In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: propaganda Page 3 of 6

Who? Me?

I’m thinking this should be China’s new motto. “Who? Me?”

The news is that Google is pondering an exit from the Chinese market. They were hacked and a number of Chinese dissidents had their GMail accounts hacked. Google made it clear, but didn’t come right out and say, that the Chinese government, or agents acting on their behalf, are responsible.

According to a Wired article, a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry web site said,

The U.S. has criticized China’s policies to administer the Internet and insinuated that China restricts Internet freedom. This runs contrary to the facts and is harmful to China‑U.S. relations. We urge the United States to respect the facts and cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China.

Every time anyone disagrees with the Chinese government, the reply carries a dig about harming relations with the country. It’s amazing. You’d think that the representatives of a powerhouse like China wouldn’t have their feelings hurt as easily as a toddler, at every possible opportunity. It seems you’d be wrong.

And as for the fact that China restricts Internet freedom, I think it’s pretty obvious. Saying it’s not true doesn’t change anything. For goodness sakes, as distasteful as it is, just admit it. You want to control the population so you restrict sites and topics. Why are you so afraid to say so?

I pop in to the Chinese Embassy in Canada website from time to time, and it’s rife with this same lack of reality. A January 22 posting responding to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comments on China’s Internet policy. Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said:

The US attacks China’s Internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting Internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-US relations.

China’s internet is open.

I’m not sure what ‘open’ means in this context but you simply cannot visit any website you choose. Many are blocked. Compare searches for Tibet, Falun Gong, and Chinese human rights using Google.com and Google.cn for a sample. Yes, Google is presenting the results, but at the Chinese Government’s direction.

But the Chinese government isn’t content with curtailing public freedoms. According to the Telegraph article, “China begins monitoring billions of text messages as censorship increases,”

China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile phone company, said it was complying with demands from the police to report “illegal” text messages that included pornography, violence, fraud, suggestions of terrorism, instigations to crime and gambling. It said a mobile phone would be blocked if a message breached any of its filters.

We’re talking text messages here. While they are used for spam, text messages are generally sent from individual to individual. I’m at a loss to understand why the government should be concerned if I send a naughty text message to my wife. But they are, and should any of your text messages contain inappropriate words or phrases, your phone service is severed. The Telegraph describes the options available to one man who found himself in this situation:

The Southern Metropolis newspaper said a man from the southern city of Dongguan recently had his phone blocked. China Mobile’s customer service told him their computers had detected lewd words in his messages and that he would have to take his identity card to the police to reactivate the phone. He also had to furnish a letter guaranteeing that he would no longer spread inappropriate messages.

I am sensitive to the word inappropriate. When it’s used in laws and rules, it’s often a placeholder for something the authority wants to stop, but will not explain. I should be able to understand, in detail, the laws and rules I’m expected to follow. But repressive states like China cannot afford to be so explicitly clear. They want such absolute control that the laws need to be flexible and applicable to anything they want.

Living in China, you can have a mobile phone if the government lets you. If they let you, they reserve the right to change their minds at any time, for any reason. This is what the Chinese Government calls ‘freedom of speech.’

At least it’s not rat milk…

Ah Facebook. It’s like a distillation of all the weirdness on the Internet. Why? Because all your friends bring the weirdness there. Take this status, for example:

Lori is laughing at the notion of ice-cream H‑Milk.

What’s that mean? I have no idea!

Later, I look at her profile and all is made clear — if even weirder — by a Yahoo News article titled “PETA’s latest campaign is to make ice cream from human breast milk.” I know it sounds like something from The Onion, but it’s not. PETA has posted their press release on their site.

The wing-nuts at PETA have suggested to Ben & Jerry’s that they release an ice cream made from human breast-milk. How is this wrong? Let me count the ways…

  • It reeks of a publicity stunt.
  • If I cared for PETA in the least, I’d be pissed that they’re flushing their own reputation down the toilet. Since I don’t care, I’d offer to work the handle if it weren’t too late.
  • Typical wing-nut liberals…so willing to tell other people what to do. Maybe Ben & Jerry’s is so successful because they already know how to run their own business. Imagine.
  • Maybe all the animals are now safe and treated ethically so PETA has nothing to do but issue ridiculous press-releases. Surely they wouldn’t jerk around with crap like this if there were real work to do, would they?

Neat

In the last week, there have been a blaze of articles about how the North Pole may be free of ice this summer. A quick tour through the first few pages of a Google search for “north pole ice history” (sans quotes) turned up these gems:

“The North Pole may be free of ice for the first time in history,” said Canadian climate scientist David Barber to Canwest News Service.

There’s a 50 – 50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history, a leading ice scientist says.

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

For the first time in modern history, the North Pole may be iceless this summer.

Certainly the blanket claim that this will be a first ice-free season at the North Pole in all of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history is absolute rubbish. The climate has varied so much that this claim doesn’t even warrant comment.

According to Wikipedia, “studies of molecular biology give evidence that the approximate time of divergence from the common ancestor of all modern human populations was 200,000 years ago.” I would certainly not bet on this being the first season the North Pole has been free of ice in 200,000 years because we really have no idea what the weather was like up there with enough detail to be able to say there has been ice every single year for the last 2000 centuries.

How about recorded history? The first try at navigating the Northwest passage was made by John Cabot in 1497, though he wasn’t even sure there was such a route. The first time such an attempt was successful was 1906 when Roald Amundsen took three seasons to complete the journey. Further attempts were made through the next century, to find better routes, I’m guessing.

But do the attempts of a few dozen explorers through northern Canada count for a systematic and dependable record of what’s going on across the arctic ocean? The Northwest passage is nearly 2000 km south of the North Pole so I have difficulty in accepting an iced passage as definite proof of an iced pole. Certainly likely, but not certainly.

Now that we enjoy the convenience of orbital satellites, studies of the surface of the Earth at levels of details unimaginable to scientists from centuries ago is taken for granted. But how long have we used these new tools to study the North Pole?

The Wikipedia says, “On September 14, 2007, the European Space Agency announced that ice loss had opened up the passage ‘for the first time since records began in 1978’.” I didn’t look very hard for other organizations claiming continuous study starting at an earlier date, but with the first permanent artificial satellites being launched into orbit in the 1960s, complete and continuous studies of the pole cannot tell us what’s really been going on up there for more than the last 40 years, at most.

Hardly all of history, human history, or even recorded history. Shame on the news outlets for repeating this inaccuracy. They do themselves no favours with such headline-friendly sensationalism.

Trust me

It so easy to forget how people across the world can view the same topics in surprisingly different ways. I came across a link to a Pew Research Centre publication called “Few in China Complain About Internet Controls.” The article states,

According to findings from the fourth and most recent of a series of surveys about internet use in China from 2000 to 2007, over 80% of respondents say they think the internet should be managed or controlled, and in 2007, almost 85% say they think the government should be responsible for doing it.

This is shocking to me and pretty much the antithesis of how westerners feel about their governments. I don’t believe our governments are any less trustworthy than the Chinese government, so why the radically different attitude? Certainly part of it is cultural. If you believe you’re living in a big communist family and the government will take care of you, why wouldn’t you trust it? And don’t think the government doesn’t use this to its advantage.

during the five years of surveying internet use in China, “media reports about negative aspects of the internet have increased both in scope and number.” Indeed, reports linking the internet to unfortunate or unsavory events abound. Many are personal, heavy with human interest and include names, hometowns, and photos.

Who controls the media? The government, of course. The government’s firewall censors access to the Internet directly, and the government portrays the Internet as a dangerous place using the media, so the people are not only restricted, but they end up restricting themselves.

When you control the media to the extent that you are the media, and you control any access to the Internet, and also actively foster the belief that you’re everyone’s best pal and have only their interests at heart, complete control is not difficult.

Nancy replies

Live and learn, and be surprised at times.

I actually received an answer from Nancy Pelosi.

From: “Rep. Nancy Pelosi” <pelosi@mail.house.gov>
Date: April 27, 2008 1:04:15 PM GMT-04:00
To: <rpali@alienshore.com>
Subject: Reply from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Thank you for contacting my office.

Congressional courtesy prevents me from replying to e‑mails if I cannot determine that you are a constituent of mine.

If you are not a resident of California’s 8th Congressional District and are contacting me in regard to my role as Speaker, please e‑mail me at AmericanVoices@mail.house.gov.

If you are a resident of the 8th District of California, please contact my office in Washington, DC at (202) 225‑4965 to be added to our database.

An answer only in that she replied. It’s not an answer to the question I asked.

I looked around for details about this ‘congressional courtesy.’ Strange that it’s called ‘courtesy’ when it seems shorthand for “get lost.” I discovered it’s a sensible rule that prevents members of Congress from getting involved in issues for which other members of Congress are responsible. This makes perfect sense. Pelosi’s invoking the rule makes far less sense, however. I simply asked about an alleged biblical quotation she used in a press release. It did not involve an issue specific to her region of responsibility.

To my great amusement, my referencing Google for “congressional courtesy” turned up more than a few others who received the same response from Pelosi.

I sent a short reply suggesting she would have left a far better an impression if she hadn’t responded at all.

Page 3 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén