Did Russia shoot itself in the foot?

China is wisely refraining from taking Russia's side in the Georgia - South Ossetia - Russia conflict. Unlike Russia, China realizes that supporting a separatist faction on foreign soil would provide fodder for their own domestic separatist factions. If push comes to shove, China will be acting against Russia.

I wonder, does the Russian government know what it did to itself? If and when the next Chechnya shows up, Russia will have a real hard time justifying why other nations shouldn't intervene in favor of the separatists. They'll probably see how lackluster their justifications for suppressing the separatists will be, the same way the United States has been utterly unconvincing as it chastises Russia for invading a foreign nation.

China censoring iTunes

China is blocking access to the iTunes Store, apparently because of the sale of pro-Tibet songs. I wonder if my own blog is censored in China? Most probably not despite my great dislike for several of China's policies, but it would be cool if it were: it would be an honor to be considered politically important enough to censor.

I wonder if there is a public list of blogs that are blocked in China? They might be good ones to subscribe to ...

China confiscating Bibles

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, China has confiscated more than 300 Bibles from American Christians that arrived at Kunming Airport. While the title "China confiscates Bibles from American Christians" initially outraged me, thinking that the Chinese government had confiscated personal copies of the Bible (despite what some people might think of atheists, I'm a big believer in freedom of and from religion), it turns out that the Christians brought along a boatload of Bibles to use for proselytizing. This considerably weakens the sympathy I have for the Christians.

Still, I'm unhappy with the way China suppresses religion, where they do things like confiscating Bibles. (I'm not outraged, since it's the kind of thing I've come to expect from them.) While I would like to see more atheists among the populace, I want this to be because they reasoned it out and rejected extraordinary claims with little to no evidence. Incidentally, I'd also like to see more skeptics for the same reason. I absolutely abhor the use of force to coerce people to abandon beliefs; this would just be replacing one arbitrary authority with another arbitrary authority.

For that matter, I don't like all of the censorship that China enforces. People shouldn't have to continuously worry whether what they think or say will be suppressed by the state. They should be able to freely think wherever their thoughts take them. The fact that the Chinese government feels the need for an oppressive degree of censorship might be an indication of what they think of their own system of government.

Jealous murder

It's looking more like the knife attack on Americans in Beijing soon after the start of the Olympics has little to do with the victims being foreigners and everything to do with them being a happy family. It appears that Tang Yongming attacked them because he had severe family problems, and seeing a happy family with two parents and their daughter may have triggered a rage that made him attack. Or perhaps he was planning to attack any happy-looking family from the start: it would explain why he was carrying a knife. If this speculation is true, then the timing of the attack coming soon after the start of the Olympics may simply be a coincidence.

While the attack is still inexcusable and does not lessen the tragedy the family has suffered, it would at least indicate that there shouldn't be a repeat of the attack. The good news is that the condition of the wife is improving, so hopefully there will be only one murder victim, which is bad enough.

Murder in the Beijing Olympics

It has been less than a day since the Beijing Olympics has started, but there is already a murder of an American in the city. Was this just an attack by a deranged man? Or was it a politically motivated terrorist attack expressing anti-American sentiments? It might not be easy to figure out his motivations given that the murderer killed himself.