The China threat, yada yada yada

A good article on why the Pentagon insists on resurrecting this old chestnut every few months. (Discovered in this fine thread in the duck Pond.)


Al Gore for President

He won the election in 2000 and should have been named president at that time. Well, no use crying over spilt milk. Let’s simply do the right thing and elect him again, this time making sure he makes it to the Oval Office. There is simply no other Democrat out there with the experience, intelligence, honesty and leadership qualities Gore possesses. Back in the Clinton days I never thought of Gore as charismatic, but he has pleasantly surprised me in recent years, finally and almost magically displaying the charm, grace and magnetism required to be a great president. If this excellent article is right (as I think it is), I’m not alone in hoping Al throws his hat into the ring soon.

The outcome of the 2000 presidential election looks increasingly like not just a fiasco, but a tragedy. Whether or not one concurs with the judgment of the historian Sean Wilentz that he may be the “worst President in history,” George W. Bush has already done enough damage to America’s position in the world and its economic future to earn a spot on the bottom tier. And whether or not Al Gore would have been a successful president, it’s improbable that he could have made any mistake as disastrous as Bush’s unplanned, go-it-nearly-alone occupation of Iraq.

Gore is clearly savoring his moment of vindication as he tours on behalf of his new film An Inconvenient Truth. At each stop, he entertains questions about whether he might run again in 2008. Gore at first acts coy, feigning annoyance with his questioners’ focus on “politics” while he is merely trying to save planet Earth. He then offers a calibrated demurral that does nothing to damp down speculation. At a post-screening party in New York last week, he said he’s happy being out of politics. He has no plans to run but he doesn’t rule out doing so. The premise of the exchange was that we made a big mistake not electing him the last time, and we’d be lucky if he gave us another chance.

I couldn’t agree more with the first statement. About the second, I continue to have my doubts. The recent, carbon-neutral Gore boomlet misses a curious aspect of his political career. As his movie unintentionally illustrates, the farther the former vice president gets from electoral politics, the more he seems to accomplish in his principal cause, raising the alarm about global warming. If you care about this issue—and the film makes an overwhelming case that everyone must—you should hope he continues his crusade from outside the White House.

I see Gore as the perfect antitdote to the Dems’ misery, and the best hope for keeping Hillary where she belongs, out of the the White House. (If nominated, however, I’ll probably endorse her anyway; the thought of another Republican presidency is simply too agonizing.)

No one has been treated more shabbily than Gore, who was the victim of the most shameful clusterfuck in the history of our glorious “liberal media” during the 2000 election. He deserves much better. He deserves to be president. Just thinking of the way the world might be at this moment had Katherine and Jeb and a host of other scoundrels not used dirty tricks to rob him of his victory….well, let’s just say it hurts, even more today than it did six years ago. Here’s our chance to turn things right again. It’ll be a hellish battle; we are FUBAR on so many levels, I wouldn’t envy anyone who has to step in and clean up the mess Little Boy George is leaving behind. But if anyone can restore us to sanity, it’s Gore. I am hoping and praying he takes up the challenge, and I will do whatever I possibly can to help him succeed.


Best post on the badness of the Little Green Footballs crowd. Ever.

I want to thank whoever it was who had the fortitude, patience, intelligence and razor-sharp wit to write this chilling condemnation of the Lizardoids and their hypocrisy. The beautiful thing is, the post’s writer doesn’t say a word about their hypocrisy and badness; he simply juxtaposes their own words with the news of the massacre in Haditha, performed by a handful of US Marines. Absolutely brilliant. Please don’t miss it. You will understand in a heartbeat why I see Charles Johnson and his merry minions as the blogosphere’s great cancer.

Oh, and sorry that it’s a blogspot link, and thus banned in China.


The death of a blogger: Sad beyond words

This really upset me. I don’t know anything about him, except that he apparently taught English in Korea and then in China, where he took his life a couple of days ago. He blogged here and here. Apparently he was in his mid-20s.

Via The Marmot. Good comments over there.

(Several of these links will be blocked in China. Sorry about that.)

How scary. Depression is a serious thing. Don’t take it lightly. Sleep disorders aren’t simply a nuisance, they can be hell on earth and turn every waking moment into a nightmare. I’m sure there’s more behind it than sleep alone (bi-polar disorder seems a strong possibility), but that seems to have been Shawn’s lynchpin.

Update: Many other heartbreaking comments here.

Here is the story in Chinese, with a diagram of the building/window from which he made his final exit.

You can see his photo and bio here.


Maureen Dowd: Live From Baghdad: – More Dying

More death in Baghdad. Laura Ingrahm should be feeling mighty ashamed.

Live From Baghdad: More Dying
Published: May 31, 2006

James Brolan, the CBS soundman who was blown up in Baghdad on Memorial Day, was cute and funny and cheated at Scrabble. The 42-year-old former British soldier left a wife, an 18-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

Paul Douglas, the cameraman, was a slab of a man with a great smile and gentle charm, a whiz of a cook who lived in London, where he liked to ride his motorcycle and cruise in an old Bentley that he’d restored himself. The 48-year-old left a wife, two daughters, three grandchildren and a mother.



China Olympics to be a vast No-Smoking Zone

Or so they are claiming, not very convincingly.

China vowed on Monday to organize a “non-smoking” Olympic Games, but health officials admitted that changing the habits of 350 million smokers would be difficult. China would enforce a ban on smoking in public places, a Health Ministry official told a news conference on Monday, with those places that offer services to children a top concern.

“Smoking will be banned at all Olympic-designated hospitals by the end of 2007,” Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Bin as saying. The ban would also apply to public transport and in offices, Zhang said, acknowledging that changing habits would be hard.

“China faces many obstacles to overcome in hosting a non-smoking Olympics,” he said.

The ministry’s vow comes as Beijing passes the 10th anniversary of its ban on smoking in public places. In practice, many of the capital’s millions of smokers habitually ignore the bans given that they run only a slight risk of punishment or complaint from bystanders.

I’ve seen Chinese smoke in every kind of public place, right in front of the no-smoking signs, including on elevators (cupping the cigarette inside their palm and smelling up the elevator for everyone else) and in office hallways. I’ve seen them smoking (or trying to) in steam baths. The idea of a non-smoking olympics in Beijing is quaint. I just don’t understand why they’re setting themselves up for ridicule like this, making announcements they can’t possibly support.


China looked so beautiful throughout my trip

It seems each time I go, just about everything looks better than it did the last time. The driving’s getting more civil (slowly but markedly), people are less horrified of forming a line, the litter is less ubiquitous, and people simply look, in general, a lot happier. At least in the prosperous coastal cities where I hung out this trip.

As I walked along the plushest and liveliest section of Shanghai’s Huaihailu on Saturday night, it struck me just how easy it is to forget all about Hao Wu and corruption and pollution, and to be swept up to giddy heights of near limitless optimism. So many smartly dressed, smiling people, up and coming in a world of staggering possibilities, knowing they are seen as the new fulcrum of the world’s economic engine, cheered on by one rosy economic forecast after another, with no end in sight. Why would anyone bother for even an instant to look at the darker and gloomier side of things? What’s to be gained? Why throw sand into the vaseline?

Underneath it all, the ugly truths persist, of course. The government still lies and covers up and admits no wrongdoing, much like the Bush hooligans, but what’s the impetus nowadays for anyone to stop and take notice, let alone stand up and protest? It’s morning again in China, and we won’t have anyone raining on our glorious parade. I can’t blame them for feeling this way, and if the same successes were occurring in America, I suspect we’d see the same reaction by most of the population, basking in the good news and quietly pushing the bad news under the carpet. Maybe it’s human nature. In any case, as long as the prosperity continues, expect no significant outburst of social conscience. The grand success and the way the Chinese people are responding has many historical precedents. In all honesty, I can’t blame them a bit, and seeing America in today’s pathetic and demoralized state, I can’t deny I am actually jealous of the upbeat feeling that pervades so much of China today. Is is real and is it sustainable? Those are separate questions that can only be answered over time. But there’s simply no denying that at this moment, things look damned good on the surface.


Neo-cons take a look inside the heads of China’s leaders

We have to take what they say with a nice big grain of salt (the writer is a bigwig at PNAC; need I say more?), but this review of Minxin Pei’s new book on China makes some interesting assertions.

China has stalled in a “trapped transition,” Pei argues, because its Communist leaders insist on maintaining power and taking a gradual approach to market reforms. This is not part of a strategy for political liberalization; instead, China’s leaders have been at pains to shore up their monopoly on power. The dividends of economic reform are used to “strengthen their repressive capacity and co-opt potential opposition groups, especially counterelites.” Seeing even limited erosion of their political power causes them to “intensify their efforts to maximize current income while maintaining a high level of repression to deter challengers.”

Pei’s attention to the attitudes of China’s rulers is important, given the general disregard for their thinking and behavior in American and European debates about China policy. We tend to interpret political and economic decision-making from a Western, democratic perspective, frequently projecting onto Chinese leaders attitudes and objectives they simply do not share. Pei challenges the self-deluding notion that Chinese leaders can be prevailed upon to see political reform as in their interest. He makes it clear that they see no such thing.

Chinese leaders’ choices do make sense, however, according to their own agenda. Decisions about which sectors to liberalize (typically the smaller, less valuable ones) and who to let into the booming economy (sometimes foreign companies rather than domestic, sometimes the other way around) and who to lend to are politically motivated. Overall, he says, China lags behind other former state-socialist economies that began reforms later….

While Pei is generous to the intellectual adherents of the gradualist economic theory, he argues that favorable assessments are distorted by the failure to consider “the greatest constraint on economic reform: an authoritarian regime’s fear of losing power during reform.” Such fear prevents the ruling elites from making “accompanying reforms that restructure the key political institutions that define power relations and enforce the rules essential to the functioning of markets, such as the security of property rights, transparency of government, and accountability of leaders.”

It’s not for nothing, Pei writes, that authoritarian regimes do not follow the “big bang” approach to economic reform.

Yet China’s elites are motivated by more than just the desire to maintain power. They recognize the uncertainty in the delicate balance they have created, and respond to the enormous incentive to cash in on the benefits of power before the enterprise collapses. According to Pei, the widely accepted belief that East Asia’s “strong government authority + pro-market policies = superior economic performance” neglects the crucial point, that a strong state can just as easily be a “grabbing hand” as a “helping” one; that is, be a “predatory state.” The results, he writes, are “dire.” The belief that economic development under such conditions could lead to democracy is “wishful thinking because the predatory state and economic development are, logically, mutually exclusive.”

One might say that, in the predatory state Pei describes (specifically, a decentralized one), all hell breaks loose. This is not theoretical. Pei documents massive corruption, a bloated state apparatus that fails to perform its functions, the sapping of revenues by local governments, and, ultimately, the inability to control officials. Ideological commitment to communism long abandoned, these officials are increasingly preoccupied with their own exit strategies, which involve getting foreign passports and transferring money abroad. Whereas China’s Communist elite were long known to exhibit the “fifty-nine phenomenon”–accelerating their self-dealing as they approached retirement age–Pei shows that the age of those engaging in corrupt activities is getting lower and lower. At the most extreme, Pei writes that officials collude with criminal organizations, resulting in “local mafia states,” and he provides details of dozens of such cases.

Sorry for the fiendishly long clip, but I do find it a tantalizing theory – which is not to say I endorse it. I need a lot more evidence before I buy into the idea that the CCP wheeler dealers are trying to cash in in anticipation of an inevitable collapse. As much as I’d love to see them go, things are looking mighty good over there at the moment, and “the coming collapse of China” is most likely way farther off than anyone at PNAC imagines.


Please – anything but this.

The very idea of continuing America’s most corrupt and dysfunctional dynasty makes me physically ill. Whether it’s 2008 or 2012 or whenever, the last thing America needs is another Bush in the White House. Those who forget the past are forced to relive it; do American’s really want to relive the misery and despair of the past 5.5 years?


I thought today’s young Chinese see Mao as a big joke


If so, then why did these Chinese students in New Zealand get so bent out of shape over the spoof above? From another blogger (source of the photo as well):

A mob of angry Chinese students protested at Massey University yesterday after Chairman Mao was lampooned on the cover of the student newspaper. Students likened the cover of Chaff, which this week satirises women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, to the anti-Muslim cartoons circulated around the world in February.

Tempers flared outside Massey’s library as about 50 Chinese Massey and UCOL students and a Chinese lecturer confronted Chaff staff. Students said the issue is racist and the last straw, as many have also suffered verbal abuse on the streets of Palmerston North.

Tianxiang Mao said it was common for Asian students to be lambasted with racial slurs when driving. “People yell `F-ing Asians’ when we are in the car driving down the road. I don’t say anything. What can I do?�

UCOL student Xing Tang said Chaff staff are ignorant of Chinese culture. “Chairman Mao is like Jesus to us,” he said on the verge of tears. “We pay $20,000 in fees and a Musa fee (which funds Chaff) and this is how we are treated.â€?

This raises all sorts of interesting questions now being debated over in the Duck Pond – is Mao the equivalent, in China, of Milton Berle or of Jesus? Inquiring minds want to know. All of my friends in Beijing tell me Mao is basically an irrelevant embarrassment, someything they pay as much attention to as the idiotic propaganda on CCTV. Am I just making the wrong type of friends, people who don’t really represent today’s China? Is Mao really venerated by today’s younger generations? Or is the answer some complex equation that we hapless Westerners can never hope to understand?

P.S. I know, this is ten days old already, but I’m just catching up after my Internetless two weeks in China…

[Edited, 18:35.]