Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Old Are You?

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Chinese gymnasts. Danny Almonte. El Duque. Every actress in Hollyweird.

What do they have in common?

They all lied about their age.

Photo by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

OK, so there's zero proof that the Chinese female gymnasts are underaged. I heard a rumor from a New Zealand writer that the paper-thin Chinese gymnasts are all actually between the ages of thirty-one and forty-three years old. It's just that the Chinese government has been stunting their growth with coffee and cigarettes during a relentless regimen for the last three decades.

As soon as little Chinese girls are able to do their first backflip, they are carted off to some sort of futuristic underground training schools where they are force-fed coffee and cigarettes and rice and vegetables. Some days, the girls just eat cigarettes in between events. That's the real reason they are so small and look like ten year olds. I mean, governments never lie, especially when nationalistic pride and billions of dollars are on the line.

One of my favorite baseball scandals involved a Yankees pitcher and another involved a little league baseball player from the Bronx named Danny Almonte. Pre-9.11, there were tons of shenanigans in New York City involving legal and illegal immigrants from different Caribbean and Latin American nations. A lot of the existing records were fudged or recorded on good faith. No background checks. Why more red tape?

Because of stiffer immigration polices in the post-9.11 era, a slew of baseball players from Latin American countries all of a sudden got older or younger depending on the circumstances. A slew of players were signed by scouts, some of which knew they were signer underaged players and others had no idea because they were lied to. The kids were so poor and wanted to leave their countries so badly, that they blatantly lied about their age in order to get a signed by a major league ball club. Big bucks make you do desperate things like lie about your age.

Some Cuban players seeking work in the MLB lied about their age like Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. He said he was younger than his actual age because the Yankees scouts might not have pursued them if they knew he was in his 30s instead of being a more attractive age of 29. Hernandez was born in 1965 and not in 1969 as he insisted. Four years means a lot if you are a major league pitcher.

Then in 2000, there was the Danny Almonte. He was the star pitcher on a team from the Bronx that went deep at the Little League World Series. Almonte was the 12 year-old phenomenon. He threw no-hitters and even a perfect game in the preliminaries. He was untouchable. Their games became so popular that they were on ESPN. The parents of Almonte's opponents were not convinced that he was 12. Two teams hired provate investigators but came up empty. Then two weeks after the series ended, the truth came out. Danny Almonte was actually 14 years old. Two years at that level makes a tremendous difference.

And this is a gem. Miguel Tejada getting busted lying about his age in an ESPN interview...

It's been happening in baseball for decades.

Some folks might throw Freddy Adu in there. Some say he was actually older than he was. I don't know enough about soccer (or futbol) to throw out a half-baked response on that, but I do know that his age was questioned when the teenager played for DC United.

And let's not forget about everyone's favorite online poker player and reigning WSOP-Europe Champion, Annette_15. Did she lie about her age when she set up her first online poker account?

So that brings us back to the Chinese gymnasts...

Did they lie about their ages? Maybe.

But we're gonna let them get away with that because the entire world has turned a blind eye to the thousands and thousands of worse injustices committed by the Chinese government. Lying about the age of gymnasts is peanuts compared to the Draconian punishments against proponents of free speech (especially on the internet) and journalists who try to speak out and shed light on some of the atrocities of the Chinese government.

Here's something that you should read that I found on the website Reporters Without Borders...
When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Seven years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC's members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression.

From the outset, Reporters Without Borders has been opposed to holding the Olympic Games to Beijing. Now, one month before the opening ceremony, it is clear the Chinese government still sees the media and Internet as strategic sectors that cannot be left to the "hostile forces" denounced by President Hu Jintao. The departments of propaganda and public security and the cyber-police, all conservative bastions, implement censorship with scrupulous care.

Around 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China. Some of them since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands for news websites. It jams the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur-language programmes of 10 international radio stations. After focusing on websites and chat forums, the authorities are now concentrating on blogs and video-sharing sites. China's blog services incorporate all the filters that block keywords considered "subversive" by the censors. The law severely punishes "divulging state secrets," "subversion" and "defamation" - charges that are regularly used to silence the most outspoken critics. Although the rules for foreign journalists have been relaxed, it is still impossible for the international media to employ Chinese journalists or to move about freely in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The Chinese authorities promised the IOC and international community concrete improvements in human rights in order to win the 2008 Olympics for Beijing. But they changed their tone after getting what they wanted. For example, then deputy Prime Minister Li Lanqing said, four days after the IOC vote in 2001, that "China's Olympic victory" should encourage the country to maintain its "healthy life" by combatting such problems as the Falungong spiritual movement, which had "stirred up violent crime." Several thousands of Falungong followers have been jailed since the movement was banned and at least 100 have died in detention.

A short while later, it was the turn of then Vice-President Hu Jintao (now president) to argue that after the Beijing "triumph," it was "crucial to fight without equivocation against the separatist forces orchestrated by the Dalai Lama and the world's anti-China forces." In the west of the country, where there is a sizeable Muslim minority, the authorities in Xinjiang province executed Uyghurs for "separatism."

Finally, the police and judicial authorities were given orders to pursue the "Hit Hard" campaign against crime. Every year, several thousand Chinese are executed in public, often in stadiums, by means of a bullet in the back of the neck or lethal injection.
For more information, you should read the Reporters Without Borders Olympic blog.

In many ways, I'm extremely fortunate for the artistic and political freedom that I had during the 2008 WSOP. I gotta give Harrahs a ton of credit for allowing bloggers and writers to openly speak their mind.

Sometimes you need perspective on things to realize how good we have it here. I can call John McCain an old fart who's just a puppet for the military-industrial-complex and that Obama's promise of hope and change is faker than the tits on your favorite Rhino stripper. I can say stuff like that and not get worried about getting thrown in jail or finding a bullet to the back of my head.

At least, for now...

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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