After wearing a heavy stainless steel and plastic splint for two months, keeping my right arm in a perpetual Heil Hitler salute, I was finally liberated today.

It’s a strange sensation walking around with out it. I won’t say that I miss it; it’s just that I’d become so used to lugging it around all the time that it’s disorienting to be without it. I still wear it to bed to keep my arm from swinging around.

This was the second operation on my right shoulder in six months, and if it had failed, there would be no plan C — I’d be stuck for life with a right arm that could barely lift a book. The doctor told me today that the latest operation was a success. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear that.


Muzimei is so last week, one-upped by Zhuying Qingtong

Just when it seemed racy Chinese blogs a la Muzimei were but fleeting memories, her figurative twin sister, one Zhuying Qingtong, appears on the scene, setting off once again a flurry of media excitement over the latest Chinese “sex blog.” Adam offers all the details.

Update: A commenter tells me I am late to this! Sorry, it’s been a busy time for me; I saw it for the first time today over at Adam’s, but apparently it’s old news already. (Danwei beat me to it as well. Maybe it’s time for me to get out of blogging.)


Tracing the life of a doomed Chinese cockle picker

Anyone who has been following this story simply must read this article on the tragic set of factors that drove one of the men from his farm in south China to the beaches of Lancashire. Devastating.

Thanks to Vaara for offering this link in an earlier comment.


Death in the Chinese coal mines

Asian Labour News has a poignant, painful-to-read but beautifully written post about a recent explosion that killed at least 28 coal miners, as well as one of the men detonating the explosives in Shanxi Province.

Toward the end of his moving description, Stephen offers some background on the mines, and why workers enter them despite the obvious dangers.

Lingshi County has a population of around 240,000. Coal is the backbone of the economy, and accounts for about 70% of revenue. Coal dust is pervasive; it hangs in the air and makes breathing difficult. The ice on the street is black. But despite being dirty, there are many rich people in the area. The author notices many private cars on the street – Toyotas and BMWs. And who owns these cars? Overwhelmingly they’re owned by coal bosses. And no wonder. Over the last few years the price of coal has risen: a ton can fetch between 150 to 270 yuan. A small mine can extract 100 tons a day, but the cost of extraction, including workers’ wages, is only about 38 yuan per ton (a profit of between 112 to 232 yuan per ton).

The riches, however, have come at a price to the environment (both ecological and social). All those years of mining have destroyed the region’s ecology. An inch of coal dust and ash covers the ground. As a truck passes, the dust rising from the wheels blocks the sky. A wind whips along the village street and covers the entire area in a black mist that cuts visibility to less than 10 metres. The farm land in the area is poor: wheat and corn yields are low. If a family wants to send it’s child to school or cover other expenses there is no option but to work in the mines. Many villagers are willing to take risks for money. On the surface, it’s possible to say that the coal mines have provided a livelihood. But the lack of safety equipment in small mines causes the workers anxiety and alarm. Some families have lost all their boys and men to the mines.

These stories are wrenching, and the world is a better place with people like Stephen who are willing to take the time and the effort to tell them. The obvious question is, is anybody listening?


Reagan’s Navy Secretary James Webb blasts Bush

Quite amazing, that these harsh words come from James Webb, former Secretatry of the Navy under Reagan and a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam:

Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.

At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in Europe, that have been our country’s great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.

Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration. One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.

Most seriously, Bush has yet to explain the exact circumstances under which American military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq.

I don’t necessarily agree with all that Webb says. But we know Bush is in deep trouble when those on the right blast him like this. How the landscape has changed in just a few short months.

Via Skippy over at The America Street


Ugga Bugga catches another InstaPundit idiocy

Inexcusably sloppy.

“What a hack,” Ugga Bugga concludes. As InstaPuppy himself would say, “Indeed.”


Cooking for Kim Jong Il

Fans of North Korea’s dear leader will have to read this very funny, very strange article by Kim’s former sushi chef. Just a sample:

During a banquet one night a group of five dancers in the entertainment entourage were performing a disco dance. Suddenly Kim Jong Il ordered, “Take off your clothes!” The girls took off their clothes, but then Kim told them to take it all off. They seemed surprised and could not hide their bewilderment, but they could not object to their Dear Leader’s orders. In awkward embarrassment they stripped down and continued their performance in the nude.

After a while he turned to his cabinet staff members and instructed them, “You guys dance with them too.” And soon enough I, too, was ordered to dance. However, he cautioned us, “You’ll dance, but you won’t touch. If you touch, you’re thieves.” In other words, I think Kim Jong Il felt these girls were like his own daughters.

The article is one weird anecdote after another. At first I thought it was some sort of joke, a parody — but then, nearly any article about Kim tends to read like a parody.

(Link from Arts & Letters Daily.)


Drudge follow-up

There are a total of 19 links to breaking news stories on the Drudge Report today. Five of them are to stories about the Kerry “intern” scandalette:


FRIDAY: ‘I know my wife will not be voting for Mr Kerry, let’s put it that way’…

MONDAY: We ‘intend on voting for him for president of the United States’…
Alex Polier, Insta-Celebster…

Grad denies romantic link with Kerry; introduced in Switzerland, met in New York…

Don’t believe anyone who says Drudge isn’t trying to breathe life into this nonstory with everything he’s got.


Matt Drudge, the media’s weakest link

I hope everyone’s watching as Matt Drudge tries frantically to keep the Kerry-“intern” non-story alive despite the fact that just about everybody, conservative and liberal alike, has concluded there’s nothing to see here.

Yesterday he had no fewer than seven links to stories that touched on the scandalette, not a single one offering evidence that would make it credible. One or two were to his own articles, which bear his usual signature when he is trying to fan the flames of scandal — breathless accusations punctuated with exclamation points! Unnamed “sources” and absolutely unsupported innuendo! Today he’s at it again, though there are only four links to the “intern” nonstory because nobody’s falling for Drudge’s tricks this time.

Today, Atrios has quite an amazing post on how Larry Flynt is claiming he has proof that President Bush paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion. He wonders why, with Drudge’s and Flynt’s respective track records, the Drudge rumor got so much more media attention than the Flynt rumor.

I’d also like the media to consider one thing – compare Flynt’s batting average with Drudge’s. While the media will jump to condemn Flynt, they should recognize that Flynt has higher journalistic standards than any of them for this kind of thing. He doesn’t run with things until he has multiple sources. This story may or may not be true, but frankly I have a lot more faith in the accuracy of Flynt’s reporting than I do in a lot of the mainstream press. The recent week has only re-confirmed that.

Let’s remember that Drudge first became a celebrity not because of Monica, but because he falsely accused Sidney Blumenthal of beating his wife. And the media sided with Drudge.

I don’t know anything about the Flynt story so I won’t say a word. But I think Atrios’ point is a valid one: Drudge has enormous power that is not deserved. He is not a muckracker, he is a partisan, scruple-less shit-stirrer and that he managed to throw the media into a tumult over this indicates that something is badly amiss.

To most of the media’s credit, few if any of them ran with the story and wrote about it the way Drudge would have liked. But they did write it up, most often quoting the young lady saying the claim was nonsense. But if it weren’t for Drudge, there would have been no mention of it at all — and there shouldn’t have been. And now, everyone has that little thought implanted in their brains: John Kerry may have had sex with an intern.

On the bright side, it appears Drudge has been hoisted on his own petard. Right now, he looks a bit tragic, trying to puff air into a balloon with a hundred pinpricks in it. If this ruins his credibility for good, at least something positive may have come out of it.


Reform-minded Chinese threaten to dissolve Hong Kong legislature

I thought China was only supposed to threaten Taiwan. Now it’s Hong Kong’s turn as the CCP says it will dissolve the HK legislature if democrats take it over from the pro-Beijing “patriots.”

China has taken the velvet glove off its iron fist and threatened to dissolve Hong Kong’s legislature if pro-Beijing candidates lose control of the body in the coming September election.

This is the sternest warning issued by Beijing in its bid to stem the rising democratic tide set off by the massive public protest last July 1. It was delivered on Sunday by a senior Chinese official at a closed-door briefing for a selected group of pro-Beijing journalists in the Special Administrative Region.

According to a transcript published the following day by Wen Wei Po, Beijing’s mouthpiece in Hong Kong, the official said: ‘I have a sword. Normally, I would not use it. Now it is the democrats who force me to use it.’

Asked what the ‘sword’ was, he replied: ‘Please note that the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s mini-Constitution) has provided for the dissolution of the legislature.’

Such a move would trigger a major constitutional crisis.

That Beijing is prepared to go so far shows just how worried it is about losing the September election for a new Legislative Council (Legco).

The screws are tighening on HK, and it will be interesting to watch the plot unfold. Of course, the CCP has all the power here, but can it afford the public relations nightmare that would follow any attempt to strongarm HK and blatantly repress its freedom? The lifeblood of the New and Improved China is foreign investment, and I can’t think of a better way to scare it away than stripping Hong Kong of its elected legislature.