Unsafe at Any Speed

“Unsafe at Any Speed

The downside of China’s manufacturing boom: deadly goods wreaking havoc at home and abroad…

“A good system for guaranteeing quality control simply doesn’t exist in China,” says Wang [a Chinese consumer watchdog and writer], who’s been on the consumer-rights warpath for more than a decade. “Even confidential informants who report to authorities about someone selling fraudulent goods can wind up dead, under suspicious circumstances.”…

…just a few years ago, pundits and the global press were marveling at how quickly China had come on as a major manufacturing export power able, or so the thinking went, to build just about anything fast, cheap and well.

Now the true picture is emerging, and it isn’t pretty. Far from the disciplined and tightly controlled economy China was thought to have, the ongoing scandals have revealed an often chaotic system with lax standards, where the government’s economic authority has been weakened by rapid reforms. This sorry state is not unprecedented—other economies, such as South Korea’s and Japan’s, experienced similar growing pains decades ago. The difference, and the danger, is one of scale, since Chinese goods now dominate the world in so many sectors. Unless Beijing can improve its image fast and turn “Made in China” into a prestigious—or at least reliable—brand, consumers will remain at risk and the country’s export-driven economic miracle could face serious trouble.

China today resembles nothing so much as the United States a century ago, when robber barons, gangsterism and raw capitalism held sway. Now as then, powerful vested interests are profiting from murky regulations, shoddy enforcement, rampant corruption and a lack of consumer awareness. In the United States during the early 20th century, public outrage over bogus drugs and contaminated foodstuffs, fueled by graphic accounts such as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” finally prompted passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act. China needs a similar revolution today if it is to protect its competitiveness and its consumers.

The problem is especially pressing at home. Bad as the export scandals have been, conditions are even worse inside China…

Three decades ago, all of China’s big manufacturers were state-owned enterprises, and the government could guarantee quality control. Now, however, many manufacturing companies, including formerly state-owned enterprises, have slipped into the loosely regulated private sector. These big businesses often get preferential treatment from local officials who are supposed to monitor them. And companies commonly bribe local police forces, even paying cops’ individual salaries. Then there’s the problem of regulations themselves. Experts say China should adopt an EU-style Basic Food Law and streamline its overlapping rules and jurisdictions. For the time being, different agencies still issue and follow different guidelines/

 

China also lacks a system for properly recording quality complaints, which makes it easy for authorities to later deny knowledge of a transgression. And according to Zhang Bing of the consulting firm AT Kearney, China has little means for tracking defective goods back to the source after they are distributed.

As a result of such gaps, China’s many lapses are undermining the country’s reputation as a juggernaut that will soon compete head-to-head with the likes of Germany and Japan in the most sophisticated sectors of industrial manufacturing. China’s high-end exports are more comparable with those of South Korea and Taiwan, says Oded Shenkar, a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. In other words, they rank somewhere between Mexico’s and Japan’s. And the Chinese government must figure out how to improve quality if it hopes to keep the economy humming. The recent U.S. recall of defective Chinese-made car tires suggests more such discoveries may be forthcoming, which would further tarnish mainland brands and dent their overseas ambitions. For example, the Chinese manufacturer Chery Automobile, in cooperation with Chrysler, plans to start exporting small and subcompact vehicles to the United States in less than a year. But a scandal there could prove crippling. Other Chinese automakers, such as Geely, have already postponed plans to export to the West because ensuring safety and performance standards has proved so difficult. The Chinese-made Landwind SUV recently received the worst crash rating a German auto club had awarded in two decades.

The real problem may be that some parts of the Chinese bureaucracy have become so used to quality problems at home that they are waking up too slowly to the damage these lapses do to their reputation in Europe, the United States and Japan. The mind-set of the demanding consumer society has not yet taken hold. When U.S. officials tried to raise the product-safety issue during a recent session of the Sino-U.S. strategic dialogue, held in Washington, D.C., in late June, Chinese delegates seemed caught flat-footed and asked to defer discussion until the next round….

This is worrisome, since China is already so big and globalized. The mainland’s mushrooming road system, for example, makes it easier for Chinese eels and wheels to travel from East to West. “All of those farmers at the end of all those brand-new highways are suddenly connected to the rest of China—which is now connected to all of us,” says Drew Thompson, China studies director at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. “But getting all those farmers up to international standards is a Herculean task.” To accomplish it will require a clear-eyed recognition of the problem, not a stifling of Chinese critics following in the footsteps of Upton Sinclair.”

Running From Petraeus: The Most Astounding Act Of Perfidy In The History Of The Congress

Running From Petraeus: The Most Astounding Act Of Perfidy In The

History Of The Congress

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New York Sun Editorial
July 9, 2007

Congress, without waiting for General Petraeus to send back the progress report it asked him to write when it sent him to Baghdad in January, will launch phase two of the campaign to declare defeat in the Battle of Iraq. The majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and their Democratic Party are maneuvering to set a date for withdrawal of troops even as General Petraeus is preparing for delivery in September two reports that will conclude that it is possible to bring enough security to Iraq for political reconciliation.

What is shaping up may be the most astounding act of perfidy in the history of the Congress. The senate voted 82 to zero to confirm General Petraeus. The Congress underwrote his surge in a bipartisan show of support for a campaign to get control of Baghdad. It put only one basic condition on the expedition, which is that General Petraeus would have to come back in the fall with a thorough report. Our troops are now in the field, fighting heroically in one of the deadliest phases of the Battle to do just what the Congress ratified — and is making real progress.

That turns out to be just what the Democrats are afraid of.

(Read More)

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Syria Begs Cindy Sheehan To Get Back In The Fight

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Tony Snow: Yesterday’s AP Report Was Bullshit. “Benchmarks HAVE Been Met.”

Tony Snow: Yesterday’s AP Report Was Bullshit. “Benchmarks HAVE

Been Met.”

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Remember all those screaming headlines yesterday? “The Iraqi Government Has Met No Benchmarks”?

Tony Snow on Fox & Friends this morning:

“Americans are going to be surprised. Benchmarks have been met.”Steve Doocey: “Is the President going to be changing his message?”

Tony Snow: “No.”

Under her hijab — Murder juror ‘listened to music under hijab’

Fitzgerald: We don’t need to be friendly with Muslim countries

Fitzgerald: We don’t need to be friendly with Muslim countries

“The US really needs to be friendly to Muslim countries,” he [Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar] told retired Malaysian diplomats. “This is not a good development as they have just appointed a special envoy to OIC.” Malaysia heads the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference.– from this news article

Why do we “need to be friendly to Muslim countries”? Muslim countries need to explain themselves, and the contents of Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira. For these are now widely available to Infidels for intelligent inspection and study without the apologists — whether Muslim (those safis, those nasrs, those khalidis) or non-Muslim (those armstrongs, those espositos, those ernsts). We have available the writings of the great Western authorities on Islam, who studied and wrote in the period 1870-1970, before the Arab money came on the scene to buy up pre-existing, or to even start up, academic “Centers” for the study of Islam or matters related to Islam, before Muslims and non-Muslim apologists for Islam began their steady creep into and rise within the academic ranks until now they hold all but a few places firmly in their grasp — long before the publishers got scared, long before academic standards collapsed, long before all kinds of things.

We can read Schacht and Snouck Hurgronje and Jeffery and Lammens and Zwemer — there is no preventing it. And we can see that what they write makes so much sense, and has such obvious explanatory value as compared to the vaporings of John Esposito, or Gilles Kepel, or Noah (“After Jihad”) Feldman. They make more sense than any of the other entrepreneurs who have made their fortune (Esposito) directly or indirectly through Arab support. They make more sense than the thrusting young academics (Noah Feldman) who have presented themselves as Constitution-writing “experts” and have been given jobs and even tenure by others who haven’t looked into Islam themselves and may be mightily impressed by letters of reference from Roy Mottahedeh and John Esposito and, of course, someone in the American government thanking someone for his “important work in drafting the Iraqi constitution.” No, we don’t have to go for them for our information or understanding.

Continue reading “Fitzgerald: We don’t need to be friendly with Muslim countries”

The loony left. Global warming snafu.

The loony left. Global warming snafu. – Saturday, July 07, 2007 5:52 PM

If you had any doubts about the dangerous loonies that make up the rank and file of the Democratic Party, attend its conventions, pass its resolutions and keep its legislators in line should they veer in the direction of common sense, read this email from one of what the Nation describes as “several hundred Dean leaders.” Read it carefully, particularly her informative comment that “most f us on the far left” consider ourselves “moderate Democrats.” Lord help us.

Address: 16574 West Park Ave.
 Address 2: Boulder Creek, Ca 95006
 Phone: 831-338-1706
 Date: 7/6/2007 12:08:24 AM
 Email: cfinnie@sbcglobal.net
 Message: This site is hysterical! David Horowitz wouldn’t know anything about people on the left if one of them bit him–and I’m sure many of us have been tempted to do just that. If you had ever listened to anything Howard Dean or Barak Obama said, you’d know they consider themselves moderate Democrats. Most of us on the far left do too. And, unlike Mr. Horowitz, I haven’t read most of what The Nation has published about the Iraq war. I’ve read all of it. He has, of course, completely mis-characterized it. Since that was undoubtedly his intention, just as the site is clearly designed to confuse people looking for real liberal groups, I’m sure he’ll be quite pleased to hear that.

I’m tempted to pass this along to some of my liberal friends. I’m sure they’d get as big a laugh out of it as I did.

Sincerely, Chris Finnie; member, Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee; member, California State Democratic Central; member, CDP Organizational Development standing committee; county organizer, Santa Cruz County Democracy for America

Global Warming Snafu


Ah, the joys of Gore’s “man-made” global warming!
 
Buenos Aires gets first snow since 1918

By BILL CORMIER, Associated Press WriterMon Jul 9, 7:20 PM ET
 

Thousands of Argentines cheered and threw snowballs in the streets of Buenos Aires on Monday as the capital’s first major snowfall since 1918 spread a thin white mantle across the region.
Wet snow fell for hours in the Argentine capital, accumulating in a mushy but thin white layer late Monday, after freezing air from Antarctica collided with a moisture-laden low pressure system that blanketed higher elevations in western and central Argentina with snow.
“Despite all my years, this is the first time I’ve ever seen in snow in Buenos Aires,” said Juana Benitez, an 82-year-old who joined children celebrating in the streets.
Argentina’s National Weather Service said it was the first major snow in Buenos Aires since June 22, 1918, though sleet or freezing rain have been periodically reported in decades since.
 
Global Warming Update: First Snow in Johannesburg and Pretoria since 1981

NewsBusters - Jun 27, 2007

Johannesburg recorded its first confirmed snowfall for almost 26 years overnight as temperatures dropped below freezing in South Africa’s largest city,

Hat Tip: Lawrence Peck

 

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Ethanol Boondoggle: Your Taxes at Work

Ethanol Boondoggle: Your Taxes at Work
By Mark W. Hendrickson
FrontPageMagazine.com | July 10, 2007

In recent years, the price of gasoline has soared as the supply of crude oil has risen in response to unprecedented global demand. But never fear, Uncle Sam is here! Citing the need to decrease our country’s dependence on foreign and potentially unreliable sources of energy, Congress, encouraged by President Bush, has passed laws mandating that ever-greater quantities of corn-based ethanol (CBE) be produced, and subsidizing this production with tens of billions of dollars. Could it be that our leaders are finally demonstrating bipartisan unity for the good of the country? Well, “unity,” yes, “good,” no.Subsidizing CBE has been an easy “sell.” The corn growers and ethanol producers love it, of course, and the American public likes the concept of a home-grown source for a renewable fuel. It’s a win-win situation, right? Oops, not exactly. When all the bills come due from the unintended consequences of this bipartisan exercise in central planning, we may rue the day that politicians jumped on the CBE bandwagon.

One of the elementary insights of economics is that human choices have both costs and benefits. If you buy that expensive car that makes your pulse race, then there are other purchases that you will have to do without. Even the super-rich, though they can afford anything money can buy, don’t have time to enjoy every possible indulgence, and so they have to prioritize their choices, paying for the enjoyment of some things by forgoing others. Benefits always have costs.

Expanding this analysis to the realm of politics, Ludwig von Mises, the great Austrian economist, demonstrated with airtight logic that government intervention designed to benefit certain members of society inevitably imposes costs on others. Those who are inconvenienced by intervention—especially because they have seen that government is willing and able to alter the free market that would exist in the absence of government intervention—will seek intervention that offsets the undesirable side-effects of the prior intervention. However, any new interventions will themselves generate new side-effects, new costs, on other citizens, and so the political process lurches clumsily but powerfully in the direction of ever-greater government control that, taken to its logical conclusion, leads us further down the path of socialism.

Let’s examine some of the side effects—the “costs”—of Uncle Sam’s CBE subsidies binge. By significantly increasing the demand for corn, the price of corn has risen significantly. That means that the prices of the wide range of products that have corn as an ingredient—from corn flakes to corn syrup—will tend to rise. Prices of corn-fed livestock will rise. Other farmers are reducing production of other crops in order to produce more corn. The resulting drop in supply of soybeans et al. naturally raises those prices.

There are also environmental consequences to increased corn production. Some scientists warn of accelerated depletion of topsoil and water tables as more land is brought into tillage.

There are international consequences to our CBE policy, too. Because of the massive diversion of corn to ethanol production, the supply of corn for human consumption in Mexico has dropped. Consequently, the cost of tortillas—the mainstay of the Mexican diet—has nearly tripled, inflicting hardship on millions of poor Mexicans. At a time when Congress is dealing with a massive problem of illegal immigration from south of the Rio Grande, this would only increase the incentives for Mexicans to come north.

Another international aspect of our government’s CBE policy involves Brazil. Brazil leads the world in producing ethanol from sugar cane—a far superior source of fuel than corn. However, instead of availing ourselves of this abundant, cheaper, immensely more efficient supply of ethanol, American tariffs keep Brazilian ethanol out of the United States, in deference to the domestic sugar and corn lobbies. We are losing a golden opportunity to forge closer ties with Brazil (an opportunity that China is seizing, signing multiple contracts to lock up Brazil’s abundant supplies of natural resources) and running the risk that Brazil, kept at arm’s length by the United States, may fall into the anti-American orbit of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

It is possible that our tax dollars are buying more problems than they are solving. In fact, a debate is now heating up as to whether ethanol is a good investment at all, apart from its side-effects. Since huge amounts of nonrenewable fossil fuels are needed to produce, transport, and process corn into ethanol, and since a gallon of CBE has far less energy than a gallon of gasoline, resulting in fewer miles-per-gallon, it is possible (and a point currently being vigorously debated by scientists) that CBE may not achieve a net reduction in oil consumption—that the hoped-for energy savings are illusory.

With government economic planning having been thoroughly discredited by the spectacular failure of socialism not many years ago, one would think that our own government wouldn’t stray down that path, but would let the market determine what fuels are produced for our vehicles. Alas, hope triumphed over experience, and the result is an emerging CBE fiasco. Uncle Sam is making another mess of things, and he’s sticking you with the bill.

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