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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

Controlympics: Not Exactly the Best Case for Rio 2016


Oh jeez.  To paraphrase Michael Corleone, every time I try to get away from the Olympics, I get sucked back in.

I don’t know what’s up with the usually reliable Passport blog over at Foreign Policy magazine, but all of a sudden they seem to have lost their bearings.  First came Blake Hounshell’s argument that Michelle Obama should have thanked the Condi for being “assertive” over the past seven years, and now we have this gem from Patrick Fitzgerald:

We’re still a year away from learning who will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. But, while Beijing is fresh in our minds, I thought it’d be high time to consider the lessons and legacies of the 2008 games with an eye on the future.

If we learned one thing from Beijing 2008, it’s that the Olympics are a perfect pretext for a massive security crackdown. So why not award the 2016 games to a city that could actually use a massive security crackdown?

The murder rate in the state of Rio de Janiero is down to 39 per 100,000, from a high of 64 per 100,000 people in the mid-1990s. That’s still high, and one still encounters machine guns while browsing shopping stalls. Some think meditation may do the trick, but an Olympic effort to crack down on petty crime (not political opposition, mind you) could do wonders.

Now here’s what Human Rights Watch said last year about the Police in Rio — make sure you note what it says in the last graph:

According to government figures quoted in press reports, 44 people were killed during a two-month police operation aimed at dismantling drug trafficking gangs in Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro’s poorest neighborhood. Violence reached a peak on Wednesday, when 19 people were killed during confrontations with the police. According to allegations widely reported in the Brazilian media, the police carried out many of the killings through summary executions.

“A thorough investigation of these killings is absolutely critical for establishing the truth and improving public confidence in local law enforcement,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The state must ensure independent inquiries that will lead to successful prosecutions, no matter who the perpetrators are.”

According to the state’s Secretary of Security, José Mariano Beltrame, all of the deaths occurred in confrontations with the police. However, in media reports, residents said that police killed and wounded unarmed bystanders. Three teenagers, ages 13, 14 and 16, were identified among the dead yesterday. Residents also claimed that police had killed a 10-year-old boy.

Last year, 1,603 people were killed in alleged confrontations with police in the state of Rio, according to the Institute of Public Security (ISP), the official statistics bureau for public security information. In the first four months of 2007, their bureau registered some 449 deaths, an increase of 36.5 percent in relation to the same period last year.

The operation in the Complexo do Alemão occur[ed] just two weeks before the beginning of the Pan-American Games in the city.

Like Fitzgerald, I think there are plenty of compelling reasons to give the games to Rio.  As he notes, a South American city has never hosted the Games, and it’s about damn time that someone do so.  But let’s not openly encourage a police department that operates like a death squad to undertake a “massive security crackdown,” because last time they did it in advance of a major sporting event, forty-four people died.

And let’s not give Brazil ideas about imitating China.  Brazil is now a stable democracy (albeit, as the HRW report shows, one with significant problems), but it is not that far removed from a series of dictatorships that trampled human rights and silenced dissent.

I don’t know who’s running things over at Passport, but this is now two really ignorant posts in two days.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:00 pm

Controlympics: Losers (#2 of 4)


We’re taking one last look back at the most discussed — and controversial — Olympics since Berlin 1936. Previously, we looked at the winners.  Now let’s take a look at the losers.

1.  Human rights — the Chinese did everything they could to stifle dissent, and with the exception of a few brave Chinese and Westerners, they succeeded — so much so that they even managed to prevent any protests in the officially managed protest zones.  In the process, they also silenced and/or arrested hundreds if not thousands of dissidents; shipped tens of thousands of migrants and homeless out of Beijing; and perhaps most depressingly, created new electronic surveillance systems that give them the ability to shut down dissent before it starts.

2. Western media — with a few exceptions, the Western media mindlessly bought what the Chinese were selling.  And there was no bigger culprit than NBC, whose commentators (with the notable exception of Bob Costas) often sounded like apologists.  Worst of the worst:  Joshua Cooper-Ramo at the opening and closing ceremonies and Mary Carillo’s insipid travelogues.

3.  Chinese athletes — for all their victories, Chinese athletes didn’t look like they were having much fun.  The pressure to win was so great that it seemed to suck all the joy out of their participation.  There were exceptions, of course, but all too often we saw images of Chinese athletes looking like their lives had ended after failing to win gold.  Best example of this:  Chinese diver Zhou Luxin, who lost to Australian Matthew Mitcham on the last dive of the 10m platform competition.

4.  International Olympic Committee — for seven years, we’ve heard how the Olympics were going to open up China.  When it became clear that wasn’t the case, the IOC fell back on the old trope of the Olympics being above politics.  And when that didn’t work, they tried to change the subject.  From his blather before the games that he couldn’t talk about human rights to his criticism of Usain Bolt to his complicity in the cover-up of the Chinese gymnastic team age scandal, Jacques Rogge looked even worse.

5.  George W. Bush — while Russia invaded Georgia, he was playing hide the volleyball with Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Walsh.  Given his subsequent rhetoric about the conflict, he sure took his sweet time getting back to the States.

Next up:  winners who lost.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:20 am

What’s Missing at DNC: Torture, Guantanamo. . .and Cheney


So far we’ve seen dozens of speakers at the Democratic National Convention.  They’ve attacked Bush and McCain.  They’ve touted solutions to energy and climate change.  They’ve talked about Supreme Court justices and choice.  They’ve talked getting out of Iraq, and winning the war against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.  A few have even mentioned, in passing, that the United States needs to rebuild its relationship with allies, once agan leading rather than dictating to the rest of the world.

But there is one set of issues that we haven’t heard about yet — not once in two days of banal blathering.

Call it the destruction of American values.  It includes a number of things.

Like torture.

Guantanamo.

Abu Ghraib.

Indefinite detention of American citizens.

Denial of habeas corpus.

Waterboarding.

Rendition.

Black sites.

It’s as if the books by Jane Meyer, Jack Goldsmith, Philippe Sands, and so many others have gone right down the memory hole.

Where’s the anger at this desecration of everything America supposedly stands for?  Where’s the condemnation of the Bush Administration’s trashing of the Constitution?  Where are the demands that these things stop, and stop immediately?

And where are the attacks on the man who most needs to answer for his role in not just allowing, but promoting these abominations?  Where is the condemnation and vilification of Dick Cheney?

There isn’t a politician more unpopular in America today.  More importantly, there isn’t anyone more responsible for the trashing of America’s reputation in the world.

Yet after two days, we’ve heard nothing about him or his comprehensive attack on human rights and civil liberties.  Nothing about his single-minded shredding of the Bill of Rights, Geneva Conventions, and Convention against Torture.  Nothing about waterboarding, sleep deprivation, the use of dogs, or forced confinement.  Nothing about the fact that our allies now believe that this Administration has committed war crimes.

We’ve heard plenty about windmills and wages, but nothing about Cheney’s conscious destruction of American values.

In less than a week, Dick Cheney will take the Darth Vader world tour to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.  In his primetime speech, he will call Democrats weak, inept, and unwilling to face down “evil.”

If the Democrats fail to call him out on his own evil this week, he’ll be right.

Are Democrats afraid?  Are they unwilling to confront Bush, Cheney, and McCain on foreign policy?   Are they afraid of John McCain because he keeps reminding people on every possible occasion that he was a POW?

There’s a simple way to handle this.  All the Democrats have to say is that the Bush Administration believes that it doesn’t torture.  Then talk about all the things that they now do that the North Vietnamese did to John McCain.  And then point out that according to George Bush and Dick Cheney, John McCain wasn’t tortured. And then say how dare they implement polices once used against our brave servicemen and women.  And also make sure that people know that John McCain actually sanctions torture, as long as it’s committed by the CIA.

It’s the truth.  It reminds Americans of what we stand for without dragging them through the muck and horror of the past seven years.  It also has the advantage of putting both McCain and the Bushies on the defensive.

We’ve heard that Obama-Biden will be different, that they will no longer concede the high ground on foreign policy issues to the Republicans.  But if they never mention torture, Guantanamo, or any of the other terrors that Cheney, Addington, Yoo and company have inflicted on America and the world, then they are just as fearful and timorous as past candidates.

And next week, the Republicans will have free reign to make them look like apologists and traitors.

And in November, Barack Obama will lose.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Controlympics: Winners (#1 of 4)


Most of you already have forgotten all about the Olympics, but here at Undip, we already have London 2012 fever!  After all, who doesn’t want to see Jimmy Page balance his guitar on top of his walker while some eighteen-year-old in go-go boots mangles Whole Lotta Love?

Oh wait — that already happened.

All kidding aside, I’d like to share a few final thoughts on what arguably were the most discussed — and controversial — Olympics since Berlin 1936. First, let’s take a look at the winners.

1.  The Chinese government. Like it or not, the ChiComs pulled it off.  It was, in many ways, a spectacular show.  Despite some problems, embarrassments, and even a few unscripted moments, the Olympics that Hu Jintao and company wanted were the Olympics they got.  And most of the world bought their message hook, line, and sinker.

2.  Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter not only captured three golds, but he managed to make Jacques Rogge cranky.  That alone made it a good Olympics.  Bolt looked particularly good when, a day after Rogge whined about his “antics,” a Cuban taekwondo athlete kicked an athlete in the face — and Bolt donated $50,000 of his prize money to earthquake relief as a “thank you to the Chinese people.”

3.  Michael Phelps (and his mom). Put it this way:  the Intertubes are still buzzing about the 100m fly.  Debbie Phelps will be the unexpected breakout star of the Olympics.

4.  Clean air. Does it matter whether the Chinese got lucky (rain at just the right moments) or actually knew what they were doing?  In the end, the pollution became a non-story.  And athletes who acted like it mattered — the American cyclists showing up in masks, the Ethiopian marathoner who passed on competing — looked foolish.

5.  Lopez Lomong. The Sudanese lost boy turned American flag bearer may not have won his race, but he had a gold medal moment.  Kudos as well to the American athletes who chose him for the job.

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25 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Controlympics: China Deports Westerners


The BBC is reporting that China has released the Westerners detained for protesting during the Olympics:

China has deported eight Americans detained in Beijing last week for demonstrating about Tibet during the Olympic Games. The eight left China on Sunday while the closing ceremony was taking place after American officials pressed for them to be released.

The eight should be thankful:  they were spared the horror of actually having to watch the closing ceremony.

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24 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:47 pm

Controlympics: Tape-Delayed Blogging the Closing Ceremonies


Hey boys and girls, it’s time for the Closing Ceremonies!  You know, the ones that actually took place 12 hours ago!  The ones that NBC wouldn’t let you see until now!  And I’m here to give you tape-delayed play by play.

Let me admit up front that this is going to be pretty snarky.  If you’re looking serious analysis, go elsewhere.

Oh goody.  Comrade Joshua (Joshua Cooper-Ramo) is back.  NBC hasn’t even started showing the damn thing and I already want to hurl.  (For those who missed my tape-delayed blogging of the opening ceremonies, Comrade Joshua is a paid shill of the ChiComs er, I mean, a partner in the Beijing office of Kissinger Associates.  Oh wait — there’s no difference between the two, is there?)

Another massive fireworks display.  This one looks less like Triumph of the Will and more like CNN’s coverage of the first night of the Persian Gulf War.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what the ChiComs were going for.

The three stooges were just introduced:  Hu “Is Lying Now” Juntao, Juan Antonio “More of the” Samarach, and Gordon “I Will Have Trouble Getting Tickets to the London Games” Brown.

They’ve got Chinese in ethnic costumes again.  This time, it’s adults.  I wonder if they’re all Han Chinese again?

Something tells me that NBC is milking this for all they’ve got.  I think the first commercial break ran for something like 45 minutes.

Is it my imagination or do the drummers look like Iron Man wearing bike helmets?  Were they afraid they’d get conked by the guys bin the row behind them? Wait, they’re not just bike helmets — they’re bike helmets painted with gold glitter paint!

Molly just said that they guys hovering over the stadium look like they’re playing giant Gouda cheeses.  And why are the women dressed like Aztecs covered with glow brights?

I’m sorry, but that first piece looked like the North Korean version of cell mitosis.  At least the opening ceremonies made sense.  I mean this is so weird that even Comrade Joshua doesn’t have anything clever and butt-kissing to say.

Whoopsie — spoke too soon.  Apparently Comrade Joshua thinks that this is a representation of what Chinese philosophy will have to say in the future.  Uh, okaaay.

Have to say the guys on the giant unicycles are pretty cool.

Okay something looking like a giant white sperm just plunged into the big cell in the middle.  I’m telling you, it’s like a cross between Cirque de Soleil and your 8th grade sex ed class.

Terminator 6:  Arnold battles the cyborg pogo stick clones

I would not want to be the guys hanging off the underside of the gouda cheeses.

Time for another 206 minute commercial break.

Here come the athletes.  I wonder if NBC will show anyone other than the Americans, Europeans, Chinese, and Australians?  Maybe the Jamaicans.

Comrade Joshua is blathering again about harmony.  It’s like the reverse of It’s a Wonderful Life:  every time Comrade Joshua talks about harmony, another human rights activist gets thrown in jail.

Now he’s moanaing about how great the Chinese sports system is.  Now he’s calling the athletes an engineering project.  Nice analogy you twit.

I didn’t know they had found a way to miniaturize Shawn Johnson.

The third biggest star of the Games, behind Michel Phelps and Usain Bolt?  Michael Phelps’s mom.  I liked her new commercial, even though it’s sappy.

Once again, all happy and sappy commercials — until John McCain shows up, sounding like the grumpy uncle who can never enjoy the family picnic.

I wonder if they’re showing all of this on the big screens at the three protest zones. Heh.

Best parts of this are the replays of the best moments of the Games:  4×100 freestyle relay, Phelps’s amazing win in the 100 butterfly, Usain Bolt in the 100.  Still waiting for the Cuban guy kicking the ref in the face and the two little old Chinese women being sentenced to one year each in a reeducation through labor camp for attempting to organize a protest.

You want to know just how tape delayed this is?  Last night, NBC showed the tape delayed results of the men’s marathon.  Tonight, they’re showing that event’s medal ceremony, as it’s part of the closing ceremonies.  That’s not tape delayed, that’s the History Channel.

Sorry, but the kids escorting the athletes are really, really creepy looking.  I think they welded the smiles on their faces.

Comrade Joshua is talking about how all the volunteers spent a year getting ready.  Not to make light of the contributions of the volunteers, but reports of children spending twelve hour days after school each day practicing doesn’t sound to me like volunteerism.  As Zhang Yimou, who directed both the opening and closing ceremonies noted, “uniformity can bring beauty.”  Of course it also brings pain, nervous breakdowns, and a range of other maladies.

Now Joshua is talking about how great everything went.

Here comes Jacques “the slime-sucking, lying dillweed” Rogge.  He thanks the people of China and says these were sixteen days we will cherish forever.  Except the people thrown in jail, of course.

A choir is singing “God Save the Queen.”  In China.  So much for communism.

They’re lowering the Olympic flag, and you can see empty seats in the background.

What’s up with this double-decker bus?  First of all, it’s incredibly ugly.  Second, didn’t they discontinue those?  And the pantomime Londoners are worse than the Chinese.  Oh man, the British presentation is just freaking awful.  I take back everything bad I ever said about the Chinese portion of the ceremonies.

I think Leona Lewis is lip-syncing Enya.   Oh. My. God.  Now she’s lip-syncing Whole Lotta Love.  With a 200-year old Jimmy Page guitar-syncing.

The London section is so freaking bizarre.  What were they thinking?  What is Jimmy Page thinking?  This is worse than a really bad high school production of Hair.  All the athletes are standing around not quite sure how to react.

And now David Beckham?  Did someone slip me a tab of really good acid?  Am I high?  WTF?

Mary Carillo just said, “nice taste of London.”  Really?  Have you ever freaking been to London Mary?  Go back to the Three Gorges Dam and jump off.  Now.  Please.

Okay, there are ten thousand athletes here and they’re using actors to play the athletes leaving.  Maybe they can take Mary Carillo with them.

Comrade Joshua just said all 91,000 spectators were “trained” ahead of time to wave red lanterns.  Apparently the training didn’t work, because most of them are taking pictures instead.

The Chinese are now trying to win back the gold medal for bizarre ceremonies from the British.  Two guys covered head-to-to in white chalk are dancing on top of a giant five story tower.

The flame just went out.  I can’t help thinking of the flame held by the goddess of democracy in Tiananmen Square back in 1989.  Maybe someday a Chinese government will finally recognize which flame was more important.

The five-story tower is now writhing, covered with humans in silver and red jumpsuits.  I know I should be impressed by these feats, but all I can think of are swarming bugs.  Part of the problem is I keep hearing Zhang talking about how much he admires the North Koreans.

Mary Carillo just called it the “holy flame” of the Olympics.  I’m about to start calling her Comrade Mary.

The red strips of cloth on the five-story tower make it look like that scene from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert where Guy Pearce is strapped onto the top of the bus.

Why do all male pop singers in China look like the Back Street Boys channeling Elvis in Memphis circa 1968?

OMG it’s the Chinese version of the video for Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love.  Except the girls are smiling.  And wearing yellow tops and white pants.  And playing an electrified version of a traditional Chinese instrument.  But other than that, it’s almost identical.

I think they’ve cloned Daft Funk.  There are something like 200 guys in track suits, glow-brights, and  motorcycle helmets bouncing up and down like yo-yos.

It’s official: Bollywood music seriously kicks Chinese pop music’s butt.  This song that Wei Wei is singing is just bloody dreadful.

Jackie Chan can’t sing.

Molly just said that the goal of the closing ceremony should not be to make you want to shut off your tee vee.  Can’t say I disagree with her.  Chinese pop music is a crime against humanity.  It’s so bad that they’ve managed to silence Comrade Joshua.  Even he can’t rationalize this away.

They just don’t know how to end this, do they?  Please tell me that the confetti cannons and fireworks are the end.

Now they’re in London, via the BBC.  Has the BBC not gotten around to upgrading to High Definition yet?  And who is this moron interviewing Michael Phelps?  He sounds like the host of Top of the Pops.

It. Is. Over.

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22 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Controlympics: The Potemkin Metropolis


A first-person account of how the ChiComs are keeping Beijing safe for Olympocracy:

So we were returning to Beijing from Datan and had to take a coach bus from Fengning County seat. . . . Although the Olympics had put a tense atmosphere over the whole country, we didn’t think about it too seriously. Even with the Games, people still have to eat, sleep, go to the toilet and travel around. We were returning to Beijing, not to make trouble there.

But we were still asked for our ID and got our card numbers recorded. Although Fu Guoli lost his ID card, he is a gentleman-faced guy and works for a Global 500 company and we couldn’t imagine he would have a problem. . . .

When the bus pulled out of town, I was sitting next to Fu Guoli and while we were chatting the bus pulled over. When we walked off the bus we first saw cops, who set up two checkpoints along the highway and two policemen in bullet-proof vests with light machine guns were minding the booths. We were submitting our ID cards one after another along a rail line. For those who have the second generation of IDs, a scan can tell whether it’s real or fake; but for those first generation ones, your information needs to be entered into a computer and then a matching program will confirm its authenticity.

I passed without any problem. But Fu Guoli showed his work badge and reported his ID number, seemingly not much a hassle, but was taken aside by the cops. From 1:00 to 1:20 am, I saw through the bus window that he was constantly talking to the cops and was not allowed to board, and we realized something was wrong. . . . [W]hen Fu gave them his ID number, the computer couldn’t find his record, and neither could the system find his name. Which is to say, the police concluded that Fu has no valid ID record, which means he couldn’t be allowed back to Beijing.  He was, finally, left behind with police at Fengning, not able to return to Beijing.

The police were not sympathetic to Fu’s plight.  One told him, “Even [if] the problem [is] the database, it is still your problem. We still cannot let you go.”

So the Chinese not only kicked people out for the Olympics, they also set up a network of security checkpoints that enable them to allow back in only those with correct identity card.  It’s the rebirth of the old internal passport system, which had largely broken down as a result of the big labor migrations of the capitalist era.  And judging by this account, the new system will be far more efficient than the old one, with the Chinese now issuing “second generation” smart cards (I’m guessing with scannable RFID chips) to all Beijing residents.

What will be interesting is who they let back in — and when they allow them to return.  Over time, corruption and labor shortages will in all likelihood cause the system to break down again, but for now, the government has complete control over access to the city.

Given that, things will never not go back to the way they were.  The old messy, wonderful, interesting Beijing is probably gone forever.  The new, controlled, antiseptic Beijing, which has become the world’s largest  Potemkin Village, is here to stay.

Translation by and big tip of the hat to China Digital Times.

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21 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Controlympics: Protest-Free Zones


So as you’ve probably heard by now, the ChiComs have not allowed a single protest to take place in the three designated zones.  Not one.  Here are some of the details:

  • Chinese officials, by their own admission, have received 77 applications to hold protests.  They have not approved a single one, stating that 74 had been withdrawn because their concerns had been “properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations.” The other three were rejected for “incomplete information” or violating Chinese law.
  • At least six and as many as eight people have been detained for attempting to organize protests after the government announced that it was settng up the zones.  The families of several of them have not heard anything since their arrests.
  • Two elderly women, aged 79 and 77, have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” for “disturbing the public order,” after they repeatedly applied for a permit to demonstrate in one of the offical zones.  They were objecting to what they felt was insufficient payment for the demolition of their homes. When one women’s daughter attempted to apply for a permit to protest the arrest, officials refused to give her the forms.
  • Gao Chuancai, a farmer from northeast China, was forcibly escorted back to his hometown and remains in custody after he attempted to organize a demonstration against public corruption.
  • Five Americans were arrested for an unauthorized protest after they used LEDs to spell out “Free Tibet” near the Bird’s Nest.  The display lasted for a grand total of twenty seconds before police took it down.  Three other protesters were arrested after trying to use lasers to project the same message on a downtown landmark.
  • In response, the IOC made the following statement to The Financial Times:  “The IOC is not in a position to dictate to city authorities how to run their affairs. However, protest zones are a best practice from previous Olympic host cities for dealing with peaceful protesters who use the platform of the Olympic Games.  We continue to ask for greater transparency from Beijing city authorities concerning the official protest zones in parks near Olympic venues and would like to see them genuinely used in Beijing.”

What’s so sad about all of this is that it was completely unnecessary.  For argument’s sake, let’s say that the ChiComs let all 77 protests go forward.  In zones that average Chinese are avoiding like the plague.  Nobody would have noticed and the IOC wouldn’t have complained.

It’s not like the Chinese haven’t done this before:  in 1995, they hosted the World Conference on Women.  They set aside protest zones.  It was messy, but for the most part it went by unnoticed by the average Chinese.

So what has changed this time around?  What are their spies telling them?  Is there something more to this, or is it about face?

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17 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Controlympics: More Fakes Than a NYC Street Vendor


Yes, it was the Opening Ceremony, so our standards should start out pretty low.  The Chinese, of course, were not content with that.  So they put together a show to end all shows.  And almost everyone was blown away.

Except now, all those journalists running around Beijing keep discovering problems.  First it was the lip-syncing 8-year-old.  Then it was the computer-generated fireworks.  Then it was forcing the hostesses to audition naked; the go-go girls forced to rehearse until their faces almost froze in a smile; and the soldiers moving the giant scroll forced to wear diapers.  Now, it turns out all those annoyingly happy children in ethnic costumes — the ones I complained about during my blogging of NBC’s tape-delayed coverage, the ones who handed the Chinese flag off to goosestepping soldiers — also were fake:

[During the] opening ceremony. . .the children supposedly representing the country’s 56 ethnic groups were in fact all from the same one, the majority Han Chinese Race.

The children carried the national flag into the Bird’s Nest National Stadium, before handing it over to soldiers to raise at the most solemn moment of the ceremony.

They were dressed in costumes associated with the country’s ethnic minorities, including those from troubled areas such as Tibet and the muslim province of Xinjiang. Such displays of “national unity” are a compulsory part of any major state occasion.

But the children were all from the Han Chinese majority, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the population and is culturally and politically dominant, according to an official with the cultural troupe from which they were selected. . . .

This point was put to Wang Wei, executive vice-president of the Beijing organizing committee at a press conference today.  “I think you are being very meticulous,” he said. He said it was “traditional” to use dancers from other ethnic groups in this way.  “I would argue it is normal for dancers, performers, to be dressed in other races’ clothes,” he said. “I don’t know exactly where these performers are from.”

. . .The mother of one of the children involved. . .said [the children's performance] involved grueling days of rehearsal, from 3 pm sometimes until 2 am the next morning.

Meticulous?  As opposed to forcing children to rehearse for twelve hours after school?  I think the word you’re looking for is exploitative.  In most of the rest of the world, forcing kids to spend twelve hours doing anything would be called child labor.

Photo:  Andy in Beijing via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.

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17 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

Diplospeak Translator: The Condi in Crawford


I think The Condi has been spending too much time down on the ranch with Dubya.  Yes, I know she just got back from a whirlwind trip and everything, but sheesh, it’s like she caught a case of the Cold Warrior pneumonia and the malapropism flu.

Yesterday, she spoke to the press after briefing her husband the commander-in-chief.  Time to break out the Diplospeak Translator.  Once again, we bring you only the choicest cuts.

THE CONDI: I think everybody understands that Russia had a choice to make over the last several years, and it was a choice that should have been opened to Russia, which was a choice to act in a 21st-century way, fully integrate into the international institutions. I think it’s very much worthwhile to have given Russia that chance.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: It really stinks that they followed our lead in ignoring international institutions like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.  Didn’t they hear the part where we said, “do as we say, not as we do”?

THE CONDI: Now, I think the behavior recently suggests that perhaps Russia has not taken that route, and either that they have not taken that route or that they would like to have it both ways — that is, that you behave in a 1968 way toward your small neighbors by invading them and, at the same time, you continue to integrate into the political and diplomatic and economic and security structures of the international community. And I think the fact is, you can’t have it both ways.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: As opposed to behaving in a 2003 way, where you invade small countries on the other side of the world while continuing to dismantle the political and diplomatic and economic and security structures of the international community.  There’s a big difference — as soon as I can figure out what it is, I’ll let you know.

THE CONDI: Now, we’ll take our time; we’ll evaluate. But already, the consequences for Russia of its behavior is that it has rallied people to — against them, and many of the small states, which were once captive nations, have rallied to the side of Georgia. That in and of itself is a very different circumstance than we might have faced several decades ago.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Is the Cold War on again?  Pretty please?  Because I spent half my freaking life studying the Russkies and haven’t been able to contribute anything useful for about twenty years.

THE CONDI: I have to assume for now that the word of the President of Russia to the presidency of the EU is going to be respected.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Oh, I’m killing myself here.

THE CONDI: The Georgians have very often offered substantial autonomy to these two regions. We have pressed very hard for there to be recognition of minority rights in these regions. So there’s a lot of groundwork that has been laid here, but what has to happen now, when these international discussions intensify over the next period of time after this — after the cease-fire is in place, is that it all has to proceed from where it proceeded from before, which is the territorial integrity of Georgia be respected; that these regions, as the President just said, are within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia; and that the Security Council resolutions, which have been passed numerous times, will be respected. And there will have to be a negotiated solution on that basis.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Please, please, please please don’t mention Kosovo.

REPORTER:  But Russia has said explicitly that they are not prepared to return to the status quo. I mean, how do you get around that?

THE CONDI: Well, then, Russia would be in violation of extant Security Council resolutions.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: You know, just like they said we were doing back in 2003.

REPORTER:  I mean, is there really serious discussion about kicking them out of the G8, or is there really serious discussion about the WTO?

THE CONDI: We’ll take our time and look at further consequences for what Russia has done. But I would just note that there are already consequences. There has been universal concern within the European Union, the United States, et cetera, about the way Russia has done this. I think that you will start to see reports come out about what Russian forces engaged in.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Look!  Over there!  Human rights violations!  Whew!  I wasn’t sure that old trick still worked given everything we’ve done in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

THE CONDI: The — already you have the states that are — were former captive nations, like Poland, the Baltic states, even states like Ukraine speaking out against this kind of behavior.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: I knew if we kept banging that old captive nations drum, it would become useful again.  And what a perfect regurgitation of Cold War rhetoric!  Ah, I feel complete again.

THE CONDI: [I]t’s not just talk, it is about Russia’s standing in the international community. I want to go back to the point. In 1968, when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, it occupied the capital, overthrew the government, and paid no consequence. And one reason it paid no consequence is that the Soviet Union actually didn’t care about its status in the international system. It didn’t want to be member of the WTO; it didn’t want to be in the OECD; it didn’t want to be seen as a responsible player in international politics.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: In 2003, when we invaded Iraq, occupied the capital, and overthrew the government, we had no idea we would still paying for it more than five years later.  And nothing annoys us more than seeing someone else get away with something we tried to do ourselves.

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16 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

A Terrorism Double-Standard


What if I were to tell you that a man allegedly responsible for masterminding the bombing of a passenger plane that killed 73 people was not going to be prosecuted for the crime?

Would you be outraged?

Would you want the United States to demand that this terrorist be brought to justice?

What if I were to tell you that this individual was in the United States?  And that the United States government was not extraditing him to the country where the attack was planned or even to the country whose airliner was downed?

Welcome to Bushworld.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that an anti-Castro Cuban exile and former CIA operative accused in Cuba of a 1976 plane bombing that killed 73 people should stand trial for an immigration violation, court records showed on Friday.  The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Thursday said a lower court erred in dismissing an indictment against Luis Posada Carriles days before he was to stand trial in El Paso, Texas, for allegedly lying during 2006 efforts to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The court sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone, who threw the charges out last year on grounds of government misconduct.  Posada Carriles, 80, who lives in Miami, has been sought for trial in Cuba and Venezuela for masterminding the bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet. . . .

In the U.S. Cuban exile community, he has been feted as a freedom fighter for his long fight against Fidel Castro, who took power in Cuba in a 1959 revolution and ruled until February, when his brother Raul Castro became president.

I have been a vocal critic of Cuba’s dictatorship for nearly twenty years.  In the early 1990s, I wrote a book on Cuba’s misuse of psychiatry to persecute dissidents.  In response, Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, called me a “creative fiction made up by diseased gusano minds.”  I have nothing but contempt for the Castro regime, and for what it has done to the Cuban people.

Yet now I find myself in the odd (and frankly, incredibly distasteful) position of taking the same side of an issue as the Castro brothers.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the bombing of Cubana Flight 455:

Flight 455 was a Cubana de Aviación flight departing from Barbados, via Trinidad, to Cuba. On 6 October 1976 two timebombs variously described as dynamite or C-4 planted on the Douglas DC-8 aircraft exploded, killing all 73 people on board. . . .

Investigators from Cuba, Venezuela and the United States traced the planting of the bombs to two Venezuelan passengers, Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano. Both men were employed by Posada at his private detective agency based in Venezuela, and they both subsequently admitted to the crime.

A week after the men’s confessions, Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch were arrested on charges of masterminding the attack, and were jailed in Venezuela. . . .Posada was found not guilty by a military court; however, this ruling was overturned and he was held for trial in a civilian court. Posada escaped from prison with Freddie Lugo in 1977, turning themselves in to the less-than-sympathetic Chilean authorities. He was immediately extradited, and was held without conviction for eight years before escaping while awaiting a prosecutor’s appeal of his second acquittal in the bombing. His escape is said to involve a hefty bribe and his dressing as a priest.

So not only is this guy allegedly responsible for the bombing, he’s also an fugitive.  So why aren’t we turning him over to Venezuela?

The reality is that the Bush Administration will do almost anything to prevent Posada Carriles from being turned over to the governments of Venezuela and Cuba.  The Bushies realize any such move would set off a firestorm in Little Havana that will make the Elian Gonzalez case look like a garden party.

So instead, the U.S. government has charged Posada Carriles with immigration violations.  If he’s found guilty (or even if he’s not), he may be extradited to Panama for allegedly plotting to kill Castro during a 2000 summit.  Not to make light of those charges, but they pale in comparison to what he allegedly did to Flight 455.

If that wasn’t bad enough, here’s a kicker, via the National Security Archive:

The National Security Archive today posted additional documents that show that the CIA had concrete advance intelligence, as early as June 1976, on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner. The Archive also posted another document that shows that the FBI’s attache in Caracas had multiple contacts with one of the Venezuelans who placed the bomb on the plane, and provided him with a visa to the U.S. five days before the bombing, despite suspicions that he was engaged in terrorist activities at the direction of Luis Posada Carriles.

[snip]

There is no indication in the declassified files that indicates that the CIA alerted Cuban government authorities to the terrorist threat against Cubana planes. Still classified CIA records indicate that the informant might actually have been Posada himself who at that time was in periodic contact with both CIA and FBI agents in Venezuela.

So not only have we failed to turn him over now, we did nothingto warn the Cuban government or try to prevent the bombing back then.  Because our informant was in all likelihood Posada himself.

Ramsey Clark once argued that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom figher.”  What a load of horse dookie.  Terrorism is terrorism, no matter whether it’s commited by our enemies or our friends.  And those responsible should be brought to justice.

If the exiles in Miami had any sense, they’d see how important it is to apply the same standard of justice to this case as they want to use on a regime responsible for numerous deaths, innumerable human rights violations, and widespread misery.  You don’t have to accept the legitimacy of a government to recognize its right to prosecute those responsible for the murder of its citizens.

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15 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:55 pm

Controlympics: Swifter, Higher, Stronger. . .Wetter?


Turns out that there was a higher human cost to the opening ceremonies than the Chinese would have us believe.  From The Bangkok Post:

Thousands of young Chinese women applicants for the 200 jobs to lead each country’s athletes into the National Stadium for last week’s opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games had to be at least 1.66 metres tall, have a pretty face - and strip naked for the job recruiters.

The Beijing News, in a story detailing the latest opening-ceremony outrage, said stripping naked for measurements was a requirement merely to apply for the position.

Thousands of young women from colleges and dance academies in Beijing competed for the chance to appear before a huge worldwide audience.

During the selection process, the women were required to strip so teachers judging whether they were qualified could measure their body proportions, The Beijing News said.

But that’s not all.  Remember the girls in the go-go boots?  Those were the rejects from the placard holder gig.  And they got the privilege of standing, jumping up and down, smiling, and waving for four freaking hours:

Zhang did not qualify [as a placard holder] but she was later selected to be one of the 400 cheerleaders on the stadium who were the longest performers during the three-and-a-half-hour long extravaganza on August 8.  Dressed in short white dresses, boots and caps, the women had to constantly dance and cheer, to create a good atmosphere and rouse the audience of 91,000 people at the stadium.

The 400 women also performed the smiling programme - in which they danced and opened umbrellas each with a smiling face on them.  For that three-minute performance, the women had to undergo half a year of training, rising every day at 5 am to get to the practice site by 6 am and returning to their school dormitory as late as 8 or 9 pm, Zhang said. Sometimes when the training starts at noon, the women would practice till 1 am or 2 am.

They practiced standing in a row at different positions on the stadium, and also rehearsed dance movements and the opening and closing of umbrellas - a simple task which each women had to practise doing for more than 1,000 times, the report said.  Zhang said she smiled so much during practice that her facial muscles stiffened, but she was glad to have been selected.

But it’s not just the women who were subject to abuse:

[O]n Friday, state media said the nearly 900 soldiers operating the huge scroll that formed the centrepiece of last week’s show had to stay hidden under the structure for up to seven hours, wearing nappies because they were not allowed toilet breaks.

I think the Chinese missed a marketing opportunity here:

Depends:  the Official Adult Diaper of the 2008 Olympics!

To be serious for the moment, where the hell was the IOC?  How does any of this garbage fit into the so-called Olympic spirit?   Oh, that’s right, I’m sorry.  The IOC can’t speak to human rights abuses.  Even when they were done in the name of the Olympic Spirit.

Hat tip:  China Digital Times

Photos:  AndyinBeijing via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

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15 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Controlympics: A Journalist Demands An Honest Answer


From an exchange between a determined British reporter and a craven IOC official:

Question: Hi, I’m Alex Thompson from Channel Four News. My question’s mercifully short, and it’s for Giselle. Given that China got these games largely on making promises on human rights and press freedom, and given that the Chinese government has lied through its teeth about keeping those promises, is the IOC in any way embarrassed?

Giselle Davies, spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee: Good morning, Alex.

Thompson: Good morning.

Davies: There were certainly some hopes and aspirations outlayed in 2001 as to how the games could have a positive impact on the wider social framework. And I think we have to note that there have been enormous steps forward in a number of areas. You’re here reporting on the games. The world is watching. And there will be commentaries made appraising how the games have had an impact, wider through bringing sports, athletes and the world’s attention.

Interestingly, I saw that the Associated Press did a survey whereby their readers say that 55 percent of the respondents of the United States believe the choice was the right choice to come to Beijing, China …

Thompson: Yes, but I’m not asking that. I’m asking the IOC if they are in any way embarrassed about the manifest failure on behalf of the Chinese government to keep their promises. It’s a very straightforward question: Are you embarrassed?

Davies: We are very proud of the fact that these games are progressing with spectacular sports, spectacular sports venues, operationally running very smoothly, and that’s what we’re here focusing on.

Thompson: I’m asking whether you’re embarrassed. I’m not asking about how well the games have been run or how wonderful the venues are. Are you embarrassed?

Davies: I think I’ve answered your question by explaining…

Thompson: I don’t think anyone in this room, if I may speak, I may be stepping out of line, but I don’t think anybody thinks you’ve answered the question. Is the IOC embarrassed about the Chinese government not keeping those promises?

Davies: We’re very pleased with how the organizers are putting on a good sporting event. That’s what this is. The IOC’s role and remit is to bring sport and the Olympic values to this country. That is what is happening, and the organizers have put on an operationally sound games for the athletes. This is an event, first and foremost, for the athletes, and the athletes are giving us extremely positive feedback about how they see these games being held for them.

Thompson: Well, Giselle, we’re certainly not getting anywhere are we? Let’s try it once more time. Is the IOC embarrassed about the Chinese government’s not keeping promises on both press freedom and human rights? One more chance.

Davies: Well, I think probably your colleagues in the room would like to have a chance at questions as well. I think I’ve answered your question.

I’m tempted to award Davies Dillweed of the Day, but since the IOC and the USOC both already have won the thing in the past two weeks, perhaps it’s time to elect Olympics officials to the Dillweed Hall of Shame.

Congratulations to Alex Thompson for demanding an answer and refusing to tolerate spin.

Hat tip:  China Media Blog

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14 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:50 pm

Controlympics: China’s 21 Rules


Via The Sydney Morning Herald, twenty-one rules for dating Hu Jintao’s daughter on Olympic coverage, issued by the CCP Propaganda Department:

1.  The telecast of sports events will be live [but] in case of emergencies, no print is allowed to report on it.

2.  From August 1, most of the previously accessible overseas websites will be unblocked. No coverage is allowed on this development. There’s also no need to use stories published overseas on this matter and [website] operators should not provide any superlinks on their pages.

3.  Be careful with religious and ethnic subjects.

4.  Don’t make fuss about foreign leaders at the opening ceremony, especially in relation to seat arrangements or their private lives.

5.  We have to put special emphasis on ethnic equality. Any perceived racist terms as “black athlete” or “white athlete” is not allowed. During the official telecast, we can refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei”. In ordinary times, refer to Taiwanese athletes as “those from the precious island Taiwan…..” In case of any pro Taiwan-independence related incident inside the venue, you shall follow restrictions listed in item 1.

6.  For those ethnic Chinese coaches and athletes who come back to Beijing to compete on behalf of other countries, don’t play up their “patriotism” since that could backfire with their adopted countries.

7.  As for the Pro-Tibetan independence and East Turkistan movements, no coverage is allowed. There’s also no need to make fuss about our anti-terrorism efforts.

8.  All food saftey issues, such as cancer-causing mineral water, is off-limits.

9.  In regard to the three protest parks, no interviews and coverage is allowed.

10.  No fuss about the rehearsals on August 2,5. No negative comments about the opening ceremony.

11.  No mention of the Lai Changxing case.

12.  No mention of those who illegally enter China.

13.  On international matters, follow the official line. For instance, follow the official propaganda line on the North Korean nuclear issue; be objective when it comes to the Middle East issue and play it down as much as possible; no fuss about the Darfur question; No fuss about UN reform; be careful with Cuba. If any emergency occurs, please report to the foreign ministry.

14. If anything related to territorial dispute happens, make no fuss about it. Play down the Myanmar issue; play down the Takeshima island dispute.

15.  Regarding diplomatic ties between China and certain nations, don’t do interviews on your own and don’t use online stories. Instead, adopt Xinhua stories only. Particularly on the Doha round negotiation, US elections, China-Iran co-operation, China-Aussie co-operation, China-Zimbabwe co-operation, China-Paraguay co-operation.

16.  Be very careful with TV ratings, only use domestic body’s figures. Play it down when  rating goes down.

17.  In case of an emergency involving foreign tourists, please follow the official line. If there’s no official line, stay away from it.

18. Re possible subway accidents in the capital, please follow the official line.

19.  Be positive on security measures.

20. Be very careful with stock market coverage during the Games.

21.  Properly handle coverage of the Chinese sports delegation:

A.  Don’t criticise the selection process.

B.  Don’t overhype gold medals; don’t issue predictions on gold medal numbers; don’t make fuss about  cash rewards for athletes.

C.  Don’t make a fuss about isolated misconducts by athletes.

D.  Enforce the publicity of our anti-doping measures.

E.   Put emphasis on  government efforts to secure the retirement life of athletes.

F.   Keep a cool head on the Chinese performance. Be prepared for possible fluctuations in the medal race.

G.   Refrain from publishing opinion pieces at odds with the official propaganda line of the Chinese delegation.

I thought about putting this through the Diplospeak Translator, but it was just too much. The Chinese clearly haven’t learned the most important rule when it comes to propaganda:  don’t get caught issuing rules on propaganda.

A few observations:

  • They’re clearly most nervous about protests related to Tibet and Xinjiang.
  • They think that public interest, even in China, will wane as the Olympics progress.
  • China-Paraguay cooperation?  Apparently this is a reference to the fact that incoming Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has expressed a willingness to switch its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China.  Who knew?
  • I also hadn’t heard of the “cancer-causing mineral water” question.  I did a quick check of The Googles, and the only stories about it are the few that picked up The Herald’s publication of these rules. And we thought pollution was a problem.
  • Speaking of which, it’s interesting that there’s no rule saying “don’t speak about the pollution,” unless the general prohibition against discussion of health issues applies.
  • We now know why China’s media didn’t cover the controversy over the little girl lipsynching or the computer generated fireworks: “No negative comments about the opening ceremony.”
  • The only specific case mentioned is Lai Changxing, a businessman now on the run after being charged with corruption.
  • There’s no specific prohibition against talking about political dissidents, but of course the journalists aren’t stupid — they can read between the lines.
  • Perhaps the most important sentence is “If there is no offical line, stay away from it.”  That encourages self-censorship to such a degree that it should cover all the issues not addressed by these rules.
  • The one rule they forgot?  Don’t leak the rules.

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12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

What Were You Thinking, Mary Carillo?


So during last night’s NBC Olympics broadcast, correspondent Mary Carillo did one of those annoying features that make the American networks’ quadrennial orgies of of obscure sports so annoying.  This one was about her whirlwind tour of China.

And wouldn’t you know it, two of the things she did during the trip were to visit to the Three Gorges Dam and to ride on the Tibet Railway.

Oh that’s just freaking brilliant NBC:  major human rights violations as tourist hot spots.  Nice going, dimwits.

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8 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:55 pm

Controlympics: Brave Gadfly or Self-Absorbed Twit?


As you may have heard, American pastor Eddie Romero checked into a hotel room, painted a bunch of slogans on its walls, and checked out without paying.

That’s courage?  Compare his actions to the folks who climbed light poles outside the Olympic Stadium and hung Free Tibet banners.  Even better, compare him to the thousands of Chinese, Tibetan, and Uighur activists who risk their freedom and their lives every day.

Pastor Romero did post his ramblings on YouTube, and part one has become quite the sensation in the West (YouTube is blocked regularly in China, so I’m not sure whether anyone there is seeing it — and even if they are, chances are that most viewers are not going to like it).

And for heaven’s sake, parts one and two are each ten freaking minutes long, and the first seven minutes of part one involve him rambling on and on about supposed close calls with state security.  Do yourself a favor and jump to the 7:22 mark:

Part two is a little better — he shows what he painted.  You can pretty much stop at the 4:20 mark.  The rest is some audio of him traveling between rooms and then his painting pretty much the same slogans in the second room.

In case you still can’t read it, the first wall calls on the Chinese to release a number of human rights and religious activists:

  • Zhang Rongliang, a house church leader sentenced in 2006 to seven years in prison;
  • Xu Na, a Beijing-based Falung Gong practitioner;
  • Hu Jia, a human rights activist detained in February of this year;
  • Shi Tao, who was arrested in 2004 and charged with illegally sending state secrets to a foreign entity” after he emailed a U.S.-based pro-democracy website; and
  • Guo Feixiong, an attorney and human rights activist who was prosecuted for illegal business activity but whose prosecution is widely believed to have been a response to his activism.

The second wall says “Beijing 2008:  Our World, Our Nightmare” and “Ratify the ICCPR.” The third wall quotes a bible verse:  “Speak out for those who have no voice –Proverbs 31:8-9.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but who is going to see this?  According to news reports, they’ve already repainted the room.  Oh, and I know this is splitting hairs given the ChiComs’ actual practices, but they did ratify the ICCPR (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights) in 1998.

But more importantly, the activists he names are likely to face further persecution because of his act of vandalism — because let’s face it, that’s what it was.  In addition, Western news stories have used an AP photo that conspicuously avoids showing the wall with the prisoners’ names on it.  The end result is that he looks like a nut, not a principled human rights defender.  That’s not entirely his fault, but it does show just how ineffective and naïve his protest was.

Even his friends appear to get that.  Here’s what one had to say:

The protest is heartfelt, said Bob Fu, leader of the Texas-based China Aid Association who is among a group of Romero supporters monitoring the protest from California.  “This is not like middle-age crisis, craziness,” Fu said. “He’s very genuine, a caring, loving pastor. And very creative.”

When your defenders compare your protest to a mid-life crisis, chances are that your message is not getting out there.

Pastor Romero says that he will turn himself in after the Olympics.  I don’t know what other stunts he has up his sleeve, but given that he allowed his face to be seen in the two videos, I doubt that he’ll last that long.

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8 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:38 am

Reindeer Games: Bush, Human Rights, and China


I know I’m a little behind on this, but I just read in the papertubes that Dubya gave a speech about human rights in China .  And that the ChiComs are not happy about it.

My first instinct was to applaud him for speaking out.  After his appearance before the foreign press last week, during which he set a new personal record for inanity, obsequiousness, and malapropisms,  I was sure that he would be so busy begging Hu “Is Lying Now” Jintao not to liquidate China’s dollar holdings that he wouldn’t dare talk about human rights or democracy.  So reports that he did, and that the Chinese got mad as a result, came as a pleasant surprise.

Then I read the speech.

The first thing I noticed was that he gave it in Thailand.  Not at the Embassy dedication in Beijing, not during his visit to the Olympics, but in Bangkok.  He might as well have given it in Timbuktu.

The second I noticed was that he does not mention human rights in China until the twenty-sixth paragraph — out of twenty-nine total.  It comes only after he’s praised the Chinese for their economic achievements, highlighted their role in the six-party talks on North Korea, begged them not to foreclose on our economy, and reiterated America’s belief in a “one China” policy.

It also comes after he wishes the Queen of Thailand a happy birthday, praises the economic achievments of Thailand and other countries in the region, invokes the threat of terrorism, discusses North Korea, and gives a shout out to his wife for her work on Burma.  (That’s right, of all the people working on Burma in this world, he chose to praise Laura.)

The actual criticism takes up two paragraphs of twenty-nine.  They look almost like an afterthought.  And they include the following sentence:

Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions.

I just ran that little gem through the Diplospeak Translator, and this is what came out:

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: We’re not really serious about this, but Congress and those whiny human rights organizations back home will kick my butt for the rest of my term if I don’t pretend to care. Please please please please don’t be mad at me.

What nonsense.  And the ChiComs got in a lather over this? Here’s what the Foreign Ministry said in response:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang admonished Bush, saying “We firmly oppose any words or acts that interfere in other countries internal affairs, using human rights and religion and other issues.” He also said the Chinese government is dedicated to promoting basic rights, and that “Chinese citizens have freedom of religion.These are indisputable facts.”

This isn’t foreign policy.  It’s Chinese Opera.  I don’t know which I find more distressing.

  • The fact that the White House is spinning this as courage;
  • The fact that the Chinese have gotten their collective Communist capitalist noses out of joint for such innocuous language; or
  • That the Western media bought the whole thing as a real controversy.

The games have started, Bush will forget about his admonition, the Chinese will welcome him, and everyone will enjoy the spectacle and the athleticism.  Nothing else will happen.

There’s a term my summer camp friends used to have for such hypocrisy:  Reindeer Games, which we defined as pretending to care about something when you really didn’t give a damn what happened.  I think that pretty much summarizes the situation here.  All posturing, no content.

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7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:55 pm

Controlympics: A Perfect Choice


Big news today, via The Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph (UK).  Let’s start with the LAT:

Lopez Lomong: US Olympic team appoint Darfur refugee to carry flag

Another stunning chapter was added to the incredible story of Lopez Lomong when his U.S. Olympic teammates chose the Sudanese refugee as the flag bearer in Friday’s opening ceremony at the 2008 Olympics.

Lomong, who made the Olympic track team by finishing second in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. track trials, spent a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya as one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” He resettled in the United States as a teenager with a family in Syracuse, N.Y.

“This is the most exciting day ever in my life,” Lomong said. “It’s a great honor for me that my teammates chose to vote for me. I’m here as an ambassador of my country, and I will do everything I can to represent my country well.”

Lomong, 23, was 6 when he was abducted from a Sudanese church by militiamen trying to turn children into boy soldiers. He and three other boys escaped and walked several days until they were arrested by Kenyan police because they had unknowingly crossed the border into Kenya.

And now the Telegraph:

His first taste of the Olympics was when he paid five Kenyan shillings to watch Michael Johnson winning gold at Sydney 2000 on a fuzzy black and white TV set, an experience which he says ignited his own Olympic dream.  “The American flag means everything in my life - everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a US citizen,” Lomong added.

What an amazing story:  a Sudanese Lost Boy** becomes an Olympic athlete and is chosen over thousands of his new countrymen and -women to carry their country’s flag into the Olympic Opening Ceremonies — which is hosted by a government notorious for its disregard for human rights and its sponsorship of the government of Sudan.

It’s nothing less than a Jesse Owens moment.  In the face of tremendous pressure by everyone from the ChiComs themselves to their craven corporate toadies to IOC Chairman Jacque Rogge and other obsequious IOC pond scum, Americans have stood up to to an odious dictatorship.

I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about our flagbearer dipping the flag when he passes ChiCom-in-Chief Hu “Is Lying Now” Juntao.

And it happens the day after the ChiComs denied a visa to Joey Cheek, the Olympic athlete and head of Team Darfur.  I don’t think that that was a coincidence.  The Times of London gets the contrast about right:

There are two pictures here. One comes slightly distorted and airbrushed and will be squeezed into a frame by the IOC and its Chinese hosts in Beijing. The other is a portrait of Lomong. Which would you rather have on the wall?

This is why I continue to be proud of this country, no matter what the Bush Administration does or who gets elected this fall.  It’s further proof that average Americans (take my word for it, even in this day and age, that’s what the vast majority of our athletes in Beijing are) care deeply about basic human rights and fundamental principles of justice.

And isn’t it nice to feel good about this country again?  And have it be not because we won an athletic competition, but because we stood up for what is right and decent?

Hooray for us.

Photo:  Associated Press via the Telegraph (UK).

**If you don’t know the remarkable story of the Lost Boys, do yourself a favor and go out and buy Dave Eggers most recent novel, What is the What, which is a fictionalized account of one of the Boys’ experiences.

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6 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:55 pm

Dillweeds of the Day: Amanda Beard and PETA


I got excited when I read that American Olympic swimmer (and past gold medalist) Amanda Beard had helped organize a demonstration in Beijing.  I mean, how cool is that?  Take that, ChiComs!

Turns out that her protest involved posing naked.

For PETA.

To oppose the wearing of fur.

Photo after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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2 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:00 am

Dillweeds of the Day: One Is the Loneliest Number


So I started thinking more about that 419-1 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on China to do more to respect human rights.  Who voted against it?  Who did the Chinese manage to pay off?  Who is such a colossal jerk that they don’t care about human rights in China?  Isn’t that like not caring about puppies, kittens and bunnies, for crying out loud?

I should have known.

Noted bunny, puppy, and kitten-hater Ron Paul.

Stop the rEVOLution, I want to get off.  What a putz.

But he’s not the only one.  Turns out that Dennis Kucinich answered “present.”  Did he think that Nancy Pelosi was taking attendance?   Was he afraid being the 420th vote in favor of the resolution would disappoint his blissninny, moonbat and space alien constituencies?

So congratulations, Congressmen Paul and Kucinich:  You’re our Dillweeds of the Day.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

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