November 2007 Archives
It is Hong Kong’s good fortune to possess, in addition to its corporatist elite, a vibrant civil society, the rule of law, and a free press; China has no such safety valves for the discontent of its people, no resilience in its politics. The echo chamber of today’s Chinese regime--with its slogans and show trials, its claims of expertise and openness, its pretense of oversight and accountability--cannot do the work of pluralist democracy. As James Madison knew, an extended republic, even a “people’s” republic, requires institutional checks and balances if it is not to devolve into a tyranny--or to remain one.
"My Short March Through China," by Gary Rosen, Commentary, December 2007
"Nothing in the modern world compares with North Korea"
Nothing in the modern world compares with North Korea, though it gives us some clue about how life must have been under the pharaohs, in Imperial Japan before Hiroshima, or in the obliterated years--conveniently erased from memory by blushing fellow travelers--when Josef Stalin was revered as a human god.
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The main feeling the visitor has in Pyongyang is one of pity at the pathos of the place--its hopeless, helpless overestimate of its own power and importance, the deluded ignorance of millions of people carefully protected from any inrush of truth about themselves, their country, and their rulers. Every radio and TV set has been carefully neutered, its tuning dial soldered so that it can receive only the transmissions of the North Korean state. There is no access to the Internet except for a tiny, select few. Cell phones are confiscated from visitors upon arrival, though the very senior elite are believed to possess and use them. The newspapers are comically constipated accounts of speeches by the Dear Leader, long-ago angling contests, and uninteresting visits by junior dignitaries from countries ruled by dubious governments, which you would struggle to find on a map.
It may well be even worse than it looks. Pyongyang is a show city, inhabited by a favored layer of privileged and chosen people, who know that misbehavior of any kind could lead to exile to places we cannot even imagine. I have seen the miserable coal towns of China, which are open to visitors and have at least been touched by the prosperity flowing through the People’s Republic. They look like 19th-century pit villages in Britain. But even I cannot conceive of the dreariness and overpowering gloom of their North Korean equivalents, hidden away in the northern mountains, which no Westerner ever sees.
"Prisoners in Camp Kim: Strange, secretive, and desperately poor, North Korea tests the limits of social control." By Peter Hitchens, The American Conservative, November 19, 2007
Excellent BBQ near Williamsburg, VA - Hog Wild Smokehouse
Gracious service, excellent food.
Must try's: the collard greens, pulled pork, pear cobbler (in season), sweet potato pie.
Five kinds of sauces in a recycled 6-pack carrier
Mr. Bill's Oyster Feast, with barbeque beans
Combo: ribs, pulled pork, Stewed green beans, cheesy cornbread, collard greens
Do any economists, other than Milton Friedman, have their own choir?
Do any economists, other than Milton Friedman, have their own choir?
Hat tip to Marginal Revolution
Very small cars - Peel from the Isle of Man, Moonbeam from Maine
TopTop Gear Peel P50 Report - The Smallest Production Car
Peel Trident & P50
- Microcar Museum, 2950 Eatonton Road, Madison, GA
- Peel Microcars
- Peel P50 - Wikipedia
- "The Peel P50 - the one car you can drive ALL the way to work!" from AutoblogGreen, November 11, 2007
- "How to build Moonbeam, a 100 MPG microcar," by Jory Squibb
"The Real GM Food Scandal"
GM foods are safe, healthy and essential if we ever want to achieve decent living standards for the world's growing population. Misplaced moralising about them in the west is costing millions of lives in poor countries.
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Seldom has public perception been more out of line with the facts. The public in Britain and Europe seems unaware of the astonishing success of GM crops in the rest of the world. No new agricultural technology in recent times has spread faster and more widely. Only a decade after their commercial introduction, GM crops are now cultivated in 22 countries on over 100m hectares (an area more than four times the size of Britain) by over 10m farmers, of whom 9m are resource-poor farmers in developing countries, mainly India and China. Most of these small-scale farmers grow pest-resistant GM cotton. In India alone, production tripled last year to over 3.6m hectares. This cotton benefits farmers because it reduces the need for insecticides, thereby increasing their income and also improving their health. It is true that the promised development of staple GM food crops for the developing world has been delayed, but this is not because of technical flaws. It is principally because GM crops, unlike conventional crops, must overcome costly, time-consuming and unnecessary regulatory obstacles before they can be licensed.
"The Real GM Food Scandal," by Dick Taverne, Prospect, November 2007
Ingo Potrykus - Wikipedia
"The New Girl Order"
For many, fertility decline seems to be one more reason to celebrate the New Girl Order. Fewer people means fewer carbon footprints, after all, and thus potential environmental relief. But while we’re waiting for the temperature to drop a bit, economies will plunge in ways that will be extremely difficult to manage—and that, ironically, will likely spell the SYF [single young female] lifestyle’s demise. As Philip Longman explains in his important book The Empty Cradle, dramatic declines in fertility rates equal aging and eventually shriveling populations. Japan now has one of the oldest populations in the world--one-third of its population, demographers predict, will be over 60 within a decade. True, fertility decline often spurs a temporary economic boost, as more women enter the workforce and increase income and spending, as was the case in 1980s Japan. In time, though, those women--and their male peers--will get old and need pensions and more health care.
And who will pay for that? With fewer children, the labor force shrinks, and so do tax receipts. Europe today has 35 pensioners for every 100 workers, Longman points out. By 2050, those 100 will be responsible for 75 pensioners; in Spain and Italy, the ratio of workers to pensioners will be a disastrous one-to-one. Adding to the economic threat, seniors with few or no children are more likely to look to the state for support than are elderly people with more children.
"The New Girl Order: The Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle is showing up in unexpected places, with unintended consequences." By Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal, Autumn 2007
Rock and radicalism
Doggett argues that the fraught relationship between rock and radicalism is the story of utopianism betrayed by commerce.
"Talkin' bout a revolution," Telegraph.co.uk, October 27, 2007
It could also be argued that the relationship between rock and radicalism is the story of nihilism rescued by commerce....
"From the H-Bomb to the Human Bomb"
When the naive, the falsely naive, and the downright evil blur categories in support of their ideological prejudices and christen the killer of innocents a “resistance fighter,” more lucid minds disclose a different landscape. Consider an editorial published in a Lebanese paper on August 20, 2003, the day after a bomb-laden cement truck destroyed the United Nations’ center of operations in Baghdad: “Yesterday’s operation against the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations exemplifies this mentality of destruction. Expel all mediators. Banish every international organization. Let things collapse. Let electricity and water be cut off, and the pumping of oil cease. Let theft prevail. Let universities and schools close. Let businesses fail. Let civic life cease. And at the end of the day the occupation will fail. ‘No!’ protests Joseph Samara, ‘at the end of the road, there will be a catastrophe for Iraq. . . . The attack against the United Nations’ headquarters in Baghdad belongs to another world: it is a form of nihilism, of absurdity, and of chaos hiding behind fallacious slogans, which proves the convergence among those responsible for this action, their intellectual limitation and their criminal behavior.’ ”
We have entered another world. The threat of a new Ground Zero, small or great, advances behind a mask. The human bomb claims the power to strike anywhere, by any means, at any time, spreading his nocturnal threat over the globe, invisible and thus unpredictable, clandestine and thus untraceable. The terrorist without borders makes us think about him always, everywhere. Without an accidental delay on the tracks--just a few minutes--the pulverization of two trains in Madrid, at the Atocha station, would have claimed 10,000 victims, three times more than in Manhattan. Then there was London. Whose turn is next? Each of us waits for the next explosion.
The business of terrorists, after all, is to terrorize--so said Lenin, an uncontested master in the field. The ultimate refinement lies in the inversion of responsibility. Operating instructions: I take hostages, I cut off their heads, I show them on video; those who beg for mercy must address themselves to their governments, who alone are to blame for my crimes: my hubris is their problem. The less the terrorist’s restraint, the more he causes fear and the sooner you will yield in tears, or so he believes.
Recall the cries of hostage Nick Berg, agonizing as his torturers persisted laboriously over his bent body. “You know, when we behead someone, we enjoy it,” one of them informs us. “We did not kidnap to frighten those we hold,” another corrects him, “but to put pressure on the countries that help or might help the Americans. . . . It is not a good thing to decapitate, but it is a method that works. In a fight, Americans tremble. . . . Besides, I tried to negotiate an exchange of prisoners for Nick Berg. It was the Americans who refused. They are the ones truly responsible for his death.” Terrorist hubris bases its arguments on uncontrollable drives: I can’t help myself--give up! A similar strategy shows up on playgrounds: Stop me or I’ll do something terrible! The terrorist refines this rationale; he draws out his pleasure, prolongs death, cuts the throat slowly, goes beyond physical torture.
"From the H-Bomb to the Human Bomb," by André Glucksmann, City Journal, Autumn 2007