Friday, December 10, 2010

Confucius Says WTF? US To File Spying Charges Against Wikileaks

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
Jonathan Schanzer
"By seeming angrier at worried supporters than he is at the hostage-takers, Mr. Obama is already signaling weakness, giving Republicans every reason to believe that they can extract another ransom." - Paul Krugman
"This time, he stood against his Democratic colleagues, but there's reason to hope that he'll show his newly discovered spine to the Republicans the next time." - Dana Milbank
"It looks like the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich will continue, due to a strong Republican leader, Barack Obama. Today Obama changed his slogan from 'Yes we can' to 'Yes, we caved.' It’s so bad for him, now Democrats want to see his birth certificate." – Jay Leno

I've spent the last couple of days looking after my pet cat, who got into a fight and was bitten in his chest, the fang marks went rather deep. Even though he is neutered and getting older, he still thinks he has to establish dominance over the younger, tougher male cats that enter his area. Six months ago I took him to the vet because he got a part of his haunch bitten off. Because I live on a fixed income, I had to give up my monthly cigar allowance to buy medicine for him, and my having a healthy cat will have to be my Christmas present to my sister and brother-in-law, whom I live with. I am thankful that I don't have to pay storage for this blog, because I'd have to give it up this month, too.

It's been a strange couple of days if you are a Chinese government official, having been made to look like a fool over the Nobel Peace Prize fiasco. Not one official has been able to explain why they had gone ballistic that a Chinese man finally had won a Nobel Prize, and such a prestigious one as the Peace Prize. So what if the man was in prison for having written two years ago a manifesto of desired political reforms that China could undertake to guarantee the human rights of its citizens. I suppose the embarrassing part was partly that he was in jail, but rather, he was in jail on trumped up phony charges that suddenly were made public to the rest of the world, and the government was exposed to be petty, intolerant, and morbidly hypocritical, unchanged since the rule of the Gang of Four... How could I rationally explain the hysterical, angry reactions to the Nobel Committee? Cutting off diplomatic relations with Norway, canceling any business contracts, and trying to influence countries to not show up at the awards ceremonies today... Not allowing any of Liu Xiabo's friends to leave the country, and keep his wife under house arrest, demonstrating exactly how little rights all Chinese citizens really have... All designed so that there would be an empty chair when the awards were given out. The last time that a recipient of the Peace Prize was kept from attending the awards, it was under Nazi German occupation... Business as usual by blocking Chinese access to outside news sources like the BBC and CNN during their coverage of the Nobel awards, then lying about it and denying that it ever happened...
"To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle." - Confucius
To make matters even worse, the Chinese government hastily created a Peace Prize of its own, and had the first ever Confucius Peace Prize, held last night in Beijing: "Lien Chan was the lucky winner. A former vice-president of the Republic of China (better known as Taiwan), his office did not know he had won until journalists called.

"We've never heard of such an award and of course Mr Lien has no plans to accept it," said a spokesman from Lien's office.

In lieu of Lien then, organisers decided the cash prize of $15,000 would be given symbolically to a six-year-old girl, who had no relation to Lien. The block of cash, tied up in a red ribbon, was the size of the girl's head, and she clutched it while another organiser raised her up in his arms for everyone to see. She also received a certificate." Lucky girl, wonder which official she belongs to?

After the award was given, there came the question and answer period that quickly went horribly wrong: "During the question and answer period in the increasingly stuffy conference room of a central Beijing hotel, the Confucius Peace Prize Awards Committee couldn't even bring themselves to say Liu Xiaobo's name, instead circuitously referring to him as "he of the three-character name you mentioned".

When Liu Xiaobo conjures up Harry Potter's Lord Voldemort, the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, you know some Chinese are experiencing a crisis.

The press conference went from bad to worse, as question after question was asked.

"Jimmy Carter was one of your nominees for the first Confucius Peace Prize. Carter signed a letter asking for the release of Liu. Does this make you a supporter of a supporter of Liu?"

Or, "Doesn't it bother you and speak volumes if Lien Chan, the winner, hasn't shown up? Do you just have a hard time accepting the truth?"

Or this one, by a Hong Kong journalist, "Have you studied Confucius? Because you appear to have gotten the concepts wrong..."

The failure to understand that their well-intentioned decision to defend China had actually come across to the rest of the world as a tragicomedy, is significant and underscores the disconnect domestic Chinese have about how China is perceived to outsiders. In other words: the propaganda works. And people here support their government and support the Communist Party." Something tells me that there won't be a second annual Confucius Peace Prize, unless they can get John Stewart or Jeff Ross to host the event. The Chinese government will continue the farce that they know what is best for the Chinese people, and continue to put idealistic men in jail. The next couple of years will be difficult for anyone who believes and organizes for human rights. It's best summed up by the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself, Liu Xiaobo, who may also deserve a Mother Theresa award:
"I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer.”

Even dumber than the US plan to impose even more sanctions on Iran after the last IAEA conference in Geneva didn't produce anything to our liking, is the decision to file spying charges against Julian Assange. Most of the rest of the world are laughing at us, thinking that we lack a sense of humor and are being very thin skinned over the recent wikileaks: " For many Europeans, Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles." Hard to argue against that...

"For Seumas Milne of The Guardian in London, which like The New York Times has published the latest WikiLeaks trove, the official American reaction “is tipping over toward derangement.” Most of the leaks are of low-level diplomatic cables, he noted, while concluding: “Not much truck with freedom of information, then, in the land of the free.”

John Naughton, writing in the same British paper, deplored the attack on the openness of the Internet and the pressure on companies like Amazon and eBay to evict the WikiLeaks site. “The response has been vicious, coordinated and potentially comprehensive,” he said, and presents a “delicious irony” that “it is now the so-called liberal democracies that are clamoring to shut WikiLeaks down.

A year ago, he noted, Mrs. Clinton made a major speech about Internet freedom, interpreted as a rebuke to China’s cyberattack on Google. “Even in authoritarian countries,” she said, “information networks are helping people to discover new facts and making governments more accountable.” To Mr. Naughton now, “that Clinton speech reads like a satirical masterpiece.”

Perhaps the most embarrassing statements came from Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimeer Putin: “If it is a full-fledged democracy, then why have they put Mr. Assange away in jail? You call that democracy?” Mr. Putin then referred to a Russian proverb that roughly translates as “the pot calling the kettle black.” “You know, out in the countryside, we have a saying, ‘Someone else’s cow may moo, but yours should keep quiet,’ ” Mr. Putin said. “So I would like to shoot that puck right back at our American colleagues.”

The continued war against our own human rights that was so successfully waged against the American people by the Patriot Act and other policies instituted during George W Bush's regime seems to continuing unabated during Barack Obama's watch. Or maybe we keep looking at countries like China and Iran with open awe, wishing that we could openly abuse our citizen's the way that they do. I know that Hillary Clinton is a hawk, but we need some oversight to hold back those predatory instincts, or she'll end up killing all of the chicks in her nest, and we will be a poorer country, doing to ourselves without the military coups, civilian bloodshed, and mass jailing of the opposition like every other authoritarian form of government uses to establish itself. This desire to put a dufus like Mr Assange in an American jail means that we have been at war too long, and our worst instincts are beginning to take over. Instead of punishing wikileaks and Julian Assange, we should give him equal access to the rest of the cables and intelligence we have gathered, let him publish what other country's diplomats think of us, help spread the embarrassment around...

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