B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘China’ tag

Investment in Science Helps A Nation

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Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds
Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

The United States should spend less on building aircraft carriers, less on tax breaks for the wealthy, and for corporations like General Electric and ExxonMobil and more on projects like this:

A rocket that shot skyward from the Gobi Desert early Tuesday is expected to propel China to the forefront of one of science’s most challenging fields.

It also is set to launch Beijing far ahead of its global rivals in the drive to acquire a highly coveted asset in the age of cyberespionage: hack-proof communications.

Aboard the Micius satellite is encryption technology that, if successful, could propel China to the forefront of hack-proof communications. Professor Hoi Fung Chau of Hong Kong University explains how quantum physics can be used to frustrate hackers. State media said China sent the world’s first quantum-communications satellite into orbit from a launch center in Inner Mongolia about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. Five years in the making, the project is being closely watched in global scientific and security circles.

The quantum program is the latest part of China’s multibillion-dollar strategy over the past two decades to draw even with or surpass the West in hard-sciences research.

“There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race,” said Nicolas Gisin, a professor and quantum physicist at the University of Geneva. “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realize them.”

Scientists in the U.S., Europe, Japan and elsewhere are rushing to exploit the strange and potentially powerful properties of subatomic particles, but few with as much state support as those in China, researchers say. Quantum technology is a top strategic focus in the country’s five-year economic development plan, released in March.

Beijing hasn’t disclosed how much money it has allocated to quantum research or to building the 1,400-pound satellite. But funding for basic research, which includes quantum physics, was $101 billion in 2015, up from $1.9 billion in 2005.

U.S. federal funding for quantum research is about $200 million a year, according to a congressional report in July by a group of science, defense, intelligence and other officials. 

It said development of quantum science would “enhance U.S. national security,” but said fluctuations in funding had set back progress.

 

(click here to continue reading China’s Latest Leap Forward Isn’t Just Great—It’s Quantum – WSJ.)

In other words, Congressional disfunction, partisanship and misguided priorities are stymieing the United States. 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 16th, 2016 at 9:44 am

Posted in government,science

Tagged with ,

George Solt, Ramen Historian

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Arami Ramen
Arami Ramen

Devouring a delicious bowl of ramen is one of life’s great pleasures. Luckily, the number of quality establishments serving good versions has proliferated in the last few years.

Twelve years ago, [Professor George ] Solt, who spent the first decade of his life in Tokyo, before moving to New England, began researching his dissertation at the University of California, San Diego. Entitled “Taking Ramen Seriously: Food, Labor, and Everyday Life in Modern Japan,” it delved into the food production, labor practices, foreign trade, and national identity wrapped up in Japan’s now famous noodle soup. He has published other noodle-related academic writings, including an article in the International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, “Shifting Perceptions of Instant Ramen in Japan during the High-Growth Era, 1958-1973.” But his most accessible piece of work on the topic is a book borne of his doctoral dissertation, “The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze,” which was published in February.

His talk traced ramen from its origins, as a distinctly Chinese soup that arrived in Japan with Chinese tradesmen in the nineteenth century, through the American occupation after the war, to the proliferation of instant ramen in Japan in the seventies; the national frenzy in the eighties and nineties that gave birth to ramen celebrities, ramen museums, and ramen video games; and, finally, America’s embrace of ramen and Japanese culture today, as exhibited by the cultlike craze surrounding the sixteen-dollar bowls of ramen served by the celebrity chef David Chang.

“Ramen is one of the most minutely documented foods in Japan,” Solt writes. A number of geopolitical and economic factors—the reindustrialization of Japan’s workforce during the Cold War, the redefining of national identity during twenty years of economic stagnation—all combined to elevate ramen from working-class sustenance to a dish that is internationally recognized, beloved, and iconic. His research involved reading everything from ramen graphic novels to government documents produced during the U.S. occupation. In what Solt describes as an “Aha!” moment, he discovered that when the U.S. occupied Japan it imported wheat as a way to contain Communism. “The more Japan experienced food shortages, the more people would gravitate towards the Communist Party,” he said. By providing the wheat needed to make ramen noodles, America won the Cold War, sort of.

(click here to continue reading George Solt, Ramen Historian : The New Yorker.)

Tampopo Ramen!
Tampopo Ramen!

and of course, you should watch the film, Tampopo, if you haven’t already seen it…

Tampopo (タンポポ , literally “dandelion”) is a 1985 Japanese comedy film by director Juzo Itami, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe. The publicity for the film calls it the first ramen western, a play on the term Spaghetti Western

and Roger Ebert’s review seems appropriate:

“Tampopo” is one of those utterly original movies that seems to exist in no known category. Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it’s a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles.

As it opens, the film looks like some sort of Japanese satire of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns. The hero is Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a lone rider with a quizzical smile, who rides a semi instead of a horse. Along with some friends, he stages a search for the perfect noodle restaurant but cannot find it. Then he meets Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), a sweet young woman who has her heart in the right place, but not her noodles.

The movie then turns into the fairly freestyle story of the efforts by Tampopo and her protector to research the perfect noodle and open the perfect noodle restaurant. Like most movies about single-minded obsessions, this one quickly becomes very funny. It might seem that American audiences would know little and care less about the search for the perfect Japanese noodle, but because the movie is so consumed and detailed, so completely submerged in noodleology, it takes on a kind of weird logic of its own.

Consider, for example, the tour de force of a scene near the beginning of the movie, where a noodle master explains the correct ritual for eating a bowl of noodle soup. He explains every ingredient. How to cut it, how to cook it, how to address it, how to think of it, how to regard it, how to approach it, how to smell it, how to eat it, how to thank it, how to remember it. It’s a kind of gastronomic religion, and director Juzo Itami creates a scene that makes noodles in this movie more interesting than sex and violence in many another.

(click here to continue reading Tampopo Movie Review & Film Summary (1987) | Roger Ebert.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 22nd, 2014 at 12:03 pm

China Begins Longest Bullet Train Service

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It Makes Perfect Sense
It Makes Perfect Sense

Meanwhile, the US can’t even agree to construct a route connecting Florida

China began service Wednesday morning on the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Fla., or from London across Europe to Belgrade, Serbia.

Trains traveling 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours.

Completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou route — roughly 1,200 miles — is the latest sign that China has resumed rapid construction on one of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country.

Lavish spending on the project has helped jump-start the Chinese economy twice: in 2009, during the global financial crisis, and again this autumn, after a brief but sharp economic slowdown over the summer.

The hiring of as many as 100,000 workers for each line has kept a lid on unemployment as private-sector construction has slowed because of limits on real estate speculation. The national network has helped to reduce air pollution in Chinese cities and helped to curb demand for imported diesel fuel by freeing capacity on older rail lines for goods to be carried by freight trains instead of heavily polluting, costlier trucks.

(click here to continue reading China Begins Longest Bullet Train Service – NYTimes.com.)

We are foolish to ignore this sort of infrastructure project. Not only would it boost US employment, reduce pollution, but it would help the economy as a whole. 

Written by Seth Anderson

December 30th, 2012 at 11:41 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

Apple, China, and the Truth

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Torn and Frayed
Torn and Frayed

Mike Daisey deceived a lot of people with his fable about Chinese factory workers, including This American Life.

Ira Glass writes:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”

Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors – our friends and colleagues – have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It’s trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.

A press release with more details about all this is below. We’ll be posting the audio of the program and the transcript on Friday night this week, instead of waiting till Sunday.

(click here to continue reading Retracting “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” | This American Life.)

Yikes! G4 - still chugging

Yikes! G4 – still chugging

Evan Osnos of The New Yorker adds:

“This American Life,” the public-radio show, has retracted a China piece that it says it never should’ve run. …The retracted story was by a monologist named Mike Daisey, who described journeying to the gates of Foxconn, the Apple supplier in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. He said he interviewed hundreds of workers, finding girls who were twelve and thirteen years old and others whose “hands shake uncontrollably” from chemicals used to clean iPhone screens. He said he visited other factories and saw surveillance cameras over the beds in dorm rooms, some kind of “sci-fi, dystopian, ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘1984’ bull[BLEEP].” And in the end, he winds his warning around to us, the consumers: “They’re making your crap that way today.”

But Daisey lied. He made up things about his trip, and the show’s attempts at fact-checking failed to uncover them. It all fell apart when Rob Schmitz, a seasoned reporter who is the China correspondent for the public-radio program “Marketplace,” got suspicious and tracked down the translator who’d worked with Daisey. It’s worth a listen, but, in short, Schmitz discovers that Daisey made up scenes, never took notes, conflated workers, never visited a dorm room, and so on. Watching it unravel from Beijing makes me wonder: What does the debacle say about how we all look at China? Why were so many people so eager to believe it?

(click here to continue reading Letter from China: Apple, China, and the Truth : The New Yorker.)

Pip and his MBA

Pip and his MBA

Rob Schmitz:

For the past year and a half, I’ve reported on Apple’s supply chain in China, where I work as Marketplace’s China Correspondent, based in Shanghai. When I heard Daisey’s story, certain details didn’t sound right. I tracked down Daisey’s Chinese translator to see for myself.

“My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater.” – Mike Daisey For years, reporters in China have uncovered a sizable list of problems that have shown the dark side of what it’s like to work at factories that assemble Apple products. Mike Daisey would have you believe that he encountered—first-hand—some of the most egregious examples of this history all in just a six-day trip he took to the city of Shenzhen.

(click here to continue reading An acclaimed Apple critic made up the details | Marketplace from American Public Media.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 18th, 2012 at 8:49 am

Posted in Apple,News-esque

Tagged with , ,

People Are Spouting Nonsense about Chinese Manufacturing

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Apple Store in Soho
Apple Store in Soho

But facts are so boring…

Wages paid to manufacturing workers in China are not determined by the productivity of those specific workers. They are not determined by US wages, by the profits that Apple makes nor even by the good intentions of the creative types that purchase Apple products. They are determined by the wages paid by other jobs in China and that is itself determined by the average level of productivity across the Chinese economy.

But now to the specific complaints that are being made. There are three that are being repeated around the intertubes as being particularly outrageous.

The first is the spate of suicides at the Foxconn plants. Suicides did indeed take place and each and every one an individual tragedy. Both for those who died and for those they left behind to mourn them. However, we are talking about some 18 suicides in 2010. What we actually want to know is whether that is a high or a low number. Suicide does happen in every society and country, so before we start blaming working conditions we’d like to know whether that rate is higher or lower than that in the surrounding society.

The general suicide rate in China is 22 per 100,000 people. That is a high rate by international standards but that is the one that we should be looking at to try and judge the suicide rate at Foxconn.

Foxconn employs some 1 million people in total so, if the Foxconn workforce were to have the same suicide rate as the general Chinese population (which, to be accurate, it won’t for suicide is not equally divided over age groups and the workforce is predominantly young) we would expect to see 220 suicides among such a number each year.

We actually have an outcry therefore about a suicide rate which is under one tenth of the general suicide rate in the country under discussion. If people were being rational about this instead of spouting nonsense then this would be something that was praised, not vilified.

(click here to continue reading The Apple Boycott: People Are Spouting Nonsense about Chinese Manufacturing – Forbes.)

About that first point, Paul Krugman writes:

First of all, even if we could assure the workers in Third World export industries of higher wages and better working conditions, this would do nothing for the peasants, day laborers, scavengers, and so on who make up the bulk of these countries’ populations. At best, forcing developing countries to adhere to our labor standards would create a privileged labor aristocracy, leaving the poor majority no better off.And it might not even do that. The advantages of established First World industries are still formidable. The only reason developing countries have been able to compete with those industries is their ability to offer employers cheap labor. Deny them that ability, and you might well deny them the prospect of continuing industrial growth, even reverse the growth that has been achieved. And since export-oriented growth, for all its injustice, has been a huge boon for the workers in those nations, anything that curtails that growth is very much against their interests. A policy of good jobs in principle, but no jobs in practice, might assuage our consciences, but it is no favor to its alleged beneficiaries.

and also wrote:

Wages are determined in a national labor market: The basic Ricardian model envisages a single factor, labor, which can move freely between industries. When one tries to talk about trade with laymen, however, one at least sometimes realizes that they do not think about things that way at all. They think about steelworkers, textile workers, and so on; there is no such thing as a national labor market. It does not occur to them that the wages earned in one industry are largely determined by the wages similar workers are earning in other industries. This has several consequences. First, unless it is carefully explained, the standard demonstration of the gains from trade in a Ricardian model — workers can earn more by moving into the industries in which you have a comparative advantage — simply fails to register with lay intellectuals. Their picture is of aircraft workers gaining and textile workers losing, and the idea that it is useful even for the sake of argument to imagine that workers can move from one industry to the other is foreign to them. Second, the link between productivity and wages is thoroughly misunderstood. Non-economists typically think that wages should reflect productivity at the level of the individual company. So if Xerox manages to increase its productivity 20 percent, it should raise the wages it pays by the same amount; if overall manufacturing productivity has risen 30 percent, the real wages of manufacturing workers should have risen 30 percent, even if service productivity has been stagnant; if this doesn’t happen, it is a sign that something has gone wrong. In other words, my criticism of Michael Lind would baffle many non-economists.

Associated with this problem is the misunderstanding of what international trade should do to wage rates. It is a fact that some Bangladeshi apparel factories manage to achieve labor productivity close to half those of comparable installations in the United States, although overall Bangladeshi manufacturing productivity is probably only about 5 percent of the US level. Non-economists find it extremely disturbing and puzzling that wages in those productive factories are only 10 percent of US standards.

Finally, and most importantly, it is not obvious to non-economists that wages are endogenous. Someone like Goldsmith looks at Vietnam and asks, “what would happen if people who work for such low wages manage to achieve Western productivity?” The economist’s answer is, “if they achieve Western productivity, they will be paid Western wages” — as has in fact happened in Japan. But to the non-economist this conclusion is neither natural nor plausible. (And he is likely to offer those Bangladeshi factories as a counterexample, missing the distinction between factory-level and national-level productivity).

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Apple,Business

Tagged with

Self-inflicted Decline Of United States

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Neon Green Tea
Neon Green Tea

The United States has deep, serious structural problems with our economy, and yet the morons in Congress debate trivialities.

Malcom Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia writes, part:

The United States’ friends around the world watched with dismay the recent brawl over raising the federal government’s debt ceiling, and the US congress’ inability to come to anything like a balanced and forward-looking compromise. On the contrary, the outcome represents a significant victory for the Tea Party’s minions, whose purpose seems to be to reduce government obligations and expenditures to a bare minimum (some object even to having a central bank), and to maintain President George W Bush’s outrageous tax breaks for the wealthy. The United States’ current fiscal problems are rooted in a long period of unfunded spending. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the manner in which he conducted the “global war on terror” made matters much worse, contributing to a totally unsustainable situation. Indeed, Obama inherited an almost impossible legacy.

In the weeks since the debt ceiling agreement, it has become increasingly clear that good government might be impossible in the US. The coming months of campaigning for the US presidency will be spent in petty brawling over what should be cut. The example of recent weeks gives us no cause for optimism that US legislators will rise above partisan politics and ask themselves what is best for America.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that financial markets have returned to extreme volatility. The expenditure cuts mandated by the outcome of the debt-ceiling debate will reduce economic activity, thereby undermining growth and making debt reduction even more difficult. Providing further fiscal stimulus to boost economic growth would carry its own risks, owing to the debt ceiling and another, more ominous factor: the US is already overly indebted, and there are signs that major holders of US government securities are finally tired of being repaid in depreciated currency.

Most importantly, China’s call for the introduction of a new reserve currency stems from its frustration with the failure of major governments – whether in the US or Europe – to govern their economic affairs with realism and good sense. China recognises that the US is in great difficulty (indeed, it recognises this more clearly than the US itself), and that, given the poisonous political atmosphere prevailing in Washington, there will be no easy return to good government, economic stability, and strong growth.

(click here to continue reading America’s self-inflicted decline – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.)

Bank of China
Bank of China

One more important excerpt from Mr. Fraser’s Op-Ed:

The counter-argument – that any sell-off or failure by China to continue to buy US government securities would hurt China as much as the US – is not valid. As each year passes, China’s markets expand worldwide, and its domestic market comes to represent a greater percentage of its own GDP. As a result, China will not need a strong dollar in the long term. Americans need to get their economic house in order before China loses its incentive to support the dollar.

On several occasions in the post-WWII period, the US has learned with great pain that there are limits to the effective use of military power. US objectives could not be achieved in Vietnam. The outcome in Iraq will not be determined until the last American troops have been withdrawn. In Afghanistan, where withdrawal dates have already been set, it is difficult to believe that a cohesive unified state can be established.

As the efficacy of military power is reduced, so the importance of economic power grows. Recognition of these central realities – and bipartisanship in addressing them – is critical for America’s future, and for that of the West.

We ignore these realities at our peril – and allowing the Tea Party to control policy is akin to letting someone hepped up on bath salts pilot your airplane. Dangerously stupid, in other words.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 5th, 2011 at 8:53 am

Falun Gong In Front of Chinese Embassy

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Falun Gong In Front of Chinese Embassy

Falun Gong In Front of Chinese Embassy, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

a mostly silent protest

In July 1999, Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership initiated a ban on Falun Gong and began a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice. In October 1999 it declared Falun Gong a "heretical organization."

Human rights groups report that Falun Gong practitioners in China are subject to a wide range of human rights abuses; hundreds of thousands are believe to have been imprisoned extra-judicially, and practitioners in detention are subject to forced labor, psychiatric abuse, severe torture, and other coercive methods of thought reform at the hands of Chinese authorities.
In the years since the suppression campaign began, Falun Gong adherents have emerged as a prominent voice in the Chinese dissident community, advocating for greater human rights and an end to Communist Party rule.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falun_Gong

On Erie and Clark, Chicago

Written by swanksalot

August 31st, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Posted in religion

Tagged with ,

Bob Dylan Responds to So-Called China Controversy

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Dylan memorobilia Hard Rock

We are certainly living in a new digital age when Bob Dylan directly answers his critics (who we’ve discussed, and dismissed, previously), on his own website, not needing to remain “inscrutable”, nor talk through a friendly journalist, with their own agendas. Much better, really.

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn’t happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn’t have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn’t have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

(click here to continue reading To my fans and followers | Bob Dylan.)

I didn’t realize the so-called China controversy started in May 2010, but His Bobness would know.

I looked for the Mojo article in question, but it is apparently not online, as none of the myriad articles I read on the topic include a link. Oh well.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with , , ,

The Real Dylan in China

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Exit, Zimmerman

Maureen Dowd whined in the Sunday NYT that Bob Dylan is a sell-out becaused he agreed to play in China, and didn’t denounce the Chinese government on stage.

Sean Wilentz counters

In 1964, Irwin Silber, the editor of the lefty folk music magazine Sing Out!, notoriously blasted Dylan for daring to lay aside his protest material. A product of the Popular Front Communist Left, Silber was offended that Dylan had ceased writing and performing narrowly political songs. Now Maureen Dowd, of the august liberal New York Times, is offended that Dylan failed to perform these same songs during his recent shows in Beijing and Shanghai. Apparently, unless Dylan performs according to a politically-correct line, he is corrupt, even immoral. He is not allowed to be an artist, he must be an agitator. And he can only be an agitator if he sings particular songs.

Dowd isn’t angry that Dylan performed in China. She is angry that he apparently agreed to do so under certain conditions, that he didn’t sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and that he didn’t take the opportunity to denounce Chinese human rights policies.

I don’t know exactly what Dylan did or did not agree to. (I don’t think Dowd does, either.) But whatever the facts are, Dylan knows very well—as I tried to tell Dowd when she interviewed me for her column—that his music long ago became uncensorable. Subversive thoughts aren’t limited to his blatant protest songs of long ago. Nor would his political songs from the early nineteen-sixties have made much sense in China in 2011. Dowd, like Mr. Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” is as clueless about all of this as she is smug.

How much more subversive could Dylan have been in Communist China? Especially when he went on to sing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and, most unnerving of all, “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Depending on whatever agreement he made with them, I’d argue Dylan made a fool of the Chinese authorities, while getting paid in the bargain. He certainly made a fool of Maureen Dowd—or she has made a fool of herself.

(click here to continue reading News Desk: The Real Dylan in China : The New Yorker.)

Dowd should stick to doing what she does, making up imaginary conversations with political figures.

And like I’ve said before, artists shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than everyone, and everything else. If it isn’t forbidden to trade with China, eat Chinese food, it shouldn’t be forbidden to play there either.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 11th, 2011 at 8:37 am

Posted in Music,politics

Tagged with ,

Yummy Cadmium-Tainted Rice From China

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Rice, Steam and Wine

Well, possibly. I wonder what percentage of U.S. rice is imported from China these days?

Move aside, melamine. Cadmium-tainted rice might be China’s new scare of the season.

In a recent study, researchers from the Nanjing Agricultural University found 10 to 60 percent of the rice sold in markets in six regions contained cadmium, a heavy metal associated with high blood pressure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and a potentially fatal softening of the bones.

In some samples, the cadmium level was found to be equal to five times of the legal maximum, the researchers said.

A China Daily report on the discovery is careful to include caveats.

For one thing, the report says, the pollution is confined to a few, mostly southern, regions. For another, the samples were taken in 2007 and 2008, according to the findings, originally published in Century Weekly magazine.

(click here to continue reading China’s Newest Food Scare? Cadmium-Tainted Rice – China Real Time Report – WSJ.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,health

Tagged with , ,

China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry

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Talk to the Wind

Well, on the one hand, the Chinese government fully supports and subsidizes its green power industries, and on the other hand, the U.S. government, and especially the Tea Baggers and Oil Slurper Republicans are dismissive of any energy policy that doesn’t focus solely on highways, natural gas, coal and oil. So, do the math: Chinese companies are going to be lapping the innovations of American companies until something changes. And it probably won’t.

Goldwind and other Chinese-owned companies plan a big push into the American wind power market in coming months.

While proponents say the Chinese manufacturers should be welcomed as an engine for creating more green jobs and speeding the adoption of renewable energy in this country, others see a threat to workers and profits in the still-embryonic American wind industry.

“We cannot sit idly by while China races to the forefront of clean energy production at the expense of U.S. manufacturing,” Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said during a debate this year over federal subsidies for wind energy.

(click to continue reading China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry – NYTimes.com.)

and World Trade Organization threats notwithstanding, China is serious:

American wind output still meets only a small portion of the nation’s overall demand for electricity — about 2 percent — compared with countries like Spain, which gets about 14 percent of its electrical power from the wind.

And the tepid United States economy, rock-bottom natural gas prices and lingering questions about federal wind energy policy have stalled the American wind industry, which currently represents only about 85,000 jobs. Even the American market leader, General Electric, reported a sharp drop in third-quarter turbine sales, compared with the same period last year.

All of which might indicate that dim market prospects await the wave of wind-turbine makers from China. But the Chinese companies can play a patient game because they have big backing from China’s government in the form of low-interest loans and other blandishments — too much help, in the critics’ view.

In the case of China, the Obama administration is investigating whether the Chinese may have violated World Trade Organization rules in subsidizing its clean-energy industry.

Mr. Rowland’s company, Goldwind, is the fledgling American arm of a state-owned Chinese company that has emerged as the world’s fifth-largest turbine maker: the Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Company.

To help finance its overseas efforts, Xinjiang Goldwind raised nearly $1 billion in an initial public stock offering in Hong Kong in October — on top of a $6 billion low-interest loan agreement in May from the government-owned China Development Bank.

Goldwind, which set up a sales office in Chicago, has hired about a dozen executives, engineers and other employees so far. Most, like Mr. Rowland, are Americans already experienced in the wind energy field.

Not sure where exactly the Goldwind U.S. HQ will be located, but somewhere near me presumedly. Google Maps says on W. Washington, which is probably correct, but Goldwind’s site doesn’t yet reflect this.

Another major international player in the wind energy business will soon be calling Chicago home, as Chinese manufacturer Goldwind has announced plans to locate its North American headquarters in the city.

Goldwind’s move to the Windy City is the latest in a string of major wind firms that have looked to Chicago as the most logical business center for their US operations, attracted by the city’s central location, international airports, strong legal and financial expertise, and an experienced, educated workforce.

The firm also announced it has hired a talented pair of new executives to head the company, including Tim Rosenzweig as CEO and Matthew Olive as Director of Sales, both well-seasoned wind industry officials.

(click to continue reading Goldwind to Locate US Headquarters in Chicago, Hires Executive Staff – News – The Illinois Wind Energy Association.)

However, honestly, as a consumer, I’d happily purchase a home windmill from any manufacturer, regardless of geopolitical concerns. Jingoism doesn’t really factor in. And I’d be happy if my cousin got a job with Goldwind, or some other foreign green energy company. If the US is too short-sighted to encourage alternative energy companies, well, c’est la vie.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 16th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Family version I Ching – Richard Wilhelm translation

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I Ching, Family version of Richard Wilhelm translation

This is the inscription on the hardback version of the I Ching I have, and have carried around for most of my adult life.1 Originally printed in 1966, Bollingen Series. There is a lot of subtext here, but I won’t bore you with a description.

The Chinese characters below my name are the transliteration of my last name, as assigned to me when I studied Beijing Hua at UT-Austin. An De Sen. Quiet Virtuous Forest, as my first Chinese teacher told me. The other character is “sheng” which translates into “born”. Again, there is subtext out the yin-yang, but I won’t bore you with a delineation of it. If you really want to know, bring me a couple of bottles of red wine, and drink them with me: I’ll tell you more than you want to hear.

This edition of the I Ching has a forward by Carl Jung, oft read, oft quoted. I suspect that more modern translations of the I Ching might speak to us more clearly, but that doesn’t matter. My Chinese was never proficient enough to make my own translations.

For over ten years, I kept a dedicated journal where I wrote down the questions and answers related to throwing the coins: my last entry was years ago, but I keep my spidery prose on my shelf. Just in case. Has it helped me? Probably. Part of the charm/mystique of the I Ching is the oblique meaning of the text. One can interpret meaning as it applies to one’s own life; sometimes even accurately.

I am an atheist, and have been as long as I was sentient, but the I Ching isn’t religion, it is aided contemplation. Part of the procedure of throwing the I Ching coins is thinking deeply and seriously about whatever the question of the moment is. I consider the I Ching results as tapping into the subconscious mind, that part of the brain which is active while sleeping, or otherwise occupied. Do you ever wake up in the morning with a perfect answer to a problem you’ve faced? This is that.

Footnotes:
  1. I’ve moved it a dozen times or more, because I’ve moved seemingly a gazillion times []

Written by swanksalot

October 17th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

PBR 1844

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PBR_1844.jpg

Ok, if you’re doing the math at home, 300 RMB is about $44 US, or looking at this from another angle, about $43 dollars more than a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon should cost, no matter where you are.

1844 was the year that the Pabst Brewing Company was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the US, the beer’s lack of pretension led to a recent upswing in popularity among hipsters.

With 1844, the brand seems to be targeting a different demographic in the Chinese market.

The ad copy (on the facing page) begins with comparisons to the finest of alcohols:

It’s not just Scotch that’s put into wooden casks. There’s also Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer 1844

Many world-famous spirits Are matured in precious wooden casks Scotch whisky, French brandy, Bordeaux wine… They all spend long days inside wooden casks

It goes on to describe how the premium wood and craftsmanship of the casks creates the beer’s wondrous color and flavor, and ends by calling Pabst “truly a treasure among beers.”

Does Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 truly merit such comparisons? It’ll cost you around 300 RMB to try a bottle for yourself, according to a Beijing Youth Daily article from last November, when the product was launched.

The article quoted Ni Chunlin, head of Blue Ribbon Beer, which produced Pabst in China:

“China’s beer market has an annual sales volume of 40 million tons. So why is the price of beer always around 5 or 10 yuan?” … Ni Chunlin said that the release of Blue Ribbon 1844 is aimed at changing consumers’ ideas about beer. “The high-end market is occupied by baijiu and wine. Chinese people can afford to drink baijiu that costs tens of thousands, and I believe that a 300-yuan beer won’t be a problem either.”

(click to continue reading A blue-collar beer goes upmarket.)

Pabst Theater

Written by Seth Anderson

July 19th, 2010 at 9:53 am

Starbury in China

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Notorious locker-room cancer and intern-boinker Stephon Marbury, aka Starbury, has apparently accepted a contract to play for a basketball team in China, Taiyuan Shanxi Zhongyu, currently ranked 15th out of 17 teams.

Hoops from Yesteryear

Li Fei, a 21-year-old college student, said that with Mr. Marbury on the team “it injects more excitement into the game.”

“I’ve always been his fan.” Mr. Li said. “I know he’s a selfish player, and he doesn’t like to pass, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a great player. It’s beautiful to watch.”

It’s hard to say how this marriage will work out.

Taiyuan is the capital of China’s northern Shanxi province and the center of China’s coal-mining industry. The whole city is covered in a thin layer of coal dust, including Zhongyu’s Binhe Sports Stadium, which seats about 4,500 people. It has less than a fourth the capacity of New York’s Madison Square Garden where Mr. Marbury played from 2004 to 2008. Courtside seats in the arena, which run about $1,464 a season, are a collection of worn red sofas and lounge chairs.

The Binhe Stadium looks like an abandoned building in the daytime while the team is practicing, its gates held closed with bicycle locks. About two hours before each game, security guards set up temporary metal detectors in front of each entrance to the stadium.

[Click to continue reading NBA’s Marbury Takes His Game to China – WSJ.com]
[Non-WSJ subscribers use this link to read the full article]

For a guy who always thinks he is the best player in the league, despite contrary evidence, perhaps this will be a good experience. If he lasts the season…

Taiyuan is markedly less tourist-friendly, internationalized and cosmopolitan than bustling cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. It’s hard to find a bank ATM that will accept foreign credit cards.

“If he lasts 10 days, I’ll be amazed,” says Bruce O’Neil, president of the U.S. Basketball Academy, which trains young American players to be drafted by Chinese teams. “The culture shock is tremendous.”

Mr. Marbury, though, isn’t playing in China for the money. He’s here to promote his shoe and apparel brand, called “Starbury” after his nickname, featuring low-cost sneakers for $15. The market is potentially huge: The NBA estimates that 300 million people play basketball in China. Mr. Marbury has the Starbury logo tattooed on the side of his shaved head.

His new employer, Zhongyu-owner Wang Xingjiang, is an iron and steel magnate and basketball fanatic who made the Forbes “400 Richest Chinese” list in 2008. At the time, his net worth was estimated to be $260 million.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2010 at 12:00 am

Posted in Sports

Tagged with , , ,

Ginger and Garlic Blues

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Organic onions

Oh great, so every meal I eat out has been with contaminated garlic and/or ginger (seemingly a staple of my diet). Where’s the FDA been anyway? Wouldn’t you like to read a headline about how the FDA protected consumers before an event, not after? In fact, the FDA isn’t even mentioned in this story. What agency is taking the lead in protecting American food from poison?1

China Curbs Garlic, Ginger Exports to U.S. – WSJ.com:
China in recent weeks has sharply restricted the exportation of garlic and ginger to the U.S., a huge importer of the crops, amid continuing concerns about the safety of Chinese exports.

The Chinese government has ordered numerous facilities in Shandong province, a hub for the nation’s agricultural exports, to stop shipping the foods until they can abide by tougher safety standards, according to several U.S. companies that import the products from China. The move has curtailed the supply of garlic and ginger in the U.S., resulting in higher prices as buyers shift to alternative sources.

China’s action follows a host of import-safety incidents in the U.S., including a July recall of fresh ginger, tainted with an illegal insecticide, that was imported from China by a California company and sold in at least two dozen supermarkets.

China is a major supplier of garlic and ginger to the U.S., which is finicky about the Chinese-grown produce it allows into its borders. China accounts for more than 80% of garlic imported into the U.S., according to the U.S. government. Hawaii is the only source of ginger farmed in the U.S., so the country depends heavily on exports from China. In the wake of China’s action, California garlic growers are enjoying increased demand, as are Brazilian ginger growers, according to U.S. buyers.

garlic

Apparently still a problem in 2009:

At Whole Foods, for example, labels that read “USDA inspected” are stuck to produce imported from abroad. According to “Behind the Bean,” a recent study by Wisconsin’s Cornucopia Institute, the USDA’s record with food imported from China is fraught with irregularities.

“(USDA) found multiple non-compliances of the federal organic standards, (including) the failure of one certifying agent to hire Chinese inspectors that are adequately familiar with the USDA organic standards, and the failure by another organic certifying agent to provide a written and translated copy of the USDA organic standards to all clients applying for certification.

This raises serious concerns about whether foods grown organically in China follow the same USDA organic standards with which we require American farmers to comply.”

A stand at my local farmers’ market has a sign that says “Boycott Chinese Garlic.” China currently supplies 75 percent of the garlic sold in the United States, for an average price of 50 cents a pound. Two years ago, it was 25 cents a pound.

Even with the price of garlic up from 25 to 50 cents a pound, garlic-growing regions like Gilroy, Calif., are hurting. Gilroy once was known as the nation’s garlic capital.

In addition to garlic cultivation, a retail empire was built on value-added products made with garlic. Now, Gilroy is just a garlic-processing capital, as most of its supply comes fromChina.

[From US: Organic goes down a slippery road]

When are there going to be some change in the US Food agribusiness/FDA? Can’t arrive soon enough

Footnotes:
  1. repost from my old blog circa 2007 []

Written by swanksalot

July 28th, 2009 at 6:28 pm