Saturday, March 25, 2006

Krauthammer's Bloody Road to a New Iraq

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hao Wu and the Upcoming US-China Summit: Why Bush is Unfit to Speak for the Wrongfully Imprisoned

China Daily reported on March 23rd that China and the United States have set April 20 as a summit date at the White House between George Bush and Chinese president Hu Jintao, last seen together laughing it up at the United Nations in September. Will Hao Wu be on Bush’s mind? From Rebecca McKinnon at Global Voices, one of the treasures of the blog world: “Hao Wu (Chinese name: 吴皓 ), a Chinese documentary filmmaker who lived in the U.S. between 1992 and 2004, was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 22, 2006. On that afternoon, Hao had met in Beijing with a congregation of a Christian church not recognized by the Chinese government, as part of the filming of his next documentary.” (Read the rest of Hao’s story here…)
It’s been heartening to see a minor swell of voices on Hao’s behalf here and there, but it seems such a brazen arrest should garner more than 50-odd daily hits, on average, on the barometer of bloggers’ attention since news of his arrest finally got out. The hits are diminishing. Meanwhile China and the United States have been busy bashing each other in preparation for that summit. Condoleezza Rice, a reincarnated Kissinger with a penchant for Brahms, couldn’t pass up a chance on her Australian hop earlier this month to give Robert Kaplan (who looks at China the way, say, Israel looks at Hamas), orgasmic joys: “ I think all of us in the region,” Rice said, “particularly those of us who are longstanding allies, have a joint responsibility and obligation to try and produce conditions in which the rise of China will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force.” The assumption, of course, and official American national policy according to the latest version of the National Security Strategy, which warns China against “old ways of thinking and acting,” while the Chinese president promised, in Reaganesque tones, a military buildup and sent his propagandizing troops bashing back at the United States with a human rights “report” of its own about America. Read the rest...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

L'infame: Afghan Conversion

Abdel Rahman is a 41-year-old Afghan who16 years ago converted from Islam to Christianity, and now finds himself in a Kabul court facing the death penalty for it. It is against Islamic law, you see, to convert away from Islam, the religion of peace and tolerance. The case is raising hackles for those who think, like our Lord and Savior president, that Afghanistan is now just a hillier-than-usual, and bigger, Texan county. President Bush’s pathological aversion to truth still has him free-associating Afghan law with something James Madison might have written. And the majority of Americans who support the Afghan occupation still think the place is worth the fight, and the waste in lives, because they’ve bought into the Thousand-and-Two Night invention by the Bush administration that Afghanistan is somehow a “successful” occupation, rather than a craggier version of Iraq. (See my last installment of Afghanistan’s regression, back in October courtesy of American government accounts.)
Which makes Abdel Rahman’s story, like that of the young poet beaten to death by her husband and mother a few months ago, particularly enlightening about the direction of Afghan rights under American aegis. The story is generating some clear-eyed outrage. But it’s also giving the likes of Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, where historical perspective is measured, as the blog’s name innocently implies, in nanoseconds, the chance to claim yet again that “[t]his will simply provide more ammunition for those who believe that Islam is incompatible with civilization.” (Because, as we know, the thousand-year Reichian reign of the Catholic Church in Europe and our beloved New World was an orgy of benevolence and earthly bliss for those caught with anything other than a bible chafing their hands.) The story is also giving both liberals and conservatives the kind of equivocating hiccups that show to what extent the notion of objective, universal rights has become just another ideological battleground. Read the rest...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Democracy Defeated: The Death of Protest

On Friday I read the following Associated Press dispatch in the Moscow Times: “The head of the Belarussian state security service warned on Thursday that any protesters who took to the streets during elections this Sunday could be charged with terrorism.” The Belarussian security service, incidentally, still goes by its Soviet-era brand: KGB.
The same day in The New York Times, I read the following: “In five internal reports made public yesterday as part of a lawsuit, New York City police commanders candidly discuss how they had successfully used ‘proactive arrests,’ covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and recommend that those approaches be employed at future gatherings.” As we know from the 2004 National Republican Convention in Manhattan, those tactics were used to great effect. The New York Police Department, with $76 million to spend and 10,000 shields to use on four days’ work, presumed that every protester was a potential terrorist. It borrowed from the playbook of the Miami police department, where anti-globalism protesters were overwhelmed by police force in 2003. It cuffed activism to side-streets and precinct houses (1,806 people were arrested). It doctored videotape of the arrests, deleting evidence of protesters cooperating with arresting officers. And all along the Republican Party staged its lie-abiding Bush-capades at Madison Square Garden, with Belarussian contempt for the noises of democracy it is preaching to the world.
Compared to the violence of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, placid Manhattan looks, in retrospect, like the real breakdown of civil, democratic society. It’s where protest could be deemed dead and buried, and with it the notion that political freedom is anything more than the right to vent in an echo chamber. Read the full column...

Downplaying a Massacre

Give Spring's Birthday a Listen: Johann Sebastian Bach is 321 Years Old Today

Between Bach, Mozart and Voltaire, maybe a bit of Gandhi, the Daily Show and a few Carlsbergs thrown in there, we really have no excuse ever to be uncivilized or boorish or imperial, or to end up with the likes of George Bush and Dr. Phil for, respectively, president and therapist-in-chief. Yet we have. If the United States is regressing so rapidly, it’s because there’s too much brawn and not enough Bach. We can’t do anything about the brawn shirts: we’re stuck with them for almost three more years, and possibly many more than that if John McCain, who hasn’t really had his payback for his Hanoi Hilton days, ascends to Ceasarhood in 2008. We can do something about the Bach drought. Bach is 321 years old today, March 21. It’d be a shame to let his birthday go by without a musical cake. If I had the right server I’d have invited everyone to download his complete works in varying interpretations—all three hundred hours—of my hard drive, copyrights, for JS’s sake, be damned. I’m neither that lucky nor that rich, so here’s a selection of a dozen or so pieces for your listening pleasure. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites that aren’t necessarily played that much (when Bach is played at all) on what’s left of the classical music radio ghetto. So no Brandenburgs or the Tocata and Fugue in D minor, which you can get on your top-40 dial. These are the pieces I grew up to revere, adore, kiss in the night and weep to even at high noon on a summer day in Florida. All the files are in mp3 format, re-recorded at 128 kb, not the best quality but easier for downloads, which may still take a few moments. Trust me, on JS’s twenty-three children’s heads, they’re worth it. Click here for the complete birthday cake, to have and to hear as often as you like...