Woof

The BBG was a little-known outfit that operated until December 2016, running propaganda on the airwaves, and of course on the internet. The Broadcasting Board of Governors ran the Voice of America, together with Radio Free Europe, also known as Radio Liberty.

Those two were part of my early-teen shortwave extravaganzas, but the BBG also operated the OCB, or Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and the RFA—Radio Free Asia.

Although the still-active website prides itself in the adjectives true, objective, and unbiased, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The BBG no doubt represented the Western view of things, and in Fiscal Year 2016, the US government gave them 752 million dollars to do it with.

As the XIXth National Congress of the Communist Party of China gets underway, attentions turn to the People’s Republic. From a government perspective, these are generally unwelcome, since they focus on rights.

This image from the BBC seems to portay the sinuous nature of Chinese politics.

This image from the BBC seems to portay the sinuous nature of Chinese politics.

Both the RFA, and the more trustworthy BBC, have reported on petitioners, a name that seems to hark back to the Middle Ages, when supplicants would beg favor before the nobility or the monarch.

And beggars they are, simple men and women who wish to see some injustice redressed. A BBC team found out just how difficult that can be when they had their equipment smashed and were forced to sign a confession—it’s not exactly clear what they confessed to.

Rights are key to any successful society—perhaps at this stage I can introduce you to my two-thirds rule. Pundits write bestsellers about things like this, with titles like ‘Seven steps to wealth’, ‘The dummy’s guide to happiness’, and ‘Why wine is the new beer.’ The net’s full of crap in that vein, with sites enticing you to ‘Eight secrets of urinotherapy that will change your life.’ Always quantitative, so the punters think you know something they don’t.

But my rule is simplicity itself. If two-thirds of your job are okay, you probably won’t do better elsewhere. Or if two-thirds of your bucket list is getting done, smile. I would generalize my rule to society. If two-thirds of people are reasonably satisfied, then you probably live somewhere nice.

That doesn’t mean we should give up on improvements—live by the Chinese saying: always better, never best. But two-thirds will do in a pinch—it’s a kind of restless satisfaction.

Rights issues run across the board. In the East, cats and dogs should have the right not to get eaten. You could of course make that case around the world for all farmed animals, so my argument is somewhat hypocritical.

Nevertheless, if we accept that dogs and cats were domesticated for company rather than for food, by contrast with corn and chickens, then the idea of eighty thousand dogs being slaughtered every year at the Moran Market in Seongnam, South Korea is tough to deal with.

Caged dogs at Moran market. The animals are selected by the customer and then butchered. Common methods include beating, electrocution, and hanging.

Caged dogs at Moran market. The animals are selected by the customer and then butchered. Common methods include beating, electrocution, and hanging.

The Chinese are the world’s biggest consumers of dogs, and every year in Guangxi Province there is a festival themed around lychees and dog meat. Chinese legislation on animal epidemics, revised in 2013, forbids the sale of dog meat for human consumption, but nevertheless, an estimated ten million dogs are eaten every year.

At the Yulin festival, celebrated during the summer solstice, an estimated ten thousand hounds are consumed—as in Moran, animals are selected by customers and butchered. The fact that a large number of caged dogs still have collars suggests that June may be a good time to keep your pet indoors.

China is big on structural solutions, and rights fall by the wayside. One fascinating story is currently playing out in Xinjiang, a Chinese province that borders Central Asia. This is home to the Uighur Muslim minority—China’s policy in all its ‘difficult’ provinces is to import Han people and gradually outnumber the locals—Britain did the same in Northern Ireland.

Whether because of religious issues or migratory ones, or perhaps a combination, Xinjiang is an area of considerable violence. One man’s terrorist is the next man’s freedom fighter, but the official view was neatly summed up by a local resident.

Terrorists are little more than rats scurrying across the street and they must be punished.

Trump recently took up the gauntlet, and on January 26th told Sean Hannity of Fox News that ISIS fighters were “sneaky, dirty rats.”

In the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, the local government responded to the rat infestation by making it compulsory to install a GPS tracker in your car. This is enforced in an interesting way—if your vehicle doesn’t have one, you can’t buy gas.

The weapon of choice is the Beidou satnav, the Middle Kingdom’s answer to US navigation technology. Every vehicle will need one of these in place by June 30th—by which time you can allow your pet a brief daily period in the garden, although I recommend the latest in canine sartorial elegance: a Beidou satnav collar with woof detector.

And I mean every vehicle. New and used cars, trucks, bulldozers, and government vehicles. They walk among us, if you excuse the pun.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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