A bit more on the background of Occupy Hong Kong's territory-wide straw referendum, which is due to end on Sunday, from Suzanne Pepper:
So discouraged were they after May 6 that they had set themselves the lowest possible bar for success. They said that if turnout did not reach at least 100,000 for their online citywide plebiscite, then scheduled for June 20-22, the three of them would have to contemplate defeat. They planned to retreat for a period of quiet contemplation and soul searching as to why their leadership had failed.
Instead, one day into the exercise, they could announce that 400,000 people had come forward. With another week yet to go, they were contemplating not failure but a huge success. By Sunday evening, June 22, the turnout was over 700,000.
If they'd left it at that point it would have been a brilliant coup. But because of huge Ddos attacks on its voting site, Occupy decided to let the vote roll out for another week. The number who participated now stands at just under 750,000, at time of writing. In other words, the numbers voting have gone down from roughly 350,000 per day over days one and two to 50,000 over five days. Not precisely a dribble, but hardly a torrent.
Part of the point of protest actions is that they have a representative function: they're the tip of the spear. And the bigger the protest, the bigger the implied shaft behind the tip. It would have had an incredibly strong impact if the voting had cut off at 700,000 over two days and who knows how many more people banging at the doors. They could have leveraged the ddos attacks against the voting site into outrage that Hong Kongers were being denied a vote even in a straw poll.
Now we do know 'how many more' – not that many. Voting in the Occupy referendum was secure, simple and easy to negotiate. By phone or internet, it takes maybe thirty seconds (Occupy set up physical polling booths as well for people who like or need to do it in person). By the time the vote ends people will have had eight days to take a minute out of their schedule to do something which, physically, doesn't amount to much more than a bit of clicktivism, amid massive local publicity. If you can't be bothered to do that then you're firmly in the can't be bothered column.
So instead of giving the impression of heading a mass movement of Hong Kong citizens who will not be denied a meaningful choice in their selection of Chief Executive, Occupy has revealed that maybe 15% of Hong Kong's adult population actually care enough about the issue to get minimally involved. In letting the vote drag on for so long, Occupy has shown its opponents the exact size of the spear it is holding, and it isn't big enough.
Meanwhile the counter-attack from the establishment coalition – Beijing, local tycoonocracy, multinational corporations – has already begun, led by the accountants.
So, those rumours, the ones we were maybe reluctant to believe after everything else came out, have been confirmed:
One witness was cited in the report as saying he “wore huge rings that he said were made from the glass eyes of dead bodies” held in the mortuary there.
The investigation heard the entertainer claimed to have "interfered with the bodies of deceased patients".
Dr Sue Proctor, who led the investigation into his abuse at LGI, said a student nurse recalled a conversation with Savile in which he claimed he performed sex acts on the dead.
There's more: A couple of years ago Channel 4 released a transcript of a 1991 'in the psychiatrist's chair' interview with Savile:
After his mother's death he spent five days with her body before the funeral and claimed it was the happiest time of his life, when quizzed by Dr Clare Savile claims that in those days she was "all mine"...
..."I'd much rather that she hadn't died but it was inevitable therefore it had to be. Once upon a time I had to share her with a lot of people. We had marvellous times but when she was dead she was all mine, for me. So therefore it finished up right, you understand, and then we buried her."
Earlier on in the interview he goes on about having 'ultimate freedom' - "I've managed to handle complete and ultimate utter freedom." Perhaps this can be interpreted not just as 'I've got away with terrible things you don't know about' but also as 'I've got away with terrible things you can't even begin to imagine.'
If anyone tells you that kids in China don't know anything about the Cultural Revolution, show them this.
Most kids don't dress up as Red Guards for graduation – quite a lot go in for cosplay or traditional Chinese costume – but this has been around for a while. It was the bad boy writer Wang Shuo who pointed out back in the nineties that while the Cultural Revolution was indeed a horrible episode, he personally had a lot of fun as a Red Guard. Free food, free travel, an official license to raise hell, every proximate authority figure terrified of you and a good time had by all of the gang.
This sort of thing will clearly continue to appeal, especially since constraints of a different but arguably just as constraining nature still exist today. Here's a recent account of a successful Gaokao factory in Henan:
For senior students, the day begins at 5:30 am and lasts until 10:10 pm, with every hour punctuated by the incessant ringing of bells that announce classes, break times, self-study periods, extracurricular activities and dormitory time.
Here's another institution of the same sort. It wouldn't be hugely surprising if a few students emerged from that kind of setup with a general wish to run amok and a specific urge, to say, lob a few especially annoying teachers out of a window; and the means to express that wish semi-covertly within in a licensed opportunity for a bit of hedonism appear to be to hand.
It just occurred to me that maybe the best film about the Cultural Revolution was If...
Here's a useful account of Occupy Hong Kong's so far successful attempt to turn the whole SAR into a giant, real-time open-air civics lesson. Ultimately, if the movement's specific demand that candidates for Hong Kong's first full suffrage elections are chosen by the public is rejected, then that's when they plan to do some actual occupying, of the Central financial district.
This prospect has led to something of a freakout by local pro-Beijing groups. Weird as it seems, that video isn't entirley unrepresentative of how the local business community are viewing the prospect.
Good news from China's judicial system is rare enough to be worth noticing:
In a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications for survivors of domestic violence, China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has overturned the death sentence of Li Yan (李彦), a 43-year-old woman who killed her husband in November 2010. The case has been sent back to the Sichuan High People’s Court for retrial.
...China’s judiciary has been paying increased attention to domestic violence in recent years. By January 2013, the SPC had created a domestic violence task force to consider the issue of domestic violence in criminal cases. In February 2014, the court held a press conference to announce that domestic violence occurs in one in four Chinese households, and one in 10 homicides are the result of domestic violence.
It's fairly clear from this that China's supreme court wanted the sentence reversed, and eventually got it. China has been executing fewer people in recent years as a matter of policy so this might be as much about that as domestic violence.
I think there may also be a kind of reverse-perverse incentive involved in both the death penalty and domestic violence issues, in that so much of China's justice system is subject to political direction, the judiciary may be more willing to act in areas where it can assert itself.
So Gerry Conlon died today, and people have been mentioning that Lord Denning wanted him hanged, irrespective of the eventual verdict that he was innocent. And there is of course his finding while presiding over the Court Of Appeal that the Birmingham Six that they should not be allowed to make their case since it was unthinkable – at least in the sense of 'reasons of state mean that it must not be thought about.'
Fun fact. Thirty or more years ago an idealistic Chinese law student, known for widespread ties to radical and democratic circles, was given the job of translating Lord Denning's works and judgements. What effect must it have had on this hopeful young fellow to encounter a distinguished jurist from the home of the mother of parliaments – and the currently fashionable magna carta, no less – who thought it served the public interest for the state to bury its embarrassing mistakes? And one who liked to do so in the character of the 'people's judge', no less.
We lost the chance to find out last week when no-one questioned Li Keqiang, the idealist in question, who decided at some stage against a life of dissent and in favour of rising to the position of China's premier and who visited Britain last week in this capacity.
And what a visit. Chinese premiers, Li among them, like to do urbane and at times it sounded like he'd be more comfortable if we dialed down the flattery a bit. The British are supposed to be a high suzhi people, after all.
The two are not precise equivalents, but in terms of protocol Li is roughly coterminous with George Osborne. Both are number 2 in the government and both are broadly responsible for the economy. When Osborne went to China he got to meet a vice premier slated for retirement in 2017 and, basically, a bunch of guys. Li got the Queen, a meeting with the PM and the sort of care and attention generally given to a very rich uncle, who might be interested in, say, making the city of London a world centre for yuan trading.
The thing is, China would be very interested in doing this anyway. Beijing wants the yuan traded internationally, and where better? Some of the deals announced since Cameron and Co. decided on a love in with Beijing seem distinctly iffy. The thing is though that all the legitimate deals would have gone through since the Chinese side believes it stands to make a handsome profit from them. China may discourage economic ties with countries that it believes have act in a consistently hostile way, but it doesn't cut off its nose to spite its face. This is why the supposed 'deep freeze' Britain was cast into after the PM met the Dalai Lama isn't relevant. Opening London to yuan trading would in itself more than cancelled out that particular gesture. And the supposed deep freeze made no difference at all to Sino-British trade and investment, both of which increased handily in both directions over that time. The behaviour of the British government here is just not fully explicable in economic terms. For some other reason it simply wants to become closer to China. I dunno. Are we seeing a hedge against the US here?
It may be just a matter of how the government rolls. A government so relentlessly cruel to the powerless should be expected as a matter of course to be obsequious to those it believes have more power than it does. At any rate, what we did this week handed Beijing quite a considerable propaganda coup. More importantly, it will be viewed as a new normal from Zhongnanhai's perspective. From now on, any attempt to step back and inject a little dignity into Sino-British affairs will be interpreted as hostility simply on the basis that it is slightly less effusive than what went on before. So a considerable margin of freedom of action in regard to China has been lost in pursuit of a bunch of deals that would have been done anyway.
Beginning in about 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a custom-made Osama bin Laden action figure, according to people familiar with the project. The faces of the figures were painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.
The goal of the short-lived project was simple: spook children and their parents, causing them to turn away from the actual bin Laden.
Hmm, yes, very funny, maybe apart from the racist pseudo-anthropology. Anyway, this is the iron rule of the CIA: everything is true except the conspiracy theories, and we know they're not true because they're not weird enough. That aside, you can pluck any random bizarreness out of the ether - colonising Mars with trained gibbons, raising an army of zombie hopping ghosts to undermine Chinese communism - in full confidence that yes, indeed, they have tried that.
In 2013 alone, the group’s report claimed nearly 10,000 operations in Iraq: 1,000 assassinations, 4,000 improvised explosive devices planted and hundreds of radical prisoners freed. In the same year it claimed hundreds of “apostates” had been turned.
There's a very good reason for ISIS to have an annual report for investors, namely the fact that it has them and they want to know what bang they're getting for their buck. This was always the case with jihadist groups, but arguably the intense competition forged in Syrian militia startup culture has led to potential investors wanting more, so to speak, than to take their investments on faith. This is probably especially true of ISIS since it is competing directly with the official Al-qaeda franchise for Syria in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra. The War Nerd has a nice summary of jihadist enterprise culture.
Syria was a wide-open market for jihadi organizers, free to operate openly over most of the country after decades of effective repression. Money was pouring in from fat armchair jihadis in Saudi, Kuwait, and the Emirates—enough to pay jihadis a first-world salary of $1,500/mo. If you had a good line of patter and a few Quranic passages memorized, you could score some investment money. And military entrepreneurs poured in to take advantage of the opportunity; so many that by 2013, there were 1,200 different jihadi groups operating in Syria.
These baby militias popped up, prospered for a while, then vanished like Ethiopian restaurants. And out of the chaos, ISIS was ready to make its move, with a decade of guerrilla knowledge gained the hard way over the border in Iraq.
Well yes, indeed. If you want to take full advantage of the disruption economy you have to be - wjhat's the word? - savvy. Of course, now it has the Mosul treasury at its disposal ISIS will be able to go beyond reports and organize conferences, trips to the safer parts of the battlespace, opportunities to execute apostates and kindred investor relations stunts to build on its successful too crazy for al-Qaeda branding operation. It's all part of being passionate about what you do.
There's a great tale of pay for play at China Central Television here, or rather a wonderfully dry translation of a juicy scandal involving Guo Zhenxi, who controlled the Station's finance and business coverage. Well yes: finance and business. Lots of opportunities there!
But lets start from the top. The first part of the story describes Guo's successful rise and the “innovative strategies” he used to get there and increase the station's profitability. Actually, it's a precise description of the network of corruption he established at the station posing as a success story. While this is a breaking scandal – and while there's no doubt that Guo will be found to be corrupt – it's not politic to just come out frankly and say that the business and consumer coverage of China's version of the BBC is essentially given over to racketeering. At least not in English. I understand that Chinese version of the story is a lot more frank.
Now we move on to something more specific:
Some critics of the programming say Guo may have used the consumer and business awards shows to illegally extract personal benefits. He could, they say, have used his position to decide which companies to target for consumer investigations and which to honor with awards. They also say he may have arranged to shed positive light on some companies and negative light on others in exchange for pay-offs .
This isn't the charge. It may well be and its almost certainly what he did. But the Discipline Inspectors have yet to move on this, so we can anticipate them but not pre-empt them. Now we get to the inflection point, the proximate cause of Guo's downfall.
CCTV2's investigations into Baidu services gave the broadcaster's critics more ammunition. The August 2011 reports charged Baidu with misleading users of its search engine and giving fake results. Investors then sold off the company's stock.
Media insiders claimed Guo engineered an attack on Baidu. Another CCTV staffer said Guo may have turned against Baidu after its executives refused his request to delete Web posts criticizing a food company. Guo wanted to defend the food company because he received money, said the staffer.
So, basically, he was taking bribes to lean on China's biggest search engine to delete unfavourable commentary of a large corporation. In other words he was a leading figure in China's secondary censorship market. Incidentally, this is the first time I can recall that a new media company in China – albeit a huge one – has managed to prevail on the Chinese state to fend off an old media company, and an extremely prestigious one at that. In other words, Beijing regards its largest search engine as a trusted partner, not as a problem to be managed. At least not in this context.