Romney Hood and Ryan Hood

Robbing from the poor to give to the rich. That about sums them up.

I’ve refrained from posting on US politics because it is simply too depressing. Watching nutty conservatives transform the once sane if misguided Republican Party into an Ayn Rand-worshipping club of ueber-rich white men — and seeing so many Americans get on board donning their Tea Part costumes — has been a jaw-dropping spectacle. Watching all the newly minted young Tea Party Republicans oust their moderate opponents two years ago was an ominous sign of the country’s dangerous veering to the right.

Paul Ryan will undoubtedly enjoy his honeymoon, just as Sarah Palin did. But I see him as a huge red target on Romney’s back. Willard Romney’s campaign has been all about hiding what he would do to restore America’s economy. He has been intentionally vague and weasely, always changing the subject to how bad Obama is. Now he has a plan and a vision, he is joined at the hip with it, the shameless Ryan budget that offers huge tax cuts for the very richest Americans while slashing benefits the middle and lower classes have come to depend on. Now Romney has to defend this program and convince those who will be hurt by it the most to see it as the Holy Grail. Democrats should probably be rejoicing, but as H.L. Mencken once famously said, “No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Maybe they’ll be sucked in by the whacky argument that Ryan’s budget plan is “courageous” and “serious.”

James Fallows obliterates this argument.

One request: I hope that when reporters are writing or talking about Paul Ryan’s budget plans and his overall approach, they will rig up some electro-shock device to zap themselves each time they say that Ryan and his thoughts are unusually “serious” or “brave.” Clear-edged they are, and useful in defining the issues in the campaign. But they have no edge in “seriousness” over, say, proposals from Ryan’s VP counterpart Joe Biden.

…I’m making a simple plea: examine the Ryan plan, and its Obama counterpart, on their merits, and for the different values they express and interest groups they defend, without pretending that there is some bravery or seriousness gap between them. All these people are serious now. I also encourage you to snicker discreetly, or if you’re in the right setting to start a drinking game, at each pundit occurrence of “brave” and “serious.” People who say these things are revealing their non-serious susceptibility to cliche.

He also argues that the choice is good for the American public because it will create a serious debate about the two parties’ economic vision. I’ll buy that. We had no vision from Romney before, just platitudes. Now he has a plan he must defend.

I also like this:

And how does Romney say the problem with Barack Obama is that he’s “never spent a day in the private sector” and then put Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency?

(Ryan has never had a day of private sector experience.)

Romney, ever the coward, bowed to the far right, to the William Kristols and Fox Newsies who insisted he select an Ayn Rand conservative Tea Partier as his running mate. Now their wish is granted, and Romney has to convince the public that Medicare vouchers and obscene tax cuts for people like Romney are good for them. The Ryan pick is an act of desperation. It seems like a gift to Obama, but again, there are a lot of gullible Americans out there. Let Ryan have his honeymoon, but then Obama and Biden should tear Ryan apart in a systematic, logical manner, exposing his “bold” budget plan for what it is, a steamroller that crushes a huge swath of the public while further enriching those who need it the least.

If by some bizarre quirk of fate Romney and Ryan win, I’m on the next plane out of here.


My country

I know, the story and the photo and the video are everywhere. But I have to express my horror.

A friend in China tells me CCTV is playing this again and again, and I don’t blame them. They want to make the US look bad, and in this case they don’t have to try very bad; the US hasn’t looked this awful since Abu Ghraib. Heads should roll over this atrocity.


Occupy Phoenix

Best picture I could take at Occupy Phoenix, using my phone; I know, it’s kind of blurry.

I just came from the demonstrations here in downtown Phoenix and was surprised, in a good way, at what I saw. Thousands of polite, civil, friendly protestors had gathered, and I would say that maybe half of them were white collar people in their 40s, 50s and even 60. Lots of youth, but lots of white hair, too. There was no name-calling, no littering, no shoving, not the slightest hint of violence. I bring this up because the new insidious meme from the right is that those participating in the demonstrations constitute a “mob.” Of course, they considered the Tea Party demonstrations a gathering of patriots. The Occupy crowds, in their eyes, are dirty hippies and anarchists. Which, of course, is total nonsense.

There was no leader, just a string of speakers. The message was simple: there is a huge injustice in America, and the criminal bankers are rewarded for their sins at the expense of the working and middle classes. The goals are simple, too: tax reform, with more taxes on the rich and relief for the less fortunate; greater stimulus to create jobs; and transferring power from Wall Street and corporations to the people the government is supposed to represent. (I know, that’s easier said than done.)

There were the expected idiots, but very few. I’m talking about Truthers with their signs about 911 being an inside job, and the Ron Paul kooks with their monolithic call to “end the Fed.” They were few and far between, but it’s always signs like theirs that the right-wing seizes on to show how deranged liberals are. I kind of wished they’d disappear. Free speech has its pluses and minuses.

The police were everywhere, quietly watching. I even chatted with one about a deranged demonstrator who was reading from the bible at the top of his lungs trying to drown the speakers out. The cop said he’d love to do something, but everyone’s allowed their say. From the way he said it, I’m betting he was sympathetic to the demonstrators.

According to the latest poll I saw, 52 percent of Americans now support the Occupy movement, and 27 percent support the Tea Party. Finally, a movement is bringing together groups that have often been at odds: white collars and working-class workers, young people and old, social rebels wearing masks and clearly challenging the status quo, and the status quo itself — ordinary Americans who brought their entire families with them.

The Phoenix event may have been a bit too polite. It needs to be a little more disruptive and in-your-face. That’s a fine line to balance, remaining civil while generating outrage. But it has to shake up the system, like they’re doing in New York. Meanwhile, I’m doing everything I can to support this movement and urge you all to do the same. We’ve never seen anything like it in America in our lifetimes, and it is so long overdue.


“Both Sides Do It”

I almost never write about non-China issues anymore. During the Bush years I blogged constantly about the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s crimes and misdemeanors (mostly crimes). In the months leading up to the 2004 and 2008 elections I wrote more about US politics than China.

My blogging on the US ground to a halt in 2009 because I’ve been overwhelmed and sickened by the insane shift in US politics since Obama was sworn in. Politics is always nasty, and there are plenty of examples of dirty tricks on both sides over the decades (or centuries). But although I detested the Republican Party in the early 2000s, some seismic shift occurred over the past three years. Suddenly, voices of relative reason like Arlen Specter or Bob Dole, so called “moderate Republicans,” were drowned out in a cacophony of bile and hatred the likes of which I’d never seen before. Suddenly it was mainstream to question whether the president was born in America, and to actually imply that he is on the side of Muslim terrorists. It became okay to pass idiotic bills banning Sharia law, to demand creationism be taught in schools, to erase women’s reproductive rights, even making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion in the case of rape or incest. (One GOP senator actually referred to such abortions as “sour grapes based on buyer’s remorse.”) What can I say when these positions are adopted by many Republicans and actually appear in proposed legislation? Oklahoma recently passed a bill banning Sharia law. The new laws against abortion in several states like Kansas and Virginia are real: these once radical positions are becoming institutionalized. Being a liberal in America today is a ticket to depression and endless frustration, despite bright spots like New York legalizing gay marriage.

One of the most disturbing trends in the US political scene is the “mainstreamization” of far-right radicals like Pamela Geller, a certified bigot and hater. Her insanities, including putting up a post about Obama being the love child of Malcolm X and outrageously slanderous columns in Wingnut Daily about Obama, deserve nothing more than ridicule. Voices like hers, that previously would have been deemed unworthy of media attention, as deranged and hysterical, have been made mainstream. I have watched Geller interviewed on television several times in regard to the “911 mosque” protests (which Geller engineered) and other Islam-related issues when in more normal times she’d have been considered, correctly, too much of a fringe lunatic to hand the microphone to. Networks call her for comment as if she’s a normal, sane human being.

If you are unfamiliar with Geller and her hate site, you can find a chronicle here.

The first sign of radical ideology going mainstream was Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s. Suddenly, ideas that would be unthinkable for media to talk about, like the president being a traitor or even connected to murder, were given a huge microphone. G. Gordon Liddy and Michael Savage and other right-wing talk radio loons soon followed suit. Michael Savage was even given a slot on MSNBC for a few months.

Don’t know who Michael Savage is? Not convinced that the threat of home-grown terrorism stems from right-wing hate rhetoric? Please watch this amazing clip from beginning to end. (Savage makes his entrance about 5 minutes in and you’ll be horrified, I promise.) If you want to argue with me that “both sides do it,” that the left is breeding violence the same way the right is, I won’t interact until you’ve watched that clip. Then, produce a link to left-of-center demagogues who have been legitimized by the mainstream media inciting listeners to similar acts of violence and hatred. My premise is simple: right-wing radicalism poses a threat with no equivalent on the left. Again, be sure to watch that clip.

Of course, those on the right are always trying to prove the left is equally as guilty of violent rhetoric and actions. During the Wisconsin demonstrations against Gov. Scott Walker, for example, a union member pushed a wingnut who was holding an iPhone in his face and videotaping him. The right went wild. See? Leftists are thugs. I’m not making this up. Note how similar this tactic is to our trolls who, whenever you present a sin of the CCP, reflexively seek to prove the US has done even worse. (Extermination of the Native Americans, anyone?) The right’s protests are as valid as the fenqing’s. This is the best they can do, because eliminationist rhetoric is a product of today’s right, not the left.

Look at the language Michael Savage employs in the video clip above:

The police, attacked for the last 50 straight years by the ACLU viruses. And the military, attacked for the last 50 years by the Barbara Boxer viruses on our planet.

Note the reference to liberalism as a “virus.” Let me quote a man who used similar language:

Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.

I think we all know who said this. When you compare people to a virus, to a bacillus, you are dehumanizing them and legitimizing attempts to wipe them out. This is how low the far-right has sunk. Just read the comments at blogs like Free Republic or Weasel Zippers to see what I mean (you can look them up; I won’t link.)

Again, there is no equivalent to this kind of rhetoric from the left. If you think there is, show me. Show me a mainstream to-the-left pundit who you feel is as guilty as Michael Savage or Ann Coulter of licensing hatred.

Fox News was the final step in this evolution from fringe to mainstream. Let’s look at what Bill O’Reilly had to say about abortion provider Dr. George Tiller (before he was gunned down by a far-right Christianist lunatic, after which O’Reilly never used such language again. Mission Accomplished.) You absolutely must watch that brief clip to see what I mean. When you constantly refer to someone as “an executioner of babies” and a “baby killer” in the mass media,you are inviting those with disturbed minds to seek justice. You are encouraging violence. And this call to action can result in tragedy. Again, show me the equivalent on the left. Don’t tell me, show me. Michael Moore? Show me what he did/said that can be compared to O’Reilly’s message of hate. And the Tiller murder is only one example in a long string of right-wing violence in this country.

This post, I know, is rambling because there’s a lot I want to say, so please bear with me.

And so we come at last to Friday, July 22nd, when a far-right Christianist and self-described Muslim-hater slaughtered nearly 70 young people and children at a camp for politically active youth in Norway. Anders Behring Breivik, after blowing up a government building in Oslo, spent 90 minutes shooting the young people one by one, pumping bullets into those who had fallen to make sure there were no fakers. As they ran into the ocean, he stood calmly at the shore and kept shooting them one by one. In his now famous 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik cites the hate sites Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna (one of the worst) multiple times. Whether these sites can be directly blamed for Friday’s catastrophe is still not clear, but what is clear is that they contributed to his derangement. Words matter.

More than enough has been written about how Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs influenced the manifesto. What I find most interesting is how these sites have reacted. Gates of Vienna, a site I track, quietly took down its sidebar graphic proclaiming itself to be “Proudly Islamaphobic.” Pamela Geller went ballistic, crying out how unfair it was for the media to associate her with the murders — it was guilt by association.

That’s important. The entire premise of Gates of Vienna, Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and the like is guilt by association: some radical Muslims committed acts of terrorism so all Muslims are terrorists, or at the very least potential terrorists. This is the best article I’ve seen on this incredible irony, of Geller being the victim of her own tactic:

Scan Geller’s blog and her friends’ sites, and you’ll see how thickly these ideas pervaded Breivik’s online world. Jihad Watch says “Islam is intrinsically violent.” Islam Watch asserts that “terrorism … is the real Islam,” that “Islam is beyond alteration,” and that “it needs to be emasculated, marginalized or eliminated altogether.” Geller has published Fjordman’s [another blogger Breikiv emulates] views—”I do not believe that there is such a thing as a moderate Islam”—with her own proud note that “I have long derided the ‘moderate Islam’ meme as a theory with no basis in reality or history.” Four days before Breivik opened fire, she posted an item headlined, “Moderates vs. Radicals—What’s the Difference?” She joked that “one straps one on, and the other covers for jihad.” She concluded that “there really is no difference between muslims and radical muslims.”

Geller has pursued this line of attack most aggressively against Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who wants to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. Abdul Rauf, accused of radicalism by Geller and Republican politicians, has done everything possible to refute the charge. He has denounced al-Qaida as un-Islamic. He has said, “I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism.” He has invited the U.S. government to vet potential funders of his center. He has rejected the idea that Sharia overrides civil laws. And when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the imam declared: “I applaud President Obama for his resolute efforts in the war against terror, including bringing Bin Laden to justice.”

Despite these statements, Geller continues to depict Abdul Rauf as a terrorist sympathizer. Her evidence is a series of secondhand, thirdhand, and nonexistent connections. “Rauf is an open proponent of Islamic law, Sharia, with its oppression of women, stonings, and amputations,” she asserts, falsely….One of his books was supported by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Islamic Society of North America, which are “Muslim Brotherhood fronts,” and ISNA “was named an unindicted co-conspirator” in a “Hamas terror funding case….”

You can use this guilt-by-association tactic against anybody. To take the simplest case: President George W. Bush sent Abdul Rauf to the Muslim world as an informal ambassador. That makes Bush a supporter of a supporter of terrorism. But the new poster child for guilt by association is Geller herself. She has been implicated in the Norwegian massacre.

Brilliant. Hoisted on her own petard, and exposed to all the world. There is no way out for Geller. Either she is implicated, or the very foundation of her blog comes crashing down, built on a falsehood.

Another of Breikiv’s influences, cited frequently in his manifesto, is the English Defence League; go here to learn more about this motley crew of neo-Nazis, enraged Muslim-haters and societal misfits who will resort to violence at the drop of a hat. Geller and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch have stood up and defended and praised the EDL. And despite her association with neo-Nazi thugs Geller is profiled in mainstream media, like The NY Times and the UK Guardian. Really; she has been validated and her cause trumpeted, even if the articles hint at her insanity.

On Friday I watched the Norway tragedy unfold, and I felt, and feel, endless sympathy for the innocent victims. The ripple effects from the slaughter will reach out to touch their friends and family and cause them terrible pain, possibly forever. The only “positive” component of the tragedy is that evil sites like Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna have been exposed, their proprietors shown to all the world as the provocateurs and inciters of hatred and violence that they are. Do “both sides do it”? Show me a left-wing site with bloggers who have been legitimized by the mainstream media that come anywhere near these hate sites. Just one.

Criticism of these haters doesn’t mean Islamist extremism isn’t a threat. It’s a huge threat. But that doesn’t make Islam as a whole a threat. And most fundamentalist Christians are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, not terrorists. Breivik’s sins in no way taint all of Christianity. But by Geller’s twisted logic, she and Spencer and other hatred-spewing bloggers are now linked to terrorism and deserve endless condemnation and outrage.

I can go on and point out many more of Geller’s atrocities and brain failures, but I think I’ve made my point. The argument that “both sides do it” is pure rubbish. Virtually all of the toxic messages given legitimacy by the mainstream media emanate from the right, not the left. You can criticize the left for other things, like incompetence and bumbling and being corporate lapdogs, but you can’t put any in the same category as Geller and Spencer. They are wholly in a class by themselves and must be seen as the right-wing monsters they are.


Tiananmen Square (again?)

I know, it’s been over-discussed and picked over. But China Daily actually has an op-ed piece today on the subject, and it begs for comment. It’s rare to see any mention of this topic at all in the Chinese media, but it’s depressing (though not surprising) to see a story that is totally one-sided.

The gist of it is that the massacre is all a big myth, concocted by a Western press that lies its head off. Everyone’s lying about it. Reporters who I know personally are lying about it. The only ones telling the truth is the government.

Tiananmen remains the classic example of the shallowness and bias in most Western media reporting, and of governmental black information operations seeking to control those media.

The usual Western media conspiracy, always out to harm China.

The editorial’s “argument” is that they found “some reporters in the square at the time” who said they saw no massacre, and that’s good enough for them, despite a mountain of evidence. Case closed.

This is weasly, because as everyone knows by now there was no massacre inside the square, as was first reported during “the fog of war.” Sometimes an uninformed journalist continues to refer to a massacre inside the square, and that is sloppiness. That there were shootings and deaths on side streets and other parts of town on June 4 — in other words, a massacre — is a matter of fact, just as it’s a matter of fact that an angry crowd killed a handful of soldiers. What is not known is how many were killed, but even if it was just a few it’s still a massacre. (My country had its own massacre, Kent State, in which four students were killed. A massacre is a massacre.)

I won’t labor the point with my own interpretation. Instead, let’s just go to some eyewitnesses.

First, Chinese author Ma Jian writes of his interview with a man who was in the crowd who had his arm crushed by a tank and is now an amputee.

“It happened right here,” he told me, “just by these white railings. A tank charged down Changan Avenue, and sprayed tear gas into the air. There was a big crowd of us. We were coughing and choking. We rushed on to the pavement, and I was squashed back against these railings. A girl dropped to her knees. I was grasping the railings with one hand to stop myself falling and with the other I offered her a handkerchief and told her to use it as a mask. Just as I was leaning over to hand it to her, another tank roared up and careered into us. Thirteen people were crushed to death but I only lost my arm. The tank commander knew exactly what he was doing.” He stared down at the patch of asphalt at his feet and then glanced nervously at the police vans parked on the other side of the road. It was rush hour; cars and taxis were streaming past us.

What a terrifying experience, I said, gripping the white railings.

“Yes, it was,” he replied quite calmly. “But I wasn’t truly afraid until I saw Deng Xiaoping on television, telling the martial law troops: ‘Foreigners say that we opened fire, and that I admit, but to claim that army tanks drove over unarmed citizens, that is a disgraceful slur.’ My scalp tightened. I was a living witness to the truth. What if one day they came to get me? … For two years I never dared go out at night, I never spoke about what happened. Policemen came to interrogate me almost every day, but none of us ever mentioned the tanks. Every anniversary of 4 June, the police would come to my house with pillows and mattresses and sleep on my bedroom floor. Just to stop me speaking to foreign journalists.”

Timothy Brook, who received a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University and taught in Shanghai:

The first rounds of fire catch everybody by surprise. The people in the streets don’t expect this to happen. There are a couple of hospitals right near Muxidi, and the casualties start showing up within 10 or 15 minutes of the first round of gunfire. The casualties run very high because people didn’t expect to be shot at with live ammunition. When they start firing, people say, “Oh, it’s rubber bullets.” Even after it becomes clear, even after they realize that the army is going to go ahead at any cost, people still pour into the streets. This is the amazing thing: People were just so angry, so furious at what was happening in their city that they were not going to step back and let the army do what it was doing. This is why the casualties from Muxidi on east towards Tiananmen Square were so high. This is the major military confrontation of the evening.

Self-described former Maoist and reporter for the Globe and Mail Jan Wong (same link as above):

That Saturday night the army started coming in … the city, and so the people rushed out again. This was becoming a regular occurrence: Every time people said, “The army’s coming,” everybody would rush out and stop them. And they rushed out this time, except the army shot them, and so they started running down the alleyways.

People in [the Muxidi] apartment buildings could hear all this. It was summertime and the windows were open, so they heard the gunfire; they heard people screaming; and they saw the soldiers shooting at people. They would lean out their windows and scream at the soldiers and curse them and throw things. I had that feeling myself. I wanted to throw things out the window of the Beijing Hotel because you just felt anger: “Why are you doing this to the people?” …

What they did was they just raked the buildings with their gunfire, and they were shooting people. People were being killed in their own kitchens because these bullets were very lethal. … They just shot at them because they were trying to get into the city. They had been ordered to take Tiananmen, and they were going to get there no matter what it took.

From Dr. Jiang Yanyong, the whistleblower who blew the cover of the conspiracy to convince the world there was no SARS in Beijing, and who was later harassed for his efforts:

I was chief of the department of general surgery on June 4, 1989. On the night of June 3, I heard repeated broadcasts urging people to stay off the streets. At about 10 p.m., I was in my apartment when I heard the sound of continuous gunfire from the north. Several minutes later, my pager beeped. It was the emergency room calling me, and I rushed over. What I found was unimaginable–on the floor and the tables of the emergency room were seven young people, their faces and bodies covered with blood. Two of them were later confirmed dead by EKG. My head buzzed and I nearly passed out. I had been a surgeon for more than 30 years. I had treated wounded soldiers before, while on the medical team of the PLA railway corps that built the Chengdu-Kunming Railway. But their injuries resulted from unavoidable accidents during the construction process, while before my eyes, in Beijing, the magnificent capital of China, lying in front of me, were our own people, killed by our people’s army, with weapons supplied by the people.

Even eyewitness Philip Cunningham, who often supports the CCP, wrote of that day,

The Tiananmen demonstrations were crushed, cruelly, breaking the implicit pact that the People’s Liberation Army would never turn its guns on the people and burying student activism for many years to come, but not before inspiring millions in China and around the world to push for reform and change, heralding the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

The editorial repeats all the cliches of the deniers. Referring to a book by Philip Cunningham, it says:

It quotes one of the student leaders, Chai Ling, as having said that creating a “sea of blood” might be the only way to shake the government. If frustrated students leaving the square carried out those petrol bomb attacks on troops, then the anger of the government becomes a lot more understandable. But I doubt whether any of those responsible for the original phony story will get round to details like that.

There were some attacks on troops, and that hasn’t been denied. But most of the demonstrators leaving the square did so peacefully. Most of the shooting was not in response to petrol bomb attacks. And one foolish and out-of-context quote from Chai Ling does not make for an excuse for a massacre. Blogger Xu Eberlein, one of my favorites, adds some nuance:

Reading excerpts of the newly published Tiananmen Moon by Philip Cunningham, the very journalist who interviewed Chai Ling 20 years ago, made me feel that Chai Ling might have been more innocent than some have thought. Although her idea of using bloodshed to arouse people was hardly a moral one, she appeared to be sincere and serious about the student movement and was indignant toward some other selfish power-thirsty student leaders. As such, I’d like to believe the young Chai Ling twenty years ago was a humanly imperfect idealist, as young activists are. If she sometimes took herself too importantly, it was largely because of the situation: being young and the leader of a mass movement can carry anyone away.

I can go on and on with more testimony from reporters and Chinese citizens who were all there and whose stories are strikingly similar. I can cite the Tiananmen Mothers. There is no shortage of proof. And this isn’t about whether the students were right or wrong, or whether there was or wasn’t violence on both sides. There remain many unanswered questions about June 4, and there’s no doubt blame on all sides. And there’s no doubt that in the confusion and violence there were contradictory stories that got large public play (just as we saw after the killing of Bin Laden). Fog of war. There are myths, such as reports of a massacre inside the square. But the fact remains, many peaceful citizens who had left the square were fired upon in back alleys and many died. Hundreds? A thousand? We’ll never know, but the CCP, which keeps meticulous records, does know.

It’s good that China Daily is at least discussing the subject. A pity it’s the same old China-as-victim, Western-media-as-villain nonsense.

June 4th may not mean much to most Chinese today, and even those who were directly involved have moved on, and some would rather just forget about it. I understand that. But truth is truth, history is history, facts are facts. The CD editorial is another effort to bury the truth and cast all the blame on foreign media. This is an easy out, and is used whenever China has something to hide. Claiming all the media are lying seems kind of crazy. It’s a conspiracy theory, as nutty as claims by some that China is conspiring to take over the world. Do they really believe all the reporters and eyewitnesses colluded to mislead the world? Only China would make a claim like that.

Update: Gotta love this line from the comments:

The Chinese press is truely independent from the truth and our wise leaders make sure that there is no wrong or incorrect information in the news. This is the correct and scientific way with Chinese characteristics. And it makes me proud to be a Chinese.

I am assuming this is parody. At least I hope it is.


Instapundit’s North Korea Wisdom

A mature, sober, prudent response to today’s attack on South Korea.

JUST WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . .

Kill them all!

And this is the leading to-the-right blogger?


Why political reform in China is inevitable

Tom Friedman, one of my least favorite columnists, has a worthy enough (if typically simplistic) column today about the need for China to embrace political change. It all boils down to economics. The country simply can’t prosper until it’s instituted meaningful political reform.

Can China continue to prosper, while censoring the Internet, controlling its news media and insisting on a monopoly of political power by the Chinese Communist Party?

I don’t think so. To be sure, China has thrived up to now — impressively — by permitting its people only economic liberty. This may have been the sole way to quickly take a vast country of 1.3 billion people from massive poverty to much-improved standards of living, basic education for all, modernized infrastructure and even riches for some urbanites.

But the Nobel committee did China a favor in sending the tacit message with its peace prize: Don’t get too cocky and think that you have rewritten the laws of gravity. The “Beijing Consensus,” of economic liberty without political liberty, may have been a great strategy for takeoff, but it won’t get you to the next level. So this might actually be a good time for Beijing to engage peaceful democracy advocates like Liu [Xiaobo], who is now serving an 11-year sentence, or the 23 retired Chinese Communist Party officials who last week published an open letter challenging the government to improve speech and press freedoms.

As China ages, Friedman contends, it has to move from low-wage manufacturing jobs to more “knowledge- and service-based jobs.” Has to. So you have the usual conflict: a government that wants to control everything and shape its people’s thinking, countered by market forces – China’s growth can only go so far without a problem-solving, innovative workforce.

Dovetailing with this column today is this new piece by my friend and fellow blogger Paul Denlinger on why Wen Jiaobao is thinking along the same lines, and why he will push for more political reform. Denlinger argues that you can’t balance so much social change with so little political change. I’ll just snip two of his seven reasons as to why this is so.

4. China’s president, Hu Jintao, is obsessed with social harmony and stability as his legacy, but Wen thinks that this is a pipe dream. Wen thinks that social change is happening faster than the party, government leadership understand.

5. Wen feels that the current leadership continues to think that economic growth is the answer to China’s problems when past growth rates are no longer possible.

This topic seems to be taking on a life of its own. I think that Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize will continue to fan the flames, and that those who said Oslo’s choice would have no ramifications in China are dead wrong. China’s fate depends on more liberty. Wen knows it, Liu knows it, I know it. Manufacturing can’t and won’t soar forever. What’s next? China has to prepare for the inevitable.


Obama: “The alien in the White House”

I admire Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz the way I admire Sarah Palin. I detest them both, but must admit they are good at what they do. Palin is good at getting out her messages with no accountability or explanation thanks to her Facebook page. Rabinowitz is a master at the subtle art of character assassination. She does it beautifully, with chiseled sentences, immaculate syntax and a truly fine sense of drama. She understand the power of words to put readers into a sort of trance, and she uses this to stunning effect. You don’t even realize she’s performing an assassination.

Today, in a column shamefully titled The Alien in the White House, she sets her sights on Obama, joining the media pack’s obsession du jour, namely his remoteness and lack of connection with Americans. As usual, she starts off with elegant diction disguising a brutal point.

The deepening notes of disenchantment with Barack Obama now issuing from commentators across the political spectrum were predictable. So, too, were the charges from some of the president’s earliest enthusiasts about his failure to reflect a powerful sense of urgency about the oil spill.

There should have been nothing puzzling about his response to anyone who has paid even modest critical attention to Mr. Obama’s pronouncements. For it was clear from the first that this president—single-minded, ever-visible, confident in his program for a reformed America saved from darkness by his arrival—was wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents…

A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

Yes, all the other presidents had these qualities, but not Obama. He is an alien. You can then put in the disclaimer that you don’t mean he is actually an “alien,” as in “illegal alien,” but her words are carefully chosen and they cunningly speak to the GOP base for whom Rabinowitz always writes (though, to her credit, she was as critical of Palin’s being a birdbrain as I was). Her point comes across.

As proof of his coldness, and of his failure to understand what Americans value, like our sacred relationship with Great Britain, she finds an anecdote, and though she admits what actually happened remains unclear, she nevertheless reads into it all sorts of dark meaning. This man is not an American in spirit. He is not “like us.” Here’s the proof:

One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since, but the central fact stands clear. The new administration had apparently found no place in our national house of many rooms for the British leader who lives on so vividly in the American mind. Churchill, face of our shared wartime struggle, dauntless rallier of his nation who continues, so remarkably, to speak to ours. For a president to whom such associations are alien, ridding the White House of Churchill would, of course, have raised no second thoughts.

Sinister indeed, and the right-leaning media like The Corner pounced on it with a vengeance. Obama must be ignorant of WWII and Churchill’s greatness. He is from outside our – the real Americans’ – Judeo-Christian society. He is some mystery, an anomaly, and though she never says it, is there any doubt his being black and partly from Kenyan descent aren’t at cause? And returning to the bust, was there perhaps a simpler explanation than Obama hating England and wanting to spit in its face? Perhaps.

Intended as a symbol of transatlantic solidarity, the bust was a loaner from former British prime minister Tony Blair following the September 11 attacks. A bust of Abraham Lincoln–Obama’s historical hero–now sits in its place. A White House spokesperson says the Churchill bust was removed before Obama’s inauguration as part of the usual changeover operations, adding that every president puts his own stamp on the Oval Office.

Perhaps Obama’s returning the bust was a bad idea. Maybe he should have kept it. But it’s not like he replaced it with a bust of Mao. To read so much into something so trivial – well, that’s the MO for nearly all the assaults on Obama. Critics ignore the big things, like continuing the drone attacks and renditions and illegal wiretaps, and focus on pure and utter bullshit. He didn’t sound angry enough in Louisiana. He was laughing at a party the day the rig exploded (weren’t we all? It only became a national crisis days later, when BP admitted they did not have it under control.) He bowed too low in front of a foreign leader. He doesn’t wear a US flag lapel pin. He sent a loaned bust back to England.

Rabinowitz waits until the end to thrust the dagger in as far as it can go.

The beliefs and attitudes that this president has internalized are to be found everywhere—in the salons of the left the world over—and, above all, in the academic establishment, stuffed with tenured radicals and their political progeny. The places where it is held as revealed truth that the United States is now, and has been throughout its history, the chief engine of injustice and oppression in the world.

But there can be no doubt by now of the influences that have shaped him. They account for his grand apology tour through the capitals of Europe and to the Muslim world, during which he decried America’s moral failures—her arrogance, insensitivity. They were the words of a man to whom reasons for American guilt came naturally. Americans were shocked by this behavior in their newly elected president. But he was telling them something from those lecterns in foreign lands—something about his distant relation to the country he was about to lead.

The truth about that distance is now sinking in, which is all to the good. A country governed by leaders too principled to speak the name of its mortal enemy needs every infusion of reality it can get.

This is nasty stuff, and of course it’s the fault of the usual suspects, those on the left, and especially academia. Your typical Republican slander against anyone who thinks progressively, branding them as enemies of the state. But she says it so beautifully.

This is one of Rabinowitz’ most skillful columns. It’s devastating. It’s eloquent, yet it’s as inciteful as anything Goebbels ever said. Don’t believe me? Be sure to see the comments. I remember all the nonsense about Bush Derangement Syndrome. That was easily refuted because the outrage in question was based on facts that couldn’t be refuted, like starting wars, permitting torture, consigning habeas corpus to the scrap heap. With Obama, all the derangement is focused on nonsense, like bowing too low. Rabinowitz makes you think the people hate Obama, when his poll numbers have stood up remarkably well. His predecessor left office with a 26 percent approval rating. And, of course, never an acknowledgment that he inherited more problems than perhaps any president ever. It was Obama who brought death into this world and all our woe, and it all started the day he put his hand on the Bible (which was probably a Qur’an with a fake cover) and took his oath of office.

To see just how susceptible people are to this kind of rhetoric, I urge you again to read the comments. As I jumped from page to page, I realized (again) just how dangerous America’s political polarization is, and thought back to the elections from 1980 to 1996, when each side vigorously attacked its opponent, but never referred to them as traitors, as aliens, as Muslims (which the right sees only as a very bad word), as actual terrorists, or at least pals of terrorists. If people truly believe their leaders are animals, monsters, rapists, how long will it take for there to be violence? And Ms. Rabinowitz, no matter how silver-tongued your hatchet job may be, we’ll all know you made your fair contribution.


“Everything from China is tainted with Communism (and lead)”

Socialism Studies – funniest Jon Stewart clip yet. “We should not be teaching American children about our enemy. It’s brainwashing.” The lady is actually arguing that teaching Mandarin to middle school children can turn them into communists. No, I ‘m serious. She actually says this. Don’t be drinking any liquids as you watch.

There is little more depressing than the inbred American far right. I mean, can anyone really be this stupid? It’s just scary to think Chinese people in China are watching this and thinking these morons are representative of the US. Well, I guess they are, but only of a (hopefully) small sliver.

Oh, and in a very unexpected twist, this post on teaching Mandarin actually gets in a healthy reference to ABBA and even a few notes of Dancing Queen. Jon Stewart rocks.

Update: More video here.

Lots of posts about this over here.


James Fallows: China and Arizona

I guess this comparison was inevitable. America’s smartest pundit notes that China has been stopping foreigners and asking for their “papers” for years, and even suggests my state might consider bringing in Chinese police to offer sensitivity training to their Arizona counterparts, and tips on how to limit potential abuse of their new, scary powers.

Here’s the point of comparison between the impending Arizona situation and China: it’s no fun knowing — as citizen and foreigner alike know in China, and as Hispanic-looking people in Arizona soon will — that you can be asked to show proof of your legality at an official’s whim. But if it’s sobering to think that the closest analogy to a new U.S. legal situation is daily life in Communist China, we should also look on the bright side. With some notable and serious exceptions, I typically did not see Chinese police asking for papers on a whim. Usually something had to happen first. Maybe soon the Chinese State Security apparatus can travel to Arizona and give lectures to local police and sheriffs. They can explain how to avoid going crazy with a new power that so invites abuse. “Civil Liberties: Learning from China” can be the name of the course.

Fallows notes how the Chinese police rarely abuse their “papers, please” powers, but I’m not convinced we’ll see the same restraint here. In China, the police – at least in the big cities – know to tread cautiously when dealing with foreigners, as it can lead to messy and embarrassing situations, especially now that every foreigner in China writes a blog. In Arizona, Latinos, especially those with neither the wealth nor political clout to raise hell, are in a far more vulnerable position. Fair or not, foreigners enjoy special privileges in China. The same cannot be said of the Latinos in Arizona.

Link via ESWN.