Big Smoke

’cause it’s hard to see from where I’m standin’

Parallels

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The NYTimes recently had a panel of pundits wax philosophical over China’s universities’ prickliness concerning Uighers and Tibetans.

I’m surprised that no parallel was drawn between Xinjiang University’s squelching of dissent concerning Uigher territory with Columbia University’s squelching of dissent concerning Palestine.

We have our taboos, too.

Whoosh

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is the sound of China passing us by.

Of course, we knew that would happen: They spent $300 billion US on rail infrastructure and Obama can’t get a bill for $53 billion to shore up our decrepit network. But what gets me is whomever the Times editor is that is highlighting user comments.

“When Americans want to go long distance, they fly?” What, and Chinese don’t? Their country’s as big as ours, and the whole point of high-speed rail is that not only is it comparable in speed to air transit, but it’s cheaper and much more efficient in transporting large amounts of people – as anybody who’s ever been in an airport in the last twenty years knows what it’s like to be constantly delayed.

“Chinese labor is cheaper.” Okay, whatever. They’ve spent $300 billion on rail transit. How much have we spent? They’re not getting it on the cheap: They’re getting it, damn the costs.

All it is is simple prioritization. They want high speed rail. They got high speed rail. We want large banker bonuses. We got large banker bonuses. Maybe I’m batting for the wrong side.

Lemme Break It Down For You,

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Jim Ledbetter: Your article on the economic woes of this country and the economists you quote completely miss the point.

Economists LOVE to make the argument that Americans must retool for a different marketplace because it means that all the blame for the anemic economy can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the working man: He costs too much. He knows too little. He’s not flexible enough. We need him to be fully qualified and experienced in our high-tech position but cheap enough to be competitive against his counterparts in India and flexible enough to work unpaid overtime after moving to a different city. Pardon me while I gag.

For the love of god, employers are not hiring because people aren’t buying their products and services.¬†People aren’t buying their products and services because they, by being un- and under-employed, don’t have the money to. ¬†It’s really as simple as that.

Obama’s problem is not that there is no government solution, as you suggest, but that governance and politics in general is the art of the compromise and as it stands the only thing compromised here was the obvious answer: A large, direct injection of cash into the economy through government works programs. FDR did it. China shrugged off this last economic bust by spending a trillion on infrastructure. But our current circumstance forces half-measures, and even those come at the cost of political expediency: Greasing the right palms, kickbacks to the right subcommittees and special interests, tax cuts for the rich and ever more corporate welfare.

The problem isn’t our stupid workers, it’s our stupid Congress, stupid.

No Hipsters in China

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J. David Goodman laments that there isn’t much of a fixed-speed bicycle market in China, and posits that it’s because there’s not too much of a Hipster community to foster such. Consequently he wonders how we might foment such in China.

Two things pop into mind:

  • Fixed-speeds suck. Fixed-speeds are more a scenester thing based on some romanticized vision of 80s New York bike messengers. Slaloming one’s way between cars is a cute concept if one wants to buy into a “underground culture,” (which is about as authentic as the Trust Funders’ “slumming it” sections of Williamsburg) but when the bikes are more expensive than mountain bikes (my preferred mode for actual work) and road bikes while offering less control, support, efficiency or safety than those, what the hell is the point?
  • If one is buying into a “counter-culture” in China, one becomes a punk. If Hipsterdom can be defined as an apolitical reaction to the ever-changing and largely arbitrary fads of an entrenched consumer culture, then there first needs to be an entrenched consumer culture that trumps politics. And quite frankly, let’s hope it never ends up that way: The last thing we need are more yuppies-to-be dictating what color keffiyehs the “radicals” will wear when they twitter their “protests.”

And while we’re talking about connoisseurs of kitsch, let’s get rid of hipsters here, too. It’s funny: In America we went straight from a conformist/non-conformist dichotomy to a universal heterogeneity that’s almost completely meaningless because of a lack of authenticity in how people adorn themselves.

In other words, we cover ourselves in white noise.

The problem with media isn’t so much that there is too much information – anyone who watches network news knows that, more than likely, less actual information is imparted to the viewer than before – but a form of saturation of spectacle has taken effect: Disinformation, advertising and just straight nonsense take equal space and are given equal credence. In a sense, fashion is the physical iteration of just that.

So just as I will probably never buy an e-reader for the fear that actual books – y’know, pure unadulterated sources of information, distilled, from cover to cover – would end up being portioned and chopped up like newspaper articles now, both in print and online, with spliced-in nonsense at every turn, I have absolutely no idea what somebody’s saying when they walk outside with a t-shirt displaying a sports team that doesn’t exist, jeans with holes and other forms of wear that they didn’t themselves put there, and a cell phone that performs its secondary abilities better than its primary function.

They are, quite literally, walking disinformation. They cancel me out, and they’re not even making a political point.

We’ve Been Here Before

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The State Department got involved with Google’s issues with China, and China took note.

Setting aside the sovereignty issues of imposing what they view is an explicit attempt by America to undermine their media control – in that the US views Twitter, Google, YouTube et al as tools to encourage citizens of the world to clamber for freedom of press and expression – they simply point out that only once in their history has a foreign power succeeded at breaking into the Chinese market.

So the question I suppose is, is internet addiction as powerful as heroin?

Albania

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Nathan Thrall is grasping at straws. For starters, Albania is a Muslim country like China is a Christian country.

For seconds, if they happen to like us not because they’re necessarily paragons of democracy but because those we bombed happened to be their enemies, then what do we gain as a country from their friendship?

Bush liked to go there because it was a rather innocuous, isolated country that was practically the only one whose populace wasn’t actively protesting his presence. If North Korea treated Bush that way, he’d have gone on state visits to North Korea more often.

It seems the article has very little to do with promoting world peace efforts or democracy and more to do with alliances of convenience, a smarmy CIA-like cynicism towards foreign affairs that should send chills down the spines of those who wish a more stable world to live in.

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