Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In That Olympic Spirit, China Leads The World In Dissident Arrests!

While George Bush, Mitt Romney and other empty-headed Republican blowhards continue to spout platitudes about freedom and patriotism, while at the same time attempting to undermine them at every turn, there exists in the world individuals who really know what these words mean.

Meet Mr. Hu Jia.

Mr. Hu is an average citizen of the "Peoples Republic of" China. He and his wife Zeng Jinyan live in an apartment with their beautiful newborn daughter, Qianci. Like many people of the world, Mr. Hu blogs on the internet and uses modern telecommunications tools such as Skype. Unfortunately, in the "Peoples Republic of" China, he is not free to do so without the risk of harassment and arrest from his government.

Who Says The Chinese Government Doesn't Have A Sense Of Humour?

After spending almost two years under house arrest in the ironically named Bo Bo Freedom City, for engaging in these very activities, on December 27, Mr. Hu was dragged away by the state police on the charge of "subverting state power." He had become involved with the case of Yang Chunlin, a former factory worker who organized a petition campaign entitled, “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics." The petition was part of an effort to help local farmers seek legal redress over land confiscated by the Chinese government.

While The Petition Wasn't Wildly Popular With The Chinese Government, It Did Manage To Collect 10,000 Signatures.

As China prepares for the Olympics, it seems that they are also preparing to clean up any hint of dissent within their culture. There have been crackdowns on internet sites and arrests of dissidents. Reporters Without Borders has stated that China has jailed 51 online dissidents, the most in the world, and blocked more than 2,500 Web sites in 2007. But wait, there's more. So paranoid is the Chinese government that even Mr. Hu's newborn daughter is under house arrest, making her possibly the world's youngest political prisoner.

If George Bush Loves Freedom So Well . . . Ah, Forget It.

It's time for the Republican Party, the neo-conservatives, the religious right and every other flag waiving, SUV driving with the magnetic ribbons on the back, freedom loving, "God Bless America" spewing American to man up and put an end to this. It's time for the mouthpieces of "American Values" to transform their voluminous rhetoric into action. Note to O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity: If you are not willing to speak out against a baby and her mother being under house arrest for expressing dissent, then it is time for you to shut the f-bomb up.

What's it gonna be, America? Dangerous, but really cheap goods at your local Wal-Mart or our founding values? If you chose the latter, here's what you can do about it:

1) Stop buying products made in China.

2) Let companies that are outsourcing jobs to China know that you will no longer buy those products.

3) Write your congressional representative and demand that the United States boycott the Beijing Olympic games.

4) If the United States does not boycott the games (and they probably won't), refuse to watch them.

If you chose the really cheap goods option then, frankly, you deserve all the toxic lead paint that the Chinese government can ship into your house.

The bottom line is this: We as a nation are helping the Chinese government engage in repression of the basic civil rights that we enjoy.

The question is, are you going to participate?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Not Up For Debate, The Debates Are Pretty Worthless

The 2008 presidential campaign appears to have had more candidate debates in recent memory, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's been a good thing. In spite of the fact that the early debates featured all of the candidates in a party's field, you couldn’t help noticing that the "fringe candidates" always seemed to be on the fringe of the stage and the "front runners" always seemed to be well, front and center. Then there was the format. Assuming that the typical American attention span is about 45 seconds, the affairs offered plenty of sound bytes and little actual debate.

Blame the media outlets.

The vaunted fourth estate, once charged with keeping our government honest, has let us down. Let's face it, moderators such as Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer are celebrities in their own right, with images and ratings to maintain. Even the “historic” YouTube debates were laughable, their historic significance seeming to derive from the fact that CNN told us they were. It’s a blurring of entertainment and news that makes it hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.

And whether it be CNN or Fox News, none of it is fair, balanced or unbiased.

In perhaps the most recent mark of shame, ABC News has decided that they now get to determine the threshold that a declared candidate must meet in order to participate in their debate. The Associated Press reported today that three candidates have been cut from their upcoming debates for failing to meet benchmarks of support. They are Mike Gravel, Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich. Said ABC political news director, David Chalian, "In previous debates where the stage was more crowded you had to make sure all of the candidates got equal time. Here you will have more time to go in depth on the issues."

While Mr. Chalian's point may be true, the fundamental question is this: Why does he get to decide?

Could it because he's beholden to his advertisers? Advertisers who perhaps will fare better should one of the "front runners" be elected?

The bottom line: The only way to make the debates work is to change the format.

What we need is a series of topical debates such as foreign policy, the economy and the environment. Then we need to do a draw system where one randomly drawn candidate debates another randomly drawn candidate, picked from the bowl, right there, live on stage. "Senator Clinton, your opponent is Representative Kucinich." "Governor Romney, your opponent is Mayor Guiliani." Give them the opportunity to make an opening statement. Give them 1 question. Give them 15 minutes and let them go.

Until that time our corporations and media will decide the most acceptable candidates and our candidates will regurgitate empty headed sound bytes for us to swallow.

And by the way, if you don't think that ABC should be doing this, maybe you'd like to drop them a note. Contact ABC.