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LQD: A Ground's-Eye View of the Sichuan Earthquake

by marco Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:58:55 AM EST

A young American guy I know has been living in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, China, for the past three years and has been blogging about the earthquake from there.  Here is his latest post, "China handles business" (re-printed with his permission):

President Hu Jintao made it to Dujiangyan today and shook hands with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Today I took a ride with a civil engineer and a security and infrastructure assessment expert around the northwest suburbs of Chengdu. We visited Chongzhou, Qingcheng Mountain and the outskirts of Dujiangyan.

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Being Ready With Constructive Alternatives

by marco Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 02:32:31 AM EST

(originally written as a comment in response to the article Fran posted on Britain's energy problems in this morning's Salon).

a very obvious idea, and i am sure it has been considered already in one of the creative jam sessions about how to get our message out more, making EuroTrib a virtual think tank, etc., but just in case...

can we create a section on this site which contains "position papers" on various issues that we often discuss, in language, style and over-all presentation that is aimed at:

  • quickly and crisply informing and persuading the general public about our points of view

  • getting ranked highly on Google

the idea is to have a well-articulated, well-argued, and readily applicable set of "positions" or "views" or "proposals" on various issues that people can find easily online and "seize" if and when the proverbial doo-doo hits the fan with respect to energy, healthcare, global warming, unemployment, etc.

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LQD: The Market-State Cometh

by marco Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 03:34:07 PM EST

-- and it's not the one with Chinese characteristics.

Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles (2002), has a new book out, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century, which Niall Ferguson thinks so highly about that he has "no doubt"

it will be garlanded with prizes. It deserves to be. It is more important that it should be read, marked and inwardly digested by all three of the remaining candidates to succeed George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Ferguson's effusive praise (particularly as it is so prominently positioned in this morning's New York Times "Sunday Book Review") makes it likely that it will get a lot of attention from media talking heads and more significantly from politicians (including, as Ferguson hopes, the U.S. presidential hopefuls).  As such, the book may be worth getting familiar with, in particular since it (at least as characterized by Ferguson and other reviewers) boldly announces and advocates the superseding of the obsolescent "nation state" structure in favor of the new "market state", the use of "preclusionary warfare" against terrorist enemies, the need for a new US-EU, post-Westphalian market-state "G2" pole, and the curtailing of civil liberties in the "epochal war" that Bobbitt asserts the world is embroiled in.

Could Bobbitt's work do for the word neoliberal, even for the word neoconservative, what Ferguson's Empire and Colossus did for the word empire, i.e. resurrect it from stigma to respectability?

Diary rescue by Migeru

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Kowtowing to BOCOG

by marco Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:07:13 AM EST

Putting aside questions about the merits, morality or effectiveness of the positions, tactics, objectives and message of the torch relay demonstrators in London and Paris for the moment, I was pretty disturbed by two things which stank of over-accommodating the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games by the British and the French authorities:

  • those blue tracksuit wearing Chinese "flame attendants" with their secret service sunglasses (in Paris at least) who supposedly had no "executive power" in the UK, but nevertheless seemed to be applying "executive power" to protect the torch in London (could not find much commentary on them in the French press yet)

  • reports of French authorities forcing people to put away or hand over Tibetan flags, anti-Olympic/anti-China signs, etc., while allowing Chinese flags to be waved

Can anybody explain what law or regulation or other legal device justified the role and actions of the blue flame attendants in London and Paris, and the selective banning of flags and other expressions of protest in Paris?

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Tokyo get-together Friday, February 8

by marco Tue Feb 5th, 2008 at 08:18:04 PM EST

Hi, following up on this diary  few weeks ago about a possible "meet-up" in Tokyo, just wanted to give a shout-out to anyone in Japan, in particular the Kanto area, who wants to join me and Zwackus this Friday evening for dinner and chit-chat for the first, albeit modest, EuroTrib meet-up in Japan, and if I am not mistaken Asia.

Tentatively I've proposed the Pink Cow in Shibuya at 7:00 PM.

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Tokyo/Kyoto Meet-up: February 8-9

by marco Fri Jan 18th, 2008 at 08:53:25 AM EST

Any EuroTribbers in Japan these days interested in getting together for a meet-up in early February?

I'll be in Tokyo over winter break from January 28 to February 14, and while planning the trip, I thought it would be worth a shot to see if anyone in Nihon would be up for going to an izakaya or somewhere to chat over nabe, unagi, sukiyaki and/or a few cups of nihonshu.

After February 3, I'm pretty open on possible dates, but since I figured a Friday and/or Saturday would be most likely to work for most people, I'm throwing out February 8-9 as a first suggestion.

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Ta-DAH!, Aha!, water, ice, flossing, and entropy

by marco Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 08:00:24 AM EST

Traipsing through Metaphysics of the coming age, I stumbled out onto a comment I wrote just over a year ago under "Edge of Chaos" Economy, which comment I found somehow complementary to Gaianne's diary as it talks about cognitive breakthroughs that transform the way we experience and understand reality.

My comment was in response to ATinNM, who wrote:

To PN a bit, "spontaneous" in regards to information emergence is based on aquired knowledge assembled, with greater or lesser degrees of coherence, into varying structures.  Under certain circumstances and triggers these structures shift in a Accomodation [see Piaget, et.al.] forming new knowledge structures (or patterns) -- a kind of Ta-DAH! -- during which information is re-associated, accepted, and Something New pops out.

There are different degrees of 'Ta-DAHness' affecting the entity in different ways.  At the most extreme, a conversion, the process results in a profound cognitive/pyschological shift.

Along these lines, the following actually happened to someone I knew:  After serious dental surgery she was groggily coming out from the anathesia when her dentist leaned over and told her, "You know, flossing is the answer."  For several days after she was a real pain in the ass as she kept walking up to her friends, looking them straight in the eye, and in total dedication saying, "You know.  FLOSSING is THE answer."  She was, for those few days, a Born Again Flossist.  Fortunately, she soon snapped back into reality where flossing only had import in dental hygiene not a metaphysical certainty.

Finals season starts tomorrow, so I need to check out for a couple of weeks, but below fold is the parting dollop of woo-woo.

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Bonding through a song and a flower

by marco Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:49:16 AM EST

So yesterday we had a pretty interesting day in conversation class (I am studying Mandarin at the International College of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China with foreign students from all over the world.)

The chapter we were studying was "Talking about China", and the vocabulary list included words like "nationality", "population", "capital", "flag", "national anthem", "national flower", etc.

The teacher asked each of us to give a short presentation about our respective countries using words from the chapter (or, if we preferred, about one of two previous themes we had been asked to prepare: what we did last weekend, or some news item we read or heard.)

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Roots of urban violence in French banlieues

by marco Mon Dec 17th, 2007 at 05:34:57 AM EST

In Sunday's Le Monde there was an interview with veteran priest and activist Christian Delorme, titled "Thirty Years of Despair in the Banlieue".

He said things in there that really struck me, not least for the forthrightness with which he said them.

Among them:

  • he blames racism and unemployment matter of factly as the roots of current discontent and violence in the banlieue

  • he wonders at the lack of discussion about the disproportionate chronic unemployment among banlieue youth.

  • he asserts that French people have not lost their "colonial schemas" that "undervalue" North Africans and blacks.

  • he singles out France as the only European country that uses ethnic profiling to control young people on a mass scale.

  • he recommends that France apologize for its "colonial crimes" in order to improve the "social peace".

Doth he protest too much?  If not, then how representative is his take on this issue?  And how can this situation be ameliorated?

Paul Krugman concludes a column he wrote recently:

... we [in the U.S.] should be able to discuss the role of race in American politics honestly. We shouldn't avert our gaze because we're unwilling to tarnish Ronald Reagan's image.

I think his piece is a little too optimistic in its assessment that "we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time" and that as far as campaign politics go, "America has changed for the better" (we have, but we still have a LONG way to go).  Nevertheless, I am glad that he raised the issue so squarely, and I felt the same thing reading this Delorme interview.

(Incidentally, are there any figures on the frequency and severity of these uprisings and/or crime in the banlieues over the years, and if so, do we see a drop in them during the "emploies-jeunes" & "police de proximité" period under Lionel Jospin?)

Translated portions of the interview (below fold) originally posted as comment in Sunday's Salon, but afew was right that a diary is a much better forum to get feedback in.

Promoted by Migeru

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McKinsey report: GHG reductions achievable with "coordinated" action

by marco Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 08:33:12 AM EST

McKinsey & Company has come out with a report (PDF) on a project started early in 2007 to look at different options on how to "reduce or prevent [greenhouse gas] emissions within the United States over a 25-year period".  Their "CENTRAL CONCLUSION" is:

The United States could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons of CO2e using tested approaches and high-potential emerging technologies.1  These reductions would involve pursuing a wide array of abatement options available at marginal costs less than $50 per ton, with the average net cost to the economy being far lower if the nation can capture sizable gains from energy efficiency.  Achieving these reductions at the lowest cost to the economy, however, will require strong, coordinated, economy-wide action that begins in the near future.

1 CO2e, or "carbon dioxide equivalent", is a standardized measure of GHG emissions designed to account for the differeing global warming potentials of GHGs.  Emissions are measured in metric tons CO2eper year, i.e. millions of tons (megatons) or billions of tons (gigatons).  All emissions values in this report are per-year CO2e amounts, unless specifically noted otherwise.  To be consistent with U.S. government forecasts, the team used the 100-year global warming potentials listed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Second Assessment Report (1995).

I am not able to comment on the analysis of the growing emissions problem nor of what they call "abatement potentials".  However, it struck me that such a report from McKinsey, management consulting firm par excellence, and treated with some attention and sympathy in the media, might signal a new level of acceptance of concern and engagement by major corporate players.  Indeed, the almost simultaneous publishing of this report and that of the The Bali Communiqué (see below), reinforced this impression.

Promoted with slight edit by afew

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Anyone attending "Beyond GDP"?

by marco Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 03:42:58 AM EST

GDP is the best-recognised measure of economic performance in the world, often used as a generic indicator of progress. However, the relationship between economic growth as measured by GDP and other dimensions of societal progress is not straightforward. Effectively measuring progress, wealth and well-being requires indices that are as clear and appealing as GDP but more inclusive than GDP--ones that incorporate social and environmental issues. This is especially important given global challenges such as climate change, global poverty, pressure on resources and their potential impact on societies.

Is anyone already slated to attend the conference "Beyond GDP" in Brussels on November 19-20, co-hosted by the European Commission, European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD and the World Wildlife Fund?

[editor's note, by Migeru] Some content moved below the fold for the front page

Registration is closed, but it is still possible to make a Late Registration Request.

Promoted by Migeru

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Warren Buffett makes a bet.

by marco Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 05:05:29 AM EST

This is a lazy quote diary spun off from an article Fran posted in yesterday's Salon.

The plutocrats supposedly running the show at NBC's Office for Manufacturing Consent must have forgotten to give former anchor Tom Brokaw an injection of neoliberal truthiness serum before his interview with billionaire investor American heartland poster boy Warren Buffett for a piece on NBC Nightly News Monday, in which he gives Buffett a high profile forum and helps him to criticize tax policies that favor the rich, supply side economics (implicitly), hedge fund lobbyists, estate taxes, and golden handshakes.

Money quote:

Tom: Will you put some money on the table on this one?

Warren: What--

Tom: You said-- you said you'd pay a million dollars to somebody.

Warren: I'll-- I'll bet-- I'll bet a million dollars against any member of the Forbes 400 who challenges-- me that the average [tax rate] for the Forbes 400 will be less than the average of their receptionists. So, I'm-- I'm-- I'm-- I'll give 'em an 800 number. They can call me. And the million will go to whichever charity the winner-- designates.

I would be curious to read what people here think of his comments on a "progressive consumption tax" as a form of tax that "makes the most sense".

Promoted by Migeru

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Rumsfeld snowflakes: echoes of Göring?

by marco Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 01:01:55 AM EST

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

Also sprach second in command of the Nazi Third Reich and commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring in a private interview with Gustave Gilbert during the his trial in Nuremberg, as excerpted by Snopes.com from Gilbert's Nuremberg Diary.

Now we have a recent exemplar of sorts of this kind of political thinking, brought to you by the Washington Post in an article about how former U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld issued 20 to 60 dictated memos, nicknamed "snowflakes", every day as a central part of his work.

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Regional vs. National vs. International Law

by marco Tue Oct 9th, 2007 at 12:36:22 AM EST

When a regional government within a country acts in a manner that is deemed by an international court to have violated international law, who has the authority to compel the regional government to comply with the international court's decision?

That is the issue being played out right now in the case of Medellin v. Texas, in which the U.S. federal government (i.e. President Bush) has ordered Texas state courts to review the case of a Mexican national, José Medellin, whose conviction for the rape and murder of two 14- and 16-year old girls was deemed in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by the the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  (Basically, Texas authorities failed to let Medellin know that he had a right under the Vienna Convention to contact the Mexican Consulate for legal assistance.)

The Texas courts rejected Bush's order, claiming that Bush was out of his jurisdiction, so Medellin appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case will be argued tomorrow, and

could affect the treatment of an estimated 6,000 U.S. citizens accused of crimes each year while traveling or living abroad. They, too, are protected by the treaty.

More significantly to most Americans, though, the justices are expected to produce a major ruling clarifying what powers reside with the president, Congress and courts, what powers belong to the federal government versus the states, and what the relationship is between international and domestic law.

Murder case pits Texas against Bush

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El-Baradei deal behind Kouchner's martial words on Iran?

by marco Tue Sep 18th, 2007 at 10:21:26 AM EST

I was rattled by news Fran pointed to in [yesterday]'s Salon regarding France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner statements about Iran:

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner says the world should prepare for war over Iran's nuclear programme.

"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," Mr Kouchner said in an interview on French TV and radio.

from the diaries, with a small format edit. I have posted Kouchner's 'clarifications' today in Le Monde in the comments below. -- Jérôme

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Viewing Leonardo's Annunciazione in Tokyo

by marco Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:54:11 AM EST

I thought the ET crowd might enjoy a light web-comic interlude my brother put together for Tokyo Art Beat ("TAB"), "Tokyo's art & design events calendar".

Jun, my brother, was tasked with visiting the The Mind of Leonardo -- The Universal Genius at Work exposition at the Tokyo National Museum, featuring Leonardo's famous painting, the Annunciation (which exposition had caused quite a fuss in Italy) and reported on it for Tokyo Art Beat's TABlog.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Jérôme opens eyes about French election on Radio Open Source

by marco Sat May 5th, 2007 at 04:58:44 AM EST

Christopher Lydon: And you dig around, and there's a lot of suspicion of Ms. Royal as a sort of nanny state Socialist, but even more so of Sarkozy as a xenophobic, right-wing, capitalistic, cold sort of danger.  Why is he winning?

Jérôme:  [sighs]  Beats me.

Actually, Jérôme does immediately follow up with an exact proximate reason (provided for us as well by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer), and spends much of this Radio Open Source interview explaining the more complex and deeper reasons behind that proximate reason.

I was so amazed by the amount of information he was able to convey in that interview -- with specific data, precision, clarity, concision, and audible conviction -- that I transcribed as much as I could for easier excerpting or dissemination.

You can listen to the whole interview at Radio Open Source's website:

France: The Sarko vs. Ségo Prism

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Record number of new businesses in France

by marco Sat May 5th, 2007 at 01:03:35 AM EST

This flies in the face of tons of anecdotal evidence I have heard or read that starting a business in France is a royal pain in the ass.  Out of five French people I know who have started and run their own (small) businesses in France, only one did not complain about how difficult and exasperating an endeavor it was/is.  And yet, as with youth unemployment, the statistics seem to belie the personal tales of woe:

Historic record of new business creation in France

After an increase of 2.6% in march, the number of businesses created in France since last year has reached 294,621. <...>

The number of new businesses broke a new record last month.  The strong growth recorded last month led to a total of 26,752 new businesses in March 2007, and a cumulative number of 294,621 new businesses over the twelve previous months, according to a statement by Renault Dutreil, minister for the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Commerce, Artisans, and Liberal Professions.

Indeed, the INSEE [French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies] in its last publication announced that the number of new businesses in March 2007 was 2.6% higher compared to February 2007, while the number of new businesses in the first trimester of 2007 went up by 11.1% compared to the first trimester of 2006.

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Racism in French employment

by marco Mon Apr 30th, 2007 at 08:27:29 AM EST

I originally wrote this as a response to redstar's comment in Macroeconomics 101:

... certain elements of the "left" would do well not to dismiss the need for all to have gainful occupations. There are few sources for discontent more effective than unemployed and underemployed citizens who have no stake in the collective successes of the world they live in other than being given a dole to sit on their asses and watch Formule 1 in their HLM or play cards in the square and shut up.

And yet, you will often find some on the left who continue to insist there's no problem with employment, and in particular, youth employment, in parts of Europe like France.  (And young are a bit more active than the mean, so playing cards and watch motorsports is not necessarily going to work for them.)

Origin of one's ancestors playing virtually no role in this, of course, in any objective manner, but this doesn't explain the phenomenon. Leaving this state of affairs, where minorities are vastly overrepresented in dole lines and housing estates, in place for what is now entering a third decade sure makes it easier for the usual suspects to make their case.

Why? Because what you have is a blatant social fracture with an obvious, though purely coincidental, racial component.

Aside from one sentence which I am not sure I understood correctly (Origin of one's ancestors playing virtually no role in this, of course, in any objective manner: see the last two articles cited below the fold), what redstar writes articulates a big concern I have about France, but a concern that so far has been based only sparse, personal interactions and conversations I have with French, plus what I can get from the mainstream media, which this forum has conditioned me into being very highly skeptical of.

Since the topic is pretty orthogonal to the main topic of that diary, I decided to break this out into its own diary.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Coopting Consumerism for Solijarity

by marco Wed Mar 28th, 2007 at 07:51:39 AM EST

(Hot on the heels of Shopping is a mind bender....)

As first world consumers, we have tremendous power.  What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of life and history on this planet.

That is the second clause of The (Red)TM Manifesto.

The current issue of World Business caught my eye with an article byline: "How to save the world and make money doing it", or something like that (the byline is not in the online version.)

The article, "The colour of money", is about the (Red) campaign for The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The (Red)TM Manifesto continues:

If you buy a (Red) product or sign up for a (Red) service, at no cost to you, a (Red) company will give some of its profits to buy and distribute anti-retroviral medicine to our brothers and sisters dying of AIDS in Africa.

We believe that when consumers are offered this choice, and the products meet their needs, they will choose (Red).  And when they chosse (Red) over non-(Red), then more brands will choose to become (Red) because it will make good business sense to do so.  And more lives will be saved.

(Red) is not a charity.  It is simply a business model.  You buy (Red) stuff, we get the money, buy the pills and distribute them.  They take the pills, stay alive, and continue to take care of their families and contribute socially and economically in their communities.

I am glad that someone with the clout, connections and visibility of (Red) founders Bono and Bobby Shriver ("member of the Kennedy clan and brother-in-law of Arnold Schwarzenegger"), is putting this idea to the test.

Fom the diaries - whataboutbob

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