China may crumble too

As Passport noted a few months ago in our podcast conversation, the Chinese economy is nowhere near as strong as it looks from the outside.

Stratfor has seen anecdotes, from problems with trade credits to issues related to the real estate sector, suggesting that the image of China being insulated from the global crisis is in part a fabrication by the Chinese government. For this reason, we believe China bears closer inspection.

The Oct. 31 announcement by the PBoC is the first official acknowledgment that China could be facing a domestic credit crunch. The bank’s predictions suggest not only that real estate prices are dropping drastically because of falling demand but also that the effect on real estate companies, especially in urban areas, is now amounting to tightened capital flows. Moreover, the PBoC warned that the situation poses “a relatively large risk” to the commercial banks that have made loans to the construction and development companies because these companies use property as collateral and their collateral is now losing value. Anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of the total loans granted by these commercial banks have been devoted to the real estate sector, according to the PBoC.

The common assumption has been that China has “room” to grow and will be the beneficiary of any U.S. retrenchment on the world scene. But, since the Chinese government doesn’t allow its citizens to effectively save, much of its investment has been based on the same fraudulent debt basis that America’s was. Also, its cheap labor is far from limitless because production also requires capital to take advantage of that labor.

I’ve always been skeptical that a centrally-directed economy could possibly function as effectively as China’s is supposed to have run. I also know from my contacts in the financial industry that the reason they invest in the West is because the banking and finance systems are very unreliable. So, this may not be the Chinese century any more than the 1990’s were the Japanese decade.

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I would never, ever, vote for Obama

But I understand why David Brin is:

1. Who are you voting for in November? For not a single “liberal” reason, I am voting not only for Obama, but for the GOP to be utterly spanked and sent into exile, where, perhaps, sincere men and women may remember Barry Goldwater and resurrect some kind of healthy, libertarian Conservatism.

2. Who did you vote for in 2004 and 2000? I could tell that the neocons were mad in 2000 and that their allies were fanatics or thieves. It was blatant in 2004. Those who act shocked (shocked!) and betrayed today were fools then and are likely fools now.

The important thing to remember is that Obama will make things worse. Make no mistake, he will make things much worse. But, so will McCain. The reason that a McCain victory is so much more problematic for libertarians is that there are salvageable elements of a Republican party purged of the neocons and liberals that have destroyed it. There is no hope, on the other hand, for the Democratic Party.

Notice how the architects of the Republican party’s destruction always try to claim that opposition to homogamy, abortion, and stem-cell research, all proven vote-winners in numerous state elections, have fatally harmed the party’s image, then turn around and push hugely unpopular issues such as foreign occupations, police state policies, enormous government bail-outs, and open immigration. It’s not only incredibly dishonest, but one would have to be almost completely ignorant of American politics to buy into their nonsense.

More on this later, as on a related note, I intend to explain why David Frum’s critique of Rush Limbaugh’s blueprint for future success is fundamentally flawed.

Also, if you want to know one reason why I don’t read Reason anymore, consider this bit from its current editor-in-chief: Who did you vote for in 2004 and 2000? John Kerry and Ralph Nader! I’ve had a bad decade….

Of movies and the tomorrow’s America

The OC considers an issue raised by the good Fraters, who quote Al Gore:

“[T]he stakes this year are too great for any of us to sit it out. We’re facing two wars and an economic meltdown. The climate crisis, in particular, is worsening more quickly than predicted and without strong leadership from the next president, we could face consequences right out of a science fiction movie.”

No one knows science fiction movies like Al Gore.

Perhaps so, but the all-important and thus far unasked question is: which science fiction movie? Silent Running? Soylent Green? Lord of the Flies? Godzilla vs The Smog Monster?

Personally, my money is on The Manchurian Candidate.

I don’t think it’s science fiction at all. The way things are going, it looks rather more as if it will be some blend of The Grapes of Wrath, The Killing Fields, and Red Dawn.

The Decline of Western Civilization

I’m going to be a guest on the Straight Talk with Jerry Hughes show today at 4 PM EST in case you’re interested in listening live, where we will be discussing the aforementioned.

And on a not completely unrelated note, you may be amused to read yet another left-liberal “it’s for the children” plea, albeit in this case, it’s a unique one that’s actually made on behalf of legalized homogamy. Oh, and I regret to inform you that if your perspective happen to be in accordance with social norms that have prevailed for the entire course of Western civilization, then you are “monstrous, horrible, hateful and bigoted“.

Just so you know.

UPDATE – Added bonus. Folks had to pay six grand to see Chad Orzel dance on the Internet, but Mr. Scalzi is kind enough to do it for free!

To agent or not to agent

Spacebunny passed along a request from a friend who is interested in publishing a novel. Among other things, the issue of an agent came up, and whether one should pursue one or not. On this particular issue, I think it really depends upon what one’s goal is, but in general, do as I say and not as I do.

I have only been represented by a literary agent twice. The first time, I did so primarily because every professional author I knew said that I should and in retrospect, I should have ignored the experts. It was a totally pointless thing to do since I’d already secured the publishing deal, the agent hindered the process more than he helped and has subsequently failed to sell a single foreign translation or produce any revenue at all in the twelve years that he has “represented” those two books.

The second time, I arranged to have The Chronicles of King David represented by a more influential agency that was also representing a series that happened to be the best-selling novels in the world at that time. Over the course of a year, they manage to dredge up a single offer from a publisher for only two-thirds the money that I’d received to NOT write a book on a different book contract that I’d negotiated on my own. Also, the publisher wanted to compress the trilogy into a single novel. The agency and I amicably parted ways after 18 months; I’ve since signed two book contracts, published three books, and have had no problem finding publishers interested in looking at my next non-fiction book despite having put in no more effort than making two phone calls.

So, you’ll understand if I am deeply skeptical of the supposed utility of literary agents.

However, as John Scalzi points out in a post well-worth reading, agents who are actually capable of placing books in other languages are extremely useful. I have not managed to do that, not even once, although it must be admitted that “desultory” would probably be far too strong a word to describe my efforts in that regard. In fact, I’m currently intending to find a literary agent for precisely that purpose.

So, in the end, my advice would be to pursue an agent if you cannot reasonably expect to find a publisher willing to sign you to a book contract on your own. However, I would also encourage you to not waste too much time on the entire process as not only is the average advance much smaller than you might think, but very few authors ever earn out their advances. In general, agents are better equipped to exploit success than they are to help generate it; note that John Scalzi and Raymond Feist, two novelists who are far more successful than the average, began by self-publishing themselves in one form or another.

If you want to write, then write. Just do it! There is no substitute for simply doing something instead of contemplating it, talking about it, marketing it, selling the concept, and posing thoughtfully in coffeeshops. Most first novels aren’t very good anyhow, so you might as well get it out of your system and publish it via Lightning Print or whoever; they’ll list it on Amazon and allow you to be disappointed with your Amazon rank immediately instead of waiting nine months to be disappointed by your royalty statements. I highly recommend reading the OC’s posts on the general subject. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll achieve 90 percent of what you want to do by self-publishing anyhow, all that’s missing is the vanity of having your writer status affirmed by an external source.

Which is nice, but believe me, the thrill of seeing your name on the spine of a book wears off faster than you’d think.

UPDATE – The OC himself suggests a previous post he’s written on this very subject at the Ranting Room, and it would behoove the would-be writer to peruse it. And don’t forget, what works well for one writer won’t necessarily work well for another since circumstances are often different.

Fantasies of the would-be philosopher-kings

Some readers didn’t understand why I included two chapters dealing with science in TIA. This endorsement of Obama should suffice to explain their relevance to those who didn’t grasp the connection between science fetishism and the New Atheists. Read it and see if you don’t agree that each and every individual who endorses it should be stripped of their science degrees and their intellectual pretensions:

Science is a way of governing, not just something to be governed. Science offers a methodology and philosophy rooted in evidence, kept in check by persistent inquiry, and bounded by the constraints of a self-critical and rigorous method. Science is a lens through which we can and should visualize and solve complex problems, organize government and multilateral bodies, establish international alliances, inspire national pride, restore positive feelings about America around the globe, embolden democracy, and ultimately, lead the world. More than anything, what this lens offers the next administration is a limitless capacity to handle all that comes its way, no matter how complex or unanticipated.

Science, is there anything it can’t do? It sounds amazingly like the parody of the Corinthians-style ode to science I pointed out in the chapter entitled “Darwin’s Judas”. Even more amazing, these fetishists truly don’t see how they have made a quasi-religion of the object of their adoration. On a closely related note, one of our more thoughtful critics, Dominic Saltarelli, emailed me yesterday:

While I’m sure there’s plenty for us to disagree on in other matters, I just took a swim in some “secular, liberal, progressive” waters, and am still washing the sewage off. I tried talking a little sense into them regarding economics, because this is a crowd that sees the current economic situation as a fundamental failure of capitalism. So I tried injecting some facts into the discourse

It was like hitting vampires with sunlight. The venom some of these people resorted to in defense of just a damn economic model was, disheartening, to say the least. Having had this experience, whenever some refers to “Atheism as a religion” or to an “atheistic religion”, I think I know exactly what they’re talking about now, and it isn’t pretty nor something I wish to be associated with.

Just wanted to let you know, that I feel your pain.

He does indeed. Science fetishists, economically vacuuous secularists, liberal progressives… they’re not precisely the same, but there’s certainly a significant amount of overlap. And in each and every case, there is a near complete inability to apply even the most rudimentary logic to the subject at hand as well as an intense, emotional reaction to having their ignorance punctured with the verifiable facts.

And all of this is setting aside the obvious absurdity of the idea that the scientific socialist Obama could possibly be a champion of Reason and Science.

The camel’s nose

Delaware provides proof that suspicions of the obvious were well-merited:

Delaware State Police stopped Alvina Vansickle from purchasing a .22-caliber pistol for self-defense because she was too old and a woman, said Superintendent Col. Thomas MacLeish. The outrage that followed led to the revelation that Delaware State Police had been keeping lists of gun buyers for years; state law requires them to destroy these records after 60 days.

Did anyone seriously believe that they weren’t going to keep those records? Does anyone seriously believe that they aren’t going to use those records for the purposes of confiscation the first time they think they can get away with it?