Monday, January 06, 2003

GWEILO DIARIES HAS MOVED: The new site is located at http://www.gweilodiaries.com Update your links and come check it out.
A NEW ASIAN BLOG LINK to Hong Kong Journal Redux, written by Richard, who isn't actually in Hong Kong at all. An excerpt:

"In Hong Kong, people like me are referred to as "gweilos" a mildly derogatory term for a Westerner in general, and a white man in particular. No matter what a gweilo does, he can never be fully accepted by the local people. Some have learned to speak Cantonese fluently, but this only makes the locals suspicious of their intentions. In fact, I have read that the locals simply will not accept that a gweilo can speak their language, and insist on answering a Cantonese-speaking Westerner in English. There is a strange invisible wall between the gweilo and the Hong Kongers, though it is almost impossible to define or to prove. Still, every gweilo I've spoken with here agrees that it is there, and the locals I know acknowledge it as well. It is basically a message that they unintentionally send to us as we talk with them and eat with them and work with them, a vibration or a sense, "You are different, you are not like us." It is not hostile or racist, it is simply, in their way of thinking, a matter of fact."

I've heard variations of the above from nearly every Westerner I know in Hong Kong. Yet my experience has been quite different. My Cantonese is laughable and I am certainly no Sinophile, yet the vast majority of my friends here are local Chinese and, while I don't pretend to have blended seamlessly into the local culture -- that simply isn't possible when one doesn't speak the language -- I've felt very welcomed and rarely excluded, certainly not by anyone I've taken the time to get to know. I know my experience is not typical, and I can't tell you exactly why, but I think it has a lot to do with one's willingness to make a real effort. Something that seems surprisingly rare among the expat community here.

My mother was visiting over the holidays and I took her out to dinner with a group of my Chinese friends. In the course of the conversation someone commented that they rarely hung out with gweilo. "But Conrad's a gweilo" my mother replied. One of my friends replied "Oh, he doesn't count, he's not a normal gweilo" and the rest laughed and nodded their agreement. What that meant, I'm not precisely sure, but I think it reflects a perception, on the part of the locals, that Western expats keep to themselves and don't try to blend in.

I am convinced that much of the segregation of the Western community is self inflicted. They live together in Mid-levels and Discovery Bay, drink together in Lam Kwai Fong (a sea of pale faced humanity packed into Stormy Weather every Friday, barely an Asian face among them -- "Gweilo Hell", I call it.), they eat together in Soho, educate their kids together in private schools, and play together in their private clubs. I've often asked myself, if they wanted to live as they did in London, Sydney or New York (as many seem to do) why didn't they stay there in the first place?

By living in a Chinese neighborhood, making Chinese friends, shopping in the wet market, eating in neighborhood restaurants, and otherwise trying to emulate the locals, I feel I've had a much better time and fuller experience in Hong Kong. On the other hand, no matter how long I'm here, I am absolutely never, never, ever, going to develop an affinity for friggin' karaoke.

Anyway, go visit Richard's blog. It's good stuff.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

DAILY PUNDIT referred me to the following excerpt from a fawning Boston Globe profile of US Senator Edward Kennedy:

"If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."

Ack, gag, barf, hurl!

Yes, had Miss Kopechne lived to old age, she might have had a comfortable retirement. She might have had a husband, children, grandchildren and a successful career as well. Unfortunately for her, she didn't have any of those things. She didn't have them because Kennedy friggin' killed her. A drunken, philandering, Teddy drove off a bridge, crawled out of the sinking car, fled the scene of the accident and left her to drown, then he and his advisors spent hours to cook up a cover story before summoning help.

Christ, that's one of the most repulsive things I have ever read. Doesn't the Globe have editors? And if it does, are they on crack?
A 747 AIRLINER nearly flew into the side of a Honolulu residential highrise yesterday. No surprise, it was China Airlines.
THE UN FOOD AGENCY warns that up to 7 million North Koreans face starvation. Japan and South Korea have cut off food aid to the North.

"Although George Bush has said the US will not withhold food, the US Agency for International Development began insisting last June that North Korea meet the same conditions for aid that are mandatory elsewhere, such as providing a list of beneficiaries and unimpeded access for aid monitors. On this issue, however, as with efforts to defuse the nuclear crisis, there is deadlock."

This will result in a flood of refugees across the Chinese border and is why, I believe, China will use its influence to pressure Kim to backdown. The question is, how much influence does China have. China Hand has an interesting first hand perspective.
I FIRST VISITED INDONESIA right after I graduated from college and fell in love with it. The ensuing years have not diminished my passion. I have been back nearly a hundred times, learned to speak passable Bahasa-Indonesia, traveled to 30 of its islands, and done business, made friends and chased women there. Indeed, I own property outside Jogjakarta

Indonesia is changing and not for the better. The country is being corrupted by a foreign influence that has caused misery and unhappiness everywhere it has spread. Islam. How can Islam be a "foreign influence" in the world's most populous Muslim country? Islam did not arrive in Java until the late 16th Century and did not become widely accepted for another hundred years. Furthermore, Sufism was widely practiced in Indonesia and incorporated many indigenous beliefs and superstitions. The emergence of conservative Islam in Indonesia is a modern phenomenon traceable, in part, to Saudi Arabia.

And conservative Islamic belief is spreading rapidly in Indonesia. As Sadanand Dhume observes in the Far Eastern Economic Review, there has been

"a fundamental change in Indonesian society, namely the emergence of conservative Islam in place of the country's traditionally tolerant brand of the religion: "There is a larger process occurring," says Robert Hefner, a Boston University professor and expert on Indonesian Islam. "It's the struggle for the very soul of Indonesian Islam."

A recent survey revealed that 71% of Indonesians favor the imposition of sharia law. I doubt that figure would have been 25% when I first visited. Indonesia's institutions are hopelessly corrupt, its population poor, disenfranchised and frustrated. In the face of this, people turn to fundamentalist Islam for a solution. But conservative Islam opposes freedom, pluralism, individuality, initiative, commerce and modernization. The very things that Indonesia desperately needs. In its place it preaches violence, hatred and blameshifting. I see no reason to hope that its effect upon Indonesia will be any less unfortunate than the effect it had on Middle Eastern countries with similar pathologies.

Furthermore, while liberation of Iraq, regime change in Iran and, hopefully, Saudi Arabia, are likely to have a positive influence upon their Middle Eastern neighbors, I fear that these developments will only fuel resentment and anti-Americanism in Indonesia.

It is not a hopeful situation.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

YAHOO.UK NAMED the top 12 websites for 2002 and came up with CatHospital.com, a site dedicated to watching the recovery of Frank, a sick cat; IAmDyslexic.com, the webpage of Barnaby, a 13 year old dyslexic boy in Eastbourne, England; AdvertSongs.com, where surfers can find the names of songs used in advertising; and this ridiculous piece of crap.

Why do I even bother?
MARTIN SEIFF disagrees with me regarding China's role in the North Korean stand-off.

(Via Glenn Reynolds)
JAMES BENNETT provides an excellent analysis on the inevitablity of the US -- Japanese alliance. An excerpt:

"Finally, the more perceptive Japanese have begun to realize that an approach to the European Union, as an effective counterweight to America, is a fool's errand. Both Japan and continental Europe are increasingly stagnant economies with growing demographic crises. Neither could do without export to the American market in their current economic circumstances. In that regard, they have little to offer each other, and any attempt to cooperate to the discomfort of the United States could only ultimately hurt both.

More fundamentally, Japan lives in a more dangerous neighborhood than do the Europeans. China, Russia, and North Korea both have the capability to strike Japan with nuclear weapons, and all have deep-seated historical grievances against the Japanese. Today, North Korea is an active threat. Someday, others might be. Watching the European Union's response to much closer crises, such as the Bosnian war, the Japanese must understand that if Tokyo were nuked by the North Koreans, all they would get from Brussels would be an elegantly worded statement of regret and calls for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council."


I believe that, if North Korea ever does launch a nuclear attack, it is more likely to target Tokyo than Seoul.
AN ANALYSIS OF the Korean military situation here. There's probably nothing in it you don't already know but, since it seems to be a topic of interest around here lately, I thought I'd post it anyway.
HERE'S A CLASSIC example of what's wrong with Confucianism:

"A 24-year-old female prostitute in Shenzhen, which is near Hong Kong, told the Post that she sends home as much as $300 a month, which helps pay for her younger brother to go to school.

"In China, daughters are not very important," she told the Post. "It's the son that matters. Unless I leave (her hometown of Chongqing) and find work, there's no way that my little brother can continue his education." She said she has told her parents she is a waitress -- not a prostitute at a karaoke lounge called Club Butterfly."


The parents probably have a pretty good idea what she is actually doing. The fiction allows them to save face as they educate their son off the proceeds of their daughter's body.

UPDATE: A more detailed article in the Washington Post, via Glenn Reynolds.

UPDATE II: Not all prostitution in China is voluntary. A story of abduction and rape in Dizhuang, link via Why Read This.

"I could not cry. I used the edge of a toothbrush box to cut my left wrist. Xxx came in, grabbed me with one hand, and stripped me with the other hand ‡‹. After xxx left, I continued to cut my wrist. Finally, I cut an opening about 1.3 cun long [translator's note: approximately 4.3 cms]. I put my hand under the tap so the water would accelerate the blood flow. The thought of seeing my parents made me ashamed. Tears ran down my face as I continued sawing at my wrist."

...Excerpt from page 20 of a testimony statement by Xiao Cui (pseudonym)


The local man who attempted to halt the practice was arrested and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The traffickers remain free and in business.
CNN'S LISA BARRON reports on a subject about which, I can personally attest, she has great expertise.
AL SHARPTON has formed a presidential exploratory committee. A candidacy by this lying, crooked, race baiting, hustler presents the US Democrats with their own Trent Lott test. Does anyone believe they will pass it?

Friday, January 03, 2003

BLOG DESIGN: My new design is nearing completion. Check it out. I'm quite pleased with it, except for one thing -- I don't like the pastel blue/green color scheme. I've been surfing other blogs, trying to find something I like and that will work, but nothing grabs me. Then it dawned on me, you folks read it, what do you think? Post your suggestions in the comment section and, if possible, provide a link to an example that I can pass to my designer.

Thanks in advance for your help.
IT SEEMS MY sex life is a subject of interest in Australia. If Morticia finds out, she'll tat lieng pet. Ouch!

UPDATE: Meanwhile Chinese men in Baokang have their own strange practices.
ASIA TIMES' Marc Ericson and Francesco Sisci argue that Iraq matters more than North Korea.
GERALD BOURKE of the UN World Food Program, on the North Korean people's response to starvation:

"Over time they have developed coping mechanisms. They can go up to the hills and scour for edible branches and grasses, or go down to the beaches and scour for edible seaweed."

Meanwhile, one North Korean is well fed. According to Konstantin Pulikovsky, Vladimir Putin's representative in Russia's far east, who escorted Kim Jong-il on a train journey from North Korea to Moscow:

"Four hour meals were not unusual - and what meals! "It was possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine," according to Pulikovsky. Cases of Bordeaux and Beaujolais were flown in from Paris, as was live lobster. Not that the local fare was rejected - at least, not all of it. Omsk, sadly, was not a gastronomic success: the Dear Leader turned up his nose both at the dumplings (too small) and the pickles (too Bulgarian). In Khabarovsk, he liked the brown bread so much that he had an assistant fly 20 loaves to Pyongyang, to be fresh for him when he returned."
JOSH MARSHALL blames Bush for the brewing crises in North Korea and compares this administration's policy, unfavorably, to the craven appeasment of Bill Clinton. Marshall misses the point. Clinton sought to prevent nuclear proliferation in North Korea by way of a treaty. Clinton's treaty failed. North Korea's violations of that treaty began under Clinton and therefore could not have been provoked by current Bush policies. If Marshall seriously advocates additional concessions in the face of blatant treaty violations, he has learned absolutely nothing from the history of the last 70 years.

Furthermore, Marshall assumes that the Bush policy is failing. Why? The present situation is like an extremely complicated end-game in chess. We laymen, with imperfect knowledge and limited understanding, are unable to tell exactly what is going on. The situation will have to play itself out before we know whether the administration has played this wisely or foolishly.

For what its worth, they are doing precisely what I would do in their shoes. Whether that should be cause for reassurance or alarm, I leave to the reader.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

SPEAKING OF BLOG POLLS (I was dammit just look below) its time for the 2003 Bloggies. I find myself wondering if any of my loyal readers -- hint, hint -- will see fit -- Hint, Hint -- to nominate this site -- HINT, HINT -- as Best Asian Weblog -- HINT, HINT.
BLOG POLLS: Its the end of another year and the blogosphere is, once more, filled with ubiquitous blog polls. Best blog, most intriguing blogger, biggest idiotarian, most important news story, etc., etc.

Then there's Kevin's contribution to the genre. . . .
JOHN DERBYSHIRE demonstrates, yet again, that he is deeply, seriously, irresponsible:

"[I]t's hard to see why we Americans should mind if their nice prosperous little country [South Korea] gets knocked about a bit on the way to the inevitable defeat of Kim Jong-Il's troops. Japan likewise. Let's give Kim the finger, good and clear, starting with a thorough Osirak-style job on his nuclear installations. There isn't anything Kimchi can do that won't lead to his own swift annihilation. If the downtown Seoul branch of Starbucks gets its windows blown out in the process — well, personally, I can live with it."

North Korea is within, not just rocket, but artillery (of which it has plenty) range of Seoul and could devistate that city. It also possesses nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them -- not just against Seoul but against Tokyo as well. It is run by delusional sociopaths who, faced with their own demise, would probably use such weapons. Derbyshire says he could live with the consequences of a North Korean attack. No doubt he could, since his silly ass is sitting in the continental US. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Asians, however, could, literally, not live with it. To compare the resulting slaughter to "broken windows" is vile. To dismiss such loss of life on the grounds that Koreans are insufficiently pro-American -- as Derbyshire does -- is repulsive.
THE KILLING OF INNOCENT young Palestinians by the Israelis is an outrage. The Palestinian's are perfectly capable of killing their own young innocents.
WHAT KIND OF chickenshit is this?

"Fairfax County Police are targeting Reston and Herndon area bar-restaurant patrons suspected of having one too many drinks.
Police have been taking them outside for sobriety tests and, if they fail, arresting them for public drunkenness."


This is a classic example of what happens when you put stupid people in positions of authority.

Besides being downright un-American, this is legally problematic. When one drives a vehicle in the US, one is subject to "implied consent" laws -- i.e., your consent to submit to sobriety testing is legally implied from your decision to take the wheel. There are no implied consent laws governing entry into a bar. Consequently, bar patrons are under no obligation whatsoever to submit to such tests. If I lived in Fairfax Virginia -- and I thank my personal God that I do not -- and were so accosted by the local Barney Fife, I would decline, telling the officer "if you believe you have probable cause to arrest me, do so, but you'd better be damned sure you do."

A couple of civil suits for false arrest would put a stop to this nonsense. This seems like a worthy pro bono project for some right-minded Virginia attorney.

(Link via Ken Layne who advocates an, er, extra-judical solution.)

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds doesn't think much of this either and provides a link to the Fairfax County Police Department's web site.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON observes in National Review Online:

"Each hour Saudi Arabia appears a more untenable ally, panicky as the light of truth shines into its deepest recesses. The Arab street sinks more and more into irrelevance, as lunatic as it is impotent; its anti-American hatred is to be welcomed rather than feared, given what it presently represents: gender apartheid, religious intolerance, tribalism, and anti-Semitism. Middle Eastern leaders may shake fingers and talk tough, but they have no moral credibility and still less power — and, like former Eastern European Communist hacks, are likely to become the flotsam and jetsam in a tidal wave of change."

Precisely.
CHINA TO LAUNCH MANNED SPACE FLIGHT in 2003:

"China revealed plans Thursday to become the world's third space-traveling nation by launching a manned capsule sometime this year. [The announcement] came as the latest unmanned Chinese craft, Shenzhou IV, orbited the Earth for a fourth day - a trip described after it began Monday as a direct precursor to a manned flight.

The next mission, Shenzhou V, will contain at least one "taikonaut," the Chinese version of an astronaut, according to a report from China News Service."


Sources in Beijing disclosed that the Dalai Lama has been chosen ahead of Li Hongzhi as the first person to be blasted by China into outerspace.
MORTICIA'S NO LESBIAN -- the new year is looking good.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

ALEXANDER COCKBURN calls US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist a "moral monster" and "Tennessee's answer to Dr. Josef Mengele."

Cockburn needs a rabies shot.

UPDATE: Sorry folks, I forgot to include the link to Cockburn's column. I've added it now.
RIOTS ERRUPTED in Bahrain, reportedly in response to the arrival of US troops in that country. Of course, the rioters didn't actually come anywhere near the troops, instead:

"masked men surged through the capital of Manama, attacking women, torching vehicles and debris, and smashing hotel windows in areas usually frequented by Americans and Westerners."

Misogynistic cowards. Angry at the Marines, they go beat up girls.

The Lebanese special forces are made of sterner stuff, however. This elite military force managed to subdue . . . a television station.

Pussies.