Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good-bye To Human Rights in China, George Mitchell Can Thank The Ayatollah Khamenei

Gail Collins
Joe Conason
Benjamin Sarlin

"People love their doctors, but they tend to hate their bankers. Nobody is going to scare voters by predicting that if the Democratic bill passes, they may not be able to keep seeing the same hedge fund manager." - Gail Collins
"The future of America's children is connected inextricably with that of their generation around the world." - Joe conason
"Well, just four days after Goldman Sachs cost investors $12 billion by failing to tell them that they're being investigated for fraud, they gave out another $5.4 billion in bonuses. Huh? Even Somali pirates are going, 'Come on!'" – Jay Leno

Today most of the news in the US is about the new lovefest between Democrats and Republicans over the finance reform bill that passed out of committee and now goes to the Senate floor. Repubs keep on trying to center themselves around the punch bowl and are shyly asking to take part in the dance, now if only the Dems will accept the glass and hope that its not spiked, and they can waltz of merrily together. Tomorrow, it will be different, when someone wakes up in the morning in bed with the opposition and tries to chew their arm off to get away - yep, coyote ugly...

But paranoia seems to reign down upon the rest of the world like volcanic ash. In China, the government is threatening to permanently disbar two lawyers who defended members of the religious qigong sect, Falun Gong. Licenses are renewed each year, and usually a lawyer looses their license permanently only if they are convicted of a crime. But Falun Gong is one of the big four subjects that the Chinese government is unusually touchy and repressive about: "The Chinese government has been relentless about quashing any defense of Falun Gong, which is considered one of the most sensitive topics in China, along with independence for Tibet and Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. The movement was banned as an “evil cult” in 1999 after followers staged a silent protest at the Chinese leadership’s compound in Beijing. Since then, practitioners have been subjected to imprisonment and torture."

Personally, I don't see how Falun Gong is all that harmful. It misrepresents itself as a spiritual movement based on some qigong exercises cobbled together from three different traditions. It also is racist in that it markets itself only to Chinese people, and doesn't like to include any foreigners. The leader is ex-military and claims gaining spiritual powers from the practice, which is what the government deems dangerous.

Qigong is an energetic exercise, what old school martial art practitioners used to call warm-up exercises. The word qigong was made up by the government to codify the exercises and make it attractive to naive foreigners. It includes moving forms as well as sitting and standing meditations. The traditions that include qigongs are Buddhist, Taoist, martial, and medical. You can practice a qigong form on four levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, the goal is to integrate all four into your practice. I have practiced qigong for over 25 years, and have experienced its benefits and its limitations. More serious is the Chinese government's crackdown on anyone trying to expose or defend human right's cases. It signals that their right wing element is in control and will not brook any criticism.

I kept hoping that Thailand would be different, that they could have civil disobedience this year without it devolving into a blood-bath. Perhaps having the redshirts protesting in the business district for over a month was too long. An impatient, rich group of yellow shirts bought some explosives and five bombs went off today, injuring up to 75 redshirts. Now it gives the Army a legitimate excuse to move in and forcibly remove folks out of Bangkok, because now its for their safety and own good. The sickly King doesn't have to get involved, everyone saves face.

George Mitchell finally got the OK to travel back to the Middle East, to set up the third party talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. So the public drama is behind us, everyone feels better after the recent cathartic events, time to let some common sense prevail. Diplomats have to be patient, if nothing else.

To help get back to the negotiating table, Iran gave everyone a swift little kick in the butt. The Ayatollah Khamenei gave a speech announcing that Iran will play by itself with some war games in the Persian Gulf soon. His speech was a combination of outraged defense and blustery offense, a show put on more to convince the opposition in Iran how cool he is and how can you not support someone who can stick it to the Great Satan like Khamenei does? Yes, with an armed chorus behind him, chanting Go Ayatollah! Go Ayatollah! Almost makes you want to contribute to his personal cashmere goat farm that supplies the material for his luxurious robes: “How can the U.S. president make atomic threats against Iranian people? This threat is a threat against humanity and international peace and no one in the world should dare to articulate such words.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said Wednesday that countries that had nuclear ability were themselves “brazenly lying” about their commitment to nonproliferation. He argued that nuclear-armed states sought to keep non-nuclear states from developing such weapons because they did not want competition. “We have repeatedly said that we do not intend to use weapons of mass destruction, but the Iranian people do not surrender to these threats and will force those who make such threats to come to their knees. We will not allow America to renew its hellish dominance over Iran.” Here he is admitting that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but that they will never use them, they just want to compete with the US as an equal threat to the world. At least we alter the face of our threats every four or eight years... Or, it could be that the good Grand Ayatollah is really an agent for the CIA, and they paid him to put some fear into the peace negotiators, stranger things have happened...

But the worst news involves uncovering a secret prison in Iraq. This time it wasnt run by the Americans, though they knew of it, rather it belonged to an armed squad working out of the Prime Minister's office. It was a sectarian prison, with Shias jailing and torturing Sunnis, whether they posed a threat or not. If Nuri Malecki can extricate himself out of this mess, then he is quite the chameleon, and his tricks to give him the election and form another government will not be a factor. He would win on sheer chutzpah and the size of his balls... If not, he can always emigrate to Kyrzystan, I hear they are looking for a new, autocratic style leader...

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