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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Still Not Ready For Prime Time....

These are stunningly stupid comments from Liu Jianchao, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday told the U.S. government not to interfere with a Chinese-controlled company's bid to buy a California energy giant, triggering objections from American officials and lawmakers who oppose the deal.
Saying things like this can have the exact opposite effect to what was intended. I wonder if he was just born stupid or learned how to be a dope on-the-job. His bone headed comments have raised the ire of several law makers who will probably make it more difficult for CNOOC to take over Unocal since he has now made the Unocal bid an issue of sovereignty. Particularly if...
"The affairs of the United States government should be left to the United States," said Patrick A. Mulloy, a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a federal panel that monitors the economic relations between the two countries and has been critical of CNOOC's offer for Unocal.
"If we have a statute on the books, [is the Chinese Foreign Ministry] telling us not to enforce it?" Mr. Mulloy said.
The clowns in Beijing who are surrounded by yesmen and sycophants just don't know how to behave publicly. And maybe they should heed Zhou Enlai words "Violating any country's territorial integrity and sovereignty and interfering in any country's internal affairs cannot but endanger peace."

Power Shortages In China Looming...

Power demand has reached utility's limits to produce as reported in the The Standard today.
Many cities across China face power shortfalls as booming industries compete with rising electricity consumption by millions of air-conditioners. A shortage of coal used to fuel power plants has added to the problem.
Someone said to me this past weekend that the 3 Rivers Gorge dam project will alleviate some of the power shortages in China. But this has to be put into perspective. The massive 3 Rivers Gorge power project will produce 18,000 megawatts of power but this is just a drop in the bucket relative to the installed capacity of 450,000 megawatts that China now has.

The stridently anti-American Asia Times Online has an interesting article on power generation in China, here. They assert that China is planning plenty of new power plants and that capacity should be sufficient by the end of this decade. But with large shortfalls in coal production that I wrote about before, I doubt that all the power shortage problems will have been solved.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Guess Its Time To Weigh In On The Unocal/CNOOC Bid...

I have no problem with people or even Congressional Representatives asking the question if a takeover by a foreign entity of a large US based company is in the best interests of the United States. It is a Congressman's job to ask these questions. I don't have a problem with airing out the question in the press, blogs or other medium. We live in a free society and these things should be discussed.

I don't think that there is question of national security involved for the USA. China also has the option of bidding up the price of oil with long-term contracts if they so choose instead of buying an oil company. In either case, prices rise or supply is constrained. Cynics may argue that they will divert oil. Maybe they will but why would they? Price is price and they too want to buy oil at the cheapest prices possible.

Some may argue that the Chinese government is subsidizing the transaction and therefore its unfair. So they are giving benefit to who? To CNOOC so that they can pay investors a higher price? Great for the investors, they will deploy their new assets in new productive investments and a rising tide raises all boats.

I think that maybe the reason that China, from a public policy perspective, is looking to add assets from overseas companies isn't that they are trying to deploy US dollar reserves into more productive investments, but that there is something that they need that they currently don't have.

What I think what they are looking for isn't distribution as Paul Krugman so cynically offered in his piece several days ago [I will deal with his us against them comments in another post] but in something somewhat more nebulous. I argue that Chinese companies need to gain experience and expertise and by adding Unocal to their portfolio, they are picking up 10's of thousands of highly experienced individuals with a depth of knowledge of the oil and gas business that they would not be able to develop at home. CNOOC will gain abilities and Unocal will gain access to China and other places where development is needed and the combination of the two may have benefits beyond just the monetary. The rapidly growing Chinese economy has hidden may internal ills and when the growth starts to moderate, the inefficiencies take a heavier toll. The Chinese are smart enough to know that they cannot go it totally on their own.

The closer the integration between the US and Chinese economy or in this case, between China and the world, the less likely is there to be destructive conflicts. I look at this type of marriage as being one of positive national interest for all parties.

Update: I should disclose that I am a CNOOC shareholder.

It speaks for itself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Its About Time For The Regulation Of Nail Salons....

Abdul calls for tougher regulations for nail salons. Yes, everything should be regulated in California otherwise, this could be the result, yuck.

Now, a lot of the nail salon workers in New York are from Russia or other Eastern European countries, so all they all sound like Dracula's sisters, so its kind of a creepy place to go.

Remember Madge from the Palmolive commercial. Maybe there is a mad Madge out there soaking people's hands in flesh eating fungus soup. Or maybe Abdul's hands were being soaked in virus laden poo. Maybe Abdul is a really a frog. But all of this is disgusting.

CE Donald Tsang Is Not a Leader.....

As I suspected, he is a follower or a lap-dog...
Insisting that the official polls accurately reflect popular sentiment, Tsang said: ''My governance platform will be based on the poll results, same as my priorities.''
CEDT: And, please, also help me decide what I should eat for lunch....

____ Fried noodles
____ Wonton noodle soup

Remember CEDT, you can please some of the people all of the time, please all the people some of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time!

Also, he won't work on universal suffrage for the Hong Kong people. Putz.

In The Anti-matter World......

What most Democrats THOUGHT that they heard GWB say in the last State of the Union address.

My son looking handsome for Father's Day. Wearing the same kind of flowered shirts that i prefer.

My lovely little daughter enjoying Father's Day ice cream.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fake Id's Really Work.....

See it here.

Big Risk, Shortages Of Power....

One of the biggest risks facing China over the next decade on the economic front is a shortage of energy or the intervention of government to allocate energy supplies by fiat. If enough energy cannot be produced to power the plants and meet growing demand from consumers, how will the Chinese economic miracle continue?
Many Chinese still remember the massive brownouts last summer, when 22 provinces, two-thirds of the nation, suffered from power shortages.

The situation could be much worse this year. Twenty-four provinces, including some in China's better-developed Southeast, are expected to suffer from power shortages.
Additionally, as I have argued before, here and here, China's economic growth does not take into account the unmeasured costs of pollution on the health and lower productivity of labor.
A recent study indicated losses caused by power generation, mainly coal-fired, have cost China nearly 8 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) per year since the late 1970s. That would be almost the equivalent of the country's GDP growth.
But I digress, so how does China solve the problem's facing them on the energy front?
China's energy industry regulator, the Energy Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), may soon be abolished for failing to solve massive power shortages across the country.

But analysts say the agency, an office of around 20 people in the cabinet-level NDRC, was never given enough power to solve the country's energy problems in the first place.
Seems like steps are being taken but the top down solution of old Marxist allocation of resources will ultimately fail. Also, it looks like its getting to fingerpointing and laying the blame time.
"China's always going to go for bureaucratic solutions rather than free-market solutions, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise," Sam Dale, Singapore bureau chief of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, told RFA.

"China has been blindsided by its voracious energy demand over the last three years, and I guess it's only human nature to look for someone to blame,"
This style of management leads me to think that there will be more problems down the road. Energy will probably be diverted from residential use to industrial use and certain industries that are either politically well connected or figure into China's leaders long-term strategic plans will have first call on power. Rationing will have to have some kind of rationality to it. And the potential for severe shortages are very real.
Based on China's current coal production plans and decrease of producing capacity of existing coal mines, officials said the country's coal supply would be at least 100 million tons short of demand by 2010, and the shortage would jump to 600 million tons by 2020.
Furthermore, foreign buyers of goods may find that delays due to power shortages or higher costs may slow down the investment in troubled regions of China and change the calculus of investing there.

This scenario is neither good for China nor those that they do business with. The US relies upon China as a source of cheap goods. Bottlenecks in production may cause inflation and ultimately a drop in aggregate demand from the engine of global consumption, the US, leading to slower world-wide economic growth.

This Has Been a Tough Couple Of Days For Winnie-the-Pooh Fans...

John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet dies and so does Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger. Winchell was also an amatuer inventor and patented an artificial human heart.
The most wonderful thing about Tiggers,
is Tiggers are wonderful things.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
their bottoms are made out of springs.
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy,
Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is,
I'm the only one.
Oh, III'm the only one!

Hong Kong Movie Industry In Trouble....

The China Daily laments the decline of the Hong Kong movie industry. Furthermore, Korea, whose industry has pumped out several very popular series is going through a revitalization that includes a series on....horrors...something that Chinese people should have been able to do much better!
many Hong Kong citizens have been mesmerized by the popular Korean TV serial drama Da Qiangjin, which depicts the professional development of a woman practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the background of the Korean imperial court. Given that all the elements in the screenplay are present in Chinese history, perhaps even richer and more colourful, and that Hong Kong is supposed to be the de facto leader of movie making in this region, many of us just wonder why it has to be a Korean production,
So, of course China Daily's solution to the problem? Government subsidies. So that would ensure that wildly lame media output is the result.

But the real problem with the Hong Kong film industry is that there is no way to to meld filmmaking with the only thing that Hong Kong can do well, and that is property development! A flat in the Jackie Chan Gardens, the Bruce Lee Mansions or the John Woo Towers should trade at HK$15,000 a square foot.

Now I Can Sleep Better At Night....

I already knew this...like the one from the North, Glinda.

This Day In History.....

1844 Mormon founder Joseph Smith was slain by a mob at a jail in Carthage, Ill.
1893 The Panic of 1893 began as the value of the U.S. silver dollar fell to less than 60 cents in gold.

Interesting that at a dinner party last night, a friend of mine was talking about Mormons. I have traveled all around the globe and have, per-chance, met some of the missionaries in various spots. I met a bunch on their way out to play football in a park on the tram in Budapest. I also asked a couple to help me find my way when I was hopelessly lost driving around in Costa Rica. I also met Orrin Hatch who is a buddy of my father since they attended high school together in Western Pennsylvania. I do respect their devotion and sacrifice to spend two years of their lives doing mission work. It must be difficult.

But what was most striking about what my buddy was saying was how hostile he was to the Mormons. I know that they have some funny ideas, and Joseph Smith was quite the peddler of outrageous ideas and claims, but they have seems to have largely moderated and fit quite nicely in the patchwork of American society.

Additionally, my friend is quite hostile to most things that are even remotely close to Republicans. He once likened Lincoln to Milosevic and is of the opinion that Lincoln was a despot. Oh well, it takes all types and I enjoy hearing other's opinions but reserve the right to make judgment on what they say after I have had time to think.

The panic of 1893 is an interesting story. I read all about the economic history of the US from the perspective of Jim Grant, in Money of the Mind and his strict monetarist viewpoints and the hardening of paper money to retain value is a worthwhile read to all that are even faintly interested.

The panic of 1893 is an interesting in how we can draw parallels to what is happening today.
In the last days of the Harrison administration, the Reading Railroad, a major eastern line, went into receivership. That collapse was soon magnified by the failures of hundreds of banks and businesses dependent upon the Reading and other railroads. The stock market reacted with a dramatic plunge. Fearing further collapse, European investors pulled their funds from the United States, but depression soon gripped the other side of the Atlantic as well. An ongoing agricultural depression in the West and South deepened, spreading the misery to those regions.

Although thousands of businesses were ruined and more than four million were left unemployed [MJM note: this represented unemployment rate of about 18%], Cleveland did little. He believed, like most people of both major parties, that the business cycle was a natural occurrence and should not be tampered with by politicians.
Essentially what had lead to this confidence problem was that people were exchanging their currency notes for physical gold bullion and the Treasury reserves fell below the key level of US$100 million. So, there was a severe tightening of money supply, since currency left circulation in exchange for gold. This very rigid method of money supply management frequently led to economic dislocations that resulted in panics.

Today, gold is not fixed at a price but its price floats relative to various currencies. So information can be gathered about the relative values of various currencies by following the price of gold. If gold prices rise, this generally means that monetary policy is loose and the supply of money exceeds its demand.

Shoes and Chinese Medicine....

Ordinary Gweilo has a couple of interesting posts [here and here] on travelers from the PRC madly buying Clark shoes in British factory outlets. The Economist tries to explain the seemingly odd behavior this way....
According to Calum MacLeod, director of the Great Britain-China Centre, many Chinese still have an outdated view of Britain shaped by classic literature and old movies.

"Oliver Twist is a very popular book in China and the title of the Chinese version translates as Foggy City Orphan," he said. "When I tell people I live in London they often ask me how bad the fog is."

MacLeod says phrases such as "the home of the industrial revolution" or "the empire on which the sun will never set" still resonate strongly with many Chinese. "But not in a particularly negative way," he said. "They are very interested in the UK's history and traditions."
I noticed similarly odd behavior closer to home, specifically in the Watson's in the Hong Kong Airport. Throngs of PRC Chinese were in a frenzy [There always seems to be some kind of frenzy when there are PRC Chinese around] buying medicines and other therapies some of them being those that they could buy back home much cheaper.

This was quite puzzling to me since it did not seem to make sense. Why would these people buy ubiquitous goods easily obtainable at home? I puzzled and puzzled on this for my whole vacation till my puzzler was sore. But it finally dawned on me. Why these people were buying this stuff in the airport. It was because they were relatively assured that it wasn't FAKE! So, chances are the real explanation for the frenzied buying of Clark shoes may be something a bit more mundane in that these people want to buy shoes that last and not those that will fall apart after a week of wear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What is Going on in Europe??

The US$/Euro exchange rate briefly touched 1.1980 Friday, a few pennies from the original rate set 1/1/99 of 1.1674. The European Union, with a population of 457 million actually lags the US [pop 295 million] in total GDP with a per-capita GDP of approximately $25 thousand vs. $39 thousand, respectively.

Economic growth in Europe has been dismal and it doesn't look likely that it will improve.
High oil costs are jeopardizing Europe's chances of a recovery in the second half of the year by squeezing corporate profits and leaving consumers with less to spend. Growth in the euro bloc will lag that in the U.S. for the 13th year in 14, according to the commission the European Union's executive arm.

The commission, which releases annual growth forecasts in April and October, on April 4 said growth in the 12-nation euro bloc would slow to 1.6 percent this year, less than the 2 percent predicted in October and down from 2004's rate of 2 percent. Almunia said on June 10 he was ``downbeat'' about the growth outlook for this year.
Europe is dealing with the potential for stagflation as the currency weakens and oil prices rise. As I have talked about in previous posts, energy consumption as a percent of GDP is lower in Europe than in most countries around the world, on average. In fact, in Germany and France, energy consumption per unit of GDp looks to be about half of the US's [I finally found the source of the data here]. So it won't have a huge impact, but due to embedded inefficiencies in the deployment of labor and capital, relative living standards look to be stagnating or resuming their declines.

Particularly troublesome is the situation developing in Italy, Europe's 4th largest economy. National debt of US$1.7 trillion exceeds the $1.6 trillion GDP limiting the country's ability to pay it back. Therefore, Italy has lofted the trial balloon of delinking from the Euro in what would prove to be a disastrous situation for both Italy and the Euro block.
quitting the euro would give Italy a one-time boost, though the longer-term implications for the country's economy would be less certain. It would allow the nation to repay its debts in a devalued currency -- the new Lira would quickly plummet in value against the euro -- though at the interest rates prevailing in the euro region.

Europe really has gotten lost in the economic sauce and does not adjust readily enough with changing times. The European Union was designed to clean some of that up by eliminating the ability of nations to protect or coddle inefficient industries for the benefit of the few to the detriment of many. But this is taking an excrutiatingly big amount of time.

The way that they choose to live their lives is their choice but they are doing the rest of the world a great disservice by not efficiently and effectively using the people resources to their best uses. Europe has become a political culture not an economic one and are risking their influence in the world.

Wow, What Took Them So Long....

It only makes sense.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I Don't Understand All The Fuss Over Sarong Party Girl's Photos....

Actually, I don't understand since I missed the pictures. But I figure that its not something that I haven't seen before. I do recall seeing a pic of a woman covered in dirt at the top of her site. Now the SPG site just has one of those boxes with an X in it.

XiaXue had something about it here. Are the ones that XiaXue has on her site the pics that everyone is so titillated over?

How about these titillating sea monsters or more scary sea monsters or everyone must know why nudism is healthy and real nasty sea monsters. But I have to admit that I enjoy the stories on the carnal pleasures of Spike over the some of the somewhat depressing ruminations of SPG.

Today In History....

1950 North Korean forces invaded South Korea.
Relations between them became increasingly strained, and on June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. The United Nations quickly condemned the invasion as an act of aggression, demanded the withdrawal of North Korean troops from the South, and called upon its members to aid South Korea. On June 27, U.S. President Truman authorized the use of American land, sea, and air forces in Korea; a week later, the United Nations placed the forces of 15 other member nations under U.S. command, and Truman appointed Gen. Douglas MacArthur supreme commander.
Both my late uncles, Bill and Charles fought in the conflict. Uncle Charles came back from the war and spent the rest of his life disabled. My Uncle Bill was a survivor of the battle of Pork Chop hill and became an honor guard in Washington, DC.

Disney Strikes Shark-fin Soup Off Of Its Menu....

But in an attempt to salvage its battered reputation in the face of a global call for a Disney boycott, a spokesman said the decision was because the management was ``not able to identify an environmentally sustainable fishing source'' to ensure the fins sold were not products of large-scale butchering of sharks in open seas.
This is a good thing. They caved in to reason and showed that there is no real other source than the brutal finning and large scale butchering of these creatures in the open oceans.

What exactly is finning?

"Finning" refers to the practice of cutting off only the shark fins and discarding the body. Sometimes sharks are dead when they're pulled into the boats, but often, they're still alive as their four fins are cut off with a knife. When they're thrown back into the ocean the sharks either bleed to death, or they drown, because sharks can't swim without fins, and they need to go forward to get oxygen. Divers have discovered hundreds of dead finned sharks at the bottom of the ocean in huge shark graveyards.

Fifty percent of sharks are bycatch -- they're accidentally caught by boats that are looking for tuna, swordfish or other fish. Many of the boats don't want to keep the entire shark, so they just fin them. This greatly increases the amount of sharks killed, because a fishing boat can hold an enormous amount of fins.

Raccoon Hat....

And Fess Parker as Davey Crockett...oops, I mean Daniel Boone. The proper modeling of the raccoon hat. Fess Parker now has a winery and hotel in California.

Tin Foil Hat.....

Proper use of a tin foil hat. This guy lives in an apartment that hasn't been cleaned in 3 years.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Those Evil, Evil Christians...

From daily Kos. Maybe there is somewhat less here than meets the eye. Howz about hoaxes and porn? Remember the young couple, Mike and Diane, that was going to lose their virginity on the internet in 1998? Ken Tipton got busted on the scam and now is blaming Christians. Jeez.

You May Hate Me For This...

But you won't be the first ones. I love it and thrive on it. It only makes me stronger. Karl Rove was right.

One of my friends back home was lamenting the bombastic blather going on in New York City on the need for psychoanalysis for school children across The City to counter the stress of the 9/11 tragedy as simply employment insurance for therapists, and this was right after the tragedy. Shamelessly marketing their product. Here's an example. And here. And here. And here.
As we pass the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans are reflecting on the toll this event has taken on our collective consciousness. Due in large part to the power of the media to magnify this spectacle to epic proportions, it is arguably the most traumatizing event in post-modern times. As mental health professionals, we can witness the reverberations of 9/11 from a unique vantage point. Although clients in my private practice have rarely cited the terrorist attacks as a presenting problem,
its a boondoggle for making money and getting all kinds of bulls**t funding!

What Rove said with the next Democratic nominee's prepared reaction here [scroll down to the box].

Dig down deep in your hearts. And you will know if what is being said is really true or not. Rove didn't call anyone Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot or Stalin. He didn't say that liberals didn't care or didn't react, he just said that the approach is different, that conservatives approach these types of situations with war running through our veins and liberals don't do that. When I saw the 2nd plane hit the tower on TV from the trading floor in my office in West Africa, my next utterance was, "This is war." So is it true that liberals wanted to strike out like we did? He didn't say Democrats, he said liberals. It seems as if there is an argument as to whether they wanted to or not.

New York is liberal town -full stop- and Rove hit on the core of what they think. For ages it was a town full of apologists for others. They didn't have an education...they came from a poor background....they need therapy and help....they aren't responsible for their actions...blah, blah, blah. The same as the twinkie defense. I lived there for around 15 years, this is ever so true.

Fun For Friday.....

The Mercury Mistress, a car that you can really love. From SNL.

The Longest English Words...

[This is just a cut and paste job from the AskOxford Dictionary people]

We do have genuine (if rather obviously deliberate) examples in our files of antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters) and floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters), which are listed in some of our larger dictionaries. Other words (mainly technical ones) recorded in the complete Oxford English Dictionary include:

otorhinolaryngological (22 letters),
immunoelectrophoretically (25 letters),
psychophysicotherapeutics (25 letters),
thyroparathyroidectomized (25 letters),
pneumoencephalographically (26 letters),
radioimmunoelectrophoresis (26 letters),
psychoneuroendocrinological (27 letters)
hepaticocholangiogastrostomy (28 letters),
spectrophotofluorometrically (28 letters),
pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters).

Most of the words which are given as 'the longest word' are merely inventions, and when they occur it is almost always as examples of long words, rather than as genuine examples of use. For example, the medieval Latin word honorificabilitudinitas (honourableness) was listed by some old dictionaries in the English form honorificabilitudinity (22 letters), but it has never really been in use. The longest word currently listed in Oxford dictionaries is rather of this kind: it is the supposed lung-disease pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters).

In Voltaire's Candide, Pangloss is supposed to have given lectures on metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology (34 letters). In Thomas Love Peacock's satirical novel Headlong Hall (1816) there appear two high-flown nonce words (one-off coinages) which describe the human body by stringing together adjectives describing its various tissues. The first is based on Greek words, and the second on the Latin equivalents; they are osteosarchaematosplanchnochondroneuromuelous (44 letters) and osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary (51 letters), which translate roughly as 'of bone, flesh, blood, organs, gristle, nerve, and marrow'.

Some Great Stuff Over At Rightwing Nuthouse....

Carnival of the Clueless posting for all you right wing nut jobs. And this piece on the comedy value of voter fraud and intimidation offered by the DNC.

Yea, the old canard of voter intimidation and urban legend of black voter disenfranchisement. I wrote about this before. Kudlow weighs in on the New York Times story. Dem's have to pack away those old tattered tin-foil hats. Instructions on how to make one here. Or buy one here.

A SCOTUS Decision That Wealthy Developers Here Would Applaud...

[via Instapundit] A decision by the Supreme Court of the United States rules that even at great inconvenience, wealthy developers can seize your property if they want it!!!!
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
Wow, so if you buy it, you really don't own the property, do you?? The wealthy developers here would love to have that power too.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Why do people like me get accosted every time at Star Ferry or around TST by the cheap tailoring/copy watch crowd? Because us white males are idiots and buy this trash. When my wife's company sends visitors over from the US, they inevitably ask her where they can buy copy watches as gag gifts for their friends back home. So its just not a supply problem, its a demand problem.

There is a fellow on the Hong Kong side at Star Ferry, he looks like he may be African, that approaches me several times a week waving his sales literature in my face. I always give him the evil eye, but he must never recognize me since all us white folk look the same anyway.

Once my son and I were walking out of Star Ferry and a lady tried to jam some flyers into my hands. When I refused, she shoved them in my son's face. When he refused, she PUSHED him. Jeez. She had a worried look on her face when I gave her a piece of my mind in choice 4 letter words in various combinations at the top of my lungs.

My Chinese friend never gets approached by these schiesters, but he has other problems. Down in Wanchai, despite him being an a-typical heavy drinking Chinese, gets asked to pay cover charge at the door of such fine establishments as Laguna and Neptune. He always gets angry about it, but he shouldn't bother getting upset, since we all have our racial profiling problems here in Hong Kong.

But what was really irritating to me was one of the drivers on my golfing trip in Bangkok. The regular driver we hire had to take his mother to the hospital so he arranged a new guy to take us golfing that morning.

He started out a pleasant enough fella but then he asked us what we were doing after golf that day. I said I was going back to rest. He suggested taking us to a massage place that he knows. Please no. He told us all his regular customers like the place. You can just sit down and have a drink and chat, get a massage or more. He explained, in his Thai accent... Fu han, 500 ba, fu mou, 1000 ba. Some people think that Thailand is a great place to visit for guys. It is fun, but its not just irritating to have to listen to this stuff, its outright rude. And this idiot just wouldn't stop. He kept on yapping about this place and how he wanted to take us, even though he doesn't get a commission. Riiiiigggggghhhhhttttttt.

Karl Rove Weighs In...

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."
How True, how true.

Update: Dem's are now demanding an apology!!!! As Tom Legg would say....BWAHAHAHAHAAHAHA! And he is right. No need to apologize.


10. Cats' facial expressions.
9. The need for the same style of shoes in different colors.
8. Why bean sprouts aren't just weeds.
7. Fat clothes.
6. Taking a car trip without trying to beat your best time.
5. The difference between beige, ecru, cream, off-white, and eggshell.
4. Cutting your hair to make it grow.
3. Eyelash curlers.
2. The inaccuracy of every bathroom scale ever made.

AND, the Number One Number One thing only women understand:


Everyday Penguin Life In Japan....

Penguin life.

Devastatingly Handsome....

I was digging around in some stuff yesterday and I happened to find this. I drove a taxicab in New York City more than 20 years ago.

Hemlock Today....

Winky checks her watch. “Unlike some people, I have important things to do,” she announces. “In fact I’m on a really big project right now.” She wants me to ask what, but I just nod blankly. “It’s interesting,” she explains. “We’re helping Donald find ways to groom new political talent among our lawmakers.”

My reaction is a spontaneous laugh – as derisive as it is loud. “Winky,” I say, composing myself, “trying to nurture Hong Kong’s future political talent from among members of Legco makes as much sense…” As what? I think for a second. “…as much sense as training up all those unskilled, newly arrived, middle-aged Mainland women to be the next generation of brain surgeons.”

The Giant Popsicle That Attacked New York.....

The 25-foot-tall, 17½-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground.
I used to live near there.

Buying Business.....

Rumor has it that UBS is going to take a $1 billion stake in Bank of China as a strategic investor. Like Bank of America's silly $3 billion stake in China Construction Bank, UBS also wants to have a stake in a local bank since they have no lending operation in China nor in Hong Kong. By taking stakes in these institutions, these banks will make huge fees in the underwriting of these banks when they do finally come to market. There must be a quid pro quo...take a stake and get the underwriting business. Citigroup decided to not take a stake in China Construction Bank, probably since they realized that it was a stupid investment. But they also have been dropped as a underwriter on the deal.

240,000 War Dead On Okinawa Remembered...

Koizumi remembers the 240,000 war dead on Okinawa including 14,000 Americans. It must have been hell there 60 years ago.

Koizumi Holds Firm On Shrine Visits....

As I expected, Koizumi intends on continuing to visit the Yakasumi Shrine that honors Japan's 2.5 million war dead including 14 class A war criminals.
Koizumi was responding to questions by Katsuya Okada, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, who accused Koizumi of making comments to fuel nationalism among the public to increase his approval rate.
Apparently, there are domestic political considerations involved. There is apparently broad support in Japan for his continuing to visit the shrine.

Some shrine history here. China's juvenile response here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Small Changes In The Land Auction Process Announced....

Uber-wealthy property tycoons have pushed for and received a small change in the land auction process in which land is released by the Hong Kong government for development.
Starting immediately, any developer's offer of at least 80 percent of the government's minimum price will be enough to trigger an auction for land on the ``application list.''

However, a bid that meets or exceeds the minimum will be required to win the land at auction. And if neither is received, the government will not reveal the minimum price.

Until now, the government would hold an auction only if it received a bid that matched or surpassed its bottom-line price, based on estimates by private-sector assessors.

Since a new list of available sites was published in March, developers have failed to trigger even a single auction off the list.
If the tycoons wanted it, its doubtful if its a change for the better for the people of Hong Kong.

It amazes me how expensive the price of accommodation here is. There are all kinds of reasons why it should attract a premium; high density of people, relative high incomes, developed financial sector, etc. But the level of the premium is sometime mind numbing.

Additionally, a square foot of property in Hong Kong is not a foot as we know it. As I learned a long time ago in school, 12 inches by 12 inches is 144 square inches or a square foot, but the calculus in the Hong Kong lexicon of measurements is more like 10 inches by 10 inches giving around 100 square inches per square foot. The property tycoons here even cheat the people on that count!

Today In History.....

1940 France fell to Germany in World War II.
1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
1969 Show business legend Judy Garland died of an overdose of sleeping pills. She was 47.

Pot Flavored Candy.....

Yuck. What will they think of next? How about these new flavors for candy...wood, cheese, glue, paper.

Moving The Mountain To Muhammad....

Gary Davis, pastor and founder of the Church in the Wind of Denver, a biker church, said he was prompted to start his congregation in 1996 after he was told by a traditional church that he couldn't wear his biker outfit to service. But he said it's not what you wear that matters.

"We don't care if you're wearing a suit or a T-shirt and jeans," said Davis, who rides a Harley-Davidson to church. "What we care about is the condition of the heart."
The Southern Baptists are adapting to changed times.

Since Americans now rely more-and-more on Washington from everything from healthcare to retirement payments, the role of the traditional American community and family has weakened. I will expand upon this some other time.

At the heart of the traditional American community has been the church. Just have a look at the old New England towns where the church and the commons were in the center of the town. People relied upon each other for their survival but now people rely upon a distant bureaucrat that they have never seen, met nor know their names to disperse economic benefits upon them. So the traditional roles of the community and your neighbors for support has deteriorated.

These new style churches are moving back into the communities, albeit communities that are somewhat different than those that we are accustomed to. These range from golfers, to rodeo enthusiasts to biker clubs.

His Favorite Writer....

I happened to come across this today. Amongst my Grandfather's favorite writers was Robert Service. It brings back found memories from my youth when we had so much fun together. My Grandpapa has been dead for 30 years already. I miss him so very much.

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out - it's the grain of sand in your shoe.

Robert Service (1874 - 1958)

Peking Duck's Piece On Mao Is A Worthwhile Read...

The post is a review of a piece by former Hong Kong investor Sin-ming Shaw, now a visiting scholar at Columbia University.

The writer, Sin-ming Shaw, argues that the only way for China to move forward is to eliminate the cult of Mao and embrace a new tradition, and that tradition is democracy. Something that is feared and loathed by the current CCP leadership and gets their sphincter muscles twitching. But given the molasses slow progress in Hong Kong, that prospect appears dim as it ever was in China.

I particularly like the parts of his article showing Mao's brutality and subjugation of the Chinese people. A couple of choice excerpts follow:
Killing “enemies” was not the sole purpose. Mao wanted to instill obedience by having as many people as possible witness the terror. As he put it in 1951, “Many places don’t dare to kill counter-revolutionaries on a grand scale with big publicity. This situation must be changed.”

In Beijing millions of inhabitants were ordered to witness some 30,000 sentencing and execution rallies during the early 1950’s. Indeed, in 1950 and 1951 an estimated three million people perished by execution, torture, or suicide.

Masses of Chinese were sent to work camps, where prisoners endured harsh physical labor to “reform” their “bourgeois” habits and thoughts. In any given year, roughly 10 million such “laborers” existed. During Mao’s rule, an estimated 27 million died in the camps.
Lovely isn't it?

The reason why the CCP leadership continues pushing its cult of Mao is that it makes them look better by comparison and gives them justification for brutal repression when they need it. Otherwise, they have zero legitimacy to lead in modern China.

This Is A First...

Someone actually apologizes to Bush and doesn't publicly slam him. Read it here [registration required]
"Frankly, I'd like to apologize to both President Bush and Prime Minister [John] Howard for the things I said under duress," said Mr. Wood, with his American wife, Yvonne Given, and his brothers, Vernon and Malcolm, and their wives by his side.

"I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army ... works because it was Iraqis that got me out," he said.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Homeland Security Terrorist Watchlist...

See the Video here. Just hit the watch movie button.

On the look out for such nefarious characters as:
Haid D'Salaami, Mustaf Herod Apyur Poupr, Awan Afuqya and Yuliq M'Diq aka Uwana M'Diq aka Usuqa M'Diq.

Hong Kong Still Amongst 10 Most Expensive Cities....

Hong Kong came in as the 9th most expensive city down from 5th last year. Beijing also dropped from 11th to 19th. The fall probably was the result of the weaker dollar and even New York fell from 11th place to 12th.

Here's the list.

Grapefruit Makes Women Appear Younger....

Read about it here.
A study of smells shows that the scent of grapefruit on women make them seem about six years younger to men. However, grapefruit fragrance on men does nothing for them.
I wonder if Pomelos do the same trick.

The Axis Of Evil, Hong Kong Joins Pariah States North Korea, Iran and Libya.....

According to environmentalists, Hong Kong is risking becoming a pariah state for continuing the environmentally unfriendly trade of shark-fins used in the traditional but bland and gooey tasting soup.
``Hong Kong is in danger of being considered a pariah state, where the environment takes second place to profit, and where endangered species are either consumed or shipped with impunity,'' she said.
This is going a little bit too far, since the criticism risks the time honored Hong Kong tradition of being ignored.

Little doubt that people around the globe wonder why this barbaric practice continues in Hong Kong, but it is an issue far removed from the "pariah" state issues such as production of nuclear weapons and the support of Islamic terrorists that slaughter and maim innocents in large numbers.

However, the environmentalists have been doing a good job at keeping the issue front and center in the press and have continued to make the devastated shark populations an issue highlighting the disgusting practice of finning and the risks associated with severe global declines of shark populations.

More Lying, Cheating And Stealing At China's Troubled Banks....

This Standard story shows that it is nearly impossible to trust any bank or trust anything that they do.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China stands accused of secretly adding a batch of class-five loans - those deemed least likely to be collected - into a batch of higher-grade, class-four loans set for auction this past weekend.
So, they get caught at trying to dupe investors.

The question that I have is what was their motive for doing something like this? The Bank's directors are probably not in a position to receive additional compensation for selling off assets higher than expected. So I suspect this was a feeble attempt to fob off loans that were made from some of these corrupt employees that may have implicated them in wrongdoing.

All of China's banks are a big problem and additional US$300 billion is needed now to clean up their books. Investments in these troubled institutions are doomed to fail, in my humble opinion, since it is impossible to get a handle on the problems nor control employee pilfering. Best of luck to Bank of America and their wasted US$3 billion investment in China Construction Bank.

From Denmark, New Info On Woman's Orgasms.....

I, of course, already knew all of this.
Shutting down the brain during orgasm may ensure that obstacles such as fear and stress did not get in the way, Holstege proposed. "Deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important necessity for having an orgasm," he said.

Holstege said he had trouble getting reliable results from the study on men because the scanner needs activities lasting at least two minutes and the men's climaxes didn't last that long.
Wow two minutes. We guys just don't appreciate what that means.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Librarians Providing The Last Line Of Defense.....

against the awful abuses of the US patriot act.
When Congress passed the US PATRIOT Act and granted federal authorities the unheard of power to enter libraries and question people, it was done so with the promise that such power would never be abused.

Courageous democrats are working tirelessly to dismantle the US PATRIOT Act and rebuild the pre-9/11 safety net of bureaucracy. In the meantime, we must depend on the heroic efforts of the nation's librarians to protect our civil liberties from the evil machinations of the Bush Junta.
Read the whole disturbing and sad story here.

Concerns For An Environmental Disaster in the PRC Rising....

These figures from the Standard look a little suspicious to me.
The mainland ranks first in water consumption and sewage discharges, and second in energy consumption and carbon dioxide discharges, said the news agency.

Its total energy consumption is seven times that of Japan, six times that of the United States and 2.8 times that of India.
I did a little research a while back on BTU [British Thermal Unit] consumption per unit of real GDP for fun [Yes, sometimes I am a total geek]. It is a much more enlightening statistic than aggregate consumption that gets so bandied about in the popular press.

The United States in 2001 consumed 10,736 BTU's per unit of GDP down from 12,923 in 1991, a decline of around 17% over that decade. The decline in consumption did not appear cyclical but there was a decline in every year for the period. [I downloaded these figures from the internet a couple of years ago, but I cannot find the site now, so you will have to trust me].

China in 2001 consumed 35,619 BTU's per unit of GDP down from 65,101 in 1991, a decline of around 45% for the decade.

GDP comparison's for 2004 between China and the US are $7.26 trillion PPP [Purchasing Power Parity] vs. $11.75 trillion, respectively.

If we do a simple adjustment using historical approximate rates of decline of energy consumption, we get a figure of 32,000 BTU's per unit of GDP for China [3% annual decline] and 10,400 for the US [1% annual decline]. Adjusting for GDP, China's consumption of energy was 7.26 trillion x 32,000=232.3 quadrillion BTU's and the US consumed 11.75 trillion x 10,400=122.2 quadrillion BTU's.

My above figures are only rough estimates. But they are sufficient for comparison purposes. But, we can conclude that China's actual consumption of energy is a little under 2 times that of the USA but over 3 times of that of the USA per unit of GDP not 6 times as cited by the Standard mentioned earlier.

It is obvious, however, to anyone that has ever traveled to China or lived nearby, as we do in Hong Kong, that the environment in China has deteriorated to an incredible degree. Even when I visited Guangzhou for the first time in 1991, I was struck by the acrid air fouling the public streets particularly during rush hour. I had to return to my hotel room and sit indoors for a while after that incident.

The spectacular growth that China has experienced has come at a cost. And this cost continues to mount and is not figured into any of the national economic accounts as I wrote about here before. The actual growth is lower when you figure in the costs associated with cleaning up the environment, additional health costs and destructive erosion and other problems that will lead to long-term shortages of both arable farmland and other necessary raw materials.

On a more cynical note, the more developed countries have exported their pollution problems to China by moving plants and production to these 3rd world countries where environmental standards are more lax or where officials can be bribed to overlook the more odious problems.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Capital Punishment In The USA.......

As I posted earlier, I do not believe in the use of the death penalty by the state. My two core concerns on this issue are that first, the state should not be involved in the taking of life whenever practical. This cannot be a hard-and-fast rule, since the state is also charged with national defense and that entails the taking of life when warranted. The other is that the state is not infallible in the process of judging people and the criminal justice system may make mistakes by unjustly put innocents to death.

Some of the key issues....
Cost of keeping an inmate in jail vs. execution- Some people argue that it costs more to keep an inmate in jail for life than it is to execute.
According to Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., the most comprehensive cost study was published by Duke University researchers in 1993. This two-year study determined North Carolina's capital cases cost at least an extra $2.16 million per execution, compared to what taxpayers would have spent if defendants were tried without the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison.
Actual data and studies concludes that it costs much more to seek the death penalty and then execute a prisoner than to try to convict for life imprisonment. One of the reasons is that capital punishment trials where the death penalty is sought tend to be much more expensive and time consuming than those that seek life imprisonment. Additionally, only 10% of those cases result in an actual conviction with a death penalty thus the additional costs for the 90% of the trials that fail to convict could have been avoided by seeking a life imprisonment term. Some more reading here. So the additional cost per death row inmate given the aggregate costs of capital punishment trials and since these inmates spend on average over 10 years incarcerated anyway, the present value of the cost of execution versus life imprisonment leads to the conclusion that cost is not and should not be a factor in deciding upon performing executions.

Deterrent-Some argue that by having a death penalty, there is a deterrent effect on crimes that may result in the death penalty. Most crimes punishable by the death penalty involve homicide. But when comparing homicide rates between those states with and without the death penalty, the data appears to not support this conclusion.
Keith Harries and Derral Cheatwood studied differences in homicides and violent crime in 293 pairs of counties. Counties were matched in pairs based on geographic location, regional context, historical development, demographic and economic variables. The pairs shared a contiguous border, but differed on use of capital punishment. The authors found no support for a deterrent effect of capital punishment at the county level comparing matched counties inside and outside states with capital punishment, with and without a death row population, and with and without executions. The authors did find higher violent crime rates in death penalty counties.
Murder rates in states with the death penalty are still higher than those states without. Additionally, the gap in murder rates has actually widened where the overall decline in homicide in states without the death penalty has declined more than those with the executions.

Retribution and revenge-This is the emotional response towards punishing the guilty of crimes, sometimes outrageous and heinous ones. In order to justify revenge, there has to be an absolute assurance that the convicted and executed criminal is certainly guilty of the crime as charged. If a state puts an inmate to death for a crime in which the prisoner is subsequently exonerated, then the state is guilty of excesses in which I do not think that they are entitled to.

So these are my reasons for being against the death penalty. There is no justification on economic grounds, it does not appear to be an effective deterrent and the state, in my opinion, should not be involved in the taking of life wherever practical.

Another Plague Hits China....

First it was the giant gerbils, now there are millions of rats over-running parts of Central China.
According to one township vegetation protection station, between 300 to 500 rats were found in each mu (0.067 hectare) of farmland, while in some places the number exceeded 1,000, the report said.

Wow, my wife, who has a phobia about rats, would not be very pleased if she was there.

So China is now having trouble with giant gerbils and rats. And China is also plagued by the two-legged rat variety too.

Donald Tsang On Living Up to Expectations.....

I missed all the excitement and suspense of the CE election since I was out of town. The English language newspapers, there, had almost nothing to say about it since it was already a forgone conclusion. It must be a truly embarrassing thing to write about since its all form over substance. They give these news stories to the new kids to practice with.
Donald Tsang, who has just become chief executive designate of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said Thursday afternoon that will live up to the expectations of the central government and Hong Kong citizens.

The question that I have is what are those expectations? What are the expectations of the central government anyway? That he be their lap-dog, I think. And this is probably what everyone in Hong Kong is starting to think, that he is going to be a yes man and lap-dog to Beijing. So really, the expectations of both parties can be met by him being a yes-man, sycophant and lap-dog. Problem solved! Additionally, Tung has lowered expectations so far, though, that even if Donald Tsang is a truly awful CE, he may look ok in comparison. Sounds like the next couple of years are going to loads of fun.

And he also had this to say....
Tsang said it was the first for him to run for an election and that the CE election has been an exhilarating experience for him, as he will treasure it dearly
Jeez. The real challenge is getting picked by the mandarins in Beijing to start with. I wonder how all that happens? Maybe they have a pin-the-tail on the donkey with various names on parts of the donkey. Fun game for the mad mandarins to play in Zhongnanhai these days. I heard that Tsang was on the asses ass.

Donald Tsang said, that the elections were an exhilarating experience for him. Hhhhmmmmmmm. He hasn't done too many exciting things I suppose in his life. With hardly an elction challenge to be found, its like the exhilarating elections that Saddam Hussein had to compete in when he got 99+% of the vote. Must have been very exhilarating when there are all these uber-wealthy tycoons doing some major sucking up. "Oh Donald," they wealthiest of the wealthy would say. "You are so smart and so....wonderful. Its just exhilarating to hang out with you here having this exhilarating conversation in this exhilarating Hong Kong, where just us chosen few can make exhilarating wads of cash." Just wait Donald till there is payback time and you have to deliver the next silly real-estate development deal to some insider.

Who Said This?

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge--and more.

Its a great speech, read it here.

Who Said This?

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

Its a great speech and you can read it here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Three Billion Dollars Down The Drain.....

Bank of America announced today that it was taking a US$2.5 billion dollar stake in China Construction Bank [CCB]. Additionally, BoA plans to take an additional US$500 million stake in the upcoming IPO bringing the total stake to 19.9%. BoA is being forced into investing outside of the US since it has 10% of all the deposits in the US, the most any one bank is allowed to have, therefore limiting opportunities stateside. Additionally, BoA has little or no presence to speak of in the China market and are probably trying to buy there way into the inner circle.
Chinese state banks are angling for foreign investment to bring credibility to an industry tarnished by loan fraud and corruption. The country has resorted to bailing out several institutions awash in bad loans to help create a sound banking system.

Obviously, having a minority shareholder of such prestige as BoA is a positive for the CCB, but I am afraid that very little will change with the corrupt cronistic business practices in China's banks. The BoA stake is more style over substance and a positive for those that want or feel more comfortable to see involvement by a large foreign institution. But I do not think that BoA will hold much power over the directors of the bank. A 19.9% stake does not carry enough weight to get practices changed since the people that run these institutions would prefer that they stay just the way that they are so that they can rob them blind.
Bank lending expanded by about 20 percent a year over the two years to the end of 2004, a period when annual economic growth exceeded 9 percent, according to government statistics.

Lending has been expanding so rapidly, that there will be lots more bad loans even if the economy doesn't slow down. The banking system has US$200 billion of bad loans and the economy has been booming for decades. So why is it going to be any different now?
"The big question is whether these new loans will remain good loans or become nonperforming loans down the road," said David Marshall, a Hong Kong-based financial institutions analyst for Fitch Ratings. "If things slow down after this investment boom, we worry that some of these investments will not be viable."

I wonder what BoA is really getting from this deal? Why are they convinced that what they are getting is worth anything at all?
Credit risk management at such banks remains a largely manual process, especially in the provinces, in a nation with at least US$200 billion in bad loans plaguing its financial system.

Credit risk management is the essence of what banking is and they still don't do it. Today's Standard has an interesting article on credit risk management in banks in China. Risk controls are practically non-existent and I seriously doubt if they will have anything workable in the next 5 years. I was involved with implementing credit risk management processes at various institutions around the world and I know a little about what is going on in Chinese banks these days. The biggest problem with implementing risk management systems and procedures is that the rank-and-file have to buy-into the process and be a part of its development. What this means is that decision making has to pushed down the chain of command and this is not something that Chinese companies and banks do very well. Banks are still feudal businesses and the bosses, whether they are the big shots at the home office or the local patricians such as the managers, still run these empires and will still practice central decision making. They may go through the motions of instituting or practicing global best practice credit risk management standards but will probably still run these organizations to benefit the few at the top.

I am just not very bullish on the Chinese banking system and it will be very difficult for them to adjust to the real world on such a large scale. My guess is that BoA will make very little money from their investment in CCB. The Chinese are probably laughing all the way to the bank. This is an old saying where someone gets ripped off the perpetrators laugh while they take the money stolen from you to the bank. But in this case, the criminals sold the bank, in this case probably a bank that isn't worth very much, so they are probably laughing at BoA's stupidity.

Hit A 104 At Lakewood Today.....

I did a lot better than my score indicates. I got my short game back big time and my approach shots were spot on. I started out weak off the tee with my driver but I switched to my 5 wood and was hitting them 200+ yards. But my fairway shots weren't too good. So, a 55 on the front nine then a 49 on the back nine illustrates the improvement.

Lakewood is better suited to my current style of play. Not as much water with the dreaded tractor beams drawing my shots in. Wider fairways and average length makes this my ideal course. The Rock course was closed, so we played the Lake course and Wood course, ergo the name Lakewood. A name like Rockwood or Rocklake or Lakerock just wouldn't work. Sounds too Flintstones.

So, overall, its nice to see some improvement over the past few days. Back to Hong Kong and Citygolf for some driving range action next week.

Giant Gerbils Over-running Parts of China.....

The giant gerbil story is not getting much coverage. Maybe there is media blackout on this in favor of the farmer protests. The infestation of giant gerbils in Xinjiang has already destroyed a grassland area the size of Switerland.

The gerbils running riot in China's arid far north-west may sound like the fluffy pets loved by so many children but they are in a different league.

An explosion of gerbils is decimating vast areas of grasslands in China's north-western Xinjiang region, with some of the prairies completely destroyed by hundreds of rodent burrows, according to authorities in the region.

I think that this is stranger than fiction, "The Giant Gerbils That Ate Beijing." The Chinese equivalent of Godzilla.

Solution: Quick fried with a little ginger and scallions would quickly bring this problem under control.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shot A 110 at Pinehurst today.....

Aaaarrggghhhhh.....in case you haven't guessed, I am a duffer. But I am on the good side of duffer and don't give duffers a bad name. When I don't duff, I can drive 200+ yards, and am ok from 120 yards out with my pitching wedge. Also, my putting has improved substantially. If I could reduce my duffing by 50% I would be very pleased.

You figure that I should be enjoying myself! So I am, I have always enjoyed spending time outdoors for a nice walk. Well, the water at this club just absolutely freaks me out. The water tractor beams were in full force today and lost another 10 balls or so. It was also quite hot here in Bangkok since it hasn't rained since we got here. It is the rainy season I understand and in the afternoon it supposedly come down buckets. I brought along my umbrella from Hong Kong and this virtually assures that there won't be a drop of rain here.

Well, Pinehurst, not the Pinehurst where the US Open is being played this year, gets heavier use but is substantially cheaper that Thai Country Club that we played at yesterday. Greens fees, caddies and golf cart totals around THB2300 [plus caddy tip] or slightly less than US$60. I guess that I have to include lost ball expenses too in my total cost.

Pinehurst is only 10 minutes past the airport, so next time, we could fly-in, zip out there [The Thai-Orient flight that leaves HK at 8:30 AM arrives here around 10 AM] so one could buzz on over and get in 18 holes in and then to the hotel before dinner time. It sounds like a plan to me.

Tomorrow we will go to Lakewood. I consider this to be a substantially easier course since there is less water. But I also quite sore from swinging the club so much the past two days.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Most Unique Spam That I Have Gotten In A While.....

Usually, I get spam from the Nigerian 419 scammers. My email doesn't have my proper name on it and I get to play around with them for a little while before they get exasperated. But this guy is just unbelievable. Do not send these clowns money and never respond to a Nigerian scammer. That is best left up to a professional like me.

A TV personality, Soupy Sales, once told all the kids on his TV show to send to him all those little green pieces of paper in dad's and mom's wallets. Apparently the kids did and it caused a ruckus. He got fired for it. Poor slob.

The fellow below is in such a rough way, that he went out to rent a post-office box so that you can send him money! Right!

Attention group members, I am about to ask you something that will probably cause me to get kicked out of banned but there is a saying you never know unless you ask. This might be considered spam, but in my mind its very serious.

Chances are it may not even make it past the moderators, but i'm hoping so, as this is the most advanced way i know of doing this. If anyone debates the validity of it, they are welcome to email me and I will discuss it in further detail with them. Moderators please dont kick me out for this, it was worth a try, i'm desperate at this point.

Lately life this past couple of years has been very trying on me and i've been able to squeek by on things. Well everything is now coming to a head and it's all hitting at once. I have got myself in the rut with the cash advances, car payment, apartment rent, and such. I have recently lost my job and am now currently looking for a new one.

What I am asking is not very ethical however i find myself in a position where at this point i have no choice. I'm about to lose my car, my apartment, and have the cash advance companies calling day and night, ready to take me to court. ., no way of storing or transporting any of my belongings elsewhere. I am asking that any
group member that reads this that was once in a situation like this and knows where i'm coming or those who can understand what i'm feeling to be kind hearted and help out where they can. I honesty dont have anything to offer in return, except to contribute to this group. Even 1 dollar would help, so dont feel that you couldn't
make a difference with that.

I know this group is not the proper place for this and realize that i may be kicked out this way, but i've got no choice right now. I went today and spent 20 to rent a po box so that this could be a possiblility, and trust me i will not send another letter like his, its one of a kind, if I get help great, if not, then I'll think none the less of you all.

If anyone is able to help in this matter and like I said even a dollar would help, please send to Dave Jones --- name
set up for po box and phone purposes only.

PO Box 655

Laporte, IN. 46350

If anyone wishes to send a check or money order instead of cash in envelope, which best way to send cash in envelope is inside piece of white paper so it cant be notices from outside. please email me at songsforu@yahoo.com and I will give you the name to address it to, its not richard johnson or dave jones. , even if it's only for 1 dollar.

I feel really bad for even asking this in here, but awhile back I heard Tony Robbins say to get things you need, ask intelligenly, well this is the most intelligent way I know of.

Richard Johnson (Dave Jones)

The Death Penalty....

I read this piece the other day....

Roots of European opposition to the death penalty, here.

This is kind of cynical in my opinion but worth the read. The state just shouldn't be putting people to death since the process has proved fallible.

More on this at a later date since I am sitting at a computer in an internet cafe without all my notes.

I Hit A 108......

Arrggggghhhhhh....and I have been practicing, so 36 over is somewhat disappointing. Played Thai Country Club, today. A little more expensive than most, with carts and caddies around THB 4,000 each and they have a few greens out of commission which is ashame. The temporary greens are better than your average temporary greens, though, on balance it was ok. They will have this fixed within 6 weeks and there will be a major tournament next year.

The country club has been voted amoungst the best in Thailand in several catagories and has won 1st place in best club house in Asia for 4 years running. The course is interesting with lots of undulations and other obstacles and isn't overly long. A very good looking course and I will definately go back there.

I was hoping to shoot better and my goal is to get below 100 and stop duffing so many shots. After a rough start, I was driving off the tee ok and even got a par on the 8th hole. But, when the pressure is on, I don't do well putting. I was on the green several times in regulation and invariably 3 putted. Golf is definately a mind thing.

Tomorrow I will play Pinehurst. I played that last month and the water there killed me. I lost about 8 balls last time. I just get psyched out when there is water on my right side for some reason and the tractor beam gets a hold my ball and pulls it in.

Last night, my friend and I went to a restaurant called Lemongrass on Sukumvit Soi 24. Pretty good Thai food there. Then we went to Soi Cowboy for a drink. In some places the people are a little too aggressive for my tastes and we had to leave.

One thing that I like about Thailand is that they have ice-cream places, such as Swensens, and it so much more reasonably priced than back in Hong Kong. I will probably go back again tonight to have more ice-cream.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Confusion Between Journalist And Pundit...

Over at Peking Duck, there was this on Bill O'Reilly of Fox. Polipundit finds that the confusion is widespread. I have noticed this before.

In Bangkok, Again....

The flight is less than HK$1000 round trip but there were over HK$300 in departure taxes and fuel surcharges and the like. Still a good deal, though.

Not as hot as last month so I hope that my afternoons on the golf course won't be as difficult on me as they were then. My goal this week is to stop flubbing so many shots. I seem to have lots of trouble off the tee and I don't understand why since I seem to hit them fairly well at City Golf driving range in Kowloon.

I know that I will try Pinehurst again. Lots of water there but it was fun. President was just to long for me. They moved all the white tees back to the blues and it makes the course just too long for me.

So, nice afternoons on the golf course and boring evenings lazing around Bangkok.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Why The Frank Rich Op-ed Doesn't Worry Me One Iota....

My fellow blogger, Spike, quoted at length an op-ed written by Frank Rich, a regular contributor to the New York Times. I love Spike's writing, but I am not particularly fond of Frank Rich or much that is written on the Op-ed page of the New York Times [I call it the New York Democrat].

It is largely a rehash piece of the golden years of investigative journalism with particular focus on Watergate and the Nixon Whitehouse's handling of the affair. Rich tries to link that guilty Nixon administration with some of the current events faced by the Bush administration and tries to draw press quashing parallels. You can read it here. Rich's money quote from the piece....
The current administration, a second-term imperial presidency that outstrips Nixon's in hubris by the day, leads the attack, trying to intimidate and snuff out any Woodwards or Bernsteins that might challenge it, any media proprietor like Katharine Graham or editor like Ben Bradlee who might support them and any anonymous source like Deep Throat who might enable them to find what Carl Bernstein calls "the best obtainable version of the truth."

So Frank Rich offers a grand total of two examples of the heinous behavior of the Bush imperial administration and their incredible hubris that intimidates and snuffs out all the hard working journalists efforts to discover "the best obtainable version of the truth."

So lets take a look at these two examples. Rich talks about the Bush Whitehouse "sliming" of Newsweek by Scott McClellan, the Whitehouse spokesman. This is of course done publicly where the press able to question and talk back. But before we get into that, lets make sure we understand what the Newsweek story was all about from Wikipedia.
In the May 9, 2005 issue of Newsweek, an article by reporter Michael Isikoff stated that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay "in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet." Detainees had earlier made similar complaints but this was the first time a government source had appeared to confirm the story. The news was purported to be a cause of widespread rioting and massive anti-American protests throughout some parts of the Islamic world (causing at least 15 deaths in Afghanistan). The magazine later revealed that the anonymous source behind the allegation could not confirm that the book-flushing was actually under investigation, and retracted the story under heavy criticism. Ironically, similar desecration by U.S. personnel was more or less confirmed by the U.S. a month later.

So, the issue with Newsweek is that they were alleging not only was the Koran desecrated but it was alleged that it was used by interrogators to "rattle" detainees....implying that the Koran was used as a tool or implying that suspects were being tortured by descrating the Koran in front of them in an interrogation process. They did not allege that this was accidental but deliberate. So Newsweek got it wrong and was forced to retract its story.

Obviously this was expected to be the opening salvo of a full scale scandal. [I have tried to find the actual article but as of this writing I cannot find it and link to it.] I do not argue that the military here is without complicity and there were mistakes made, but as I go into more detail here, in a previous piece, I think that it amounts to alot of nothing. But in the echo chamber of the left, its PROOF that Newsweek was right. Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.

And here are the horrible, awful, hubritic things screamed and yelled at the poor cowering journalists that fear for their lives and souls in front of the imperial Bush administration's press spokesman, Herr McClellan.
"We appreciate the step that Newsweek took yesterday," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "It was a good first step. And what we would like to see now is for Newsweek to work to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region, and Newsweek certainly has the ability to help undo what damage can be undone."

While offering few specifics, McClellan said Newsweek should explain "what happened and why they got it wrong, particularly to people in the region."

"They can also talk about policies and practices of the United States military. Our United States military goes out of its way to treat the holy Koran with great care and respect," he said.


And lets go onto the only other alleged hubris inciting fear and loathing by the weak kneed quaking in fear press.
The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.

So lets see, from the above quote is Mr. Rich saying that the Third Reich Bush administration is attacking the press for not fully investigating the WMD hype surrounding prewar leadup to the Iraq invasion? Huh? Did I miss something here? What attacks? So what Rich is saying is that because the press screwed up and did not do their job, the implication, without a mention or shred of any kind of information in this piece is that devil inspired Bush administration must have pressured the press into not asking questions. Really? How?

And yes, I too find it very odd, that one lone article by The London Sunday Times on May 1 on the Downing Street Memo that says that the the American intelligence on Iraq weapons of mass destruction were being fixed around the policy is not being thoroughly investigated by today's modern day journalistic lone rangers. Why not? I would like to see it looked into myself. The implication here is that it MUST be Bush SS Waffen storm troopers that have intimidated the press into complete capitulation to the Bush hegemony.

Or....maybe the press is so frightened to make a big deal out of that memo since maybe it fears that its not real? Or irrelevant and taken out of context? I haven't seen a pdf of the memo in the Times article, easy enough to do, I imagine. Oh heavens. Maybe it was typed on a 1960's style manual typewriter like the ones used in the Texas National Guard of that era. Or maybe they know its fake or somewhat question its relevance and they don't want to drag the Times through the mud, so they just keep silent about it.

On balance, I have to say that Rich's scare tactics, the attempt and the traditional writers trick to make Bush foibles the modern day equivalent of the Nixon Watergate fiasco just doesn't impress me. But I am sure that in the echo chamber of much of the left, this is the stuff that just bounces around getting louder and louder.

Touching A Koran By Most Of You Offends The Sensibilities Of Muslims Around the World....

But I hope that this pleases all the anti-American zealots and Newsweek apologists. And you can enjoy this video [at the bottom of the page] of the Islamic Thinkers Society in New York. Have a listen to what they say.

Microsoft Playing The Mandarin's Game In China...

Or are they? [Via Instapundit] Roger Simon reports that Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal bans the use of such words as democracy and freedom from its site.
Attempts to input words in Chinese such as "democracy" prompted an error message from the site: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item." Other phrases banned included the Chinese for "demonstration", "democratic movement" and "Taiwan independence".

I find Microsoft's business policy in China somewhat perplexing but from a different angle.

Estimates are that Microsoft Windows piracy rate is as high as 90% in China. This study says that software piracy in the Asia region is not as prevalent as in Eastern Europe but that 3 of the top four countries with the highest piracy rates are in Asia. I am sure that Japan is the one that brings the averages down in the region.

So, why does Microsoft take such a soft approach to both piracy in China and the rest of Asia and pander to the absurd needs of the Chinese propaganda machine by banning content and restricting the usage of certain words?

My theory is that Microsoft probably knows that the fight against piracy is futile. But if they get China and the rest of Asia addicted to the operating system, like the British use of opium to subdue China in the middle of the 19th century, they will have much more leverage in the future.

Newer operating systems may make it more difficult to pirate in the future. And, I imagine that they have done development work in the piracy area but choose not to make pirating a priority now. If, future new operating systems preclude piracy then nations like China will either be forced to buy the new systems, be stuck with the old ones, adopt linux on a wholesale basis or develop their own operating systems. In the future, being stuck with old operating systems may hinder these nation's development and productivity and the newest software many not run on the old systems.

Also, its just not reasonable to expect the people of developing nations to be able to pay for expensive software that may represent months of salary but if incomes rise, there will be a better opportunity to make money for the software vendors. Furthermore, with higher incomes, users may decide the potential problems with using pirated software may outweigh the savings.

So, the pandering to CCP propaganda may just be a short-term phenomenon and when Microsoft gains market based power in China, it will be more difficult for the propagandists to demand such silly things. But Microsoft has little leverage to fight the demands of mad-mandarins today.

Interesting Take On The Ching Cheong Incident...

A while back, I read the must-read biography of Mao by his personal physician the late Li Zhi-Sui. He details the process and procedures used by Mao and others to purge officials. Typically, it takes the form of applying pressure to, discrediting and arresting underlings of the targeted official. Essentially, the official's legs are knocked from underneath him in a tortuously slow process. After this is done, the official has very few trusted supporters and the official is purged and sent for re-education.

Simon World posted a linklet to Chatter Garden on the mysterious arrest of Ching Cheong, a journalist with the Straits Times of Singapore, in China recently.
You might choose to believe this official story. Or with Ching's wife's remarks on their modest life, you argue that Ching is such a patriot that all accusations are unfounded. Here I suggest you tell an alternative story to the official one with a different narrative point of view. While the China government told a story of spy without providing any substantial evidence, we could take this incident as a political conflict within the government. That explains why some information called as "national secrets" was released.

So, maybe there is a behind the scenes political conflict brewing that causes these sudden detentions of journalists like Ching Cheong.

About a year ago, there was also a purge of several high powered investment bankers here in Hong Kong. This purge included, Margaret Ren, the daughter-in-law of Zhao Ziyang, the discredited former premier of China, who was fired from running Citigroup's investment banking unit for alleged violations of securities laws. However, oddly, the SEC in Washington, DC is currently reviewing her case to grant her a license to continue working as an investment banker. So, maybe she was a victim of intimidation of Citigroup by some mainland officials after all.

After the mysterious firings of Margaret Ren and a few others on unspecified securities rules violations, I suggested to several people that in modern China, the first steps of purges of officials may take the form of purging not just the underlings as in the Mao days but also the investment bankers that they deal with or are associated with. And now we can speculate that in the case of Ching Cheong, foreign journalists may also be a target of the purging games in the fever swamps of Beijing.

Some Suggestions For Shark Related Gifts To Offer At Hong Kong Disneyland....

This one looks like it would be loads of fun for Hong Kong mommies and daddies. For only US$ 12.98 and a couple of AA batteries, it cruises around on its own.

I think that this would be much more fun at Repulse Bay or at Stanley Beach. All kind of shark oriented gifts on offer here.

And the Hong Kong version of this educational toy should include removable fins.