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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

August 11, 2008


The Soul Man

I wonder what Russia's real leader, Vladimir Putin's, soul looks like these days. Perhaps we could all ask President George W. Bush for some insight into what and who the man-behind-the-man really is. After all, it was President Bush, himself, who said this:

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy,"
"I was able to get a sense of his soul,"
-President Bush about then-Russian President Putin

I got it... Bush is a Soul Man.

Is it naiveté or just stupidity that makes the man with the most important job in the world say stupid thing after stupid thing? When does "folksy" get old? When do those who still support him get the news bulletin that this guy is bad for our nation and the world as a whole?

In case you were interested, the current Russian President is Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev appears to have the hand of Putin directly up his rear as he orders troops into the former Soviet Republican, and current (but perhaps not for long) sovereign nation of Georgia.

While watching the Olympics on Sunday night, I had the "treat" of catching an NBC Bob Costas interview with none other than President Bush. Bush was sitting relaxed in the left-side chair (to Costas' right) as the sportscaster asked him questions about the Soviet invasion of Georgia and what President Bush whispered into Putin's ear as the two met in the stands during the opening ceremonies.

We'd all like to know just what the leader of the free world said in the few seconds he actually exchanged words with this other leader. Our nation has had terse words with Russia about the invasion but, judging from their amiable handshake and brief encounter, one has to assume that our President said nothing more than, "Now cut that out."

By the way, don't look for the Bush-Costas interview on YouTube or NBC's web site. YouTube only has a short piece about his visit to a Chinese church and the need for religion while NBC is claiming "technical difficulties." Perhaps they didn't wish to show Costas closing the interview with his jokingly telling President Bush "You're Dismissed" as the two men chuckled.

We're all waiting for this guy to be dismissed, permanently.

-Noah Greenberg

Making Cheney Look Like Ghandi?

Here's a cheerful thought for you. Pat Buchanan recently said that McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi." I have no particular like for Buchanan. However if someone like him finds McCain disturbing, it should give us all pause at what sort of man this is. I think McCain is full of anger and wants to start another war. Here's the video clip:


-Robert Scardapane

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

The opening festivities at the Beijing Olympics on August 8th were spectacular, with a beauty and grandeur unparalleled in recent Olympic memory. With more than 15,000 participants and directed and choreographed by China’s best-known filmmaker, Zhang Yimou, the production was quite an extravaganza, portraying a 5,000 year history of China and ending with an incomparable display of the world’s favorite Chinese invention, fireworks.

More than 11,000 athletes from 204 countries walked through the Bird’s Nest, the National Stadium where the majority of the events will take place over the next two weeks.

The international news media has focused attention on the Beijing Games as China’s “coming out party”–China’s attempt to introduce itself, the world’s oldest civilization, to a world that actually knows very little about the country.

China is the world’s most populous nation and over the past 15 years has also become the fastest-growing economy in the world. That economy has created an ever-increasing trade deficit with the West, however, and the U.S. owes a huge debt to China, which now provides more than 20 percent of America’s non-perishable goods.

Those statistics present their own awesome picture, but give little real explanation of why the focus on the Beijing Games should be on what’s been swept under the tarmac and not just what’s happening on it.

Despite the capitalist tone of its economic growth, China remains a totalitarian government and the occasion of the Olympics has only served to highlight that grim reality.

The Games have been politicized before, of course, no more so than in Munich 1936, when Adolf Hitler was on his genocidal rise or Munich 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Other intensely political games included the 1956 Melbourne Games, which were boycotted because of the repression of the Hungarian Uprising and Suez crisis.

The 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics were boycotted by the U.S. and 64 other nations because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Then in a quid pro quo, the 1984 Los Angeles games were boycotted by the Soviet Union and 14 Eastern bloc nations.

The calls for boycotting of the Beijing Games have been loud and long, but in the end not a single participating country withdrew.

The reasons to boycott the Beijing Games were manifold: Foremost to many is the Chinese government’s repression of Tibet and to a lesser extent, Taiwan. Then there is the Chinese involvement in Sudan, where the genocidal Darfur conflict continues.

According to Amnesty International, despite its growth as a world economic force, China remains one of the most repressive nations in the world, with over a half million people imprisoned without charge or trial due to “dissidence.” The governmental repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, is severe, according to AI.

Religious persecution is rife in China. Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches are harassed and arrested on a regular basis.

In addition, China is the world’s largest executioner: China ranks first worldwide for executions, with more than 50 percent more executions than Iran, the second-highest ranking nation for the death penalty.

Unlike most countries with the death penalty, China acts swiftly, executing prisoners within a year of sentencing. China also executes for a wide array of reasons from fraud to tax evasion to the killing of pandas. The methods used and the whimsical nature of the application of the death penalty in China, as well as the disproportionate number of women executed in the country have all raised international outrage.

Groups like Amnesty International assert that the Chinese government also did a “sweep” of dissidents in the months leading up to the games in order to prevent any mass demonstrations that might refocus international attention away from the Olympics and onto China’s human rights’ record.

Chinese academic and journalist Hu Jia was sentenced on April 1, 2008 to three and a half years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power." Chinese authorities jailed him in order to silence his public criticism of China's human rights record in advance of the Olympics.

This panoply of human rights violations prompted commentary from President George Bush in advance of the Games. August 6th, Bush issued a stern statement to and about China while traveling in Thailand prior to his arrival in Beijing for the Olympic opening ceremonies. Bush said, “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists. We press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs, but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs.”

The speech was somewhat mitigated by the President’s praise of China’s market reforms. China is America’s greatest rival on the world stage, both as a potential super power and economic giant.

Bush added that “Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions. Yet change will arrive.”

Bush made the statements in an effort to appease American protestors as well as an international community queasy about the Olympics in China. The speech reflected the fine line the Administration has always walked with China–a line some argue has too often been blurred by a desire to appease China in trade, rather than recognize the vast array of human rights abuses.

One source referred to the President’s speech as “a desire not to embarrass China in its moment of glory, a call for strong words by those dismayed by China's repression and a determination to remind the world that [Bush] has been pushing China to allow greater freedom during his presidency.”

Bush’s statement came just hours before Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek had his visa revoked by Chinese authorities.

Cheek was literally leaving for Beijing when he got the news his visa had been rescinded. Cheek was going to the Olympics to promote his effort urging China to help make peace in Darfur.

China is a close ally of Sudan and the country’s main trading partner. There has been intense international pressure on China to help end the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, which has killed more than a half-million people and displaced another 2.5 million.

Cheek is president and co-founder Team Darfur, Olympic athletes protesting the genocide in Darfur.

Cheek told reporters he had intended to request an “Olympic truce,” which dates back to the 9th century B.C. Olympic games when fighting was stopped to ensure that athletes had safe passage to travel to and from competitions.

An Olympic truce has nations request a “time out” from war and conflict during the Games. Attempts to revive the Olympic truce have succeeded rarely, notably in the Balkans during the 1992 and 1994 Games.

Cheek told reporters he has been upset by China’s treatment of athletes involved with Team Darfur and also noted he thinks the International Olympic Committee's rules that prohibit political protest go against the spirit of the games, which is international unity.

Cheek had hoped to have the Chinese government make the demand of Sudan. The American team chose Lopez Lomong to carry the flag at the opening ceremonies in response to Cheek’s being kept out of China. Lomong, 23, is a Sudanese refugee and one of the “lost boys” of Sudan. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007. Lomong is a member of Team Darfur.

The Darfur conflict is far from the only issue affecting the Beijing Games, however. On August 9th a Chinese student, Christina Chan, was arrested at an Olympic event for attempting to show a Tibetan flag.

Three days prior to the opening ceremonies a small group of Americans was arrested and detained for raising “free Tibet” banners during the final lap of the Olympic torch toward Beijing and numerous others have been “respectfully evicted” from Beijing for attempting to display the Tibetan flag.

Meanwhile, at the same event where Chan was arrested (she had also been involved in previous “free Tibet” demonstrations during the Olympic torch run), other Chinese students protested the death penalty in China and were dispersed.

Also on August 9th, five activists from another pro-Tibet group staged what was described as a “peaceful protest” in Tiananmen Square. The activists managed to get around the heavy security in place at the Square in the Center of Beijing.

According to a report from Students for a Free Tibet, protesters draped themselves in Tibetan flags and lay down in the Square. They were taken away by authorities.

The Tiananmen Square action followed the detention of three Americans from the same student group who were arrested when they displayed Tibetan flags near the entrance to the Bird’s Nest Stadium prior to the opening ceremony.

The Chinese government’s repression of Tibet has been a focal point for American activists. One man wearing a t-shirt that read “democracy and human rights are more important than the Olympics” was asked to either remove the shirt or leave the venue.

Reporters have also had internet access to topics the Chinese government considers controversial--such as the Falun Gong religious movement and Tibet issues--blocked.

As much as China had hoped to keep international attention focused on the spectacle of the Olympics and away from the internal problems that have attracted so much involvement from activists worldwide, that goal has not been achieved. As extraordinary as the opening ceremonies were, international attention could not be kept away from China’s manifold conflicts–and not just Tibet and Darfur.

Humanitarian groups claim the Chinese government evicted more than a million people to clear the way for venues and other Olympic facilities. The Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) puts the number at 1.5 million. COHRE noted in a recent report that many of Beijing’s displaced tenants were given little or no notice, and forced evictions often have been violent. Evicted residents received little compensation and many have become homeless, the report said.

So while the Games move into high gear with China expected to eke out more medals than the reigning Summer Olympics champion, the U.S., the news beyond the stadiums and other venues is grim. The Chinese government may have taken a million cars off the roads in Beijing, shut down all factories for two weeks and also seeded clouds to clear the air over the Olympic venues, but cosmetic changes are far from lasting.

What will be different in two weeks in Beijing or anywhere else in China where the unprecedented economic growth has yet to trickle down to the average Chinese who still makes less than $20,000 a year in the cities and less than $1,000 a year in rural areas?

The cameras are on Beijing through August 24th, but what happens when everyone goes home? International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge said, “We believe that the Olympic Games will have definitely a positive, lasting effect on the Chinese society.”

But with dissidents still being jailed and protesters being silenced even as the whole world is watching, what can proponents of free speech in China expect once the cameras turn away?

The IOC noted that giving China the 2008 summer games would help bring China into the world community. But as long as repression remains the rule of law, China will not be part of the world community of expression and global change, but will remain mired in the oppressive rule that has kept the world’s most populous nation in self-exile for centuries.

In response to, "Our economy - the most important issue on the table for us real Americans - won't be helped by another four years of Bush. And that is just what John McCain is promising," Robert Scardapane writes:

Plutarch said "an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics." The ancient Greeks understood this problem. When will the GOP ever get it? The economist Paul Krugman recently said Republicans, who once hailed themselves as the "party of ideas," have become the "party of stupid". I am not really sure they are a party of stupid as much as the party of dangerous ideas. Concentrating wealth at the top has lead to social disruption throughout the ages.

And David W. forwards the following:

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness,"
-John Kenneth Galbraith

In response to Bush and his baby McBush (the graphic from yesterday), Victoria Brownworth writes:

That was the creepiest graphic I think I ever saw. yikes!

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg