Protests and fighting in Syria continues despite brutal repression by the Syrian Government.
Here is reaction from President Obama as reported in the New York Times—
“President Obama condemned what he called “the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs,” saying in a statement that President Bashar al-Assad “has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.”
Here is a New York Times summary of events in Syria. In the middle right side of this resource are a large number of links to learn more.
From the BBC—
“Syria is a country of 21 million people with a large Sunni majority (74%) and significant minorities (10% each) of Christians and Alawites – the Shia sect to which Mr Assad belongs. For years, Mr Assad has promoted a secular identity for the Syrian state, hoping to unify diverse communities in a region where sectarian conflict is rife – as seen in neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq. The regime can still mobilise support, especially from minority groups and the upper classes However, he also concentrated power in the hands of his family and members of the Alawite community, who wield a disproportionate power in the Syrian government, military and business elite. Claims of corruption and nepotism have been rife among the excluded Sunni majority. And protests have generally been biggest in Sunni-dominated rural areas, towns and cities, as opposed to mixed areas. Opposition figures have stressed that they seek a “multi-national, multi-ethnic and religiously tolerant society”. But there are fears of chaos and instability – even talk of civil war – if Mr Assad should fall. Activists say these fears are overblown.”
It may not be clear what difference a blog post or the concern of everyday people far away from Syria will do to change events in Syria. The government of President Bashar al-Assad will apparently only give up power when it is forced to do so.
Yet many brave people are fighting in Syria no matter the risk of violence or death. At the least they merit our acknowledgment and our concern. At best, an ongoing worldwide focus on repression and efforts to fight repression will help create a climate of hope and freedom in our connected world.
The message from Syria is that every person has a voice. We should each use the voice we are given in the best way we are able.
Texas Liberal Panel Of Experts Reads Asian Poetry From Across The Ages Every Chance They Get—Not A Word Is Wasted
It has been sometime since the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts has been seen on the blog.
I’m sure you’ve been wondering what they’ve been up to in recent weeks.
They’ve been reading books of Asian poems written many years ago.
What else did you think they’d be doing?
Extinct has been reading Japanese Death Poems–Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death.
Being a Woolly Mammoth, Extinct is always interested in reading about death.
Here is a poem from Death Poems written by a man named Gasan in 1885–
Blow if you will,
Fall wind—the flowers
Have all faded.
Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat is reading Crossing The Yellow River–Three Hundred Poems From The Chinese.
As you can tell from the picture, Hamburger has studied Crossing many times.
Below is a poem from Crossing called View From Heron Tower. It was written by a Wang Chih-huan who lived 688-742.
The white sun is hidden by the mountains.
The Yellow River empties into the sea.
Climb up one floor:
You’ll see a hundred miles more.
Cactus is reading Written on Water—Five Hundred Poems from the Man’yoshu.
Cactus likes to read about water for a change of pace from the day-to-day life of a cactus.
Below is a poem from Written that was authored by a Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro. This poet lived in the late 7th and early 8th centuries.
Far above the roar
Of the rapids of the stream,
About the peak of graceful Mt. Yutsuki,
Hover heavy clouds.
Samuel Slater Bobblehead is reading Songs of the Kisaeng–Courtesan Poetry of the Last Korean Dynasty.
As always, Samuel Slater Bobblehead is quite industrious in his reading.
Below is a poem from Songs called Who Caught You? It was written by Kungnyo. Kungnyo lived in either the 16th or 17th century.
Who caught you, fish, then set you free
Within my garden pond?
Which clear northern sea did you leave
for these small waters?
Once here, with no way to flee,
you and I are the same.
The poems in these books waste no words. They convey both ideas and feelings from across many years.
No wonder the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts enjoys these books to such a degree.
(Below–The Yellow River in Qinghai Province. Picture by Andre Holdrinet. This is not as serene a place as it may appear. There was a big earthquake in this province in 2010 that killed many people. Here are facts about the the Yellow River.)
Mr. Hu, who is President of China as well as a dictator, is in Washington this week.
Senator Reid will be among members of Congress meeting with Mr. Hu later this week.
China is indeed a dictatorship. You and I help the Chinese dictators remain in power by purchasing so much stuff made in China.
From that report—
“The authorities continued to tighten restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association due partly to sensitivities surrounding a series of landmark anniversaries, including the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic on 1 October. Human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted, held under house arrest and subjected to enforced disappearance. Pervasive internet and media controls remained. “Strike hard” campaigns resulted in sweeping arrests in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), particularly following violence and unrest in July. Independent human rights monitoring was prevented in Tibetan-populated regions. The authorities continued to strictly control the parameters of religious practice, with Catholic and Protestant groups practising outside official bounds being harassed, detained and sometimes imprisoned. The severe and systematic 10-year campaign against the Falun Gong continued.”
More than 700 people are dead from a landslide in China. More than 1000 people are missing.
(Above—Teams of people are looking for survivors in the Chinese landslides.)
What is landslide? How are landslides caused?
Here is how landslides are described by the Federal Emergency Management Agency—
Landslides occur in all U.S. states and territories. In a landslide, masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope. Landslides may be small or large, slow or rapid. They are activated by:
- volcanic eruptions,
- alternate freezing or thawing,
- and steepening of slopes by erosion or human modification.
Debris and mud flows are rivers of rock, earth, and other debris saturated with water. They develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground, during heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt, changing the earth into a flowing river of mud or “slurry.” They can flow rapidly, striking with little or no warning at avalanche speeds. They also can travel several miles from their source, growing in size as they pick up trees, boulders, cars, and other materials.
Landslide problems can be caused by land mismanagement, particularly in mountain, canyon, and coastal regions. In areas burned by forest and brush fires, a lower threshold of precipitation may initiate landslides. Land-use zoning, professional inspections, and proper design can minimize many landslide, mudflow, and debris flow problems.
The Chinese landslides are taking place in Zhouqu County which is part of Gansu Province. The read area in the map below is Gansu Province.
Zhouqu County is part of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
I’ve never heard of Gansu, but the fact is that 26 million of our fellow world citizens live in this place.
Here are some facts about Gansu. I’d like to find a resource other than Wikipedia for these facts, but the only other descriptions of any length I can find about Gansu come from the brutal and undemocratic Chinese Government.
Here is the English language web home of Gansu Province. There is no mention of the landslides on the web page even though it is all over the world press.
The landslides have been caused by the flooding of the Bailong River. Though unchecked development along this river may be the true cause.
I’m sorry for the loss and suffering these folks in this region of China are experiencing.
The International Red Cross has nothing on the landslides at the moment. As the situation goes on, maybe there will be information on how to donate and offer help.
(Below—The Labrang Monastery in the Gaanan Province. I don’t know much about the interior of China. I think I need to read up at least a bit on this big chunk of our world. We all have the ability to learn about any subject if we are willing to make the effort.)
Above you see a picture of a tomb that was broken into in a Galveston, Texas Cemetery.
Despite what my conservative opponents say, I’ve never engaged in tomb raiding.
I looked inside the tomb in the picture and all the gold and silver was gone. All that was left was a beer can.
Though, of course, I am taking part in body snatching so I can register the corpses to vote for my liberal buddies.
Out of respect for the dead, I’m only registering the deceased who voted Democratic while living.
However, I may be registering the dead in the wrong way. I thought I needed to produce the body. It turns out all you need to do is leave the deceased on the voter rolls and have a still-living person vote while taking the name of the departed soul.
As you can imagine, I’m opposed to the dead voting for Republicans.
This will surprise you, but people in Galveston are often laid to rest in jade burial suits.
However, you might be better off breaking into tombs in Galveston rather than in China. Earlier this year China sentenced some tomb raiders to death. I know a jade burial suit will fetch more on E-Bay than the Texas A & M t-shirt you wiggle off a Texas corpse, but is it really worth being executed?
In 2002, The Journal of the American Medical Society offered up an article on body snatching. This article has details of riots caused by body snatching for dissection. There are also details of the theft of the body of Ohio U.S. Senator John Scott Harrison. Senator Harrison was the son of President W.H. Harrison and the father of President Benjamin Harrison.
Slate has written on how you would go about stealing from a tomb and how you would sell what you steal.
I could not write about tomb raiding and leave out King Tut. It says here that tomb robbery goes back at least 3,000 years.
My own view is that I am against tomb-raiding, body snatching and registering the dead to vote. I just want that on the record in case I ever decide to run for Precinct Executive or President.
President Barack Obama will not be meeting with the Dalai Lama as he visits Washington this week.
This is the first time in 18 years that a sitting President will not meet with the Dalai Lama during a U.S visit by the Tibetan leader.
President Obama will be ing China next month. It seems that not wanting to offend China is more important than human rights.
Regretfully, this action by our President is consistent with the pattern already set by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did meet with the Dalai Lama on his visit. The Dalai Lama spoke of the need for the United States to address the gap between the rich and poor in the world.
It is hard to see in this respect how President Obama is improving our image abroad.
Martin Luther King wrote the book Why We Can’t Wait.
It seems that President Obama can wait a long time for the Chinese government to give greater freedom to over one billion Chinese citizens.
(Above–Man stopping tanks during Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Please click here for a Texas Liberal post with facts and links about Tiananmen Square.)
More than one billion people in China lack basic freedoms.
People such as myself support the dictatorship by routinely buying products made in China because it is cheap and easy to do so.
China may well be interesting place to visit and learn about. But please recall that China is ruled by people who kill to stay in power and who will do anything at all to hold power.
The New York Times ran an article recently about 1960’s graphic styles appearing in advertisements. Here is the story.
Here is an excerpt from the story—
“Our Luvs mom is all about making her own decisions,” Nicole Lobkowicz, vice president at the Luvs agency, Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, part of the Publicis Groupe, said in an e-mail message. “The ’60s era embodies the culture of thinking for yourself and taking a stand.”
Saatchi & Saatchi is a huge global concern.
Beyond the idea that the changes of the 1960’s were about having women stay home to change diapers, I’ve got to wonder if Ms. Lobkowicz thinks that any “Luvs dads” are changing diapers. Is it just Luvs moms?
(Illustration above–An advertisement for Luvs using a 1960’s looking van. The kids in the van are multi-ethnic, but it seems that mom is still doing all the driving.)
I have no idea about her personal life, but I’d not be surprised if Ms. Lobkowicz has a husband willing to help take care of any children at home. Maybe there is even a domestic employee in the home in some capacity. That’s how it is in our society. People who already have some measure of privilege get help and Luvs moms are thrown to the wolves.
Ms. Lobkowicz could have easily said “Luvs parents” or “Luvs moms and dads.”
There is nothing wrong with changing a diaper. Changing diapers is a task that must be done. What’s annoying is a well-educated and successful woman in 2009 using the 1960’s to shill for a domestic standard straight out of the 1950’s.
In fact, as seen by the painting below, men were helping change diapers at least as far back as 1631. Look at that woman behind the guy yelling at him to do a better job. I wish I could hang this horrible painting on the wall of Ms. Lobkowicz’s office. (The painting below was completed by Adriaen Brouwer in 1631. Brouwer painted many pictures of peasant life in Holland.)
Here is some history of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising firm. It’s from Wikipedia so take it with a grain of salt.
Here is the Saatchi web home. Here is a story from Saatchi about the new Head of Planning for China. He’ll be located in Beijing. You think they are working on a new campaign for democracy in China at the Beijing office?
I guess if you can do business with the butchers of Tiananmen, it can’t be so hard to have your people say that the 1960’s were about women changing diapers.
In Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government massacred a large number of their own people who were protesting for greater political freedom.
The Chinese people do not yet have political freedom. Human rights abuses go in China each day. The current government of China contains many of the same officials who held positions of power in 1989. Today’s Chinese government is the continuation of the government that ordered the Tiananmen attack.
From the report—
Growing numbers of human rights activists were imprisoned, put under house arrest or surveillance, or harassed. Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighursand Mongolians, continued. FalunGongpractitioners were at particularly high risk of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Christians were persecuted for practising their religion outside state-sanctioned channels. Despite the reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of deathpenaltycases, the death penalty remained shrouded in secrecy and continued to be used extensively. Torture of detainees and prisoners remained prevalent. Millions of people had no access to justice and were forced to seek redress through an ineffective extra-legal petition system. Women and girls continued to suffer violence and discrimination. Preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were marked by repression of human rights activists. Censorship of the internet and other media intensified.”
(Above–Chinese characters meaning freedom.)
President Barack Obama does not seem view China’s human rights record as an important concern in U.S.-China relations.
The following is from a column in the New York Times written about Tiananmen by a Chinese writer named Yu Hua who was there in 1989—
THIS is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today. “The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say…. In China today, it seems only officials have “the people” on their lips. New vocabulary has sprouted up — netizens, stock traders, fund holders, celebrity fans, migrant laborers and so on — slicing into smaller pieces the already faded concept of “the people… But in 1989, my 30th year, those words were not just an empty phrase. Protests were spreading across the country, and in Beijing, where I was studying, the police suddenly disappeared from the streets. You could take the subway or a bus without paying, and everyone was smiling at one another. Hard-nosed street vendors handed out free refreshments to protesters. Retirees donated their meager savings to the hunger strikers in the square. As a show of support for the students, pickpockets called a moratorium….”
( Below—Bodies of people killed by Chinese government at Tiananmen Square.)
China is a nation where over a billion people don’t have basic political freedom and human rights. This denial of basic rights was maintained by the murder of Chinese citizens by the Chinese government.
These facts are the defining facts of modern China.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while on a tour of Asia, has said that human rights issues in China should not interfere with areas of possible cooperation with China. Secretary Clinton mentioned climate change and the global economic downturn as other issues in U.S.–China relations.
As important as these issues are, how can the freedom of over a billion people not be at the top of the Obama-Clinton agenda for our China policy?
“T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific, made the following statement in response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments to reporters that human rights will not be at the top of her agenda in her first visit to China”
“Amnesty International is shocked and extremely disappointed by U.S. Secretary Clinton’s comments that human rights will not be a priority in her diplomatic engagement with China.
“The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues. But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future U.S. initiatives to protect those rights in China.
“The Chinese people face a dire situation. Crackdowns on Tibetans, Uighurs and religious groups such as the Falun Gong are widespread, resulting in thousands of political prisoners–some of whom have been executed. Half a million people are currently in labor camps. Women face forced abortion and sterilization as part of China’s enforcement of its one-child policy.
“It’s not too late for Secretary Clinton to do the right thing for the Chinese people. Amnesty International urges Secretary Clinton to repair the damage caused by her statement and publicly declare that human rights are central to U.S.-China relations before she leaves Beijing.”
I agree with Amnesty’s view of this question. I hope that President Obama and Secretary Clinton will reflect further on this concern and choose a more just and decent path.
What if recently deposed Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick had announced himself a god? Would this have kept him from losing his post? Is declaring himself a god an option to save the career of politically troubled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? (above)
Let’s review the record from antiquity.
In his History of Government from the Earliest Times–Volume I, Ancient Monarchies and Empires, the late Oxford political scientist S.E. Finer addressed the subject of rulers as gods or as chosen by heaven.
In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh asserted divinity. Professor Finer wrote that these claims held the most weight in the early years of the Egyptian kingdom. But in time, as Pharaohs lasted for only brief stretches before dying or being usurped, the claim to divininty must have been nearly impossible for anyone to really believe.
In this era of 24 hour cable news and irreverent coverage by political blogs, it would seem, at best, that only some of the public would believe a claim by a leader that he or she was a god. If rulers had a hard time maintaining the fiction back in ancient Egypt, imagine convincing people today.
Professor Finer also wrote that the Egyptians responded to the diminished stature of the Pharaoh’s person by giving the throne divinity more so than the individaul holding the throne.
“In my view…originally the (pharaohs) person was a sacred person, because, in accordance with certain rules or portents, he was, uniquely, indicated as the rightful possessor of the throne. But later it was the throne that made the king..irrespective of a particular individuals personal history or qualities.”
By this logic, the holder of the office of Speaker of the Texas House or the Governorship of Illinois would be a god by definition. It would not make any difference if Mr. Craddick or Mr. Blagojevich were gods because their successors would be gods as well. This, in my view, would limit the value of declaring yourself a god. No matter what, you’re going to get a god in the position.
In ancient China, the Emperor had the “Mandate of Heaven.”
“…the Chinese emperorship…was irreducibly ritualistic: ying-yang and the perfect harmony of Earth, Man ans Heaven turned exclusively upon the emperor’s actions….so the emperor, the Son of Heaven, was sacred because he alone could offer to Heaven the supreme sacrifices and maintain the harmony between the terrestrial order and the cosmos.”
Reading this you’d think a politician looking for a firm hold on power would try to establish himself as holding such importance. But the power of the Chinese emperor came with a catch not unlike what we have already seen in Egypt. The presumption was that if you challenged the emperor and prevailed, that you then had the Mandate of Heaven.
The verdict here, informed by history, is that declaring yourself to be god or as heaven-sent is not a viable strategy to keep political power. Though it sure would be fun if someone would try. It does seem possible that Governor Blagojevich has at least considered this idea.
This masked woman is one of the U.S. Olympic cyclists who wore a mask to protect herself from bad air in Beijing.
Will she or any of her teammates speak up for human rights in China?
Don’t hold your breath.
So what if a billion Chinese are not free? This woman does not want to breathe bad air. That’s what important.
Both the Olympics in Beijing and the Democratic National Convention in Denver will have limited areas segregated for protests.
“Security” is cited.
Restrictions in China will be tighter than in Denver. Still, why are Democrats, yet again, accepting limiting protests to a certain area when people in America are supposed to have a right of free assembly? The restrictions in Boston four years ago were odious.
So-called “security” reasons are easily used by both dictatorships and more open nations, to curtail the inherent right of individuals to express their grievances.
We know McDonald’s will say anything that works to sell more of their rotten food. They don’t care about any dictatorship–They care about new markets.
(Please click here for a review of the book Fast Food Nation which discusses at length the ecological and economic harm done by American fast food outlets.)
Along with large corporations that by definition will look the other way at the brutality of the Chinese dictatorship, much of the fault here also lies with American consumers who don’t care where and how the stuff they buy and consume is manufactured and produced.
And who don’t care that the people of China lack political freedom.
My own buying habits would not stand up to review on this question. I’m willing to pay more for things that are ecologically sound, or not produced in a dictatorship or a sweatshop, but I make little or no effort to find such items.
I’m going to look at questions of more responsible consumption more carefully in upcoming posts. While it is right and needed to criticize corporations who enable dictatorships around the world, in the end it will be our own actions that will make the difference.
The brutal dictatorship of China will begin the Summer Olympic games in 24 days on August 8.
Not one of the more than one billion people who live in China has political freedom.