Archive for August, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Net Nanny: Yes We Can

No unhealthy stuff

No unhealthy stuff

I’ve got a funny story to tell you. Some people complain because the Vatican censors their books, and make the Italian state censor their books, too. I HOPE the Italian government does this. We don’t like the Popes because they add trouble in Our Kongdim, but of course they have the right to censor people who have the nerves to write unhealthy stuff! That’s tradition! There and here. Yes we can. Vati can too. If they stop stirring shit in our place, that is. Our censorship is older and more venerable than theirs.

And more scientific.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ronnie Drew

Ronnie Drew died aged 73 on Saturday.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Georgia: Not all Czechs like Condoleezza Rice’s 1968 Comparison

(Related: South Ossetia, Tibet, and Xinjiang)

“This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it”, said US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, ahead of her trip to Georgia this week.

Czech president Václav Klaus rejected the picture painted by the American government. He said that in 1968 Czechoslovakia did not attack Subcarpathian Ruthenia and in his view the pro-reform Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubček did not resemble Georgian President Saakashvili in word or deed.

Call me Jesus - Sellouts!

Call me Jesus - Sellouts!

Interestingly, not only Poland and the Baltic states, but Swedish media too (from a country that used to be neutral during the Cold War) seem to be pretty lopsided in their coverage about the crisis, according to a Radio Sweden report. The European divide between those who see both the Georgian and the Russian leadership responsible for the situation on the one hand, and those who blame Russia unilaterally on the other, seems to run from the European Union’s North-West (Britain) through Central Europe (Germany on the one hand and Poland on the other), and then to split the Czech Republic’s public opinion right in the middle.

I think that president Klaus has made an important case. This isn’t 1968 anyway, and the Bush administration’s comparisons into that direction are distortions. It is understandable that especially former Eastern Bloc countries are deeply uneasy about Russia. But to jump to conclusions simply because they seem to fit into own past experience is wrong. Besides, such comparisons belittle the struggles and achievements of these nations and people during the previous century. Saakashvili is no Dubček, no Walesa, no Václav Havel. Any such comparison with the Georgian president belittles Eastern Europe’s real democrats.

But why is Russia losing the propaganda war? The BBC’s Paul Reynolds makes an interesting case as to why some of the mud thrown exclusively into Moscow’s direction may stick so well:

“Most of the Western media is based in Georgia. The Russians were slow to give access from their side and this has helped them lose the propaganda war.” In short: Russia’s authoritarian government may never be open enough to emerge from such a conflict without disproportionate damage to their global image.

Russian journalists know that the truth can be dangerous – especially for those of them who investigate criminal cases in which the state is a big stakeholder. Anna Politkovskaya imagined her own death long before it arrived.

In China, authorities can simply lock “troublemakers” away by “administrative sentences”. Other victims of arbitrary justice go on trial for “disclosing state secrets”, and only the CCP knows in advance what, in a particular case, will spell “state secret”.

That makes it no easier for news people from outside to report accurately. But they should do their best – their job is neither to please authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, nor to please the public at home.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Requirement: Basic Understanding of Soccer Rules

A Chinese couple murdered in Newcastle a week ago may have been involved in a range of internet scams, reports the BBC. The anger of people losing out from the scams could be a motive for the double murder. “Information passed to Northumbria Police includes details of adverts placed on UK-based Mandarin-language websites, recruiting people to watch football matches around the world.”

“Work: Watch football games and send live information to people … Requirement: Basic understanding of football rules…”

According to the news article, UK soccer matches (or matches from anywhere) are televised a minute behind in China. “It is claimed syndicates in China … could take advantage of this“.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Opening Ceremony – the Minutes from 08:00 to 09:45

Nothing for the faint-hearted – but some brave Laowais actually seem to have watched the whole thing. And communicated with their Daddies @ home in the meantime.

8:42 – CCTV Announcer: “The program we just saw described the ancient splendor of China. Now we’ll start to learn more about the splendor of today’s China.”

And what would the comment thread be without Pffefer, the chevalier always set to take up the cudgels for the splendor of China? He even cared to write the author a letter of reference for his work as a translator.

Like the 3000 Olympian disciples said: ”Of three people walking, there must be one I can learn from”.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Opening Ceremony: Public Deceived?

Two Orgs, one Dream

Two Orgs, one Dream

I took a break and watched the first twenty or thirty minutes of the Beijing Olympics 2008 ceremony, on August 8. It was interesting to see those nightly pictures of the “Bird’s Nest” or Beijing National Stadium, and the city around. What struck me most was the inclusion of the army inside the stadium at the flag-raising ceremony – as I usually don’t watch Olympic Games, I can’t tell if soldiers in uniform are part of such an Olympic choreography elsewhere too, or if it was part of an Olympic Opening with Chinese characteristics.

When Lin Miaoke “sang” the Hymn to the Motherland… Well – may I call myself a “CHINA EXPERT”? Smarter than James Reynolds of the BBC? I took it almost for granted that she did not sing live. I didn’t believe that she was lip-synching someone else, but I didn’t believe that she was lip-synching herself either .  I took nothing during the ceremony choreography, as far as I watched it, for real at all.

Except for the fireworks. I thought Chinese pyrotechnicians were good enough to make a real one, from the beginning to the end. I thought that they may delay the transmission of the pictures by a few seconds up to a minute, to keep the option of dubbing over some flaws if need be, but I thought they were genuine.

I didn’t think as far as to how people would react if Lin Miaoke’s performance should ever turn out to be a mini-playback show. This surprises me too – that “the show’s musical designer felt forced to set the record straight“. I can’t tell if it is a scandal, as some papers have put it. I just find the comment of the real singer somewhat saddening: “I am proud to have been chosen to sing at all,” the Telegraph quotes her. But then, the great motherland will always warm her heart, so who cares.  

Anyway, I can’t say that I’m disappointed. The way the IOC and the CCP are doing business with each other is an astonishing showcase of everything that can go wrong in such East-Western interaction – and that is what actually surprises me in a rather pleasant way. Few of the people I have seen recently look at the Games uncritically. Sometimes, I even think that some of them are taking their criticism too far, especially their criticism of the CCP. For one, it is alright and not unfair to criticise the CCP and its bombastic hijacking of the games for its own purposes – but wouldn’t the IOC deserve at least as much criticism? Weren’t they about as, umm, eager to have the Games in Beijing as was the CCP itself? And who can tell if the Chinese organizer, Wang Wei, or the IOC is speaking the truth when they offer their versions of what the CCP promised ahead of the Games? I can’t, anyway. If you can, please let me know.

And no, I’m no Know-it-all. I was naive enough to believe that the big Olympic Show would globally come across exactly according  to the wishes of its organizers. Its potential to backfire only dawned on me when violence erupted in Tibet, in March of this year.

Wang Wei’s suggestion that visitors coming to China for the first time would see a different country to the one represented in films and newspapers is silly. It depends on what kind of films the visitors have watched and read, anyway. Wang could have said, if you report things that actually happen but which we dislike, you’ll get arrested. That’s what happened to a UK journalist. Wang could also have said that as long as you stay within the places that are 100% under our control, you will see what we like.

But then, why would anyone have to travel to Beijing? For your convenience, CCTV can be watched at home, all over the world. On the internet. Enjoy. 😉

Public deceived? I don’t think so. But yes, I think they’d have loved to deceive us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Le Pen’s “Front National” sells its Headquarter to a Shanghai University

Reportedly, the university is considering turning the building into a French language school. It had served the “National Front” as a headquarter, after the party had inherited it from a millionaire supporter in the 1970s, according to the BBC.

The “National Front” is in debts. And while Chinese tourists may still shun Paris (does anyone have the latest statistics?), there seems to be some interest in learning French in the capital.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are borders in Europe to be sacrosanct for ever?

It has been one of the rules of post-war Europe – borders cannot be changed except by agreement, as say in Czechoslovakia. Perhaps this rule has been applied too inflexibly. Yet governments like that of Georgia are reluctant to give up any territory, even when the local population is so clearly hostile and might be in that state simply as a result of some past arbitrary decision.


Alliances must not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. If Georgia had been in Nato, what would have happened?

Paul Reynolds, “Early lessons from South Ossetia Conflict”, BBC »

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