Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Blog writing is forecast to be light to moderate in the next while. Ha! Who am I kidding? This will only be my first contribution this month (after the Gecko kindly took up the slack after my holiday, heh). Anyway we've been feverishly packing up the opulent, yet tastefully appointed editing suites here at Agam's place, in preparation to vacate the current premises by month's end. Man, I hate moving -- especially when one has been in the same place for 12 years, and has a natural tendency not to throw things away.
So now we will realign ourselves from being spread over an entire four storey shophouse, into occupying just two rooms next door. In this last 12 years I've been spoiled -- having first the entire top floor and then the whole second floor for my own nefarious purposes. Thankfully the moving can be step by step -- down the steps, out the back door, into the other back door, and up the steps again. Absolutely no loading of motor vehicles will be involved.
VANCOUVER'S FALUN GONG MARKS THREE YEARS AT CHINESE CONSULATE
Thanks to alert reader K.M. in Vancouver, for the tip for this anniversary at Granville St. and 16th Avenue -- the location of the consulate of the Peoples Republic of China and the accompanying protest site of supporters of the Falun Gong meditation group.
Since the crackdown launched by former president Jiang Zhemin against the peaceful practitioners of Falun Gong in China, the group claims that many hundreds of its members have been killed by Chinese officials, and tens of thousands are being held in "re-education" facilities, prisons and forced labour camps. Three years ago, Falun Gong members in Vancouver began a vigil outside the PRC consulate, with members taking shifts in a small kiosk on the boulevard next to the consulate's property. With the accompanying large protest billboards covering the stone wall on either side of the kiosk, they make quite an impression for motorists on one of the main thoroughfares into the city.
Earlier this year, after visiting my good friend A.W. nearby, I walked up to the site to get a closer look. Agam's tropically-acclimatised old bones were chattering in the night air of late March, but were soon warmed by a delightful conversation with the young woman taking the late shift of the vigil that night. We talked about the situation for them in China, as well as their situation in Canada (where they are certainly not free of intimidation by the PRC's agents), we talked about Tibet and about the Tienanmen massacre (she had been a student at that time), and many other things. Really, I had only wanted to say thank you to her, for so vividly showing her group's legendary forbearance in the face of adversity. It cannot be easy to spend long winter nights in that kiosk, but someone has been there constantly now for (as of tomorrow) 1100 days. I only wanted her to know that someone appreciated her sacrifice, and admired her commitment, and to thank her for it. We chatted for over an hour on that wintery sidewalk (I don't know where the time went), and Agam didn't feel cold anymore.
As the Vancouver Sun story shows, this vigil has broad support among Vancouver's people, city council, police force and so on. But they are occasionally harassed by certain members of the Chinese community, who feel they are making "the motherland" to lose face. Please. It is the PRC dictatorship which continues to make China lose face, with such childish insecurities over Tibetan Buddhist monks and peaceful meditation groups. The PRC constantly interferes in other countries' affairs over these issues and others such as democratic Taiwan -- trying to dictate who can visit where, who can speak to whom, etc. If the PRC's behaviour were to be seen in human terms, she would be like a petulant spoiled child, screaming and whining until it could get its own way on everything. Standing up to this immature bully's representative in freedom-loving Vancouver (figuratively standing up by "lotusly" sitting, as per photo), is a small Chinese woman in a little shelter -- and she is the one showing the bravery and idealism of some of China's people. Harassing people like this is beneath contempt, indeed the harassers make China "lose face". Show the bullies why they're wrong. A toot on the car horn when passing by, a wave, a smile, a thumbs-up would all be in order.
THE NEXT OLYMPICS
This is an interesting piece which examines how the approach of the 2008 Olympics (to be held in Beijing) may exert some unforseen influences on China's development. Once Athens is out of the way, look for increasing attention upon Beijing's human rights record, and the use of Beijing 2008 as an incentive to push for some actual progress in China. Will athletes have freedom of speech? Will they have more, or less freedom than Chinese citizens? Will the journalists have freedom to report? Or will they be restricted to the "Olympic village" for the duration? Does China's leadership understand what is supposed to comprise the "Olympic spirit"? Will there be any progress on the Tibet issue during the next four years, and will 2008 provide any incentive for achieving any?
Recent events don't hold out much hope. Chinese officials have punished and tried to muzzle the Chinese NBA star, Yao Ming, for having spoken frankly about his national basketball team's spirit at Athens. Apparently such honest speech will be considered "strictly forbidden" by Chinese sports authorities. They blamed the United States for corrupting him and giving him American personality habits! One offical said, "Now, he has changed, he's more like an American, he dares to say
anything." My goodness, China could use a bit of that, eh? One sports fan writing on a popular Chinese website wondered, "Does he mean that Americans tell the truth but Chinese do not?"
Then there was the shameful display in Beijing a few weeks back, when the Chinese fans drowned out the Japanese national anthem with booing, and then went on a violent rampage after the game (because China lost). The communist leaders have been playing with fire for a long time, trumping up a xenophobic nationalism among the population in order to provide a reason for their continued legitimacy as the sole possible source of leadership. That recent Sunday afternoon at the "Workers Stadium" showed just how dangerous it can be to rest the legitimacy of the "People's Dictatorship" upon such a volatile foundation.
CHINA DECIDES FEMALE INFANTICIDE ISN'T SUCH A GOOD IDEA
And one more on China while we're at it -- another example of how a long-held policy is finally being questioned by some in that country, for the negative consequences resulting from it. Back in the 1970's, Deng Xiao Peng realised that Maoism was a one-way trip to hell, and that the country was missing the national prosperity train entirely. So he launched reforms of the economic structure with the catchphrase, "To get rich is glorious!" A little bit overboard -- even the most cynical greedy capitalist would be at least a little bit ashamed to put it so bluntly. But I guess communists can get away with shameless greed talk like that, probably 'cause it's "progressive" and "revolutionary" greed for all mankind, or something.
Anyway, the new slogan being socialised by the authorities now, is apparently "To Have Girls Is Glorious". Because in fact, the country is in danger of running out of them. At the present time, almost 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. Boys are more highly prized than girls in Chinese society (carrying forward the family name, etc.), and so the one-child policy results in many girls being aborted before birth, or simply killed after birth. I have never understood this at all, I guess because girl children are just totally wonderful -- and that's just a fact! Now this old, draconian policy is starting to create serious social problems, lots of men who want to marry can't find a partner, resulting in black market trade in girls and women, kidnappings for the wife market, and so on. Now the government is forced to attempt to crack down on selective female abortions and infanticide, to try to teach people that girls are worthwhile, provide financial incentives...
These will include cash payments for couples who have a daughter and let her live, as well as privileges in housing, employment and job training. The payments will be doled out to families at different stages of the girl's life, apparently in an effort to prevent families from gaming the system.And isn't that a telling commentary on social values -- they have to dole the payments out like that so that some people wouldn't just take the money first and then just kill the girl anyway. Something just doesn't compute here: China executes more people every year than all other countries combined. What sort of crimes could merit execution, if the act of killing your own child merits a financial incentive to encourage you not to do it? "Here, we'll give you money not to kill your daughter, and we'll give you more money if you continue not to kill her." Unbelievable!
BUSHISMS VS. KERRYISMS
I used to have a file of "Bushisms", that would provide funny taglines for Usenet articles and emails. When I started getting fed up with the so-called "left" and their "progressive" campaign against Bushitler the Chimpy Shrub and defence of Arab fascists, I deleted the file. Apparently Slate magazine continues collecting "Bushisms" and since he became the candidate, "Kerryisms" as well.
But the attention is always on Bush for the next malapropism -- and some of them are actually so good I almost wish I'd thought of it myself. "Misunderestimated" is one I like for sure. A few weeks back, he was caught again, and of course the "progressive media" -- for example the Sydney Morning Herald -- jumped all over it. It was on the front page, it was analysed by experts, it was sneered at by columnists like the inimitable Margo Kingston, they provided a video file on the website so we could watch it over and over, so it would really sink in just how dumb this guy is. And in fact it wasn't even a misstated or transposed word -- it was the reader, or the writer (or both) of the speech getting caught in the well known "eats shoots and leaves" punctuation trap. But it was gold, because it could be read as though the president was admitting to working very hard to harm his country and people.
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we; they never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."Let's try adjusting the punctuation a little:
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful -- and so are we. They never stop thinking (about new ways to harm our country and our people) -- and neither do we."Now of course, anyone will understand that he meant it in the second sense, but that didn't stop the SMH and others pretending that "Wow! He actually admitted that he's trying to harm his country!"
Here's a bit of Kerry's articulation, not from any "Kerryism" collection, but just a quote that stood out for me as being a fine example of his bloviation, and not made fun of by any sort of media, to my knowledge. On his vote to give the president authority to take military action against Saddam:
''If we hadn't voted the way we voted, we would not have been able to have a chance of going to the United Nations and stopping the president, in effect, who already had the votes and who was obviously asking serious questions about whether or not the Congress was going to be there to enforce the effort to create a threat.''Is anyone able to decipher what this actually means? I think I prefer a straight talker as opposed to this stuff. Bush's theme song should be:
I'm just a soul whose intentions are good,Heh. Kerryisms can be useful and fun though, and may be used in many different circumstances. For example, for the men. If you're out driving with your wife or girlfriend, and you make some wrong turns and don't know where you are, but are too stubborn to ask a local for directions, and your companion makes smart remarks about men and not asking directions, and she says, "You really don't know where we are, do you? I think we're lost, aren't we? Do you know where we are?" You can simply reply, "Cambodia." [idea stolen from a Day by Day cartoon]
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderestimated.
Or how about this: Yesterday I went to Cambodia for lunch. Well actually I went closer to Cambodia than I usually am, which is almost the same, right? I mean, I was within a few hundred miles of Cambodia, and as we know the "watery border areas" don't have too many signs, so I could have been in Cambodia. And anyway, I have that memory which is seared -- seared in me. Well if my readers are not reading blogs and only know of this story from "mainstream" media, you won't know that the Kerry campaign has already admitted that his assertions over several decades that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia (being shot at by South Vietnamese celebrating Jesus' birthday), were actually not, um, true. He's been telling this story for a very long time, even testifying under oath to Senate committees, and although the memory has been seared -- seared in him, it's not true at all. His own biography shows that he was somewhere else in South Vietnam at the time. Kerry has not admitted to lying for all this time, including under oath, but his campaign has admitted that the story is untrue -- but adding that he was "near" to Cambodia a few months later. As far as I'm aware, the "mainstream" media hasn't touched any of this. So we have the situation where "Bush lied," is basically taken for granted -- although every example given has shown by subsequent impartial investigations to have not been a lie at all; and Mr. Kerry is shown to have been telling something, and testifying to it over decades, when he had to have known it wasn't true, and it is easily proven so -- and the media is absolutely silent about it.
But the disputes over whether he deserved his medals that got him out after four months, whether he lied about his Cambodian Christmas, seem secondary to me. A war hero isn't supposed to brag, and I think that the true ones, don't. And he should not be surprised to find that a lot of Vets don't like him. It had to have been so painful for some of those guys, coming home from such a nighmarish experience, and being called vile names and spit upon rather than honoured. And a lot of that was due to John Kerry, who was busy publicly branding them all as a lot of William Calleys, a raping, plundering Genghis Khan army of barbarians. He was safely at home after a quick acquisition of medals, making all the assertions of barbaric crimes that some of his mates were resisting extreme torture not to say to their captors, back in Vietnam.
And after tarring his whole "band of brothers" as barbarians, murderers and rapists, now he wants to base his candidacy for president on his own four months as a "war hero"? And further to that, he objects when some of his brothers raise questions about his account of things. Now I hear he is taking the Swift Boat Vetrans for Truth to court in order to shut them up, and is making legal moves to squelch a book which documents the case against him -- Unfit for Command -- co-authored by the same John O'Neill who debated him over this stuff 33 years ago. That sort of gives a different light to the charge that this is all lies concocted by the Bush campaign and Texas Republicans. Either that or the Republicans are pretty darn prescient -- having moved to stymie the Kerry campaign 33 years ahead of time.
It seems I recall Michael Moore charging that when a film distribution company told him a year before Fahrenheit 911 was finished, that they were not interested in handling his controversial flick because of the election season, and when they stuck by this decision after it was in the can, he went to Cannes and cried "censorship". He knew full well that this company didn't want his film from the start, but he wanted to be dramatic and oppressed. And he just found another distributor, no big deal. No censorship, and he knew it. No legal injunctions, same thing with his book where he also cried censorship. If a company doesn't want your product, it's their right not to buy it or distribute it, and it's not censorship. But it's alright for Kerry to try to muzzle the Swift Vets, go for injunctions to stop their television ads, and even try to block Unfit for Command through the courts. Now that is censorship. Why is it alright for MoveOn.org to host anti-Bush advertisements which use old Nazi film to present the idea that Bush=Hitler, but it's not alright for Swift Boat Vets to tell their side of the story?
If I had been branded by some braggadoccio war hero as some sort of baby-killer, well I'm sorry but I'd want to expose the bum and set the record straight. And all the more so if the bum thought he had what it takes to lead the free world. When he tries to silence the legitimate questions, it shows up some serious character flaws. Whatever happened to ... "[pause for dramatic effect] Bring. It. On." Huh? Has it changed now to Shut. Them. Up. Not very inspiring, but then maybe that's why some have taken to referring to him as "Flipper", heh heh. How about this little example -- Flipper, then and now:
1971: ...we are ashamed of and hated what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia.... yeah, yeah, reporting for duty and so on and so forth.
2004: I defended this country as a young man...
ISLAM AND OLYMPICS
Here's a gem of an article by Amir Taheri on the compatibility between Islamic fundamentalism and the Olympic spirit. I can't quote from it right now because I lost all my cached pages, but it's full of interesting facts. The mullahs who run Iran are quite the farcical bunch, you'll feel guilty for laughing at some of their antics related to women's sport. One story: they built a special segregated women's sport arena in Tehran, fully stocked with female security, all female coaches, trainers, maintenance crews, etc. It's because no man can look upon a woman doing sports, lest he become uncontrollably -- um, excited or something. This is due to the powerful rays emitted by a woman's hair, which drive men wild with desire. Well they built this multi-million dollar facility with huge high walls around it to ensure no male eyes could ever peep inside, a nice modern sport training centre for the honoured ladies. Then some brainiac mullah realised that it was too close to the airport. There was danger here, danger that male passengers of aircraft or helicopters passing overhead might catch a forbidden glimpse of the sportswomen in action! And be mezmerised by the dangerous rays from their hair!
So now the girls have to go way out in the hinterlands, like some sort of top secret remote military camp guarded by all woman (naturally) paramilitary guards, whenever they feel like kicking the ball around a bit.
SHARI'A LAW IN CANADA
I watched an interesting little documentary on BBC last weekend, on the issue of Islamic Shari'a law being instituted in Ontario. How is it that such a self-proclaimed liberal, progressive and tolerant society, can countenance a situation where a woman will be legally considered to be roughly half a person? The two Iranian women interviewed, came to our country to be free of that sort of discrimination, and now Muslim women will be under immense pressure to submit to institutionalised inequality.
This type of holding themselves separate, by some Muslim groups, is not going to do themselves or Canada any good. Multiculturalism is great, as long as it enhances freedom. When it starts to restrict freedom, limit rights or indulge in discrimination (even "traditional" or "cultural" forms), then it has no place in a free country. A tolerant society does not mean you need to tolerate intolerance or bigotry in any form.
AGAM TO RALL: DROP DEAD
Sorry about the nasty headline, but this guy deserves it. Some his cartoons are so disgustingly racist and hateful, he'll get no quarter from me. But this little essay of his in Common Dreams is a good illustration of just how low people like this will stoop. He pretends to tell what New Yorkers are planning to do en masse for the Republican convention, when it's seems obvious to me that he's just come up with some freaky ideas that he hopes some unhinged individuals will try out. "Hey, that's a good idea -- we'll spit on them! Excellent!" Rall: you are just a plain old idiot with no redeeming qualities. It must really suck to be you. Who would come up with a plan to infect people with disease? Ted Rall would. I'm ashamed to be the same species as this thing. Actually, my little gecko teases me with this all the time. "Nya nya Agam, you're the same species as Ted Rall, and I'm not! Nya nya!" Heh. Cheeky little bugger.
WHERE ARE WE, ANYWAY?
I can't leave off on a negative note like Rall, so one more tip for reading material -- but from an exceedingly thoughtful and knowledgeable person this time. Actually I'm only about a quarter the way through it myself, it's pretty large. I won't be surprised if none of my loyal readers would actually have the time for it, but I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't at least point you to it.
A fellow named Norman Podhoretz -- who I'm sure must have a reputation as a serious thinker, but with whom I'm still unfamiliar -- has written a fabulously rich piece for Commentary Magazine, titled World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win. Don't let the title put you off, this is an immensely valuable work, with plenty of historical analysis which is quite thought provoking. And in the past couple of years, I've quite enjoyed having my thoughts provoked, preconceived notions obliterated, and long-held assumptions thrown into doubt. I'd recommend it to anyone!
As I said, I'm just getting into it now, so I won't comment further just yet. I like stuff that looks at our global situation with a wide, wide scope -- I think it's important to do that. And I think only when we look at things in such context, do we have any hope of making sense out of them and hopefully then, making correct decisions about how to proceed.