Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

They feed me well here. They put my meals in the conference room. Generally pretty good stuff, except for my chronic problem with breakfast. For some reason, cold pickled vegetables just don't set well with my stomach in the morning. They put out several little plates of these vegetables, usually an egg or two, and some rice porridge. And there is always a little plate of salted peanuts. But I think they noticed that I haven't been eating the pickled stuff much. This morning, I came down and found one little plate of pickled vegetables, eggs, a small bowl of rice porridge, and a mountain of salted peanuts. They're catching on.

In other news, Yahoo is in trouble. Lot's of people are mad at Yahoo because they supplied information that allowed the Chinese government to trace an email to the person who wrote it. Journalist Shi Tao was given a ten year prison sentence. According to the prosecution, the document he leaked was classified, and contained a warning about the possibility of problems in connection with the coming anniversary of the Tiananmen...shall we say "incident?"

There are several issues here. First of all, leaking the secret document was a federal offense. Anyone who divulges classified information should expect to have trouble. The Journalist admitted leaking the document, but insisted in court that he did not know the document was classified. The second issue, one raised by many in the West, is the fact that Beijing's "state secret" classification is so broad that it tends to sweep in stuff for which any kind of "secret" classification would seem absurd in more open societies. A recent editorial in the China Daily addresses this issue. The editorial concerns the declassification of the death toll from natural disasters. Of note is this observation: "it is a move that shows the country's growing confidence and maturity, a sign of progress." The statement appears to me to be a subtle hint that perhaps the government should consider further declassification as a step toward even greater maturity and progress. At any rate, the current system makes completely innocuous information a "state secret" and, I believe, causes the world community to view China with a measure of ridicule. The final issue is that Yahoo has used it's access to private user information to help the Chinese government lock up a journalist who, in the minds of most western journalists, was not doing anything wrong.

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