SOTU-related program activities cartoon

I was laughing out loud when I saw this.


Beware the Hong Kong Morality Police

Blogs can be fun and interesting. Then they can get surly and weird. Luckily, in our little community there’s not too much of the latter. And then earlier today a reader pointed me to this post. As my fellow expat blogger Conrad commented a few days ago, “Good lord.”


Ben Edelman on the Blogspot – Google phenomenon in China

Over the weekend I wrote emails about the Google – Blogspot situation in China to some of the experts who wrote about the ban last year. One of them, Ben Edelman, who was then with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, forwarded me a response he wrote to a similar email from Fons over at Media in China. He told me I could post it on my own blog and pass it along.

It’s quite interesting, especially that he seems to think the lifting of the ban is here to stay, at least in those lucky cities like Beijing and Dalian. Anything in bold is highlighted by me.


Fascinating situation.

When I first got your note yesterday (before the further news of today), I thought this might be a temporary and transient phenomenon. After all, if Google changed which IP addresses it uses for some purpose, China’s special filters for Google might be tricked — and this effect would be all the larger and more prolonged due to the Chinese holiday (during which fewer Chinese networking staff would be available to update the block list), not smaller (as you had hypothesized, thinking that the accessibility of Google had to reflect an affirmative action by China). But the longer the Google contents remains accessible, the less likely this theory, and the more likely the alternative that the block simply has been reversed, at least for some places.

I read the posts at
and wanted to comment in particular on one suggestion offered there.
Consider the following claim from that page: “One of Richard’s readers tells us
that Google’s cache is working for sites that are not blocked but isn’t for those
that are. If this is a consistent thing then it’s evidence that Google is working very closely with the sensors to make Google work better.” I think this is simply false — the premise (“Google cache works, except for blocked sites”) does not imply the purported conclusion (“then Google is working closely with the censors”). Far more likely, in my view, is that the censors are able to look at Google’s URLs and decide whether or not to allow the request. Recall that Google’s cache URLs take a particular identifiable form (e.g.>). All recent tests indicate that China is perfectly able to filter according to the part of the URL after the question mark (the “URL parameters”). So China could block those Google searches that contain the word “cache” as well as the domain name of a blocked site. That’s just to say: There’s plenty to criticize about Google, but I don’t think the evidence is in place to accuse them of conspiring with China.

Feel free to forward or repost this message as appropriate….

Sorry for spacing problems in that blockquote; I couldn’t fix them. I’m hoping to get some more feedback over the next couple of days and will post replies as soon as they come it.


Singapore workers are so happy!

Is it pure propaganda, or are Sinagporeans truly happy with their jobs? This is a front-page story from today’s Straits Times:

S’pore: nation of happy workers?

You may hear it in the office, on the train or bus, among friends at lunch – an apparently never-ending gripe about work.

But surprise, surprise, 59 per cent of Singapore workers say they love their jobs and 25 per cent of them want to stay in them for 15 years or more.
This despite a year of merciless lay-offs and painful wage cuts.

Anyone living here who possesses minimal grey matter knows that Singapore’s workers are feeling a lot of emotions at the moment, but joy and satisfaction are not at the top of the list. Angst seems to be the prevalent feeling as workers wonder when the next retrenchments will come, and whether their benefits will be further reduced.

This type of article, with its puffy, cheerful wording (“Surprise, surprise!”) is the norm over here when it comes to all things dealing with the Singapore economy. It epitomizes why nearly all the locals I know tell me they automatically presume all such stories are false and meaningless. I’d throw in another adjective: embarrassing.


Mixed reports on the Blogspot ban in China

Very interesting, how the ban is unchanged in Shanghai and apparently most other Chinese cities, but has been completely lifted in Beijing and Dalian. See the comments to Adam’s post and to my own to see what bloggers in the various geographies are saying.

The most interesting observation is that this inconsistency implies that the censorship is being controlled at a local level as opposed to centrally. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it’s inexplicable and bewildering.


Valerie Plame “kerfuffle” takes on new steam

James Taranto and his WSJ cohorts no doubt found it vastly amusing to refer dismissively to the Wilson-Plame scandal as as “kerfuffle.” I wonder if they are chuckling now. From the New York Times:

A group of former intelligence officers is pressing Congressional leaders to open an immediate inquiry into the disclosure last summer of the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer, Valerie Plame.

Their request, outlined in a letter on Tuesday to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and others, reflects discontent and unrest within the intelligence services about the affair, along with concern that a four-month-old Justice Department investigation into the matter may never identify who was behind the disclosure.

It is unusual for former intelligence officers to petition Congress on a matter like this. The unmasking of Ms. Plame is viewed within spy circles as an unforgivable breach of secrecy that must be exhaustively investigated and prosecuted, current and former intelligence officials say.

Anger over the matter is especially acute because of the suspicion, under investigation by the Justice Department, that the disclosure may have been made by someone in the White House to punish Ms. Plames’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, for opposing administration policy on Iraq.

Between this and the breaking news of Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee infiltrating the Democrats’ computers, reading confidential memos and leaking them to the media, you’d think the Republicans would be getting mighty edgy right now.

So far with Bush, everything’s been like water off a duck’s back, like he’s been sprayed with some non-stick solution. But these two items are serious, and possibly extremely illegal. And if true, these are real scandals, far more significant and serious than having oral sex with an intern. I want to think that at some point they simply have to catch up with our swaggering, invincible leaders.


Blogspot unblocked in China?

[UPDATE: I’m getting emails and comments that it’s blocked again. Maybe it was all a one-day reprieve for Chinese New Year.
LATER UPDATE: It IS unblocked — in certain places. See my later post on this.]

That is the word over at danwei,and at Soapbox Jams, and if true it is big news.

Last week, in Beijing, I was able to access a site on free blog platform without using a proxy server to get around the Great Celestial Nanny, aka the Great Firewall.

A few hours later it seemed to be blocked again. But today, Brian Ruckle (of Tennessee and Beijing, and also of reports that Blogspot is indeed unblocked. Then I find that Google’s Cache function is suddenly available too. The Google Cache has been blocked for quite a while, apparently because it has the side-effect of making the content of other blocked sites available.

Is somebody sleeping on the job or is the Great Celestial Nanny just chilling out?

The blocking of blogspot was the nightmare of my existence in China, where I could post all I wanted but could never see my own blog, or any other blogspot site. When I arrived in Singapore and was able to access all my favorite blogs, it was like a dream come true.

One warning: There was more than one occasion last year when the ban was temporarily lifted, only to come crashing down again. So while this may be cause to celebrate, it may be too early to recite the blogspot ban’s eulogy. After all, it’s a holiday, and maybe too many of the country’s 30,000 Internet censors are away on vacation to keep the Great Firewall up and running as intended. Time will tell.


The story behind the Tiananmen Tank Man Photo


I’ve written about the “Tiananamen tank man” before, but I just came upon this article that details how the famous picture came to be taken. It’s an amazing story in itself and one I had never heard before.

I also like the article’s close:

A decade and a half later, Widener’s photograph retains all of its potency. “It’s an urgently important message about what you can do if you have the guts to do it,” says Mickey Spiegel, a China specialist at Human Rights Watch in New York City, who has hung the photograph in every office she has occupied since 1989.

Richard Baum, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, says there’s “an emotional legacy to that shot. I think that has cost China more in public image than any other single image in modern times.”

Widener, now 47 and a staff photographer for the Honolulu Advertiser in Hawaii, has considered going to China to revisit the story. “The picture’s part of my life now,” says the photographer. “His message was, ‘Enough’s enough. There’s been enough killing. It’s got to stop.’ “

Other posts about Tiananmen Square:
Tiananmen Square revisited
Tiananmen Square re-revisited
Messages on Tiananmen Square

You can see the famous Tiananmen Tank video here.

You can read Pico Iyer’s sublime tribute to Tank Man in Time magazine here.


Maureen Dowd on Iraq’s “WMD-related program activities”

Hilarious. I am so glad that at least some journalists have picked up on this redefinition of the very concept of drivel:

For proof of how intemperate their policy has been, compare this year’s State of the Union with last year’s. Last year it was all about Iraq’s frightening weapons. This year the only reference was to “dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.”

Would Americans have supported a war to go get “program activities?” What is a program activity? Where is the White House speechwriters’ ombudsman?

The rest of the column is worth reading for her merciless description of Howard Dean’s losing his sanity after the speech. She is such a bitch, but she can be damn funny.


Circumcision in China

Go to Sinosplice to get the complete, uncut story. Quite funny.