atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#457: Is it "news"?

Cambodians turn to grave-robbing to buy necessities.

The Khmer Rouge, as I've said before, was such a bloody Communist regime that even the people who love Commies don't talk about them--the Khmer Rouge is the red-headed stepchild of Reds.

(There are people--like me--who will say that "bloody Communist regime" is probably overly redundant.)

Cambodia is not that big of a country, and its government murdered 1,700,000 people in four years. I just knew that the Khmer Rouge was an exemplar of Communism.

* * *

Companies which use products from China are increasing their testing of said products.

No surprises here. The recent flap with the pet food, added to the other stuff, makes it necessary. It's bad enough that companies are being sued for the deaths of pets; what would it be like if they were being sued because someone's kid had died?

China--being a Communist dictatorship and, by and large, a third-world nation--naturally has rather low labor costs. Because it's a Communist dictatorship there is little, if any, environmental regulation, and low wages make it a natural place for manufacturing.

But because of a little quirk in the Chinese culture, the "cheap" nature of goods and services require that extensive product testing take place here in order to ensure safety.

What "quirk"? Am I a racist or something?

The best example I can think of, to explain this "quirk", comes from an incident in 1999 or 2000.

When I was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a while there was this great Chinese restaurant. It was right across from Coe College on First Avenue; it had a great location, the food was good, and it was a nice place. But with all that going for it, it went out of business.

One evening I got off work with a hankering for some Chinese, so I stopped in there and ordered dinner. (I didn't have a cell phone at the time.) And while I sat there, waiting for my food, I watched the guy behind the counter do something interesting.

He packaged up some food, and stapled the bag shut. Then he picked up the telephone and dialed a number from the receipt.

"Hello? This is [name of restaurant, which I've forgotten]. I can't find your house, so could you come and pick up your food?" Pause. "No, I can't find it. Could you just come and get the food?" Pause. "Thank you."

More noise in back; more food packaged. Dial. "Hello? [introduction] I can't find your house...."

The person who did their food delivery had not come in to work that night. Rather than tell customers, "Well, we can't deliver tonight..." when they placed their orders, they took the orders for delivery and then called the customers, expecting them to come get their food.

I don't know about you. When I call and order food to be delivered, it's because I don't want to go get it. If the place calls me up and says they "can't find" my house and asks me to come get it, since I haven't paid for it I'm just going to tell them to stuff it and order from someone else.

Instead of merely foregoing some business, instead they were out for the costs of the ingredients, the cook's time, the packaging, and miscellanious overhead...and I would wager that they lost some customers, too.

That Chinese restaurant--which had been there for a good four years at that point--went out of business a few months after that incident.

But Ed! That's just one example.

If you look at Chinese "bootlegs" of anime, the subtitles are almost always screwy in one way or another--translations vary from episode to episode, timing issues, the subtitles have drop shadows but invisible letters, etc, etc--a lot of QC issues. My favorite example is the Chinese bootleg of Marmalade Boy, which I got long before it was licensed here: a line which is supposed to be translated, "is love like the taste of marmalade on burned toast" instead was translated as "bite out the seared tomato". This was in the opening theme of the show and they had gotten it correct in prior episodes, yet the "seared tomato" version showed up periodically from episode 6 or so through to the end of the series at episode 76.

Fruits Basket was the same way. The main character's name is Tooru Honda, yet it's translated as "Pentan Toi" in several episodes. It's kind of annoying to hear the dialogue say, "Honda Tooru desu!" and have the translation come out, "I'm Pentan Toi!" These were all but unwatchable because the mangled names just annoyed me too much.

And so, when the news came down that pet food had been contaminated by stuff from China--and when, further, the Chinese response was, "Well, it's all your fault for not holding us to a higher standard!"--my primary response was, "Well, yeah, that's about right." Ditto for stories about bootlegs of first-release American movies in China that may or may not actually contain the movie advertised on the box.

The "quirk" I mentioned above is this: the Chinese are the new "Yankee traders", exemplifying "let the buyer beware". When they are conscientious, their products are very good; but when they are merely trying to make a fast buck, their products are worthless at best, and dangerous at worst. And you never know in advance what you're getting.

And so, the very low costs of Chinese goods is now beginning to be offset by the costs of making sure those goods are up to the purity, safety, and reliability standards of the American consumer.

Par for the course.

* * *

File this one under "expected consequences of increased fuel prices."

American auto companies are screwed; it's the 1970s all over again. Having built a business plan on gas remaining artificially cheap forever, they must now scramble to field enough fuel-efficient vehicles to compete with foreign makes, which have had them all along.

It's hard to blame them, though, for not thinking ahead. Ford, for example, was making $15,000 pure profit on each Excursion it sold; how could any company resist that kind of return? But the problem with gravy trains is that they inevitably end, and the SUV gravy train ended more abruptly than they expected.

A competent economist--who was paid large sums of money for his expertise--should have been able to tell the companies, "Look, we need to do this and that in order to plan for the future." In fact, I am betting that many people in the upper echelons said exactly that. But they were probably shouted down by the people who said, "Just look at the sales figures! Look at the profits we're making! Americans love this stuff! We'd have to be morons to make smaller cars!"

And those people are, by and large, also right, because Americans historically have not chosen small, fuel-efficient cars.

Except when the laws of supply-and-demand dictate it. Your $50,000 Hummer H2 with the 24-inch rims may be cool, but it gets 8 MPG with a stiff tailwind--and it has a 40-gallon tank. At $3.50 per gallon you're going to dump $140 into the tank every time you fill it. (More if you're one of those boneheads who always buys premium regardless of what the engine actually needs.) And for $140 you will travel about 320 miles, which--coincidentally enough--is about as far as I can go on a tankful of gas before I decide the needle is too close to the "E" for my comfort. And it only costs me $35 to fill my 10-gallon tank. (More typically it only takes around 8-9 gallons to fill it, because "too close to the E" leaves me about 1-2 gallons of reserve. It's a pretty good system, I think.) Your truck may be "cool" and all, but I wouldn't trade my car for your truck.

Actually, I would; and then I would just sell the truck and buy another car like mine. As things stand right now I would turn a tidy profit.

The article predicts that truck sales will rise again later this year. Well, when the EPA "summer blend" requirements lapse, gas will drop into the upper $2 range again, as it always does, and people will forget that gas is expensive for half the year. In any event, gas isn't really all that expensive--particularly when you adjust for inflation--and the only people who are worried about it are people like me, who don't make a lot of money.

While it is encouraging to see people taking fuel economy into account, I am betting that this story is not yet an indicator of a sea change in American driving habits.

* * *

When teachers lie.

This is not news, and it's not new. When I was in 8th grade, my history teacher told my class that the 2nd Amendment applied to the National Guard. This was in 1981.

He didn't say, "I think...." or "Some people say..."; no, he simply said that the Second Amendment was there to ensure that our government could defend the country.

Which is, of course, complete bullshit. No country needs to state in its constitution that it plans to defend itself. And any country that does feel the need to make sure "self defense" is an option will not include it in an amendment, which--by definition--is an afterthought.

This was an example of a liberal teacher trying to indoctrinate his students into a certain mindset. It's not new (or news) at all.

Again, it shows the weakness of their position. They cannot win in a debate of ideas; too much of the liberal nonsense is based on emotion, too little on reason. If you successfully demonstrate the flaws in their reasoning, either they start to hurl insults at you ("You're a Nazi!"), they tell you that you're stupid or crazy or evil, or else they change the subject.

Democrats want to revive the Fairness Doctrine because they can't win, and it's only "fair" when liberals win. "Air America" went bankrupt and disappeared pretty quickly, while right-wing talk radio continues to flourish--so radio is "unfair" and must be hyper-regulated in order to make things "fair".

Gee, it has nothing to do with the fact that liberal talk radio is about as much fun as a root canal, and about as interesting as watching paint dry. More liberals listen to Rush Limbaugh than listened to "Air America". Al Franken is a moron; the only reason his books were best sellers was that he put "Rush Limbaugh" across the front cover in large letters, and then plastered Bill O'Reilly on his other one--riding the coattails of the success of others. When it was up to him alone, he failed, because he has never been entertaining.

"Never"? Well, the first time I saw Al Franken it was on Saturday Night Live sometime before the original cast drifted away. He was doing a brief appearance on the "news" segment, between the news satire and "Jane, you ignorant slut!" His segment was about as funny as the closing credits of "Nightline", and I--while watching this dork--wondered, "Is this supposed to be funny? Who the hell is this jerk?" His segment was thinly-veiled self-promotion, and the "humor" allegedly came from the fact that he was making his thinly-veiled self-promotion into a vaguely self-satirical piece.

But funny, it was not. It was boring. And stupid. And if a 14-year-old TV addict thinks that, man, you are sunk; your target demographic has just rejected you as a worthless pile of crap.

Still, Al Franken has managed to make a career for himself despite his major handicap. There are plenty of places for unfunny comedians to go. Some of them write for sitcoms (and then networks wonder why sitcoms are "broken"--sheesh) and others simply ply their trade in venues where they can get a laugh just by saying things like "Crawford, Texas, is a villiage in search of its idiot--hey, we found him! He's in the White House! Come get him! PLEASE!" (...I made that quote up, but I would bet my plane tickets that some comedian--several comedians--have said something just like it.)

It's always easy for liberals to get a cheap laugh out of other liberals by making fun of conservatives; and the meaner the insult, the bigger the laughs. But whatever you do, never expect that liberals can laugh at themselves. They can't. They won't. Ann Coulter makes a jab at Johnathan Edwards (the "faggot" joke) and she is still being excoriated for it, and will continue to be for the rest of her days. In thirty years, after she's retired from political commentary, and appears on some show to talk about her retirement, some liberal who wasn't even conceived when she made the "faggot" joke will angrily denounce her for it. In fact, when she dies, some "tolerant" and "egalitarian" liberal will make a celebratory comment--including saying that she should have died a lot sooner--and cite the "faggot" joke as one reason.

But the indoctrination of youth is nothing new; it is just more obvious today. My grandfather called the University of Chicago "the University of Moscow" long before I was born. (It's therefore doubly interesting that the U of C economists are well-known for winning Nobel Prizes for Economics...for lassez-faire economics papers.)

These situations can't last forever, though. It doesn't take a genius to look at the sharp differences in historical texts between 1980 and 2000; and it won't take a genius to note, "Hey, look at the leftist politics of the 1960s. Those people were writing the textbooks of the 1990s and 2000s, and the commentary is a sharp departure from prior writings. Is there value to this?" Ultimately the truth will out; there is too much prior work available for the "indoctrinaire" faction to triumph.

Unless, of course, they can manage to censor all libraries and the internet...and I would not bet on that. The samizdat network in the USSR functioned with fax machines and bulletin board systems; the internet is a bit more advanced than that.

Although this situation is cause for alarm, it's not the end of America. I'm pretty confident of that.
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