Should I Ban China?

The Twelve Mile Circle is about Geography, Geo-Oddities, Travel and the sharing of thoughts and ideas. Would it be ethical to ban 1.3 billion readers — nearly 20% of the world’s population — for the sins of a minuscule few?

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China has become my website’s bane of existence. Internet Protocol addresses geo-locating to various points in China deliver a nonstop barrage of trouble. I’m required to maintain complete vigilance in order to hold a constant toxic seepage of digital garbage at bay, and provide you with the most enjoyable reading environment.

  • I’ve installed a script that blocks at least 98% of bot-generated junk comments, and I practice absolute comment moderation to catch those few that make it through the gauntlet.
  • I trash all attempts at link-backs unless I can determine they’ve linked to me for legitimate reasons.
  • I deal with image and bandwidth thieves harshly and swiftly.
  • I block individual IP’s when I notice a pattern of abuse.

I have no tolerance for unscrupulous people who lie, steal and cheat, hoping to grab a quick buck exploiting the hard work of others, and hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. You won’t see spam disguised as comments on the Twelve Mile Circle. You also don’t see the level of effort required behind-the-scenes to keep it that way, but it’s significant.

I’ve noticed a massive up-swell, a veritable firestorm of crap over the last couple of months like nothing I’ve experienced in the fifteen years I’ve created web content. It’s all focused, as far as I can tell, on ways to game Google PageRank scores using external links. Very few false positives make it through my initial script hurdle. Nonetheless 2% of "thousands-per-week" is still an annoying amount to weed through by hand in a comment moderation queue.

I’m not sure if it’s a single organized effort or if it’s an entrepreneurial black-hat spam king peddling bot software to thousands of ignorant wanna-be’s. It doesn’t seem particularly sophisticated, and in fact it seems to be rather ham-fisted and brute-forced so I’m guess the latter. All I know is that you, as loyal readers, probably don’t want to slog through thousands of comments that look like these actual word-for-word entries I’ve tagged as inappropriate in just the last couple of days.

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They typically include embedded links for websites peddling shoes, clothing, SEO services, video games, bootleg software, and um… items of a more personal nature. The digital trail leads back to China, nine times out of ten.


Is it fair to punish the residents of an entire nation? I recognize that this is a citizenry already struggling within the confines of the Great Firewall of China. It seems downright cruel to compound their situation by placing additional restrictions upon them. Surely there has to be a few Chinese geo-geeks with a decent grasp of English who would enjoy following the Twelve Mile Circle.

Yet, I have little evidence of actual Chinese visitors while I’ve experienced thousands of instances of unethical behavior each month this summer. I’ve just about reached my limit of this contemptible behavior. It’s not an indictment of the Chinese people but of the greedy criminal gangs that use their nation as a safe harbor.

It’s insanely simply to ban a nation from a website. There are plenty of Internet sites that will generate a list of Chinese IP ranges that I can drop it into an .htaccess file, and take care of the entire problem in about five minutes. That’s not the issue.

I understand that this isn’t like Google trying to figure out whether to pull out of China. It’s my tiny little, insignificant blog. The world isn’t going to change regardless of what I do. However I still struggle with the moral dilemma of whether it would be right or defensible to impose the Death Penalty.

I’d be interested to hear if others have wrestled with this issue and whether you found alternate approaches to a total ban or reconciled your concerns and made a final decision. "Curious to determine what all you intellectuals have to say about this."


My Travel Box – American Meridian Edition

My Travel Box article led to more interest that I expected both from longstanding and recent readers. It proves once again that I have no idea what resonates with a larger audience so I’ll continue to write about what I find personally interesting the hope a few of you join me for the ride.

Go ahead and take a quick look if you didn’t learn about the Travel Box because I’m going to use it as the conceptual basis for the current article with a twist.

I mentioned that people in England would be at a severe disadvantaged if they wanted to play the Travel Box game. They live too close too Prime Meridian in Greenwich. They would receive an artificially low score by birth. Loyal reader Hamish commented that maybe it would be more fair to use one’s own residence a a personal prime meridian. I agree. It’s a better indicator of actual east-west travel than an arbitrary selection at Greenwich.

A major meridian once existed near my home: the American Meridian that ran through the dome of the Old Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. The United States used that meridian to anchor numerous state boundaries beginning about 1850. They switched to the universal standard circa 1884 after the International Meridian Conference agreed upon Greenwich. I live maybe a couple of kilometres west of the imaginary line. I can even see the dome of the old observatory from some of the taller buildings in my neighborhood. That’s a situation that would be familiar to many geography-savvy residents of the greater London area with respect to Greenwich today.

I imagined that somehow the Conference had selected the American Meridian way back in 1884 and I recalculated my Travel Box. The Old Naval Observatory sits directly atop Longitude 0.00° in that scenario instead of 77.05° W and the hemispheric boundaries move nearly a quarter turn towards the west.

Let’s move the Prime Meridian to Washington, DC and see what happens.

View My Travel Box – American Meridian in a larger map

That changes things. My east-west travel shrinks considerably and a dirty little secret becomes visible to the faithful readers of the Twelve Mile Circle: I’ve never traveled to the Middle East or to much of Asia (Japan being the exception). I had vague plans to visit China several years ago but they never materialized. Hopefully I will correct that someday.

I’ve shaded the "new" eastern hemispherem on the map to help with visualization. Zero longitude runs directly through Washington, DC (the black vertical line), and 180 longitude runs directly through the Asian landmass (the red vertical line).

View My Travel Box – American Meridian in a larger map

This alternate universe would create all sorts of interesting dilemmas avoided entirely by the selection of Greenwich. The International Date Line now cuts across a large continental landmass rather than generally across open water. I don’t know if that was a major consideration back in 1884 but it certainly simplifies the situation today. Russia, Mongolia and China are cleaved nearly in half between the two hemispheres in the American Meridian model. Several other countries are clipped.

China would face a particularly difficult choice because the entire nation follows a single time zone. Beijing falls into the western hemisphere on an American Meridian map. Would they be content to be the nation that ends the planetary day, or would choose to throw their weight into the American Meridian eastern hemisphere to start the day? Kiribati switched and became the first nation to enter the Year 2000 so maybe China, in my alternate universe, would do the same as a means to demonstrate its ascendancy.

Either way, the International Date Line on an American Meridian globe would have some serious doglegs.

That’s an interesting divergence and maybe a thought worth exploring on another day, but let’s get back to the original subject: my revised Travel Box using the American Meridian. It’s all about me, isn’t it? I kidding; that’s supposed to be a (poorly executed) joke. Anyway, moving right along…

North and South remain the same. The equator doesn’t change nor do the poles. Those are all constants during our lifetimes whereas the meridian is an artificial demarcation. The people of Gabon will have more difficulty scoring high than those of us living in temperate climates, and to them I apologize. However, I don’t think I’ll shift the model to place my residence on a fictional equator. It creates too many complexities even for a hypothetical scenario.


Ferry between Gdansk and Hel Peninsula in Poland
I rode to Hel and Back — far to long for such a bad pun.

My most extreme eastern eastern journey within the new paradigm becomes Warsaw (Warszawa) Poland at 98.06° East of the American Meridian, which is 21.01° E of Greenwich.

This isn’t actually a photograph of Warsaw, it’s Gdansk. I spent most of my time in Krakow and a lesser amount in Gdansk and the Czech Republic. I reviewed my collection of photos from Warsaw and they weren’t all that remarkable. I saw a lot of post-war Soviet brutalist architecture: imagine rows of rectangular concrete communist apartment blocks that haven’t aged well and you’ll get the idea. I’m sure Warsaw is a lovely place, and it’s certainly historic, but I didn’t get to see those parts. I used Warsaw primarily for its international airport and I spent most of my time elsewhere. Still, it scores top billing as my easternmost personal attainment in an American Meridian world.


Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan
I Visited Colonel Harland "Samurai" Sanders in Osaka

It’s hard to think of Japan as "west" but that’s what it becomes under the confines of an American Meridian. Thus, my westernmost travel using these rules brought me to Osaka. It’s 147.45° West of the American Meridian, while corresponding to 135.50° East of Greenwich.

My American Meridian longitudes ranged from 147.45° West to 98.06° East, a total coverage of 245.51°. Divide that by the available 360° and it equals 68%. That’s not as good as the 87% that I achieved using the Prime Meridian at Greenwich but it’s still within a respectable range.

I think I used too much brain on this one. I need a nap.