Once Upon a Time….

A sad story of the Age of Fear.

Once upon a time we had a great wartime president who told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. Now we have George W. Bush, who uses fear as a tool of executive power and as a political weapon against his opponents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt tried his best to allay his nation’s fears in the midst of an epic struggle against fascism. Bush, as he leads the country in a war whose nature he is constantly redefining, keeps fear alive because it has been so useful. His political grand vizier, Karl Rove, was perfectly transparent the other day when he emerged from wherever he’s been hiding the past few months — consulting omens, reading entrails — and gave the Republican National Committee its positioning statement for the fall elections: Vote for us or die.

Democrats “have a pre-9/11 worldview” of national security that is “deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong,” Rove said. The clear subtext was that Americans would court mortal danger by electing Democrats. Go forth and scare the bejesus out of them, Rove was telling his party, because the more frightened they are, the better our chances….

The thing is, fear works. The administration successfully invoked the fear of “mushroom clouds” to win support, or at least acquiescence, for the invasion of Iraq. By the time it was clear there were no weapons of mass destruction, the fear of losing to terrorists on the “central front” had been given primacy. We stopped hearing the name bin Laden so often — no need to bring attention to the fact that he remained at large — until reports emerged of secret CIA prisons, torture and domestic spying.

Bin Laden does remain a threat. He would hit the United States again if he could. We do expect the president to protect us. But a great wartime leader rallies his citizens by informing them and inspiring them. He certainly doesn’t use threats to our national security for political gain. He doesn’t just point at a map and say “Boo.”

But it’s working, so don’t expect any changes. It’s how they won the 2004 election, and it’s the only hope they have of holding onto their power. They certainly don’t want anyone looking at their actual track record. So just focus on the T word and do all you can to keep people afraid, very, very afraid.


One Search Engine, Two Systems

Google CN

Everyone else’s Google.

Shocking. Via a site I will not link to (LGF).


Hackers in China

The Chinese government doesn’t like it at all when its citizens mess with China’s Internet. But abusing foreign sites (especially Japan’s) is fair game. This is an interesting look at blatantly double standards.

The plundering of western technology, business and government databases by Chinese hackers is a sign of Beijing’s double standards towards the development of the internet, experts say.

According to a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in London, hacking is a crime punishable by death. But Peter Tippett, of CyberTrust, an organisation that collects global information on the activities of hacking groups, says that last year, the 80-strong X-Focus hacking group was able to hold a conference in the Chinese capital. Called X-Con, the conference discussed coordinating attacks on Japanese websites during the row between the two countries over the content of school history books in Japan.

As Tippett observes: “In China, the people who hack have to get through the Great Firewall of China and all email must go through government email filters. Yet at the moment we are finding that the vast majority of computer attacks are coming from China.”

Inside China, the picture is very different. The country may have 120 million people online at the start of the year – second only to the US – but they are not allowed to see sensitive political information about events in their own country.

Indeed, misuse of the internet – disseminating information about political unrest, for example – is routinely punished by the authorities. In 2004, an Amnesty International report noted that “there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people detained or sentenced for internet-related offences, an increase of 60% as compared to the previous year’s figures”.

This was the piece de resistance:

Indeed, there are rumours of an exclusive club formed in Guangdong – where much of the hacking is thought to be centred – whose membership is restricted to those business people who have successfully ripped off a western company. Though probably apocryphal, the story does reflect a strand of thought inside China: that stealing a march on foreigners – and especially rich western foreigners – is not necessarily a bad thing.


Another look at Google

This is one of the most intelligent pieces I’ve seen yet, by communications/Internet guru Thomas Lipscomb. His last paragraph goes right to my question about whether this is about China or about America. (Hint: it’s about America.) I’ll admit, it’s forcing me to see the issue from a whole new persepctive. Here’s a long excerpt.

Google has been badly hampered by the filters placed on access to it by the Chinese government. They slow its search speeds to a crawl, make it undependable, and would keep Google at a competitive commercial disadvantage unless it complied with China’s demands. But it now seems more than likely that if some U.S. administration decided to turn Google into a Patriot Act censorship engine or put it under similar restrictions, Google would suddenly find that wasn’t “evil” either.



Democracy in Action!

Hamas Victory.jpg

Palestinians celebrate Hamas’ crushing victory over the Fatah Party. Thanks to our glorious campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East, we will be seeing more and more terrorists attaining legitimacy, political clout, and the wealth to help make their dreams come true.

George, I know you don’t like introspection and analysis, but there’s definitely a lesson here. Careful what you wish for.


Dongzhou Follow-up

Via CDT, a short but must-read article. It is nothing short of a plea to the central government to help end the rape of the people by local officials. Does the Party truly have the wherewithal to declare war on itself and punish the perpetrators? Aside from some fancy talk and the occasional well-publicized show trial of corrupt officials, I haven’t seen any meaningful evidence.

Check the article. It’s not a case of ignorant Westerners making the criticisms, it’s flesh-and-blood Chinese people. Are all these people in all these demonstrations “enemies”?


Michelle Malkin on Google-China


Ms. Maglalang can’t resist getting into the Google bashing. Some funny photoshops, especially the one showing a Google search for “TSM.” Truly hilarious.


Pre-CNY Sweetness Thread

westerners in china.jpg
This is a photo of friends in Beijing having a civilized conversation over dinner. Let’s try to emulate them in this thread, with serious dialogue, deep thoughts and carefully reasoned opinions, expressed with eloquence and grace. One more shouting-match thread that’s more chaotic than Stalingrad in 1942 and I reconsider the entire open thread idea. Okay? Sweetness and light: those are your guiding principles.

P.S. The first to name the 2 Westerners above gets a free glass of baijiu next time I’m in China.


More important than Google

China plans to crush its “enemies” who dare disturb the harmony and social order the CCP has strived to hard to create. Didn’t anyone tell them, the enemy is the Chinese people? (“We have met the enemy, and it is us.”)

China is preparing to “strike hard” against rising public unrest, a senior police official said according to state media on Thursday, highlighting the government’s fears for stability even as the economy booms.

An unnamed top official of China’s Ministry of Public Security told a Wednesday meeting that China faced a long period of dangerous social discontent, Xinhua news agency said.

“For a considerable time to come, our country will be in a period of pronounced contradictions within the people, high crime rates, and complex struggle against enemies,” the official said.

“Contradictions within the people” is a Maoist term used to describe domestic social unrest.

China was suffering many “major sudden incidents” — a term Chinese officials use to cover riots, protests and accidents — the official added.

“Unpredictable factors affecting social stability will increase, and trends in protecting social stability don’t allow for optimism,” said the official.

He also said that “terrorism is a real threat against our country” and urged officers to guard against attacks.

China says that its biggest terrorist threat comes from Xinjiang, the far western region dominated by the largely Muslim Uighur people who share a language and culture similar to Central Asian countries.

Uighur groups have campaigned for independence from China, and a few have had links with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Last week, China’s Ministry of Public Security put the total number of “mass incidents” — riots, demonstrations and smaller protests — at a total 87,000 last year, up 6.6 percent from 2004.

The latest unusually grim police diagnosis of China’s social strains comes less than a week after Premier Wen Jiabao was reported as warning that corrupt land seizures in the countryside were stoking protests and riots.

So why aren’t they going after the real “enemies” – the corrupt land seizers?

This incredibly gloomy scenario seems to shatter those myths of a unified China, staunchly supporting its heroes in the government who know, with Bush-like infallibility, what’s best for their people. It may be unified in the big cities where life is currently good. But not everywhere.


Ranks of Al Qaeda swell, despite what Bush says

This is a real shocker. While our military is struggling to find recruits, the enemy is being flooded with fresh, able-bodied terrorists willing and able to blow themselves to bits in order to kill Americans.

Al Qaeda and its former protectors — the Taliban — are in the midst of a powerful resurgence, according to accounts by local officials and information contained in new al Qaeda videotapes obtained by ABC News.

U.S. troops are not permitted inside Pakistan, and the Pakistani army is barely seen in this part of Waziristan Province.The new videotapes show open recruitment for the jihad, or holy war, to kill Americans and their allies.

The narrator says, “Come join the jihad caravan.”

“The Taliban resurgence this year has been enormous and quite extraordinary,” said Ahmed Rashid, author of the book “Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and the Fundamentalism in Central Asia.”

The tape claims Taliban officials have taken over government functions. There is no date on the tape, but in the last month ABC News reporters have confirmed that Western aid organizations have been forced out, their headquarters burned, schools shut down, teachers and journalists killed, and music banned.

The tape shows men described as thieves being dragged through a village behind a truck, and later beheaded.

“We’re seeing a complete breakdown of law and order,” said Rashid. “The army is holed up in its barracks or in its bunkers.”

A much rosier picture was described at the White House today as President Bush met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, thanking him for all his government is doing.

“We’re working closely to defeat the terrorists who would like to harm America and harm Pakistan,” Bush said during a news conference.

Bush’s denial of reality is simply staggering. Is there no assesment of the actual happenings on the ground? Is it all just pre-packaged, mildewed talking points? (No need to answer, I already know.)

The War on Terror. The War on Drugs. The War on Pornography. So many wars, and so little to show for them. Maybe it’s because such wars can never be won. If they serve any purpose, it’s a political one.