More great pictures from Iraq


….from Zona Europa. Quite incredible.

Thank God we’ve broken the back of the insurgency.


The US Immigration Nazis

In one of his most colorfully worded and impassioned posts, Tom of Daai Tou Laam Diary blasts US immigration officials for denying a tourist visa to his Chinese wife.

She was denied because she’s married to a US citizen! Apparently my ties to Hong Kong aren’t strong enough, which makes her an economic threat to the United States economy and job market as a potential Eye-legal Eye-mmigrant. Does this have anything to do with national security? No! Does this have anything to do with the policies of Baghdad Bush? Yes! My wife was allowed to visit the US under Clinton, but denied this time (and a previous time when she was going to visit me in Boston prior to our wedding) during this current administration. So spare me the crap about how it’s liberals at the US State Dept that are responsible for this mess. It isn’t. And spare me your crap about supporting family values, because the policies of Baghdad Bush keep families apart!

Add that’s the polite part of his post.

I completely agree, and have for a long time. I remember in China my company trying to get visas for some Chinese news reporters so we could send them to cover a PR event in New York. Our efforts failed, and dealing with the US bureacrats was almost as maddening as dealing with Chinese bureaucrats. And at least with Chinese bureacrats you can usually pay them off.

On a related note, I meant to relate a conversation I had several days ago when I went to hear John Pomfret speak about China. A woman at my dinner table was a big-shot at Arizona State University’s global studies program, and I had the temerity to ask her a few questions about a goal I’ve had for a long time: brining a friend of mine in Beijing over to the US to help him get a Master’s degree and improve his English. I explained how important this was to me, and I was in no way prepared for what happened next.

Putting on a startlingly smug and condescending look, the pompous lady looked down her nose at me and began to lecture me that all Chinese people say they want to come to America to study when in truth they want to live in America forever. Yes, I know that’s what a lot of them do, I said, but this isn’t one of those people. He comes from a poor family and he supports his parents and…. At this point, her expression got even more smug, and she interrupted me:

“That’s what every Chinese person says: They won’t stay in America because they need to go home to support their parents. And you know what? They always find a way to stay. And everyone has their one friend in China who they know so well and who they know won’t try to stay in the US. And then once they get here, that all changes….”

I was strongly tempted to throw my wine in the lady’s face. Instead, I thanked her for her insights and said goodnight. But I really felt she had no right to speak to me like that, and no right to talk about “all Chinese people” as though they’re all lying scoundrels. It also drove home to me just how infuriatingly difficult it is to get a Chinese person into America nowadays. Will this policy ever end?


The return of McCarthyism?

All of Frank Rich’s columns are great, but his piece today on ABC-TV affiliate stations refusing to air Saving Private Ryan lest they be fined by the FCC is super–exceptionally great.

As American soldiers were dying in Falluja, some Americans back home spent Veteran’s Day mocking the very ideal our armed forces are fighting for ­ freedom. Ludicrous as it sounds, 66 ABC affiliates revolted against their own network and refused to broadcast “Saving Private Ryan.” The reason: fear. Not fear of terrorism or fear of low ratings but fear that their own government would punish them for exercising freedom of speech.

If the Federal Communications Commission could slap NBC after Bono used an expletive to celebrate winning a Golden Globe, then not even Steven Spielberg’s celebration of World War II heroism could be immune from censorship. The American Family Association, which mobilized the mob against “Ryan,” was in full blaster-fax and e-mail rage. Its scrupulous investigation had found that the movie’s soldiers not only invoked the Bono word 21 times but also, perhaps even more indecently, re-enacted “graphic violence” in the battle scenes. How dare those servicemen impose their filthy mouths and spilled innards on decent American families! In our new politically correct American culture, war is always heck.

Of course, it’s one more manifestation of the eerie phenomenon of creeping Puritanism that is changing America right in front of my eyes. It’s rather breathtaking to see just how quickly we’re being transformed. Bush has his mandate and he owes it to one group above all, and America knows it. And we’re scared. And fear results in silence and paralysis.

For anyone who doubts that we are entering a new era, let’s flash back just a few years. “Saving Private Ryan,” with its “CSI”-style disembowelments and expletives undeleted, was nationally broadcast by ABC on Veteran’s Day in both 2001 and 2002 without incident, and despite the protests of family-values groups. What has changed between then and now? A government with the zeal to control both information and culture has received what it calls a mandate.

Media owners who once might have thought that complaints by the American Family Association about a movie like “Saving Private Ryan” would go nowhere are keenly aware that the administration wants to reward its base. Merely the threat that the F.C.C. might punish a TV station or a network is all that’s needed to push them onto the slippery slope of self-censorship before anyone in Washington even bothers to act. This is McCarthyism, “moral values” style.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to read this article. Rich’s descriptions of the “alternate realitites” in which our leaders exist is so scary and so shrewd it blew me away. I’d love to quote every syllable, but it’s just too long. “Read the whole thing” — really.


Paradise on earth

A reporter describes his trip to Lijiang. It sounds like heaven.


Fallujah in Pictures


You simply have to see it to believe it. Not for the weak.

Says the site’s creator:

“i created this site because I was angry at my country and couldn’t understand how we could let this happen. i now believe it is because most americans haven’t seen what this war really looks like. we have seen gruesome beheadings and we have seen saddam’s torture chambers. this is what is being done in our name.”

Oh, and it’s nice to know there were “no civilian casualties,” as Allawi assures us. Ha.

Update: Now a US general is asserting rather idiotically that “we have broken the back” of the Iraqi insurgency. I hope it’s true but it’s an idiotic thing to say — brings back scary recollections of “Mission Accomplished” and flight suits and shit like that.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the top U.S. Marine Corps commander in Iraq, said the 11-day operation had destroyed the insurgents’ base and would “make it very hard for them to operate” elsewhere in Iraq.

“We feel right now that we have, as I mentioned, broken the back of the insurgency and we have taken away this safe haven,” Sattler told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference from Fallujah.

Some analysts flatly disagreed.

“I see absolutely no chance that’s true,” said Anthony Cordesman, a senior analyst at the non-partisan Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman issued a report declaring that the insurgents had lost militarily but won a political victory at Fallujah.

Same old/same old. The insurgents, with several weeks notice of the imminent assault, melted away to Mosul and Samara, where they are wreaking havoc all over again. (And remember, just a couple weeks ago we were celebrating Samara as a great victory, a city we had made “insurgent-free.” Well, it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?)


Now you can kill animals right at your computer!

Hunting can be a real hassle — muddy boots, bad weather, driving to the woods, etc. Not to worry. Now you can slaughter animals without getting up from your computer.

HOUSTON, Texas — Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms…. Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

Wow. I can blast deer right from my living room.

Now, I don’t have a gripe with hunting, but killing real live animals as part of a computer game — suffice it to say it doesn’t strike me as the healthiest use of one’s time.

This comes via Oxblog, who remarks, “Only in Texas.”


Zhao Ziyang

Daai Tou Laam Diary has written a fine review of a book titled The Era of Zhao Ziyang: Power Struggle in China, 1986-1988, with lots of interesting quotes and observations. As the title indicates, it focuses on just three years, ending before Hu Yaobang’s death and all the fun that followed.


The rabbit hole

Be sure to check out Angry Chinese Blogger’s series of posts on the theme “dropping down the rabbit hole.” A wry look at the myriad curiosities that are China.


Wolcott on Condi

Dipping his pen in battery acid, a deliciously caustic James Wolcott comments on the poetic justice of Condi replacing Colin.

It is fitting and proper that Condi Rice replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Putting a black face on the rock formation of white arrogance and prerogative represented by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-et-al shows a shrewd consistency. But the face that Powell fronted for Bush’s diplomatic charades was an open, amiable, somewhat ambiguous one. It offered the faint hope that someone in the administration could be reasoned with and would convey allies’ concerns back to the Cowboy Jesus, that there was at least one listener in the bunch.

That illusion is gone. Rice’s face is the game face of the Bushies, bony with Unwavering Resolve, eyes fanatical, mouth tensed. She has shown herself to be not a listener but a dictation machine on playback. “The President believes…” “The President has always said…” “The President has very consistent in arguing that…” “The President has said all along…” And now the dictation machine is in a position to dictate to other nations how they can fight terror and help make America a bigger, better empire. It’ll be the President wants this, the President wants that, the President is firm in his belief that…

But her incompetence precedes her, as does her presumptuous statement that for their failure to support the U.S. in Iraq, France should be punished, Germany ignored, and Russia forgiven. Punished, ignored, and forgiven for being right in the first place and refusing to take part in this debacle?–such nerve.

A dictating machine, running on automatic pilot. I like that. But Condi’s ascension is nothing to laugh about. Like the Defense Department and the CIA and the FDA, it’s now the State Department’s turn to be politicized and radicalized and purged. Come four years from now, our traditional government institutions will simply be puppet branches of the Republican Party as Rove’s vision of a one-party state becomes a tragic reality.

As Josh Marshall says of shrub’s recent appointments. “the shift is not toward right, left or center, but toward more direct White House control and the silencing of dissident voices in the civil service.”


I hope this doesn’t jinx things….

But Living in China is back, again. Remember, the last time I posted this same news, the site promptly went down again for several days. Let’s hope it’s back for good this time.