Birthday Thread

For those of you in the Wild, Wild East, it’s already July 1 — Canada Day, Princess Diana’s birthday, and my own. Discuss. (Discussion not limited to my birthday; that would get lethally dull fast.)


Fisking Gertz’s hysteria over China’s “nuclear threat”

The Washington Times and Gertz have been having multiple orgasms lately as they set the blogosphere on fire with frightening accounts of the great China threat, including massive investments in sophiosticated nuclear arms and preparations for an imminent invasion of Taiwan (followed by attacks on Guam and Hawaii!). A well-qualified researcher says you shouldn’t believe a word of it.

If you read the Washington Times, in addition to believing that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are hidden somewhere in Syria, you might believe that “China’s aggressive strategic nuclear-modernization program” was proceeding apace. If munching on freedom fries at a Heritage Foundation luncheon is your thing, you might worry that “even marginal improvements to [China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)] derived from U.S. technical know-how” threaten the United States.

So, it may come as a shock to learn that China’s nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago, and that the missile that prompted the Washington Times article has been under development since the mid-1980s. Perhaps your anxiety about “marginal improvements” to China’s missile force would recede as you learned that China’s 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981. In fact, contrary to reports you might have recently read that Chinese nukes number in the hundreds–if not the thousands–the true size of the country’s operationally deployed arsenal is probably about 80 nuclear weapons.

It’s short and well documented, so have a look.

We all know there isn’t much love lost between the CCP and me, but whipping up hysteria over non-existent weapons seems like a spectacular waste of time.


Blogging about work; my public relations travails

Yes, it’s a big no-no — provided you care about your job. And right now I don’t. I have really enjoyed my company, which has some great people. And I have a great boss. But when you are a PR manager for a company that is PR-ignorant (no, make that PR-hostile) the battle is entirely up hill.

A few days ago my entire department was summoned to an impromptu meeting where it was announced that a considerable number of people were about to be layed off. My jaw literally dropped. My company is making a major announcement that is inevitably going to get picked up by the media and they never talked to their PR person about it? WTF??

I went back to my desk and wrote emails to my supervisor and her own boss asking what the messages were in case the media called. My own supervisor, who I hold in very high regard, was away on vaction with no email. I called her cell phone and she told me to divert calls to the CFO and investor relations people. I immediately contacted them, and to my total shock, both were out of the office and unavailable.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the role of the PR person. In short, it’s to be prepared with a strategy of communication, to make sure you are armed with messages and talking points before they are needed, and to tell your company’s story in the most positive light. Well, there’s a lot more to it, but those are the keys.

So step back with me: Here is a publicly traded, multi-billion-dollar company announcing staff layoffs….and their financial spokespeople are out of town! Not a single thought given to what the media might say, or who should answer their questions. When I heard the IR people were out, I knew I was sunk. I was on my own with nothing but my quick wits and silver tongue.

And then it happened, while I was at lunch. My cell phone rang and it was a reporter who heard the bad news and wanted to talk. I told him I needed half an hour to get him a spokesperson. I ran back to find that every single executive was out of town except our president, who’s relatively new. He was in a meeting with seven or eight high-level execs. We had never met (imagine, the company didn’t think they needed to introduce the PR manager to the company president). I held my breath and walked into his ofice and interrupted his meeting, telling him we needed to talk.

He was extremely understanding and he was utterly shocked to hear we didn’t have a process for planning in advance for announcements. Well, we do have a process that I wrote in my original PR plan for the company — but it was simply ignored. He helped me write a brief statement so I could understand the background, but we had only a few minutes. I was told to act as spokesperson and when I called the reporter, he asked a lot of tough questions. I had to give the best answers I could under the circumstances. (Usually you prepare a Q & A well in advance that anticipates all these questions and their best answers; my company won’t have any of that.)

So the article appears, and my CEO (not the president) gets bent out of shape because he didn’t like some of its mesages. But shit happens, especially when you have no plan and no support.

Remember, my supervisor’s supervisor never even answered my e-mail many hours earlier asking for help. So I was less than thrilled when she wrote an email last night chiding me for the “bad quote.” She couldn’t find the time to email when I was asking for urgent help, but after the fact it was no problem. She ended by saying, “Next time, follow the script, please.” To which I replied:

I had no script. I was on my own, and the reporter called. I tried to get [CFO]to talk but he was boarding a plane. The reporter did mangle my quote at the end but that’s not an excuse. I take total responsibility for all I do, and I hope everyone else does. I hope you told [CEO] I was on my own and stood up for me. I am very good when I know our talking points and messages. When left on my own without a clue and with zero support I do the best I can. You didn’t even respond to my email yesterday when I said I was concerned about the media calling. I tried to get us prepared, but no one responded. As Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘We went into war with the army we have.’ [CEO] says it was a bad quote; did he or you or anyone else help me craft a better one? How long did it take us to prepare for this announcement? Was it totally impossible for us to prepare for the media reaction? Could we have spent 10 minutes of preparation time to move from reactive mode to pro-active mode?

I have never worked in an environment where I was so detached from the decision makers and left to guess what our messages are. It is not satisfactory to me. I have won this company more coverage than it’s ever had in just a few short months, I articulated all of our solutions messages in the white papers I wrote, yet I am not consulted when we make a major announcement. That is called being set up to fail and it is not acceptable. If you want to lay me off, please let me know. I don’t want to be set up to fail you.

Look, for $X0,000 a year and with zero support, I have given you everything you could have dreamed of. Six approved case studies, our first News page on our Web site, five white papers that I volunteered to do that would have cost you $25,000, the annual report… All that, but no one trusts me enough to talk to me in advance and help me prepare talking points.

So please, either treat me with the respect I deserve at this point or let me go. I am used to working at the side of the decision makers, helping them with all they do, setting up appointments wherever they travel to. Here, I am ignored, and then when the s+it hits the fan I’m blamed. For $X0,000 a year, it’s really not worth it. And I don’t even get covered parking. With 23 years of media and journalism experience and all I won for [company name].

Thanks for listening and excuse my passion. It’s only because I care about what I do, I have a vision for this company and I have never let you down. Quite the contrary.

Warmest regards,


I cc’d it to the president, the CEO and my immediate suprvisor and sent it last night. I admit I’d had some wine with dinner before I received the “use the script” email that set me off. But I meant every word. It is a truly sublime feeling when you don’t care and have nothing to lose. Everytime I hear them saying the words, “You’re fired,” I hear another voice that says, “Taiwan.”

No one has said a word so far. I’m waiting here in limbo with a devil-may-care attitude. I just took them on their first press tour to New York and Boston, and it was an amazing success, and they promised to be more attentive to PR. So I’m worried they’ll try to get me to stay. Maybe I should just wear a sandwich billboard that says, “Please, lay me off now!”

As Drudge would say, developing….


Chinese rioters assault battery factory

Here we go again in the land of perennial reform. This time, the rioting villagers were expressing their dissatisfaction at the local battery factory for poisoning their children.

Hundreds of Chinese villagers have marched on a battery factory which they say is poisoning their children and held 1,000 workers hostage, residents and officials said.

About 600 people from Jianxia village in the eastern province of Zhejiang took control of the Zhejiang Tianneng Battery company and barricaded workers inside, resident Han Cheng told AFP Thursday.

But a promise made Thursday afternoon by factory managers to stop production and carry out investigations helped defuse the tense five-day standoff.

“The problem has been more or less solved this afternoon,” said a resident surnamed Huang in the village 150 kilometres south of Shanghai.

“Most people have started to go home after negotiations with officials and police and the factory will stop production for 15 days,” said Huang.

“Factory leaders gave their promises and people are sort of satisfied for now, but now it remains to be seen if they’ll keep their promises.”

Infuriated residents from the village of about 3,000 marched on the factory on Sunday, saying the pollution it produces when making car batteries is making their children ill.

“There are about 200 children in the village and they are all getting sick,” said Han, who has a four-year-old daughter. “They are polluting the air and it has been going on for 15 years.”

There’s lots of foreign investment in the offending company, so there may be some blame to go around. Considering the country’s environmental catastrophe, I’d think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. Citizens everywhere are being poisoned, and the Chinese seem to get particularly upset when they see their children made violently ill. When people are facing that reality, there’s little you can do to contain or assuage their anger. There’s nothing for them to lose.


Morning Thread

Or Evening Thread if you are here on the lethally boring western side of the planet.

This thread is now officially open and ready for anything. (Martyn, Allan, AM, ESWN and FSN9, where are you? We’ve missed you the past day or two.)


Typepad, Blogsome blogs blocked in China

Rebecca MacKinnon reports that despite some hopes a couple of days ago that the Typepad block had ended, it has since been confirmed that all Typepad blogs are now inaccessible in China.

She has also reported that Blogsome, the free blog service from WordPress, is also blocked.

Finally, she’s written a new article titled, China’s Internet: Let a Thousand Filters Bloom. Rebecca’s outrage at the US firms that facilitate the censorship is palpable, and she obviously has Cisco in the crosshairs of her keyboard.


Self mutilation

Another shocker over at ESWN. Do all men from Xinjiang act this way?


Camera-crazed Chinese

A lot of Chinese people are getting mighty steamed over the burgeoning number of Orwellian spy cameras the government is sprinkling just about everywhere, recording what citizens are doing with no regard to privacy. And, to my amazement, people are actually doing something about it.

Public outrage over the surveillance cameras is mounting. One Chinese magazine wondered whether China is turning into an Orwellian society where Big Brother is always watching.

“When were these cameras installed?” asked a 28-year-old man who was swimming in Shichahai Lake in Beijing when the hidden cameras were pointed out to him. “We never knew about it,” he said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t swim here. Nobody wants to swim under a camera.”

A survey by China Youth Daily found that 74 per cent of those polled were unhappy with cameras in the corridors of university dormitories. “When I think of myself living under monitors, I feel frightened,” a female student told the newspaper.

One outraged Chinese journalist wrote an article about video cameras on public buses in the city of Guangzhou. According to the article, male passengers often ogle the driver’s video monitor, which catches glimpses of the bare skin or cleavage of unwary female passengers.

In a police state with a long history of authoritarian rule, the concept of a legal right to privacy has never really existed.

But in recent years, some people have begun to assert it.

Several privacy lawsuits have been filed in Chinese courts.

In one case, a woman won a lawsuit after a doctor allowed interns to watch him perform an abortion on her…

“How can people have a privacy right if cameras are installed in residential compounds and university dormitories? The right of privacy is a basic human right.”

As the article points out, surveillance cameras are even more prevalent in England and this is not unique to China. But it sure is nice to see at least some Chinese people waking up to their individual rights and actually fighting to protect them.


What are China’s Internet censors so afraid of?

And is there anything they won’t try to censor?


Lest we forget

Republicans had a lot to say about Clinton’s mission in Kosovo. Poor Man reviews some of the choicer statements.

“You can support the troops but not the president”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“[The] President…is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”
-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

“American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”
-Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W. Bush

“I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning…I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.”
-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

“Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years”
-Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?”
-Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”
-Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

“This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.”
-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)

“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

My, how they’ve changed their tune. And not only that; those who say the same things now about Iraq, in nearly the exact same words, are traitors, un-American and worthy of contempt and ridicule.

Is there some irony here or what?