Day By Day

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thad is In

Things are starting to get interesting. Thaddeus McCotter has announced that he will be running for the Republican nomination for president. McCotter is my favorite congresscritter -- currently in his fourth term representing northern Michigan. He is smart and funny and really knows his stuff. And he's hip -- Dubya used to refer to him as "that Rock n' Roll dude".

He doesn't stand a chance to win, but be assured he will raise the level of debate and will get off a couple of real good zingers. At last there is reason to watch those damn things.

Here's Politico on his announcement.

Return to China -- Part 22, Descent From the Butterfly Spring

Leaving the butterfly spring I proceeded down the butterfly walk,

past more hanging hearts,

And this. I was told it is a "bromeliad", a close relative of the pineapple. It was huge.., about the size of a pineapple.

I separated from the main group and wandered along the shore of this lovely lake.

Eventually I caught up with them again at the butterfly house -- the solution to the decline in the number of migrating butterflies. The local government simply set up a building in which they cultivate butterflies and where tourists can see them up close and personal.

I told you it was up close and personal. This was the first time I had ever seen tame butterflies.

Then it was a leisurely walk down the bamboo path and onto the bus for a long drive up into the high country.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is China Riding a Bubble

CNN reports:
Jim Chanos, the hedge fund manager who is famously shorting China, told Fortune late last year that the country was "embarking on something unprecedented." He was referring to the massive construction boom that has been underway for years, and that was supercharged by a 2008 stimulus package that pumped four trillion yuan ($586 billion) into the economy. In his opinion, the speculative bubble in real estate would end in a big pop, empty buildings, and pain for the country's broader economy.

For those who side with team Chanos, data is seeping out of China that suggests that he may right.
Read the whole thing here.

And then there is this, from the New York Times:

SHANGHAI — The head of China’s national audit office warned on Monday that the country was facing growing risks because of a sharp rise in local government debt and poor controls over borrowing by investment companies set up by municipalities, provinces and other bodies.

Liu Jiayi, the top auditor in China, said on Monday that at the end of last year local government debt had reached $1.7 trillion, or about 27 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. He said better regulation was needed to manage the debt risks.

“The management of some local government financing platforms is irregular, and their profitability and ability to pay their debts is quite weak,” Mr. Liu said in a speech Monday. 

The release of the report by the national auditor, who works under China’s cabinet, or State Council, comes as worries are growing that China’s economy is overheating. Beijing is now trying to rein in bank lending to moderate growth and tame inflation and property prices.
Read it here.

Unwise investment patterns, a runaway housing bubble, massive government debt, much of it at the provincial and local level, and widespread corruption -- sound familiar? All the signs point to a massive economic collapse in China in the next few years, and I shudder to think of the financial, social, and political consequences of that.

Return to China -- Part 21, The Road to the Butterfly Spring

Our next destination was the famous "Butterfly Spring" located at the base of Mount Shenmo, the first peak of the Cangshan mountain range. Of course, as is so often the case in China, to get to the park entrance we had to pass a village of vendors.

The park entrance, about one kilometer from the pool itself.

We saw a lot of these hearts hanging from tree branches. I'm not sure what they signify, but suspect it has something to do with young love. 

We passed lotus pools. 

And bamboo stands.

The path to the pool, bounded on both sides by bamboo.

I met an old man along the way.... 

The entrance to the pool garden.

I'm not sure who he is, but he sure looks fierce.

The Butterfly Spring itself. You are supposed to stand on the rocks and let the water splash on your feet. As I had a severe cold, I declined to do so. 

A huge acacia tree that stands in in the butterfly pool. Each spring its aromatic scent attracts large numbers of butterflies -- hence the names, Butterfly Tree, Butterfly Pool, Butterfly Spring and the annual Butterfly Festival. Unfortunately in recent years pollution has severely limited the number of butterflies migrating through the area, but the locals have come up with a solution to that problem.

A local Bai woman. She rents ethnic costumes to tourists so they can play dress up. 

Below the spring, a goldfish pond. 


Tomorrow, the return from the Butterfly Spring and the solution to migration's end.

Lies Of the Left -- Species Depletion

Another scientific consensus comes crashing down. Time and again we have been warned that earth's biodiversity is rapidly declining as thousands and thousands of species are extinguished each year. However:
The most widely used methods for calculating species extinction rates are "fundamentally flawed" and overestimate extinction rates by as much as 160 percent, life scientists report May 19 in the journal Nature.
 Read it here.

Add to this the fact that there is no generally recognized hard and fast definition of what constitutes a "species" and the uncertainty underlying the drastic predictions multiplies.

Professor Bainbridge comments:
The point is that we should be wary about claims that massive social and economic changes are necessary simply because the scientific consensus of the moment claims they're desirable.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Return to China -- Part 20, The Bai Tea Ceremony

Then we went to Xizhou, the "Bai Minority Village" where we were treated to an exhibition of folk art and dance. The "Bai" are one of fifty-five officially recognized surviving minorities in China. Taken together they make up only eight percent of the population -- the rest are Han Chinese. I was reminded that the Han displacement of other ethnic groups was a lot like the European settlement of North America, and had similar results. Today there are fewer than two million Bai left in China.

Isn't it amazing how often "picturesque" is associated with poverty.

Here we are at the "Yan Compound". The Yan were once the largest and most powerful clan in Dali. Today their estate is a tourist destination and a famous example of traditional Bai architecture. The compound is actually four houses grouped around a central courtyard. Prior to entering everyone touched this symbolic decoration for luck.

In the courtyard looking toward the tearoom where we would once again drink the three teas and watch a performance of traditional Bai dance.

A broader view of the courtyard, complete with local and national guides.The blue roof tiles are supposedly a distinctive feature of Bai architecture.

Inside the tea room, a peek at the dressing area.

The show begins...

Four of the dancers. I suppose they do this several times a day, every day and are a bit bored. It showed on their faces throughout the performance.

Watching the dance, drinking tea and supposedly [according to a published description of the "Sandaocha" tea ceremony ] contemplating our existence.

That's all, folks. Watch your step as you leave and have a nice trip to your next destination.

Ouch! The Anchoress Takes Down Al Gore

Don't ever get Elizabeth Scalia mad at you -- she hits where it hurts.

[C]an we just say this, now, about Al Gore, so that it’s out there? 

All of his post-election “success” — all of it; the praise, the accolades, the faux-adulation — was simply an expression of public spite against George W. Bush, and nothing more. Just as Jimmy Carter was (in the words of the Nobel Prize committee’s own rep) given his “Peace”prize as “a kick in the leg at Bush”, Gore only succeeded, post-Clinton, because of Bush-hatred.  The left lifted Gore up on the hot air of their angry resentments against Bush, and the unquestioning obeisance to his every crazed muttering was a crafted consolation prize that only remained airborne as long as the heat of Bush-hate could be accessed, it’s chain pulled. Absent that heat, there was only the hard earth below.

Gore’s Nobel Prize, his Oscar, his “regard” were all born of a desire to “kick at” Bush. Once Bush was gone, Gore was, too– all his lofty illusions have been grounded, and no one is interested in reinflating any of them.

Imagine being such a mediocrity that your greatest “successes” are not even about you, but about needling someone else. Recognizing that has to hurt.
Indeed it does.

Read her comment here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Return to China -- Part 19, Tea Time

Then we embarked on a long bus ride that took us to Dali, home of the "Bai" minority group. Here is a picture of our local guide dressed in traditional Bai clothing. I failed to make a note of her name, but she was an excellent and informative guide.

Our first visit was to a "tea emporium" where we were treated to a "Three Courses Tea" ceremony. It was a thinly disguised sales pitch for the local product. Yes indeed, another shopping opportunity.

The sales pitch was delivered by a lovely, and quite thin, young woman. At one point she attributed her slender figure to the fact that she had been drinking local tea for many years. When one of the..., um..., portly members of our party asked if drinking tea would make him slim like her she only hesitated for a few seconds before replying with an emphatic "no".

Laughter all around.

She had a habit of emphasizing declarative statements by making a loud "mmmm" sound. This picture catches her in mid mmmm. The first couple of times she did it it was cute and provoked appreciative laughter among her listeners, but half a dozen times more it became a bit annoying.

I don't know how much tea she sold, but several members of the party left the emporium carrying packages.

Two members of our party were celebrating birthdays while we were in China. In their honor the tour leaders made arrangements for a party after lunch

The honorees. 

The cakes, aren't they lovely?

Cutting the cakes.

Then it was on to our next destination.

While waiting for our bus I snapped a few pictures of this figure passing on the street outside the restaurant.

The noise our party was making attracted her attention and she turned around to watch us. She seemed bemused by our presence. She remained there for a few minutes until we boarded the bus and were on our way, a reminder that we in our own way were as exotic as the land through which we traveled. 

On the bus we traveled through extensive rice fields. Cultivation is still by hand -- very labor intensive -- which helps to solve the problem of surplus labor, but isn't efficient enough to feed China's huge population, which still requires massive food imports.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Subjectivity of Science

The progressive view of science assumes as a matter of course that what we think we know today is superior to what we thought we knew in the past. But that is not always the case. Here science writers John Horgan and George Johnson discuss a recent finding that a study conducted by a widely-respected modern scientist, Stephen Jay Gould, was actually more biased and inaccurate than a nineteenth-century study which Gould was criticizing.

It is interesting to note that Horgan, at the end of his commentary, endorses the idea that scientific findings, even if they are accurate, should be suppressed on moral and social grounds. So much for scientific objectivity!

China Makes a Move [updated]

China and Russia have already cooperated to severely restrict American access to sites in Central Asia. Now China, noting the weakness of the current administration, is moving to exclude American influence from Asian waters. AP reports:

BEIJING (AP) -- China urged the United States on Wednesday to restrain other countries from provoking Beijing in disputes over contested territories in the South China Sea, warning that Washington risks becoming embroiled in an unwanted conflict.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said it would be best if the United States stayed out of the long-standing disputes, but acknowledged that Washington has an interest in freedom of navigation in sea lanes that are vital to trade.
Threats don't get much clearer than that. Read the whole thing here.

The interesting thing here is that Vietnam, seeking to counter aggressive Chinese moves in the area, is desperately seeking support from the United States. It is hard to see in the current political situation just how that is going to happen. More problematic is the Philippines, a traditional American ally and former U.S. territory, which is also seeking support. If the U.S. fails to stand up for its ally, repercussions throughout the entire region could be devastating.


Well, it looks as though the Obama administration is going to stand up to Chinese pressure, at least with regard to the Philippines. AFP, the French News Agency, reports:

WASHINGTON — The United States said it was ready to provide hardware to modernize the military of the Philippines, which vowed to "stand up to any aggressive action" amid rising tension at sea with China.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, on a visit to Washington, said the Philippines hoped to lease equipment to upgrade its aged fleet and called for the allies to revamp their relationship in light of the friction with China.
"We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a joint news conference when asked about the hardware wish-list from the Philippines.
Clinton said the two nations were working "to determine what are the additional assets that the Philippines needs and how we can best provide those." She said del Rosario would meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials.
Well, good for Obama! Read the whole thing here.

And why is nobody in the American MSM paying attention to this building crisis?

"The Boys" are Back

Jackie and Dunlap worry about the end of the world here. They've been watching too much cable TV and reading "Newsweek" set them off.

Return to China -- Part 18, Huating Temple near Kunming

Our visit to the Huating Temple was a real treat for me. The site is simply gorgeous and I was able to give my camera a real workout as we wandered around the grounds. Originally the site was used as the vacation residence for a provincial ruler, about 900 years ago, but it was converted into a temple during the Yuan Dynasty [about 700 years ago]. Since then it has been rebuilt and restored several times, most recently in 1923.

We walked along this wall and entered the complex by a side gate.

And were greeted by a familiar sight -- people playing cards in public.

The grounds are beautiful and irenic, a wonderful place to spend a lovely Spring day.

The goldfish thought I was there to feed them. At least, I think that's what was on their minds. 

A turtle suns itself on lotus leaves. 

Three turtles and a frog.

Eventually we headed for the main temple.

When we left the outer grounds and entered the temples, the mood changed dramatically. These figures are meant to represent "devas" [demigods] who guard the temple. They certainly are fierce.

I noticed that the fierce, violent devas are portrayed as black-skinned, while the light skinned devas are peaceful and display a love of music. I wonder what the NAACP would say about that.


Inside the temples. I had started taking pictures when an elderly woman came up to me and signaled that photography inside the holy places was forbidden. I stopped, but didn't erase the images I already had.

Outside the temples it was quite another story -- there was no objection to photography and there was so much to shoot.

Lovely gardens,

Interesting architectural detail,

More architectural details,

Doors and colonnades,

Brilliant colors,

Moon gates. I avoided taking pictures of the monks going about their business. This guy stepped into the picture just as I snapped the shutter. 

Religious texts, at least that's what I think they are.

Even the benches on which we rested made for interesting pictures,

More details,



Candles at a shrine,

There was more, much more, but eventually we had to get back on the bus and head for our next destination.