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'China Must Lead the Emissions Reduction Century' by Xue Yong

by marco Fri Feb 5th, 2010 at 05:33:04 AM EST

As a way to practice Mandarin, I had the idea to translate interesting essays by prominent Chinese language bloggers who comment on current affairs and contemporary issues.  One such blogger is 薛涌 Xuē Yǒng, whom I discovered a couple of weeks ago listening to an episode of On Point with Tom Ashbrook about "Google vs. China".

Last week Xuē Yǒng wrote 中国要领导"减排世纪" Zhōngguó yào lǐngdǎo "Jiǎnpái Shìjì" ('China Must Lead the "Emissions Reduction Century"'), which he posted on his blog, 反智的书生 Fǎnzhì de Shūshēng (An Anti-Intellectual Scholar), but which I have found reproduced on several other news websites (e.g. 南都周刊 Nándū Zhōukān Southern Metropolis Weekly).

Below is my translation alongside the original Chinese with permission from the author.  I opted in favor of sticking close to the meaning of the original even at the cost of fluency in English, so if some points are not easily understandable, please let me know and I will try to clarify.  (For some reason, some Chinese characters get corrupted when they are displayed here.)

Mandarin, not spam - afew

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The real 'Avatar': Dongria Kondh vs. Vedanta

by marco Fri Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:05:38 AM EST

Vedanta does not have any right to touch our Niyamgiri mountain.  Even if you cut our throats, even if you behead us, we are not going to allow this.  We'll see how they are going to take over our mountains.

Maybe Cameron can work this into the sequel.

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French healthcare costs

by marco Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 05:23:40 AM EST

An article in yesterday's Le Monde, Mutuelles : les cotisations en hausse de 5 % en 2010, caught my attention, as over the last six months I have been researching various health coverage options for myself and my younger brother, who are both French nationals but do not reside in France and thus are not altogether familiar with the French system.

The article, quoting Jean-Pierre Davant, the head of the association of health mutuals (non-profit supplementary health insurance providers), links to an article in Le Parisien which I read with interest and started translating before realizing that the Le Monde article should have linked to another article in Le Parisien in which Mr. Davant is interviewed. Googling around turned up another interview with Mr. Davant from January 2009, which is interesting as it describes the trend in retrospect.

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Show of Arms

by marco Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 01:12:57 PM EST

This morning I went to see my first serious "parade" since childhood.  I have never been into parades, but when you are in Paris on July 14 with nothing else to do, Paris vaut un défilé.  What's more, I'm not into militaryish stuff, but by golly, militaryish parades can be very beau indeed, bordering on moving.  Seeing the planes soar past overhead, the young (and not so young) men and women marching in unison in a panoply of uniforms, often singing in very nice voices, one could not help wonder why these shows of military, tribal pomp and circumstance made such an impression.  One also wondered why uniforms which on their own are so singularly ridiculous should look so stylish and dashing in the context of such a parade.  Is it the lockstep coordination of the marchers that evokes a feeling of community and solidarity, of hard work, training, and excellence and competencies thereby achieved?  Are we touched on some deep genetic level by these sorts of displays, as female peacocks are to their male courtiers' plumage?

I don't know, but i did enjoy the show, despite having to watch it with limited view on the Rue Royale (i.e. the end and backwater of the parade).

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Excerpts from Michael Moore's 'Sicko'

by marco Thu May 14th, 2009 at 01:48:03 AM EST

I was living in China when Michael Moore's Sicko came out in 2007, so I hardly heard anything about it or how it was received when it came out.

I just watched it on cable TV, and was pretty struck by it -- even as I expected over-the-top sensationalism and bias.

The US really comes out looking like a quasi-barbaric society, an also-ran in the community of civilized countries.

One of my favorite parts was the interview with British Labourite former member of Parliament Tony Benn, which you can see and part of which is transcribed below the fold.

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How important is neodymium?

by marco Tue May 5th, 2009 at 07:54:56 AM EST

[This was originally written to be a comment under Jérôme's diary The cost of wind, the price of wind, the value of wind, but due to its length, I am posting it as a diary.]

An article in the May issue of The Atlantic makes the case that the mineral neodymium -- "necessary for the lightweight permanent magnets that make Prius motors zoom and for the generators that give wind turbines their electrical buzz" -- may become a bottleneck on wind turbine production. And since "in 2006, nearly all of the world's roughly 137,000-ton supply of rare-earth oxides came from China", according to Irving Mintzer, "a senior adviser to the Potomac Energy Fund who sees shortages stifling clean-tech industry":

"If we don't think this through, we could be trading a troubling dependence on Middle Eastern oil for a troubling dependence on Chinese neodymium."

But I haven't been able to find much about this issue on the web.

Promoted by Nomad

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"Why should a 35-year old banker get a $1M bonus?!"

by marco Wed Apr 8th, 2009 at 03:13:50 AM EST

It had been an unusually long string of days since my father's last outburst while reading the morning newspaper.  (Perhaps that is because the markets had been going up last week, providing a momentary reprieve to seeing his 401k drop 35% over the last six months.)  But an article titled Attacking rich hurts us all in our local paper, the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune, brought the inevitable end to these idyllic mornings.  (In fact, this article was a re-print of the April 2nd Economist's article The rich under attack.)

My father's first reaction was: "I didn't understand it."

"Yes," I replied, knowingly, "it was hard to follow.  But then again, maybe that's because the thesis was wrong to start out with."

Then he started getting up to get ready for work.  But rather than go upstairs, he milled around aimlessly for a few minutes.

"Putting it very simply," he finally said, "a 35-year old banker making a bonus of one million dollars is aberrant."

Oh, shit, I thought.  When he throws out "aberrant", that's when I know he's very perturbed, and teetering on full-on pissed.

Promoted by afew

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LQD: Daughter of U.S.

by marco Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 11:35:49 PM EST

A friend of mine is letting me re-post her latest blog entry, which upon reading I wanted to share here.

Daughter of U.S.

my number is (xxx)600-xxxx, its been raining here so ill probably wait inside the store, but if you give me a call ill come out and meet you.

i have a backpack and turquoise hair :D

- Ari

It wasn't raining anymore when I met Ariel in the parking lot of Trader Joe's. She was wearing a plaid skirt, a worn pair of Doc Martins and slung a banjo across her shoulder. It wasn't hard to recognize her because she was the only person with turquoise hair.

I smiled and waved, she climbed into my car.

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After Democracy

by marco Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:11:14 AM EST

This diary is basically putting two reviews of the same book, Emmanuel Todd's Après la démocratie, side by side, to see how they are similar and how they are different.

I have not read the book, but based on what is described in the two reviews -- a first one in Le Monde followed by one in the Financial Times -- it is a rather surprisingly pessimistic -- and surprisingly (to my mind) reactionary -- assessment of the state of politics and society in Europe.  In particular, Todd apparently emphasizes the socially stabilizing value of religion and calls for protectionist trade barriers.

The superscripted numbers in parentheses in each column indicate phrases that I thought paralleled each other in the two reviews.  Not that you guys had to have these pointed out.  What was perhaps more interesting than the common points was what each review left out from what the other covered.

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Social welfare spending to help the economy

by marco Wed Nov 26th, 2008 at 05:16:39 AM EST

Can government sustain and/or improve the health of the economy by investing in the social welfare of its population such that people will feel secure and confident enough to drive the economy through (a reasonable level of) consumption?

If so, is this a principle that should be applied in general, or only when certain particular economic conditions hold (e.g. when the savings rate is high, when there is current account surplus)?

Recently there have been calls for the Chinese government to make significant investments in social welfare so that Chinese consumers will worry less about hoarding money for education, old age, medical emergencies, and so on, and feel less inhibited to spend their money on unproductive gratification, which will in turn shift the burden for keeping the Chinese economy float from the export sector to domestic consumption.

While there is reason to believe that this formula may help the Chinese economy, does it follow that it would work in the U.S., where investment in social welfare, while not as lacking as in China, could also use some significant shoring up?

promoted by afew

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LQD: NATO as 'convenient threat' for Russia

by marco Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 05:04:29 AM EST

Is NATO dying, as a piece excerpted by nanne in [the other] morning's Salon alleges?

After describing all the problems that plagues the organization and suggesting that euthanasia would be the best way to deal with it, the author, Nick Witney, ruefully concedes that NATO is here to stay for some time more at least, due to Europe's snail-like progress in developing the necessary alternative structures on which to rest the transatlantic security relationship.

Meanwhile, according to one Cathy Young, NATO's supposedly threatening existence towards Russia is actually quite useful for Russia's leadership, which uses it as a convenient "external enemy" to divert the Russian public from their mounting frustrations with their country's stature and living standards.  If so, according to Young's logic, any intiative by Obama to defuse the NATO "threat" towards Russia will, paradoxically, not be welcomed by Moscow, who would then be forced to deal with the true causes of Russia's "inferiority complex toward the West and, in particular, the United States".

promoted with an edit by afew

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LQD: Justifiably proud

by marco Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 02:56:40 AM EST

The markets are battered and job losses are skyrocketing, but even in the midst of a national economic crisis, we should not lose sight of the profound significance of this week and what it tells us about the continuing promise of America.

Voters said no to incompetence and divisiveness and elbowed their way past the blight of racism that has been such a barrier to progress for so long. Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina, for crying out loud.

The nation deserves to take a bow. This is not the same place it used to be.

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LTD: Can all these Joes be wrong II?

by marco Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 01:29:19 AM EST

Following up on Bob's Can All These Joes Be Wrong? diary from last Friday, see below for what two more "Joe the Plumbers" (i.e. self-employed USAns who make roundabouts $250,000 a year in adjusted gross income) had to say about Obama's tax plan when they called into yesterday's broadcast of the radio program On Point with Tom Ashbrook, "Issues `08: Taxes and Spending".

In short, they think that Obama's plan will be good for them and for the country because it will:

  1.  Put money in their customers' pockets.

  2.  Incent* small business owners to invest in their businesses, thereby growing them and creating jobs.

I would be curious to hear thoughts as to whether their ways of looking at it make sense.  Are they deluding themselves with blind optimism?

LTD: "Lazy Transcription Diary"

* Sorry, Izzy!  (^_-)

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The New Reality of Iranian Power

by marco Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 10:55:58 AM EST

What it comes down to is this: Iran is the most powerful and stable country in the Middle East -- a country the United States must either fight in a new thirty-year war or come to terms with.

So writes twenty-year veteran CIA field operative Robert Baer in a new book titled The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.

Last week he had a remarkable interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air in which he argued for a radical reconsideration of Iran as the pre-eminent power in the Middle East that the United States must engage as an "equal partner" -- or else risk debilitating conequences.

Despite its status as the only "real military power" in the Gulf region, Iran does not want war: it wants to secure its position of dominance.

The U.S. needs to acknowledge this new reality and make the necessary drastic changes to do what is best not only for the Middle East, but for itself.

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Making the economic crisis personal: What do you tell family and friends?

by marco Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 08:09:25 AM EST

I've been thinking about my parents more and more over the last few weeks and especially the last several days, but when I read this headline and these paragraphs in the International Herald Tribune yesterday --

The week that dashed baby boomers' dreams

Of all those who watched the swooning graphs of the marketplace describe the parabola of their fortune's decline, perhaps the legions of the baby-boom generation were the most rueful, the least likely to believe they had time to recover, the most likely to ponder the validity of the promise after the Great Depression and World War II that things would only get better. ...

But that assumption began to look questionable - to say the very least - as the crisis began to spill its toxins from the arcane mysteries of high finance into ordinary people's pocketbooks.

By depending so much on stock-based savings, the baby boomers were exposed to the prospect of their golden years being straitened or even canceled: paradise deferred indefinitely.

-- I said, "That's it.  I need to start getting some serious advice and information about what they should be doing with their savings, because things are starting to look more than ugly; they're starting to look scary."

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Dostoyevsky's The Idiot

by marco Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:20:57 AM EST

Lots of things bothered me about Dostoyevsky's novel about a "positively good man" living amidst a decidedly not positively good society.

But -- and perhaps it's just the sheer bulk of the thing, and the way he manages it to keep it together, even as it leaks and groans precariously -- I acknowledge that there is something momentous, even masterful about it.  (Actually, when my first reaction to something -- or someone -- is negative, it very often means I will eventually end up not only liking it, but saluting it.)

Well, I just wrote an informal "review" of the book for my friends, and though it is completely quick and dirty and unedited, and no doubt I will be embarrassed later about some things I write in it, I put it out here for ET in case anyone else has read The Idiot and/or knows a thing or two about Dostoyevsky and his Zeitgeist to correct my own impressions, remind me of points and aspects of the book that I have forgotten or may have escaped my notice in the first place, or simply to share yours about this book, which though I gripe about it, nevertheless has left its mark on me, if only through those characters who broke my frikking heart.

Update [2008-9-10 1:2:54 by marco]: I changed the original title of this diary, as the original one was pointlessly provocative.

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LQD: Could CNG be temporary relief for the current gas crunch?

by marco Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 09:53:38 AM EST

And do people need such relief?

A trash collection service is coming clean.

Waste Management of the Inland Empire has debuted five garbage trucks that run on compressed natural gas, or CNG, which is cleaner-burning than diesel. The trucks will be used in residential Beaumont and Banning.

The trucks are quieter than their diesel counterparts and emit less pollution, company officials said.

Cleaner, greener garbage trucks hit Inland road | Inland News | The Press-Enterprise

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To understand today's China, listen to Hong Huang

by marco Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 07:38:04 PM EST

There's a messenger from province to province who writes it up in beautiful calligraphy, chops it and goes to the village and puts it on the wall and all the people come and read it. And whatever it says, the people have a habit of taking it as the truth. Nobody ever questions what the emperor said.

So given that as a tradition, the state media apparatus has a great responsibility in what they say. Because it is so easy for them to hype up something and that's why the gag rule is because, you know, they're kept on such a short leash because people actually -- unlike in the United States -- believe what they read in newspapers in China. And that's frightening.


We know how to make money in that way but we don't really know how to generate a modern value system so the world will accept us, and that's the problem. And this is the crossroad where we're at right now. We're very practical, we know how to make money, we don't know how to communicate our values to the rest of the world. In fact, we don't even know what our values are. And that's the problem because you need free thinkers. You need people, philosophers to think about these subjects and to be able to publish it and to be able to talk about it. You need a free press that can discuss these subjects. You need to look into our national history, our psyche, the darkest hours, to find what we have to avoid as a people. You know, the way that the Germans have searched their soul, the way that we're pleading and asking the Japanese to do, we have to do the same.

Online News Hour: Magazine Editor Hung Huang (aired May 30, 2008)

I was going to title this "China's Oprah Winfrey on Nationalism", for that is one of the eponyms she is commonly referred to as.  But the extraordinary Hong Huang deserves to be considered on her own merits, and not in relation to someone else.

She is no heroic human rights activist or political leader or artist.  She is basically a very successful fashion media entrepreneur turned mogul turned blogger/Internet celebrity.  But I say "extraordinary", because of all the commentators I have heard on China -- both in the media and in person -- she strikes me as far and away the most insightful, candid and articulate.

I do not agree with everything she says.  In particular, she sometimes makes overstated generalizations.  But overall, what she says resonates very well with my own impressions of China, and if you are not able to come to the country itself, she would serve as a very good "virtual guide" to it.

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Socratic Economics X: Is "compound empowerment" a valid argument for progressive taxation?

by marco Sun Jun 22nd, 2008 at 11:19:19 PM EST

I am not sure if I am allowed to add a diary to the Socratic Economics series at will, but since I have a question and it is about economics, I figured I'd throw it up there.

Some friends and I are having a debate about the moral justification for progressive taxation, as opposed to a flat tax, a consumption tax, and even no taxes.

Personally, while I understand the pragmatic arguments for progressive taxation and on balance am decidedly in favor of it, I have always felt rather ambivalent about its moral justifiability.

The strongest moral argument I find in favor of progressive taxation is that based on compound empowerment.

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LQD: Wikipedia, "a new type of socialism"

by marco Fri Jun 6th, 2008 at 06:07:29 PM EST

... an entire encyclopedia written by unedited amateurs, not to mention ignoramuses, seemed destined to be junk.

Everything I knew about the structure of information convinced me that knowledge would not spontaneously emerge from data, without a lot of energy and intelligence deliberately directed to transforming it. <...>

How wrong I was. ... Both the weakness and virtues of individuals are transformed into common wealth, with a minimum of rules and elites. It turns out that with the right tools it is easier to restore damage text (the revert function on Wikipedia) than to create damage text (vandalism) in the first place, and so the good enough article prospers and continues. With the right tools, it turns out the collaborative community can outpace the same number of ambitious individuals competing.

In his response to the Edge question: "What have you changed your mind about?", Kevin Kelly's remarks have a direct bearing on EuroTrib's current discussions about how to get our message to the wider world, in particular, via an ETpedia.

More provocative -- and debatable -- is what he says about the wider social and political dimensions of Wikipedia's transformative potential as a model for collaboration, productivity, even political organization.  I wonder if he is idealizing how Wikipedia really works by minimizing the amount of oversight and grunt-work that actually gets put in "behind-the-scenes" (despite his implication that Wikipedia eliminated the need for "a laborious process of top-down editing and re-writing" which existed in Wikipedia's antecedent version, Nupedia).

Diary rescue by Migeru

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