That time of the year again

July 1st — Canada Day, Lady Diana’s birthday, the day for massive marches in Hong Kong, and if I remember right, my own birthday as well. (Don’t ask how old I am; I stopped counting.) My first birthday at home in America in years. Posts may be sparse as I have to spend time with the family, but I’ll try to slip off and blog whenever I get the chance. To my friends in HK, have a great time at the march.

To my friends in the US, remember, friends don’t let friends vote Republican. That’s what you can get me for my birthday — talk someone you love into voting for Kerry. Thanks.


Drudge: Hillary may well be Kerry’s VP pick

Talk about a bombshell. Of course, it’s a Drudge “exclusive,” which usually means it’s fabricated and meant to cause trouble. But sometimes he’s right, and since he has such a huge audience this is surely going to get a lot of play.

Official Washington and the entire press corps will be rocked when Hillary Rodham Clinton is picked as Kerry’s VP and a massive love fest will begin!

So predicts a top Washington insider, who spoke to the DRUDGE REPORT on condition he not be named.

“All the signs point in her direction,” said the insider, one of the most influential and well-placed in the nation’s capital. “It is the solution to every Kerry problem.”

The whole long “exclusive” is an interview with this anonymous source, who could well be Drudge’s dry cleaner. All I’ll say is that Kerry could make worse choices, like Gephardt. But not much worse. If things aren’t polarized enough already, just imagine what bringing a Clinton onto the ticket will do. I don’t even want to think about it. To the wingnuts, Hillary’s nothing less than the Antichrist, even more sinister and evil than Kofi Annan.

UPDATE: In fine form, Wonkette counters that the GOP is considering bumping Dick Cheney for Santa Claus.

Official Washington has fallen in love with the idea, says a well-placed elementary school student. And while some claim to have spotted Kris Kringle leaving the Clarendon headquarters of BC04 early this morning, the campaign continues to deny that they will bump Cheney to pursue what one analyst calls a “very Northern strategy,” and another simply dismissed as “polarizing.”

St. Nick’s connections to the birthday of Bush mentor Jesus Christ would seem to put Claus on good footing with evangelical groups, yet some close to the campaign worry that when it comes to politics, he wobbles like a bowl full of jelly. (“Like he really holds people to this naughty/nice thing. When’s the last time someone actually got a lump of coal in their stocking?” snipes a consultant.) Others say his party affiliations are dubious. Kringle campaigned vigorously to eliminate the estate tax and has given generously to GOP causes; still, a White House insider says that deep down, “I always figured he was a lib — with his giving ways, his environmentally sound transportation, his hippy beard, and bright red clothing.” But, as another source said, “It still makes more sense than McCain.”

Developing. . .

Now that is one funny lady, and she has the Matt Drudge style down to the letter.


Washington Post on HK handover: “Unhappy Anniversary”

A WaPo editorial mulls over Hong Kong’s evolution since the handover seven years ago and concludes there’s good reason for HK’s citizens — and the Bush administration — to protest.

Beijing officials seek to balance their bad-cop tactics with a good-cop strategy of boosting the territory’s economy with aid. But Hong Kong is not, as sometimes caricatured, a city of businessmen who don’t care about politics. Many residents resent Beijing’s hard-line tactics. That much has been shown in the democrats’ big win in local district elections in November, along with rising voter registration levels in advance of September’s election. Hundreds of thousands are expected to demonstrate tomorrow in favor of democratization.

That such protests are permitted shows that Hong Kong remains freer in many ways than the rest of China. But if voter intimidation and ballot rigging mar September’s election, it will lead to serious questions about the extent of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Bush administration, which so far has made only mild statements encouraging Beijing to “be responsive” to the people of Hong Kong, ought to vigorously condemn the tactics of voter intimidation and make clear that U.S.-China relations will suffer if the democracy and autonomy of the territory are further eroded.

Don’t hold our breath.


“US Government warns against Internet Explorer”

At first I thought it was an Onion-type parody. But it’s not.

A bit off-topic, but not really: As i posted earlier, I changed to Firefox (yes, I still plan to try opera, though the idea of ads on the screen bugs me) and want to uninstall IE altogether — but I can’t. I find that when i go to certain sites, like my Asian bank where i still have a bit of $$, I cannot enter my user name and PIN with Firefox. When I switch to Explorer, it works fine.

This is extremely frustrating and it tells me that try as we might to wean ourselves off of Microsoft, it is still a Bill Gates world and we have no choice but to acquiece. This is exactly why monopolies are so scary — they leave us with no choice.

It’s especially upsetting when the one choice we are left with sucks. (Fascinating, that in the long discussion about browsers a few days ago, not a single person defended MS IE; everyone seems to hate it, and yet we are forced to use it, at least sometimes.)

UPDATE: Slate on Firefox:

You’ve probably been told to dump Internet Explorer for a Mozilla browser before, by the same propeller-head geek who wants you to delete Windows from your hard drive and install Linux. You’ve ignored him, and good for you. Microsoft wiped out Netscape in the Browser Wars of the late 1990s not only because the company’s management pushed the bounds of business ethics, but also because its engineers built a better browser. When Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale approved the Mozilla project—an open-source browser based on Netscape’s code—in 1998, it seemed like a futile act of desperation.

But six years later, the surviving members of the Mozilla insurgency are staging a comeback. The latest version of Firefox, released this Monday, has a more professional look, online help, and a tool that automatically imports your bookmarks, history, site passwords, and other settings from Explorer. Meanwhile, all-conquering Internet Explorer has been stuck in the mud for the past year, as Microsoft stopped delivering new versions. The company now rolls out only an occasional fix as part of its Windows updates. Gates and company won the browser war, so why keep fighting it?

The problem is that hackers continue to find and exploit security holes in Explorer. Many of them take advantage of Explorer’s ActiveX system, which lets Web sites download and install software onto visitors’ computers, sometimes without users’ knowledge. ActiveX was meant to make it easy to add the latest interactive multimedia and other features to sites, but instead it’s become a tool for sneaking spyware onto unsuspecting PCs. That’s why the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a partnership between the tech industry and Homeland Security, recently took the unusual step of advising people to consider switching browsers. Whether or not you do, US-CERT advises increasing your Internet Explorer security settings, per Microsoft’s instructions. (Alas, the higher setting disables parts of Slate’s interface.) Even if you stop using Explorer, other programs on your computer may still automatically launch it to connect to sites.

Firefox eschews ActiveX and other well-known infection paths. You can configure it to automatically download most files when you click on them, but not .exe files, which are runnable programs. I thought this was a bug before I realized Firefox was saving me from myself, since .exe files could be viruses or stealth installers.

There is much, much more to this article. If you’re still wondering about why you should make the switch, it’s pretty convincing.


Yes, you can see Fahrenheit 9/11 in China

Or at least in Shnaghia. And not the pirated DVD version. Here’s how.


I went to see The Man Himself this afternoon

John Kerry spoke to a huge crowd at Phoenix Civic Plaza today, and I was lucky enough to get one of the front-section seats, just a few rows in front of him.

I am going to keep this post short and I’m going to try to avoid effusive metaphors and gushing phrases. But I was utterly blown away and surprised, because I had no idea to what extent the John Kerry I know from soundbites and articles differs from John Kerry in person.

My attitude as I took my seat was that I was going to force myself to like Kerry. After all, I knew he was a bore, a distant and somewhat haughty elitist, a singularly uncharismatic old-timer with very limited appeal to The Man on the Street.

I can’t tell you how wrong I was on each and every count. Kerry’s grace, poise, charm, wit, self-effacing humor, mental agility, deep compassion and obvious intelligence were a breath — no, an overpowering gust — of fresh air.

He never talked at us or down to us, but rather connected, almost Clinton-like (though never quitethat warm) with everyone in the room. His speech was superb, and I am a critical son of a bitch, even with pols that I like. He knew how to get the crowd revved up, and how to bring it down a bit only to take them higher a few minutes later. He won one standing ovation after another.

Giving a speech is one thing. When our preznit has a good speech in front of his beady eyes, he, too, can be excellent. But where Kerry scored highest was the Q & As, where he had to think on his feet. His responses were swift, specific, and well thought out, unfolding with a logic and depth Bush could never command. As he answered questions, I tried to imagine him debating Bush with the eyes of the entire world upon them. It seemed utterly preposterous. Kerry, former head of the debate club at Yale, will trounce him alive.

Do you remember Bush at his famous “magic tie” press conference where someone asked what his biggest mistake since taking office was, and he disintegrated into a tongue-tied, trembling wreck? In that moment, we saw the exact kind of paralysis and helplessness he exhibited reading My Pet Goat as minute after minunte after minute after minute after minute passed after he was told “America is under attack.”

I tried to imagine John Kerry becoming similarly paralyzed. It’s possible, but I can’t imagine it. The Bush paralysis we saw in the aforementioned instances was an amplification of the bumbling, stumbling, deer-in-the-headlights leadership we had come to expect from Bush since day one. It was nothing really new, just a lot worse than usual. Kerry is a man of gravitas, of informed thoughts and sharp analysis. I saw that today. And for the first time, I know he would be a real president; he wouldn’t need to be pushed out of the elementary school classroom by his chief of staff if America were attacked. He wouldn’t stand there like the village idiot if he were asked a tough question he hadn’t prepared for.

Is John Kerry perfect? Is he the very best candidate we can find for president? No to both, and I still harbor my same concerns about the lack of both directness and responsibility he’s shown at time with the press. (But then, this stems from those those over-publicized episodes when the media was being silly, like pressing him about his owning an SUV. What’s wrong with owning an SUV? Is it a crime? I live with a guy who loves animals and nature and drives an SUV.)

But what I saw today is that John Kerry is a far stronger candidate than I had ever suspected. And it drove home to me that this is still a big secret here in America. And that makes sense: We are, for better or for worse, at war. All the world’s cameras are fixated on Iraq. It dominates the headline and the news programs, and there’s been very little coverage of much else. The convention and then the debates — those will be Kerry’s big opportunities, when he will be in the spotlight.

Watching him today, I felt thrilled, because I saw it really was possible. Kerry may very well be our next president, and it would be a great thing, not only because he is not Bush, but because he is John Kerry. Next to him, Bush is a small and inconsequential shrub. He’s still dangerous, and it’s going to be a bloody battle. But I can promise, had you been there today, you would feel just as I do now — energized, optimistic and thoroughly impressed.


So much for Iraqi sovereignty

But we all knew beforehand it was strictly for show.

Iyad Akmush Kanum, 23, learnt the limits of sovereignty on Monday when US prosecutors refused to uphold an Iraqi judges’ order acquitting him of attempted murder of coalition troops.

US prosecutors said that he was being returned to the controversial Abu Ghraib prison because under the Geneva Conventions they were not bound by Iraqi law….

Faisal Estrabadi, an Iraqi lawyer, said yesterday after the refusal to release Mr Kanum: “If the Iraqi courts have acquitted an individual he must be released. Anything else is a violation of sovereignty.”

“Iraq cannot be one large Guantánamo Bay.”

Why not, pray tell?

Via Eschaton.


Hong Kong protests hushed up on the Mainalnd

Anyone surprised?

With two days remaining before what is expected to be a huge pro-democracy march on Thursday, Chinese authorities are clamping down to prevent news of the demonstration from spreading on the mainland, while leading democrats here have split over tactics.

Mainland tourists have flooded Hong Kong in the past year, taking advantage of a relaxation of Chinese exit-visa rules that was intended to help the economy here. The annual commemoration here on June 4 of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings drew large numbers of mainlanders this year, watching silently an event that would have quickly been broken up by the police if it had occurred anywhere else in China.

But travel industry officials say China has cut back very sharply this week on the number of mainlanders allowed to be in Hong Kong during the march on Thursday, which will protest Beijing’s decision not to allow general elections here.

Charles Ng, the vice chairman of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association, said Tuesday that relatively few tour groups were scheduled to enter this Chinese territory for the rest of the week. The typical pace in recent months has been as many as 500 groups a day.

Chinese censors blocked the entry of Western newspapers immediately after the commemoration of the Tiananmen Square crackdown earlier this month, and even removed pages of later newspapers that had articles mentioning the Hong Kong protest. Britain turned Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

It almost sounds as if they’re afraid of something.

I hate to tell them, but I’m sure word of the HK protest has spread thru China via the Internet already, and to a large extent the consors are only fooling themselves.


The Onion takes aim at Chinese fireworks

And it’s funny. Check it out.


Another conservative changes his tune

William F. Buckley Jr. sees the light.

“With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago,” Mr. Buckley said. “If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

Unfortunately, with the economy “drifting upward,” Josh Marshall fears that Bush may well win in November despite the Iraq fiasco.

CBS/NYT has a new poll out showing a Bush rebound and a neck-and-neck race, with the president’s rise due to public perceptions of an improving economy?

One sounding means little in itself, of course. But this does seem to be the general direction — a slow upward drift based on a recovering economy contending with the majority’s belief that the president’s foreign policy is fundamentally flawed.

Time to mobilize the troops. Kerry is anything but a shoe-in and we can’t let down our guard.