Posted in Asia, USA: politics on January 16, 2013 |
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Tiananmen Square, Beijing (Photo: Oded Balilty/AP)
I had a post with this title back in October ’11, on the L.A. smog of past decades and in which I asked how libertarians would have dealt with it in the absence of state regulation and environmental legislation. I never got any kind of response, needless to say—not from a free-marketeer, at any rate, though one did send an email with a link to an article about how anti-pollution regulations hinder job creation, or something like that, but that in no way addressed my question. Now we’ve been reading about the off-the-scales smog alert in Beijing the other day and comparisons with the infamous London pea soup fog that afflicted that city for well over a century, until the first clear air laws were enacted there in the 1950s. London was hardly the only city with a present-day Beijing-like smog problem, of course. The Atlantic has a piece today on smog in Pittsburgh through the mid 20th century. Incredible to think that people lived with this (as they live with it today in Beijing and elsewhere). Scroll down and click on the link of the photo show of what Pittsburgh looked like at noon.
So I repeat my question to libertarians, and to anti-government Tea Party GOP types more generally: if they had their way and government got out of the business of environmental regulation—and with clean air and other such acts repealed in the interest of an unfettered free market, not to mention abolishing subsidies for mass transit—, what do they think would happen pollution-wise? If there were a return to the smog status quo ante—an inevitability, one would presume—what would they propose doing about it, if anything?
I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a response.
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Posted in Asia, Cinema on May 21, 2012 |
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I saw two Chinese films this weekend set during the Maoist era. One was ‘The Ditch’ (in France: ‘Le Fossé’), directed by Wang Bing, who is mainly known for his marathon documentaries on socio-economic transformations in contemporary China (none of which I’ve seen). This is one of the most horrifying films I’ve seen in I don’t know how long. It takes place in 1960, in the Jiabiangou Reeducation Camp in Gansu province—in the middle of nowhere in the Gobi desert—, where intellectuals—including many party members—who were arrested and condemned during the 1957-61 “anti-rightest campaign” were sent to perform slave labor and starve to death. It was one small camp in the Chinese Gulag. The pic is based on testimony by survivors recounted in a book by Yang Xianhui, which has been translated into English (here and here). It is objectively a very good film but is hard to watch, as the nightmarish reality it depicts was precisely that: the reality of China during the Maoist era. I won’t recount particular scenes, as one may read them in the reviews (here, here, and here; et critiques françaises ici). Though one won’t spend an enjoyable two hours watching it, it should nonetheless be seen, particularly by those who had—and may still have—the slightest illusions that communist regimes were somehow more just than others despite their dictatorial nature, or who still find something to defend in communism such as it really existed.
I know something about China of the period, having been a teenage Maoist in the early-mid 1970s, when I read Edgar Snow and other apologetics for the Maoist regime (and avoided critical accounts, e.g. Simon Leys), and supported what (I thought) was happening there. I did likewise for Castro’s Cuba, Vietnam, and other Third World Marxist regimes and guerrilla movements, BTW (though never liked the Soviet Union or its Eastern European satellite states). It was the period, now long past.
The other film was ’11 Flowers’, directed by Wang Xiaoshuai. It is more or less autobiographical, set in 1975 in a town in inland Guiyang province, where armaments factories were relocated by the regime from Shanghai and other coastal cities, and their personnel along with them—but where members of the urban educated classes condemned during the Cultural Revolution were also sent to do manual labor. The main character is an 11-12 year old boy—the director in his youth—who, along with his pals, observes the political convulsions of the Maoist era in its final years. There is a plot and which comes together in the second half of the film, where one gets a glimpse into one of the countless personal tragedies of the Cultural Revolution. The pic is worth seeing. For Hollywood press reviews see here and here, and French ones here, here, and here. And one may see a trailer here.
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Posted in Asia, miscellaneous on March 5, 2012 |
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If one is interested in aviation and world travel, Patrick Smith’s blog, Ask the Pilot, at Salon.com is a must. Patrick is a professional pilot—currently for cargo—, travels the world, and blogs about it. About planes and the world. His blog is great. I’ve been following it for years. His latest post is from Bombay, a.k.a. Mumbai, and some of his observations and experiences are precisely those I had on my last visit to that impossible hellhole of a city over twenty years ago, notably on the several hundred square mile sewage dump in the Arabian Sea one overflies on the landing approach to the airport—a sight that has to be seen to be believed—and the city’s nightmarish traffic. He apparently didn’t take the suburban train from Victoria station to the city’s northern districts, where one passes through the most appalling shantytowns one will see anywhere on this planet. I went into the heart of the poorest quarters of Mexico City and Cairo in the mid 1980s, which were positively high class compared to those in Bombay. My father lived in Bombay during his high school and undergraduate university years. His memories of the city were fond. Likewise for Salman Rushdie. Bombay must have been a fine, even exhilarating, city back then. Le bon vieux temps.
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Posted in Asia on April 6, 2011 |
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Here’s an article on China’s crackdown on human-rights lawyers, activists, and online dissidents. The author is a personal friend (writing under a nom d’emprunt).
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