New kid on the blog

A Beijing blogger whom I hold in high regard has a new site up and running. Please take a look.


Yes, Baghdad really is a quagmire

Update: I wrote this post under the duress of extreme jetlag and sleeplesssness, standing up at a terminal in the Hong Kong airport, and I regret some of my wording. I still think things look terrible in Baghdad and I still can only wonder how we can get out of the mess. But my reference to possible “civil war” was not thought through, and at the time I didn’t realize the slaughter was mainly initiated by foreign terrorists.

I just saw the news about the synchronized bombings in Iraq that have created havoc, death and, according to the reporter, “chaos in Baghdad.” (I am using a free airport service and can’t cut/paste, or I would link it.)

I wanted Saddam out. I think his being out is a wonderful thing for all of us. But I also think that there is now no denying that we are in a quagmire. (Yes, the Q word.) Not on the level of Vietnam, but certainly moving in that direction.

I couldn’t believe what I just read. It makes Bush’s recent PR blitz ring more hollow than ever. Yes, there have been dribs and drabs of good news, but can anyone really wonder why so many now see Iraq as a swamp filled with quicksand?

A big complaint of late is that the media are giving too much attention to the bad news at the expense of the good. That’s typical of journalism, and I’m sure it’s true — but only to a degree. Bad news like today’s simply has to overshadow the “good news,” like more Iraqi children going to school. More Iraqi kids in better schools really is good news, but not good enough to balance the horrific news of the bombings and snipings.

Right now, it looks as though things are only getting worse, with no end in sight. We have to rethink our strategy or face a true civil war in Iraq.


Living in China added to my blogroll

The highest honor. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the “collective farm” of the Mainland bloggers. Be sure to check it out.


LA fires keep me trapped in the US

As our plane headed for Los Angels Airport on Saturday night, the smell of burning wood suddeny permeated the cabin, and looking out the windows we saw huge red and orange flames licking the sky. It was realy quite an amazing sight, so bright and huge, totally out of control. Minutes later we were told the brush fires were so close to the airport we couldn’t land, and we were off to Las Vegas. Bottom line is that right now many hours later, I am in the Hong Kong airport, waiting for my connection to Singapore, totally zombified. At least this time I got upgraded for the 14-hour LA to HK trip; what a difference an upgrade makes.

Considering how I feel now, I probably won’t get back to writing until very late tonight or tomorrow (Wednesday). It was a great trip, one of the best I have ever had. Maybe even another landmark in a landmark-studded life.


Out of town

It’s back to Singapore, returning Monday afternoon.


You’ve read Mao’s Red Book; now see the TV show!

I can see China producing a half-hour special about Mao’s “poetry.” But a 20-part series just about Mao’s maudlin verses? Certainly sounds like overkill to me:

A 20-part television series, “Mao Zedong — A Talented Poet,” is expected to be broadcast later this year, to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late leader of the Communist Party of China.

Mao is widely appreciated as a skillful writer of poems and more than 70 of his works have been published.

The documentary series depicts the life of Mao by explaining his poems, and the CCTV production crew undertook a six-month trekacross tens of thousands of kilometers to trace Mao’s footsteps.

Mao was a great revolutionary idealist and a great poet who had a life-long love for poetry and whose poems reflected his creativity, artistic nature and idealism, said Pang Xianzhi, a noted Chinese researcher on the Party history and Mao’s life.

The only thing great about Mao is the amount of blood on his hands. This certainly underscores the macabre celebration of this murderer continues to flourish in China, as though the Cultural Revolution and the great famine never took place. Can you imagine Germany putting on a 20-part TV series about the beauty and wisdom of Mein Kampf?


Living in China

Some entrepreneurial bloggers over in the mainland have started a very promising new site, Living in China, that will be of interest to anyone curious about life in the PRC.

In their own words:

It’s basically a meta China blog that features the best blog entries on China for readers who do not have time to surf around the web. The site also includes a mini web-based blog aggregator that shows the latest blog entries from the China Blog community.

They’ve even included a couple of my own posts, so you know it’s good! Check it out.


I thought they only did this in North Korea

In Pyongyang, you will never see any cripples — no wheelchairs, no crutches, no mentally ill. If you don’t look fit enough, you’re shipped out to God knows where. It’s all part of the looney government’s attempts to keep the capital and its inhabitants looking good for when visitors drop by. (I no longer have the link to the story about this policy; it was corroborated by my former Beijing co-worker who spent some time in Pyongyang a few years back.)

This type of engineering your society so that it looks a certain way and, of course, engineering the media so they only show nice things, is key to the North Korean mentality (Beijing’s too, though not quite so drastic). So when I first read these lines from the Washington Post, I had to wonder whether some of Dear Leader’s methodology was wearing off on our Dear President:

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers’ homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. “There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops,” the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.

Apparently the policy is nothing new, but it’s only this administration that’s embraced it. Back during our little war in Afghanistan, Bush ignored the policy. Now, during an operation that faces a lot more cynicism, criticism and skepticism, it’s in full force.

It is a sign, I think, of how Bush wants to “package” the war in Iraq, and a sign of his insecurity about the whole thing. It’s a branding technique that tells its audience (us) that this war is high-tech and antiseptic; we’ll show you the dazzle, but not the consequences, not the ugly underside, not the grief. (And no, it’s not anywhere near the level of what goes on in North Korea, but it did remind me of NK’s attempting to create its own “reality.”)

Call it what you will, it is still an attempt at mass manipulation and propaganda that should be unacceptable in America.

This is a link to the NK’s policy on the handicapped Scroll down to Public Executions, then 7 grafs down.


Ma Shiwen Released

Thanks to a link from Adam, I see that the imprisoned AIDS activist Ma Shiwen has been let out of jail. I said earlier that this was inevitable (in my comments) and I am happy to see it happen.

An act of compassion or political expediency? You decide:

Ma was released several says before US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson was scheduled to arrive in Beijing.

Check out the rest of the site, too. It’s superb.


The Morning Sun Experience

Soldiers studying Mao’s Red Book in the winter….

…and doing the same thing in the summer. All Mao all the time.

“You young people are like the morning sun. Hope is pinned on you.”
Mao Zedong to a throng of students in Tinanmen Square, 1964

Stop what you’re doing and go to the web site for Morning Sun, the new documentary on the Cultural Revolution I wrote about recently.

This site is miraculous. In English or Chinese, it brings the Cultural Revolution to you in a manner that makes it palpable. It is a multimedia experience, with all the music and art and poetry and trappings that made the Cultural Revolution so….unique.

Be especially careful to tune in to the “Cultural Revolution Radio”; as you turn its dials, you’re ushered to a new window where a C.R. song plays against backdrops of unintentionally grotesque C.R. “art.” Check out all the links in the Multimedia section. They are priceless.

Along with the propaganda photos, there are photos of original C.R. documents, in Chinese (English translation available) — documents that determine the fate of Chinese citizens accused of subversion. The photos can’t be cut/pasted — otherwise, this post would be endless, jammed with the remarkable images that adorn just about every page of this site.

To call this a treasure trove doesn’t say nearly enough. I’m just unhappy that I discovered it minutes before I have to go out to dinner with my family. This is a site I can pore over for many hours, and return to for years to come. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s a living breathing fresco that captures all the elements of the most puzzling phenomenon that was the Cultural Revolution. It is mgnificent.

I got the link via an email from a reader; I’m not sure whether you’d want me to list your name, so I won’t. All I can say is, Thank you. I’ll definitely be back.