Monday, August 27, 2007

China and Polution

Here's another example of what happens when a totalitarian government runs an economy. China is creating pollution at an unprecedented scale, and it's affecting more than just themselves. The same thing was true with the Soviet Union, as well, with perhaps the most striking example being the ugliness that was East Germany vs. the relative cleanliness of West Germany.

An example:

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

But of course, this is collectivism in its purest form. The Chinese government has no problem sacrificing millions of Chinese citizens, as long as its ability to accomplish its goals is unimpeded. And remember, this is a command economy: nobody does anything or lives anywhere by choice.

Today's Non-Sensical Post on Iraq

Just a reminder that a vote is not enough to make a "democracy" (God, how I hate that word). The Iraqi government gets shakier and shakier as time goes on, primarily because it was based on a vote that was bound to be biased along religious and ethnic lines and thus guaranteed to create an unworkable government.

We needed to get order established first, teach these people something about individual rights, and then perhaps try to establish a Constitutional Republic like ours. Or, something similar that would work for them. Or, just give up on the whole mess, break the country into three pieces, and let each fend for itself. At the same time, as I've said many times, we should have denied Iran, Syria, and Saudi involvement, letting Iraq develop as it might on its own.

Of course, that's a gross oversimplification. There's the oil to deal with (who gets how much of it), and Turkey wouldn't take to kindly to a Kurdish nation. And so, there look to be no good solutions, other than perhaps to place an American general in charge for awhile. Or, maybe that's what should have been done in the first place.

Iran's Gasoline Crisis

Some things strike me as ironic, or, at least, surprisingly contradictory. Such is the case with the gasoline rationing currently underway in Iran. Although Iran exports oil, it has almost no refining capacity, and so much import is refined oil and gas.

Now, it just so happens that growth in capacity ended when the Shah was deposed, meaning that in this totalitarian state the religious leadership is likely most at fault. Of course, we have our own examples of this, and it's also government's fault: for example we have plenty of oil, only it can't be extracted because of the environmentalist lobby.

My point? Not much, really, except that government has once again proven its incompatibility and sheer incompetence with economic issues.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 5426 Diggs, is a link to a story about the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. As usual, when a legitimate news story reaches the #1 Digg spot, the comments are vehemently Leftist.

Russia: Inevitable Decline?

Here's a pretty pessimistic view on Russia's future, with which I tend to agree (which is easy, because it's all pretty much factual). There are some sobering quotes:

But demographics underlie every dimension of national power. Mr Putin cannot avoid the fact that Russia's population falls by about 800,000 people every year. Instead of the present level of 142 million, Russia will probably have fewer than 100 million people by 2050 and vast swathes of the country will be depopulated. Nations with a real chance of shaping events in the late 21st century do not have falling populations. National decline is virtually guaranteed by low life expectancy, alcohol abuse and the remarkable fact that Russian women experience more abortions than live births.

And on economics:

The uncomfortable fact is that Russia is not a centre of innovation. There are no world class Russian manufacturing companies, no universities churning out new inventions. Instead, the economy is largely resource-dependent and rises or falls with global energy prices. In other words, Mr Putin has virtually no control over Russia's economic destiny. The vagaries of the world energy market will decide how belligerent he can afford to be.

All of this does go against some of my earlier prognostications that Russia is a long-term threat. I suppose it depends on what one means by "long-term." I'd say, over the next few decades, Russia could cause some problems, but beyond that, it looks like they're in for some real problems.

Read the whole thing.

China and Japan in Race to Moon

This is fascinating: China and Japan are apparently in a race to the moon. I'd known about China's program, but not Japan's. I'd make light of these efforts, except the moon is likely to be of some importance as we make our way further into space. For example, there are resources on the moon that could be utilized on a manned mission to Mars.

I've fallen behind on whatever NASA's plans are in this aera.