Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Speaking Chinese, Seeing Middle America

Search results from American, our-Freedoms-are-bigger-than-yours Google:
Search results from commie, porn-/human rights-free, Chinese Google:

We decided to do our own little test of the resent Google China, much like the one we found at boingboing. With ours, however, we had the luxury of a Chinese keyboard in which we could do the search in Chinese.

Please keep in mind that we have no profound knowledge of how Google works exactly, so all of this is pure observation.

Doing several prelimenary searches of things like Falung Gong, Human Rights, etc. We actually got more sources on google.cn than we had gotten from google.com. We were shocked, obviously, thinking we were onto something, until we realized that most of the pages were Taiwanese. It should be clarified that we were writing in Traditional Chinese characters, not the simplified characters used in mainland China. We don't mention that to say that it makes a difference, because for the most part they translate directly in computer langauge (as far as we know). Fortunately, Chinese Google speaks both.

When we typed "Human Rights China" (in Chinese) we got the sight, we got considerably different results (much like the search featured on BoingBoing). On google.com, we got the Human Rights Watch site for china. So we then decided to do that search in both googles and the results are presented above.

There are two interesting aspects pertaining to the Chinese Google. One, is that even though the Chinese search doesn't present any links, it still tells you how many sites it found: 4,300. The second curious thing is this, which you can see at the bottom of the page:


This says in effect, "Due to local laws, etc., we can't present the links relevant to this search." With the number of pages listed along with the fact that Google won't show them, there shouldn't be much doubt as to whether the people doing the searches know their is information being hidden from them or not (supposing they can read Chinese, obviously).

As an interesting comparison, we decided to do some searches on other subjects pertaining to the United states on various world Googles and see how it turned out (highest numbers highlighted):

War Crimes America - Google.com (31.9 million), Google.fr (102 million), Google.ru (32 million), Google.cn (7.68 million), google.ae (32 million), Google.com.br (76.5 million), Google.it (17.9 million)

Human rights America - Google. com (187 million), Google.fr (188 million), Google.ru (187 million), Google.cn (62.1 million), Google.ae (187 million), Google.com.br (188 million), Google.it (204 million)

Bush war crimes - Google.com (13.5 million), Google.fr (28.9 million), Google.ru (45.6 million), Google.cn (5.95 million), Google.ae (13.4 million), Google.com.br (28.9 million), Google.it (13.5 million)

Sites where the number of links were more or less the same:
Columbia coca plants agent orange
America white phosphorus Iraq
Bush Oil
America Rocks (a cool 17.5 million on almost every single Google)

If this shows one thing, it's the fact that France has more than THREE TIMES the sites on for "War Crimes America."

If this shows another thing, there was never one time that Google.com had the highest link count of the gang. There were times where the results were similar, but never were they more than, for the most part, China, with a few exceptions like Italy and Brazil.

We showed this as well, in an attempt to show that langauge changes things. For instance, searching Google.fr in French, there are only 390,000 results for "Bush war crimes" (compared to the huge 45.6 million in English).

We don't understand what determines the numbers, but there is no trend that we see, other than that the Arab Google is almost always exactly the same as regular Google and Chinese Google is always lower.

As to what in God's name this has to do with America, well we're not trying to say Super-free, American Google is censoring material from the watchful eye of the ever-vigilant American public. It's something that struck us in a conversation the other night on the subject of Google in China. The group at the table in the chic, over-priced Paris cafe were as follows: American, French, Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Korean.

After a time, my curiosity got the best of me, and I turned to the Chinese table-fellow. I asked my new sinofriend, "Do you know about Google in China? that they censor it?"

He paused for a second, then said, awkwardly, "Yeah, a little, but we're a huge country. You know we have 1.3 billion people?"

"Yes," I said.

"I think," he said, "You have to understand that Chinese people don't care much about politics." He laughed, "I mean there's only one party."

"Yes, I understand."

"I think it's necessary for the government to control certain things to keep things moving in the right direction."

"Yes, but," I hesitated because I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable, "Do you hear about journalists who are arrested and intimidated, even killed, for reporting corruption in the government?"

"We know a little," he said.

I got back on my soapbox. "I don't want to give you the impression that I'm criticizing you or your country. I think there are good and horrible things about every country" -- I didn't bother mentioning that Sweden is more or less perfect -- "but this has a direct effect on your life when your government doesn't tell you that pollution is so bad in cities that hundreds of thousands of people are dying."

I should mention that I said this in my improvised French, so Fanfan had to translate it into Chinese for him.

He just nodded after. I told him that I didn't mean to put him on the spot. Luna, the South Korean with us, said that in South Korea, they aren't allowed to look neither at sites with nudity or with homosexuality nor those that are in North Korea.

Something kept playing in my mind, through all of this. Is there something similar in the United States?

Well, the most recent Pew Research Center report shows (above) that a slight majority of Americans are okay with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping, as well as the Patriot Act. I hate to sound trite, but what's the difference when a Chinese person says that the government has the right to carry out it's actions behind a curtain in the name of national security and stability, though when an American says it, it's somehow different?

With so many Americans up in arms about Google's acquiessence to a corrupt Chinese government, why are the "patriots" in a model democracy not more than just a little ticked about the undemocratic exploits of their present government?

(to be continued)

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Monday, January 30, 2006

This is why you don't do business in corrupt countries.

(image from elaw.org)

We're not on the "your taking advantage of all of those poor people" bandwagon when it comes to Globalization. We're on the "You're hurting all of us when you do what you do, even those poor people" bandwagon.

Doing business in unstable, even chaotic, countries is bad for everyone involved. Unfortunately, many companies are slow on the uptake. It's hard to see how it's good for business to demand human rights.

Nigeria is a prime example of a country with natural resources that has been taken advantage of by outside companies, nations, etc. (not so different for the rest of Africa). It's generally perceived that the reasons that companies go into poorer, less-developed countries is that they want to eat off the backs of impoverished people. Well, in most cases that is and isn't true.

When it comes to oil, though, the business goes where the product is, and when people want oil they get it.

What many people don't see is the fact that when oil companies do business in unstable countries (i.e. Nigeria) they are paying more for the oil because the country is, oh, say, in a civil war.

This isn't the first time that rebel attacks and violence have endangered oil exports from Nigeria.

If people around the world don't start demanding human rights be a larger part of international commerce, their going to keep paying more for goods that come from unstable countries like Nigeria.

See: In Our Own Best Interest Schulz, The End of Poverty Sachs

Sometimes, it just feels like it's going to rain

I was reading the Washington Post yesterday, and I just got a sick feeling in my stomach. Normally, the news in any newspaper is largely "sexy" material (war, corruption, Bush's feelings on Brokeback Mountain). The sexy is all that stuff that many people feel they shouldn't enjoy reading but they do. Not to mention that it's all that we can't do much about. Knowing, for instance, how many people have died in Iraq doesn't help us end the war, just like knowing Angelina Jolie used to wear a vile of Billy Bob Thorton's blood around her neck doesn't help us get any closer to her (trust us, we've tried...she didn't thank us for any of the blood we mailed her).

Well, yesterday, the headlines in the WP were both sexy and macabre:

Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change
Bush's Midterm Challenge
Hussein Trial Resumes, Quickly Descends Into Chaos (super sexy)
NASA Supporters Fear Bush May Cut Space Plan
Some Palestinians See End of Secular Dream
Peace Activists Threatened Anew
At Least 60 Killed in Poland Roof Collapse
Md. Corrections Officer Shot by Prisoner Who Took His Gun Dies
Mother, Child Critical After Being Hit by Car in Southeast
New Orleans Betrayed

These are not by any means all of the articles, however, this just struck me as an abnormally melancholy day: We're slowly being boiled alive in our own air; the one thing we had going for us in Iraq is falling apart; in addition to cutting so much from our science budget, Bush is going to cut NASA funding so that in thirty years the Chinese are going to be shooting us with death rays from the moon, the existence of Hamas is causing new problems in the Middle East (I refuse to say Hamas is causing problems, because they can't take all of the credit for their developement, i.e. extremism blossoms in certain environments), people are being kidnapped again in Iraq, and New Orleans isn't being rebuilt.

Those are all articles, I think, that are worth knowing, but that doesn't mean they're not sexy. What are you going to do about Saddam's trial?

As for the poor people in Poland and the Mom/son hit by a car, what good does that do for anyone? Where is the enlightenment? It just seems absurd to print stories like that. We didn't send Angie those viles of blood so that she could start a collection, we wanted her! In the same sense, newspapers shouldn't exist to present us with sorrowful stories just because we're sick enough to read them.

I'm getting somewhere with this...just bare with me.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

China: Some Big Questions about the World's Fourth Largest Economy

Well, those of us at the Bow and Grimace Paris Bureau will be celebrating the Chinese New Year tomorrow and the 5th of February. Though the tradition goes back at least a millenium to another time when China had far surpassed Europe in technology, administrative organization, and philosophy, the present celebration comes on what could be a new era for China. An era in which they regain their standing as (one of) the world's most powerful nation(s).

We've been trying to keep track of all the developements, and we'd like to offer some of the biggest questions that could, if unanswered, empede or break China's present romp to the top:

Child Theft Racket Growing in China

Some of the stolen children are babes in arms. In July, 52 ring members were convicted in the southern region of Guangxi after 28 baby girls, none older than 3 months, were found drugged and bound in nylon duffel bags on a long-distance bus. One died; the rest were taken to an orphanage.

The reasons for the terrible growth industry in child trafficking are as varied as they are disturbing. In a country that earns millions of dollars a year from foreign adoptions, some children end up abroad. Others remain in the country, especially in rural China, where having a son is still seen as a must for inheritance, carrying on the family line and tending relatives' graves. But girls are also in demand in areas where men significantly outnumber women, as wives, caregivers for older relatives and for families that already have boys...

...The government has another incentive to downplay the problem: lucrative overseas adoptions. The United States and other Western countries refuse to allow adoptions involving baby-selling.

China Lowers Its HIV/AIDs Figures

China now believes it has about 650,000 people living with HIV, according to a joint statement by the health ministry, World Health Organization and UNAids.

In 2003 the government estimated that 840,000 people had the virus.

But with 70,000 new HIV infections last year, the crisis shows no signs of abating, the statement said.
New Struggle in China: Keeping Up With the Chans

"Things have gone from all ideology and no materialism to all materialism and no ideology or values," notes veteran China watcher Laurence Brahm, owner of the Red Capital Club in Beijing. "Expectations are a big phenomenon. The '80s were about idealism. Now the talk is 'what brand are you using?' Urban China is about keeping up with the Joneses, or the Chans, in this case."
Too Fast in China?
Yet the news also increased concern that China could be growing too fast, despite measures aimed at cooling the hottest parts of the economy. Aggressive investment has produced too many factories, heightening trade tensions with the United States as China exports surplus wares such as steel, depressing prices globally. Chinese officials worry that unneeded plants could deliver a crippling era of deflation -- falling prices -- which hurts profits and reduces incentives for companies to invest. Such a syndrome kept Japan mired in recession and unemployment for much of the past 16 years.
Research: Pollution Limiting Sunny Days in China
China's skies have darkened over the past 50 years, possibly due to haze resulting from a nine-fold increase in fossil fuel emissions, according to researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy.

We're not trying to detract from the incredible feet the Chinese seem to be pulling off. We're just saying that this change is going to offer China so much, including a whole set of new problems it didn't expect. China is still largely imbalanced, with most of it's wealth along the coastal cities in the East, while most of the western areas of the vast country are impoverished and uneducated. Pollution, until recently, was considered a Western manipulation, created to hold China down.

Societal mores still keep Chinese from honestly talking about AIDs and other STDs, and -- last we saw -- some 60% of Chinese don't know that smoking is unhealthy.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Honey, take the blinders off the horses. We're taken the kids to Europe!

This probably isn't the type of subject that's going to find it's way into the next Thomas Friedman book (The World is Round....Supple, and Sans Tanlines), but different concepts of nudity and how much/often it's accceptable is worth a look.

My first time living abroad (and outside of an anglo-saxon tradition) started only days before Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. I didn't hear about it from the news, though. I was told by a professor from my university in the US who was on sabatical in the town of Angers, where I was studying. He mentioned it, laughingly, telling me that the French just don't understand what the big deal is.

"Why not?" I asked, thinking to myself that Janet Jackson's breast on TV was a huge deal (I didn't know at the time the boob was dressed in some sort of metalurgy).

My professor took me and the other students who were with us, out to the street and pointed to a billboard down the block. We four American students stood dumbfounded at the 10ft tall billboard advertisement for Elle magazine. All it had was a completely nude Heidi Klum facing the camera and hiding nothing.

I started to get the point.

By the next month, it was Laetitia Costa on the beach in the buff who was selling magazines for Elle, and I was much better aclimated. For instance, the family I lived with didn't have cable, but on the five channels they got, I had already been presented the masterpeice of cinematography Showgirls on prime time television, completely uncut and uncensored.

That's just the most obvious, example though. You could be watching TV at any time during the day and see someone naked. The commercial for the new information telephone number (their 411), shows a guy butt-naked, sunning on his roof. Soap comercials don't hide the fact that the girl is naked in the shower.

More so, I was recently looking up a video for the Dakar article we wrote, and I realized that TF1, the equivalent of CBS or NBC in the US, has a "sexy" section on the video page where one can perouse videos, photo galleries, and such. Can you imagine CBS doing that?

It even involves kids (Mr. Robertson, get the 700 Club ready). One of the newest animated films in France came out to much acclaim here in France (around the same time as Chicken Little). The film is called Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages ("Kirikou and the savages beasts," more or less) and it's set in Africa. The thing is: as much as kids in America may or may not like this film, it will never come out there unless the animated breasts are covered. The animated tribal breasts must be covered before our children are corrupted!

See what I'm getting at?

Even in the metro here in Paris (Tuileries), there is Josephine Baker in all her glory.

It's not just in France either, it's everywhere in continental Western Europe, more or less. Though, to be fair, France is somewhat more saturated with nudity that other countries.
What affects does this have on these soulless Europeans? Well, I guess part of it might be a loss of sex drive chez les français. Otherwise, there is a lower uccurance of reported rape in France. There is a similar divorce rate. These things are hard to compare. One thing's for sure though, they don't go crazy over nudity. It's not taboo.

Fine, so why is this significant? Well, it's something that people all over the world are having to face: other people's values. When an American, Asian, Middle-easterner comes to France and sees naked people everywhere, it's an assault to his or her values. That person is then forced to either think that all the people of that country are sinful and hedonistic or that the rules of his own country are a little ridiculous.

The internet has started to that in many Arab countries already. In a place where some people still question still question whether you can be nude during intercourse, people are starting to go online and see that some people are nude, well, all the time.

This, like views on alcohol, will be a serious issue for many people. I can't say how many time's I've been in a bar or pub in Europe and seen 18 year-old Americans getting ripped just because they can finally do it legally. I would imagine that the same thing, in some form or another, happens when some people come from closed societies to those which are more open, like many in Europe (Holland, for example). This is the clash of cultures.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Why not accept a truce from bin Laden?

(UPDATE, 25 January: "Why not test bin Laden's 'truce' offer?" Christian Science Monitor)

"In a sense, [the terrorists] were more globalized than we were." -Report of the 9-11 Commision, Chapter 11

The first google news search we did yesterday of the most recent Osama tape returned headlines saying, in some way or another, "Osama Promises New Attack on US soil." At the time, the news was still fresh, so only a few articles had been written.

The reason we bother bringing this up is that we're somewhat surprised that the articles seem to downplay so much the truce offer from everyone's favorite terrorist:
I offer a cease-fire on basis of mutual respect, but you will not allow it because the arms manufacturers and warmongers will not allow it.
Surely we're overstepping the bounds of freedom of speech when we ask, Why the hell can't we even consider an offering of peace from Osama "Yo Mama" bin Laden? By all accounts he is a terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. That's true, which is why our line of questioning should not be construed in any way as support for (a) "the terrorists" (b) murder (c) al-Quada or as (a) anti-American (b) anti-Israel (c) anti-freedom (d) anti-democracy.

Well, being devoted to the contrapuntalists (an idea that made someone some friends at the FBI), we've dared ourselves to present another side of Osama bin Laden. It goes without saying, this is not a love letter to al-Quada, this is simply an endeavor in reason, because it is an undeniable fact that two contrary images of bin Laden exist, and only one, by and large, has been presented to the West. Knowing both sides, without pridefully or childishly ignoring the fact that Osama could have some honorable aspects, could help the US and the West resolve their problems in the Middle East, get American troops home, and go about dealing with the problems that exist in their countries.

Like the guy who played Patton in Patton said to the guy who played Rummel, "You magnificent bastard, I read your book!" It only makes sense to know your enemy, and the United States does not.

That said, don't bother prostesting this article unless you have read it and you have insightful arguments. We are always happy to be wrong, especially about things like this. If we find that we have been sufficiently rebutted, we will happily retract our statements.

For those of you who will think this unpatriotic, most of this information (not to mention the idea itself) came from the book Imperial Hurbis by Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent with over two decades of service to the US. In fact, he started the CIA's bin Laden unit. If it is dishonorable to one's nation to have a real impression of the enemy (in order to look Through Our Enemies Eyes so to speak.) then tell that to him.

Osama the Freedom hater
Many will remember the President's State of the Union address in which he said:

Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

Well, at least he's half right. Osama bin Ladin does want in many respects to rid the Middle East of Jews and Christians as well as overthrow the regimes mentioned in the second paragraph. As for the latter, he views them as corrupt (which they are), and he despises that their constant abuse of the Muslim people. That's one of the reasons he repeats as to why he is fighting the United States: He wants the US to stop propping up corrupt Muslim dictators!

As states this article from the BBC:
There was, however, one significant element missing from his list of grievances: he did not say anything about the idea of America - its rights, its freedoms, its prosperity. It was in American foreign policy that he saw the greatest threat to Islam. Indeed, he criticised the west for supporting dictators and authoritarian regimes in Islamic countries simply because it suited their interests.
To add to that, this is one bin Laden's stong points. In a region lacking compassionate leaders, bin Ladin is seen as the only hope for millions of people. As long as the US and the West let Muslim leaders rule their people with an iron fist, bin Laden, dead or alive, will give Muslim people hope.

Characterizing bin Ladin and al-Quada as a group that hates freedom is as Mike Sheuer says "one of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat" (p. 8). He goes on to remind us that the soviets, who not only were godless but also frequently tortured and killed Muslims within their borders, never inspired more than disdain from Muslims in the Middle East, much less Jihad. The mujahadeen didn't start fighting the Russians until the Russians tried to move into the Holy Land.

In addition, let's not forget Ayatollah Khomeini. Though most Muslims agreed with him that the West was morally depraved, few ever took part in the Jihad or gave their lives to fighting the US. In other words, "Khomeini's rhetoric was full of noise, hate, and fury, but with minor exceptions, it motivated few battlew to the death against the Great Satan" (p. 211)

This is not a war of values. Al-Quada has little problem letting people around the world be whatever they are, just not in their Holy Land. This is a war over terratory, plain and simple.

On top of that, Muslims, from many accounts, would love democracy. Pew polls from 2003 show that Muslims have a largely favorable view of Democracy, especially before the invasion of Iraq. So, why all the popular support for Osama if he was against what the Muslim people wanted?


Osama: an armed Pat Robertson in a cave
Let us turn again to Scheuer (p. 17):
There is nothing apocalyptic or narcissistic about bin Laden or our Islamist foes. They are not trying to destroy the world in an Armageddon-like battle, and they are not psychologically deranged people prone to and delighting in the muder of innocents...bin Laden and his ilk also are not motivated by the "failure of Muslim society" to modernize and evolve in the successful pattern of the West.
Well damn.

Continue, Mr. Scheuer, sir (p. 17-18):
Bin Laden et al. are not eternal warriors, there is no evidence they are fighting for fightin's sake, or that they would be lost for things to do without a war to wage. There is evidence to the contrary, in fact, showing bin Laden and other Islamist leaders would like to end the war, get back to their families, and live a less martial lifestyle. They share the attitude of the Afghan mujahideen during the Afghan-Soviet war: They are weary of war, but not war weary...In both cases, participating in a defensive Jihad was a duty to God and therefore had to be pursued until victory or martyrdom.
Then, perhaps the most interesting part of all this, is that there's a very Robin Hood-esque image of bin Laden in the Muslim world. He gave up a rich life to live poor, spending his money to fight "Goliaths" like the USSR and the US. To be more exact, Scheuer characterizes his image among Muslims as a "combination of Robin Hood and St. Francis of Assisi."

This Scheuer guy really hates America, doesn't he?

In fact, bin Ladin's so loved that not only will millions of poor people not turn him in for a $25 million reward but also he has to convince people to leave his side, many in tears, when he knows an attack is coming. The fact that al-Qaeda often knows exactly what the US will do is a good example of their being globalized, and their ability to spread out before a hit is efficient. As the senior al-Qaeda field commander Abd al-Hadi said, though, "We had a great difficulty persuading many of them to leave Afghanistan...I swear some of them wept when they were told to leave."

Scheuer notes that though Saddam was hated by most Muslims for his secularism and brutality, he was also lauded for being the guy who pissed America's plate. On the other hand, bin Laden is not only a religous man and compassionate towards Muslims, he also provided a blow to the US infinitely more powerful than Saddam ever had, giving him the image of "a modern day Saladin." Afghan kids suck on bin Laden sugar candies, and "Osama" is one of the most common names in for new born males.

al-Qaeda's offers of truce
CBS had the former FBI terrorism expert Christopher Whitcomb on The Early Show yesterday, to tell us that this tape was "insignificant."

What's hard to discern is if the tape is insignificant because it's going to be passed off like all of the others just to be used as a political tool, which is likely, or if it's not important in and of itself. Mr. Whitcomb may be right, maybe this is all just a vain attempt by Osama to regain standing in the now overpopulated terrorism brotherhood. However, there's a link on that same page to old Mr. Scheuer who "sees things very differently."

Scheuer, that anti-American bastard, seems to think, like The B&G, that we should have given the truce more consideration. We'd like to pause here to remind you that Scheuer created the CIA's bin Laden Unit and spent three of his 22-year career as an agent working there.

This offering of truce is certainly not the first. There have been several occassions, as are mentioned in Imperial Hubris, in which bin Laden says if the Americans reduce their presence in the Middle East, then al-Quada will reply in kind.

As for those who say that there have not been attacks and equate that with success against bin Laden, we'd like to point out that al-Qaeda has attacked 18 of 20 nations that it said it would attack. They are pretty good at keeping to their word.

Our purpose in writing this is not to say that the US should have accepted the truce, but that there should have been more consideration. "We don't negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business," is absurd as a response to a truce from an enemy that up until now has completely defeated the United States.

If anything, Americans must start being more honest with themselves and take note that Osama, though he is responsible for the death of thousands of innocents, he is reveared by millions, and, as Scheuer shows, not without reason. Osama has renounced wealth and by many accounts has shown that he has no fear of even losing his own life to defeat those who oppress Muslims (his POV, not ours). He criticizes youths who are complacent, calls women to participate, etc. On top of that, he is a poet, deeply connected with the Muslim tradition.

Americans, especially the most Patriotic, must have an honest idea of the American enemy if they ever which to defeat him. To deny that is absurd. If Osama is not a psychotic hater of freedom, the US must accept that, which also means an honest consideration of some kind of truce, or a negotiation thereof.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ruminations about Osama's newest hit video...

As we are not in the US, we cannot say with any certainty what the coverage is like over the most recent bin Laden tape. This will not stop us from making several assumptions based on the predictability of all sadists/masochists who are in charge of either conveying the news or making decisions based on what is happening in the Bin Laden Land.

  • The liberals will shake their heads and brandish their disdain with the wag of a finger, "Tisk, tisk, tisk, republicans, conservatives." They will make certain that the Republicans know that this is all their fault: Republican war-mongering, republican big-business hugs and kisses, etc.
  • Then, the blind-unquestioning-patriotism-first-reason-second group (having missed the initial report because they were watching Access Hollywood reruns) will run with clenched fists to the Patriot cave to get supplies: flag to drape over children, flag with mini-pole to stick in the bed of their F-150 so that terrorists won't attack while they are driving to KFC (for extra measure, they'll put in a Toby Keith CD and play it really loud), a pistol, duck-tape, and a Bill O' Reilly autographed Bible.
  • As for old Bill himself and his clones, this will certainly be fuel for one of several soap-box office rants (you know, to keep the kids at home entertained): (1) this is more reason why the peaceniks and pinheads need to shut up about the war because the enemy's still out there, (2) Bush needs to keep spying on Americans because these guys are still in the US, (3) remember what I told all you homos in San Francisco...
  • As for the media in general, we're quite certain that a number of reporters and network execs have spent the day in an almost sexual frenzy. This is good for business, you know, the more scared Americans are, the more they depend on us to show them any number of "experts" and "officials" who repeat the mantra, "Well, we're not exactly sure where, when, how..." because even though "I don't know" isn't news, it's still comforting for every American to know that he's not the only one.
  • Then, the millions of other Americans who are too busy, too apathetic, too intelligent to pay attention to Hannity and Colmes, or too prudent to immediately judge this as one thing or another, they will go about their lives. Those people do exist.
So, the question remains, what should be done? Unfortunately, we here at the B&G are in no position to be counselling people on how to go about their daily lives. However, assuming all of us together are at least equally qualified as Ann Coulter, we will give it a shot:
  • Immediately discredit anything said by someone with a political agenda. This covers everyone from Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh. Look at their sources, if they give them, but don't listen to their analysis. We're all big boys and girls, we can make our own descisions.
  • Get all news from several sources. This limits the amount of "spin."
  • Read up on your Plato (start with the Gorgias), start thinking about a teleological approach to these problems. Not just what's good right now, but perhaps what's good in the long run. This also applies to all the "cookery" of guys like Colmes, Carlson, Coulters, etc.
  • Consider learning another language and travelling to places other than Europe. If you have (and you enjoyed), consider convincing others to do the same. We'd even encourage you to perhaps talk to people who live in the places you visit. Pretty buildings are great, but they don't really offer much insight on our current state of affairs. (NOTE: We're not patronizing you, we're being serious. It happens all to often that we ask people just home from vacation, "and what were the people like," to which, nine times out of ten, the answer is, "Oh, we didn't talk much to them.")
These are just some hints from people who have no standing to be giving hints. We, for starters, have never been asked to say that on TV (not even public radio, for that matter). Take it all with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Democratization of Knowledge

We here at The Bow and Grimace have long held the idea that the internet will bring about an era not unlike that off the Enlightenment in 18th century England. Would even argue that the same Enlightenment is still unravelling and that the internet is just the next stage, a further democritization of information.

One major example of this is in the facility of blogging. Very much like the pamphleteers of the time -- Defoe, Swift, Paine, and, of course, our namesake Addison -- we believe that blogs will be a leveling mechanism in the discussions of world progression. It is, of course, information that is most dangerous to those who want to control. Information is the worst enemy of dictators and tyrrants, and thus the facilitation of its diffusion will be their end. Sure, there are examples where certain repressive governments have been effective at continuing to surpress information (e.g. China), but even in those cases this control has become progressively more strenuous.

This is the core of our cautious optomism regarding globalization.

That said, we're still not comfortable with the name blog. That's why we're not a blog, we're a journal. Our reason? Well, we don't really have one, other than it seems trite or melodramatic to say that something called a "blog" could change the world on a large scale. We'd rather clench our fists and hold our heads high as we proclaim for all corners of the world, "The repressed will learn, the confined will have an audience of millions, and the poor will be compensated," and we'd preder to do this without using the word blog, since it just makes the whole thing sound like humanity itself will crush dictatorships with pluff mud or rotten tree bark.

In light of this and the fact that we're currently revamping The B&G, we've started to provide links to "journals" from different regions around the world. We're still working on this, so don't be surprised when you see there's a whole continent missing.

We've also added blogs that are specifically about globalization. This is essentially the "new" focus of The B&G. We'd like to present perspectives of globalization that are either latent or reticent in current reporting or is completely neglected in all reporting.

Without further ado, the new links are to the right. Knock yourself out. Test us, we dare you.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

The Dakar Rally: a culural collision worth noting on so many levels...

We here at The Bow and Grimace are all very conscious of the benefits of a good work out, body and soul, but we're a bit skeptical about the benefits of off-road racing, as far as sports go. Then again, fishing's a sport.

We must also admit a guilty pleasure in watching the Dakar Rally from Lisbon to Dakar. If we had the money to buy one of those big trucks and we had an entire continent in which to bounce and tossel, we would likely gleefully let the romping begin. However, we don't pay much attention to offroad events, we just pause for a second before we change the channel when there's a story about one of the races.

That said, we were shocked a couple of days ago to see a news report about a boy who was hit by one of trucks. Up until that point, we had only seen fleeting images of thirtysome boys who were paid millions of their respective currencies to drive cars quickly over hills.

This report (which we can no longer locate) was about a Senegalese boy hit by one of the passing trucks as the race went through town, yet the images in the report were incredible. The contrast was almost palpable: hundreds of people with skin blacker than tar lining the sides of a dirt track that seemed to slice straight through their village of circular huts made of sticks and tree limps. The report showed many of the women who seemed to have walked straight out of National Geographic with all their colorful tribal garb. Then, like a giant mechanical Cheetah, comes one of these 21st century behemoths, churning up the rust-colored dust behind it.

As expected, the trucks just sped past the hoards of people, and we're not criticizing that. What we would agree with though, is some of the criticism we've seen in researching this race. It's incredible the way these people can just hurdle themselves as they wish across Africa. One French journal notes, "To give credit and good conscious to this indecent rally, the organizers have evoked a certain word of valour to Europeans and especially dear to the French: Humanitarian." This is obviously a reference to the humanitarian efforts outlined by the organizers outlined here.

The idea that this race is a tradition "indécent" is echoed by many French organizations and websites.

We don't want to be overly symbolic or presumptuous, but this seems to be a good example of
a cultural collision that is no longer acceptable (not that it ever should have been, but it was). Imagine if the organizers had said, "We'll give you a new street sweeper if you let us fly through Paris one day next week. We're not sure when exactly, but sometime." There would surely have been some sort of outcry about the audacity of the organizers to think they could just buy Paris like that.

Perhaps, it's a bad comparison, but the point is there.

This is more of a note than an article, perhaps.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

This is just plain funny: Condi Rice reprimands Russia because she's sexually frustrated.

Let us preface this by saying we have a great respect for Condoleeza Rice. Though we don't agree with many of her political decisions, she has in many cases worked behind the scenes to negotiate certain agreements that otherwise would never have materialized. She is in large part culturally savy (perhaps the most cultured of the whole Bush Administration).

That said, we just read this and found it very amusing. The Russian newspaper Pravda has an article that basically blames Condi's recent reproach of the Russian government for its oil fight with Urkraine on her sexual frustration.

Take a look...

(Photo complements of watchingamerica.com)

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Boobs, Beads, and Old Glory: Globalized Patriotism and Debauchery

I personally do not believe in burning the flag. It’s a personal belief, but I’ll tell you something, I think people are overreacting, oh, just a little bit:

Random Person: “Hey buddy, my daddy died for that flag.”
Bill Hicks: "Well, shit really?—- I bought mine. Sorry. You know they sell them at K-Mart for three bucks. You’re in, you’re out, brand new flag, no violence was necessary."
Random Person: “Hey buddy, my daddy died in the Korean war for that flag.”
Bill Hicks: "What a coincidence – my flag was made in Korea!"

Bullshit! – He didn’t die for the flag. It’s a piece of cloth. He died for what the flag represents, which is the freedom – to burn the’ fucking flag ”

Well, it seems that you can't even talk about patriotism or soulless debauchery anymore without talking about how it's related to some third world country that will soon be hiring Americans to do it's unskilled labor in the factories of Alabama and South Carolina.

We here at the B&G spend quite a bit of our time trying to understand the idea of Patriotism. On the surface, it's not very hard to understand why people love their homeland (to use the term the post-9/11 US Government has used, despite it's Cold-War Russia connotations), however, it is hard to understand how so many people can ascribe themselves to the Pop-Patriotism of the last four years. If you're not familiar with Pop-Patriotism, here are the general guidelines:

  • He who has the most "Let's Roll" eagle stickers, "We Support Our Troops" yellow ribbons, and "9-11, We Won't Foget" stickers smathered all over his SUV is a hero of the American way. Though anyone with reason knows that selling the SUV and fighting for better health care for wounded troops (that is supporting the troops, is it not?) would be truly patriotic, Pop-Patriotism says, "Hey, don't worry, this is the US. Okay? We rock."
  • We must, for the sake of Pop-Patriotism, write songs like "Osama Yo Mama" or "Courtesy of Red, White, and Blue," which are essentially empty, narcissistic anthems to make people comfortable with the idea that the US is unvanquishable. Don't get The B&G wrong, we are not anti-American, we're any jingoism. You see, true patriotism would be calling people to pitch in (not go shopping). Patriotism would be doing your part: Learning languages of "critical" need so that US intelligence agencies could translate the backlog of documents waiting to be read by someone who speaks Arab, calling on people to stop buying diamonds because they are good untrackable currency for terrorists, calling on your government representatives to support research on renewable energy because Saudi Arabia is not a government to be trusted (besides, they're probably running out of oil anyway), and just do little things like turning off your lights and TV when you're not using them.
  • Pop-patriotism links marijuana to terrorism, while poppies in Afghanistan are the problem.
  • Pop-patriots call those who bring to light damaging information concerning the exploits of American and her government "Anti-American." This way they can close their eyes.
These are just a fiew aspects of Pop-patriotism. We feel it imperative (regarding the sensitive nature of the subject) to repeat that we are not condemning patriotism in all it's forms. That said, however, we feel that Patriotism to any one country is becoming physically impossible because there is no country that holds all, or most, of it's interests within its borders: Americans' tax forms are completed in India, The Simpsons is drawn in South Korea, changing daylight-savings in the US could reek havoc on numerous enterprises (namely the airline business) both inside and outside the US without exception, China's anchoring it's currency to the Euro instead of the dollar could be catastrophic, Mexico's hot peppers come from China. So, for the first time in history, every countries interests are in every country.


This brings up an interesting point concerning the flag-waving patriots who like to let everyone else carry out the business of their country while they talk about how AWESOME it is: Ever wondered, with so many factory jobs being off-shored, where so many American flags and bumperstickers are made? I mean, if you're going to paste a big Old Glory on the bumper of your car, you want the money you spend for that sticker to go to an American company with American workers, right?

Too bad. I decided to do a search and found several very interesting articles about where exactly the flags are made (we'll give you one guess): China. Yes, the country that has just decided to make life-sized, toy cars and whose economy has already started overtaking those of certain European countries has been making Old Glories since around the time of the big flag boom just after 9-11.

So think about that, when you're buying your American flags. Does it really mean something? Or do actions really speak louder than words/symbols?

For the college kids in the family (or people that just want to see breasts), I also found this interesting tidbit (thanks to OneGoodMove.org). Here's the trailor for Mardi Gras: Made in China (Warning: If your government, God, or Parents feel that seeing nudity will in some way cause you to do badly on the SATs, toil eternally in a pit of fire, or go cross-eyed, we encourage you not to follow the link, because there are some boobs). It is a documentary showing the factories in China where the beads for Mardi Gras in New Orleans are made.

This works to show several issues of globalization. One, something that's probably not the first to come to mind, is the fact that Katrina was probably a catastrophe for the people who worked in this factory, since Mardi Gras this year will probably be far less festive. So, in that sense, Katrina has dealt a bad hand to factory workers in China. See how it's all connected now?

We're not ignoring the horrible conditions of the workers at all, either. We're hardly going to say that Globalization is bad as a result, because all that mess is a consequence of the Washington Consensus (Those are two different links. For the second one, you have to watch an add first before you can read it).

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Oh, you whacky Taiwanese...

(Photo from the BBC article cited below...we have not yet purchased any flourescent pigs)

In light of South Korea's recent scientific shocker, we were sort of down about the prospects of stem cell advancement. This is largely because Asia seems to us to be the only place in the world which in general has no religious barriers to jump in studying things like stem-cells. Learning that the Korean discovery was all a hoax, left us thinking, "If only a country (or quasi-country) could create a group of flourescent pigs so as to study the human diseases and how they act in our bodies...man, that would be cool."

Low and behold, the Lord hath smiled upon us, and on the tiny island "nation" once called Formosa. God said, "Let there be flourescent pigs, so that man may track the diseases I created which kill the other things I created. And it was good."

NOTE: "God" is not used here in it's Biblical context. We are simply narrating for the imaginary Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson/Freddy Phelps "God" who assasinates Latin American dictators, makes milkshakes, aids terrorists because he hates certain people, wipes out Swedish people with a tsunami for not hating gay people, and smites towns for voting against intelligent design.

That God is really funny with the prophets he chooses.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nobel Prize winning Economist: Iraq War may cost over $2 Trillion

(Photo from Aljazeera.com....because we're with the terrorists....that was so totally a joke...the picture really is from Aljazeera.com, though)

Forget that little counter on the right side of the screen, a study released yesterday by the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz (weren't we just talking about his guy?) says that the cost of the Iraq war could exceed $2 trillion by factoring in the long term costs of things like healthcare for wounded soldiers (remember all that "We support our troops stuff"?).

I'm sure this "Stiglitz" guy is just some anti-war hippy whose just bitter that we're scaring the hell out of people who hate freedom. These guys are just looking for ways to make Democracies hard to build.

Wait a minute. Two trillion dollars? Flashback: Mitch Daniels, pre-War 2003, the now-former White House Budget dude (official title), shrugged off $100 - $200 Billion as "likely very, very high," and predicted that the "affordable endeavor" would be about would cost a pretty $50 to $60 Billion.

Oh...Those were the days, weren't they?

Here's some details about the study:
The higher $2 trillion amount takes a 'moderate' approach. Both figures are based on the projection that US troops will remain in Iraq until 2010, with steadily decreasing numbers each year. The economists also used government data from past wars, and included such costs as the rise in the price of oil, a larger US deficit and greater global insecurity caused by the war, the loss to the economy from injured veterans who cannot contribute as productively as they would have done if not injured, and the increased costs of recruiting to replenish a military drained by repeated tours of duty in Iraq. These are items which are almost never included by the US government when determining the cost of the war.
I mean, seriously, when are these people going to stop criticizing our war president. Doesn't he know that even if the information is bad, you're not supposed to present it until after the war. Doesn't he know the sacrifices Bush has made for this country.

Sorry, this has turned into a rant. How very unprofessional.

To be fair, there are people who recognize this obvious liberal "pooh-poohing" campaign.

Democracy is on the march, holes are being smoked out. All that stuff.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Most Ignored Aspect of Globalization: Wikipedia four faults to Britannica's three

As incredibly unfashionable as it is these days to be pro-globalization, we've got good news: Between 1950 and 1999, global literacy increased from 52% to 81% of the world.

That's not actually the reason we're writing this, but we just went to wikipedia and typed "fashionable." That got us a bunch of boring stuff about clothes, imagine that, and some guy named Albrecht Dürer, who's damned funny looking (He's that guy to the left who looks like Tori Amos).

We've never heard of him, but apparently he was an important guy. He wrote back and forth Raphael, it seems.

Anywho, we let that go, not that interesting. That's not to say that it's not important, we're just not into apocalyptic painters from the Renaissance, but the next time Dürer comes up in passing conversation, we'll say, "Oh, the guy who wrote Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion. Yeah, we've only read both of his books."

From there, we looked up globalization and found the quote about literacy, among many other "pro-globalization" positions. That's where we found the picture of the mock American flag.

Where is this going? Well, we've been touting Wikipedia for quite some time, though only quietly amongst ourselves for the most part. You see the knowledge contained in Wikipedia is sizable, free, and completely democratic.

We've been considering as a result the idea that Wikipedia could be the Internet version of the European coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, which were hotbeds for the blossoming juggernaut that is now known as the Enlightenment.

Now, however, despite our almost constant hesitation in saying anything with any degree of certainty, we are screaming it from the cyber-optic rooftops: Wikipedia is a symbol of good globalization. In an article in the Christian Science Monitor today explained how the journal Nature did a study and found that Wikipedia on average had about four faults to Britannica's three. These faults are "factual errors, critical omissions, or misleading statements."

This is exactly what we assumed the case would be. Though people often say, "Well, how could you trust an encyclopedia compiled by a bunch of random people?" Our response is always, "Do you love something?" If the person says no, then we sigh and concede the argument. If, however, the person says yes, we smile and we ask what it is they love, praying that they don't say, "
I love model airplanes," or, "I love disliking encyclopedias compiled by random people." Let's say he says, "I love fishing."

We smile gleefully and rap rapturously on our keys. To present the two points, we would first address the issue of misleading information. "What would you say," we ask our subject, "If someone wrote, concerning catch and release, "Most people dissaprove of catch and release because it hurts the fish and it does very little good to the environment." Obviously, the person would want to edit the entry for catch and release, supplying reasons why catch and release is beneficial to the environement and why it is an enjoyable sport.

We would then say, to emphasize this point, the more contreversial the subject matter of an entry (i.e. Globalization, President Bush, Osama bin Laden, etc.) the more accurate the article will probably be, because I'll be damned if a liberal is going to let a conservative say, "George Bush saved America, and the world, from certain destruction by invading Iraq." The liberal will then change the entry to include references from CIA agents in the field who have become outspoken critics of the decision to invade Iraq, but he'll also call Republicans "poo-faces." So some kind-hearted person will then come along and erase "poo-faces."

For point number two, we will ask, "Did you know that for some 1300 years, Chinese in some areas have been using commorants to fish? Have you heard of the water dogs in Portugal? If our subject has an inquisitive bone in his body, he will want to know.

We are cognizant of the fact that this will seem like we're making mountains out of molehills, but we can't stress the fact that, in large part, the Enlightenment was a result in a widening of the swath of people that information could reach. The internet poses the same possibility, though on a scale exponentially larger.

The CS Minitor article hints to the sort of possibilities we are talking about:
Serbs and Croats are also working together on Wikipedia articles, he says. So are mainland Chinese and Taiwanese, who have created about 51,000 articles so far. The Chinese Wikipedia is currently blocked from view in mainland China, something the foundation is trying to address.

Reaching the poorest parts of the world that lack Internet connections may mean burning versions of Wikipedia onto CDs or, coming full circle, even printing the encyclopedia out on paper.
What it all comes down to is that in the Enlightenment, there was no other check on whether knowledge was bonified or not: other knowledgeable people. We've learn time and time again that putting strict rules in place to curb factuality in some of the world largest information organizations hasn't stopped false information from being produced (see the recent South Korean scientist who lied about his stem cell research, "Rathergate," that NY Times writer a couple of years ago who plagiarized his stories (I had forgotten his name, so I typed plagiarism in Wikipedia, and found his name at the bottom).

Lastly, we'd like to stress that we are not trying to get people to accept Wikipedia as a valid source, but as a starting point. When searching for information on any subject, from Ronald McDonald (SIDENOTE: it was searching for the origins of RM that I found out the US, Hammas and various other organizations had started making video games to entice kids to sign up) to Globish, Wikipedia is likely to give you at least a taste of each perspective of the subject, as well as perhaps some things you had never thought of before. As one of the creaters of Wikipedia put it, "
I think an enormous number of problems in the world are just caused by a lack of information, a lack of understanding, a lack of reflection." Amen. Godspeed you beautiful globalizers of information.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How the World Works

By accident, while doing some research today, we came across the business/commerce related version of what we hope The Bow and Grimace can one day become (after our current revamping). You may say, "What other side of globalization is there that isn't related to business and commerce." To that, we'd say, "Exactly, our point."

Ask our namesake, old man Addison, for a hint. It's probably the only timeless aspect of globalization.

It's a column at Salon.com written by Andrew Leonard called "How the World Works." Right off from the first article, as of this writing, he references nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz (whom we've referenced several times) and talks about his positive view of globalization.

The Bow and Grimace is hopelessly globalized, and we like it that way. We just want everyone else to see it too.

For anyone who enjoyed Thomas Friedman's new book The World is Flat will enjoy this.

Not to mention that he has several articles focusing on China and Taiwan, which are particular interests of ours.

This is a well balanced view of international relations, and the benefits of globalization.