security, to health care, education, job-creation, you name it. But for more than a century, Progressives have worked to overturn that design. And their something-for-nothing promises that have spurred the ever-greater socialization of life have attracted enough people to make it seem that we were, wonderfully, “all in this together,” especially since the costs of socialization were largely put off to the future. That’s the “comity” of the good life on borrowed money. But those costs cannot be put off forever. Eventually, they come due. And when they do, the differences between those who come finally to recognize reality, and those who still live the dream, are irreconcilable — because reality doesn’t “compromise.” I submit that we’re now at that point.

I hope he's right. Don Boudreaux agrees:
The “basic idea of a majority-rule democracy” in the U.S. has never meant the unobstructed and simple rule by majority vote. The Senate, part of a bicameral Congress, is itself an institution explicitly meant to reduce the likelihood that any temporary passions of the majority are enacted into legislation. Countless other features of government have the same aim.

Monday, February 15

Illinois' pension problems

Charles N. Wheeler III summarizes Illinois' pension problems and concludes,
Cut pension benefits? Raise state taxes? Hammer out a compromise with some of each? Perhaps the only sure thing is that the longer lawmakers and the governor wait, the tougher the measures they’ll have to adopt eventually to put the five retirement systems on sound financial footing.

Saturday, February 13

Chinese propaganda

"Red snippets" are coming [to China]! A high-profile push by government ministries and large mobile operators is spreading a wave of red over mobile phone screens across the country.
The term "red snippets" was originally meant to describe a form of SMS distinct from "yellow snippets" (dirty jokes) and "grey snippets" (satiric or mocking jokes).

This definition received an upgrade at the hands of Xu Long, president of China Mobile's Guangdong Mobile subsidiary. He wrote: "'Red snippets' are progressive, thoughtful, and informative text messages, concise in form and healthy in content, and whose message is inspiring."
It sounds painfully out of touch and open to ridicule.

The international expansion of Chinese dam builders

Why boycott child labor?

Moyna, a ten-year-old orphan who has just lost her job, comments: ‘They loathe us, don’t they? We are poor and not well educated, so they simply despise us. That is why they shut the factories down.’ Moyna’s job had supported her and her grandmother but now they must both depend on relatives.
So why do politicians do it?
‘primarily to protect US trade interests’

The myth of widespread hunger in America

- 80 percent of poor American households are air-conditioned;
- the typical poor American has more living space than does the average resident of Paris, London, and most other European cities;
- almost 75 percent of poor households own a car and more than 30 percent own two cars;
- nearly 90 percent of poor households have microwave ovens.
and they've got plenty to eat.

Attention all teabaggers

Use Binder Clips to Keep Tea Bags Out of the Way.

Monday, February 8

Packaging isn't all that bad

In addition to protecting food from its microbial surroundings, packaging significantly prolongs shelf life, which in turn improves the chances of the food actually being eaten.

...if you take the packaging away and focus on the naked food itself, you have to realize that the food will be rotting a lot sooner than if it weren’t packaged and, as a result, will be heading to the same place as the packaging: the landfill. Decaying food emits methane, a greenhouse gas that’s more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Packaging — unless it’s biodegradable — does not. If the landfill is connected to a methane digester, which in all likelihood it isn’t, you can turn the methane into energy. Otherwise, it makes more sense to send the wrapping (rather than the food) into the environmentally incorrect grave.

...[O]ur behavior in the kitchen far outweighs the environmental impact of whatever packaging happens to surround the product. Consumers toss out vastly more pounds of food than we do packaging—about six times as much. One study estimates that U.S. consumers throw out about half the food they buy.

Saturday, February 6

China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC)'s digital certificates

CNNIC’s digital certificate, which is probably in your computer right now, has not been proved to be maliciously spying, but it’s a matter of trust. Do you really trust CNNIC, the overlords of the ‘Great Firewall’, to not be potentially peeking into your email, Facebook, Paypal account or online bank?
More here.

Thursday, February 4

stupid GE

I just had a GE Helical 26W CF burn out and it's been nowhere near the five years the bulb is guaranteed. But it's been long enough that I don't think I can find the receipt. Even if I could, I don't see myself mailing the bulb to them.

What exactly did Bush and Cheney do wrong?

Seriously: if you were a Bush follower, wouldn't you feel as though you were owed a major apology for all the accusations and the fuss that came from Democrats and media figures, accusing you of supporting radical and Constitution-shredding policies when, it turns out, they actually crave those policies in order to feel safe? Doesn't all of this bolster the Republican claim that those attacks on the Bush administration for civil liberties abuses were not due to genuine conviction, but rather for partisan gain (in the case of Democratic officials) and cheap, preening, wet-finger-in-the-air moralizing (in the case of media stars)?

Consider the example of military commissions. When the Bush administration unveiled those, the reaction from Democrats, progressives and media outlets was overwhelmingly and intensely negative, on the ground that military commissions (no matter what rules they followed) were appropriate only for "battlefield justice," when there was no other alternative. The consensus was that our normal system of justice -- developed over two hundred years -- was the only just and proper venue to try accused Terrorists, had been proven effective, and beyond that, the perception that we were inventing new and inferior tribunals of justice for Muslims would fuel Terrorism and make us more unsafe. What happened to all of that? Was there a single Democrat or progressive defending military commissions when Bush and Cheney unveiled them as their preferred method for trying Terrorists? Now, suddenly, Terrorists belong in military commissions -- at GITMO? So the defining creations of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld approach are now the centerpieces of the Democratic and media consensus.

All of these attacks on the Obama administration really leave one wondering: what is it exactly that Bush and Cheney did wrong? Was it just the waterboarding (the official authorization for which was withdrawn several years before Bush left office and which, in any event, people like Richard Cohen and Michael Crowley still crave)? Everything else other than the "enhanced interrogation techniques" was good? What happened to all the profound talk about how they ruined our image in the world and violated our "core principles" and how we can simultaneously Stay Safe and adhere to our values -- which happened to be a central theme of Obama's successful presidential campaign? How can Democrats and media stars claim to find Bush and Cheney so distasteful as they simultaneously attack Obama for reversing their defining policies in a few isolated instances? In the areas of civil liberties and Terrorism, what exactly did Bush and Cheney do wrong?