Saturday, October 27, 2007

Funny Chinese Knock-Offs

Chinese Entrepreneurs are known for coming up with bizarre imitations of Western brands. The Starbucks sign below is typical. A blogger named "Berimbauone" has a good collection here: And Your Point is ... ?: Funny Chinese Knock-Offs - UPDATE

35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie

Science and Public Policy Institute - 35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie is worth a look.
I don't have the time or the educational background to make an informed decision about all 35 points made here. I'm reasonably sure that "The Science and Public Policy Institute" is a think tank funded by business interests threatened by Gore's Science Project.
But I, too, can make prophecies, just like Saint Albert The Goracle of Music City Tennessee.
Here's my prophecy: "An Inconvenient Truth" will be seriously debated for another decade, but the giggling level will begin overwhelming the debate in about five years. In 20 years it will be shown with midnight screenings of "Reefer Madness".
For previous prophecies on The Eschatology of Saint Albert, follow the links backward from here.
(If you'd told me two months ago that Al Gore would be my #1 blog topic, I'd have said you're nuts. I think I need counseling to get over this guy.)
Everyone have a great weekend, especially the surprisingly regular readers in California, Ohio, and England. Yes, England. (I love my Stat Counter ! ! !)

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Plethora of Political Plots

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who know that there are actually four kinds of people in the world. Michael Kinsley can be found here, doing his best to explain the difference between Republicans, Democrats Progressives, (how movement toward Feudalism can be called "Progressive" eludes me) Libertarians, and a new breed that he calls Communitarians.

Howard Fineman attempts another definition of Libertarians and makes some of the same points about independent voters in Newsweek; click for his article about Libertarian Ron Paul.

Both articles tie in well with three political tests that I've linked to in this post....The World's Smallest Political Quiz has been around for a while. See the grid above. It's a handy device for measuring where a person's political beliefs fit on a liberal/conservative vs. statist/libertarian map. This quiz has a lot of critics, and I agree with the critics...The questions are biased in favor of the Libertarian quadrant, in order to make test takers realize the error of anything other than a Libertarian worldview. The thing takes about 30 seconds to take and is worth the effort, since, as Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living...."

For further clarification, you can take a survey called The Political Compass. The main novelty of this one is the definition of terms - "conservative" and "liberal" are used in the European sense. That is, a liberal is someone who is willing to leave everyone else alone, and can be in the same room with someone who disagrees with him....Also, Libertarians are directly contrasted with Authoritarians, not Communitarians (Kinsley's term) or Statists (The World's Smallest Political Quiz's term). Notice that in the example below, by the standards of The Political Compass, there are almost no Liberals running for office this year.

Also, readers of earlier Whited Sepulchre posts will be delighted to see that, according to this chart, the location of Tom Tancredo's head hasn't changed.

Let me burden you with one more. This one is called The Moral Matrix, and instead of fitting you onto a strictly political grid, they try to get you to understand "why you think what you think". This test asks how much control you would exert over the economic order and the moral order.

All of these articles and tests over-simplify the emotional, environmental, moral, (and maybe
even hereditary?) elements that come into play when someone is in a political discussion, or even the fraction of a second spent in a voting booth.

They're fun to take, though, and will help give you perspective on one of life's annoying questions....How can the 75% of the nation who disagree with you be so wrong?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Iraq photos

Here are more pictures from Robert Crump in Iraq, standing outside and inside Saddam's "Hands of Victory" arch.

The Infamous Chinese Dog Story

My History Professor brother emailed asking for a copy of what you see below. He wants to use this story in a lecture about "saving face". It's an email I sent from China about two years ago, and I've only slightly modified it to explain who's who, and I've changed a few names.

I was doing Quality Control in a factory in Xiamen, China at the time this was written. I'll eventually post another old email explaining about the washer/dryer wanting some Peking Duck. That's all you need to know to appreciate the following:

Hello All,

Am writing this Sunday afternoon at the apartment. The Internet is down, but I now have a DVD/CD player. Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” is playing. Life is good. The washer/dryer refuses to release one load of T-shirts and socks. It either wants a love offering of Peking duck, or feels that my clothes are really nasty.

I’ve seen a traffic fatality every trip to China.

Friday night’s traffic event was also memorable…. Walter (Quality Control) got very irritated with me when I asked about it again Saturday night, because the situation made Mr. Chen “Lose Face”. Karen (Sales) thought the whole thing was hilarious. Or maybe she’s a good salesperson, and always empathizes with the customer. Or maybe she’s descended from my Notoriously Disrespectful Fujian Province Ancestors, who were nearly wiped out during the Ming dynasty for circulating scrolls and tablets comparing the Emperor to a Countryside Eunuch.

Friday night, we’re driving back into town, and Mr. Chen is going about 90 in a 50 zone. A huge wild dog crosses the highway. Chen can’t turn left (there’s a truck in that lane) and he can’t turn right (pedestrians). So he grits his teeth and slams into the dog, hits him with the middle of the front bumper. We were flying, and so was the dog, and I’m sure the dog died instantly, but it was horrific.

There was total silence inside the car for at least a minute. Gou (Chinese word for dog) was all over the bumper and grill, and was working it’s way up the hood. Karen was in the back seat, and didn’t say a word. To mention the accident would make Mr. Chen Lose Face in front of #1 customer. Walter was equally silent, for the same reason. Mr. Chen can’t even turn on the windshield wipers to remove what used to be a Gou, because there’s a customer and two employees in the car (The “saving face” and “losing face” thing is beyond me. These are very proud, status-conscious people.)

At this point, I’m already thinking of how to write this situation down so that one day somebody will believe it. (Remember the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where John Travolta accidentally blows Marvin’s head off inside the car, and Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson totally freak out? I think most of us felt like that on the inside, but had to maintain a polite, Presbyterian/Buddhist silence on the outside.)

Small portions of The Former Chinese dog are starting to creep down the passenger side window. Everybody’s staring straight ahead, ignoring “The Elephant In The Living Room”, so to speak. Another 30 seconds of total silence. Nobody’s even breathing. Mr. Chen is embarrassed beyond belief. Chen hasn’t slowed down at all, and he’s got a Gou hood ornament.

My last resort in this situation is to make a bad joke.

I take a deep breath, and for the benefit of the English As A Second Language people in the back seat, I say “I….HOPE….THE….DOG…IS….OK.” (we all speak to each other in loud capital letters)

There’s still total silence. You could almost hear crickets chirping. Nobody says a word. Face is being saved. Nobody says much of anything till I’m back at the apartment, and they definitely don’t mention The Gou.

The next morning, Walter, who is a good kid but a little dim, pulls me aside and says “Aaron, we could not say anything in front of Mr Chen, since he is factory owner. You ask if dog was ok. I’m very sorry, Aaron…..but…. I…. think….. the…. dog…. died.”

All details of this can be verified with Karen. As most of you know, you can’t make this stuff up.
Keep them cards and letters coming !

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where Right, Left and Center Agree - Free Trade

An Economics professor from George Mason University explains why free trade brings the greatest benefit to the greatest number....

Daniel B. Klein: Where Left, Right, and Center Agree

He's basically saying the same thing that I said here, but doesn't get as worked up about it.

Here's a sampling from his article....
Today, the extent of the market is vast. That's one reason why humanity is better off than in the past. People in China are part of a great chain of beings, a chain that works to make stuff for humanity. Humanity would be happier still if the market were free of protective duties and quotas.
Economists don't agree on much. But almost all economists favor freedom of trade. It is an exceptional consensus in economic opinion.
However, "the man in the street" is less supportive of free trade. That's because he hasn't thought through the ways in which Americans benefit by foreign efforts, and how buying from foreigners is connected to their buying from Americans. Opposing trade with China is like opposing trade with Ohio.

But I'm still deeply disturbed that Starbucks won't let me transport any of their coffee. They apparently use shipping companies with lower rates than mine, despite the amount I spend with them every morning of my life.
Therefore as of today, October 24th 2007, I've modified my current trade agreement with Starbucks:

  1. Quotas are now in place. Starbucks will only receive 50% of my Double-Espresso business unless they allow me to transport some loads for them. It's only fair. The only other way they can have a quota increase is to assure me that I'm purchasing coffee that is grown, processed, packaged, and poured in Fort Worth, Texas. Except for the pouring, none of those other industries currently exist in Fort Worth because of unfair foreign competition and a mythical concept called "natural advantage". (It's just some Voodoo Economics concept about the weather.) But I'm prepared to hold out in the name of justice.
  2. I will be lobbying Congress to put a 20% protective tariff on all coffee imported into Fort Worth. This will protect Fort Worth jobs in the infant Fort Worth coffee industry. Granted, these jobs don't exist yet but look what protection did for the infant sugar industry, starting back when Thomas Freakin' Jefferson was President (and our infant sugar industry is still protected). If we as a nation can overpay for sugar every year by $400,000 per job saved, we can attempt the same for Fort Worth coffee. Starbucks must now "Think Globally, Grow Locally".
  3. I am proposing that we model our remaining "Globally Sourced" coffee quotas on the regulations that are now in place for cotton. A precise quota will be allowed into Starbucks from each nation that currently allows me to haul freight for them. At this point, the number of eligible nations is....One. But to protect my infant shipping industry in additional nations and to encourage them to allow entry to my business, I am requiring Starbucks to bring in 2% of their coffee from each of the following countries: Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Lichtenstein, Canada, and The Vatican. The current Starbucks practice of limiting their coffee purchases to Equatorial regions isn't just unfair, it's racist. And if we can require the Asians to frantically move their fabric businesses around to whichever nation has some quota left at the end of the year, then the Latin Americans and their buddies in Ethiopia can do the same.

Administering this program will require a swarm of regulators and inspectors to appear every time a Fort Worth Starbucks receives a shipment of coffee. These inspectors will be paid by tax increases, since I'm not about to pay more than $2.00 for a Double Espresso. Plus, I'm the one who has to pay drivers and buy diesel. It will be like the current cozy relationship between ethanol tariffs and Archer Daniels Midland.

Think of it as jobs saved.

I'm waiting by the computer to receive the praise and gratitude of a grateful nation. And Lou Dobbs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Signs of The End Times

Click HERE to see the latest sign that The Apocalypse Is Upon Us.... If this is true, is there hope for humanity?

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
-William Butler Yeats

Photo compliments of Citizen Arcane

Fire in California, Water in Lousiana, Schwarzenegger, and Blanco

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings has a post making unfavorable comparisons between the disaster control effort in New Orleans with the current disaster control effort in California. She also makes some unfavorable comparisons to the situation that developed in the Super Dome with the current one at Qualcomm Stadium. You'll have to dig around the links (hit the one for wringing his hands - it's worth it) to find unfavorable comparisons between Louisiana's Governor Blanco and Schwarzenegger.

These are totally different disasters, but the contrast is stark.

Anyone digging around in there will also make unfavorable conclusions between Laura's site and this one. Lordy, this lady is good at what she does. I disagree with some of her positions, but everything she writes is linked to almost every possible source that's out there. It's a fun site to click around in.
The picture below is from the L.A. Times. The first comments currently posted below their article link the tragedy to 1) Global Warming, and 2) Greedy developers.
Yeah. Right.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Political Correctness in China

An example of Chinese Political Correctness. They sometimes try so hard, and mess it up so bad.

This picture is compliments of Grouchy Old Cripple, a blogger in Atlanta who makes me sound like an NPR disk jockey.

The Samizdata website has been running a "quote of the day" almost since it came into existence. Reading them all at once is like too much candy, but try a few anyway.
"Samizdata" is a reference to the secret publishing of banned literature in the U.S.S.R. These people are beyond brilliant. Plus, they make me look like a Socialist.
Slogans/quotations Archives

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Extraordinary Rendition, Part 2

Sunday Forum: Two problems with torture
This is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and ties in somewhat with my previous post on torture. Worth Reading. The author, Stuart Herrington, is a retired Army Colonel and interrogation expert.
He doesn't have to tie his argument to any movie plots (see link to previous post) or Harvard professors.

Bad Traffic, In Perspective

This is what Robert Crump, one of our new employees, had to drive through in Iraq. This gives a new perspective to all the problems we have with Central Expressway, 635, the Fort Worth Mixmaster, or South Hulen.

Blessing of The Bikes

My friend David Mallette captured the front page of the early Sunday Star-Telegram, and was front page of the travel section in the regular Sunday section. He wrote a great article about motorcyle road trips around the Fort Worth area - St. Jo, Marble Falls, and all over Arkansas. 10/21/2007 Heaven on wheels
The link above has complete info on the best routes, best places to eat, and which spots are biker friendly.
David is the only person I know who would talk a security guard into allowing motorcyles onto a pedestrian walkway so he could get the perfect picture of Christ of The Ozarks blessing his bike. I'm sure that David is a great person to ride with, in spite of his fear of slippery slopes.