Andrew and me

When I recently visited Hong Kong, one of my old friends there asked me why my blog always refers to Andrew Sullivan, whom he had never heard of. It’s a good question. Liberal friends of mine ask me why I even read Sully at all. They all hate him.

There is only one magazine I subscribed to after college that I still subscribe to today, and that’s the New Republic. I remember many years ago how thrilled I was to learn that Andrew Sullivan was going to become its editor. He was young, something of a wunderkind, Oxford-educated, and open about his sexuality — something that at the time was simply unprecedented for such a visible position.

I also rememer how my enthusiasm rapidly dwindled as I learned that the new liberal prince I’d envisioned was conservative and outspoken in his love of the Republican Party. I felt betrayed, and I often felt like shouting back at his columns, I disagreed with him so vehemently. But whenever he wrote about social issues, I was always in total agreement. As much as he bothered me, I read him religiously.

I was a daily reader of his site long before the word Blog became part of the popular parlance. It’s the first thing I go to, whenever I turn my computer on. As usual, when he is on target he is the best commentator out there. When he goes into Republivcan attack-dog mode, which is sadly more the rule than the exception, I thoroughly loathe him.

I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt when I blast a Sullivan post, as I often do. It’s because of his touting the new medium called blogging that I started this site. Also, he was the one who put me on the map by linking to one of my most heartfelt posts back in January.

I want to believe that he really knows, deep in his heart, how pooI guess maybe I hope that if I say it loud enough, Sullivan will hear me and, eventually, renounce his Republicanism and see the light. I feel it’s only a matter of time that he finally recognizes that oil and water won’t mix, that in the eyes of his beloved Republicans — as in the eyes of his beloved Church — he is The Enemy.


China – They don’t call it a police state for nothing

There’s a good article in Time Asia on what the Chinese police are capable of:

The police insisted it was a model bust. They’d stopped a taxi on its way into the industrial city of Lanzhou on the fringe of the Gobi Desert. While some officers pointed their guns at driver Jing Aiguo’s temple, others retrieved from the back seat of the car nine plastic sacks containing three kilos of heroin.

Jing had never run afoul of the law before, but the police—then engaged in one of China’s periodic “Strike Hard” crime crackdowns—quickly obtained his confession. After a one-hour trial, the judge announced his sentence: death.

Before Jing could be executed, however, fortune handed him a reprieve. Lanzhou police arrested a dealer who admitted that he had helped officers set Jing up for a drug rap. Jing won a second trial—and the real story came out.

The arresting officers had planted the heroin. They had coerced Jing’s confession by shocking him with electric batons and hanging him by his handcuffed wrists until “the blood poured down my arms,” Jing testified during his trial. By the time of his release last January, the cab driver had spent more than a year on death row and hadn’t seen his family in 518 days. He received just $4,000 in compensation for his ordeal—less than he would have earned driving his cab.

Another shocker. I just have to wonder, here’s a story of a man who lived to tell about it. How many others does this happen to who aren’t so lucky? I suspect we cannot begin to imagine. As the reporter goes on to explain, it all ties back to a political system in which there’s no checks and balances, nobody charged with overseeing what the police are doing.

I need reminders like this every now and then to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in a free country.


Smearing Clark – a view from Korea

Incestuous Amplification has written a fine post on the Republicans’ self-destructive obsession with smearing Clark. (A couple of the comments are pretty awesome, too.)

I especially appreciated this insight:

To me, the most amusing aspect of this particular fantasy of Billary controlling Clark is how much the right miscalculates the American public’s attitude toward the Clintons. Rush and company believe that if they can keep pounding the idea of the Clintons pulling Clark’s strings, that the public will turn on him and they’ll have Dean to work over next year instead of the General. They are in effect hoping that their own irrational Clinton-hatred will be scooped up by the public and then somehow transferred to Clark.

Nice scenario, but there’s only one small problem…most of America doesn’t hate the Clintons, as the below article expands upon. Sure, on the right there is a deep-seated hate…but it doesn’t extend any further than that. Just look at the sales receipts for Hillary’s book, as well as the rock-star like book signing tour she took, and you’ll realize that while she’s a polarizing figure…she’s not Bin Laden. The same holds for Bill. The longer he’s out of office, the further Lewinskygate fades, and there are no indications that simply linking his name to Clark will do more harm than good.

Bravo. Well said.


Delayed reaction

Sullivan must have read my last post; now he’s commenting on Wilson-Plame, but like Instapundit he’s too confused to really say anything about it.

He keeps asking why the administration would do something this stupid, which is certainly a valid question. But the one who says that indeed the administration didgive him the leak is a right-wing friend of the Administration, not a leftie troublemaker.

Now, administrations do lots of stupid things, like breaking into the Watergate or ordering secret arms sales to Contras or covering things up or — well, the list goes on. Just because it seems hare-brained doesn’t mean they didn’t do it. (And in this instance their strategy worked, at least in the short term; Wilson went apoplectic, and for months it looked like no one was going to cover it.)

Another stupid thing the administration’s doing is helpfully handing out phone records of Wes Clark’s calls to the White House but refusing to give out phone records of Roves’ calls to journalists on that fateful day. Imagine if the last president were to behave this way. Any little thing Clinton did, proven or otherwise, would ignite Sully like dynamite, while here all he can do is obfuscate and stammer.

Update: Karl Rove may not be the man. But check out the link; it sure sounds like Bush does know who the perpetrator is.


Wilson-Plame Scandal: Instapundit too confused to comment; Sullivan is silent

This story is great because it is so cut and dry. I mean, Robert Novak admitted he got the tip about Plame from a senior Administration official, so no questions there. And outing undercover agents is definitely illegal as hell. So where’s the confusion?

Yet InstaPundit says it’s “too complicated” for him to take a stand. And Sullivan has been stone-cold silent. Not a peep, not a comma, nothing.

This could be the moment of truth, Bush and Co. finally hoisted on their own petard, and Sully is going on in a manner that can only be described as surreal about how the worst in Iraq may well be over again and peace and joy are just around the corner.

Pretending it isn’t there won’t make this go away. This is trouble indeed, and it’s just starting.


Reporters Without Borders calls on China to release “cyber dissident” Li Zhi

Reporters Without Borders is calling for the immediate release of a 32-year-old “cyber dissident” who faces a 15-year prisoin sentence for his egregious crimes:

Li Zhi was arrested by state security police on 8 August at his home in Dazhou, in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The US-based organisation Human Rights in China said he had criticised the government in online forums and was thus regarded as being in touch with foreign-based opponents. Police seized his computer but provincial officials refused to say anything about the offending material….

It said he was being targeted as part of a broader government crackdown that showed once more the complete official intolerance of online freedom of expression. Government surveillance of e-mail messages and discussion forums to track down regime dissidents was unacceptable, it added.

This is a very interesting site for anyone concerned about repression of the media; I’m glad I stumbled onto it.


Will Karl Rove go to jail over the Plame – Wilson scandal?

It just might happen. What a bombshell. I’ve been wondering for six months now where the outrage was over Rove’s dirty tricks. Now it looks like it’s on the way, and there may be no way out. As Kleiman points out, the crime carries a 10-year prison sentence.

Kleiman also says if Wes Clark is shrewd he will jump on this bandwagon with everything he’s got. Let’s hope so. Fasten your seatbelts.


Iraq, an incredible windfall for connected Republicans

I know life is unfair, and that there are always going to be those who are the haves and have-nots. I also know that a lucky few will always reap the inevitable profits of war.

But Iraq seems different. Maybe it isn’t, but something about the profiteering seems shameless, in-your face, almost sneering at us little guys. I mean, do you have any idea how many members of Bush’s entourage, former members of his cabinet, current and former Bush cronies are about to mop up obscene amounts of money in Iraq?

Chances are if you visit this site you read Josh Marshall’s. In case you don’t, please go and read his masterful sleuthing of what’s going on over there. And read every link in that post. Links about companies like New Bridge Strategies.

What you’ll encounter is worse than obscene, it is truly sickening. And it is symptomatic of something unique to the Bush administration: a gleeful, delirious worship of the dollar, to the point that those intimately associated with Bush feel free to brazenly show us all how they are lining their pockets, selling their “influence” and “connections” — “I know Bush & Friends and I can make you rich, rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

I know all about paying people for influence. It’s an old practice that we professionals categorize under the bland term “public affairs.” But this is different. Public affairs has always been associated with subtlety, a high degree of tact and propriety and professionalism. What we are seeing now is whoring, plain and simple. And the whores are Bush’s friends and advisors. And we just shrug and mutter that we can’t fight city hall….

These posts of Marshall’s should be required reading for anyone who remains equivocal about our president and what he stands for. If Bush wanted to, he could insist it be stopped. He could tell his dear friends that if they behave like whores they will wield no influence. But whoring is what Bush is really all about, and I suspect he sees absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s what his tax cuts are all about, and his energy policy and everything else about him — alms for the rich. Breaks for his cronies.

At a time when Americans are losing jobs in record numbers, at a time when a lot of people are looking for help and wondering what their future will be, this should be devastating news: mountains of wealth, virtually inconceivable to us ordinary people, are going to be made by companies frantic to tap into that $87-billion wad Bush is waving in front of them. To get at it, these companies will do business with the devil — our president’s friends and advisors, who have no compunction about whoring themselves in public, on Web sites, in advertisements.

I can’t really put into words how furious this makes me. I am only depressed at the relative silence this topic has thus far evoked. I just thank god we have people like Marshall, who take it on themselves to shine light under the rock and show the world what Bush’s maggots there are up to.

Iraq may be flypaper for freaks, but the Bush administration is flypaper for pigs, chortling, filthy, stinking and shameless.


John Pomfret: Is Hu Jintao a reformer or a windbag?

We are about to find out.

Pomfret, who I have long regarded as the best foreign correspondent in China, has just posted a great story on how a rural bureaucrat, Wei Shengduo, attempted to hold a real, honest election for his township’s leader, as opposed to having him appointed by the CCP.

Will it surprise any of us to learn what happened next? Wei was, of course, thrown into jail, and the CCP has banned all coverage of his situation and the aborted ballot in his little town of Pingba.

The day before the election, the party secretary at the county seat, one notch above Wei, canceled the vote and had the 34-year-old would-be reformer arrested, then held in custody for two weeks. The official announced that he had smashed an “anti-party clique” and led a delegation to Beijing last week to ask authorities to punish an academic who had advised Wei, sources in the capital said.

The story of Wei’s attempt to bring democratic change to this mountainous corner of China is one that is being played out across the country. Experiments in limited democracy have been occurring quietly, but most are stymied by Communist Party officials fearful of losing their monopoly on power in a closed political system that appears increasingly at odds with China’s opening economy.

The article also explores the awful dilemma facing China’s impoverished rural regions; as the economy of the coastal cities soars, that of the countryside disintegrates, forcing more and more rural citizens with no hope to become prostitutes, thieves and streetsweepers. A grim and important reminder of the underside of the China economic miracle.

Wei’s fate could serve as a barometer for how China’s alleged “reforms” are actually materializing. This is a big challenge for pooor Mr. Hu:

Wei’s case, analysts and researchers say, amounts to a challenge to the central authorities, particularly to Hu Jintao, the president and party general secretary. In a speech on July 1, Hu said that power should be used by the people and that the people’s interests should come first. Before the speech, rumors had swirled that Hu would use it to give the green light for limited political liberalization. He did not.

“People are waiting for Hu to live up to the great expectations they had for him,” said Li Fan, the Beijing-based academic who advised Wei on the ballot. “But I think this case shows that our optimism about real political reform was misplaced.”

Pomfret’s reporting is nothing short of miraculous. He researches every aspect of Wei Shengduo with meticulous detail, and paints a vivid picture of the risks facing those noble enough to dare to do what is good for their people, even if it may not be good for the CCP (nor, of course, for themselves):

Wei also had personal reasons for pushing change, Li said. In 1957, his father, who was a teacher, was branded a “rightist” during one of Mao Zedong’s many political campaigns. The elder Wei was sent to teach in an isolated village, then fired and forced into hard labor in an even more remote mountain community. He was not released from this bondage until the 1980s. On his deathbed, he summoned Wei and his older brother, both government officials. “He told them that he didn’t mind that they were both government officials, but he wanted them at least to do something for China’s ordinary people,” Li said.

Wei was appointed Pingba’s party secretary in 2001 and quickly won the support of many of the town’s residents. According to the petition supporting him after his arrest, Wei played a key role in reducing an annual head tax from $24 a person to $5, a big drop in a township with an average annual income of less than $200. Wei also helped start a cement factory and convinced Chinese companies to invest in Pingba, the petition said.

And this is the man who is punished, while those who would see him arrested rule the land. It makes me sick. Read the whole thing.


Tapped pricks Andrew Sullivan’s balloon on Wes Clark

As a lot of us know, Andrew Sullivan has been bashing Wesley Clark 24/7. For balance (I guess), he threw in a post yesterday in which he seemed to be reconsidering his loathing of Clark, musing aloud whether Clark might be the best of the Dems out there.

Needless to say, the new-found admiration was a flash in the pan.

Today, American Prospect dissects Sullivan’s criticisms and makes the godfather of blogville look like a real dork. I just loved this:

You also have to love Sullivan’s newfound distaste for Rhodes Scholars. Commenting on Clark’s earlier praise for Bush and his team, Sullivan writes, “You have to remember he’s a Rhodes Scholar and they tend to say anything to suck up to whomever they’re talking to” and that Rhodes Scholars “suck upwards and kick downwards.”

Really? Does that include Sullivan’s boss at The New Republic, Peter Beinart? Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, with whom Sullivan interned at TNR back in the 1980s and later co-authored a book? Walter Isaacson, who published Sullivan at Time during his tenure as editor there? All three earned Rhodes scholarships. Do tell, Andrew.

Great work.