China encounters The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

February 27th, 2018


in 2005 the Minister of Water Resources declared a need ‘”o fight for every drop of water or die, that is the challenge facing China”, while former premier Wen Jiabao said that water shortages threatened “the very survival of the Chinese nation”.

Is it really that bad? Unfortunately, it is. Accepted definitions of water stress, scarcity and acute scarcity are resources of 1,700 cubic meters, 1,000 cubic meters and 500 cubic meters per person per year, covering everything from nuclear power stations to teeth cleaning. China’s overall resources are roughly 2,000 cubic meters, but 80 per cent of water resources are in the south. In the north, eight provinces suffer from acute water scarcity, a further four from scarcity. They account for 38 per cent of China’ agriculture, 50 per cent of its power generation, 46 per cent of its industry and 41 per cent of its population.

The water resources of the 112m population of the Beijing/Tianjin/Hebei region, equate to half of acute scarcity. In the past 25 years, 28,000 rivers have disappeared. Groundwater has fallen by up to 1-3 metres a year. One consequence: parts of Beijing are subsiding by 11cm a year. The flow of the Yellow River, water supply to millions, is a tenth of what it was in the 1940s; it often fails to reach the sea. Pollution further curtails supply: in 2017 8.8 per cent of water was unfit even for agricultural or industrial use.

The consequences of scarcity are all too human. In Lintao city residents in high rise buildings must carry water up to their apartments. In Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province (population 35m), the 2,500-year-old famed vinegar industry is under threat, while at the main international hotel last year guests were advised that water for washing was available for one hour a day. Zhengzhou’s projected population increase of 3m-4m by 2020 may be unrealisable: there is water for only one of seven new purifying plants.

The political challenge is immense: China’s Five Year Plan implies halving per capita water consumption while doubling China’s 2010 GDP. “Don’t worry,’ say economists, “China has the South North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP). They can shift water. Or desalinate it.” Alas, not in sufficient quantities. Even if all the water of the SNWTP went to the Beijing/Tianjin/Hebei region, it would still leave its population suffering acute water scarcity. But it must also supply three other provinces. Transfers from Tibet or Russia are fantasy. Desalination is dotty: it is very power-consuming and power generation (still largely coal) consumes much water.

In other news, we seemed to recall that there were three childhood traits of cereal killers which included decapitation, setting on fire, or taking a wee-wee on Tony the Tiger.

A tiny slice

February 26th, 2018

of what’s going on in the rest of the world. Pretty wild.

Add Jack Cashill to the list

February 26th, 2018

We began with Clarice and Sundance, and now add Jack Cashill (you remember him) to the list. Few men (Walter Williams, Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell come to mind) are willing to take the vitriol unleashed upon them for saying commonsensical tings.

Cashill: Says Sundance in conclusion, “I will give testimony, provide names, outline dates, and give all prior records to any lawyer for use in a wrongful death lawsuit – so long as their intent would be to financially ruin the entire system and personally bankrupt the participants.”

We’ll see.

Worse than even we thought

February 25th, 2018

Clarice and Sundance explain it. The ideological commitment of Bizarro World to ignoring reality actually pays well. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Related content here. That’s what you get when the skim is the scam, and the scammers need to deflect attention from themselves by pointing out the moral inferiority of their opponents.

Hey, Milton Friedman saw all this way back in 1964.

You can’t make this stuff up

February 24th, 2018

This is the funniest thing we’ve seen in a long time.

Seems very odd

February 23rd, 2018

Dunkirk took place in mid-1940. Suspicion was released a year later, and is currently on TCM. It certainly seems out of sync with the times. Tiny bonus: the LIBOR scandal.

Oh no, something else to worry about

February 22nd, 2018


Michio Kaku gave his harrowing take on artificial intelligence during a Q & A session with fans on Reddit. The US physicist outlined the evolution of robots in future, but it’s absolutely terrifying. He believes robots will eventually become so advanced they run the risk of replacing the human race. And to stop them having “murderous thoughts” before killing us, humans will need to act fast and chip them with preventive technology.

Q: what did you do after reading his latest book? Tiny bonus: another politician is a dope.

Business travel isn’t going to get any easier, guys

February 21st, 2018

Our first commercial airplane flight was around half a century ago. There was no screening, and boarding was pretty quick. Soon after that screening started, because crooks and idiots had started hijacking flights to Cuba, of all places, as well as to the charming middle east.

By contrast, when we left for Germany on Sunday of this week on a 3:15pm flight from LAX, it seems there had been a few more changes. Hey, driving to the airport and dealing with the bureaucracy took ONLY 2.5 hours! We left home shortly before 1pm, and arrive at the gate a full ten minutes before the tots and the wheelchair bound were interrogated and allowed to board. Random packages were screened at the gate, even though they had just been previously screened.

Further, by way of another stark contrast, it can sometimes be an absolute pleasure to take a Saturday midnight business-trip flight West from LAX to Guangzhou, since it’s not hard for a Californian to sleep at that hour, and miraculously you arrive just in time for your early morning meeting Monday in China. Well Rested. Nice work if you can get it. (Hey, what happened to Sunday, anyhow, since it vanished?)

But if you fly the 11 hours for a business trip on Sunday at 3:15 in the afternoon from LAX to Dortmund’s nearest big airport, Frankfurt, things aren’t so much fun. For starters, who can sleep for long in mid-afternoon? And second, for many people, the natural sleep cycle begins not far from the plane’s landing schedule. So there you are meeting a country go-go ready to do business at 11am Monday, while your body thinks that it’s midnight and time for zzzzzzz. Hint: don’t sign any critical deals at the arrival gate.

But wait, it gets worse! This truly massive airport covers 6000 acres and is a modern version of some Twilight Zone episode. It can take an hour or more just to find others arriving to go to the same meeting. Oh, and if you’re heading to Dortmund for a meeting, it can take 4 hours to rent a car and drive the 150 or so miles. And remember: your group is doing this at 3am body-time, while the folks you are visiting, are spending a nice comfortable Monday sipping tea. (Again: avoid signing contracts under such conditions!)

The good news is that things settle down after a while, and so Tuesday meetings, lunches, dinners, etc., can be productive, as indeed they were this time. But the best personal part of it is that if you go through the modest hell of staying up all night Tuesday/Wednesday and conclude some successful business, you’ll be pleased that the 18 hour return trip home from Germany, which starts at midnight, puts you right back on your original sleep cycle.

A boredom that will live in infamy?

February 20th, 2018

Zzzzzz. Snore.

For fun and often irony we recommend Maggie’s Farm.

Yes, a special habitat is needed

February 19th, 2018

For the writers of this.

Reality versus Bizarro World

February 18th, 2018

Clarice and Thomas Lifson make sense. On the other hand, this is just nuts. As we say, this is what happens when the left loses control of the narrative, which they’ve previously enjoyed for a long time.

Government downsizing candidate and other things

February 17th, 2018

Jeesh. Also, Joseph Lister’s fantastic accomplishments. Did he invent Listerine?

Heck of a thing, now and then

February 16th, 2018

It’s that Farrow fellow again. And here’s the lady. Must have been the Ruskies. Or maybe not. Better get the FBI on it: they’re always on top of things. Final little point: our favorite TV show of the last decade is Matthew Weiner‘s Mad Men, which we thought was great (in part because, decades ago, we read the NYT every Tuesday to see what was happening with BBD&O, Leo Burnett and others in the ad world). The writing, casting and acting were great. We also liked it because our office at 399 Park was occasionally visible in some of the episodes. If a Martian spacecraft had landed at the start of that series in 1960 and put hashtags on everything, the hysteria of recent months and years would have been played out a half century ago.

For your consideration

February 15th, 2018

I, pencil. It’s better than thinking about this. Or this. Or this — BTW, stop with the “liberal” nonsense. JFK was a liberal, and we can easily agree that a rising tide lifts all boats. These are leftists, not liberal in any sense.


February 14th, 2018


The World Bank predicts Cambodia’s GDP will grow more than 6.9 percent in 2018, after its economic performance ranked it sixth best in the world over the previous 10 years and pushed it into the lower-middle-income country group. The two big drivers are tourism and garment manufacturing. Between 2012 and 2016, tourism to Cambodia increased to more than 5 million visits from 3.5 million, according to the government of Cambodia. Tourism contributed 12 percent, or $2.4 billion to Cambodia’s economy in 2016, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, a number that is expected to grow by 7 percent a year over the next 10 years. Those are huge numbers for a country with a little more than 15 million people.

On a Saturday this past fall, hundreds of people were waiting in an hourlong line to climb the staircases of Angkor Wat. Legend has it that if you ascend to the third level of the huge 12th-century Hindu temple, you’ll find the center of the universe. The news has reached China: Most of the tourists in the courtyard and at dozens of other ancient temples in the Cambodian jungle were Chinese.

Almost unnoticed, on the coattails of China’s rising economy, Cambodia has become one of the world’s economic success stories, a tiny tiger in Southeast Asia. China’s long economic growth is helping to boost Cambodia.

Tourists from China have helped push Angkor Wat to a perch as the world’s top tourism destination, according to TripAdvisor. China is helping to spur Cambodia’s economy in other ways, too. It is investing billions to develop the nation’s infrastructure, agriculture and health care. At the same time, as wages rise in China’s manufacturing sector, some of that business is shifting to Cambodia.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies.

$36 trillion is a lot of money

February 13th, 2018


China may be forced to soften efforts to curb risks in its financial sector in order to protect the economy, said an analyst who made her name warning about the dangers of the nation’s credit binge. Despite the crackdown on shadow banking and other areas of financial risk which got underway last year, China’s economic growth is still being underpinned by rising debt, said Charlene Chu, a senior partner at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong. The government’s harsh rhetoric masks a softly-softly approach to tackling financial risk amid fears that stronger action would endanger the economy or the balance sheets of Chinese banks, she added in a recent interview. “In the past, we had limited acknowledgment of problems and little action,” said Chu, who has been consistently bearish on the threats posed by a mountain of credit she estimates at 226 trillion yuan ($36 trillion) at the end of 2017. “Now we have clear recognition of problems, but what I call a ‘Chinese medicine’ prescription for addressing them — which emphasizes stability, taking it slowly, and eliminating the highest risk behavior.”

Meanwhile, this and this are just weird. And who is this guy? (Oh, yeah.)

Bonus fun or unfun, depending: there’s a TV channel that replays rock concerts and related things from the good old days. OK and fun. But it also features Dan Rather (you remember him from Rathergate) interviewing people like Roger Waters about his views on illegal immigration. Just weird.

Then and now

February 12th, 2018

Something we quoted a long time ago:

“Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of ‘don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down,’ for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice—‘Hit him again’], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.

Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop.

If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices—‘me’ ‘no one,’ &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of ‘no, no,’] let us stick to it then, [cheers] let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]”


I spent many months assuring people that nothing like this could ever happen — that the FBI and Justice Department would not countenance the provision to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations of heinous misconduct. When Trump enthusiasts accused them of rigging the process, I countered that they probably had not even used the Steele dossier. If the Justice Department had used it in writing a FISA warrant application, I insisted that the FBI would independently verify any important facts presented to the court, make any disclosures that ought in fairness be made so the judge could evaluate the credibility of the sources, and compellingly demonstrate probable cause before alleging that an American was a foreign agent. I was wrong.

Sigh. Better to tune out today and watch old movies.

Numbers of the Big Four lead to Questions

February 11th, 2018


Over the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — or, as I call them, “the Four” — have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history. Together, they have a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion (the GDP of France), a staggering 24 percent share of the S&P 500 Top 50, close to the value of every stock traded on the Nasdaq in 2001.

How big are they? Consider that Amazon, with a market cap of $591 billion, is worth more to the stock market than Walmart, Costco, T. J. Maxx, Target, Ross, Best Buy, Ulta, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Saks/Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears combined.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google (now known as Alphabet) are together worth $1.3 trillion. You could merge the world’s top five advertising agencies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu) with five major media companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom) and still need to add five major communications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish) to get only 90% of what Google and Facebook are worth together.

And what of Apple? With a market cap of nearly $900 billion, Apple is the most valuable public company. Even more remarkable is that the company registers profit margins of 32%, closer to luxury brands Hermès (35%) and Ferrari (29%) than peers in electronics. In 2016, Apple brought in $46 billion in profits, a haul larger than that of any other American company, including JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo. What’s more, Apple’s profits were greater than the revenues of either Coca-Cola or Facebook. This quarter, it will clock nearly twice the profits that Amazon has produced in its history.

Walsh wants to break up the Big Four, as does Ralph Nader. We know that Google, for example, radically discriminates against very popular and mainstream conservative news sites. NR contributors by name too, which is creepy. We’d prefer a VC solution to regulation of the info sites as public utilities, but we’re not sure how to make that work.

Bill Priestap

February 11th, 2018

Bill Priestap. A name perhaps worth remembering.

The weather outside might be frightful

February 10th, 2018


By 2050, our sun is expected to be unusually cool. It’s what scientists have termed a “grand minimum” — a particularly low point in what is otherwise a steady 11-year cycle.

One particularly cool period in the 17th century guided their research. An intense cold snap between 1645 and 1715 has been dubbed the “Maunder Minimum.” In England, the Thames River froze over. The Baltic Sea was covered in ice — so much so that the Swedish army was able to march across it to invade Denmark in 1658. But the cooling was not uniform: Distorted weather patterns warmed up Alaska and Greenland.

These records were combined with 20 years of data collected by the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite mission, as well as observations of nearby stars similar to the sun. Now physicist Dan Lubin at the University of California San Diego has calculated an estimate of how much dimmer the sun is likely to be when the next such grand minimum takes place. His team’s study has been published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. It finds that the sun is likely to be 7% cooler than its usual minimum.

Hey, that’s not PC. Neither is this.