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Fickle Politics Aside (Part 3)

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Along the same lines of previous articles, here are two more. I could beat a dead horse and breakdown specific details from these writers, but I’ll let you read them, and enjoy them. You’ll see the same themes as before. What’s really amazing is how widespread this thought process is.

First, Tom Knott at the Washington Times writes, “If you are keeping score at home, China already is up 1-0 in the gold-medal count, easily topping its rivals in the blocking competition”

Then, Naomi Klein at the Huffington Post says:

Like it or not, you are about to be awed by China’s sheer awesomeness.

The games have been billed as China’s “coming out party” to the world. […] These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades, and is finally ready to show off. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it “authoritarian capitalism,” others “market Stalinism,” personally I prefer “McCommunism.”

Klein continues by discussing the sheer size and power that the Communist Party in China will mobilize to ensure they are able to show off their rapidly rising power… and look to export that as well.


Written by walonline

August 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

Fickle Politics Aside (Part 2)

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Another example of setting aside differences in the favor of championing liberty comes from Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell. He points out the difference between western democracy-based governments and the very nasty authoritarian-capitalism running China. At times people here may claim the moguls of industry are in bed with politicians through heavily funded lobbyists, special interests, etc.

This Olympics will be remembered as a worldwide multi-week debate on the historic experiment that evolved by accident here over the past 25 years.


The largest nation on earth has unexpectedly evolved to the point where it is capitalist in every practical sense, including an entrenched elite every bit as ruthless as America’s robber barons. Yet China has kept its strict, one-party, often-thuggish Communist rule.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Guarding" by tinou bao (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Guarding" by tinou bao (via Flickr).

This form of capitalism is, as Boswell alludes, reminiscent of times in our country’s history where capitalism has shown its ugly, social-Darwinist side. He continues:

“The West has assumed that capitalism must lead to democracy, that free markets inevitably result in free societies,” Philip P. Pan wrote in “Out of Mao’s Shadow.” “But by embracing market reforms while continuing to restrict political freedom, China’s Communist leaders have presided over an economic revolution without surrendering power.”

Boswell continues to discuss two contrasting ideas in his article–between the authoritarian human rights abuses and the showcase of economic progress. Both make for a very interesting read.

My recent “Crooks!” category showcases how bad it can be here with politicians. As Americans, we should have extremely high standards for ourselves and our representatives. We are Reagan’s shining city on the hill. But we should also focus our free media on countries like China at times when they invite the lens of the world upon them.

In the same vein, we should balance comparisons like those Boswell draws equating times from our history with what others are going through today. It is an easy argument to make, but not very intelligent. Countries will find plenty of knowledge, technology and science that can allow their growing pains (politically, economically, environmentally, etc.) to be measurably less than what the Anglo-Saxon west (read Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair for great examples) endured. Through that lense, it is unconscionable for modernizing countries such as China to have the same (or worse) situations compared to what we did one hundred years ago.

Written by walonline

August 7, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Fickle Politics Aside

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One very interesting development paralleling the events unfolding in China has been the outcry from both sides of the aisle in the United States. It’s great to see that, although we have differences on many things, we are quite united in our thoughts on human rights.

'1984'" by surfstyle.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "George Orwell: '1984'" by surfstyle.

One great example of this is the outcry from Marty Kaplan, writing at the Huffington Post. He calls these the “Orwell Olympics.” First, quick update to the status quo:

Now that every dissident within a hundred miles of Beijing has been intimidated, jailed or internally exiled; now that the Chinese communist party has shut down formerly legal means of citizen redress, like petitioning the government; now that free assembly has been banned, unsightly small businesses have been bulldozed, hotel computers have been bugged, and the foreign press has been bamboozled […].

Now, policies appear to be changing.

[…] the president is finally saying in public, in Thailand, what he says he has been saying in private: “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists. We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights — not to antagonize China’s leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential.”

It’s about time, cowboy.


Our president never let the bully of Baghdad crimp his freedom-agenda rhetoric. Why did it take him so long to send some public pro-democracy love to the Big Brothers of Beijing?

I agree with Kaplan. Prior to his ending line, he speculates that our ties to China as a trade partner have made it difficult for Bush, but now with its visibility, it is more difficult to maintain “quiet diplomacy.”

Too bad that following the Olympics this will not focus us, as a country, anew towards maintaining (and increasing) liberty in our homeland. We have it really good, but there’s always room to improve systems and continue to be on the cutting edge

Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm


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The situation in China with regards to pollution is laughable. They promised to clean up, and it hasn’t worked out. Wired Magazine’s Science blog reports it isn’t working, even after their “specialized” anti-smog measures. In another post, they look at independent particulate readings from the BBC’s Beijing bureau. Here’s the explanation bit:

On most days, Beijing’s air clearly remains poor, rarely dropping below 50 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization considers any concentration of particulate higher than 50 to be unhealthy. While the BBC sensor has a large margin of error (20 percent), on most days the readings have been far above the threshold. The pollution levels have been clearly reflected in daily photographs taken from the same location by the news agency’s reporters.

The Chinese government has been working on an ambitious plan to improve the air quality in Beijing for the games including traffic bans, factory shutdowns, cloud seeding, and construction slowdowns.

But the city’s air quality has not varied in response to the city’s anti-smog efforts, according to the BBC’s readings. Pollution levels are changing, however, but only in response with meteorological conditions, i.e. rain. That’s exactly what University of Rhode Island professor Kenneth Rahn predicted would happen in a story last month.

The Chinese are adament that they are being successful. And that haze and clouds should not be confused with particulate in the air.

“Clouds and haze are not pollution. This kind of weather is a natural phenomenon. It has nothing to do with pollution,” Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of environmental protection, told Xinhua last week, the official government news outlet.

But, it looks like China is manipulating numbers.

The problem, however, is that there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government is cooking the pollution accounting books. As laid out by Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant, in an op-ed earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, he describes three number manipulations:

  1. Seven sensors were used from 1998-2005, but after that, as international scrutiny was increasing, the government dropped two sensor stations from polluted areas of the city and added three in less polluted areas. These changes had a very significant impact in showing air quality increases.
  2. The government subbed nitrogen oxides out and nitrogen dioxide in to its air pollution index calculations. Of the various substances that the sensors measure, nitrogen oxides were the most likely to exceed air pollution standards.
  3. The Chinese government considers an air pollution index rating of under 100 to be a “blue sky day.” In 2006, 49 days were reported to have an air pollution index between 96 and 105. 47 of those days were — what “luck”! — reported under 100, a near statistical impossibility. 2007 data shows “a similar bias.”

The end result of the system is that the Chinese government gave August 4, seen above, an air pollution index rating in its “Good” category.

The Government doesn’t even really believe their measures have been successful. Pollution is proving difficult to clean up. It also shows how worried the officials are with the very real possibility of being humiliated on a world stage after all the promises they’ve made.

[…] the Chinese government doesn’t seem to believe that its efforts are working. There is word in China Daily, a government mouthpiece, that officials are considering an even more drastic plan that could take 90 percent of the city’s cars off the road, if the pollution readings don’t cooperate.

At least the Americans remain skeptical of the air quality. This morning, the Drudge Report led with a picture of US cyclists wearing black face masks as they arrived in Beijing.

Wired’s blog really has its bases covered with links to other independent environmental monitoring blogs, such as

Even more laughable has been the Chinese and IOC dealings regarding internet use. Initially, it was promised that China would be open to the full internet during the games. A week ago, the Chinese were going to sensor everything. Now, it appears that only the media village will have access to certain sites. Still, David Wallenchinski writes that you may be able to access Amnesty International and the Drudge Report, but you can’t access the Huffington Post!

You may have followed the ongoing controversy about the Chinese government blocking foreign journalists’ access to certain Internet sites during the Beijing Olympics. Most of the attention has centered on the censoring of the sites of Amnesty International, BBC News and the Falun Gong religious group. Under pressure, the Chinese Communist Party has lifted the bans on Amnesty and BBC News, but one site has continued to be totally blocked:

In Beijing, we can get Drudge; we can get Common Dreams; we can get Raw Story and Truthout. But Huffington Post: censored completely.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Its sure to only get better… meaning funnier.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Player Introductions (Harry Caray Impersonation)

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A year or so ago, ESPN started having famous alumni or players introduce college football starting lineups. Now Fox Sports has a teammate introduce his team’s batting order/lineup. The vast majority that I’ve seen have been pretty bad, but this one by Will Ohman is pretty good.

Hat tip: Deadspin

What isn’t so good is watching someone called Jeremy Sowers pitch five perfect innings against my Twins. Hopefully, they can find a little offense in the last four innings.

UPDATE @ 1:45p: As soon as I wrote above, the Twins get a hit in the top of 6 with no outs. Before its all over, they load the bases and scored a couple runs, heading to the bottom of the inning with the lead, 2-1.

I don’t think I’ve ever jinxed a perfect game before… and certainly not for the other team. Heh.

Written by walonline

July 27, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Sports, The Web

Tagged with , , , , ,

Big Phil Scolari Is Chelsea’s Next Coach

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That’s what just was announced on the UEFA broadcast of the Swiss v. Turkey on ESPN 2. He’ll take over July 1, in time for preseason training tours to begin. Thoughts?


(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

He certainly has shown the ability to take offensively talented teams and get them to play solid defense (and get results). Examples of this can be seen in Brazil (won a WC) and Portugal. Very interesting.

Watch out, United (and the rest of the Prem). His teams play well and are successful where ever he goes.

Timing is a little odd, though.

UPDATE @ 3:45p: Here’s some links: first, google news’ results for “scolari” and from, he’s the odds-on favorite to take the job.

UPDATE @ 5:00p: I’ve got a better link now, from the BBC. It includes interesting speculation on the Christiano Ronaldo situation and whether Scolari has given him any advice on which club to chose (Real or United).

Written by walonline

June 11, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Euro 2008: Group D Breakdown and Final Picks

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The final group gets play underway Tuesday with the following fixtures:

  • Spain v. Russia (11:30 EST)
  • Greece v. Sweden (2:30 EST)

The remaining games in the group will be held on June 13th and 17th.

First In: Spain has the talent. They’ll make it through to the quarter finals, but one has to question the decision to leave their leading scorer, Raul, off the roster.

First Out: Sweden. A loss and a close win this year to the US Men’s team does not bode highly. Also, one gets a little worried when their coach brings back journeyman Henrik Larrson, who has not played much of late, to aid star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s scoring drought.

The battle here for advancement is between Russia and Greece. Both teams do not primarily play in other club leagues. Russia has the most players that play on club teams in their nation, compared to teams in the tournament. This appears to fit the pedigree of the Greeks from 2004, who were 150:1 long shots to win. They do not play the number of games that the major clubs do, and are familiar with each other from the national stage. I’ll go with Russia to pull the Greece, eliminating the cup holders and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Lastly, here’s a summary of my group and Euro final picks:

Group Winners: Portugal, Germany, Italy and Spain

Second-Place: Turkey, Croatia, Romania (let’s make it interesting) and Russia

Quarter-Finals: Portugal over Croatia, Germany over Turkey, Spain over Romania, and Italy over Russia

Semi-Finals: Germany over Portugal, and Italy over Spain

Finals: Germany v. Italy

Champions: Germany gets a crack at playing the WC holders, winning their fourth

We’ll see how horribly I do with these picks. Can I get half? Check back for updates periodically throughout.

Written by walonline

June 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm