The porn industry is known for driving innovation online. After the live-streamed trial on pornography charges of four Chinese Internet executives went viral over the weekend, it’s now driving an unusually vigorous debate in China over how the Internet should be managed.
“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology.”
— Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology
At the center of the debate is Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology Co. Ltd., which is best known for running the widely used online video player called Kuaibo. Mr. Wang spirited self-defense in the face of allegations he helped disseminate thousands of sex videos has turned him into something of a Chinese Larry Flynt.
Similar to the Hustler publisher, who famously used his pornographic publishing empire to test the legal bounds of free speech in the U.S., Mr. Wang used the popularity of his company’s video platform to try to turn the tables on China’s Internet censorship regime.
Prosecutors alleged in the two-day trial in Beijing late last week that Qvod executives knew their video platform, Kuaibo, was a popular tool for watching porn and did nothing to stop it. They said porn videos, which are illegal in China, made up 70% of the 30,000 files police had pulled from servers connected to Kuaibo. Mr. Wang’s argument, delivered in a spirited and well-prepared defense that drew applause online: The company was responsible for producing the platform, not policing what people did with it.
Efforts by governments to hold the creators of online platforms responsible for the content their users post are hardly new. In early days of the Internet, U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo and America Online faced a slew of lawsuits — and a piece of legislation known as the Communications Decency Act — that attempted to hold them legally liable for hosting vulgar, misleading or illegal content. Generally, those efforts ended in failure.
In China, the outsourcing of censorship to the websites themselves is a central part of authorities’ strategy in trying to keep tight control over 650 million Internet users and the hundreds of news, video and social media sites they visit. Some technology companies consider the requirement a costly measure that stifles innovation.
Beijing has also increasingly tried to use criminal courts to regulate behavior online and quash rumors and criticisms of the government while also cracking down on porn and other illicit content. Read the rest of this entry »
Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t merely horrific, war-ending events. They were lifesaving.
Bret Stephens writes: The headline of this column is lifted from a 1981 essay by the late Paul Fussell, the cultural critic and war memoirist. In 1945 Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who had fought his way through Europe only to learn that he would soon be shipped to the Pacific to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands scheduled to begin in November 1945.
Then the atom bomb intervened. Japan would not surrender after Hiroshima, but it did after Nagasaki.
I brought Fussell’s essay with me on my flight to Hiroshima and was stopped by this: “When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live.”
“Would the Japanese have been awed into capitulation by an offshore A-bomb test? Did the Soviet Union’s invasion of Manchuria, starting the day of the Nagasaki bombing, have the more decisive effect in pushing Japan to give up? Would casualties from an invasion really have exceeded the overall toll—by some estimates approaching 250,000—of the two bombs? We’ll never know.”
In all the cant that will pour forth this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs—that the U.S. owes the victims of the bombings an apology; that nuclear weapons ought to be abolished; that Hiroshima is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man; that Japan could have been defeated in a slightly nicer way—I doubt much will be made of Fussell’s fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t just terrible war-ending events. They were also lifesaving. The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists.
“We only know that the U.S. lost 14,000 men merely to take Okinawa in 82 days of fighting. We only know that, because Japan surrendered, the order to execute thousands of POWs in the event of an invasion of the home islands was never implemented. We only know that, in the last weeks of a war Japan had supposedly already lost, the Allies were sustaining casualties at a rate of 7,000 a week.”
I spent the better part of Monday afternoon with one such activist, Keiko Ogura,who runs a group called Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace. Mrs. Ogura had just turned eight when the bomb fell on Hiroshima, the epicenter less than 2 miles from her family home. She remembers wind “like a tornado”; thousands of pieces of shattered glass blasted by wind into the walls and beams of her house, looking oddly “shining and beautiful”; an oily black rain.
And then came the refugees from the city center, appallingly burned and mutilated, “like a line of ghosts,” begging for water and then dying the moment they drank it. Everyone in Mrs. Ogura’s immediate family survived the bombing, but it would be years before any of them could talk about it. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, told Bret Baier on Monday’s Special Report that the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks was “the most politicized national security issue” he had ever seen. It’s a “telling” statement, says Charles Krauthammer….(read more)
— i100 (@thei100) January 15, 2015
For AP News , Ken Dilanian reports: CIA officers in Iraq have been largely hunkered down in their heavily fortified Baghdad compound since U.S. troops left the country in 2011, current and former officials say, allowing a once-rich network of intelligence sources to wither.
“This is a glaring example of the erosion of our street craft and our tradecraft and our capability to operate in a hard place…The U.S. taxpayer is not getting their money’s worth.”
— John Maguire, CIA
That’s a big reason, they say, the U.S. was caught flat-footed by the recent offensive by a Sunni-backed al-Qaida-inspired group that has seized a large swath of Iraq.
“Anyone who has had access to and actually read the full extent of CIA intelligence products on ISIL and Iraq should not have been surprised by the current situation.”
“This is a glaring example of the erosion of our street craft and our tradecraft and our capability to operate in a hard place,” said John Maguire, who helped run CIA operations in Iraq in 2004. “The U.S. taxpayer is not getting their money’s worth.”
Maguire was a CIA officer in Beirut in the late 1980s during that country’s bloody civil war. He spent weeks living in safe houses far from the U.S. Embassy, dodging militants who wanted to kidnap and kill Americans. In Iraq, where Maguire also served, the CIA’s Baghdad station remains one of the world’s largest. But the agency has been unwilling to risk sending Americans out regularly to recruit and meet informants.
Iraq is emblematic of how a security-conscious CIA is finding it difficult to spy aggressively in dangerous environments without military protection, Maguire and other current and former U.S. officials say. Intelligence blind spots have left the U.S. behind the curve on fast-moving world events, they say, whether it’s disintegration in Iraq, Russia’s move into Crimea or the collapse of several governments during the Arab Spring. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s up with Obama administration’s lack of intel? Continual surprise by global events, discovering things by watching the news?Posted: June 17, 2014
Editor’s note: I watched Mary Katherine Ham‘s appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” and was disheartened to see Ham interrupted mid-sentence, “listen, listen”, O’Reilly repeated. Once he had the floor, it was only to return to flogging the same rhetorical question, to guests M.K. Ham and Juan Williams, punching the theme of that segment of the show (hammering Ham in the process) Essentially: “What’s up with Obama administration’s lack of intel? Continual surprise by global events, discovering things by watching the news?” A good question with no reliable answer.
I’d like to have heard M.K. Ham’s commentary, she’d just hit her stride when she was cut off. Perhaps some of Ham’s unsaid remarks ends up in this article, “9 Quotes from Obama’s 2011 ‘Remarks on the End of the War in Iraq’ That Show His Total Lack of Foresight” written after the broadcast. Read the whole thing here.
I had occasion to rewatch this speech today before I went on “The O’Reilly Factor.” Given Dec. 14, 2011 at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, its contents are gut-wrenching.
1. This one, in which Obama concedes that you’d take post-surge 2011 Iraq over pretty much any other major country in the Middle East post Arab Spring and Obama presidency
“It’s harder to end a war than begin one. Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq -– all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering -– all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations.”
2. This one where Obama describes just how much we’ve lost.
“This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.”
3. Then, he enumerated our victories, which our withdrawal swiftly turned into losses, one by one, starting with the insurgency.
“We remember the grind of the insurgency -– the roadside bombs, the sniper fire, the suicide attacks. From the ‘triangle of death’ to the fight for Ramadi; from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south -– your will proved stronger than the terror of those who tried to break it.” Read the rest of this entry »
As the Arab Spring enters its third year, events in the region remain fluid. Still, enough time has now passed that some preliminary conclusions can be reached.
Zachary Keck writes: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one institution certainly drawing lessons from the Arab Spring. It is well known that the CCP studies political unrest in other parts of the world in search of lessons it can use to maintain stability at home. The most notable instance of this was the massive study the CCP undertook into the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The lessons the CCP drew from its more than decade-long study into the Soviet bloc have since been incorporated into the curriculum at party schools, and are regularly referred to by senior Chinese officials.
Although the CCP’s study of the Arab Spring won’t be nearly as massive, the events in the Arab world are of significant interest to the party for a number of reasons. The first is simply their size and magnitude. Additionally, in its early days the Arab Spring inspired some Chinese to call for a Jasmine Revolution in China. Although nothing much came from these calls, there were a tense couple of weeks in China that saw the CCP on high alert.
Finally, Chinese leaders should be particularly interested in the Arab Spring simply because it provides an excellent case study. Although the protests seemed to be motivated by similar causes, they quickly diverged in terms of how each government responded, as well as their ultimate outcomes. Thus, the protests offer valuable lessons for how the CCP can maintain power in China. Four points from the Arab Spring seem particularly pertinent:
1) Get Ahead of Events
The regimes that have best weathered the Arab Spring have gotten ahead of events on the ground. At the first sight of unrest in Egypt, Saudi Arabia sought to preempt protests by significantly increasing subsides. The Gulf Cooperation Council contained unrest in Bahrain by using overwhelming force to smother the then-nascent protests. Only after order had been restored did the government begin offering small concessions. In other countries like Morocco and Jordan, governments quickly appeased protesters by offering at least cosmetic concessions, such as removing especially unpopular leaders. The new Chinese leadership seems to be pursuing a similar course by initiating highly publicized anti-graft and mass line campaigns that are partly aimed at reducing public anger over the party’s excesses.
CAIRO — David D. Kirkpatrick writes: Egypt’s military-backed government has issued a law that all but bans street protests by applying jail time or heavy fines to the public demonstrations that have felled the last two presidents and regularly roiled the capital since the Arab Spring revolt.
The new law, promulgated on Sunday, is the latest evidence of a return to authoritarianism in the aftermath of the military takeover that removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July. It criminalizes the kind of free assembly and public expression that many Egyptians had embraced as a cherished foundation of their new democracy after the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the relatively muted outcry against the law, mainly from human rights advocates, demonstrated how far public sentiment has swung.
Rights activists said the new law appeared even stricter than those in place under Mr. Mubarak. It effectively replaces a three-month “state of emergency” declared in August, when the government used deadly force to crush street protests by Islamist opponents of the July 3 takeover, killing more than a thousand. The state of emergency — which suspended protections against police abuse — expired last weekend, but the new protest law now grants the police other added powers that they could use to squelch any attempt to mobilize.
Ishaan Tharoor writes: When it happened, Egypt’s February 2011 revolution seemed an epochal global event. If Cairo was not the birthplace of the Arab Spring, it was its apogee. The people of the Arab world’s most populous, most important nation, long oppressed, had finally found their voice. Braving bullets, tanks and tear gas, they overthrew the entrenched dictatorship of three-decade President Hosni Mubarak. The whole planet watched a jubilant Tahir Square explode with fireworks and celebration, while the international media hailed the advent of democracy and people power in a part of the world where both were conspicuously lacking.
But, as we all know now, Mubarak’s exit marked only a fleeting victory. In the near three years since, Egypt has lurched from crisis to crisis, antagonism to antagonism, each time punctuated by mass protests in Tahrir Square, a traffic roundabout that has come to symbolize both the dreams and the failures of the Revolution. This summer, many of the same revolutionaries who gathered at Tahrir in 2011, calling for the downfall of Mubarak, returned to cheer in elements of his old regime as the military removed the democratically-elected Islamist government of divisive President Mohamed Morsi. In August, a bloody crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrators led to hundreds of deaths. The turmoil has effectively brought the revolution back full circle. Some commentators fear the counter-revolution has already won.
BURAIDAH, Saudi Arabia—Ellen Knickmeyer writes: Saudi women’s plans to defy their nation’s harsh restrictions on them driving is reigniting a fundamental conflict between conservatives and moderates on the kingdom’s future.
“It is my belief and my faith that it is my right to drive my own car.”
Even in the country’s most conservative town, Buraidah, some traditional women will challenge the de facto ban on driving on Saturday. In the northern desert town where few women are seen in public, let alone behind the wheel, protesters say they have the support of families and friends.
“It is because we are very conservative that I am part of this” campaign, one 50-year-old government worker said Wednesday in Buraidah. “It is my belief and my faith that it is my right to drive my own car.”
Although no law explicitly prohibits women from driving in Saudi Arabia, the government refuses to give them licenses.
Buraidah is home to some of the country’s most conservative clerics and is seen as a bastion of opposition to social change in Saudi Arabia. Many here say the monarchy is moving too quickly on civil liberties.
AFP – China is employing two million people to keep tabs on people’s Internet use, according to state media, in a rare glimpse into the secret world of Beijing’s vast online surveillance operation.
Many of the employees are simply performing keyword searches to monitor the tens of millions of messages being posted daily on popular social media and microblogging sites, the Beijing News said.
The exact number of people employed to trawl through the Internet in a bid to prevent social unrest and limit criticism of the ruling Community party has long been the subject of speculation. Read the rest of this entry »
Ennahda, the Tunisian Islamist party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, has been forced from power by an overwhelming secular opposition.
Michael J. Totten writes: I didn’t know this was going to happen, but I had a pretty strong sense that it would. Tunisia is a modern, pluralistic, civilized place. It’s striking liberal compared with most Arab countries. A person couldn’t possibly show up in Tunis from Cairo and think the two are remotely alike. Egypt is at one extreme of the Arab world’s political spectrum, and Tunisia is at the other.
The Islamists won less than half the vote two years ago, and the only reason they did even that well is because Ennahda ran on an extremely moderate platform. They sold themselves to voters as Tunisia’s version of Germany’s Christian Democrats.
It was a lie, of course, and once Tunisians figured that out, support for Ennahda cratered. Read the rest of this entry »
by Bruce Thornton (Research Fellow; W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow, 2009–10, 2010–11; and member, military history working group)
Only when we recognize the fundamental role Islam plays in the region can we begin to craft sensible policies that put U.S. interests first.
The revolutions against dictators in the Middle East dubbed the Arab Spring have degenerated into a complex, bloody mélange of coups and counter-coups, as have happened in Egypt; vicious civil wars, like the current conflict in Syria; a resurgence of jihadists gaining footholds in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Sinai; and a shifting and fracturing of alliances and enmities of the sort throwing Lebanon and Jordan into turmoil. Meanwhile, American foreign policy has been confused, incompetent, and feckless in insuring that the security and interests of the United States and its allies are protected.
A major reason for our foreign policy failures in the region is our inability to take into account the intricate diversity of ideological, political, and especially theological motives driving events. Just within the Islamist outfits, Sunni and Shia groups are at odds—and this isn’t to mention the many bitter divisions within Sunni and Shia groups. Add the other players in the Middle East––military dictators, secular democrats, leftover communists, and nationalists of various stripes––and the whole region seems embroiled in endlessly complex divisions and issues. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Sequester” may be your word for the week, but it’s not mine. I’ve been diverted from the Beltway theater by an enterprise equally fraudulent, the “Arab Spring.” No, the plot line does not feature an Armageddon of budget slashing after which, somehow, Leviathan manages to land on his drunken feet and binge up an even higher tab this year than last. The Arab Spring, instead, is the tyranny of Islamic supremacism cruelly masqueraded as the forward march of “freedom.”
On Tuesday, the dead-tree version of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, my book on the subject, finally hit the bookstores after previously being available only as an e-book. Despite the digital age, people still love their paperbacks, so I’ve had the good fortune to spend this week talking about it.
Though seemingly unrelated, the sequester contretemps have provided a useful context. In the tortured argot of Washington, “sequestration” connotes “a reduction in government spending.” It is thus an exquisite weasel word, the kind that fraud-construction thrives on. Of course, the disease sequestration is meant to treat is only too real — our metastasizing cancer of debt. But the political class that lives today’s high life on tomorrow’s stolen prosperity naturally prefers the illusion of action to the pain that must accompany any real, surgical remedy. So it peddles placebos that have the ring of earnestness and effectiveness: “cuts,” “balanced approach,” and the like.
On examination, these words are seen for the nonsense that they are. In Washington a “cut” is not what your family does when it becomes over-extended — a spending slash, a commitment to live within one’s means. It is a nominal decrease in the rate at which government plans, despite our straits, to increase spending. So a “cut” lards debt on debt . . . just not quite as quickly.
And a “balanced approach”? It sounds so admirably Greek — as in the ancients, not the contemporary Athenians we sadly prefer to emulate. Balance, “moderation in all things,” is great . . . as long as you have a multifaceted problem. But what if your problem, very simply, is that you spend goo-gobs more money than you earn? That does not call for a “balanced” approach. If you think it does, try explaining to the waiter that you’ve decided to pay only half the check for the meal you just devoured because, after all, there should be more “balance.”
Like the sequester molesters, “Arab Spring” devotees have their own fantasy vocabulary. The whoppers are “freedom” and “democracy,” the ideals, we’re told, that have swept the Middle East, even as it sinks into repression, social unrest, and the persecution of religious minorities. Islam and the West use the same words, but we are not conveying the same concepts — just as a “cut” in your budget means something very different from a “cut” in Washington’s.
Freedom? “Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery,” explained al-Qushayri, a celebrated eleventh-century scholar of Islam…
Leading Middle Eastern cultural figures and academics have warned that the arts of the Arab spring are under threat because of increasing violence, censorship and lack of political vision.
The popular perception that the region is experiencing unprecedented freedom of expression is “simplistic and misleading”, with many artists “wary of the increasingly violent nature of the Arab spring”, according to a study for the British Council by the postwar reconstruction and development unit at York University. The report, Out in the Open: Artistic Practices and Social Change in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, found that the system of strict government censorship that has existed for decades is “largely still in place”.
While artists have become emboldened by the 2011 uprisings, many were struggling to deal with the new political landscape amid worrying signs of a wave of political and religious censorship, said lead researcher Professor Sultan Barakat.
In Egypt, which held the second round of its constitutional referendum yesterday, and Tunisia, the predominant fear was the rise of political Islam, ranging from new moderate Islamist governments, whose policies are unclear, to ultra-conservative Salafis, who have attacked cinemas and artists.
“I think we are at a brink point. The Muslim majority [in Egypt] could just react and suppress artistic expression even more than Hosni Mubarak,” Barakat said. The Egyptian playwright Ahmed el-Attar said: “I’m afraid the country is sliding towards fascism. So far culture has been kept on the side. The Muslim Brotherhood don’t yet have a cultural agenda. They’re talking about focusing on historical Islamic figures. I’m not sure that applies to the Salafis, who question the notion of art itself.”
Karim el-Shennawy, a film-maker who protested in Tahrir Square, said: “A lot of things have been stopped and censored. This can get worse. There’s a lot of voices attacking directors and actors, accusing them of filling the mind of the new generation with inappropriate issues and images. One actress was accused of doing prostitution on screen.”
The report said some established cultural figures have become marginalised because they were regarded as too close to the fallen dictatorships, such as the Egyptian comedy actor who was criticised for being slow to criticise Mubarak and after the fall of the regime faced a charge of insulting Islam in his films…
A masked gunman assassinated a Yemeni security official who worked for the U.S. Embassy in a drive-by shooting Thursday near his home in the capital, officials said, adding the assault bore the hallmarks of al-Qaidas Yemen branch.
The attack comes amid amid a sharp deterioration of security in Yemen and several other Muslim countries since the collapse of police states controlled by autocratic leaders during a wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring…
- Al-Qaida beheads 3 Yemeni security agents linked to U.S. drone strikes (sgt-jim.blogspot.com)
- Yemeni protesters storm U.S. embassy in Sanaa: witnesses (news.yahoo.com)
- Angry Muslims Target US Embassies (foxnews.com)
- Protesters storm U.S. Embassy in Yemen (washingtontimes.com)
- U.S. Embassy in Yemen Stormed as Gunfire Heard in Vicinity (bloomberg.com)
- Yemenis shun call to protest deployment of U.S. Marines (dailystar.com.lb)
The mainstream narrative has shifted decisively away from the old picture of cool-headed competence restoring order and promoting freedom and building peace
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
The repercussions from 9/11/12—the day the roof fell in on the Obama administration’s Middle East policy—continue to rumble across the diplomatic and political landscapes. Before that day, much of the country’s political and media establishment had been studiously ignoring signs of trouble in the Middle East or, when problems were too serious to ignore, studiously refraining from drawing conclusions about the overall state of US policy in the region.
The anti-American riots that have been rocking the Muslim world since 9/11 have shaken the establishment out of its complacency. Increasingly, even those who sympathize with the basic elements of the administration’s Middle East policy are connecting the dots. What they are seeing isn’t pretty. It’s not just that the US remains widely disliked and distrusted in the region. It’s not just that the radicals and the jihadis have demonstrated more political sophistication and a greater ability to organize and strike than expected and that the struggle against radical terror looks longer lasting and more dangerous than thought; it’s that the strategic underpinnings of the administration’s Middle East policy seem to be falling apart. A series of crises is sweeping through the region, and the US does not—at least not yet—seem to have a clue what to do.
The New York Times and the Washington Post are both thoroughly alarmed by the state of the region after 9/11/12 and the reporters if not the editorial pages have moved on from the “Blame Bush” approach. The latest article by Helene Cooper and Robert Worth in the Times cites some pretty biting criticism about the President’s approach to the Arab Spring from (unnamed) top aides and associates. It even quotes an Arab diplomat who sounds nostalgic for the good old days of W to illustrate a criticism of the President made by an (unnamed) State Department official who said, speaking of the President:
“He’s not good with personal relationships; that’s not what interests him … But in the Middle East, those relationships are essential. The lack of them deprives D.C. of the ability to influence leadership decisions.”
This supposed cold fish is the man, we should remember, who came into office hoping that his personal magnetism and sincerity would heal the breach between the United States and the Muslim world…
More >> via Via Meadia…