Category Archives: China

How You Know Your Empire Has Died


Here’s the audio clip:


This discussion between Ali Velshi and Stephen Leeb on Al Jazeera America yesterday was the smartest five minutes I’ve heard on TV news in a long time. The segment was about the new carbon pollution proposals the EPA just unveiled, the same proposals causing aneurisms in right-wing “Drill Here, Drill Now” land (sorry, bear with me guys: for some reason I can’t get the audio clip to post, so here’s the transcript. And you’re gonna have to take my word for this until I can figure out how to post audio, which I believe involves me making a purchase of some kind, possibly more storage) (Got the link posted, I was right, I needed to buy something. The things I do for you guys):

AV: Joining us to tell us more is Stephen Leeb, founder and research chairman of the Leeb Group. Now Stephen, you and I have talked for years about cleaner energy, you‘re an expert on the energy field and somebody who embraces a cleaner environment. My guess is that you would like this, but I’ve heard rumblings that you don’t think this is a good idea?

SL: Well Ali, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a day late, a dollar short, and maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s way too little. What we need in this country is something nationwide, something like the interstate highway system. Something like a smart grid that runs across the country. I mean for me the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states. That just doesn’t cut it. We have a grid in this country that in some.. there are cases in which our grid is more than a century old.

AV: This is our electrical grid.

SL: This is our electrical grid! I mean the only reason people can’t hack it is that one state doesn’t talk to another state! That’s the only advantage I can see to having a grid this old. We could create so many jobs by following China’s example. Build out a smart grid. Then you can have all these energy sources — gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal…

AV: Everything feeds in.

SL: Everything feeds in. Right now the Chinese are eating our lunch. I mean there was an item about a week ago in the Financial Times. EDF, a massive French utility, is building an electric plant that will supply 7% of British electricity. Massive! Except they didn’t have the skill sets. Who did they turn to? Not us! The Chinese. Who now has the fastest way of transmitting voltage from one part of the country to the other part of a country? The Chinese! We need to get our act together, Ali, if we’re really going to do something. Yes, I mean, I applaud any efforts to cut down emissions, to use new fuels and we may even get more solar and more wind because ….

AL: And that’s starting to happen. But in Europe it was the cap.. I hear you on how this can be unwieldly with the states but the concept of a cap-and-trade system and an exchange has worked out for Europe.

SL: It can work out yes, but it’s not going to be the solution unless you have a grid that can accommodate it across the country. Eventually you run into trouble. And I’m not even talking about the troubles that you see when you write down the amount of shale oil in this country by 60%, which we did the other day. All of a sudden the Monterey has 4% of what we originally thought.

AV: Right, across the country we are finding in these wells where we thought there was more oil and in some cases natural gas, there’s less.

SL: And it could be much less or maybe there’s more, I mean, you can always hope. But right now we’re becoming more and more dependent on the Marcellus. And you’re starting to see very rapid decline rates there. We need something Ali, I mean we were able to do it 30-40 years ago, interstate highway system, man to the moon…

AV: We don’t have the will to do anything on a national level, particularly something that would cost billions and billions of dollars.

SL: But create billions and billions of jobs! I mean, we somehow equate investment with spending, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.

AV: Give me a sense, because we’ve had some Republicans come out and say this will increase energy costs for the average family in this country where the middle class is struggling. What is the net result on electrical prices out of this?

SL: You know, my guess is the net result is electrical prices go up because the guts of our electrical system right now is still hydrocarbons, and they’re not getting more plentiful. They’re getting scarcer, despite the shale revolution. They are. We’re not going to ever become energy independent, at most maybe we’ll be able to produce 11 million barrels of oil. We may have a little gas to export but basically we’re still going to be relying on outside sources. So regardless, it’s going to up. We need cleaner, renewable, new sources of energy in order to counteract that and this legislation or these proposals — they’re not legislation, not by a long shot — they just don’t go anywhere near far enough to getting us to that goal. I mean I hate to say this but we should take a page out of what the Chinese are doing. I mean look…

AV: There’s no question, they are well ahead of us when it comes to electricity.

SL: And look at their economy? They’re spending all of this money but last I heard their economy is still growing at 7 and a half percent a year. One of the reasons is all the money they’re spending on infrastructure. Let’s do the same thing!

AV: From your lips to their ears, Stephen! Good to see you …

This is what makes me nuts. The idea that we’ve lost touch with what is an “investment” and what is “spending,” when the hell did we decide we can no longer “invest” in America? Now it’s all just “pork” or whatever. The Democrats can’t even get ahead of the damn meme.

You know that America is no longer a global superpower when we can no longer do The Big Things. The saddest thing is, we can’t do these Big Things not because we don’t have the money or the know-how or the military might, but simply because we don’t have the will. This is how empires die, people.

The last “big” thing we did was invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did it, not because we forged consensus and compromised and came together as a nation to do it, but because one faction bulldozed their way over anyone who so much as asked the question, why? They used every tool in the toolbox — fear, flag-waving, you name it — to get their way.

The fact that the Left is completely unable to muster the same amount of national will on something clearly more in the country’s interest than invading an oil-rich country in the Middle East is, to me, the single biggest threat to America’s future.

Damn depressing, folks.


Filed under Ali Velshi, carbon offsets, China, climate change, environment, EPA

Factories Full Of Women

This video about Mitt Romney’s China dealings is making the rounds:

Around the 0:45 mark you can hear Romney talking about a tour he took of a Chinese factory. You hear him talk about how awful the living conditions are in these factories, how many hours a day these people work, the crappy wages, and how they live 12 girls crammed into one room, with one tiny bathroom serving 10 rooms. And how the factory is surrounded by a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers. Take it away, Mitt:

And we said, “Gosh I can’t believe how you keep these girls in. And they said, ‘No, no, no. This is to keep other people from coming in! Because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out or they’ll just come in here and start working and try to get compensated! This is to keep people out!'”

Riiiiight. Mitt Romney is either dumber than a box of hammers or he thinks his audience is.

I wonder if he thinks this is a plan for American workers? I’ll bet he does.


Filed under 2012 presidential election, China, Mitt Romney

>China Does Climate Change Turnabout

>Conventional wisdom holds that China, now the world’s largest contributor of greenhouse gases, is also the biggest foot-dragger on climate change, refusing to place a cap on its greenhouse gas emmissions. (In fact, it seems this is a popular talking point among anti climate-change legislation folks.)

That seems to be changing, according to today’s Washington Post:

Yet, in visible and less visible ways, China has begun to address its emissions problem. The steps are driven in part by the parochial concern that climate change could worsen the flooding that plagues the country’s low-lying coastal regions, including Shanghai, and cause water shortages in western areas as glaciers in the Himalayas melt away.

But China has also begun to see energy efficiency and renewable energy as ingredients for the type of modern economy it wants to build, in part because it would make the nation’s energy sources more secure.

“We think this is a new business for us, not a burden,” said Gan Zhongxue, who left a job as a top U.S. scientist for the giant ABB Group to head up research and development at ENN, the Langfang company that made its fortune as the dominant natural gas distributor in 80 Chinese cities.

This makes sense, and is the argument we tree-hugging liberals have been making in the U.S. for years. It’s just good business. God hasn’t made dinosaurs in a few million years; oil is finite. We’re running out, the world is going to need a new energy source, so why not be leaders of the new energy economy instead of holding on to the past?

According to the Post, China’s government has taken steps to address climate change that put the American government to shame:

Still, China has taken significant steps in the past five years. It removed subsidies for motor fuel, which now costs more than it does in the United States; its fuel-efficiency standard for new urban vehicles is 36.7 miles per gallon, a level the United States will not reach for seven years. It has set high efficiency standards for new coal plants; the United States has none. It has set new energy-efficiency standards for buildings. It has targeted its 1,000 top emitters of greenhouse gases to boost energy efficiency by 20 percent. And it has shut down many older, inefficient industrial boilers and power plants.


Smaller details are getting attention, too. Xie said forcing supermarkets to charge for plastic bags reduced the use of the bags by two-thirds, saving the equivalent of about 30,000 barrels of oil a day.

Last week, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the efforts are starting to pay off. The agency lowered its estimate of future Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

This should set off alarm bells here in the States: if a behemoth like China is transitioning its economy toward a green future, we’d better scramble to catch up or we will be left behind.

Make no mistake, China has a long way to go. I suffer no delusions in that regard. But we can no longer hide our head in the sand and justify our own polluting ways by saying “China’s worse!”

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Filed under China, climate change, climate change bill, environment

Flag Flap, Chinese Edition

Proving yet again that there’s nothing President Obama can do that won’t freak out the right wing nut jobs, I thought I’d call people’s attention to this fauxtroversy about flying the Chinese flag to honor the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Apparently it has occupied the right wingers for the past two weeks, though I just heard about it today.

It started, as these things often do, with Drudge and rapidly ricocheted around the right wing nuttosphere. Here’s fear-porn peddler Chuck Baldwin at News With Views:

Lest anyone doubt the communist leanings of President Barack Obama, look no further than to his decision to hoist the Red Chinese flag (for the first time in history) over the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, September 20.


Here’s the report from WingNut Daily:

The administration of President Barack Obama, whose official blogger while Obama was a candidate came under attack for hanging a Communist Party flag in his Harvard apartment, apparently has given permission to raise the emblem of Communist China over the south lawn of the White House.

The plan, reported by several English-language Chinese media outlets, has raised concern among those who are working to guard the United States from outside influences that could be threats.

According to the Global Times English-language edition, the national flag of the communist People’s Republic of China on Sept. 20 will be raised for the first time on the White House’s south lawn – a secured area seldom available for public events – in recognition of the Chinese anniversary.

ZOMG! The South Lawn is HALLOWED GROUND! Watered with the blood of PATRIOTS! There goes the Republic!!


This just proves what a big fat Commie Obama is!

The story has since been picked up by right wing news outlets all around the country; one columnist even wondered:

Where is Senator “Tail Gunner” Joe Mcarthy when you need him?

Where indeed?

Of course Houston, we have a problem. This would not, in fact, be the first time the Chinese flag was flown over the South Lawn ever! Indeed, the Chinese flag flew on the South Lawn and all over the White House when George W. Bush welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao in April 2006. The Associated Press took a lot of real purty pitchers from the welcoming ceremony. Lots of flags:

So, where were all these nut jobs when their beloved George W. Bush was flying Chinese flags (and even playing the Chinese national anthem) over the sacred White House grounds?


Adding even more insanity to this story is the fact that President Obama has not, in fact, ordered the Chinese flag to fly on the White House South Lawn tomorrow. The story was debunked by, of all people, Fox News:

The White House on Friday dismissed as inaccurate reports from China that the administration will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic by flying the Chinese flag on the South Lawn.

China Daily, citing other media reports, claimed the president of the Fujian Association of the United States had been granted permission to hoist the flag “in a ceremony in front of the President’s residence.”

A ceremony, indeed, will take place. But it won’t happen on the White House grounds — rather, on the Ellipse, on the other side of E Street from the presidential residence.

China Daily’s report — which said the flag would represent strong U.S.-Chinese relations and recognition of China’s success in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics — set off howls of protest on the Internet and among conservative talk show hosts despite failing to receive confirmation from the White House.

Of course it set off howls of protest: even though Bush did it too (and probably other presidents as well).

What a bunch of hysterical phonies. These are the folks we’re going to listen to on healthcare reform? I don’t think so.

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Filed under China, President Barack Obama, President Bush, right wing

>China Syndrome

>My Congress Critter, Jim Cooper, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas have concocted a new carbon cap-and-trade scheme called The Safe Markets Development Act:

 The Safe Markets Development Act provides an innovative auction mechanism for cap-and-trade legislation that guarantees science-based reductions of carbon pollution while ensuring market stability.  The bill would rely upon an independent Board to determine the annual allowance prices necessary to meet emissions targets from 2012 to 2020. The U.S. Treasury Department would conduct quarterly allowance auctions designed to maintain prices determined by the Board. The Board must conduct an annual review of its success in meeting the emissions goals and adjust the forecasted prices to ensure we stay on track to meet the 2020 emissions goal.

Let me be the first to say: huh?

Here’s a thought: how about instead of all of this cap-and-trade crap, we just resolve to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the board? I know, that would be far too easy. I just don’t understand all of this cap-and-trade sleight of hand. It seems like the more complicated we make it, the easier it will be for corporations to avoid cutting their carbon emissions.

A couple of weeks ago, China’s Department of Climate Change said countries that import goods made in polluting Chinese factories are responsible for China’s pollution:

Beijing argues that rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility for the estimated 15-25% of China’s carbon emissions that are created by its production of exports.

He argued that it was unfair to put the highest burden on China.

“We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy,” he said.

“We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers,” he said.

So, it’s all our fault that China pollutes its corner of the globe? I don’t think so.

Here’s an idea. If the Chinese don’t want to manufacture goods without poisoning their air, water and soil, there are a lot of shuttered American factories that would love to show those folks how it’s done.

Folks like these companies.

Is this protectionism? Maybe. I never understood why a little protectionism is supposed to be such a bad thing. What’s wrong with protecting jobs in America? Maybe if we’d been more worried about protecting American jobs these past 10 years, and less worried about protecting the profit margin of multinational corporations, we wouldn’t be in this huge mess right now.

This Geography of Recession map is startling. Perry County, TN, has 27.3% unemployment; there’s 18.6% in Lauderdale County. Multinational corporations paid no price for shuttering their American factories in communities like these, shipping production to China, and taking advantage of China’s lax environmental, workplace, and human rights standards.

Free marketers say this is why environmental laws and unions are a bad thing for American manufacturing. I say, hell no. The solution is not for America to become more like China, where workers are treated like slaves and factories pollute with impunity. We’ve already been down that road and learned those lessons.

China needs to get a clue. I have no problem with the idea of a “pollution tax” on imported goods. If China doesn’t like it, they can stop polluting at their factories. If they can’t do it, or are unwilling to do it, then we can manufacture those goods right here and show them how. As the price of oil rises, we’ll be doing more of it closer to home anyway.

Does this mean prices will go up? Sure it does. But you’re going to pay anyway, one way or the other. You’ll pay with unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, pollution-related health issues, etc. Or you can pay a little more for piece of furniture or a T-shirt.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Filed under China, environment, Rep. Jim Cooper

>It’s a Floor Wax AND A Dessert Topping!

>Oh for crying out loud. I’ve blogged about this before but who the hell makes a child’s toy out of a freaking date rape drug? China, that’s who:

Toys linked to a date-rape drug recalled

China-made beads for kids metabolize into GhB when ingested

WASHINGTON – Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful “date rape” drug when ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

With only seven weeks until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to the toy industry — already bruised by a slew of recalls last summer.

In the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. It is called Bindeez in Australia, where it was named toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year.

Moose Enterprises said Bindeez and Aqua Dots are made at the same factory, which is located in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province. Last week the Chinese government announced an export ban on more than 700 toy factories in the region because of shoddy products.

It’s the free hand of the market, Chinese-style. The same free hand that brought us melamin-tainted dog food and antifreeze-contaminated cough syrup.

Side effects of swallowing the GhB-laden Aqua-Dots include “unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death”:

The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday. A 20-month-old has recovered completely while the other child, whose age was not known, has been released from a hospital after five days and is recovering, he said.

Thankfully, we still have a somewhat-functioning government, where underfunded government agencies the Consumer Product Safety Commission are at least able to read news reports from Australia and issue a product recall.

Keep that in mind next time a Republican or Libertarian tells you the government is too big and we need to get rid of “useless agencies” like this one.

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Filed under China, imports, recalls

>What’s The Matter With China?

>We’ve turned to China to manufacture everything from cough syrup to dog food to cheap plastic crap sold at Wal-Mart, but I think it’s time we got to the bottom of this:

WASHINGTON, June 18 — China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.
. . .
Over all, the number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record.

It also means that China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.

This is very scary to me. Because it’s not just cheap plastic toys anymore, it’s everything. Not only have we had the pet food-melamine scare originating in China, but also recalls of toxin-laced monkfish, tainted cough syrup and toxic toothpaste. People are dying around the world because of this. Hello! Is anyone paying attention?

What’s scary is that, in this globalized economy, you can’t look for the “made in China” label and avoid those products. Stuff isn’t made anymore, it’s assembled, and the components come from all over.

Remind me, who thought this was a good idea?

Last week the Chinese authorities destroyed U.S. imports of raisins and health supplements. They cited safety reasons:

“The products failed to meet the sanitary standards of China,” the agency said in a brief notice posted on its Web site. No details were given on when or how the inspections were conducted.

The agency said it was asking “all local departments to increase quarantine examinations of foods imported from the United States.”

Oh, we’re so sorry. I’m just glad to know you folks have standards. Now, would you mind applying them to the stuff you send to us?

Not coincidentally, yesterday the Chinese balked at U.S. lead limits on children’s toys.

The Chinese government opposes a proposed U.S. standard limiting the amount of lead allowed in bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry sold for children.

All but three of more than 30 Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls for lead in children’s jewelry since 2003 were for China-made items. The others were made in India.

Little bit of tit-for-tat here, you think? Maybe a bit of, “you take our melamine wheat gluten or we won’t buy your California raisins”?

I’d say “screw ‘em,” except I really don’t think the American consumer is willing to pay the price–literally. What would these things cost if they were made here in the USA? What does it cost us when they’re not?

I realize China is a communist country, but as it operates with the rest of the world, it’s the “free market system” run amok. No standards, no regulations — it’s like the freaking Wild West out there! When the “free hand of the market” intervenes in the form of product recalls, it’s already too late for thousands of people and pets, dead from diethylene glycol or melamine poisoning. Next time I need to buy cough syrup or dog food, I’d like to know that key pieces of it aren’t made in China. But there’s no way of knowing.

The only way to be perfectly safe is to make this stuff yourself. Great. Can the model for consumer safety in the new millenium really be “Little House On The Prairie”?


Filed under China, globalization, imports, recalls