FootBinding: Search for the Three Inch Golden Lotus

So the other day LS was watching FootBinding: Search for the Three Inch Golden Lotus.  Part of the show was about whether footbinding was really oppressive, given that the choice to bind was usually made by mother, who had herself been bound.  In particular, "Columbia University Professor Dorothy Ko mounts her show Every Step a Lotus and contends that footbinding was not the tragedy modern thinkers make it out to be"

In Dorothy Ko’s book of the show "she contends that footbinding was a reasonable course of action for a woman who lived in
a Confucian culture that placed the highest moral value on domesticity,
motherhood, and handwork."

There is no contradiction between reasonable courses of action and tragedy. It is quite possible for people to make choices and still be oppressed: what matters is the system of incentives. In this case, the origin of the exploitation is in the value given to bound feet (by a patriarchal culture), not in any coercion to bind: once the right incentives are set, coercion is no longer needed. Given that a woman with bound feet would … Continue reading

The Commons Blog

I have spent some time this afternoon at The Commons Blog, subtitled "Markets Protecting the Environment". It is a group blog run by proponents of Free-Market Environmentalism (FME). This is not something that I would expect to agree with, but not a strand of thought I have looked at much, so I read over their "About Free-Market Environmentalism" page and a book review of David Roodman (of the Worldwatch Institute)’s "The Natural Wealth of Nations".

(the trackback is to the latest post on their blog, because I can’t trackback to the home page).

It is not news that, in the search for ways to control environmental damage, one of the routes that is being tried is that of markets. Emissions trading schemes for greenhouse gases and sulphur dioxide are prominent examples. Fine, I say — whatever works in cutting down pollution. I have no particular axe to grind for or against the use of markets in this way. I imagine they will work well in some cases (easily tracked gases that become widely distributed), and not in others (difficult to track pollutants, or pollutants that are local (such as mercury) for which a market may lead to … Continue reading

India creates database to halt theft of lore

A fine initiative reported in today’s 
Globe and Mail

For thousands of years, Indian villagers have used an extract from seeds of the neem tree as an insecticide. So when a U.S. company patented a process for producing the substance in 1994, India reacted with outrage.

After spending millions of dollars in legal fees to successfully overturn the patent, India’s government is now creating a 30-million-page database of traditional knowledge to fend off entrepreneurs trying to patent the country’s ancient lore.

India is not alone in worrying about "bio-prospectors" profiting from the genetic resources of its plant life with no benefit to its people.

It joined with China, Brazil and nine other countries a few years ago to begin pushing for international protections. 

The database project already has caught the interest of others. A South African team recently visited and a Mongolian mission is coming in January, said V.K. Gupta, chairman of India’s National Institute for Science Communication and Information Resources.

The database, called the Traditional Knowledge Data Library (TKDL), will make information available to patent offices around the world to … Continue reading

Trubba Not

Ive startit reading Riddley Walker again. Evry time I read it theres summit new. New chance evry time.

Here’s Riddley on technological progress (p. 96):

Some of them ther shels ben broak open you cud see girt shynin weals like jynt mil stoans only smoov Id all ways usit the word shyning same as any 1 else myt. The sun is shyning or the moon is shyning. Youwl see a shyning on the water or a womans hair. When you talk of the Little Shyning Man its jus the middl word of what hes callt there aint no real meaning to it. Suddn when I see the shyning of the broakin machines I begun to get some idear of the shyning of the Littl Man. Tears begun streaming down my face and my froat akit…. How cud any 1 not want to get that shyning Power back from time back way back? How cud any 1 not want to be like them what had boats in the air and picters on the wind? How cud any 1 not want to see them shyning weals terning?

Riddley on individual choices:

Only my self! Looking at them words going down on … Continue reading

Informed Comment Pessimistic on Iraq

Here is a depressing observation from Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

The LA Times probably reflects the thinking of a lot of Americans
in hoping that these elections are a milestone on the way to
withdrawing US troops from Iraq. I cannot imagine why anyone thinks
that. The Iraqi "government" is a failed state. Virtually no order it
gives has any likelihood of being implemented. It has no army to speak
of and cannot control the country. Its parliamentarians are attacked
and sometimes killed with impunity. Its oil pipelines are routinely
bombed, depriving it of desperately needed income. It faces a powerful
guerrilla movement that is wholly uninterested in the results of
elections and just wants to overthrow the new order. Elections are
unlikely to change any of this.

The only way in which these
elections may lead to a US withdrawal is that they will ensconce
parliamentarians who want the US out on a short timetable. Virtually
all the Sunnis who come in will push for that result (which is why the
US Right is silly to be all agog about … Continue reading

Globe Editorial Again

Letter to the Globe and Mail:

Dear Editor,

Regarding your editorial "…and anti-WTO folly".

You tell poor countries to follow Hong Kong and China in "abandoning isolation and central planning and embracing trade and outside investment". But many Latin American countries did just as you ask in the 1990’s and did not see the benefits you promise. For every Hong Kong there is a Honduras — or more than one in fact — a country that has embraced outside investment for decades and is still miserably poor.

And while China’s growth started in the 1970’s, it only joined the WTO in 2001, its economy was and is still highly protected, and its financial markets were largely off-limits to outsiders until the turn of the century. Not exactly a case of prosperity by globalization.

You tell poor countries to "join the international trading system", but most countries that have escaped poverty used practices forbidden under the rules of the WTO. The globalization poster-children of Japan and Korea, and others including the USA, all engaged in capital controls, selective import restrictions, and knock-off industries that would now be called violations of intellectual property rights.

If you want to convince me … Continue reading

Globollocks from the Globe and Mail

Globollocks is, according to Daniel Davies, aka dsquared, "breathless and/or mendacious “Globalisation” pieces from neo-liberal commentators". Davies has a magnificently complete scorecard on this, and today’s Globe and Mail editorial (I read the dead tree version: the online version is all but the first paragraph behind the wall) scores highly. From dsquared’s scorecard:

  • Mentions China as “globaliser” without qualification—3 points.
  • Refers to Botswana, Singapore or Hong Kong as if they provided development models—2 points
  • General failure to distinguish between capital and goods openness – 1 points
  • Says or implies that there is no anti-globalisation movement in developing countries – 2 points
  • Says or implies that developed world antiglobalisation movement “has no
    idea of what it is in favour of”, “is opposed to trade” or “wants poor
    countries to stay poor”—1 point each
  • In general, argues back and forth between general statements about
    trade and specific statements about currently live negotiations – 1-4
    points on a sliding scale
    (I award 4 on this one).

So I’d award the Globe about 12 points, which is pretty good, especially for a 5-paragraph editorial. Pretty high scoring.

Continue reading