Feb 27, 2008

Planet of Bands, Pt. 1 - Sdnmt

I had just written a wonderful homage to post rock band Seidenmatt from Berlin, but damned Firefox broke down and left me with a handful of nothing.

So I am only going to upload this video beforehand, the rest is to follow soon if that's the Gods will.
This is an awesome video, by the way. One of my favourites. Enjoy!

This is normality... Oh boy!

Who is going to be the next NBA Champion?

Now that I've just brought my little sister to bed, we're talking hoops:

With all that trade jazz going on in the NBA just before Trade deadline last week, there are a couple of winners and the same number of losers of all that trading madness.

Winner amongst winners clearly are the Lakers whose acquisition of Pau Gasol in exchange for an overpaid eternal talent and trade bait has made them one of the top contenders for a title.

I would rate Cleveland coming in for second place. If they get their team chemistry right, they worth a bet for the Eastern Conf Finals. They added veterans and a veritable sharpshooter to their roster, making them much better than they were before. Only, they fell short of acquiring a quality point guard. However, LeBron should be used to taking care of that.

The Bulls cleared salary cap space and playing time for their youngsters, and prepared for some bigger trade action in the summer. Which was the right thing for them, going nowhere with there negative record. If they're lucky, they can still make it to the playoffs this season.

The Spurs did the right move to counter the Suns' monster trade for Shaq. This will put the Spurs in a comfortable situation for the playoffs, while the Suns traded their quickness on the floor for just that: a possible playoffs series against the Spurs. For being able to beat the Spurs, they needed to add height in the lowpost. Actually , those two teams would make for quite an entertaining playoff series. But anything else, I think the Suns paid a price much too high. However, personally I wasn't convinced they'd make it this year either.

The Mavericks brought Jason Kidd back home in exchange for a fast guard that was not really the point guard Kidd is. They will miss Devin Harris' speed, though. Everything else than a title this season would make this trade look like a bad one for the Mavericks. New Jersey did what it was supposed to do.

Another great deal was done by the Hawks who acquired PG Mike Bibby for some little-used bench players and veterans. Should get them into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Sonics, Heat, Nets, Grizzlies, Kings just did about the same thing: cut salaries and veterans to rebuild for the future.
The Hornets did a nice move, adding Bonzi Wells and Mike James for point guard Bobby Jackson. That certainly gives them considerable depth on the bench. Still, I perceive them as being overrated on the moment.
There were other minor moves, but you can read about all that in detail anywhere else.

So let's get to the interesting part: gaming.

This is the current standing in the East:
    1. Boston record: 43-12
    2. Detroit 42-15
    3. Orlando 37-22
    4. Toronto 31-24
    5. Cleveland 32-25
    6. Washington 27-30
    7. New Jersey 25-32
    8. Philadelphia 25-32
    9. Atlanta 22-32
    10. Chicago 22-34
    11. Milwaukee 22-35
    12. Indiana 22-35
the rest doesn't really stand a chance in the playoff race.

And here for the West:
  1. Lakers 40-17
  2. Spurs 38-17
  3. Phoenix 39-18
  4. New Orleans 37-18
  5. Dallas 38-19
  6. Houston 37-20
  7. Utah 36-21
  8. Golden State 34-22
  9. Denver 33-23
  10. Portland 29-28
Again, for the rest the playoff spots out of reach.

Now here is my guess for the end of the season.
First, the East.
  1. Detroit something like 62-20
  2. Boston ~ 60-22
  3. Orlando 52-30
  4. Cleveland 51-31, close but they don't get Orlando
  5. Toronto 49-33
  6. Washington 42-40, when Butler and Agent Zero return, you'll have to watch out!
  7. Atlanta 38-44
  8. New Jersey 36-46
close for the Bulls (35-47) and Philly (35-47).

And the West. Really interesting, since it is so close. But the Lakers did the right move to combat for championship, the Spurs and Suns invested for the playoffs.
  1. Lakers 60-22
  2. Spurs 58-24
  3. Dallas 57-25
  4. Phoenix 57-25
  5. Utah 54-28 who will have a good finish.
  6. New Orleans 53-29, currently overrated, too inconsistent.
  7. Golden State 52-30
  8. Denver 50-32
Houston falls out of the spots because of Yao Ming's severe injury, finishing only ninth (49-33), Portland already can't keep up the pace.

This would make for interesting playoffs, in the East

Detroit - New Jersey
Boston - Atlanta
Orlando - Washington
Cleveland - Toronto

Now guess who would be the surprise team... The combined star power of Jamison, Butler, and Arenas will be just too much for Orlando and Dwight Howard. On the other hand, if Orlando is in good shape, they can make it to the finals. Anyway, in the end Detroit will win the Eastern conference finals (against Boston, my guess).

Lakers - Denver
Spurs - Golden State
Dallas - New Orleans
Phoenix - Utah

There will sure be an early upset. The Lakers and Phoenix are safe bets, however. The Spurs might be just to old and lame if the Warriors cath fire. They then would face the Mavericks and could further enhance the Mavs' Golden State trauma... If the Spurs are going to face Dallas, though, this would perhaps decide over the championship. It will either be the defending champs (San Antonio) or the Mavs gone wild.
Phoenix just did the wrong moves for the series against the Lakers, making them perhaps the unluckiest team of the era. Either way, it's going to be the Lakers or the Mavs (or the Spurs are not dead yet?).

The Finals:

The champion is going to be from the West, unless it's the Lakers contending. In this case everything can happen.

I myself actually don't believe it to happen this way. Then again, no one ever knows, and I might as well be right. If you have an opinion, post it.

Feb 23, 2008

Reading around

Here are some articles I read in the last couple of days, and I wanted to share those with you, my greatly valued and much admired audience :)

Again and again, Michael Turton provides great insights into Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections as well as entertaining reads in between.

Religionswissenschaft.info illuminates what there is to the evangelical movement of Lausanne (in German).

Some profound knowledge about the status quo of the climate debate offers Die Zeit in a topic special (German). The Worldwatch Institute goes further into detail.


Feb 21, 2008

Why the UN and Taiwan Ought to Be Friends (Part 1)


Due to parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2008 as well as two referenda over an application to enter the United Nations under the name “Taiwan” (which are harshly opposed to by the government of the People’s Republic of China), even the German media have their focus on the beautiful island south-east of the Chinese mainland. On March 21 a new President will be elected and the Taiwanese will decide about the two referenda (one by each of the major parties).

(I have posted this article before in German language entitled "Warum Taiwan und die Vereinten Nationen Freunde werden sollten")

UN for Taiwan!

On January 23rd, internationally reputed scholar Dr. Bruce Jacobs in an open letter called up on presidential candidates Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh to bundle forces and unitedly strive for UN-membership, that is, supporting one another’s referendum and call upon the populace to vote for both of them.

I recommend reading the letter (in Chinese) very much, as well as the comments made on Michael Turton’s post.

Jacobs is Director of the Taiwan Research Unit and professor for Asian studies at Monash University, Australia, and one of the world’s leading scholars on China-Taiwan relations. Personally, I admire his commitment in repeatedly speaking up for Taiwanese independence, and supplying theoretical and empirical facts to cement its importance. Regarding China scholars, this is nothing usual, since most academics try to maintain neutrality in political issues. However, being granted the benefits of insight and knowledge through thoroughly studying a given subject, in my eyes goes along with a certain responsibility to enlighten the public/ interested individuals about this very matter, to ones best knowing, ability, and fairness. I don’t agree with opportunistic relativisms, nor do I think that there is something coming close to absolute neutrality. We all carry a duty as public actors and agents of our own very conscience.

Of course, we need to get our facts straight in the first place.

It is matter of fact that Taiwan is a functioning, self-governing democracy which to date upholds official diplomatic relations with c. 30 nations around the world, being the sole representative of China there under the name “Republic of China” as according to the internationally accepted “One-China-Policy”.

Taiwan history in a short frame

In historical regard, Chinese control of the island is but a joke – a mere second in time. Jacobs goes as far as claiming that China ruled Taiwan under only 4 years: from 1945 to 1949, when it became part of the then Kuomintang-controlled Republic on the mainland. – Even if we were to add the years of Qing-rule, this would make some 200 years of Chinese rule. Jacobs, however, does rule out the Qing as being a Manchu, i.e. foreign, non-Chinese, dynasty. While this is a provocative way of putting it, one fact clearly stands out:

The People’s Republic has never ruled Taiwan, not for one single day, but is still making claims as the only possible representative of one unified China.

The first Chinese settlers, mostly Hoklo from Fujian and secondly Hakka from Guangdong, do not account for being ethnically being Han-Chinese, either. Until today, the differences between “Taiwanese” Hoklo and “Chinese” Han on the island of Taiwan are subject to conflicts and represent different stands regarding a distinct Taiwanese identity (as distinct from the Chinese mainland). These differences are visible also in China, although the government attempts to blur cultural distinctinveness in trying to form a homogenised country and strengthen their control and legitimize their rule.

While the first settlers arrived in Taiwan during the 16th century, one can speak of a Chinese “influence” of the island only beginning in the 17th century (in the early years of the Dutch occupation [1624-1662] there were merely 1000 – 1500 Chinese settlers on the whole island!). Ming-loyalist and Taiwanese national hero Zheng Cheng-gong (better known as Koxinga) retreated to Formosa in 1661, opening up the island to a mentionable degree for the first time.

In 1683, the Qing finally defeated Zheng and annexed it into Fujian province.

Not at all is it my intention to leave the Taiwanese aborigines out of Taiwanese history. They have been neglected and persecuted by all colonists, no matter if European or Chinese, until only recently (since 1994 they are mentioned in the constitution of the Republic of China, after the constitutional reform in 2000 they are referred to as “原住民“ and granted the rights of nationalities), most of these reforms made during the terms of the DPP-presidency. The aborigines now are granted autonomous regions (“their” lands if that “their” were not for the whole of Taiwan). Altogether, they consist of 13 officially recognised tribes, ten more still awaiting recognition. (This section followes the ethnographer Ingo Nentwig who also edited the German wikipedia entrance.)

It was only in the last 20 years of Qing rule that the government tried to incorporate Taiwan into the nation body systematically, climaxing in 1885 when it became declared a province, which indeed was primarily due to political and military concerns (Western and Japanese colonising interests).

In 1895, the Sino-Japanese war ended with the contract of Shimonoseki, making Taiwan and the Pescadores Japanese colony and putting an end to national and political integration of the complex Taiwanese society into the Chinese empire.

Despite being repressive and abusive, the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan (1895-1945) is often viewed as having positive effects on Taiwan itself. The Japanese developed Taiwan industrially and invested in infrastructure and education (thus providing the basis for the Taiwanese post-World War economic development). Equally important, contact with Japanese nationalism left its impression on the locals; during the 1920s a variety of organisations, newspapers, and intellectuals engaged in deepening Taiwanese cultural consciousness. This point in history may well be regarded as the starting point of Taiwanese identity seriously becoming distinct intellectually.

(For most of the information above I am referring to Gunter Schubert)

The Cultural Significance

Any remodelling of the formation of a Taiwanese identity cannot leave out the “28 February 1947 incident” (二二八事件) (China was then still united under Republican rule). Corruption in the provincial government, unemployment, and supply shortcomings led to tensions between mainland-Chinese and the oppressed Taiwanese, and culminated on February 28, 1947 when protests spread from Taipei over the rest of the island. Taiwanese elites formed local comitees, but were defeated by Republican troops from the mainland in March. Following were persecution, looting, and torture which cost approximately 10 to 20000 people’s lives, leaving a severe gap between Taiwanese and 外生人, mainland Chinese.

The incident today is seen as a symbol for the origin of the Taiwanese independence movement.

The Japanese influence has been enormous, as you can still see today. Some of the oldest Taiwanese still alive rather know how to communicate in Japanese than in Mandarin.

Mother tongue with more than 60% of the population is 台語, a form of 閩南 (Minnan) which is also spoken in Fujian on the mainland. One in five speaks Mandarin as their mother tongue, and around 8% account for as Hakka. Fluency in Taiwanese is decreasing, though, in part due to KMT (國民黨) policies during the time of martial law which ended as recently as in 1987. Until then were native Taiwanese excluded from political participation at the national level since parliamentary elections were postponed until China would be united under the Republic (and MP mandates upheld until just then).

At the same time, the government pursued a strict policy of “sinisation”. Political power remained in the hands of the old elite that had retreated to Taiwan in 1949 under Chiang Kai-shek (bearing similarities with the retreat of Ming-loyalist Koxinga), the great majority of them born in China. The use of Taiwanese in schools and even at home was strictly prohibited and persecuted – the 50s and 60s are thus still labelled as the period of “white terror”.

As the propagated recovering of the mainland proved ever unlikelier with time progressing and the regime in Beijing gaining in power and legitimacy, acculturation of the island of Taiwan to KMT- and Sino-standards became a more immediate focus.

Political Development

However, political participation was possible at the local and provincial levels (according to Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People) since the 1950s, offering opportunities also for regime-critical politicians. What is further, politicians were obliged to cooperate with the local factions to keep the political system functioning.

A particularly precarious situation Taiwan faced in the 1970s; 1971 the Republic had to hand its UN seat over to the People’s Republic of China, meanwhile the United States normalised their bilateral relations with China and cut official diplomatic ties with the Republic.

The KMT-leadership responded with domestic reforms initiated by Chiang Kai-shek’s son Jiang Jingguo, fighting corruption among the elites and enhancing the “Taiwaneseness” of the party. Lee Teng-hui finally became the first Taiwan-born president of the Republic in 1988.

These reforms also encouraged the organisation of regime critics as “outside of the party” 黨外 who demonstrated for further political reforms and Taiwanese independence. International pressure urged KMT hardliners to give in and engage in negotiations with the opposition that in turn formed a political party (Democratic Progressive Party民進黨 ) in 1986.

Together with the end of martial law in July 1987, this marks the democratisation of Taiwanese politics. The KMT now spear-headed the reform movement, thus staying in power.

The first direct presidential elections were held in March 1996, and won by Lee Teng-hui with 54% of the popular vote. Under Lee, the KMT fractioned in a moderate pro-Taiwan independence stand and one subscribing to the reunification dogma. This dispute was never fully settled and exercises its impact still today, making the KMT’s opinion towards the Taiwan issue a rather blurry one.

The DPP stand, on the other hand, is pretty clear (although the party itself is not less fractioned than the KMT): it strives for full independence and application at the UN under the name of Taiwan. President Chen Shui-bien has therefore repeatedly promised public referenda at the end of each of his legislatures, the first of which did not pass, the second being held in March this year.

Today, the independence issue is highly controversial and ideologically burdened. It is being politically instrumentalised and discredited by other political affairs like the corruption affair centered at Chen Shui-bien’s family.

It is my fear that none of the referenda in March will pass, because the front lines between KMT and DPP and their supporters, respectively, have hardened so much. Many of the Taiwanese won’t support the DPP referendum because of President Chen’s corruption scandal and his populist methods. Still a lot are afraid China might start a military attack over a successful vote, despite this being more than unlikely.

However, the Taiwanese speaking up for themselves is crucial to the continued existence of their democracy because no one else will, I am afraid.

More about this in the next post.

Feb 20, 2008

30 Seconds to Mars and what this has to do with Climate Change

You may think of the band 30 Seconds to Mars what you will (and I do!), you might like them or not, but I think we can agree about one fact:

They are using their popularity (that to some extent is the popularity lead singer and actor Jared Leto) in a substantial and meaningful way, comparable to, say, Al Gore using his popularity for popularising an urgent change in attitudes towards climate change.
You wish all musicians were this engaged and willing to take on responsibility to make use of the direct channel which connects them especially with the young kids of today, giving them a role model in looking beyond their complacent little life led in sometimes obscene not-to-be-taken -for-granted wealth and boredom.

I thought it would be time for something new and exciting I thought it would be time for something new and interesting on this blog. And since my most beloved hobby is listening to music, I thought this new feature to be a regular update on bands that I view as being underrepresented and worth introducing to you, my dear readers...

a matter of personal significance

林瓊文與王藝智, 我會想你們的。
我祝你們一路順風, have a nice and safe trip home! You will always be welcome back here!
I hope you keep us in good memory and will look back to the time you spent in Leipzig with a smile!

Thank you for the great time with you, I will miss you!
May you be blessed by all the gods and good spirits!

All the best, Jacob

Talking Taiwan politics

Talking Taiwan Independence is a serious and important matter.

However, while most westerners and expatriats concerned with the island's future have a clear opinion on this issue, the majority of Taiwanese themselves have not, as "Black American Lawyer in China" M. Dujon Johnson notes.
It is my observation that Taiwan is both an sovereign nation AND it is not a sovereign nation. No I'm not hedging my bets and I'm not trying to have it both ways. A essential element in the conversation of independence is popular sovereignty, i.e., the people's will. On this it can be no doubt that the Taiwanese population is clearly divided among geographical lines in Taiwan. What is also important is that Taiwan, throughout its history from Chiang Kai-shek to Chen Shui-bien, has never declared independence (although the reasons why should be well-known to students of Asian history).[sic]

So what happens when a nation (?) says it wants to be part of the world community and treated as an equal...but it refuses to take the necessary steps to do so? And even if it did take political steps, would this be enough to acquire such a status internationally?

[emphasis by me]

He has a point there.
I have spoken with some young Taiwanese in and outside of Taiwan, and quite a number of them is not clear as to whether
  • what a possible Chinese occupation would mean to their rights and freedom as a vital democracy.
  • How immediate the possibility of a cross-Strait war really is. Again, Johnson argues convincingly that the Western Eye tends to overrate Chinese military potential:
    Don't believe the hype, Mainland China at this point in her history is not even close to having the fighting capability to take on the U.S. The question of Taiwan's defense is more a question of American political will.
    Due to its impressive economic development the country is already being viewed the factual world's next superpower - which is not yet is, and perhaps never will be as there will be no single superpower to arise, but a number of comparatively equally powerful regions on the planet. - Thus, many Taiwanese host an imminent fear of Beijing attacking Taiwan in the case of it declaring independence, although it is highly unlikely to happen.
  • Their identity as being Taiwanese or Chinese, or Taiwanese and Chinese (in the meaning of culturally being Chinese, not necessarily ethnically). Some of the possibility of forming a all-encompassing Taiwanese identity has been destroyed by the bad reputation of politicians abusing it for mere self-centered reasons and an unyielding thirst for power. The good in their messages gets completely contamined with their personal habits, corruption, and further short-comings. Sadly, this will keep a lot of disillusioned young voters from going with the referendum for application to the UN in March.
I have had discussions with some people about whether or not voting for the referendum in March. What I got from that is many of them hope for a much better and ideologically un-biased UN-application - a perfect situation, in other words.
However, that situation won't come so soon. Taiwanese democracy has some problems to face. Corruption of the elites and a depressing lack of choice (which really is a choice between two - in parts - almost equally despised political parties) only being two of those.

Reforms in the democratic processes?

David Reid (aka David on Formosa), writing about "Building a better democracy", suggested adjusting the threshold to 3% for parties to enter the Legislative Yuan, since The New Party and Taiwan SOlidarity Union had more than 3% each but failed to reach 5% and thus will not be represented in the new legislative.
I strongly agree with that.
He quoted an interesting article published in the Taipei Times about adopting the Dutch electoral system:

On voting day, the voters generally mark the box of the person who heads the list and the seats are allocated on the basis of the total percentage of the vote the party receives.

In that way, there is no discrepancy between the percentage of the vote and seats allocated to any particular party.

The "twist" is that voters have an alternative to giving what is essentially a "party vote" to the person who heads a particular party's list.

Voters may instead choose to make a "preference vote" by specifically naming a candidate lower on the party list, and if that candidate receives more preference votes than the total number of valid party votes divided by the total number of seats for that party, he or she is elected.

To me, this sounds like a good alternative.

In Germany, legislative elections are held in a different manner. Every person are granted two votes, one for the local candidate of their preference, and the other one for the party they wish to elect on a nation-wide basis. In that way, it is possible to support a local candidate while given the second vote to a party that perhaps has a greater chance of entering parliament.

However, personage on each of the parties list are not listed according to popular vote but by party decision, unlike than the processions in the Netherlands. There is a 5%-threshold to parties entering parliament, but Germany has a developed 5-party-system (in which in the most recent elections in 2005, all of these five parties had at least 8% of the popular vote). Minor parties are seldom reaching as much as 1 or 2% each at the nation level.

Taiwan, however, is dominated by two great parties (one of whom has a threatening two thirds majority since January), and in my eyes there is the need for a greater variety in the party system. One way would be lowering the threshold to 3%, another would be strengthening the power and opportunities of the smaller parties. This, however, is a question of attitude (in Germany, even the two great parties acknowledge the importance of smaller parties for a vital, prospering, and balanced democracy) and would require support by the Guomindang, making it a goal hard to reach, I fear.

Back to Independence

Many have stated it and I cannot stress enough how important the Taiwanese democracy is in the modern world. Not only does it offer an alternative to one-party rule on the mainland (while also posting an equally formidable economic development, taking some of the prospering economy's legitimizing potential from the People's Republic's system).

Moreover, does it offer a pattern to self-attained democratisation for the Confucian world and beyond. Taiwan is already a global player with official political ties especially to Africa and South America, where it can serve as a good example and motivator for democratic development, setting it apart from the morally questionable, proft-oriented methods of the People's Republic there.

Again, a lot being termed "potentially", I am aware that Taiwan is far from being a perfect democracy, on the other hand this potential offers great opportunities for making Taiwan an internationally distinguished political actor, thus really exercising great pressure on China for democratic reforms and making ever-lasting ignorance of Taiwan's democracy on the international level by the democratic West (especially the European Union) harder to uphold.

I can only urge Taiwanese not to give in, nor to succumb to China's military threat, but to make some noise standing up for their UN-insured-to-be rights to freedom and political self-responsibility!

As Johnson puts it,

So in the absence of U.S. and Mainland Chinese external pressures, does the question of Taiwanese sovereignty rest upon the Taiwanese people themselves? Maybe before China scholars like myself ask the question if Taiwan is an independent country the Taiwanese people and government should ask themselves the question first.

Honestly, I am very optimistic about the future and the chances it holds. I am very much looking forward to coming back to Taiwan again, and this time with the background of deeper knowledge, being able to make a difference and assist the great Taiwanese people with what I am able to do. Formosa is a beautiful place, and we should preserve it like this.

Good night, and good luck.

Feb 3, 2008

News from Africa and me

The world as we know it will soon be an image of the past...

Moritz, fellow student of Sinology and Philosophy, and me are having acute plans on collaborating for the sake of a better world.
Lucas came up with the idea of naming our baby "Jay & Silent Mo", and, whether you believe it or not, I tend to like it.
Anyway, we have much to tell...


As for Africa... What the hell is happening in Kenya?!

What is happening bears alarming similarities to the situation in Rwanda, when it all started off. Thank God, nothing in the like of Rwandan genocide was prepared before the elections in Kenya held in the end of December.
Afterwards, obviously dummying everyone with some understanding of democratic procedures, Kibaki claimed to have won the presidency by popular vote. That his rival Odinga didn´t succumb to that dumb maneuver is only understandable. But how and why turned in the aftermath the elections out to be drawn along ethic lines?
Why are now Kikuyu (Kibaki's ethnic tribe) killing Luo (Odinga's people) and Kalenjin (which have territorial feuds with the Kikuyu), why do Luo and Kalenjin slaughter Kikuyu?
Where are the reactions from Kenyan politicians, from the African Union, UN, US, and EU? Why does it take so long?

No one seems to be prepared for a war in a country that was a stabilisator in the region. However, what happens if a formerly stable country experiences disorder and civil war, can be easily seen in Darfur, Sudan. As long as that conflict is not peacefully resolved (by making Darfur a new nation state), disorder will spread in the entire region.
These last days, one hears alarming news from the Chad, where rebells are marching towards the capitol.
Uganda has a most brutal rebel movement in the north of the nation that simply won't disappear, making it impossible for the government to control the country's north. In East-Congo, an agreement was reached, but no one can tell for sure when and how efficient disarmement will start. So long, none of the local leaders is giving in. There are plenty of ressources to plunder.

Once there is peace, another huge question is waiting. These societies must try to integrate Thousands of former rebels, bush fighters, war children, rapers and killers. How can we forgive? How can we start over, when you have gone through atrocities like these?
It is women and children who suffer most from civil war.
HIV infection rates in Kenya are rising with all the more rapings that came along with the outbreak of violence.

How can we sit still and watch?
What can we do?
A newspaper in Kenya suggested fractioning the country. My thoughts here come back to an earlier post in which I wondered whether dissolving the current system of nation states was a possibility. Politics in Africa had to be begun anew from the start. Ceasing exterior interest in its ressources were a crucial pre-condition to this.

Where can you go for more information?

Andrea Böhm
is blogging from Kenya for "Die Zeit" in German.

The Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala has some information about the situation.
Aside from these, you will surely find more information than you can possibly digest, once you start looking around.

A few students from Germany started a German school in Uganda. You can read about their attempt to give something back here and here in "Die Zeit".

How Should We Then Live, James? Jacob on the future of Journalism

Die Zukunft des Journalismus...

Werden gedruckte Zeitungen langsam verschwinden, und mit ihnen der sogenannte Qualitätsjournalismus? Werden sie von den Blogger-Heeren des Web 2.0 aufgesaugt oder vertrieben? Will im Jahr 2040 niemand mehr Zeitung auf Papier lesen?

What will the future of Journalism look like?
Will there be no more quality printed newspapers?

- I find it hard to imagine that bloggers (like me, perhaps?) are going to be the only future of journalist writing. Point #1.
As for myself, I no doubt cherish a quality article.
Even today, journalists for the most part are adapting to a new sort of media. It offers them a great chance, to say the least. For journalists who publish their blogs, podcasts, or videos on the internet can gain some individual profile and imprint their names into their readers memory.
That's what I am convinced of.
Take me for an example: I am trying to make use of my bit of spear time and read a variety of articles in different newspapers, blogs, and the like. Once you find something that is more than just worth your time, you can usually tag it with a RSS feed and transfer it to your favourite reader. There, you will receive all future posts on that XML-page (so it depends on whether you subscribe to "news" from a big site, e.g. New York Times, which would make some hundred articles per day, or you subscribe to a bloggers page, who normally wouldn't bother you with more than one or two articles a day.

I don't really see the problem posted in the article in "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
As I said before, I prefer quality articles to mere sentimental blog posts. However,

1.) there is a good number of professional journalists already writing blogs, and

2.) many of the non-professional bloggers are writing about specific topics that sometimes the media are not covering in any sufficient way, or - they are biased in their writing.

Some examples:

I am looking for information about democracy in China, human rights and so on, you know.
I would not go looking for it in the German media. Rather, I would go to open democracy or some other online forum, where there are intellectuals writing about things they know about. Take Li Datong and Lung Ying-tai for an example. Li is one of the most famed Chinese critical journalists, and he got to online blogging only because he was forced to, since he wasn't allowed the same critical attitude when writing for a newspaper in China.
But he has insight, and he is a professional.
If I were to look for information on the situation in Taiwan, I'd turn to blogging expatriats on the island. They might not be professionals, but they write what they care about, plus they more often than not have studied it. If one were only following the news home, one would gain very biased information on the topic, since most journalists are writing from Peking or care about Taiwan little if at all. From my own experience, German media unquestioningly broadcast Peking standpoints, Taiwan being renegade province, or KMT-points, and obviously part of it is not based on data. You can read more about it here.

"Quality" mass media is not always right, especially when they talk about happenings far from home.
Blogging, however, is a very basis-democratic form of organisation, where like-minded people are given a good opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. Thus, we can more easily build interest movements and exchange information. It is part of a development that Dan Tapscott calls "wikinomics", open sharing and developing through internetworks.
There is a point in just how verified the information is. On the internet, nothing can be taken for granted. However, it must be possible, to come as close to a verification as it can get. Surely, this will be so when most of the "hidden" information (that you cannot reach freely on the internet as of yet) is revealed and open to access for everyone. Then it depends on people and their willingness to blindly accept or spend more time looking for data.

I appreciate most intellectual newspapers publish their content online. Most of my information I still obtain from the websites of my favourite magazines. "Die Zeit", for instance, has a whole archive on its authors articles that you can read online, as well as publishing some authors weblogs on the homepage. This makes it easy for me to subscribe to my favourite authors' articles. In German, that would be called "vorbildlich".
I admitt, we'd have a huge problem if everyone were like me (although I am buying the printed newspaper, too!). If people stopped buying printed newspapers, then where should the publishing house's money come from? Especially since buying/selling articles online does not work well enough (as the New York Times had to experience).

Apart from online news and political questions, you can gather a lot of scientific knowledge through blogs on the internet. You do find enough information packed well enough for comprehensive understanding without going too much into detail for the lay person.

One crucial point in my opinion lies in the influence that weblogs already exert on their young audience, and this will only increase. They transport information, and thus have the power to shape consciousness. An informative and rhetorically virtuous can have quite an impact on its readers opinion.
This also means responsibility for those writing. We need to thoroughly question where the information we transport originates from.
What will be interesting to see is how blogs in China will shape consciousness of the country's young. When our generation grows into power, will there already be democratic change? If so, to a great deal this would be thanks to some brave minds continueing blogging on alternatives to the authoritarian regime.