Friday, July 13, 2007

Issues Democrats Ignore

As we prepare for another political season, some dismal patterns seem ripe for repetition. While an unpopular administration wallows in a myriad failures of policy and competence, Democrats seem unlikely, yet again, to exploit Republican weakness. That is, they seem unlikely to get their act together well enough to overcome gerrymandering and dozens of other systematic disadvantages that have accumulated in recent years.


"Democrats don't yet have a fully worked-out alternative system," explained E.J. Dionne Jr., in the Washington Post. As usual, they cannot seem to decide between two mutually inconsistent goals:



--Pursuing the emotional satisfactions of ideological purity, by portraying all conservatives as evil, focusing on partisan hot-button issues, and dismissing moderates as DINOS or "Democrats in name only."

--Creating a big enough tent to welcome millions of sincere voters who are not classic liberals, but who are waking up to the debacle of Bush Era neoconservatism -- a calamitous movement that promulgated divisive "culture war" and betrayed many American values, including conservative ones.
Continue to a more extensive (though older) riff on "the real issue the Democrats are ignoring" can be found on my website: America's Declining State of Readiness.


AND NOW AN APPEAL FOR ADVICE FOR A FAMILY TRAVELLING IN CHINA AND JAPAN.


I am taking my wife & kids to Beijing, Xian, Chengdu then Tokyo/Yokohama... for a series of science fiction events, in just one month. Xian to Chengdu will be by overnight train!


1. Best method to use a cell phone over there? Will a GSM phone work? Should we just borrow a Nokia and buy a sim chip upon arriving in China? If so, from whom do you buy it?


2. Will my Vista machine be able to access Wifi in the hotels?


3. Any other advice?


4. Anyone good at tracking the bona fides of a tour company? We plan to use "Marco Polo & company" www.China77.com


5. Any of you planning to be in Japan for Worldcon?


db

21 comments:

Stefan Jones said...

A friend had made at least one business trip. I'll ask him about connectivity issues.

* * *

My sister and brother in law made two brief visits in the late 90s to pick up their kids.

They came back dreadfully ill each time; air pollution and water issues.

Pack all the over-the-counter meds you can, and a camping-style water filter.

(Thinking way back, my mom, aunt, and sister visited China back in 1985! Things were incredibly different back then.)

Tony Fisk said...

No idea about China, but Tim Bray made some recent comments about Japanese mobiles (ie: rent one. GSM does not work in Japan)

I can't think of any reason why the Operating System should affect wifi reception. But this is China and Microsoft we're talking about here.

Anonymous said...

An aside back to Bush playing politics with the professional class in our government.

This is an interesting story about Bush firing an official from the International Boundary Commision for failing to follow the administration's cue on a really minor dispute about the Canaidan border. The interesting thing is that the post can only be filled by the "the death, resignation or other disability" of a commissioner, so the commisioner responded to the White House by refusing to leave.

Seattle Times story

Thomas Themel said...

My GSM mobile phone worked fine in China, as did my ATM card (though not at every machine).

Wifi in public caf├ęs was rather rare in China, but also worked well with my Thinkpad whenever encountered. Most places either had just public computers or Ethernet plugs.

Other Chinese tourist tips? Train for the use of squat toilets, bring your own paper. Be aware that the first offer to sell touristy stuff to a Westerner is inflated between 300% and 1000%. Haggling is good style! Don't pay for your 10 yuan postcards with a 1000 yuan note, you're likely to get fake change. Eat all the snack food you can get, it's all delicious (and, at least for my group, never caused anyone trouble).

Anonymous said...

Off topic. Consider a post on Presidential candidate Ron Paul. He gives a sincere Q&A on You Tube. Worth a listen.

He's got my vote. Simple. Direct. Frank.

Candidates@Google: Ron Paul
http://youtube.com/watch?v=yCM_wQy4YVg

David Brin said...

Of all of the LP's recent candidates, I find Ron Paul both the least and most offensive.

Though, mind you, I am sending him money and I hope you all do! WITHIN GOP ranks, his voice is the only one that even touches on some sane items and glimmers of sapiency. Moreover, every meme that he spreads on the right will rock back some ostrich conservative and make the sheep look up. A little.

Still:

1. he is among the few top libertarians who is willing to speak of gradualism and compromise with an American consensus that wants an FDA.

2. His version of "compromise" is still rabid/loony. e.g. ditch the IRS instead of setting milestones for a replacement funding process to drive the IRS out of business.

3. By existing and speaking, he is a champion against the mad neocons, giving libertarian goppers a place to look.


Alas... there is also this...

4. By existing a speaking as a Republican, he spreads the myth that disgruntled libertarian-minded people should (if they MUST choose between the donkey and the Elephant) see the GOP as the lesser of two evils.

This last part is not only crazy, it is plain and simple evil. There are NO levels, ways, aspects, perspectives or viewpoints that should let any genuine "libertarian" perceive today's GOP as anything other than a monstrous agent against freedom at all levels and of all kinds.

In comparson, the dems can point to a zillion profreedom AND pro-market endeavors that at least merit them as worthy adversaries in a debate over HOW best to enliven freedom (not whether).

Again, see:
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarianarticle1.html

Anonymous said...

Grr...don't know how to make the link work..

http://www.enertiabike.com/

I saw this in Malibu earlier this week, an electric motorbike capable of 50 mph, 0-30 in under four second, 50 mile range, three hour full recharge time.

I'm an apartment dweller, I look at the Volt and think "too bad I don't have a garage", but this I can literally park in my living room. Only weighs 250, and there is no engine to leak oil.

Lithium-phosphate, not LI, so no fire danger.

The absolute no-brainer here would seem to me to be hard "saddlebags" containing additional batteries that could extend range, or be left home charging while you rode.

Off topic, I know, but I waited for the political lamp to dim :)

Anonymous said...

Re China

GSM phones work, Wifi seems to work ok if its there, not as much as you would expect, many hotels (by which i mean 5* hotels or chains such as Holiday inn/novotel etc)have wired broad band.

Dont expect to be able to reach everything you can from outside china ( you cant reach this site for example) but you can ususlay get most of what you want to see including independent news (not the BBC site usualy though).



Japan you need to rent a phone though i think 3G might work there or if you have a a v. high end phone you might be able to use your current handset (quad band i think works in japan but not korea.

with respect to the poster who mentioned comming in the late 90's thier experience is as much rellevent to todays china to someone who whent to the US in the late 1920s telling you about today, best advice is get a BRAND NEW (check the publication date) travel guide thats been published in the last 1 to 2 years MAXIMUM.

air polution is a bigger problem than it used to be (beijing is particulalry bad at the moment according to a colleague that returend yesterday).

where in China are you going?

Its a great country and you should have a great time.

Posting from Hong Kong

Jumper said...

If you put one Mike Gravel, two Ron Pauls and one Al Gore in a bag and shook it up, you would have a great candidate. Throw in a Mel Watt and there it is.

alan said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/weekinreview/15basic.html

Cloning extinct mammoths? Like in "Earth"?

Enterik said...

My inlaws live in Beijing, they are not able to access blogspot.com

thomas themel makes some very important toilet tips, I will add some more extreme advise. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Bring some Noxema for under your nose as ventilation and irrigation are somewhat variable. Bring some Purell because running water and towels are not guaranteed. Occasionally, the last stall has an unplumbed western style toilet unsteadily spanning the trough, yes, I said trough.

Chinese life is food, rich and varied, now is not the time to be conservative. In Xi'an find a Hui restaurant and partake of the mutton cuisine. In Chengdu look for Sichuan Mala, preferably hotpot or if you're adventurous "Fuqi Feipian".

I lived in Japan, not Tokyo though I travelled there several times. My favorite walk was from meiji-jingu and yoyogi koen, with a stop in Snoopy Town, down takeshita-dori to Togo-jinja. Then head down meiji-dori and try to see the Ukiyoe at the Ota Musuem (It's behind La Foret). You begin and end on the Chiyoda line station Meijijinjumae. Along the way, you will see the range of what Japan has to offer, ancient tradition and recent innovation.

Mark said...

A couple years ago I took a business trip to China and blogged about it here.

When I first entered the Shanghai airport I heard the music of bamboo flutes -- playing music from Evita.

At the museum today someone mentioned Chinese history is all about Dynasties, each intended to last forever. None of them lasted. The lesson seemed obvious... They know.

The subway trains have flatscreen TV's showing commercials in them. Outside the elevator at the office is a flatscreen TV showing commercials. The subway station shows commercials. Huge electric billboards dominate the view across the river, advertising various corporations. I'm in a communist country but it looks like capitalism gone wild or a scene from Brazil.

Tony Fisk said...

If blogspot isn't accessible from China, what about pbwiki.com?
(and, of course, davidbrin.com)

Speaking of censorship, check out what the Moon almost did to Cassini

BloggaKhan said...

I've lived and traveled extensively in Japan. A few key tidbits for you:

(1) Buy a good Tokyo City street and subway guide. I recommend this one: Tokyo Metropolitan Area Rail & Road Atlas.

(2) If wandering on your own, you will likely get lost. Don't panic! Maintain your sense of humor at all times. And enjoy the potential adventures.

(3) Rent a phone from a vendor at the airport. If you plan to go back often, you can buy a phone that you can use regularly there.

(4) Memorize the words for "Thank You" - Arigato (short form) and Excuse Me - Sumimasen. You will probably say "excuse me" a lot there. God knows I did.

(5) Trust the taxi drivers. Tokyo is insanely put together. Macarthur attempted to impose street addresses with only limited success. It's not unusual for a Japanese taxi driver to stop, get out of the car, and run into a shop to ask for directions. They will get you there. And don't tip them. It's included in the fare.

(6) Any free time? Take the train out to the country to Hakone - volcanic lake region, get up in the middle of the night and take a taxi to the Tokyo fish market called Tsukiji (sp?) - most amazing place you can imagine, go to Akihabara Electric Town to see all the gadgets, and enjoy all the neon, see a Sumo tournament if there's one happening.

(7) Avoid people missing half a pinky - usually Yakuza.

(8)Don't be shocked to see Japanese adult men drunkenly staggering around certain districts after work.

(9) Japanese men can be disconcertingly ummm... forward with women. Warn your wife that being groped on a crowded subway train does happen. Best way to deal with it is not to shout but to either walk away or as one of my Japanese women friends suggested once, grab the hand of the offender and raise it up for all to see. The shame of being outed usually causes the offender to slink away.

(10) Expect to see the weirdest t-shirt text in your life. Great, completely non-sensical stuff.

I could go on and on...but above all, enjoy the adventure, maintain a sense of humor, and roll with whatever happens.

Feel free to ask me more if you need anything else.

zorgon the malevolent said...

It might be a smart idea to be out of the country over the next few weeks:
http://www.vdare.com/roberts/070715_impeach.htm

tursops said...

At least give this Ron Paul Q&A a listen and then decide. http://youtube.com/watch?v=yCM_wQy4YVg Though your Fundamental Questions survey makes one stop and ponder its disheartening to feel that you may vote for Hillary & Obama. Both of them have said nothing remotely interesting or genuine. Stiff and premeditated.Their so called points towards freedom nothing more than cliched campaign drivel. At least in this video Ron Paul doesn't appear rehearsed.

While in China drive by the factories and see the 500 million plus slave assemblers. http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/multimedia/2007/06/gallery_burtynsky_china>

tursops said...

Ron Paul Congressman for President
http://youtube.com/watch?v=yCM_wQy4YVg

China mega factories
http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/multimedia/2007/06/gallery_burtynsky_china

Copy and paste url. Don't know html.

Zechariah said...

I sent Ron Paul a donation.

4. By existing a speaking as a Republican, he spreads the myth that disgruntled libertarian-minded people should (if they MUST choose between the donkey and the Elephant) see the GOP as the lesser of two evils.

Maybe. But think of it this way: several of the Democratic candidates oppose the war and the use of torture. By siding with the GOP, Ron gets to be the only game in town.

And he has said that he won't get rid of the IRS overnight. It'll take a while for enough of the existing government to be cut out, and he can't do diddly without congress. Still, I think it'd be cool to watch him work in that direction

Enterik said...

Bloggakhan, Hakone is a great overnight trip idea! Whether or not Brin-sama can obtain affordable Ryokan/Onsen lodging is another question. One could make it up to Lake Ashi and down in one long day if need be.

Brin-sama, if you have the time to go make sure you take the Shinkanshen to Odawara (you might have to take a kodama which stops at every station) Be sure to use the Tozan railway (lots of switchbacks going up the mountainside) to the open air museum (sculpture), then another alpine train and a ropeway to Owakudani (where you can eat sulphur spring cooked eggs) then onto Lake Ashi where you can take a cruise on a Spanish Galleon :-P The Lake is very scenic and you might even be able to see Fuji-san if its a clear day.

Bloggakhan has reminded me of a few more differences in Japan. It is considered impolite to sneeze; snuffling, sniffing, snorting your post-nasal drip is much less offensive. Regarding taxis, do not touch the rear doors as most are hydraulically opened and your efforts are seen as potentially damaging the mechanism. There will be a lot of walking, no matter where you go.

When I was in Japan, I found myself saying Gomenasai (please excuse my misdeed, faux pas, etc) as frequently as Sumimasen (excuse me, I politely request your attention, I need to get by). I also said Osawagaseshimashita (excuse me for making a loud noise) since my sneezes are not so quiet.

A useful phrase for first handshakes/bows is "Hajime (ha gee may) mashite (ma shee tay)" [a short form that clips "yoroshiku omegaishimasu" from the end]

If you have business cards (o-meishi), bring a lot and house them well, they are the primary means of establishing the proper social interaction with new business acquaintences, no matter how transient. When receiving the card, do so with two hands and study it (for real) intently for a moment, don't rush to put it away, unless you get many, then house it well (don't just stuff it in a pocket).

Kelsey Gower said...

Here's a quick way to check for blocked websites in China. I'm not sure about its accuracy though.

http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/test/

yellojkt said...

I made a blog post of ideas, some serious and some not, for a trip to China and Japan here.

While I bought a Chinese phrase book, I made it an entire twelve days in China knowing only hello ((NEE how) and thank you (SHYEH-shyeh).

Don't even bother trying to decipher the characters. They all look too alike for a short visit. Japan is much better at having plentiful Roman alphabet transliterations. In China only the street names were spelled out and they are all very similar looking and sounding.

Your family will have a great time. Get to the Imperial Baths in Xian. They are very beautiful and slightly less touristy than the clay soldiers. Do not pay more than a buck for the boxes of soldier replicas they sell.