The Same 59 Words Everywhere

George Monbiot on the peak oil theory ;

It is true to say that oil reserves are not fixed. As technology improves or the price increases, oil that was formerly too expensive to extract becomes available. But the oil geologist Jean Laherrre points out that the survey’s estimate “implies a five-fold increase in discovery rate and reserve addition, for which no evidence is presented. Such an improvement in performance is in fact utterly implausible, given the great technological achievements of the industry over the past 20 years, the worldwide search, and the deliberate effort to find the largest remaining prospects.”

The current high oil prices are the result of a shortage of refineries – exacerbated by the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico – rather than a global shortage of crude. But behind that problem lurks another. Last week Chris Vernon of the organization PowerSwitch published figures showing that while total global oil production has risen since 2000, the production of light sweet crude – the kind that is easiest to refine into motor fuels – has fallen, by 2m barrels a day. This grade, he claims, has already peaked. The refinery crisis results partly from this constraint: there aren’t enough plants capable of processing the heavier grades.

Rebecca MacKinnon analyzes China’s censorship rules

The Chinese government has very good reason to be scared of flashmobs and I very much doubt they’ll succeed in preventing them in the future. Flashmobs could indeed bring the government down if they get big enough and out of control. But flashmobs can’t incubate a generation of leaders capable of democratic governance. On the other hand, mobs are very good at crowning new demagogues to replace the old ones. After all.. that’s how Mao came to power…

Roland of EastSouthWestNorth shows how the Chinese government frames a scholar. See also his post on how citizen journalism thrives on online bulletin boards:

he Chinese situation is turning out very differently, and the reason can be traced to a central fact: no true freedom of press. What appears as news in mainstream media is usually formulaic and subject to official censorship and unofficial self-censorship. The obituary of Zhao Ziyang was the same 59 words everywhere. Not one word could be added, deleted or modified. China is a vast country and it has 1.3 billion people. There may be tens of thousands of newspapers at various geographical levels (i.e. national, regional, provincial, municipal, city, county, town, district, village), but on the major national events, you will find only the Xinhua copy. If you read one newspaper, you’ve read them all. In that sense, China is closer to Hong Kong than the United States. How is a blogger going to lead you to different perspectives unless he/she does so himself/herself?

Within the Chinese mainstream media, there are quality workers with good ideas and opinions. However, they are often not permitted to articulate those ideas within the mainstream media. They can write something up, but it may be killed for reasons that are either opaque or seemingly wrong. They do not necessarily want to yell “Down with XXX” or “Vindicate YYY” because XXX will not fall down and YYY will not be vindicated on account of some more sloganeering. They only want to ask ‘simple’ questions such as, “Why are mining disaster victims and their families being kept away from the press?” or some such.

With the arrival of the Internet, bulletin board systems proliferated and these mainstream media workers gravitated to those forums (such as Yannan, Xici Hutong, Tianya Club, etc) in which they can express and exchange their ideas and opinions with like-minded people. Again, they are not advocating to topple the government, but they are just relating how they were kept away from the mining disaster victims or some such. As such, they don’t even have to ask any questions, because the answer will be all too obvious. All the while, they continue to work at mainstream media organizations, but their spare time is for them to use.

This weblog (which translates and comments upon Chinese journalism) offers penetrating analysis into the media problems inside China.