Archive for January, 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Huanqiu Shibao on “Ulterior Motives” in Southern Weekly Conflict

Main Link: Global Times: Lay Off Supporting Southern Weekend, Or Else

There’s a blog – kind of a bridge blog, if you like – which deserves a lot more attention. In November 2011, China Copyright and Media translated the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’s Decision on Deepening Cultural Structural Reform (I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had come across their translation earlier).

Fortunately, I did save myself the time to translate a Huanqiu Shibao editorial on the Southern Weekly / Southern Weekend standoffs with the local propaganda department. They’ve got a translation or rendition of that, too – been online since January 8 this year – including the original commentary in Chinese.  China Copyright and Media  includes posts about Chinese legislation, as well, but obviously, I can’t judge their quality. It’s not my department.

Not the full picture, but an instructive glimpse.

Soft power: the land where the Bananas bloom

So, if you want translations from the real Chinese press – beyond the English-language mouthpieces from China Daily to the “Global Times” which are stuff from a parallel universe, made by the CCP propaganda department for foreigners -, read JR’s China Blog, for example.

But read there, too. There are updates every few days, and sometimes several times a day.

The translator finds a lot of rotten points in the Huanqiu article. But this may not be what matters to Huanqiu, to the China-Daily Group, or to the propaganda department. They can’t overlook many domestic online comments in their threads which are highly critical of their approach.

Song Luzheng, an overseas Chinese journalist or official in Paris, follows the same line as does Huanqiu Shibao, in many of his articles, particularly about the freedom of the press. Some of the readers he – probably – hopes to reach are Chinese readers who are disillusioned former admirerers of “Western” values. There seems to have been a trend since 2008, the botched “Sacred-torch” ralleye in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics which has changed the atmosphere in favor of Song Luzheng, Huanqiu Shibao, et al.

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Related

» Readers’ Reactions: I will Endure, May 3, 2012
» Oh Rule of Law, April 11, 2012

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Song Luzheng: “Those Southern newspaper commentators” and Deutsche Welle

Song Luzheng (宋鲁郑) occasionally revisits the case of Deutsche Welle‘s (Voice of Germany’s) Chinese department. He did so in November 2011, and again this month. Maybe he addressed the issue sometimes in between, too. For sure, he regularly addresses the issue of Western media and freedom of information.

I don’t know if Song is a journalist in the first place. He lives in Paris, is the Paris Culture Salon’s secretary general and the Shandong Provincial Overseas Exchange Council’s executive director.

I didn’t find Song’s article in November 2011 trustworthy, and the one he wrote this month seems to reveal an unpleasant character. That “certain Southern newspaper” he refers to (see blockquote underneath)  is most probably meant to be Southern Weekly, aka “Southern Weekend” (南方周末), and the paper’s staff’s conflict with Guangdong’s propaganda chief Tuo Zhen. His recent article was published by the Shanghai-based Guancha website. In this article, Song praises the four former Deutsche-Welle employees, and curses “those Southern newspaper commentators”.

[...]

It has to be said that Wang Fengbo [and his colleagues] are much more courageous than those so-called commentators at a certain southern newspaper, and stand on a higher moral ground. Because they were removed, in this kid of public-opinion environment, they had no chance to get the understanding or sympathy of German mainstream society. They are without a living, even their subsistence has become a problem. On different occasions, Wang Fengbo has discussed the issues at Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department with many German journalist colleagues and scholars, but most of them believe that what they [Wang and his former Deutsche-Welle colleagues] say is just a story from Arabian Nights, which can’t possibly happen in Germany.
[Song seems to quote one of the former Deutsche-Welle editors, but he doesn't do so explicitly.]
Rather, between the lines, many people believe that we actually had a pro-CCP tendency, or that at least, we didn’t abide the [Deutsche Welle, apparently] leaders, that we were like prickly kids who earned what they deserved, as this lead to getting expelled.
Those gentlemen from some Southern newspaper on the other hand can capitalize on getting praise from Western media and financial aid, they become global celebrities, and their undertakings and lives rise to new heights!

[...]

不得不说的是,王凤波他们应该比南方某报的那些所谓评论员要勇敢得多,更站有道德高地。因为他们一旦被开除,在这样的舆论环境下,根本无法得到德国 主流社会的理解和同情,生活无着,甚至生存都成了问题。王凤波等当事者在不同的场合和不少德国记者同行及学者谈过德国之声中文部的问题,但是他们当中的大 部分人觉得他们说的简直是天方夜谭,在德国不可能发生。相反,很多人话里话外还认为是我们的确有“亲共”的倾向,或者至少不服从领导,爱挑刺闹事儿,是自 作自受,导致被开除。而南方某报诸君,则可以凭此资本得到西方的赏识和大力资助,成为全球知名人士,事业和人生反而更上层楼!

Initially a big story in China, neither the “Zhang-Danhong affair” nor the case of the four members of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department who lost their jobs since 2010 get into the headlines in China anymore. But they aren’t completely out of the news, either.

Song carefully weaves his message into the general line of CCP propaganda: Western media act in their countries’ national interest, he writes.

This term is used by Chinese editorialists and academics in the context of national interests which include nothing about human rights, in a context of soft power, which helps a country to achieve its strategic goals in its international relationships, and enhances its national interest, but may also be used by Chinese dissidents. He Qinglian, for example, suggests that the CCP propaganda narrative about America using human right criticism as a tool to pursue its national interests was deeply rooted in China now, but that the contrary was the case – America was rather selling benefits in terms of national interest, than earning them.

But what would the German national interest be? In the CCP’s view, and in Song Luzheng’s, too, I guess, Deutsche Welle shouldn’t have dared to expel members of the Chinese department – not out of respect for individual rights, but out of respect “for China”. From a CCP point of view, human rights don’t matter in this context. That’s why their mouthpieces can easily come to the conclusion that human rights don’t matter in other countries’ national interests either.

It all depends what national interest is actually about, and it’s hard to see how the expulsion of Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Qi Li and Wang Xueding should have been in the national interest. No German I know who has looked at the material which is publicly available felt that it was in the interest of a German individual – as a journalist, employee, or what have you – to be treated this way. If a country’s common peoples’ interests are equivalent to its national interest, Deutsche Welle made a number of very bad decisions.

But it may be understandable that Song Luzheng can’t see that.

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Related

» When your Employer suspects…, Febr 18, 2012
» For the World to Hear, Aug 3, 2010

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Bo Xilai: no Trial today

“It is definitely not happening today”, a court official outside the People’s Intermediate Court building in Guiyang told reporters on Monday, according to Reuters. , denying that Bo Xilai‘s “trial” would open there on January 28. The official, who didn’t give her name, thus denied reports to the contrary.

Meantime, Huanqiu Shibao – and/or the “Global Times” – quotes “a source close to the top judicial authorities” as saying that Bo’s “trial” could be held after the sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which will probably be held in March.

Despite the court official’s denial, hundreds of Chinese and foreign reporters are still waiting in front of the court building in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, reports the BBC‘s Chinese service.

Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, had been “tried” in Hefei, Anhui Province, in August last year. She was found guilty of of murder in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo Xilai is accused of “abuse of power and corruption”.

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Update, 03:15 UTC

The BBC (Mandarin) report apparently referred to the English-language “Global Times”. Chinese-language Huanqiu Shibao re-published the report (in English) at 01:21 UTC.

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Related posts »

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Friday, January 25, 2013

How the Tiger Roared, and how the Fly Roared Back: “Officials are no Slaves of the Common People”

Astronomically expensive cigarettes and alcoholic drinks, luxurious conferences… all kinds of waste of public funding disrupt the party’s working style, undermine the political atmosphere, and erode the ways of the people, Enorth (Tianjin) quotes a People’s Daily editorial today. To promote a better spirit, more sobriety and more virtue wouldn’t be enough, the editorial says. “Some people” could still stick to their bad ways under the excuse of “work requirements” (工作需要). Only improved measures and effective supervision could rein in on whatever kinds of wasteful mindsets and on “tip of the tongue corruption”(舌尖上的腐败)*). Measures which were stronger in terms of punctuality, pertinence and operability were apparently needed to punish all kinds of thriftless behavior, muses the editorial. Open information wasn’t enough, as it lacked specification, and as punishment didn’t deter the undesirable behavior. Supervision was the heart of the matter. Discipline inspection and audits were required to dispel excessive consumption.

All departments needed to take the initiative to create open information, to establish platforms of public [or the masses'] scrutiny to achieve these goals, writes the People’s Daily.

That calls for some footnotes from the grassroots, and in a timely demonstration of inner-party democracy, an official from Guangzhou adds some practical advice:

“Officials have a right to privacy, too, just as patients have a right to privacy when they get medical treatment. This needs to be protected.” The preparatory meeting for the 11th Guangdong National People’s Congress is carried out today. Guangzhou delegation member Ye Pengzhi believes that combatting corruption and encouraging honesty creates a situation of high pressure within society, under which the corruption-minded won’t dare to be corrupt. As for a system of making officials’ property transparent, he suggests to conduct random checks on public officials’ properties, for example by means of lot numbers.

“官员也有自己的隐私权,就像医生治病,病人的病例是隐私,需要保护。”今天,广东省人大十一届一次会议举行了预备会议。广州团的叶鹏智代表认为,反腐倡廉应该形成社会高压态势,让有腐败想法的人不敢贪。关于官员财产公开制度,他建议采取随机抽检的方式公开官员财产,比如可以采取定期“摇号”的办法。

Ye Pengzhi believes that the discipline inspection departments have all kinds of means to supervise officials, but to make officials’ properties public wasn’t necessarily the best method. “I advocate that assets should be declared to the organization, but not necessarily be made known to the public. The more you do that, the more the public atmosphere will be unconducive to fairness and impartiality. It will prompt people under the banner of “public opinion” to engage in populism.”

叶鹏智认为,纪检部门本身已经有各种手段监督官员,向公众公开官员财产不一定是最佳方式。“我提倡可以向组织申报财产,但不一定对公众公开,越是这样,社会风气越不利于公平公正,要警惕一些人打着‘民意’的旗号搞民粹主义。”

Ye Pengzhi persistently asks: “Is there a legal basis for making officials’ properties public? Did the National People’s Congress promulgate a law for the publication of assets? Officials are people, too, they have a right to privacy, too. Officials are the servants, not the slaves of the common people.”

叶鹏智进一步追问:“要官员公开财产有法律依据吗?全国人大有公布财产公开的法律吗?官员也是人,也有隐私;官员是公仆,不是老百姓的奴隶。”

Lavish parties conferences and meetings at the taxpayers’ expense should not be confused with actual property or assets owned by officials. In that regard, People’s Daily and Ye aren’t addressing exactly the same issue. But in public perception, the difference between acquiring property and inflating operational costs is mainly ignored, as they both blend into corruption.

It’s the season for all kinds of anti-corruption talks. CCP secretary general Xi Jinping spoke at the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection a few days ago, and announced that no exception will be made when it comes to party disciplines and law. And no difference was to be made between tigers (老虎) and flies (苍蝇). Foreign media believed that Xi’s speech had once again boosted anti-corruption work (外界认为,习近平这番讲话无疑为反贪工作再次注入强心针), Xinhua wrote in a vague review of the international press. But then, Ye Pengzhi is no part of the foreign press, and too much of a boost could lead to public abuse.

The main difference between Ye and People’s Daily’s editorial seems to lie in the issue of public supervision. At least as far as the People’s Daily editorial – or its rendition by Enorth – goes, the concept of platforms for supervision by the public isn’t too specific, but it is mentioned, and it’s usefulness is acknowledged. Human-flesh searches by netizens are hardly desirable when it comes to the goal of a harmonious (or even just civil) society. That said, no conventional measures have done much to get corruption under control during the past decades – not even close.

Large swathes of the Chinese public can be excessive in their demand for punishment and prosecution of corrupt officials. A scenario where revenge – not only for official corruption, but for power abuses of all kinds – would take control doesn’t look terribly attractive – Ye may have a point there. But if the party doesn’t get its act together, it will be the public’s turn anyway – sooner or later.

A totalitarian system can sweep home-made mortifications under the carpet for a long time, but  it also tends to create the conditions for its own eventual downfall – unless the CCP finds a way to have its cake and eat it, too.

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Note

*) Apparently a quote from an ancient Indian political theorist, Chanakya: Just as it’s impossible not to taste honey or poison when it’s on the tip of the tongue, so it’s impossible for a government servant not to eat up at least a bit of the king’s revenue.

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Related

» 外媒关注习近平讲话, Xinhua, January 24, 2013
» Public-Vehicle Petitions, Dec 27, 2012

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Lots of Snowfall, Slowing Blogging Output

Eight years ago, I felt unhappy. I found it hard to make up my mind – should I stay focused on China, or should I return to Germany for good? It didn’t even look like a either-or decision. I only knew at hindsight that it was a – probably – final decision.

I sleepwalked into a loving relationship in 2006. It was just another try, during the first hours of us getting to know each other, in 2006. Gradually, it became evident that it was probably for life. It’s that kind of experience which is probably neither universal, nor exceptional. It happens frequently, to many people, but not to everyone. It isn’t unique, but I’m beginning to understand that it is a privilege all the same. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling long-standing gratitude.

This has kept me here in Germany. There’s family, there are old friends, but all that might not have kept me here. Now, there is this sense of belonging. It has grown for a while, and now it’s here.

I’m wondering – what does China mean to me, in this “new situation”? Does it still make sense to “blog about China”?

I’m probably not going to make a conscious decision about that either. It’s not such a big thing, to blog or not to blog, even though more than 1,900 posts and countless hours of reading and translating stuff about current affairs spell some kind of commitment which one wouldn’t easily throw away.

What might happen is that I’ll slow down. In recent years, I blogged more frequently than every second day. My goal now will probably be to stay up-to-date, not to lose track about current affairs surrounding China. As far as I feel that it makes sense, I’ll continue to read and to blog.

Thinking about it, I have probably moved past a somewhat belated midlife crisis. I’m beginning to learn where I belong. That means that some things are probably going to change, and I’m curious about the changes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gatekeepers of Information: When Democracy begins to Rot

Aaron Swartz, the American coder, hacker, and internet activist who took his own life last week after two years of – possibly political – prosecution – would have needed critical solidarity. There is no need to believe in people like him, but there is a need to see their rights, and to see the infringements on their rights. There are many of Mr. Swartz’ kind, and most of them go unnoticed. When I wrote about Deutsche Welle‘s Chinese service, and published this interview, I kept in mind that while the judicial system doesn’t always amount to justice, the main problem – probably – is general apathy.

I see a parallel between Mr. Swartz’ case, and China – and I think I can afford to point this out without being considered a CCP apologist. Obvious abuse of state power (if in a legal sense, remains to be seen, but clearly abuse in an ethical sense) leads to flaring tempers both in America and in China. It is a universal experience – most people can relate to it in one way or another. But those moments are rare.

One news agency in Germany – an agency with an official church background – published a long report, with a lot of verification in favor of the four Deutsche-Welle journalists that had been sacked. Apparently, not one single paper or broadcaster in Germany cared to air it. One regional radio station had it on their website for a limited period – they announced in advance that it was only temporarily online. I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I’m imagining how news-and-analysis people put their eggheads together and write smart articles when things like these go on in China. In a democratic country? No, never! News that is in the public interest will always see the light of day! Truth does not burn in the fire or drown in the water!

Noone seemed to demand coverage about the four sacked journalists, either. The report was apparently available to all the German press, in a common database. So there is no reason to believe that the press people were unaware of the story. Unfortunately, the newsagency didn’t put the story online. Maybe that would have helped. Maybe.

Their problem there at the press, as I interpret it: their industrial-relations and journalist issues ware a sensitive issue all over the commercial (and publicly-owned) media. Hence no interest in covering it.

As long as the big papers don’t cover a story, it won’t have happened. The traditional media are still the gate-keepers for politically relevant information. That’s where questions about the “4th estate” need to be asked. They may address many issues and flaws, but to address ones own doesn’t come easily.

There are a few “beacons” in public awareness, like Julian Assange or Bradley Manning. Their merits – and mistakes, in my view -, would need to be debated extensively, rather than simply be praised or condemned. People like them seem to serve as some post-modern kinds of Jesuses-on-the-cross. People pay their respects to them as they do to Brian, as he hangs on the cross in that great Monty-Python movie, and then go back to their routines.

That kills every issue. When “Jesus” is in charge, you don’t need to do anything. When Assange and Manning are saints, you can’t live up to their example anyway. Only a society that is prepared to look into the shades of grey, to judge, and to decide what to do, can become a more fair society.

It is right to mourn Mr. Swartz. But the main question is: how to handle the issue? It’s a question to society. To get either careerist or politicized prosecutors fired – guys who were apparently not obliged to prosecute, but did it anyway -, would be a beginning. It wouldn’t only be an achievement for those who make it into the headlines, but also for the many who go unnoticed, in their neighborhoods, and nationwide. Power needs to learn to respect the “common people”.

That’s why I maintain that the main difference between China and most Western country isn’t about human rights. It is about totalitarianism. Our press isn’t controlled centrally, but business (and, at times, political) principles control it anyway. We can speak out, provided that what we say is backed by evidence, but too many people who matter won’t speak out. That’s when things start going into the wrong direction, even in democratic countries. Democracy is nothing static. It can rot, if it isn’t defended against adversaries from within (who frequently like to present themselves as democracy’s greatest champions).

Here is another problem: networking. It’s another field where Western countries are becoming more similar to China. The law is becoming unpredictable here, given the technicalities. You can twist every paragraph – or any well-paid lawyer can – until it fits the interests of the powerful. Much will depend on your connections. Not only in China.

Still too vague? OK – let’s talk Turkey: when torture becomes something a public intellectual can advocate in a European paper without becoming a pariah in his own established network, things are going wrong.

If our fundamental rights matter as much to us as our economic prospects do, it’s time to go from mourning to action, however small. Just as meditation is a skill one needs to learn, awareness for the small, but important things one can do in the real world, can be learned, too.

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Related

» Shredding a Principle, Aug 16, 2012
» When your Employer suspects…, Feb 18, 2012

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jin Yinan: The Fundamental Difference

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1. Translation

Published by People’s Daily Online (人民网) twelve days ago, as part of an interview and discussion series:

People’s Daily Online, January 5, 2013 (Reporter: Huang Zijuan) PLA National Defense University Strategic Research Institute director General, professor Jin Yinan, was recently a guest at People’s Daily Online’s “National Defense Culture Examples” interview series, discussing issues of “strategy cultures and modern defense” with netizens and exchanging views with them.

人民网北京1月5日电 (记者 黄子娟)近日,国防大学战略研究所所长金一南教授做客人民网“国防文化系列访谈”,就“战略文化与现代国防”的话题与网友交流。

When discussing Sino-American strategic cultural differences, Jin Yinan said that Sino-American strategic cultural differences were very big. Rabindranath Tagore had once said that conflicts and conquest [or subjugation] were quintessential in the spirit of Western nationalism, and its core was definitely not about cooperation. National interest as permanently defined by America was the core of its strategic culture, mainly:
1. safeguarding global freedom of action for America, to go whereever it wanted to, without anyone being in a position to stop them
2. Making sure that major strategic resources and markets would be acquired. This includes oil, natural gas, and all kinds of resources America needs
3. holding back hostile and opposing forces, and controlling key regions.

在谈到中美战略文化的区别时,金一南表示,中美的战略文化差别很大。泰戈尔曾经说过,冲突与征服是西方民族主义精神的精髓,它的核心绝不是合作。美国界定的永久性的国家利益就是它的战略文化的核心,主要体现为:第一,确保美国的全球的行动自由,想去哪去哪,谁也不能阻挡我;第二,确保获得重要的战略资源和重要的市场。包括石油、天然气以及各种各样美国所需要的资源;第三,阻止敌对力量,控制关键区域。

Jin Yinan said that here, the fundamental strategic interest defined by America had no ideological color, and its defined lasting national interests included nothing about human rights either. The core was America’s interest, whichever way it could be achieved. This was mainly through control, conquest [or subjugation], to talk again if conquest didn’t work, to cooperate, to make unilateral gains when feasible, and to enter win-win when unilateral gains weren’t achievable. This was the biggest difference between China’s and American strategic cultures.

金一南说,这里面,美国界定的根本战略利益追求,没有意识形态的色彩,而且它制定的永久性的国家利益也不包含人权这么一说,核心是美国的利益,这个利益怎么实现,主要是通过控制、征服,征服不了再谈判、合作,能单赢就单赢,实在不能单赢只好双赢,这是中美的战略思维差别很大的地方。

Remarks

Appropriating Rabindranath Tagore in the context of delivering damning assessments of America’s “strategic culture”, and beautifying implications about China’s, may amount to subjugation, too. Here is how Isaiah Berlin  (quoted by Amartya Sen) described Tagore’s view of political liberty:

Tagore stood fast on the narrow causeway, and did not betray his vision of the difficult truth. He condemned romantic overattachment to the past, what he called the tying of India to the past “like a sacrificial goat tethered to a post,” and he accused men who displayed it – they seemed to him reactionary – of not knowing what true political freedom was, pointing out that it is from English thinkers and English books that the very notion of political liberty was derived. But against cosmopolitanism he maintained that the English stood on their own feet, and so must Indians. In 1917 he once more denounced the danger of ‘leaving everything to the unalterable will of the Master,’ be he brahmin or Englishman.

Tagore’s criticism, used by General Jin in his strategy-culture discussion, was part of India’s struggle against British colonialism. But – as Amartya Sen (2001) sees it – while Tagore consistently and growingly sharply criticized British administration over India, his criticism was less noticed than that of other opponents of Britain’s colonial rule:

This point – Tagore’s criticism – is often missed, since he made a special effort to dissociate his criticism of the Raj from any denigration of British—or Western—people and culture.

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Related

» Espionage, not Corruption, NTDTV, Aug 31, 2011
» Discussion leaked, Taipei Times, Aug 30, 2011
» Strategic Culture, Jeffrey S. Lantis via asrudiancenter, Nov 4, 2008

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nonproliferation as a Matter of Alliances: Australia, Germany, North Korea, and the Nukes

Nuclear umbrella refers to a guarantee by a nuclear weapons state to defend a non-nuclear allied state. Wikipedia offers this definition, plus several existing examples.

The one regionally closest to this blogger is NATO – most European countries, including Germany, are non-nuclear states. Australia looks like an interesting example, too – their then prime minister John Gorton (reportedly) exasperated visiting U.S. secretary of state Dean Rusk by telling him that he didn’t trust the Americans to keep their side of the treaty that underpinned Australia’s security, i. e. the ANZUS treaty.

That was in April 1968. At least, Rusk had probably long become used to overseas politicians who wanted to have some nukes of their own. Just to be juche sort of self-reliant.

Six years earlier than Gorton,West German defense minister Franz-Josef Strauss had wanted nukes for his country, too. He seemed to want them so badly that Henry Kissinger, who had talked with Strauss, apparently in May 1961, notified the U.S. government that American nuclear weapons in West Germany needed to be secured, so as to make it physically impossible (“physisch unmöglich”) [for the Germans] to take them, or to use them without U.S. consent. Strauss might simply take them, if he deemed that necessary.

The U.S. forces reacted by fortifying their nuclear bases, Der Spiegel suggested in January this year, drawing on the memory of former U.S. colonel Charles Sanford (now deceased). German greed for them apparently required the measure, in America’s view.

Either way, West German defense minister Franz-Josef Strauss was publicly advocating that the West German Bundeswehr should be given independent access to nuclear weapons, according to excerpts of “The Color of Truth” as published by the New York Times, apparently in 1999.

And one has to admit that Strauss was of great use as a great bogeyman – rightly or wrongly. Nineteen years after Kissinger, in 1980, the German social democrats were still afraid of Strauss.

All that even though Strauss had long since been relieved of his post as defense minister, to become a civil aviator and a math teacher:

I don’t know if Washington was worried by politicians beyond Australia and West Germany. But once you have such worries, you are a superpower.

An academic named Long Xingchun and Huanqiu Shibao are currently considering a Chinese nuclear umbrella for a country or for countries who are under threat, but have no nukes.

That’s where the story may become a bit complicated, hence over to Sino-NK.

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