How is Huntsman's China experience a bad thing?

Have you seen this monstrosity?

This ad makes me angry.  It's not because I support Huntsman in any way, while to my mind he's a better candidate than the other Republican candidates, no one in that field interests me (and unfortunately, I only see Barak Obama as marginally better).  No, it's the fact that it takes a number of multicultural and international appeals of Huntsman: bilingualism, adopted children from China and India, a deep understanding of China -- and casts these qualities that I think would be great in a President, and presents them as bad or evil.

Know upfront that I won't scream at Ron Paul for this.  Though this is my first time seeing the actual ad, I had heard about the controversy and the story that it was a supporter of Paul's who created the ad, unknown to him, and that Paul disavowed him.  I have other reasons for being uninterested in Paul, but so far I have no information that would contradict those statements.

What I am angry about is that whoever created this ad apparently thinks that bilingualism and international experience are bad things to have in a president, and that same person would also exploit two little girls to prove his point.  In what world is that OK?  Really, in what world does that even make sense?

We live in a global economy, and in a world where interacting with people accross the globe is a necessity if we are to succeed.  I want the President of the United States to speak Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French ... as many major and widely used languages as possible.  I want a president with a wide range of international experience, who has studied abroad, worked abroad, and lived abroad.  All of this will facilitate communication and understanding when the president is negotiating with foreign governments.  Yes, I want him to be furthering American interests, but I want him to have cultural and practical knowledge that will help him in doing that.

There is no reason that someone's ability to speak a foreign language or their experience in a foreign country (barring them working for that country, which Huntsman wasn't -- he was a student and then the US Ambassador -- working for our country) should be seen as anything other than a positive in terms of one's qualifications to be President of the United States.  We need skills and experience like that in our top offices.  And if we universally rejected people with those qualities in the highest positions in the country, we would not have risen as the most powerful country in the world.

EDIT: It's a good thing that Huntsman knows how his Mandarin skills should be viewed: Judging from how he used them on the debate floor.  Pull out a chengyu next time, sir!

So let's ... um ... have a revolution?

Yesterday, the call went out on Twitter for China to have it's own "Jasmine Revolution" -- named for the movement that toppled the government of Tunisia and ignited the Middle East.  The problem?  Well, no one showed up to protest.

Well, a activists showed up.  And someone threw flowers in front of a McDonalds in Beijing.  But from the reports I have seen, the protestors were far outnumbered by police and journalists, as well as a few other onlookers.  And since all of the coordination (or lack thereof), apparantly there were very few Chinese who even knew what was going on.

Now, if I may give my opinion on this, it seems that this revolution was executed by someone who is really naïve about how these things work.  Yes, online social networking figured prominently in the revolution in Egypt (Tunisia I haven't read as much about) -- at least until the Internet was shut down.  But there were a lot of other economic and political forces at play.  High food prices and unemployment, as well as good organization among the protesters, led to the protests and their successes.

China has economic problems, but for the most part it is doing well.  And as for the organizing, the fact that the "revolution" was started on services that are typically blocked in China didn't help.  Granted, domestic sites are heavily censored, but they are also where the people are.  Ultimately, I think text-massages, combined with some face-to-face organizing, would be more effective.

In any case, it takes a lot to start a revolution.  In my opinion, the conditions in China are not quite right.

Some good articles on the subject:

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703498804576156203874160350.html

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/asia/21china.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1298232033-KI/D+pHHs+QI0lsfyWl5lQ

China Geeks: http://chinageeks.org/2011/02/the-revolution-that-wasnt/

Al Jazeera Blogs: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/asia/2011/02/20/call-me-if-theres-revolution

Financial Times: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/02/21/china%E2%80%99s-jasmine-revolution/

Signs in Chinese

So, Egypt is in everyone's news today, but I came accross a particularly curious story today that tickles a couple of my fancies.  Victor Mair posted on Language Log today a couple photos of protestors holding signs that feature Chinese.  Here are the signs:

I won't bore people with translations and analysis of errors when Mr. Mair has already done that job, but I do find the use of Chinese interesting here.  The theme seems to be "Hosni Mubarak doesn't seem to understand Arabic", as a proxy for the sentiment that he doesn't understand the Egyptian people.  I've heard of similar uses of English in the protests, so I'm guessing these protesters decided to add the second most widely spoken language to cover more bases.  What's next?  Spanish? Hindi?  Or maybe something more obscure.  In any case, the Egyptian people are making it very clear that they want President Mubarak to leave.

Coffee Party

Yesterday, I took part in the Coffee Party's national event.  Our event was small, mostly just my own family (it was all arranged by my brother, Burr Corley)  but it was a pretty good discussion.  Everyone there seemed to feel that health care and the economy were the biggest issues we need to tackle in this country.  I feel the same way, and I also feel that in the current political climate, the Coffee Party seems to be exactly the right response -- a pragmatic group that wishes to work with our government, however imperfect, to find real solutions.

"Fantasy role-playing" not ok in prison?

I have been feeling an urge to talk about this story for the past couple days.  Just like other people I've seen comment, I'll make it clear I can't have much sympathy that got into jail by smashing someone's head in with a sledgehammer (it's just not a very nice thing to do, is all!), and I can understand that convicted criminals have in a way ceded some of their rights, but I do think there are some things that can be discussed here.

The reasons given for taking away the materials are that Dungeons & Dragons "promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling."  I'm going to work through those backwards:

  • Gambling:  I'm not sure where this even comes from.  I've never heard of someone betting on a role-playing game.  I kind of wonder whether someone saw that it uses dice and assumed gambling was involved.

  • Addictive escape behaviors:  I can see this.  Just about anything can be addictive, and games have been in a spotlight.  I don't know how much that applies to D&D, though: as far as I understand most addictions don't absolutely require a social group (even a sex addict can pursue his craving by himself).  It is, however, almost definitely a from of escape, and if I were in prison I think I'd like something escapist to do.

  • Violence:  There is violence associated with the game.  There is a reason why the most fleshed-out rule system in D&D and other role-playing systems is the combat system.  But I don't know that it inspires violence any more than any other media.  Perhaps someone could think it dangerous to have in a prison, where there will be people who are predisposed to violent behavior.  I don't know enough psychology to pretend to know about that.

  • Competitive hostility:  Ah, possibly.  This one depends entirely on the type of game.  AFAIK, most D&D campaigns involve the group working together toward a common goal or against a common (non-player) enemy.  There is such a thing as competitive play, and even in a standard game there is sometimes an adversarial relationship between the game master and the players, but that's not an essential part of the game itself.

  • Fantasy role playing:  This is the one that I don't understand at all (and neither did the guys on Fear the Boot).  Yes, D&D promotes fantasy role playing, that's what it's for!  It's a fantasy role-playing system.  But why is fantasy role-playing (or just role-playing) a bad thing for the prisoners?  Why, exactly, would occasionally pretending to be a wizard that can throw fireballs have a bad influence on anyone, let alone someone who has actually killed people.  Do people really still have that prejudice that D&D is "satanic" or somesuch?


There is one other thing I want to discuss.  According to the article, among the materials confiscated by the guards was a 96-page custom campaign.  That's a pretty big work.  Art and writing can be used as forms of therapy, creating a D&D campaign can essentially be considered a kind of writing.  Would it be the same if what was taken away was the manuscript for a 96-page novella?  Note, I'm making no judgement about content or value of the work, I haven't seen it or played it.  But, is it normal for prisoner's artwork or writing to be confiscated?  If so, why?  If not, would that fall under "cruel and unusual punishment"?  I do wonder about that.

/end rant

On another note entirely:

If there are any gamers reading this who are charity-minded, I also happened upon this on Drive-Thru RPG.  Basically, if you donate $20, they will give you almost $1500 in RPG PDFs.  Mostly supplements and lesser-known systems, but that's (hopefully) not why you're giving the money (well, not the only reason) -- it goes as a matched donation to Doctors without Borders to be used in Haiti.