Profiles in Courage

So last week John McCain stood up to China by getting his picture taken with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and this week President Bush stood up to China by inviting some Chinese dissidents to his White House residence for a private meeting with no reporters or photographers present.

Yeah, that’s showin’ ’em.

From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

Two weeks before he goes to the Beijing Olympic Games, President Bush remains unacceptably silent about China’s crackdown on basic human rights. Emboldened by the complicity of Mr. Bush and other leaders, China is harassing or locking up critics, threatening journalists and selectively denying visas. …

…The situation bordered on the absurd last week when Mr. Bush delivered a lengthy address on his “freedom agenda” for the world. He spoke loftily about the need for America to lead the cause of freedom and human rights, but he made only a brief reference to China. His insistence that those who “languish in tyranny” are not alone likely was little solace to Hu Jia and other imprisoned Chinese rights activists.

I am not sure of the exact figure, but China is holding something like $1 trillion in U.S. debt, which has gone a long way toward floating Bush’s war and his tax cuts. China owns his ass.

In recent weeks there have been reports in the European and Canadian press that most of the monks in the three biggest monasteries in Lhasa have been rounded up and sent to prisons or detention camps. The majority of these — approximately 1,000 monks — are simply being detained until after the Olympics, China says, but after the Olympics they will be returned to their home villages and not allowed to return to Lhasa. Another 500 or so monks probably have been accused of crimes and imprisoned, or at least they are unaccounted for. Only a handful of monks remain in each monastery. Oddly, one doesn’t hear about any of this from U.S. media.

Update: See also Glenn Greenwald, Those privacy-hating Chinese communist tyrants.

The Missing Monks of Lhasa

On the other blog — since Tibet was officially “opened” to journalists and tourists a few days ago, a number of visitors to Lhasa, the old capital city, have commented that there was an unusual absence of monks. Now there are reports that a majority of the monks of Lhasa’s three principal monasteries — a number easily in the thousands — have been shipped to detention camps and prisons.

Some people have real problems.

Oh, and you may have heard that the Chimpster will attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Not going would be an “affront” to the Chinese, he said.

Translation: The Chinese are underwriting his war and his tax cuts. They own his ass.

Blinking Over Burma

As posted on the other blog, there are numerous reports today saying the military dictator of Burma has agreed to allow foreign aid workers into cyclone-devastated areas. Don’t believe it until it happens, however.

The Wall Street Journal has an article today on the underground network of relief in Burma run mostly by monks. It’s a subscriber-only article, but if you can find the article through Google News you can read the whole thing. Some Buddhist organizations and private individuals have been able to get money and supplies directly to monks, bypassing the junta. Meanwhile, food and other supplies from the big aid organizations are showing up for sale in Yangon markets. Apparently soldiers are confiscating the supplies and selling them.

There’s a news story circulating on right-wing blogs about the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supplying condoms to Burma in response to the cyclone. At least, it looks like a news story. It seems to have originated on an anti-abortion site called LifeSiteNews. However, this same anti-abortion site claims

UNFPA’s response to the deadly earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, that affected some 5.7 million people, was to “provide reproductive health supplies” as well as to ensure that pregnant women “receive proper emergency obstetric services (that is, abortion) when necessary,” according to the UNFPA website (

If you actually go to the URL provided, you find —

Accepting the Fund’s offer of assistance, the Chinese Government has asked UNFPA to provide reproductive health supplies, including clean delivery kits for primary health centres and hospital equipment needed for Caesarean deliveries and blood transfusions. UNFPA assistance also includes hygiene kits for displaced individuals and funding to address immediate shelter needs.

Chinese authorities estimate that the earthquake has affected some 5.7 million people, and that many may stay in temporary camps for up to one year. In such situations, the risks normally associated with childbirth are often heightened for displaced women.

Can we say that the folks who run LifeSiteNews are a pack of sick, twisted, lying bastards? I believe so.

I searched the UNFPA web site and did not find anything about sending condoms to Burma in response to the cyclone, which of course is not absolute proof they aren’t sending condoms in response to the cyclone. UNFPA does have an ongoing program of supplying condoms to Burma, however, mostly for the purpose of slowing the spread of HIV infection. This has been going on for a few years and has nothing to do with the cyclone.

At Lulu’s place, SeeDubya writes,

If any one story sums up what the U.N. has become, this is it. It’s at once so clueless and out-of-touch to be darkly comical (Hey, you know these people rebuilding their lives amid the bloated corpses and amoebic dysentery and famine really need? Some condoms!) while at the same time being sinister and malevolent, and redolent of Margaret Sanger’s eugenics movement. Somewhere poor brown people are multiplying, UNFPA notes with alarm, and primly resolve to help them stop.

They’re a very C.S. Lewis sort of villain, thoroughly dangerous and yet still laughable, especially because of the deadly seriousness with which they take themselves. If you’ve read The Screwtape Letters or especially That Hideous Strength, you’ll know what I mean. What is the United Nations but the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments writ large?

SeeDubya may not be lying, as I suspect he believes the condom story is true. But “sick” and “twisted” still apply.

Burma Update

I have a brief update on the unfolding tragedy in Burma posted on the other blog. Note in particular that much of the aid being sent into Burma by international aid organizations is being stolen and warehoused by the military junta, according to the New York Times.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship asks that we direct our donations to the Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), which has been using resources and contacts already in Burma to reach people in need.

Save Burma

I ran into this pro-Burma rally in Manhattan yesterday. Photo taken on 77th Street between 5th and Madison:

Protest for Burma

Funnily enough, I later ran into an anti-Scientology rally in front of the Scientology Center on 82nd Street. Yesterday was a good day for rallying, I suppose. (The weather was nice, anyway.) Both were small, very tightly controlled, mostly polite rallies behind those blue police barriers.

And thanks for playing nice this weekend. I didn’t have to work too hard after all.


I’ll be away for the weekend, so behave yourselves. Note that there may be some delays in comment posting, since I won’t be available to rescue comments from the moderation filter. However, my editorial backup support team (my daughter) will log in and tidy up from time to time.

I see this morning that the situation in Burma is growing more desperate. The United Nations and a few other aid organizations are getting some supplies and food into the country, but so far not nearly enough. Here is a list of aid organizations accepting donations for Burma, and here is an update on what was happening with aid efforts as of yesterday.


Today the Olympic torch, having been extinguished and re-lit several times in France, is in San Francisco. I haven’t yet heard what’s going on with it today, but protests are expected, and the IOC is considering scrapping the torch relay in the future.

You probably know that the government of China blames His Holiness the Dalai Lama for causing unrest in Tibet. You probably know this is bullshit. However, the people of China hear only the Chinese government’s side of the story, and they tend to support their government.

Here in the U.S. , wingnuts and the crackpots who lead them continue to promote the idea that either Iran, or al Qaeda (the original one), or both conflated together in John McCain’s addled brain, are the chief culprits behind the violence in Iraq. You probably knew this is bullshit, and if you don’t, Dilip Hiro and John Juan Cole explain it for you.

Republican presidential candidate and war hero John McCain continues to be confused about connections (unlikely) between al Qaeda and Sh’ia Iran. Michael Goldfarb thinks we’re all being picky.

This is getting beyond ridiculous. Sometimes people make mistakes, even liberals–like when Arianna Huffington, in the midst of attacking McCain for just such a gaffe, confused Iran with Syria. Does she really not know the difference between the two? Of course not.

Memo to Goldfarb: Arianna Huffington ain’t runnin’ for President. And McCain keeps making the same mistake.

Clinton supporters believe the Clinton campaign is struggling because media are mean to Clinton. The fact that Senator Clinton’s campaign keeps making big, fat, newsworthy mistakes is not, of course, a factor behind the negative press. Yes, there is some piling on, but she’s giving them so much to pile on about. (See also “Why the Clintons Held Onto Mark Penn.” Interesting read.)

And, as I remember, until the Clinton campaign started losing, the same press had built the Senator and her campaign team into the Most Awesome and Absolutely Unbeatable Political Juggernaut of All Time.

Ezra Klein writes that conservatives have a creative scapegoat for recent economic meltdown — liberals caused the subprime mortgage crisis:

The new line we’re hearing is that the financial meltdown was really the product of the Community Reinvestment Act, a piece of legislation from the late-70s that required federally-insured banks to lend throughout the areas from which they take deposits, including poor neighborhoods, which were being systematically excluded from credit. The legislation, by all accounts, worked. Now, however, conservatives are trying to argue that it’s behind the crisis: If the CRA hadn’t been pushing these banks to make all these unsafe loans, then the birds would still sing and Alan Greenspan could still start each morning by being anointed with the oil of the purest, youngest, olives.

As Robert Gordon shows, however, this is crap.

Well, yes.

Anyway, is there anyone out there actually taking responsibility for something?

Quick Comments

The insanity among the Clintonistas continues.

See Benjamin Wallace-Wells for more on how the death of Martin Luther King devastated liberalism.

Tibetans are not the only minority group facing brutal oppression by the government of China. Charles Cummings writes on the treatment of the mostly Muslim Uighur people of Xinjiang:

Uighurs have been jailed for reading newspapers sympathetic to the cause of independence. Others have been detained merely for listening to Radio Free Asia, an English-language station funded by the US Congress. Even to discuss separatism in public is to risk a lengthy jail sentence, with no prospect of habeas corpus, effective legal representation or a fair trial. About 100 Uighurs were arrested in Khotan recently after several hundred demonstrated in the marketplace of the town, which lies on the Silk Road.

And what happens to these innocent Uighur men and women once they land up in one of Xinjiang’s notorious “black prisons”? Amnesty International has reported numerous incidents of torture, from cigarette burns on the skin to submersion in water or raw sewage. Prisoners have had toenails extracted by pliers, been attacked by dogs and burned with electric batons, even
cattle prods.

In Typhoon, I relate the terrifying true story of a prisoner in Xinjiang who had horse hair inserted into the tip of his penis. Throughout this diabolical torture, the victim was forced to wear a metal helmet on his head. Why? Because a previous inmate had been so traumatised by his treatment in the prison that he had beaten his own head against a radiator in an attempt to take his own life.

This is the reality of life in modern Xinjiang. Quite what the Chinese hope to gain from their inhumane behaviour remains unclear. According to Corinna-Barbara Francis, a researcher with Amnesty’s East Asia team, “the intensified repression of Uighurs by the Chinese authorities is in danger of contributing to the very outcome that China claims it is warding against – the radicalisation of the population and the adoption of violent responses to the repression.”

The government of China commits hideous atrocities on anyone it decides it doesn’t like. Of course, we’re hardly in a position to claim the moral high ground any more.

But ethnic minorities in China’s outlying areas, like the Uighurs and the Tibetans, are treated particularly harshly. As I said in “Rebellion in Tibet,” the Chinese are making every mistake every imperial power ever made.

That’s why it stuns me when some online publication that claims to be for “peace and social justice” publishes apologies for China such as this. Unbelievable.