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Oct 19

On Human Rights, Intervention and the International Order

Written by Oli on Sunday, October 19th, 2008 at 3:35 am
Filed under:Analysis, politics | Tags:, , , , , ,
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The idea of “human rights” is neither new nor did it suddenly sprang into existence after WWII. It has arguably existed since the dawn of human existence, as portrayed in human stories and mythologies and exemplified throughout human history in man’s struggle against the arbitrariness of a higher power, be they of gods, fortune, nature or tyrants.

In Chinese society, such struggles are found in the stories and mythologies of 大禹 (Great Yu) taming the floods, 神農  (Shennong) inventing agriculture or the Monkey King’s rebellion against Heaven. Socio-politically, a central theme of Confucianism is the rights and duties of each member of society, from the peasant to that of the Emperor. Subsequently, 孟子 (Mencius) argued for the rights of the citizens to just rule, while later 王夫之 (Wang Fuzhi) favoured governing in the interest of the people (i.e. for the people) instead of for the benefit of the rulers.

To contrast, in the West, there are the Greek mythologies, such as Eurydice persuading Hades to relinquish Orpheus or Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus overcomes the gods’ capriciousness to return home after events in the Iliad. Western socio-political progression of “human rights” ranges from Socrates, Plato to Aristotle and the Greco-Roman tradition. From the transition of the rule of God and the clergy to the rule of man by the kings and the rule of men following the Magna Carta, the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, the US Constitutional declarations and the various emancipation movements.

The fundamental idea of human rights is therefore neither new nor particularly Western. But what has changed before WWI and after WWII, is that the birth of mass media and communication in the form of the printed word, radio, television, the Internet and telecommunications has accelerated the formalisation of a framework for the concept of “human rights” and its definition in the West. This is dominated as it were by the Western experience due to its technological dominance and wealth that grew out of the centuries old competition within Europe and later with the USA.

Today, this Western “formalisation” of human rights, though not necessarily the fundamental idea of human rights, is itself being contested by other rising cultures. In modern history, these cultures include firstly Japan, the Tiger Economies and now the BRIC nations, other S. American countries such as Venezuela or Bolivia as well as the rise of Islam and the return of political Christianity. Such that different nation’s historical experience must perforce require an alternative “formalisation” process that fulfils their particular needs.

A nation, whilst superficially governed by written rules, regulations and the letter of the declared laws, is no less also regulated by unwritten, but constantly evolving norms, values and belief systems (NVBs) which reflect that society’s history, culture and the aggregate experience of its members/citizens at any given time. Such NVBs may or may not include the idea and a belief in a set of “fundamental human rights” in the Western sense, whether declared or incorporated into that country’s laws and jurisprudence or not.

Being unwritten, such NVBs are themselves subject to change, brought about by legal, political, social, military, technological or inner and inter- societal “buffering”. Changes in NVBs can themselves lead to, among other things, changes in both the law and the legal, social or political framework of that country over time, irrespective of whether there are formal mechanisms (i.e. a democratic or parliamentary process) to do so or not. Sometimes this process is peaceful and sometimes it is not.

Such changes may include developing perceptions within society of what constitutes “fundamental human rights”, such as the debate over the right to die or the rights of the unborn or the premature foetus, as science and technology pushes the boundary of viability and our understanding and definition of human awareness, consciousness and our purported “understanding of the divine”. Inevitably, because of the nature of any government, legislature and the nation’s jurisprudence, these institutions will often trail developments and changes in NVBs.

However, currently at the international level the debate over the formalisation of human rights in different countries is not matched by a corresponding international mechanism to facilitate or to implement that process, notwithstanding the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Contrary to common misconceptions, the UN does not have the authority to override the sovereignty of a particular nation. To resolve any given issue requires the involved member states to voluntarily surrender their sovereignty and submit themselves to the resolutions passed by the UN.

Should they refuse, as in the case of Israel over Palestine or the US’ lack of mandate over the invasion of Iraq among other examples, there is very little that the UN can do about it, particularly where a Security Council member has vested interest. Therefore, the UN has in fact pretty much zero authority in itself and so long as member states are unwilling to surrender their sovereignty, whether in part or in full, system wise this is unlikely to change.

The UN was also never set up or intended to be a forum for the debate on a determination of what constitutes human rights and nor should it become one. So long as each nation is different and values that distinction, they will have their own NVBs that influence their own formalisation process towards their own variation of human rights and the laws that underpin them. Thus, the debate over what constitutes human rights at the international level is essentially up to each and everyone of us, be it via electronic communications, the printed medium, the mass media or even between individuals, either domestically or internationally.

In this process, the West has traditionally held certain historical and organisational advantages, such as the higher educational level of its peoples, its greater access to information, its dominance of the international channels of mass media, the sub- and overlapping divisions of a civil society, where its governments can influence or act through interest groups and vice versa, both at the domestic level and in the international arena. Of course, this too is subject to change, particularly with the rise of developing nations, Globalisation and the diluting effects of technology such as the Internet, which may render any organisational advantages more fluid and ephemeral.

The UN, like the League of Nations before it, is therefore NOT a proactive, but a conditionally reactive institution that only sometimes successfully facilitate the resolution of a conflict. It is NOT an active promoter or facilitator of planet-wide NVBs. Even if such an institution exists today, never mind an internationally agreed definition of “fundamental” human rights, the question remains as to exactly how fundamental should such rights extend? How is one to prioritise the implementation of which rights and how or who is to pay for it all?

Member states, particularly those with the pre-requisite resources (i.e. often the developed nations) have often made promises of aid, but seldom succeeded in delivering. The supply of helicopters and other equipment to the Darfur African Union Peacekeepers is a case in point. Equally, interested Western activist groups appear to have all but fallen silent recently when it comes to pressuring their own governments to deliver on those promises or it has simply fallen off the radar of the popular media.

Consequently, the current situation is that there is effectively no international system of “humanitarian” military intervention even in cases of really egregious human rights abuse. It is an ad hoc system that only occasionally works, either when the interests of the major powers are not directly affected (the failed intervention in Somalia) or when it is affected, but the other powers are unable or unwilling to prevent intervention (former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Georgia).

As for when one should intervene in another country on the basis of really egregious human rights abuses, I am to be honest torn. On one hand, I have in principle no problem with intervention in what I term “fast-burn” issues, such as the Rwandan Genocide or the Yugoslav Civil War, as I regard these not as egregious human rights abuses but as man-made tragedies where abuses take place.

Then there are the situations I call “slow-burn”, such as pre-invasion Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia or Sudan, where my personal preference is for patience and tailored engagement, for no two countries are socio-politically alike and a single approach is likely to do more harm than good. In such cases, my optimistic or perhaps even naïve opinion is that often, with engagement and if allowed to play itself out “over time”, these situations have a tendency to “resolve” itself, where the resolution often come from the people and even from the ruling elite within each country. Examples include the transition from dictatorships to democracy in Spain, Mexico, the Philippines, S. Korea, Taiwan and Chile among others.

By comparison, too often overt or inept outside involvement only serve to exacerbate if not prolong the process, causing the outsider to make more enemies. Examples of these arguably include pre-Islamic Republic Iran, Iraq and Somalia among others. Of course, unfortunately “over time” may very well also mean that human rights abuse will continue and people will continue to suffer and die.

The question then becomes at what point is it right for the “international community” to intervene should the situation mutate from one that is “slow-burn” to one that is “fast-burn”, as in the case just prior to WWII when the Nazis and complicit ordinary Germans crossed over from daily harassment of Jews and other undesirables to industrialised mass murder or in the case of Saddam Hussein’s mass killing of the Kurds during the late 80’s, yet the major powers continue to supply him with arms to attack and to keep the “perceived threat” of Iran in check.

This then begs the ultimate question of whether we should take the “human rights” approach to address this issue and if so, are interested nations and its peoples willing to forego their “national interests” for the “greater good”? And if we were to take the route of Realpolitik in the name of national interests, then how do we reconcile that with the ideal of “human rights” that are supposed to be universal? These are in essence the questions that we ourselves as individuals, never mind the UN or any possible future organisation, need to address if we are to be able to reach a consensus on when is it right to intervene on the basis of “human rights”.

Note:
This entry essentially grew out of a discussion on US Arms Sales to Taiwan “A Slap to Wen Jiabao’s Face”?, where Allen @ #221 posed me some difficult questions on the above issues.


There are currently 16 comments highlighted: 18193, 18295, 18325, 18341, 18350, 18352, 18354, 18360, 18599, 18720, 18729, 18730, 18742, 18753, 18769, 18770.

268 Responses to “On Human Rights, Intervention and the International Order”

  1. Oli Says:

    I very much blame Allen for this entry. Its all his fault. He “made” me write it. Blame him. Address all questions to Allen. He has all the answers. Seriously.

  2. Netizen K Says:

    Too long to read. UN is a tool of big powers. It’s better jaw jaw than war war. No more than that.

  3. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Excellent post. Well worth the wait. This blog I think is a worthy audience for your piece; but I also think it deserves wider circulation. Maybe you could send it in to some prominent papers…NYT, WP, WSJ? I can’t recall your opinions of those papers….if you think they’re bunk, then please disregard.

    I agree social mores can serve as a strong moral compass for judging intra-societal behaviour. And that different societies need not, and often do not, share such mores. The difficulty arises when what one society deems acceptable is to another clearly not. And I agree there is no effective international arbiter for such circumstances, just as there is no international arbiter of what constitutes a “universal” or “fundamental” human right.

    I agree with Allen that the UN is probably the least inappropriate among potential choices of international bodies; but I also agree with you that the UN is far from perfect, especially when the strongest and most influential countries in the world are also the ones with Security Council veto power, and thus the ability to scuttle any potential agreement that isn’t self-serving. And in the nation construct where nations seek to serve national interests at times before human interests, I don’t know if this shortcoming is resolvable.

    However, as you also suggest, social mores are fluid and can change, in time. What you left unsaid (I’m sure intentionally, but in so doing gave your post the type of neutrality that is refreshing and desirable, and for which I for one am deeply appreciative) is that, in the absence of an accepted arbiter, can one society, based on her mores, legitimately criticize that of another. For that, I don’t pretend to know the answer, although clearly societies (of course including ours) do engage in such endeavours. I would think of such endeavours as an export, not of goods, but of ideas. And such an international market of ideas, like goods, should allow bidirectional commerce. As with all commerce, the seller has the right to sell their wares; and the consumer has the right to choose to consume it, or not. Ultimately, if we are ever to arrive at some “universal” set of accepted human rights or values, even for a brief moment, I feel such exchange, solicited or not, so not only be allowed, but encouraged.

  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    BTW, as an aside, given your reference to the realpolitik, Battle of Seattle is coming out. And if nothing else, Charlize Theron is in it. Regardless of whether it stimulates the brain, it should soothe the eyes :-)

  5. Allen Says:

    @Oli, just added some “tags” and a “read more” divider for your post.

    Still need to digest what you wrote.

    I can’t believe you fell for this…! ;-)

  6. RMBWhat Says:

    http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&pwst=1&resnum=0&q=economic+hitman&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title#

    Confessions of an economic hit man

  7. RMBWhat Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man

  8. Raj Says:

    S.K. Cheung, no newspaper will publish that because:

    a) they invite people to produce opinion pieces;
    b) it’s far too long for a letter to the editor;
    c) it needs to be relevant to something published in the newspaper and/or very big in the news.

    Oli to add to your point about the UN, I would say that currently not only can it do anything about human rights abuses but it can’t do much about anything anywhere anytime. The entire organisation needs reform, but when you have a system where serious human rights abusers can sit next to a country like Sweden on the human rights council then it’s difficult to see what can be done.

  9. Oli Says:

    @Allen

    Oh, don’t be so smug! I knew exactly what you and admin were doing, but then I guess I deserved it for all the outstanding pieces I promised Admin, but which so far hasn’t been delivered. Besides as the Christians would say:

    我不进地狱, 谁人进地狱? – If not I, then who?

    Not that I am particularly Christian or self-sacrificing, mind. Anyway, what goes around, comes around and all things have consequences, I guess its time I pay my dues to the God of Fool’s Mountain otherwise also known as Admin and your time too will come one day no doubt? :)

  10. FOARP Says:

    Quite readable, as you say, there is a case for intervention, especially where there is a pressing matter such as the Rwandan genocide. Chronic issues like Palestine, North Korea, Cyprus etc. cannot be easily solved through concerted military action, not least because there is no consensus and both sides of the disputes in these cases have their supporters. The only thing I would take issue with is you characterisation of the UN as an essentially value-neutral organisation. The promotion of human rights has been part of its ambit from the very start, the Atlantic Charter itself upheld self-determination and freedom from want and fear. It would also be wrong to characterise membership of the UN as entirely voluntary – no nation that has not ceased to exist has voluntarily withdrawn from the UN, nor does the charter allow for a country to voluntarily withdraw itself.

  11. Hongkonger Says:

    SKC # 4

    Charlize Theron only has a small part in it , but go watch it. You will NOT be disappointed.

  12. Oli Says:

    @SKC

    Thanks for the comments. You’ve raised some interesting points, some of which I edited out as I barely stopped myself from going over the 2,000 words count, considering that Netizen K is already complaining that its too long.

    As regarding some of the points you raised, I need to think about them some more.

  13. Oli Says:

    @FOARP

    As usual, I think you need to re-read what I wrote.

    Irrespective of any Charter as a mission statement, I never said that the UN is a value-neutral organisation. Far from it, you need to seperate the organisation that is the bureaucracy that manages the stage that is the UN and the actors who are the member states, whose interacting NVBs reflect the nature and content of the resolutions passed, as well as what the UN can or cannot do.

    “It would also be wrong to characterise membership of the UN as entirely voluntary – no nation that has not ceased to exist has voluntarily withdrawn from the UN, nor does the charter allow for a country to voluntarily withdraw itself.”

    I am getting tired of repeating myself. With much love and goodwill – Re-read what I wrote.

  14. Oli Says:

    @Raj

    “but when you have a system where serious human rights abusers can sit next to a country like Sweden on the human rights council then it’s difficult to see what can be done”

    Consider the ethos and the whole rationale behind prisoner re-habilitation process, counselling or mentoring schemes. Why do we have them, what purpose do they serve?

  15. Otto Kerner Says:

    But prisoner rehabilitation begins with the acknowledgement that the prisoner has done something wrong. It would be completely counterproductive if it began by putting the prisoner on an equal footing with law-abiding society.

  16. TonyP4 Says:

    I wrote the following for fun and I believe I have not posted here. If I did, sorry. I am a dummy with no creativity and I do not approve the following message.

    ——-
    China, the human right lover

    * Contrary to popular belief, it is a fact.
    30 years ago, many Chinese died of starvation, did not have a roof over their heads…
    Not any more now.
    Are these the basic human rights?

    * Why you’re lied to.
    The media wants to create controversy to sell their stuffs.
    The politician wants to establish a common enemy, so you ignore more important problems that they cannot fix.
    The offense companies have more reason to expand.
    They all assume you are stupid and cannot analyze.

    * Why US is human right violator instead.
    How many we killed and how many Chinese killed abroad last year?
    How many citizens die of obesity as we encourage “good” food?
    How many poor remain to be poor for generations due to our generous welfare system?
    How many our children are killed every year due to our lack of gun control law? It is not even an issue for both political parties.
    How many teenage mothers we encourage starting from the top politicians?
    How many Indians stay in their reservation forever by providing them with no jobs but unlimited alcohol?
    How we use up the world’s oil and blame China who uses less than ¼ of ours per capita?
    How we blame China for military expenditure while ours is 10 times theirs?
    How we encourage our citizens to spend on credit and buy houses we cannot afford until the entire financial system falls?
    When millions are donated to politicians by special interest groups, how can our politicians make unbiased decisions for us?

    The list is endless.

    * China has its own problems and we have our own. Let each work on her problems and we’ll have a better world. In another words, your yardstick is good for your country but not mine, so mind your own business.

  17. Oli Says:

    @Otto Kerner

    Do not read more into what is there other than what I wrote. Did I liken what the West perceived as “pariah” states to prisoners or convicts? No I did not. All I did was ask Raj to consider the ethos and the rationale of why we continue to talk to people, even those we judge, shun or dislike. No more than that.

  18. Oli Says:

    @RMBWhat

    Very much appreciate the links. Throughly enjoyed it. I have the book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

    Now consider this, why did successive US administrations changed their approach to China from that of a “strategic competitor” to that of a “responsible stakeholder”? What is the US really saying to China?

    What Perkins described was how things were done up to the 80′s and the 90′s. How do you think things are done now?

    Before the book was published, I’ve actually met people like Perkins and the missionaries and US Aide/Peace Corps workers he described. The two latter groups always made me laugh, because although they come across as very sincere, the thought always crossed my mind whilst talking to them is, “oh boy, I wonder if he/she knows that they are at the butt of an international joke”.

  19. Raj Says:

    Oli

    Consider the ethos and the whole rationale behind prisoner re-habilitation process, counselling or mentoring schemes. Why do we have them, what purpose do they serve?

    I’m sorry, but that comment is ridiculous. You are implying that countries like North Korea have:

    a) acknowledged their guilt and are trying to work it out; and/or
    b) have served some sort of punishment for their human rights abuses.

    The truth is that neither of those apply. Rehabilitation only works if the party wishes to mend their ways. North Korea et al refuse to accept they do anything wrong and continue to repress their people. Sitting on a Human Rights committee has done and will do nothing to change their attitude. If anything it makes them worse because they believe they can get away with it.

  20. Nobody Says:

    “but when you have a system where serious human rights abusers can sit next to a country like [...] on the human rights council ”

    @SKC, post No. 4

    Everybody, do go watch this movie: “Battle of Seattle” ..This is an excellent movie on Human Rights abuses, taking place daily out of and smack in the center of one of the world’s greatest human rights promoting nations…..

    Here’s an email from a concerning mother in Oregan, Washington State…

    … this on Post Secret today.

    http://postsecret.blogspot.com

    Um, how do I post pictures? [matteroftime.jpg.] A post card with B/W photos of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, each crossed out, next to the UNTOUCHED photo of Barack Obama. And with these hateful racist words, “It’s only a ne…..” written on the blank spaces…

    It is a genuine concern for many Americans. This post secret postcard is expressing a fear, not a threat. The election heat is reaching meltdown proportion. My 14 y old daughter has joined a group that says if McCain is elected they won’t attend school the following day. Hopefully, she’ll be at school the following day.

  21. Steve Says:

    Oli, I’d like to thank you since you certainly put a lot of time and thought into this post.

    In my opinion, we need to break apart the concept of “human rights” into individual and societal rights. To a westerner, human rights are typically thought of as more individualistic, and in the east more societal. According to mythologists such as Joseph Campbell, ancient societies had no concept of individualism at all and only saw themselves as part of a collective. Ancient Sumerian, Egyptian and Babylonian cultures were all collective societies. Most think the beginning concept of individualism started with the ancient Greeks, but only in a primitive way. Because the rights of the society trumped the rights of the individual, individual life was cheap while societal life was not just precious but godlike, with rulers first as actual gods and later as god’s alter ego. I agree with Oli that the concept of human rights has been around for millennia, but not the concept of individual human rights.

    In my mind, what really caused the change was Newton, scientific discovery in the West and the Enlightenment philosophies. God had built the clock but now it was running by itself, and individuals controlled their destinies with god as their judge. Kings and emperors weren’t divine but served at the will of the people. There was no more “mandate from heaven”, as the Chinese empires would phrase it.

    By the time the Europeans made it in numbers to China, Chinese society was static and technological innovation was minimal. The technology adapted was derivative and behind the times. Society still maintained the concept of group thinking and behavior. Some Chinese tried to change this but were unsuccessful, and then the revolution happened and the walls went back up.

    Now China is open, industrialized and developed to a great extent compared to before. Its people travel the world, attend universities in many countries and are exposed to all different types of thinking. But when they get back home, the constantly driven viewpoint is that society is collectivistic and that harmony and stability are the prime goals of government. Government policies are arrived at in a collectivistic way, though behind closed doors.

    So when China interacts with the west, it’s like they’re not speaking the same language. Misunderstandings in interpretation are easily formed and we get arguments such as the ones on this blog between two completely different mindsets, each convinced of its own correctness. To use Oli’s acronym, the NVBs are totally different.

    Now we put both mindsets into the United Nations, with each permanent Security Council country having veto power. What is now the definition of human rights? If it is based on individualism, the collective societies will object and veto. If it is based on collectivism, then the individualistic societies will object and veto. Therefore, nothing gets done. The UN certainly pushes human rights diplomatically, but is militarily on a tight leash.

    The problem for me when one country interferes in another’s affairs is that though they might have the noblest intentions in the beginning, once they have control the “realists” appear and push “Realpolitik”. Soon the objectives of the original mission are obliterated.

    In western countries, human rights interference is usually pushed by human rights groups, usually ones that are tied to that particular country in some way. They are typically ignored. But when the government can see some sort of “national interest” such as oil, it can use the human rights issues as an argument to justify interference. It is very difficult in western democracies to engage based purely on national interest. Very few citizens will condone such a reason, since it’s their sons and daughters that will do the fighting. Yeah, Hussein was a bad guy but not bad enough to overthrow, so let’s use “WMD’s” as our reason to invade. He’s going to blow us all up and destroy our society!

    In collective societies, human rights reasons are irrelevant. Decisions are strictly based on “Realpolitik”. Let’s take Vietnam and Cambodia as an example, since I pretty much trashed the USA’s war in Iraq in the previous paragraph. Cambodia was under the control of the Kymer Rouge. It would be difficult to find a worse example of mass murder or genocide. Vietnam invaded Cambodia to overthrow the regime in Vietnam’s “national interest”, which was against China’s “national interest” so she invaded northern Vietnam, hoping to draw the Vietnam regulars out of Cambodia to defend their own country. The strategy failed; Vietnam was able to easily defend its country with militia while the veteran troops stayed in Cambodia so China’s strategic mission failed. Since that time, China’s policy seems to be that other countries can do pretty much anything to their citizens without direct outside interference. I cannot recall any exceptions but I may have forgotten something.

    So really, all the UN really has is soft influence. Any country that wants to invade another has to either do it alone or under the cover of another organization, such as NATO in Bosnia. It seems that Democrats will only go to war under an umbrella organization while Republicans will do so alone.

    I do not believe countries are willing to forego “national interest” for the “greater good”. If they did, there would have been no genocide allowed in Rwanda. Individual human rights might be universal in the west, but not worldwide. Dictators who stay in power have no desire for invasions based on human rights violations, since that hits too close to home. Collectivistic societies have no desire for invasions based on individualistic human rights, since they feel that is outside interference in an internal affair and that only the national government can bring change. After all, if the government loses the “mandate of heaven”, the government will fail on its own.

    Per the UN comments about human rights abusers serving next to normal countries; the worst abusers covet seats on the human rights committees so they can block any action on human rights abuses in their own countries. The UN might only have soft power, but it has a lot of soft power and can make life miserable for these countries. Therefore, they try to influence the committees by getting elected to them, not to do the work of the committee but to block it.

    @TonyP4: I just wanted to correct one misperception on your very valid list, since I have had a lot of interaction with American Indian culture. Indian reservations are run by the tribe itself, which elects a tribal chairman. Rather than allowing unlimited alcohol, most tribes forbid alcohol anywhere on the reservation. Technically, it’s illegal to buy alcohol outside the reservation and bring it back to your house. Unfortunately, what happens is that they will drive long distances to get outside the reservation, where they will go to an “Indian” bar and drink themselves into a stupor, then try to drive back. For some reason, Indians just don’t have the alcohol gene, and act completely different when drunk than other races. One of my friends told me that though he didn’t have the alcohol gene, non-Indians acted like total idiots when using peyote but it didn’t bother Indians at all, so it went both ways. :)

    Also, Indians off the reservation often make fun of Indians on the reservation, saying they have traded their self respect for government handouts. No one pushes for those handouts as much as the tribal elders, so it’s a vicious cycle. Once I lived in Farmington, NM for a year and when in the supermarket, would see Indians with shopping baskets full of nothing but steaks, and then pay for it with food stamps. Talk about an expensive, unbalanced diet!

    Whenever governments try to help people, they always seem to screw it up.

  22. Dude Says:

    Ah… Put peyote in Everclear and let it sit for a week… Give to Prez. Bush…Nuke the whole planet…Problem solved…

  23. Raj Says:

    #20

    This is an excellent movie on Human Rights abuses, taking place daily out of and smack in the center of one of the world’s greatest human rights promoting nations…..

    Excuse me, that’s about an incident from 9 years ago. There is nothing daily about it. The US has a far better HR record than most countries, even if there are better ones.

  24. Oli Says:

    @Raj #19

    *Sigh* see #17 My response to Otto Kerner @ #15 where the same objections as yours were raised.

    I believe you need to pay more attention to the flow of the conversation.

  25. Oli Says:

    @ Steve #21

    Steve, you are welcome.

    However, please don’t use the collectivist society vs individualistic society paradigm to analyse China or even other Asian societies, or any other society for that matter. It is deeply flawed.

    No society can succeed if too many of its members are either collectivistic or individualistic. A successful and enduring culture need both sorts of people. Too many of the former, then not enough leaders and innovators will emerge. Too many of the latter, then a society either will not form at all or it will not last. All societies, whether modern or ancient, whether advance or primitive will over time create a balanced ratio that fulfills there requirement. In primitive cultures, if two many leaders emerge, often when that society have experienced a population boom, the tribe will split, sometimes amicably, other times not, thereby paving the way to human migration.

    Consequently, it is not only flawed, but also both anthropologically and sociologically speaking a long discredited and a deeply offensive approach that harks back to ideas of eugenics and philosophy of racial superiority. It has its origins in the time when Western imperial powers first entered Asia and demonstrating a certain degree of intellectual laziness and ineptitude to go beyond the superficial. Many Latin cultures, like many Asian cultures, emphasize the importance of the family unit and the role of the community. Are they anymore or any less collectivistic than Asian or Chinese societies? Why do large number of often very fanatical baseball or footbal fans coalesce around sport teams or rock bands. Do not elevate what are in fact very natural human needs and desires into something that it is patently not.

    China’s stagnation around the beginning of the 1900′s in fact have their roots in causes that has nothing to do with collectivism vs individualism, but rather to do with, among other things, poor policy choices at the time and the fact that “China” as a polity never had any serious competition in Asia until the arrival of the Western nations.

    As for the rise of the idea of the individual, it actually began taking off alot earlier than you said. It actually started with Henry 8th of England and Martin Luther, among others when they effectively broke the power of the Catholic Church and its hold over European societies, thereby paving the way for the Enlightenment movement of Hobbes, Locke, Smith and Newton.

    As for Vietnam-Cambodia-China, your take is actually a very simplistic one that plays to American pride and which I’ve read many times before. China’s primary goal in its incursion of N. Vietnam was firstly a warning that Vietnam should not contemplate staying in Cambodia, secondly it was to prevent Thailand’s involvement in Cambodia, whether by itself or with America’s aid, thirdly at the time most of China’s line units were actually on the Sino-Russian borders. The N. Vietnam incursion was nothing more than a political message delivered by ill equipped second rate units. The irony is that Vietnam never intended to stay in Cambodia for all it wanted was to see the collapse of the Khmer Rouge to stop its incursion into Vietnam and to provide Vietnam with a buffer against Thailand and China who were allied with the US against Vietnam and the USSR at the time. In the end everybody got what they wanted, except for Cambodia.

    That’s all I have to say on the subject as they are pretty much off topic to this thread.

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Raj #23:
    “The US has a far better HR record than most countries, even if there are better ones.” – I think it best to refrain from comparisons. After all, this blog is about China. It’s not really about whether another country is better, or worse, than China. Just as such comparisons can be used to obfuscate China’s responsibility to improve her record, so too should other countries refrain from using such comparisons to obfuscate their own.

  27. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve #21:
    agreed. When you spoke of Asian countries with the society-first mantra, made me think of kamikazes doing their thing in the name of “Big Japan Emperor Country” (I think something gets lost in the translation there). As for the west and individualism, Nietzsche came to mind.

  28. Raj Says:

    #24

    I don’t have time to read all the comments – sorry. But now I don’t understand what you were trying to say.

    I said the problem is allowing HR abusers on such UN committees. So please explain your response a bit more fully but no need to write loads either.

    ++++

    #26

    I think it best to refrain from comparisons.

    I was responding to someone who criticised the US over a single event. The point was not that China was worse.

  29. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Understood. Thanks for clarifying.

  30. Nobody Says:

    Raj.

    Yes, I have seen the movie, I know what the movie is about, thank you very much.

    I was refering to the central issue and the purpose of this movie: The realworld, true nature, realpolitik of Profit-before-People Capitalism. A global system that is protected and pushed by the World Trade Organisation, which controls 90% of world trade.
    And that when push comes to shove, fundamental ideals such as Human Rights & democracy become dispensable. In the case of the Millennium Round, of 1999, Marshall law was declared – In ultra-liberal Seattle~! And, in those 3 days the Constitutional Rights of peaceful demonstrators’ were stripped.

  31. Nobody Says:

    24. Oli says:

    I believe you need to pay more attention to the flow of the conversation.

    28. Raj Says:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments …

  32. Nobody Says:

    SKC says: #26…I think it best to refrain from comparisons.

    Raj says: I was responding to someone who criticised the US over a single event

    Nobody says: Knock, knock, hello….Global demonstration against WTO is not a single event. Ever since the “Battle in Seattle” WTO fiasco, the governments will never be caught unprepared again with more stringent police controls/rules.

  33. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve @21, thanks for the insight on Indians.

    I do believe Indians are originally from China as we have the same drinking gene besides same hair/eye color. I used to tell my date I’ll not be responsible after the second drink.

    My alternate history will remain fun and not to be further discovered/argued. I believe Chinese walked across the Arctic from China to America – at one time it could be frozen to link the two continents. Some were lazy not to go further south and they became Eskimos. Some went further and they became Indians, and some even further and they became South Americans.

    Why they had to escape? It could be they lost the war and ran for their life. Or, due to famine like the Irish migration. Or, they just lost their direction (I lost my way all the time so nothing to be ashamed of), as we had not invented the compass and astronomy yet.

    Some ran to the west and became Tibetans, some to the East and became Koreans, and to the South and became Thais. When they had bigger boats like in Tang Dynasty or earlier, they became Japanese.

    If you looked at the old temples in Korea, you probably can see the written language in Chinese. Modern Japanese language is partial Chinese. The ancient dresses of Japanese are very similar to Tang’s.

    From Time Magazine, a Chinese expert in ancient Chinese language could read the ancient language of a S. American country (forgot the detail). That’s why I said some became South Americans – they used to have longer legs. I am just curious why the Eskimos and Indians did not have a language but that South Americans did. It could be that hunting did not require language skill but farming did (you need to write down when you sowed the seeds…).

    Again, it is for fun and please do not argue with me as I’m Mr Nice Guy and always let you win.

  34. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nobody:
    to be fair, the movie we’ve been referencing chronicles one battle, in one city, at one point in time. I think that qualifies as a single event. If you’re saying that similar battles have happened in other places, at other times, that may be a valid, but separate, point.

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4:
    “I used to tell my date I’ll not be responsible after the second drink.”- ahhh, but you are responsible for consuming said second drink whereupon you become irresponsible thereafter; and to consume said drink knowing the subsequent outcome, I think, invalidates claims of subsequent incompetency. Besides, what happens to your dates after such disclaimers? :-)

    Hey, would you also consider that it was the Native Americans who walked over the frozen tundra, and set up shop in China? Or maybe the Vikings? If they could get to Greenland, it’s just a hop, skip and jump over to Asia.

  36. TonyP4 Says:

    Most dates had the second drink too, so they’re not responsible neither.

    The language is a solid proof that it could not be the way around. Vikings do not have the same gene as the Eskimos/Indians.

  37. S.K. Cheung Says:

    LOL, sounds like you must have had some memorable dates…too bad you couldn’t remember them.

  38. Michelle Says:

    Tony4p
    Small nitpick

    ” I am just curious why the Eskimos and Indians did not have a language but that South Americans did. It could be that hunting did not require language skill but farming did

    I’m guessing you are talking about written language.

    If you can find the link to the article on the Chinese language expert / SAmerican language, i’m very curious about that (thx!)

    Anyhow, think i’ll be away from this blog for two weeks or so to obsess about the US election….

  39. RMBWhat Says:

    TonyP4,

    I’m interested some links. I’ve read somewhere that a fraction of north american Indians are in fact very similar to northern Asians, i.e. the same. (I don’t like refering as Chinese people. It’s just Asians). But the others have quite distinct features/genes. I forgot what the hypothesis for this was… As you travel south through the Americas, most are very distinct from northern Asians.

    As for Japanese there is documented evidence of humans since around 10,000 b.c. Although certainly I think it’s very possible there was a large migration of Asian “mainlanders” to Japan, possibly around the Tang dynasty. Japanese temple architecture are heavily based on and derived from Tang style buildings, I think. They had to fly in the experts from Japan to HK in order to build some old Tang dynasty temples… a few years back. Or something like that.

    I just think it’s not right to imply that Chinese people this and that…

  40. Steve Says:

    @Oli #25: Thanks for the reply. However, I’m wondering if my comments weren’t stated clearly since I think you missed most of what I was trying to say or that I do not comprehend your position very well. Maybe we can figure this out together.

    I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that societies are either collectivistic or individualistic, and that is why I used the terms “more” and “less”. Each society is set up in accordance with its own perceived needs, hence China’s constant emphasis on “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. As an either/or comparison, I agree it would be simplistic and rather silly. Since every society is different, what creates those differences? Obviously there are a number of factors. The balance of the rights of society vs. the rights of the individual is, I believe, one of those factors.

    You wrote, “No society can succeed if too many of its members are either collectivistic or individualistic. A successful and enduring culture needs both sorts of people. Too many of the former, then not enough leaders and innovators will emerge. Too many of the latter, then a society either will not form at all or it will not last.”

    Societies where the group has greater rights than the individual have nothing to do with the component individuals in that society’s balance of dominant, independent and submissive natures, or combinations thereof. There will always be leaders and followers in any culture. There will always be innovators and derivatives, hunters and farmers as we say in sales, with decidedly more farmers than hunters. Since all people are basically the same, I would guess the percentages would also be consistent throughout cultures. I think on this point we agree. But the original question was the perceived meaning of the term “human rights”, wasn’t it? What does this have to do with whether a nation can succeed or not?

    You wrote, “In primitive cultures, if two many leaders emerge, often when that society have experienced a population boom, the tribe will split, sometimes amicably, other times not, thereby paving the way to human migration.”

    I was referring to ancient settled cultures, not necessarily primitive and certainly not nomadic. In those times, the leader was selected by ritual, not by his leadership characteristics or charisma. At first he was ritually sacrificed to the gods after a time, and later there were substitute sacrifices in his place. People in that time had no sense of an individual self. I’m referring primarily to Egyptian, Sumerian and Babylonian cultures where physical proof exists. Where did I come up with these concepts? I stole them from people like James George Frazer, Charles Leonard Woolley, Joseph Campbell, E.A. Wallace Budge, and Arthur Waley. I’m not trying to be an ass here; I’m just letting you know I didn’t just make this stuff up. I’m certainly no expert on sociology but I love studying mythology and anthropology and really enjoy any discussion involving these subjects.

    “Consequently, it is not only flawed, but also both anthropologically and sociologically speaking a long discredited and a deeply offensive approach that harks back to ideas of eugenics and philosophy of racial superiority. It has its origins in the time when Western imperial powers first entered Asia and demonstrating a certain degree of intellectual laziness and ineptitude to go beyond the superficial.”

    Eugenics and a philosophy of racial superiority? Huh? What did I write that made you come to that conclusion? I looked back on my words and can’t find anything even remotely suggesting those ideas. Eugenics is an incredibly disgusting concept to me and I’m sure to you and everyone else who comments on this blog. I have no idea why you believe I’m pushing racial superiority theory. Maybe you are referring to the Qianlong Emperor whose message to King George III in 1795 read: “It behooves you, O King, to respect my sentiments and to display even greater devotion and loyalty in the future, so that by perpetual submission to our throne, you may secure peace and security for your country hereafter… Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no products within our borders. There was, therefore, no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our produce… I do not forget the lonely remoteness of your island, cut off from the world by intervening wastes of sea, nor do I overlook your excusable ignorance of the usages of our Celestial Empire… Tremblingly obey and show no negligence.”

    This was written when western powers first entered Asia. But I still can’t see how this applies to relative definitions of human rights.

    “Many Latin cultures, like many Asian cultures, emphasize the importance of the family unit and the role of the community. Are they anymore or any less collectivistic than Asian or Chinese societies? Why do large numbers of often very fanatical baseball or football fans coalesce around sport teams or rock bands? Do not elevate what are in fact very natural human needs and desires into something that it is patently not.”

    My predominant ethnicity is Italian, so I understand Latin culture better than most. Perhaps the one aspect of Chinese culture I most admired and respected in my time there was the closeness of the family unit, especially in the area in and around Shanghai. It reminded me of my own family with the possible exception of interaction with in laws. But if we compare Italian with Chinese culture, Italian culture is much more individualistic than Chinese. It’s not even close. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy and even more time in China, so I’m not getting this secondhand. I’m sure you know how many governments Italy has had since the war. They might want “la dolce vita” but have train strikes without warning and there’s a decided lack of order, which I happen to love. Anyone else out there spend time in both countries? What do you think?

    Cheering for sports teams and rock bands is common to all people. They are both emotional passions. It’s a human thing but nothing to do with how a society is organized or what power its government wields, and as far as I can figure, nothing at all to do with the meaning of human rights.

    “China’s stagnation around the beginning of the 1900’s in fact has their roots in causes that has nothing to do with collectivism vs individualism, but rather to do with, among other things, poor policy choices at the time and the fact that “China” as a polity never had any serious competition in Asia until the arrival of the Western nations.”

    I would posit that China’s stagnation started with the reign of the Hongxi Emperor and the burning of the fleet in the latter 1400s. The western nations arrived in 1793 with Macartney and that was more than 100 years before the time you speak of, but that’s really not here nor there. I completely agree with you that China’s stagnation had nothing to do with collectivism vs. individualism, so where did you draw that conclusion? This thread was about the meaning of the term “human rights”. How did you get from there to China’s historical stagnation?

    “As for the rise of the idea of the individual, it actually began taking off a lot earlier than you said. It actually started with Henry 8th of England and Martin Luther, among others when they effectively broke the power of the Catholic Church and its hold over European societies, thereby paving the way for the Enlightenment movement of Hobbes, Locke, Smith and Newton.”

    I agree it started earlier, just as you say, but it really got a head of steam during the Enlightenment. I don’t agree that Henry VIII had anything to do with advancing the idea of individualism; at that time the Episcopal Church was no different than the Catholic in terms of rite and belief, excepting the substitution of Henry for the Pope. It was nationalistic, but not individualistic. The predominance of individualism took place later with the idea of a personal savior. You make a better case with Martin Luther, but that was also strongly affected by scientific discovery and technology, as I mentioned. The greater influence was Gutenberg’s printing press, which allowed Luther’s ideas to spread. Within one generation of his invention, a large part of Europe was literate. Luther’s ideas were printed and then passed around, which started his movement. But it was Galileo’s development of the telescope and discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe that really started changing the course of history and broke the hold of the Catholic Church. Newton finished it.

    Was my one paragraph explanation for the Cambodia-Vietnam-China war simplistic? Sure, all one paragraph explanations for those kind of events would be. My purpose was to talk about the relative definitions of human rights as different countries apply them to different circumstances. I also believe your definition of the China/Vietnam/Cambodia is simplistic. Invading with 200,000 troops is an “incursion”? Sounds like a major attack to me. When China withdrew, Vietnam hadn’t removed any troops from Cambodia so their strategic reason for going to war wasn’t met. Why does my explanation play to American pride? We had already lost that war and our pride was already shot. Do you feel this war was a success for China? How can backing a regime engaging in genocide be justified in terms of human rights? Isn’t that what we are discussing here?

    I read a lot of comments where people talk about China’s right to do things in her own way, not the west’s way. Ok, I can accept that. But what way is that? What are the distinctions between each culture’s ideas of human rights? Under what circumstances does China feel it can ethically invade another country based on human rights issues? What so-called “individualistic” rights do Chinese citizens have that western citizens do not? What thought process or philosophy created the idea of those rights? How have those rights changed in the last 20 years?

    I hope I haven’t bored everyone with such a long post, but Oli, I seemed to detect a patronizing tone in your comments and I don’t care for that. I enjoy a good discussion or argument since it’s a great way for me to absorb new ideas and correct mistakes. I enjoy your posts and think you have a lot to say and say it well. I just want the critique to be specific and on the same level, and I certainly don’t want to start a spitting contest.

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    well said once again. I think you’re batting close to 1.000 in the “well said” department, which is much more than what those poor Red Sox can say (I’m talking baseball btw, for the non-baseball aficionados, lest the “red” lead to any misunderstanding) :-)

  42. Steve Says:

    @TonyP4: A very good friend of mine who is from Mexico City but lives in San Diego recently took a month long trip to China and went all over the place. This guy was a former Psychology professor at the University of Guadalajara and really knows a lot about the history and archeology of Mexico. He told me he saw all sorts of things in China that he had seen in ancient Mexico but nowhere else, and is sure the cultures are linked. I can’t recall any specifics off the top of my head but he’s not one to just make things up.

    I completely agree with you about the Mongloid connection among different peoples. I had read something awhile ago but can’t document it, concerning DNA studies comparing cultures. Interestingly, there was more common DNA between northern/central Chinese and Caucasians than there was between those same Chinese and SE Asians. Even southern Chinese had less in common DNA wise with northerns, with the exception of Hakka (kejia) who were northern Han that migrated to southern China in the distant past.

    I’m not sure if you know this, but Eskimo, Apache and Navajo are all Athabascan Indians, and speak a similar language. The Apache and Navajo migrated to New Mexico/Arizona just before the Spanish arrived, and displaced the Pueblo Indians from their ancestral lands. (there is still a certain animosity between them) The Pueblo are descendents from the Anasazi. If you ever get to New Mexico and have some free time, check out Chaco Canyon or if in SW Colorado, Mesa Verde. Those are the best of the old Anasazi ruins.

    Modern DNA studies are fascinating. They are changing the way we think about the world, and how different cultures interrelate. Pretty cool stuff!

    So it seems you are right and therefore, you win!!

  43. Steve Says:

    Michelle, if you’re obsessing about the US election, you might want to check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf1y9s73Nos&feature=related

    It’s everything you need to know about all the key issues. Elect Palin for President… uh, not Sarah Palin but… Monty’s Python’s Michael Palin!! :)

  44. Raj Says:

    # 30

    You used the phrase “take place daily”, as if that happens every day. Do you still imply that there are such events every single day in the US?

  45. Nobody Says:

    @SKC

    @Raj

    “Battle in Seattle,” may be the title, but its central theme is anti – WTO, and the purpose of this movie is to expose human rights abuses worldwide of big corporations- on a daily basis – putting profit before people; not so much how the Major of Seattle and the Seattle police screwed up those few chaotic days in downtown Seattle. Just as the theme of Saving Private Ryan is about the atrocity and affects of war, not so much about Tom Hanks’ little side mission, and certainly not about Private Ryan.

  46. TommyBahamas Says:

    Good one Steve. LOL…Michael Palin for PreZ…Yea, “because anyone can run the free world.”

    Here’s Bill, “Does anyone understand the concept of pulling out?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2OUJ8ZUTiI&NR=1

  47. A-gu Says:

    These things are all a matter of proportion and real effect.

    Everyone agrees China has made enormous economic progress and even started expanding political rights, and most people in their right minds see food and shelter as the top priorities of government. Yet it’s impossible to rationally defend arbitrary arrest and labor camp, or perhaps just harassment, being meted out to people who have done nothing more than own a picture of the Dalai Lama.

    Likewise, most people agree there are times where intervention is largely justified (even when unwise; see Afghanistan), and in some places they may be very desirable but just not happen thanks to UN power structures (see Darfur). At the same time, illegal, poorly planned and disastrous “preemptive” wars have not helped the United States one iota, and have left life for millions of Iraqis completely miserable.

  48. Raj Says:

    # 45

    the purpose of this movie is to expose human rights abuses worldwide of big corporations- on a daily basis

    So, again, I ask you to say whether or not there are such daily human rights abuses in the US itself. Yes or no.

    And as far as I know no one died during the 1999 protests. Such Police activity pales in comparison to the sort of human rights abuses carried out by states like North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, etc against their own people.

  49. Nobody Says:

    Raj,

    Boy, Oli, is right, you don’t read so well , do it.

    #24. Oli says:

    I believe you need to pay more attention to the flow of the conversation.

    #28. Raj Says:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments …

    Give it a rest, will ya? Jeeze…

  50. TonyP4 Says:

    I could not find the link of the Time Magazine article. It has been several years ago. However, you folks gave me enough info for my PhD thesis. However, they told me don’t bother, just send in $29.95.

    Actually there is a lot of research already. I tried to Google that article but found the following:

    http://www.republicanchina.org/Ancient_America.html

  51. Raj Says:

    Nobody

    Boy, Oli, is right, you don’t read so well , do it.

    I can read fine – when I have the time and inclination. I’m not sure you can write so well, though.

    I’m still waiting for you to say whether there are “daily” human rights abuses in the US on the scale of the one you talked about, or whether you admit such things in America are a rare occurance.

    If you want I can take your silence as an indication that the latter is true.

  52. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, you sound a lot like the Raj from PKD, no offense. BTW does US human rights abuse include areas occupied by our military? Such as Guantanomo, Iraq, Afghanistan?

    How about the Native Americans we continue to oppress? I was watching PBS the other day and the Navajos have to haul water everyday, and use polluted water that makes them sick:

    http://www.azcentral.com/specials/special06/articles/0826water-navajo0826.html
    http://www.coloradoaim.org/blog/2006_03_01_coloradoaim_archive.html

    There’s your scale.

  53. Steve Says:

    Charles, thanks for bringing the Navajo water situation to our attention. I used to drive through the Navajo reservation on an almost daily basis and that first article sure brought back memories. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of the Tony Hillerman novels about the Navajo policemen, but they’re really good.

    It’s a huge reservation with virtually no rainfall. I can understand how water resources play such a large part in life there. The article you referenced shows the behavior of the government to their plight is a disgrace. It is abuse by neglect.

  54. Raj Says:

    Raj, you sound a lot like the Raj from PKD, no offense.

    I am. Never said differently.

    BTW does US human rights abuse include areas occupied by our military? Such as Guantanomo, Iraq, Afghanistan?

    Certainly the first does, which is why both Obama and McCain would close it down. I don’t know what US law regarding human rights is, though, in relation to wars fought overseas.

    But if you still look at the overall situation, are American citizens still oppressed on a daily basis in any way like in the countries of the worst offenders? I don’t think so. It’s far from perfect, but generally is a free country.

    How about the Native Americans we continue to oppress?

    That’s a tough question which I couldn’t begin to answer. I certainly feel for them. Not really a lot I can say about it.

  55. Steve Says:

    Charles, Raj~ One last thing about the American Indian situation, since it’s not reported in much detail that often. In some ways, it echoes the situation in China where the children are moving to the cities for work while the parents and grandparents mind the farm, and the children send money to their families to keep them going.

    Children on the reservations have a great variety of federal aid available to them for education and other benefits. I know this because if my son registered as Native American (which he did not; though he is 3/8 Native American he thinks of himself as just an American and doesn’t want any extra benefits) his college would be paid for and he’d qualify under quota programs, he’d have extra medical benefits and a host of other programs he could use to financially improve his situation. The problem is that once Indians are educated, they leave the reservation to work in the cities or large towns where the economic opportunities are greater. The people left on the reservation tend to be the poorest, least educated in the tribe. The tribal chairmen are typically lawyers who get convicted regularly for abusing th office. Here is one of many websites that report on this: http://www.tribalcorruption.com/

    Raj, as you said, I also feel for them. The ones with the least also have the least influence, and in many of these cases have to fight their own leaders for their basic rights.

  56. Raj Says:

    Steve, it’s good to hear about when people don’t use the system just because it’s open to them. I’m not saying your son is “special” or anything for not going for the benefits you mentioned, but some people do take the easier path – others make their own way. Good on him.

  57. RMBWhat Says:

    TonyP4, I thought you were talking about the original migration of humans to the Americas (is this still true?). My reading comprehension skills are low. But yeah, that’s pretty interesting. I’ve heard about this stuff… It’s definitely not mainstream, I guess?

    So off topic man, I’m scared that Admin is coming around with the BAN-hammer…

  58. Oli Says:

    @ Steve #40

    Apologies if I came across as patronising, call it a spill over from a VERY long weekend at the office cleaning up messes caused by a conjunction of misfortune (the Crunch), lousy timing and smart people doing very stupid things. I have a short fuse when it comes to ignorance and stupidity, especially when they come from smart people, that’s why I’m a trouble-shooter, not a manager. And I HATE working weekends.

    I suspect we are arguing about degrees rather than absolutes here. The reasons why many sociologists have abandoned the individualist vs. collectivist paradigm are firstly that it all too often obscures the analysis of why a society is the way it is. It tempt students into generalisation and prevents a deeper understanding of how each individual members within a society views their role, their responsibilities and their relationship to other members and the greater polity as a whole, as well as the historical origins and implications of the development of each society’s NVBs.

    Another reason for sociologists to dismiss this approach is that when a society is described as collectivist, it often risks subsuming the study of the individual actors and their motivation into the greater society, rendering him/her as an object, a component part. This contributes to the objectifying and dehumanisation of the society as whole by implication, in that it is not made up of distinct individuals. A reflection of this mentality is the oft-heard phrase, ”I can’t recognise him/her, all these laowei/Chinese look the same to me” thereby giving it the racist overtone I hinted at. If people are interesting in discovering more about the study of sociology, a good first year university level author to start with are the essays of Max Weber, the grandaddy of modern sociology.

    Anthropologically speaking, even in settled or advance societies and cultures like ours, individual members and sub-groups split away from the greater polity. It is the same reason why there is colonisation, émigrés, migrant workers and expats. It is also the same reason among others of why you are in China or why Allen’s family moved to America. Just because we have advanced technologically, human urges, motivations and needs still pretty much remain the same.

    As for drawing comparison between Chinese and Latin cultures, I have many Spanish friends and also once an Italian girlfriend. I lived in Verona for a year and a half. Whilst there I noticed lots of similarities in both cultures’ approach to family life, the social role of food and meals and particularly in regards to the attitude towards old people and children. This becomes even more true once you penetrated the modernity and needs on the façade of city life and the further away from the urban centres one travels. From my experience, I have actually developed the nagging belief that the Anglo-Saxon cultures are in fact the exception to the rule.

    As for the number of governments Italy has had, I do not see this as being individualistic, but rather the result of the election system of proportional representation without a first past the post safeguard. This election system is in fact notorious for electing even the smallest parties to parliament, thereby allowing them to become kingmaker as all the bigger parties need to woo them again and again in order to form coalition governments.

    The bigger parties may loose an election and its majority in parliament to each other, but the smaller parties, such as the Northern League, the Communists and others who represent local interests will get re-elected time and time again. A government falls not just because it lost an election, but also because the smaller parties, out of political interest and pork barrel politics, deliberately provoke a crisis within the coalition. The statement therefore is not how many governments Italy has had since WWII, but how many of them were coalition governments. This is NOT a reflection of individuality, but the failure of a poorly design political system. Just like the electrical systems in Fiats and Alfa Romeos, which I have had some experience with. :)

    As I said before, China’s stagnation was not because of any inherent fault within the culture, but rather due to poor policy choices. It actually began during the Ming dynasty when funds for Zheng He’s ships were redirected towards static defences in the North and the coastal areas were closed because of raids by Japanese pirates, the Imjin Wars and to suppress internal rebellions.

    During the Qing dynasty, the government made the same policy decisions with regards to trade with the West, when in fact history has taught us that a static engagement and defence never works, tactically or strategically. It didn’t work with the Maginot line, or Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and it certainty didn’t work for very long with the Great Wall, when the policy of active defence that was supposed to complement the Great Wall’s static defences were neglected.

    In comparison, China has always been strongest, most vibrant and most innovative when it has open trade and relationship with the outside world as it did during the Han, Tang and Song dynasties. Those dynasties, never took to mass scale Wall building, did not close themselves off and borders defences were often in depth, active and more often than not undertaken by Turkic tribes in the West and Mongol tribes in the North who owed their allegiance to the dynasty and whose peoples were part of the empire. Consequently, the Qing dynasty’s stagnation is not because of any cultural or societal faults, but a result of poor policy decisions. It is also the reason why China today is willing to engage the outside world.

    If the majority of Chinese technology today and during the Qing dynasty is derivative, it has good reasons to be. It is simply in a phase of catching up and jumping the technology ladder. I once visited the British, the V&A and the different Maritime Museums in the UK, Venice and Lisbon where I saw antique chinoiserie consumer objects, compasses, fans and umbrellas among other things that were “derived” from Chinese-made products and technology of the time.

    Were European technological advances of the time “derivative”? Of course they were, for they playing technological catch ups and were also responding to market demands and were copying Chinese-made goods to produce cheaper “derivative” knock-offs for local consumers who couldn’t afford the real imported McCoy. Sometimes it helps to take the broader perspective.

    As for Cambodia-Vietnam-China, if it took 200,000 soldiers then it took 200,000 soldiers. It is pointless to debate whether it was an incursion or an invasion. The important point is whether it gets the political message across for war is but an extension of politics and diplomacy by another mean and I believe it did. During the beginning of the Vietnam War, the US consistently denied that it was involved in actively fighting a war, despite having tens of thousands of military “advisors” in S. Vietnam. China’s military back then was neither mechanised nor very modern, it didn’t have many helicopters and its airforce was rudimentary. Each nation work with what they have at the time, surely you ought to understand the nature of strategic constraints based on your past studies.

    Returning to the topic, as I said in the entry, I actually don’t believe that there is any difference in the fundamental understanding and definition of human rights between China and the West. However, what many in the West appear to have forgotten and what I was trying to clarify is that the “formalisation process” of the definition of human rights is different for each country and culture. The “formalisation process” or rather how each culture achieve human rights is dependent on each culture’s evolving NVBs as well as other factors that may also create slight variations in each culture’s perception and definition of human rights along the way.

    As I said, even in the West the definition of human rights and what it encompasses is not static and nor should it be. Ultimately, the concept and definition of human rights is an evolving “thingymajig” that reflects each society’s needs. For example, should the right to die be considered part of the definition of human rights, irrespective of any theological objections? If in the future we create animal-human hybrids, should “human rights” encompass hybrids? What about robots and artificial intelligence? Or even animals as animal rights activists would have it?

  59. Nobody Says:

    @Raj, ” I can read fine – when I have the time and inclination. I’m not sure you can write so well, though.”

    I can write fine, when I have the time and the inclination. No, you are right, I am a terrible writer. It was just a friendly gesture – I was recommending a movie, Raj, not criticizing any country.

  60. Nobody Says:

    Wow, Oli, Steve, Allen, Buxi you guys are amazing. Now why hasn’t S.K.Cheung written any article for this blog. I’ve always enjoyed his wits.

    RMBwhat, “So off topic man, I’m scared that Admin is coming around with the BAN-hammer…”

    LOL, don’t worry RMBwhat, like Charles Liu said, ” this is not PKD,” Admin aka CLC has not banned anybody yet.

  61. Nobody Says:

    @SKC …”Excellent post. Well worth the wait. ”

    Yes, CLC, Allen (ROC/US Citizen), Buxi (PRC/US Citizen), Oli (No idea what ethnicity or citizenship), Steve (An Italian American), and Jerry (A Jewish American), S.K. Cheung (HK-born Canadian), together you guys are helping to move cultural rocks and pebbles here on FM. Thank you.

  62. Steve Says:

    TommyBahamas: The concept of pulling out? Ha ha, good one! Way to end with a bang…

    Have you seen this one from JibJab? http://www.peteyandpetunia.com/VoteHere/VoteHere.htm

  63. Nobody Says:

    LMAO..haha…Good one, Steve…I only saw Palin once in the video. It must be made before she was discovered. Billions of dollars spent every 4 years on lies and empty promises, aye? Great tune. Dylan wrote this back in 1963, “Come senotors, Congressmen, please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall….The line is drawn, the curse it is cast, ….For the loser now will later to win….the slow one now will later be fast…” Indeed, The times They are A-Changing…

  64. TommyBahamas Says:

    LOL… Thanks, Steve for the link. I am going to send it to all my buddies now. Catch ya later.

  65. Oli Says:

    @Steve #62

    LOL I really like that JibJab link. Fantastically hilarious!

  66. Allen Says:

    OK – I am a little late this time…but it’s better late than never!

    @Oli,

    As for when one should intervene in another country on the basis of really egregious human rights abuses, I am to be honest torn. On one hand, I have in principle no problem with intervention in what I term “fast-burn” issues, such as the Rwandan Genocide or the Yugoslav Civil War, as I regard these not as egregious human rights abuses but as man-made tragedies where abuses take place.

    Then there are the situations I call “slow-burn”…

    I don’t think this works. I can think of two reasons why.

    First, distinguishing between “fast-burn” and “slow-burn” issues depends too much on a nation’s evolving NVBs (norms, values and belief systems). For example, what is considered a travesty in one nation (e.g. abortion, not wearing a scarf) may not be in another. How one balances free speech and protection of country can also be drawn very differently in different countries (depending in part on the country’s culture, socioeconomic state, geopolitical status, etc.)

    Of course, we should also note that given proper incitement, sensationalism, fanning of fear, and timing, almost any issue can be made to seem “fast-burn” or “slow-burn” to citizens of a nation.

    Second, assuming there are legitimately universal “fast-burn” issues, many of what end up being “fast-burn” issues develop as “slow-burn” issues. Hitler’s rise may have started only as a “slow-burn” issue in the early the 1930′s, turning into “full-burn” only in the late 1930′s through the end of WWII. Must we wait for the forest to catch on fire before we put out the fires?

    Instead of looking deep into our cultures to see what are truly egregious human rights violations, I think we need to look outward at the system of global governance.

    As a little aside: I remember sympathizing with the environmentalists of the 1970′s and 1980′s (at least in the U.S.), when the focus was disproportionally on protecting this species, or that species – at the expense of all human activities – including activities of “indigenous” people nearby. That type of environmentalism was emotional based – and in the long run not sustainable. More recently, we environmentalists have become much more sophisticated and more “holistic.” We focus now more on the system – and on its sustainability – not on individual species (although individual species can provide tale-tale signs of the whole), and ultimately on the planet as a whole.

    We need to do the same for the international human rights regime.

    Our problem today is we focus too much on “values” and too little on governance. Most of the world is not run by the U.N. or the powerful nations. The world is run by nation states of all sorts. If we want to truly improve the lives of people, we need to promote nation building.

    Unfortunately, given the recent history of Hitler, where a dominant state trampled on the rights of small minorities, the norms of the current international regime is geared to protect “weak people” and in some ways look with disdain at the development of strong states. But when the importance of nation building is not taken seriously (or is purposely disregarded (if you are cynical)) – as in Iraq or Afghanistan – the results can be equally catastrophic and tragic.

    My prescription for the international human rights regime is to broaden our perspective (like the environmentalists did) and look at not just how to “project values” but to also look into ways to promote empowerment. The lesson of Hitler may not necessarily be a call for a Western hegemony (such as the U.S.) to police the world against the world’s evils, but to cultivate conditions that reduce social inequities on a global scale (inequities on which Hitler ceased to fan his own brand of nationalism).

    In summary, in addition to remembering the horrors of tyrannical governments, we must also remember that rights without empowerment don’t mean a thing. A people without a strong government is miserable no matter how “beneficent” the government is. A sustainable international human rights regime must therefore foster not just norms that prevent oppression by governments but also to the development of strong nations.

  67. A-gu Says:

    Who’s in charge of highlighting certain posts in yellow, by the way?

  68. admin Says:

    @A-gu

    There are several people can do that, namely, the post author, our editors, and me. Readers can also suggest a certain post to be highlighted.

  69. Steve Says:

    Hi Oli~

    Glad you enjoyed the JibJab vid. It came out before Obama and McCain had picked their VPs and interesting that Palin’s face appears. Long weekend working at the office? That sucks; no wonder you were a bit on edge. I’ll stay as late as I have to during the week but I do everything possible to avoid working on weekends, so I definitely feel for you.

    After reading your comments, I actually think we’re pretty close on most things. I remember reading some Max Weber in my basic sociology courses way back when but to be honest, all those courses seemed to do was give fancy names to common sense concepts. I’m sure if I had gone further into the subject I would have found it far more interesting, but I’ve always been drawn to the political and historical side of things. It was the same with psychology; just not my cup of tea.

    I think it’s hard for someone not used to seeing another race on a regular basis to distinguish between facial characteristics. In the beginning, they just tend to see the features that are different from their own. My wife used to playfully call me “da bi zi”, well… until one day I answered her with “da pi gu” (it isn’t, so I could get away with that one, ha ha) but it never bothered me since we’re married and it was just teasing.

    “Anthropologically speaking, even in settled or advance societies and cultures like ours, individual members and sub-groups split away from the greater polity.” Oli, are you saying there are anthropological reasons behind the independence seekers in the various provinces that seem to be so often vehemently argued about on this blog? I hadn’t considered that before; I figured it was mostly for political reasons, so I’ll need to think more on it if that’s what you meant.

    Speaking of Verona, have you had a chance to read John Grisham’s new book, “Playing for Pizza”? It takes place in Parma, which isn’t too far from Verona, and might bring back happy memories for you. It’s a light read and very enjoyable.

    Coalition governments… I used their example once to win a debate in college where I actually defended the Electoral College against a direct vote system. Having a small party with just a few percent of the vote control a country’s political fortunes has always amazed me.

    Do you think a poorly defined political system is an extension of the NVB’s unique to each culture? If so, then wouldn’t the individualistic impulses of that society contribute to the political system they choose? You say it is a poor system and I would agree, but we’re not Italians. If enough people there really thought it was inadequate, wouldn’t it be changed?

    One of the things I liked to do in China was educate my local friends about Chinese technology. Most had no idea how many technologies China had invented in her past. In my opinion, the Renaissance came about more from interaction and acquisition of Chinese technology than any other reason. As you said, it was derivative but continued enhancements allowed the Europeans to move well beyond the technologies current in China. I seem to remember that things Chinese were the latest fashion craze during the final days of the French monarchy and throughout Europe at that time.

    Now that Chinese students are up to date in the different available technologies, there should be a wave of new inventions in the near future. If this doesn’t happen, I think it’ll be due more to deficiencies in the Chinese educational system in terms of discouraging creative thinking rather than lack of creativity among her populace. History has shown that when innovation is encouraged, the Chinese are brilliant inventors.

    We’ll have to respectfully agree to disagree on the Sino-Vietnam war. You feel China fulfilled her strategic objectives and I do not. However, I do have a story about the early days of the Vietnam War. A friend of mine from Texas had joined the Army at 18 back in the Kennedy years, and after boot camp his unit was told they were going to Vietnam. They all turned to each other and asked, “Where the f*#k is Vietnam?” When they found out it was in SE Asia, they figured it’d be sandy beaches, tropical girls, etc. but when they got there, they found out there was a real war going on. My friend was crew chief on a Huey helicopter and said it wasn’t so bad at that time, but he was amazed that they were in a war and no one in the States knew anything about it.

    I agree with you about human rights not being static but dynamic processes. But I was considering that in comparing China and the west, there are some differences in thought. Let’s take the death penalty; Europe is pretty much against it and in the States opinion is pretty evenly divided. Most every Chinese person I talked to believed in the death penalty. Even to my wife who has lived here for almost 30 years, it’s a no brainer. When I’ve read Chinese blogs and they are talking about a criminal or the police or politicians doing something bad, virtually everyone says, “Kill him”. Would you consider that to be under the category of human rights? If so, do you think the “formulation process” just isn’t complete and will occur over time?

    I believe human rights for robots were already formulated “in toto” by Isaac Asimov. :)

    @Allen #66: I agree with your basic premises. In my opinion, Nazi Germany’s break from “slow burn” to “fast burn” was June 30, 1934 when Ernst Rohm and his buddies were assassinated. After that, Hitler did pretty much whatever he wanted but the world really didn’t start noticing in a big way (excluding Churchill) until a few years later.

    My question to you is: if we are trying to promote nation building, how do we do that without being perceived as interfering? Typically, nation building involves money. How do we make sure the money is properly spent and not diverted to Swiss bank accounts, e.g. the graft situation in Iraq or similar situations in Africa? If the change isn’t coming from the U.N. which has its own issues with graft and corruption, then it needs to come from other nation states, and in the end won’t they all try to manipulate the situation to their own advantage?

    Are you suggesting this aid comes strictly from non-profit international organizations? Aren’t most of them single issue oriented? You mentioned the situation in German post WWII. Not only Germany but most of the rest of Western Europe benefited greatly from the Marshall plan, but weren’t they also well run nation states so the issue of state building was already solved (with the exception of Italy, right Oli? :) ), and it was more of an economic plan to rebuild their industries? If the nations we are trying to aid have poor leadership, won’t the effort be wasted and perhaps lead to massive corruption?

    What I’m trying to say is that I like your proposition, but can’t figure out a way to implement it. How can you develop strong nations without being called out for blatant interference, especially by the despotic leaders you least want to run the country? Won’t they just use nationalism to cast you as the bad guy? And once the strong nation state is in place, how do you handle that state if the leadership changes from responsible to irresponsible? Or the democratically elected leader decides he/she wants to become “El Supremo” for life, then hand the leadership to his/her progeny and manipulates the constitution and the law to allow this? Or the helping State’s bureaucracy decides to use its leverage to control your government? For me, the devil is in the details.

  70. Allen Says:

    @Steve #66,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t have the details on implementation yet. What we ought to realize first is that we focus too much on “rights” and too little on “empowerment.” Until “empowerment” becomes part of the human rights equation, the whole concept of “human rights” does not ring true to me.

    I also want to clarify myself. By “nation building,” I really am referring generally to trying to fix the great global inequities that exist between nations (esp. between developed countries v. “third world” countries). It is global inequities that breed radicalism – whether it is 1930 Germany or Al-Qaeda today… Our attention ought to be on fixing the global inequities as a system – not preaching emotionally charged “rights” treasured in one particular NVB…

    I also believe in devils being in the details … and obviously can’t answer all your questions, but will answer what I think is at the core of your questions at the bottom of your last post: ‘How do we handle a state whose leadership changes from responsible to irresponsible?’

    To me, this question illustrates precisely what is wrong with the current brand of global human rights vigilantism today.

    Human rights is not about depending on the hegemony of a powerful country (or civilization) that police the world and decide which country is “responsible” – and which “irresponsible”… That is imperialism (white man’s burden) dressed in another form. The lesson is not to be “watchful” of others … but to empower the world to be watchful of radicalism.

    The most fundamental way to prevent radicalism is to reduce global inequity – and then to trust the various individual nation states – all competent and sovereign – to police themselves (why not trust the world, if what we are talking about is really universal values?).

    If we keep getting fixated by Nazi Germany and the idea that the world must be watched over by Western-led vigilantism – I believe the international human rights regime as we currently have it today will only breed more “hatred” and be destined to be doomed.

  71. TonyP4 Says:

    I went across an article ridiculing Peter Hitchen’s article. Better late than never as Allen said.

    http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/2008/09/peter-hitchens-ridiculous-brit.html

    While China is no angel, but it is no evil as portrayed by the west media.

  72. Nobody Says:

    Sometimes I wonder, if I had a choice, would I want to be smart like you guys who seems to know so much. The fact that y’all have so many questions is the result of having great amount of knowledge. However, no matter how smart anyone is, none seems to have the answers.

    I love documentaries. Yesterday I watched a controversial documentary on DVD entitled, “Expelled – No intelligence Allowed,” with Ben Stein as the host. It’s basically about Darwinianism that’s threatening the Constitutional freedom of Speech in the aspect of free Scientific Enquiry. I don’t quite care for the arguments for A.I., but I am paranoid of the slow and subtle (well, subtle to us joe-public but forceful on the free-thinkers) errosion of American freedom, particularly the freedom of speech. This is hard to believe because on the outside, the freedom of speech seems to be flourishing in America. Especially, when you can argue and laugh all you want about anything directly or vicariously through and on the internet, the mass media.
    My Chinese lawyer friend’s first good impression when visiting the USA, was how free people are allowed to vent their anger and how at the drop-of-hat are ready to sue. (Yeah, a lawyer’s wet dream.) He loves watching the Daily Show, SNL, Comedy Central. Well, who doesn’t? But from the said documentary where Ben Stein interviews some of the greatest scientific and academic minds of our times, and some of their plea were, “let the world know that freedom is itself is being threaten right here in this land of the free, right now,” or something to that effect.
    I am no intellectual, so I am easily impressed by smart people. I do recommend the brainy folks on this blog to check it out— I am sure some of you will be furious with its implication, but bear in mind, as always, those objective universal questions asked since the first thinking men asked, have to this day, no answers. Sure there’s been propositions, and emotional and ideological reactionary movements that’s only led to massive death tolls but yet no answers.

    Steve, I am sure in your travel across China, you must have also noticed the uniqueness of the innovativity of older chinese folks in public areas. These folks of meager means who gather daily in the parks or some public places with their musical instrument to make all kinds of music are great sights to behold, aren’t they? Then there are calligraphy enthusiasts who enjoy showing off their beautiful “penmanship,” on pavements with water using their own giant homemade brushes, or more commonly, with chalks. Very very impressive. In most parks, you will also see middleage and older folks dancing to all kinds of taped music, doing tai chi, wooden sword, spear, long stick and other old weaponry choreography. Then there are these superb (incredibly skilled and innovative) amateur kite makers, etc. My guess is that most of these active folks are retirees. RESPECT~!
    Whenever I hear about the lack of creativity, the stifling educational system with so much emphasis placed on examination comes to mind. It is very sad. Just as whenever I hear war, I see in my mind pictures of painful death and injuries on the battle fields together with heartwrenching aches of parents, wives and children at home. NO, men are no angels (we are made a little lower than angels as the ancient Hebrew scriptures did mention), but we are certainly no devils. But the question is, in order to fight evil by devils, we who are beaneath angels need to first stop fighting each other. But with so much of our time taken up in making a living, and with most people holding hand-to-mouth jobs, unless the governance of a particular nation gets to be so bad, who’d want to trade their, even a slave-like but relatively free existence for jail-time or being ostracized ? Who was it who cried, “Give me freedom or give me death”? I believe it was someone in the military, and also was one of high martial rankings. Seemingly noble slogan, but total BS, particularly when blindly chanted by people of another time and culture.
    I am not here to debate – just not smart nor well read enough for that. Like most people, I see the need to promote human rights. There are many like the Peter & Christopher Hitchen brothers who write for the divide-and-conquer camps, in the name of human-rights. And there are those like John Pilgers and Noam Chomsky, perhaps even Michael Moore who are loved for their brilliant works in exposing the lies that these same Divide-and-Conquering powers that be have so successfully poisoned humanity with.
    Really enjoy reading Oli, Steve and Allen. Debate away, fine folks.

  73. Steve Says:

    Nobody~ that was one of the best posts I’ve ever read on this site. Why? Because you took time to smell the roses, to feel things rather than just think about them. And you’re a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for.

    I also worry about certain freedoms that have been reduced lately in the name of the “war against terror”, which term I have always found ridiculous since “terror” is a tactic and not an enemy. It’s like this open-ended conflict where the government can always find another enemy to fight and never have an exit strategy since how can you exit “terror”? So what happens? A bunch of kids die in some far off country fighting for people who don’t even want them there. I have the feeling more than a few people have come to this same conclusion and are “throwing the rascals out”, as we do every so often in the States when we’ve had it. I think lately we’ve had it.

    Why do we ask so many questions? It’s precisely because we know so little. The more knowledge we have, the more we realize how little we actually know and how many circumstances in this world come down to emotion and a certain amount of luck and kismet. We bat things back and forth so we can open our minds, not try to convince others or at least that’s the general idea unless it gets personal, then people just get defensive and things become very silly.

    Beware of some of those guys you see on TV or read about in the media. Rush Limbaugh pioneered taking complex issues, turning them into black and white propositions where he and his listeners are right and everyone else is not only wrong but incredibly stupid. Commentators have refined this technique on both the liberal and conservative sides to take intelligent discourse and turn it into insults, putdowns and shouting matches. O’Reilly and his ilk do it on the right and Olbermann and his kind do it on the left. I sometimes think the guys from MSNBC and Fox News go out for beers at night, laughing all the way to the bank on how mocking each other boosts each others’ ratings and makes them all wealthy.

    We’ve got an election coming up here in the States. We have two actually pretty good candidates this time around; one very intelligent, well spoken guy with a lot of ideas and one actual war hero who has worked across the aisle for many years to actually achieve helpful legislation. But we also have one guy who is definitely part of the Chicago political machine (which doesn’t get discussed) and another guy who basically sold his soul to get nominated, going against all those noble things he represented for so many years. That seems to be the price people must pay to get elected these days. Two good men feel that the only way they can put themselves in a position to accomplish their goals is to sling mud at each other or allow their supporters to do so. And the general public mostly buys into the bad stuff, believing the worst of what they hear about the candidate they don’t support. It’s really very sad.

    Chinese people are very creative. I saw beauty wherever I went. I had friends who came up with the most creative ideas I could imagine. But they also told me how this creativity was strongly discouraged in university. Some of those professors behave like little gods with their students. A friend of mine speaks excellent English and is incredibly brilliant. When she was at Shanghai Jiaotong University (she won all sorts of awards for her scholastic achievements), they had some visiting professors from the States and her professor asked her to represent the university getting them situated. She said they were very nice gentlemen and one night wanted to treat her to a night on the town as a thank you for her help. She agreed and they all had a great time. The next day, her professor told her that students do not socialize with professors and if she ever did it again, she would be expelled. She spent a lot of her free times working on projects for her professors, all gratis. She told me if she really wanted to learn from them, she would have to give them gifts and they taught very little in class. I was amazed! Jiaotong is one of the best universities in China with very high academic achievers, not some 2nd rate college. She also told me she wanted to get her MBA later but would never attend a Chinese university because it’d be a waste of money. She would do it overseas.

    You wrote about ordinary people in China, the older folks who find ways to enjoy life in public places. That brought back soooo many memories!! I used to stay in the Hong Kong Plaza on Huai Hai Lu in Shanghai, which was a great central location to walk to so many interesting places and also right across the street from my office, where I stashed a bicycle to ride around the city on weekends. Sometimes I’d walk to People’s Square early in the morning. In front of the Shanghai History Museum, there’d usually be women with swords doing some sort of martial qigong exercise. Around the central fountain would be a boom box playing waltzes with couples practicing their ballroom dancing. Sometimes there’d be a gentleman standing in the grass doing standing qigong, or slapping his body in assorted ways to warm up his qi. Once I rode my bike to Lu Xun Park in the Hongkou district since I had never been there before and hadn’t explored Sichuan Lu yet. While walking around the park, I found a path to the top of a rock outcropping where there was a gazebo with retired men and women singing Shanghai opera. There was an “er hu” and another stringed instrument similar to a lute, and small percussion instruments, etc. Each was manned by an accomplished older musician and a man and woman were singing the different parts. I sat down near them along with some other Chinese locals and listened to them for quite awhile. We didn’t talk but I could tell they were so happy that I, a laowai, enjoyed their performance. What they didn’t realize is that I was the privileged one. They had given me a memory that I’ll take to my grave. It wasn’t just the music; it was the joy they expressed in their singing, their energy and they way they used their time not only for their own enjoyment, but for the enjoyment and pleasure of others. It was a very communal feeling and I was welcomed to join with open arms.

    Things like this happened to me all the time during my life there. I had no desire to meet other expats on my free time; I figured I could meet plenty of westerners in San Diego and other places, but my time in China was limited and precious to me. I wanted to suck as much in as I possibly could.

    When I see old people here in the States complaining about weak bones, how their back hurts and assorted ailments, I think back to those people in China who understood that to have a happy life when you’re old, you need to MOVE. They were persistent in practicing their taiji or other form of martial art. The beauty wasn’t that their movements were perfect; the beauty was that their spirits were alive and joyous. I only hope I can be nearly as active when I reach that age.

    Along the northern end of the Bund, there’s a bend in the river that creates just the right breeze to fly a kite. That’s where you could buy them from the vendors or fly them to your heart’s content. I especially liked sitting there at night, watching fathers teach their sons the same tricks their own fathers had taught them and flying their kites together as a family. I could almost touch the happiness they shared, playing together as a family, creating the childhood memories that would stay with those children throughout their lives.

    In my time there, I was fortunate to be able to eat at many very famous restaurants and see some wonderful events. Once the food is eaten, it’s gone from your life. Once the opera is over, it becomes a fading memory. But my memories of the people I met have never faded; they are just as strong as when they occurred. I love China because I love the Chinese people. They always treated me with kindness and respect. I respect them as people and I respect their culture.

    Patrick Henry was the guy who said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Actually, they’re not really sure if he ever actually said it, but it’s attributed to him. No, he wasn’t a soldier; he was a lawyer and a politician who had token battlefield experience. However, he was definitely a firebrand!

    Nobody~ you can debate away to your heart’s content on this blog. We’d all welcome you and your perspective. I know this has been decidedly off topic, but you rekindled in me the love I have for those days and inspired me to share the happiness I experienced.

  74. Nobody Says:

    @ Steve,

    Wow, didn’t expect such a kind response from you. Thank you kindly, sir.

    Yes, indeed, the best part of China is seen daily, in the early mornings in the parks, without frills.
    I am so glad you share my sentiments. Actually, I was in HK last week and found myself in the middle of Kowloon park one morning. Right there in the tiny park, smack in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui with a muslim mosque before it and I think the Marco Polo hotel and Macau terminal behind it, what I saw, was the same chinese park scene and activities you described – it was fabulous!

    Thanks for the background on“Give me liberty, or give me death!”

    Oh, here’s a great family flick I’d just finished – Nim’s Island, starring Jodie Foster and the lovely young Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine.” I know SKC has two young daughters, they’re gonna love this, I think. How about you, Steve, if I may ask, how many precious ones do you have in your family? I just love Romancing the Stone and cast-away type adventures, like the Robinson family, Gilligan’s Island etc. This has both elements.

  75. Allen Says:

    @Steve – you are really a rarity … hope to meet you in person one day …

    @Nobody,

    But with so much of our time taken up in making a living, and with most people holding hand-to-mouth jobs, unless the governance of a particular nation gets to be so bad, who’d want to trade their, even a slave-like but relatively free existence for jail-time or being ostracized ? Who was it who cried, “Give me freedom or give me death”?

    A wise observation …. (I was going to say a “smart” or “acute” observation, but since you stated you are not “smart,” I thought you wouldn’t be too offended if I use the word “wise”! ;-) )

  76. Nobody Says:

    Allen,

    Thank you for helping / encouraging me / others, to think about things that are otherwise oblivious to me / some of us :-)

    @Steve – you are really a rarity … hope to meet you in person one day …

    Ditto.

  77. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nobody:
    my kids have seen Nim’s Island…and you’re right, they thought it was awesome. Right now they’re on the countdown to High School Musical 3. Which is also why I can’t wait for Quantum of Solace…the estrogen gets a little thick in my house sometimes….
    And Little Miss Sunshine was a great flick as well.

  78. Nobody Says:

    @SKC,

    “Quantum of Solace,” huh?

    In your fantasy, who would you rather be, Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Licensed to kill, agent 007, James Bond or Zohan (A hairy mucho Adam Sandler), the super-agent of Israeli Army’s Counterterrorist bureau?

  79. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi folks, I’m in computer field and now in investment part-time. I do not know much about social issues, but learn a lot from your wisdom.

    Judging from the result of American education (high school to college), China’s education system is not too bad. It could be Chinese sets education a higher value and Americans are more permissive due to a richer, developed society.

    You need students to study hard and take tests (in my humble opinion) successfully. In many of my college courses, we deal with only one formula but there are many ways to use it (where tests come in). You need to be creative after the undergraduate college or apply in real life. I do not say creativity should not be encouraged.

    There are exceptions such as in music and art. Most jobs like doctors, lawyers, accountants and computer programmers require Beijing duck learning (or stuffing) with little creativity in learning the basics. It also requires you to work hard – more important to me as my initial training has little to do with my first job.

    The education for genius is quite different. The genius do not need stuff education as for most others. Creativity starts on day one. Their contribution to society is enormous. With their new findings, they create jobs and improve our lives.

    Movies I watched recently and good for children.

    Together. 2002. Particularly great for music lovers. The real violinist Li is a prodigy. I conclude prodigies are created partly by parents like Tiger Wood and Yao Ming. I still encourage young children to learn music but not to push them as music is great in many aspects in our lives.

    CJ7. The saying sth like “work hard, do not steal…” was repeated several times. It helps your children more in their journey of life than just 2 hours of entertainment.

    Up the Yangtze. Any spoiled kid like little emperors will never complain in life after seeing this documentary. I cried from watching these 3 movies as my parents were too busy to give me attentions when I was young.

    Kite Runner. Excellent for teenagers.

  80. Allen Says:

    @Steve #69,

    My question to you is: if we are trying to promote nation building, how do we do that without being perceived as interfering? Typically, nation building involves money. How do we make sure the money is properly spent and not diverted to Swiss bank accounts, e.g. the graft situation in Iraq or similar situations in Africa? If the change isn’t coming from the U.N. which has its own issues with graft and corruption, then it needs to come from other nation states, and in the end won’t they all try to manipulate the situation to their own advantage?

    Good question! Let me clarify a little of what I mean when I wrote in #66

    Our problem today is we focus too much on “values” and too little on governance. Most of the world is not run by the U.N. or the powerful nations. The world is run by nation states of all sorts. If we want to truly improve the lives of people, we need to promote nation building.

    When I say “promote nation building,” I don’t necessarily mean having the UN or the West fund and oversee the building of nations. What I mean is only that human rights organizations today too often criticize government violations of “individual rights” without any balance view of the same governments’ effort at nation building and associated contribution to providing for its people.

    I know I will not be popular to say this, but even when we look at Iraq, what did we see when Saddam was there? We saw an evil dictatorship. We saw a dangerous dictator who ruled with an iron first, subversively killed its people, quashed democracy, stood up to the U.S. and “freedom,” etc., etc. We did not see that he did build a functioning government and nation. So in our eagerness to “free” the Iraqi people, we forgot that if we were to dismantle the Iraqi system, we need to make the effort to provide for its people – which when we did not … led to looting, chaos, and sectarian violence.

    So I think you are right in your observation that when I say “nation building” – I seem to be saying it in the abstract – because I am!

    Weaker, less prosperous countries by nature have more problems to deal with than stronger, more prosperous countries. And governance always involves give and takes (just like “freedom” involves hard decisions on the balancing of various rights).

    We need to recognize that national governments in today’s system of global governance take a central role in providing for the welfare of people on earth. When we talk about human rights, we need to stop taking the knee-jerk reaction of treating a foreign national gov’t as an enemy when we find policies that do not jive with our own country’s NVBs. Instead we need to include in our discussion human rights what all the national building responsibility that the same foreign government have undertaken as well.

    We need to understand the entire circumstances of other peoples – not just how they match up to our NVBs. It is in that sense I mean that we promote nation building (not necessarily funding national movements, dictating national monetary policies, or building dams and infrastructures in foreign countries)….

  81. Nobody Says:

    … understand the entire circumstances of other peoples – not just how they match up to our NVBs. It is in that sense I mean that we promote nation building (not necessarily funding national movements, dictating national monetary policies, or building dams and infrastructures in foreign countries)….

    Allen,

    HOW I WISH, your concept of “Nation building,” is what the powers that be want to promote and nurture. Those in political positions are invariably in cahoot with their globally intertwined interests groups— These empowered talking heads are put / or bought into positions by moneyed aristocrats and groups surely not for the purpose to help the miserable others but them-selves. That we can all be certain to bet on., otherwise half of the world’s problems, if not more, would’ve been solved by now.
    It is whatever it takes to divide up the market in order to monoplize the market, that is their game. War is profit for the few, but improverishment for the rest. Economic meltdown simply means more rivers of gold now flow ever more unchallenged into the refineries of the filthy rich. These ignoble deeds are invariably done under noble banners, slogans and mantras against imaginary enemies created by and for the myth-makers and manipulators of mammon. This is all old news, repeatly recorded in the annals of human history. Governments come and go, but the one percentors have survived for generations, ever ready to be up to their old tricks under what ever governing system.

  82. Otto Kerner Says:

    Allen,

    I wonder if your concept of “nation building” is basically the same thing as what I would call simply “law and order”. I can certainly agree that movements toward human rights are in vain if the result undermines law and order. I think your example of Iraq is apt: Saddam Hussein was a thug, but he managed to impose some kind of day-to-day law and order. Then the U.S. invaded, ostensibly bringing all sorts of human rights, but nobody was in a position to enjoy these neat new rights because law and order fell apart.

    However, what I don’t understand is that you seem to imply that human rights discourse in general is at odds with “nation building” or “law and order”. What’s the connection? Why not have both?

  83. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nobody:
    007 hands down. Forget the Bond-girls, the dry martini’s, and the such. Dude gets the DB5 and the DBS in one movie. He had me at hello…. (sorry, Jerry McGuire reference there)

  84. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “Our problem today is we focus too much on “values” and too little on governance”
    “A sustainable international human rights regime must therefore foster not just norms that prevent oppression by governments but also to the development of strong nations.”

    My assumptions are that societal values, in time, become enshrined into laws. In order for a society to subsequently and reproducibly uphold those laws, and therefore those foundational values, said society must submit to the rule of law, and hence the importance of a system of sound governance. But I would further assume that this system of governance derives its mandate from the people it governs, for ultimately it is their value system that government is trying to uphold. What happens, though, when a government has no such mandate, as with authoritarian states. What mechanism in such a system ensures that societal values be championed by the government, when government doesn’t represent the people?

    Strong nations have effective, if not outright strong, governments, in general. Let’s assume further, then, that such nations protect the values of their citizens while promoting their rights. However, what then happens when strong nations are at odds with one another. I would submit that, when systems of governance are at odds, when national interests collide, it is not governance, nor necessarily the UN or any other body that might resolve such an impasse; rather, my guess and hope is that the search for commonality among the underlying societal values becomes more important. So ultimately, while a strong nation provides sound governance upon which to promote rights and values, we should still seek shared and common (or dare I say “universal”) values in an effort to avoid violent confrontation.

  85. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner,

    I wonder if your concept of “nation building” is basically the same thing as what I would call simply “law and order”. I

    ….

    However, what I don’t understand is that you seem to imply that human rights discourse in general is at odds with “nation building” or “law and order”. What’s the connection? Why not have both?

    They are not synonymous. Here are my reasons:

    Yes – broadly construed – “law and order” may be synonymous – but the problem is that in ordinary discourse of human rights in the West, it is not. Take Iraq again as our example, many human rights activists had actually argued that Saddam’s Iraq did not possess “law” and “order” – since Iraq was a country run by “thugs” and “despots”…. That was actually one of the justification to go into Iraq. Iraq’s ability to govern were simply dismissed under alleged much bigger evils of “human rights” (or lack of civilized “law and order”) – as befitting the rhetoric of the day.

    We can take Tibet in March as another example also. You may remember that many Chinese were incensed how so many in the West ignored the efforts the Chinese gov’t spent to impose law and order. In that case, human rights activists seem to ignore the violence (lack of law and order); all they wanted to say was “freedom rights violations”…

    Here are two instances where if we want to promote “human rights” as the West have it, we would have to ignore associated cost in “law and order” or governance (with “law and order” is construed broadly enough)

    “law and order” means certain things in the West

  86. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: “Take Iraq again as our example, many human rights activists had actually argued that Saddam’s Iraq did not possess “law” and “order” – since Iraq was a country run by “thugs” and “despots”….”

    Was that common? While “law and order” has often been used by governments to introduce restrictive laws, I don’t think a majority of sane people who hold the ideal of human rights highly would think that the chaotic situation in Iraq is in any way desirable. I believe consies do, but they try to convince themselves that everything is fine in Iraq, like they try to convince themselves that global warming is nothing serious.

    I don’t think there’s a good solution to the question above on what to do with slow-burn countries that are developing into fast-burn cases. Invading a country because of human-rights abuses is a dangerous game. The most famous case, WWII, didn’t involve fighting for human rights so much as fighting to preserve national interests threatened by expansive, fascist states.

    “You may remember that many Chinese were incensed how so many in the West ignored the efforts the Chinese gov’t spent to impose law and order.”

    Wasn’t that because of one-sided reporting? I never heard anyone here complaining about not mentioning Chinese law enforcement, but I might be wrong.

  87. Allen Says:

    @Wukailong,

    @Allen: “Take Iraq again as our example, many human rights activists had actually argued that Saddam’s Iraq did not possess “law” and “order” – since Iraq was a country run by “thugs” and “despots”….”

    Was that common? While “law and order” has often been used by governments to introduce restrictive laws, I don’t think a majority of sane people who hold the ideal of human rights highly would think that the chaotic situation in Iraq is in any way desirable.

    You are right – today no sane person would think the chaotic situation in Iraq is in any way better than that under Saddam (or am I wrong?). But at the time when Saddam was around, human rights activists were all on board on how bad Saddam was. No sane human rights activists would give any credence to the fact that Saddam had actually been providing security and stability to the country….

    Another point you made:

    “You may remember that many Chinese were incensed how so many in the West ignored the efforts the Chinese gov’t spent to impose law and order.”

    Wasn’t that because of one-sided reporting? I never heard anyone here complaining about not mentioning Chinese law enforcement, but I might be wrong.

    Yes one-sided reporting contributed. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find any human rights activist at the time who would side with Chinese efforts to provide law and order. All I saw was an almost unanimous gleeful siding with the “insurrection” – despite the violence – falling to despair when the rioters did not succeed – followed by demonizing attempts by Chinese authorities to provide order as heavyhanded – anti-human rights – etc., etc., etc….

  88. Chops Says:

    “(AFP) — The European Parliament on Thursday awarded a human rights prize to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia, on the eve of a key Beijing summit and amid allegations of Chinese pressure not to honour him.

    China had warned that giving the Sakharov Prize to the civil rights campaigner could damage ties with Europe.”

    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iHlMIGfqgndE4O4cM4BYflU3x9qA

  89. Steve Says:

    @Allen #70: Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I wanted to let it sink in and read other’s responses before replying. There’s a lot to consider in this thread, so many different viewpoints with so many great observations.

    “The most fundamental way to prevent radicalism is to reduce global inequity – and then to trust the various individual nation states – all competent and sovereign – to police themselves (why not trust the world, if what we are talking about is really universal values?).”

    Is this a kind of political “laissez-faire”, where a country’s government is not interfered with and allowed to develop of its own accord? If so, would you feel that the economic embargo of South Africa in the days of apartheid was a bad policy? It was definitely blatant interference in another country’s political system, though it addressed inequity within the country. I guess I’m wondering where you draw the line at non-interference. If there is no response to human rights issues in other countries, then aren’t human rights as an issue basically taken off the table in terms of negotiation and diplomacy? Wouldn’t the reply to their being brought up be “Don’t interfere in our internal affairs”?

    I agree with you about Nazi Germany. When I was younger, I could never figure out how such a logical nation accepted such a leader as Hitler. But when I studied the Treaty of Versailles and saw how incredibly vindictive it was towards the German people and how much hardship and misery it caused within the country in the 1930s, it seemed clear to me that Hitler was only chosen because he offered hope in a bleak situation. The victorious Allies sowed the seeds of the next war by their actions, so what happened later in many ways is inconsequential to how the problem actually started.

    @Allen #80: For me, Iraq is kind of a strange comparison because so many bad decisions were made by the USA (particularly Rumsfeld) both during and after the war. I think if you talk to Sunni Iraqis, they would agree with you. But if you talked to Kurds or Shiite Iraqis, you might get a different answer. I’m sure they didn’t consider Saddam’s Iraq a functioning nation, but only functioning for the benefit of the Sunni faction. However, avoiding that war is consistent with your other statements so I respect what you are saying. Am I correct to assume that you believe in non-interference in other governments under virtually all circumstances?

    @Allen #85: Because we’ve already talked about Iraq, I’d like to comment on Tibet, since I haven’t done so on this blog. To this day, I’m really not clear on what happened. I’ve read the reports from both sides and there was obvious violence, but I’m not sure what caused it or what happened afterwards, since the reporting was so sporadic. I agree with you about imposing law and order in a society but since reporters weren’t allowed into Lhasa, do we really know if that order was imposed correctly and the innocent weren’t punished? I’m not saying there were human rights violations; what I’m saying is that I don’t know one way or the other.

    Since reporters could not see with their own eyes, all they had to go on was information from the Chinese Propaganda Department and information from the Tibetan organization in India, which can also be construed as propaganda. Each would serve its own interests. In the West, the Dalai Lama’s viewpoint definitely was given the most credibility. The Chinese were incensed, but for me could have avoided that reaction by just allowing reporters to find out the truth. One thing I’ve figured out in life is that if you restrict reporters, the stories they file will be consistently negative.

    Moving beyond Tibet, most countries are not facing movements by minorities for autonomy or independence led by forces outside the country, so that is a pretty unique situation and might not be the best example to illustrate your idea. Why don’t we take Myanmar? There are obviously human rights violations occurring on a regular basis in that country, as yet there isn’t blatant interference in the country’s political system by outside influences, the government has strong trade with China, Thailand and India (news articles always seem to forget to mention the trade with Thailand and India) and a government that is ruthless and heavy-handed. What would be the correct way to approach the situation there? Do you feel the current trade boycott many nations have imposed is a good policy? If it were up to you, what actions would you take and what actions would you cancel? This might help all of us understand your ideas better.

    Allen: thanks for all the kind words. If you’re ever in the San Diego area, let me know. I also get up to the Bay Area and LA on a regular basis. I’d love to share a beer and a good conversation.

    Nobody #74: Again, thanks for such kind words. You and I seem to enjoy the same slices of Chinese culture. My offer to Allen also applies; if you’re ever in this area, let me know. We have three sons, all in their 20s and out of college (one still in law school) so beyond the age of children’s movies, at least for a few more years until they have kids of their own. You might want to cut SKC a break on those Bond movies, since my wife never misses them. She likes escapist entertainment, not deep stories. SKC, if you haven’t read the Bond books, I’d definitely recommend them. They’re very different from the movies; no gadgets, only one or two girls per book, very different storylines than the movies, and much more realistic. Incidentally, in the books Bond is 6 feet tall(183 cm) and 165 lbs.(75 kg), closer to the new Bond than the older ones.

    TonyP4 #79: All I know about China’s school system is what Chinese friends have told me. The elementary schools are excellent, the middle schools ever better, high school depends on whether you got into Tier 1 or Tier 2 (Tier 1 is necessary to attend the best universities) but it is so competitive in a Tier 1 high school that it isn’t enjoyable like middle school, so middle school is considered the happiest time. However, those Tier 1 high schools are top notch. University is different; the Chinese I know who have been to universities in both China and the west all preferred western universities. They felt they learned much more, the professors were better, the courses more interesting. These friends all went to the best universities in China (RUMman, I’m sure you’d agree that the semiconductor industry has its pick of the best students) and were in scientific and engineering fields so I think I’m comparing apples with apples.

    @Nobody #81: You raise a very good point. A very successful Taiwanese friend of ours who owns a factory in the Beijing area told me that the relationship between the Taiwan businessmen and Chinese political leadership is extremely close and beneficial to both sides. I’ll give you an example. Remember when there were anti-Japan demonstrations in China a couple of years ago? A dealer of mine in China (Taiwanese owned) who also represents a major Japanese corporation there was told by that corporation weeks before the demonstrations that a government official had told them not to hold any conferences in China during a certain time, the time of the protests. The Chinese government highly valued this particular corporation’s investments in China (they are huge) and didn’t want to upset their investment or future investments. The guy who told me this (their VP) is a guy I trust completely; about the most honest guy you’d ever want to meet. I am sure of his authenticity. I believe it lends credence to your point.

    @SKC #84: Your point is well taken. When you said “this system of governance derives its mandate from the people it governs” I couldn’t help thinking of Michael Palin saying almost those exact words while playing a peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, ha ha. But I believe Allen’s point (Allen, correct me if I’m wrong) is that authoritarian governments would adjust to societal values in order to maintain power. If not, they would lose the “mandate from heaven”, as it were. One system acts while the other reacts. Each has a lag factor built into it; America’s lag is the Senate and an authoritarian government’s is the bureaucracy and personal concerns of the leadership. As I see it, the biggest problem with authoritarian governments is that they consistently try to “kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer” and their overreaction causes a corresponding reaction by the general public and world opinion. The other problem is, of course, that the level of corruption is much higher, but that has been endlessly discussed on these pages in the past.

    @Wukailong #86: “Wasn’t that because of one-sided reporting? I never heard anyone here complaining about not mentioning Chinese law enforcement, but I might be wrong.”

    Your comment follows what I said before, that one-sided reporting from Tibet wasn’t given credibility because it WAS one-sided, even though it might have been completely accurate. When there is no corroboration, there will always be skepticism.

  90. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#87): “Yes one-sided reporting contributed. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find any human rights activist at the time who would side with Chinese efforts to provide law and order. All I saw was an almost unanimous gleeful siding with the “insurrection” – despite the violence – falling to despair when the rioters did not succeed – followed by demonizing attempts by Chinese authorities to provide order as heavyhanded – anti-human rights – etc., etc., etc….”

    You’re probably right, I wasn’t in any Western country at the time (I’ve been in China fulltime since Jan’ 2006) but read BBC sporadically along with Chinese news, so it was hard for me to get a picture. What I do remember is that several heads of state in Western countries condemned Chinese measures as heavy-handed, which I doubted at the time (as for 3.14, I still doubt that the response was harsh at the time, but I believe the days leading up to it probably saw a lot of provocations from the police).

    As Steve says, it’s very hard to say. It’s close to an informational black hole.

    And Iraq back in 2003 – the opinion in Europe also seemed to be influenced by the hawks to the extent that normally sane people began advocating a sort of forced democratization of the world by military means (including friends of mine). However, the anti-war protesters were as strong a force, and after only half a year of occupation, the conservatives were in embattled retreat.

  91. Otto Kerner Says:

    Allen,

    I think you should distinguish between commentators who spend their time talking about a particular topic and people who are actually in a position to do something, such as trying to enforce human rights. When the U.S. government invaded Iraq, they were doing the latter. Naturally, having put themselves in that position, they can be held accountable both for their “human rights” record as well as for promoting law and order. I don’t think that, if the world were focused more on “nation building”, it would have prevented the Bush administration from invading Iraq; they would simply have produced “experts” who argued that Saddam Hussein wasn’t really doing nation building, that he was actually harming the development of the nation, because he was divisive or whatever, etc. i.e. they would have said whatever was necessary in order to justify what they already wanted to do.

    On the other hand, commentators are people who are interested in writing about a particular topic, such as the environment, health care, crime, teenage pregnancy, or even human rights abuses by the government against Tibetans. If I write an article about, say, global warming, I wouldn’t expect that to be taken as an argument that crime is not an important problem … unless someone can explain to me why dealing with one is directly opposed to dealing with the other.

    The problem with Tibet is that the government has created a situation in which it is impossible for it to enforce law and order without violating human rights. This situation is not natural or typical; it arises from specific policies. You can’t have it both ways: a colonial occuption of people who don’t want to be occupied is doable if you are strong enough, but it is going to result in human rights abuses. If somebody doesn’t like those options, well, cry me a river. The solution is to make peace with the Tibetans, but the central government apparently has no interest in doing that. Instead, they are waiting for the Dalai Lama to die and then they will simply smash any rebellions that happen. The result will be to perpetuate the situation in which “human rights” and “law and order” are pitted against each other.

  92. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    if authoritarian governments have a “mandate from heaven”, and in order to keep it, via reactionary mechanisms, must represent the peoples’ values, then maybe one can call it “divine representation”. Personally, I’m partial to “direct representation”. Besides, I’ve never had much use for heaven anyway. Which explains why I’m here, and not there.

  93. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Otto:
    your’s, to me, is an excellent rubber-meets-road example.

  94. Steve Says:

    @SKC: I don’t create their reasons, I just report them. :)

    To be honest, I was trying to “walk in their moccasins” and used an old historical reference to reason out their justification for maintaining power. Being from a decidly non-authoritarian country, I’m with you in terms of my personal feelings.

    I remember when I first went to China, I was unable to get any of the internet western news services there, no NY Times, Washington Post, not even the San Diego Union Tribune. I had to outthink them and figured out they were doing it by city names so I was able to download the Orange County Register and the Bergen Evening Record. About a month later, the NY Times was interviewing Jiang Zemin and after they finished they interview, they asked him why their website was censored. Jiang said he didn’t know but would find out. The NEXT DAY, not only the NY Times website was available, but all the rest of the American newspapers.

    Trying to read the Shanghai Daily was tough, but what was really funny was that they would get letters to the editor on a regular basis from a female French professor from Boston University. The only problem was, she wrote in Chinglish rather than English! I used to cut them out and send them to friends in Boston. Of course, there was no such professor.

  95. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    LOL. That sounds like something Colbert would say, and that’s a good thing.

  96. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve, LOL. I do not know why Xinhua always uses a foreigner to say something to get approval. The foreign moon is always rounder and brighter.

  97. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Otto, Dali Lama is more practical and peaceful than most Tibetan activists. With the natural resources (like water sources for close to 1/2 the world population) and investment, I do not think China will let Tibet to be independent. No foreign country in the right mind will help Tibet by force.

  98. Wahaha Says:

    Is this a human right issue ?

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/24/polygamy.investigation/index.html

    Westerners take good life for granted. In chinese words, they are fed up and have nothing to do, so they love to cause trouble for others. Human right is just a tool used by them to make themselves feel better, whether they sincerely care those Tibetans or not.

  99. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha:
    not my cup of tea, but if 3 consenting adults choose to, that’s their gig. But if you find it unacceptable, you are welcome to make a fuss about it. Such is the privilege of living where you currently live.
    I’m not sure if human rights is much of a tool, but gosh it makes me feel a whole heck of a lot better to be in possession of some.

  100. Allen Says:

    @Steve #89,

    Is this a kind of political “laissez-faire”, where a country’s government is not interfered with and allowed to develop of its own accord? If so, would you feel that the economic embargo of South Africa in the days of apartheid was a bad policy? It was definitely blatant interference in another country’s political system, though it addressed inequity within the country. I guess I’m wondering where you draw the line at non-interference. If there is no response to human rights issues in other countries, then aren’t human rights as an issue basically taken off the table in terms of negotiation and diplomacy? Wouldn’t the reply to their being brought up be “Don’t interfere in our internal affairs”?

    OK – I’ll bite.

    But I need to start again with structural issues of world governance. The world is currently politically divided into a system of nation states. It is important to note this. We do not have a world government (the UN is created to deal with relations among nations, not to dictate domestic policies of individual nations). We do not have an imperialistic system where the stronger states are supposed to be partners in governance of the weaker states.

    Instead we have a system of sovereign equals, each with clearly delineated borders within which each exercises “complete” sovereignty (please read below to see how “complete”).

    This division of governance turn out to be actually not too bad because even a 3rd world authoritarian gov’t in Africa, say, will be a more legitimate gov’t than a democratic, advanced country such as the U.S. to rule over the people of that country. This is because over the long term, dictators will inevitably be more receptive to its people than far away governments like the U.S. The ability of that country’s people to depose the dictator gov’t is simply much much greater than that of the people to depose a superpower located thousands of miles away.

    It is very important to understand that this is the structure of governance we have. For those of us in the West, we need to recognize that despite being the richest and most resourceful civilization on the planet today, we currently have no mandate to govern the world.

    Now let’s go into “human rights” – which I know can deal with issues ranging the gamut from slavery to democracy to freedom of speech and religion.

    My first problem with Western style and implementation human rights is that is often framed as an “emotional” or ideological issue in the West. That is all fine because I understand ideology can be a powerful tool to legitimize the government, political system, and social structure in the West. If the West wants to use its ideologies for domestic consumption to prop up its own social and political stability, it’s all the more power to the West. But when the West interacts with the rest of the world, it needs to learn to take off its ideological hat so it can deal with others in a mutually more respective and understanding way.

    My second problem is that the West seem to bring up issues of human rights only where convenient to advance its geopolitical goals. The West wages wars against weak gov’ts in the name of human rights. The West ignores human rights of governments that are pro-West when convenient.

    Finally let’s get into the substance of Steve’s questions. What do I think of the U.S.-led embargo that ultimately helped to bring down the collapse of apartheid in South Africa?

    I actually can understand where Steve is coming from. The West has gone through a very violent history to where it is today. The West really has a lot to offer the world. The West has a special role to enlighten the world about human rights, using force if necessary (ok, I’m not sure if Steve would go that far, but many readers here would).

    With respect to S. Africa, I actually agree with Steve. I supported the Apartheid struggle (wrote a letter to Nelson Mandela in high school) and the Western-led embargo (wrote letter for the elder Pres. Bush). The reason I think I was right is because in this specific case, I really believed the U.S. was not influenced by geopolitical considerations and was making a genuine stand based on its NVBs. The U.S. in other words was acting as a gentler and kinder Imperialist.

    But even if we really need to have the West (maybe just U.S.) be a gentler and kinder Imperialist that serve as the world’s “human rights” watch dog, we can’t afford to have the strongest civilization cherry pick the fights for its geopolitical self interests. No, the West must formalize the process such that the process will serve purely humanitarian and take into account long term nation building needs.

    One way to formalize the process is to write into law the specifics of what would trigger “human rights” abuses. After the law is written, anyone in the world can go to a commission or court in the Imperialist Power (U.S. or EU) for a ruling that “human rights” are occurring in a certain geography. If a determination is confirmed, the Imperialistic Power must do everything in its power, including going to war and devoting all the resources necessary to rebuild the target country, to rectify the situation. Since this is not a foreign policy decision – but a “human rights” decision – the Imperialistic Power must not distinguish between different locales for interference. If a ruling that human rights abuses are made, the Imperialist Power must interfere regardless of where they occur. No foreign policy officials will be involved, only commissioners and judges can be involved since it is strictly a human rights and legal issue.

    Only if the U.S. or E.U. (or whoever else the gentle and kind Imperialist is) can formalize such a process would I re-consider whether “human rights” is truly meant legitimately for the good of the people around the world (instead of just for the self interest of the Imperialist).

    Ok – I understand some might say – this system doesn’t fly, it involves too high a price to pay. If Russia is conducting “human rights” abuses, there is no way the U.S. or E.U. can get completely involved since getting involved will mean starting a nuclear war.

    Fair enough. Then in its “human rights” charter, the gentle Imperialistic Power that be must carve out certain areas of the world not under the jurisdiction of “human rights” watch. This way, only violations of “human rights” in those areas under its “human rights” watch can trigger processes for intervention.

  101. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner #91,

    You said:

    I don’t think that, if the world were focused more on “nation building”, it would have prevented the Bush administration from invading Iraq; they would simply have produced “experts” who argued that Saddam Hussein wasn’t really doing nation building, that he was actually harming the development of the nation, because he was divisive or whatever, etc. i.e. they would have said whatever was necessary in order to justify what they already wanted to do.

    Sounds reasonable, but I still think it would help. At least the rhetoric will be more balanced (i.e. more holistic and more long term regarding the issues) – and the aggressive intervenor will be held to some minimal standards of accountability. My fundamental motivation for writing about human rights is my perception that human rights as we practice is too often and easily politicized not for human welfare, but for geopolitical maneuvering.

    On the other hand, commentators are people who are interested in writing about a particular topic, such as the environment, health care, crime, teenage pregnancy, or even human rights abuses by the government against Tibetans. If I write an article about, say, global warming, I wouldn’t expect that to be taken as an argument that crime is not an important problem … unless someone can explain to me why dealing with one is directly opposed to dealing with the other.

    Again, a good point. When I refer to human rights, I usually refer to the system – not any single individual. I mean the gov’t, human rights activists, media, etc. as a whole In my comments about human rights here, I am usually not criticizing any individuals (i.e. scholars) per se, I am usually criticizing the SYSTEM and the RESULTS as I see them….

    The problem with Tibet is that the government has created a situation in which it is impossible for it to enforce law and order without violating human rights. This situation is not natural or typical; it arises from specific policies. You can’t have it both ways: a colonial occuption of people who don’t want to be occupied is doable if you are strong enough, but it is going to result in human rights abuses. If somebody doesn’t like those options, well, cry me a river. The solution is to make peace with the Tibetans, but the central government apparently has no interest in doing that.

    Those are strong words: “colonial occuption of people who don’t want to be occupied is doable if you are strong enough, but it is going to result in human rights abuses.”

    I won’t argue with you about history or the state of affairs on the ground here, but I will agree with you that most if not all “human rights” abuse in Tibet (as you perhaps see them) are taking place because of the political struggle between the DL and the CCP.

  102. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #100:
    I know I’m not Steve, and I’m sure Steve will respond as he sees fit, but since I’m here anyway…

    To me, an authoritarian government rules by force, and uses force when necessary to maintain its hold on power. From an international perspective, such a government may be a legitimate representative of its people, since no alternative is offered or permitted. However, I’m not so sure that country’s people would necessarily find such a government to be their legitimate representative, since they had no voice in its selection. That such a government is allowed to remain may be more a testament of its capacity for force, moreso than its effectiveness in serving its people. So while clearly the US should not rule over an African nation, I’d be loathe to say that an authoritarian government would be any more legitimate in the eyes of its people.

    I think it goes without saying that no one country has any mandate to govern the world. I don’t think the US claims such a mandate. However, you need no such mandate to be able to speak out against perceived wrongs. Goes back to what I said to Oli much earlier in this thread…different countries may have different mores, and one country shouldn’t expect to impose hers on another, but there is no impediment to one country questioning the behaviour of another based on her own mores, nor should there be.

    I believe it was also Oli who suggested that countries do things to advance their interests. I completely agree. I wonder if you might disagree. For if you allow that countries can and should advance their interests, then it should stand to reason that “human rights” would be as legitimate a vehicle as any other.

    Now, it would be ideal if a country acted strictly on humanitarian grounds all the time, without regard for her national interests. However, such an ideal hardly seems realistic. And I always took you for a realist. Are you shape-shifting on me?

    It seems ironic that you would place the US or EU in the role of “gentle imperialist”. Surely it would elicit global howls of protest, let alone on this blog. But if you then introduce “exclusion zones”, then this imperialist commission is neutered from the get-go. And let’s face it…given that western militaries are stretched just dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan now, you might as well make the rest of the world an “exclusion zone” from the start. But I wonder…even if the US won’t go to war with China over her human rights shortcomings, can she still complain about them, or even make geopolitical hay out of them? For if they can, then your system already exists in spirit, if not in writing.

  103. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #100
    @S.K. Cheung #102

    I have stayed out of the fray, pondering the posts here. Well, I am in. Human rights is a huge subject, somewhat nebulous and in most cases, a no-brainer. How many people say, “I am against human rights”? How to get and apply “human rights”, aye, there is the rub. Sometimes the enforcement of human rights is sincere and beneficent. Sometimes enforcement of human rights is a cover for war and lust for oil.

    I am all in favor of “human rights”. Like SK has said earlier, I am grateful for and protective of the ones I have. And I despise and criticize Shrub and his administration for trying to take some of them away. I am against tyranny, oppression, persecution, racism, poverty and hatred, to name just a few. I am grateful for the wonderful life I have.

    I am not in favor of governments which are authoritarian, plutocratic, autocratic, oligarchic, or tyrannical. They are in general, due to their top-down nature, disrespectful of human rights and the people, if not in policy (co-opted double speak as an example), at least in action.

    But even if we really need to have the West (maybe just U.S.) be a gentler and kinder Imperialist that serve as the world’s “human rights” watch dog, we can’t afford to have the strongest civilization cherry pick the fights for its geopolitical self interests. No, the West must formalize the process such that the process will serve purely humanitarian and take into account long term nation building needs.

    I am not in favor of the US as a “gentler and kinder Imperialist”, not even if it is applied to serving “as the world’s “human rights” watch dog”. Heck, Shrub (GWB) would tell you he is a well-intentioned, compassionate conservative. You want him to co-opt your term, Allen. Heaven knows what Shrub and Cheney would have done under that guise and the world’s blessing. How do ever define and enforce those terms in such a way “that the process will serve purely humanitarian and take into account long term nation building needs”. SK asks a similar question in #102. I think this is an impossible task, at least given the current level of human progress (or lack thereof). Human beings will have to advance to a much higher level of consciousness, maturity and awareness to allow your terms to actualize. I think Maslow would state that we have a long way to go. Either that or you have a whole lot more trust in people than I ever will.

    Allen, as a lawyer, I am sure you are aware of many interpretations and violations of law, whether it be tax law, accounting (GAAP) law, criminal law, business law, real estate law. While laws are wonderful and necessary, they should be enforceable, clear, unimpeachable and not used for evasive purposes (intentional/accidental loopholes). These are tough hurdles for the international environment you describe.

    We do not have an imperialistic system where the stronger states are supposed to be partners in governance of the weaker states.

    Well, it sure looks like the American, Chinese, Israeli and Russian governments have such aspirations.

    It is very important to understand that what structure of governance we have. For those of us in the West, we need to recognize that despite being the richest and most resourceful civilization on the planet today, we currently have no mandate to govern the world.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Furthermore, I would extend this to all nations. Nobody has a mandate. I would also say (here comes my Jewish business sense), if we are given such a mandate, I don’t want the American taxpayer paying for this governance. I expect that we will be paid fairly for any governance or military protection we provide. :)

    I am not in favor of going to war, be it Iraq, Iran, China or Russia. That said, I am sure glad that the Allies, in WW II, freed my Jewish people from Nazi tyranny (Actually freed a lot of other peoples and nations, including Germany, from Nazi tyranny). And they freed the Pacific from Japanese imperialism.

    And before anybody starts pointing lots of fingers in the direction of “human rights”, please remember that there is enough blame to go around for everybody. We should not hesitate to point out violations of human rights where we see them, and we should take care of our own “dirty laundry”.

    The “bully pulpit” is a good alternative to your “gentler and kinder Imperialism”. The term, “gentler and kinder Imperialism”, sounds like an oxymoron to me, at least in the current stage of human development.

    —————-

    #102

    Well said, SK.

  104. GNZ Says:

    “over the long term, dictators will inevitably be more receptive to its people than far away governments.”

    I think there is some truth to this in the same way that the most responsive government would be to chop the world into quarter acre segments all with independent government. But overall I suggest it is no better (in fact slightly worse) to have a local despot that I have never met compared to a despot from another state that I haven’t met.
    For example China in many regards does Tibet a favor by governing it – and it would probably benefit greater China if Taiwan was to return home.

    Back to the point, the fact that I am close enough to get together a bunch of friends and kill some politicians doesn’t help unless there is already some sort of elite already planning to do that and is likely to cause more problems than it solves anyway.

  105. Allen Says:

    @SKC #102,

    Now, it would be ideal if a country acted strictly on humanitarian grounds all the time, without regard for her national interests. However, such an ideal hardly seems realistic. And I always took you for a realist. Are you shape-shifting on me?

    No … I am not shape-shifting (though that would not be a bad power to have, if “x-men” is any guide)! ;-) Please see more below…

    @Jerry #103,

    Allen, as a lawyer, I am sure you are aware of many interpretations and violations of law, whether it be tax law, accounting (GAAP) law, criminal law, business law, real estate law. While laws are wonderful and necessary, they should be enforceable, clear, unimpeachable and not used for evasive purposes (intentional/accidental loopholes). These are tough hurdles for the international environment you describe.

    Jerry and SKC: please note that I wrote #101 with a bit of “sarcasm.” I want people to read it and say … ok – maybe so – but hell no is it realistic … and then realize, hey, I think there is a bit of reality here – and then conclude, this can’t be, but it is … Imperialistic!

    The hardest thing about arguing against “human rights” as we understand it today is what Jerry observed:

    I am not in favor of going to war, be it Iraq, Iran, China or Russia. That said, I am sure glad that the Allies, in WW II, freed my Jewish people from Nazi tyranny (Actually freed a lot of other peoples and nations, including Germany, from Nazi tyranny). And they freed the Pacific from Japanese imperialism.

    I as a Chinese am also grateful of American power in WWII. It’s natural for many to draw the lesson and legacy of WWII to be that the West must – using western ideologies – remain watchful of and guard the world (i.e., via “kinder gentler Imperialism) against emergence of slavery or Naziism, etc.

    I cannot accept this because this is just the continuation of “white man’s” burden (of Western Imperialism) – especially when the West remains militarily powerful and cherry picks the application of such ideology to justify international meddling, including targeting weaker nations to further weaken.

    Finally, in response to SKC’s comment

    But I wonder…even if the US won’t go to war with China over her human rights shortcomings, can she still complain about them, or even make geopolitical hay out of them? For if they can, then your system already exists in spirit, if not in writing.

    No – she cannot. As I mentioned several times before, with the West’s long history of ignoring other powers’ nation building efforts and cherry picking “human rights” fights for private geopolitical gain, the West does not deserve the bully pulpit. Only rarely, such as in S. Africa (as I noted earlier in #101), does the West actually really care about and advance the interest of human welfare. In most other times, the West has simply become “a devil who has learned to quote the scripture.”

    Here is my bottom line about today’s brand of “human rights.” From my perspective, human rights as currently applied is more about attempts to manipulate fears and ideologies to support otherwise unjustifiable projection of power rather than about promoting genuine long-term humanitarian aid (and as such, it is as bad as – if not worse than – “racism,” “nazism,” or “fundamentalist religion”).

    Yes, it is cowardly. It is despicable. And yes – it is as bad as, in my opinion, tyrants (such as Saddam) hiding behind “human shields” (or in the West’s case, a humanitarian ideology) to conduct warfare.

  106. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    if you say that #100 was in jest, that’s fine by me. But jeez louise, are you currently sober? Could you legally operate a motor vehicle?

    “cherry picking “human rights” fights only where advantageous to its interests” – that may or may not be true. But can the US advance her interests? And if she can, must she avoid “human rights” as a vehicle? And if, while forwarding her interests, the US advances the cause of human rights in some, albeit select, cases, is that not better than not advancing human rights at all?

    What the “west” does and does not deserve is in the eyes of the beholder. What you call a bully-pit, others might term as a noble calling. But I don’t understand why you seek to restrict what the west can say; I would suggest that your choice is only to decide whether you choose to hear it. And what you choose to hear reflects on the listener, and not the speaker.

    Your last paragraph is more out there by far than anything I’ve read by you in the 5 months I’ve been around these parts. I’m hoping that was in jest too, but I’m guessing no such luck this time. You’ve listed one of the most infamous scourges of yesterday, an ongoing scourge of today, and a scourge that may fulminate further tomorrow. To compare any of those things with advocacy for “human rights”, even in a form which you find most repugnant, is frankly beyond the pail. Human rights is an ideal that requires no distortion to garner popular support; perhaps human rights travesties are at times embellished for dramatic effect, and we can perhaps argue whether the ends justify the means. But to suggest that human rights advocacy is somehow comparable to your listed “isms” is to suggest that such advocacy is discriminatory, violent, and intentionally harmful to the target audience, or to those so deprived to begin with. To me, that is unadulterated nonsense.

    To me, if countries want to avoid being targets of human rights advocacy, it should worry more about providing some for their people, rather than worrying about what other countries have to say about it. To not do so, under the guise of “stability” or “unity”, is the act of a true coward.

  107. S.K. Cheung Says:

    In furtherance to 106, as regards your point about Iraq, I would point out that the reason for the invasion was the infamous WMD’s. If those had existed, the war might be more justifiable. Obviously, the US finds itself in a quagmire owing to her own intelligence errors. Perhaps the war has belatedly been framed as a humanitarian mission due to those initial errors; but I don’t think the intent was to conduct warfare for humanitarian reasons at the outset, at least in this case.

  108. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #105
    @S.K. Cheung #106

    #105

    Several comments:

    I as a Chinese am also grateful of American power in WWII. It’s natural for many to draw the lesson and legacy of WWII to be that the West must – using western ideologies – remain watchful of and guard the world (i.e., via “kinder gentler Imperialism) against emergence of slavery or Naziism, etc.

    I cannot accept this because this is just the continuation of “white man’s” burden (of Western Imperialism) – especially when the West remains militarily powerful and cherry picks the application of such ideology to justify international meddling, including targeting weaker nations to further weaken.

    The US did not enter the war because of “human rights violations”. We were afraid that Japan would rule the West Pacific and harm our interests in the area. We feared that Germany would rule the rest of the world, including the US, if we passively sat out the war raging in Europe. America was in an isolationist mood, and that did not sit well with FDR, and the younger generals and admirals. And he was probably right. FDR may be a central pivot point for 20th century history.

    Ideology is often a ruse for our interventions. And we do “cherry pick”. We are often bullies (not to be confused with bully pulpit) in both our military and foreign policy interventions. And we do it to further, not the people of the US and the west, but the plutocrats, oligarchs and the ruling elite. Ideology is just a plausible cover, a ruse to “keep the rabble in line”. Witness the Middle East, Iraq, our pitiful response to Rwanda (just ask Roméo Dallaire and Paul Rusesabagina), the arms we sold Israel for the recent war with Lebanon, the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the American War), our support for Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, L’Este Timore (we backed the Indonesian’s ruthless slaughter). It is ugly.

    I would also mention Chinese support for Pol Pot and Sihanouk. Their failed war with Vietnam, which China initiated, in 1979. Chinese confrontations with Russia. Chinese support for the thugs-in-chief running Burma. The Sino-Indian War. Threats against Exxon and Vietnam if they pursue oil exploration of the South and Central Vietnam Coast. Many years of occupation and conquest of Vietnam, long before the French ever showed up. China-Darfur: kind of sounds like Royal Dutch Shell’s relationship with the Nigerian government.

    Nobody is innocent here and for sure, nobody has the moral high ground.

    Occasionally, there is a big win. The freeing of the Jews from Nazi tyranny and sheer terror. The freeing of European and African people and nations from Nazi tyranny (Including Germans and Germany itself. The freeing of China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and other countries from the tyranny and brutality of the Japanese. Vietnam’s incursion into Cambodia to rout the Khmer Rouge had the side effect of freeing the Khmer from the evil tyrant and murderer, Pol Pot. And the freeing of South Africa from the vicious tentacles of apartheid and the Boers. This occurred, partially because of numerous grass-roots efforts in the West, boycotts, disinvestments, actions in SA by the boycotted, disinvested companies to improve the lives of black South Africans employed in their businesses and foreign policy pressure.

    No – she cannot. As I mentioned several times before, with the West’s long history of ignoring other powers’ nation building efforts and cherry picking “human rights” fights for private geopolitical gain, the West does not deserve the bully pulpit. Only rarely, such as in S. Africa (as I noted earlier in #101), does the West actually really care about and advance the interest of human welfare. The West has simply become merely “a devil who has learned to quote the scripture.”

    Bully pulpit: This was coined by Teddy Roosevelt. Wikipedia defines it as “A bully pulpit is a public office of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the fore that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity.”

    Life is ugly, Allen. There is so much blame to go around, nobody has a superior right to the bully pulpit. As I said before:

    And before anybody starts pointing lots of fingers in the direction of “human rights”, please remember that there is enough blame to go around for everybody. We should not hesitate to point out violations of human rights where we see them, and we should take care of our own “dirty laundry”.

    Finally

    Here is my bottom line about today’s brand of “human rights.” As another attempt to distort and manipulate fears and ideologies to support otherwise unjustifiable projection of power, it is as bad as – if not worse than – “racism,” “nazism,” or “fundamentalist religion.”

    Questions? You are not talking about “human rights”, I presume? Are you instead talking about using “human rights” as a shield for geopolitical ambitions? If so, yes it is disingenuous to use “human rights” as a shield. It is bad. It is a bastardization of the whole concept of human rights. I disagree, though, with invoking comparisons with racism, Nazism and fundamentalist religion (How did this one slip in on the list). To me, now you are using comparisons which invalidate and bastardize your point. Hyperbole is unnecessary here, IMHO. Using “human rights” as a shield for geopolitical ambitions is bad and unjustifiable. Point made. Comparing it with the emotionally charged words, “Nazism” and “racism” is unnecessary. Now you are free to think and speak as you will (these are human rights). Be thankful you are in a place which supports that. I am not going to leap all over you for these remarks. But, wow, SK’s remarks in #106 are tame compared to what you would face in other forums.

    Fundamentalist and evangelical religions. Yes there are wackos and nut jobs in those religions. But there are a lot of wonderful, respectful people that fall under those categories.

    Allen, on the lighter side, thanks for not invoking the word, “terrorist” :D

    —————-

    @S.K. Cheung #106

    To me, if countries want to avoid being targets of human rights advocacy, it should worry more about providing some for their people, rather than worrying about what other countries have to say about it. To not do so, under the guise of “stability” or “unity”, is the act of a true coward.

    Good point. I think it is good to reflect, ask questions, contemplate, learn, improve. Sometimes it is painful. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage.

    Excuse-making, whether by the US, West, China or the East, is still excuse-making. “Stability and unity” can be ruses for inaction just as “human rights” can be a ruse for duplicity, hegemony and imperialism.

  109. dan Says:

    Reading this great post and the subsequent concise and erudite arguments, I experience a brain storming of questions and can’t help the urge to ask: Do human rights and religion(s) are tightly woven together and one can’t exist without the other? Could we develop from the brute-force, caveman mentality to where/who we are today without religions playing any roles in shaping that development? Does the belief in one form of religion produce one set of human rights, and other believes will produce yet another sets? If HRs are universal, therefore, is it correct to assume that it is a matter of course that all religions promote human rights because it is a 2+2=4 relationship? If so, why do we have different religious believes? If different belief systems can exist then following this train of thought, can we conclude that there can be more than one set of human rights perceptions?

    I don’t know.

    Or you simply don’t think religions are relevant to the advancement of human rights at all?

  110. Steve Says:

    @Allen #100: Thanks for your in depth reply. I’ll bite? I hope you don’t think I was baiting you. :)

    I think we have different mindsets on certain aspects you mention so I’ll take them one by one:
    a) “the UN is created to deal with relations among nations, not to dictate domestic policies of individual nations” Based on its history, can’t the UN do whatever its members decide it can do provided the motion is not vetoed by a member of the Security Council, including war? There have been many provisions by the UN over the years that condemn domestic policies of member states. You may not agree with their doing so, but that has been the reality since its inception.
    b) “This is because over the long term, dictators will inevitably be more receptive to its people than far away governments like the U.S. The ability of that country’s people to depose the dictator gov’t is simply much much greater than that of the people to depose a superpower located thousands of miles away.” I’m sure the Hutu in Rwanda agreed with you, but did the Tutsi agree as they were being butchered? Typically dictators represent factions who are loyal to said dictator, while opposing factions are brutalized. In Africa the divisions are normally tribal. The people of that country can more easily depose a superpower FROM THEIR COUNTRY than they can a ruthless dictator, because they can exact a price the superpower is unwilling to pay. I’d use Afghanistan’s overthrow of Soviet domination as an example. Since the dictator has nowhere to go beyond his own country and would lose all power, he is more inclined to do anything to hold on to said power.
    c) “despite being the richest and most resourceful civilization on the planet today, we currently have no mandate to govern the world.” I could not agree with you more! I also believe the majority of Americans will vote with you on this in a week or so.
    d) “My first problem with Western style and implementation human rights is that is often framed as an “emotional” or ideological issue in the West. That is all fine because I understand ideology can be a powerful tool to legitimize the government, political system, and social structure in the West. If the West wants to use its ideologies for domestic consumption to prop up its own social and political stability, it’s all the more power to the West. But when the West interacts with the rest of the world, it needs to learn to take off its ideological hat so it can deal with others in a mutually more respective and understanding way.” I agree, but I’d take it much further than you do and not just single out western democracies. Since this is a China blog, I’d submit that your description is also a very accurate description of the Chinese government. Governments tend to be respectful and understanding when dealing with close allies. Beyond that, your description fits virtually all governments.

    Does the West use “human rights” as a shield when it is convenient to do so? I believe there are times that it does and times that it doesn’t. I also think that it is far more apt to do so when its involvement also meets the national interest and more importantly, the national capability. I think your statement was more truthful during the cold war. At that time for both Soviets and Westerners, the thinking was definitely “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. These days I think it is less prevalent but still exists, and your point is a good one.

    I would not say that the embargo of South Africa was US led, but UN led. Neither the Soviet Union nor China vetoed those resolutions so everyone deserves credit. What really turned the tide was not the embargoes but when international corporations pulled their investments out of South Africa which bled the economy to death. A dying economy along with a rise of younger leaders were the main instigators of change. In other words, when rich South Africans were hit in the pocketbook, they began to change their thinking. It became more of a benefit to eliminate apartheid than to maintain it.

    You wrote letters to Mandela and Bush? Good man!!

    One way to write up those humanitarian laws you argue for (and I think are a great concept) is under the auspices of the UN. The only way the world would accept that concept is as a human rights war taking place under some kind of multinational umbrella. However, it might be difficult to pass the law in the first place, and the particular action could be vetoed by any of the veto holding nations. China has made it clear that it considers any interference in another country’s internal affairs to be off limits and I believe would veto that resolution. Whose NVB’s are used to determine what constitutes “human rights”? If it is apartheid, you’ll start hearing some Basque, Palestinians, Tibetans, Welsh, Sioux, Uyghurs, Tamil, etc. screaming “apartheid”. So I can’t see the UN being a viable body for this.

    You suggest a U.S./E.U. charter with exceptions taken for very large and powerful countries, especially ones with nuclear capability. In my mind, those would include the USA, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Brazil and Indonesia. Those are a lot of exceptions! I don’t think the idea could ever fly. Plus, I think most western people are not willing to have their sons and daughters die in foreign wars because of “human rights” violations. They can accept other measures, but not war. They see that as an extreme response.

    So what actually works? We know that when the multinational companies pulled their investments from South Africa, that action brought about change. We also know that a similar action in North Korea did not work, because their elite were not dependent on that money, but only on a subsistence economy dependent on aid from China, who fears an unstable country on her periphery and also fears a united democratic Korea in alliance with Western powers. But what mostly happens is that some countries observe the embargo while others do not, so the embargo cannot be successful. The current situation in Iran is a good example. As long as others are willing to buy their energy, they’ll have enough money to sustain their economy and government control. Allen, your ideas are noble ones, but I’m not sure they are practical.

    In the last few days, mention has been made both positively and negatively about Singapore’s government. A remark SKC made about an authoritarian government ruling by force is typically true of nation states but not always true of city states. Being that Singapore is a city state, its limited geography made it much easier to be a dictatorship. In Political Science 101, one of the first things you learn is that a benevolent dictatorship is the most efficient and responsive form of government there is. The two keys are size and benevolence. In today’s world, trying to trace this system on to a large country doesn’t work because the center isn’t able to control the perimeter. It’s almost a ‘centrifugal force’ type of problem, as the edges want to spin away from the center. The problems that arise in a city state can be that the benevolent dictators gets considerably less benevolent as they age, the benevolent dictator holds on to power too long and rules poorly in advanced age, the benevolent dictator is succeeded by a tyrannical dictator, either immediately or eventually, and the last problem is that the population outgrows the political system as it becomes a more successful culture. Personally, I believe Lee was a benevolent dictator that might have held on to power too long, then put in an interim government, and now has had his son succeed him as was his plan all along. Most if not all in Singapore appreciate the benefits Lee brought to the country and don’t want the system to change, feeling it would ruin the “economic miracle”; others chafe at the controls the system places on certain freedoms and want the system to slowly change to one that is more open and more democratic. I don’t think any nation would interfere with Singapore’s present government because it is authoritarian and has limits on free speech and democracy, though we might not want to live under such a system ourselves. Because each case is so unique, it would be extremely difficult to create a common legal structure to govern each case.

    Even if that were done, would the interpretation be the “spirit of the law” or the “letter of the law”? I’m definitely a “spirit of the law” kind of guy and am very wary of “zero tolerance” policies. Yet if the spirit of the law was the governing factor, governments wanting enforcement to the “letter of the law” would claim prejudice, and would have a good argument. It seems to me that SKC and Jerry’s arguments are unfortunately more realistic given the nature of government and world leadership.

    Allen, you wrote all that with a bit of sarcasm??? You mean all my words are wasted?? You were on my side the entire time???? As my friends used to say in China, “Kill you!!” :)

    Seriously, do you feel any nation deserves the “bully pulpit”? Isn’t the bully pulpit based on loudly proclaiming the truth as it is internationally accepted? If there is no internationally accepted criteria, are you saying that no nation can criticize another’s human rights record? Isn’t that an argument against your writing letters to Mandela and Bush? Weren’t you “cherry picking” when you did so? (and I’m glad you did so)

    @Dan #109: Wow! Your questions are a great topic of discussion but my fingers are just too tired right now to weigh in on that one. ;)

  111. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #108 and SKC #106,

    Regarding my comment in #105, I had lumped “racism,” “nazism,” or “fundamentalist religion” together with “today’s brand of human rights” in the sense that they all involve using ideology (e.g., racial superiority, German pride, and religious high moral ground, Western NVBs) to project power that otherwise cannot be justified.

    I know I’d be “killed” in other forums for speaking like I did … that’s why I made them here – not there!

    But I do intend to make a point. I really do see that “human rights” today have become “token” rhetoric for geopolitical maneuvering … often by strong nations against weaker nations to the detriment of the people in the weaker nations.

    I also do believe that the world does not need the West guide them to discover “universal rights.” We can keep the world safe from radicalism by working steadfastly to keep global inequity from getting too out of control. Spreading “democracy” or “human rights” (or other Western NVBs) will not solve the world’s fundamental problems (and have in many cases actually caused more) – working objectively to decrease global inequity will.

  112. Allen Says:

    @GNZ #104,

    “over the long term, dictators will inevitably be more receptive to its people than far away governments.”

    I think there is some truth to this in the same way that the most responsive government would be to chop the world into quarter acre segments all with independent government. But overall I suggest it is no better (in fact slightly worse) to have a local despot that I have never met compared to a despot from another state that I haven’t met.
    For example China in many regards does Tibet a favor by governing it – and it would probably benefit greater China if Taiwan was to return home.

    Good use of my logic against me! I know smart, vigilant readers would be able to do that…

    But please note that by “over the long term, dictators will inevitably be more receptive to its people than far away governments,” I did not intend to argue that California or Berkeley, for example, is better independent. I only mean to say that no matter how resourceful a society is, its resourcefulness per se does not give it a mandate to rule over weaker people.

    About Tibet: yes you do hear many Chinese answer in response to Tibetan independence that the Chinese central gov’t have done so much for Tibetans, what right should the Tibetans have to complain? You should understand those sentiments in the context of internal governance, not the reason to be of a unified China.

    It’s like what a Pres. of U.S. may say to a state that is seeking more money and threatening to “secede” (there is no Constitutional way for states to secede, by the way) unless the Fed gov’t promises to meet more of the state’s demands. If the Fed gov’t has fufilled its duty, what right does the state have to demand more?

    The assertion that the state has gotten enough simply means the Fed. gov’t has satisfied its obligation of providing for the state. The Fed. gov’t admission that it has a duty to take care of the State (and in this case has fulfilled that duty) does not mean the Fed. gov’t is Imperialistic to the state!

    Don’t want this to become a Tibet thread. But just want to respond to your Tibet question in response to my comment earlier…

  113. Steve Says:

    I came across a foreign policy paper by a western think tank on Obama’s probable positions if elected. Because the paper was quite long, I only excerpted the parts that might apply to American/Asian foreign policy in an Obama administration. Since he has a pretty healthy lead right now, it seemed relevant to our discussion as this might guide his administration’s viewpoint over the next 4 or more years. Allen’s US/EU human rights partnership takes on more meaning after reading this. Comments?

    Obama’s Foreign Policy Stance
    By George Friedman http://www.stratfor.com

    Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate for president. His advisers in foreign policy are generally Democrats. Together they carry with them an institutional memory of the Democratic Party’s approach to foreign policy, and are an expression of the complexity and divisions of that approach. Like their Republican counterparts, in many ways they are going to be severely constrained as to what they can do both by the nature of the global landscape and American resources. But to some extent, they will also be constrained and defined by the tradition they come from. Understanding that tradition and Obama’s place is useful in understanding what an Obama presidency would look like in foreign affairs.

    …The United States under Democrats did not involve itself in war unilaterally. At the same time, the United States under Democrats made certain that the major burdens were shared by allies. Millions died in World War I, but the United States suffered 100,000 dead. In World War II, the United States suffered 500,000 dead in a war where perhaps 50 million soldiers and civilians died. In the Cold War, U.S. losses in direct combat were less than 100,000 while the losses to Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans and others towered over that toll. The allies had a complex appreciation of the United States. On the one hand, they were grateful for the U.S. presence. On the other hand, they resented the disproportionate amounts of blood and effort shed. Some of the roots of anti-Americanism are to be found in this strategy.

    …the main thrust of the Democratic tradition is deeply steeped in fighting wars, but approaches this task with four things in mind:
    1. Wars should not begin until the last possible moment and ideally should be initiated by the enemy.
    2. Wars must be fought in a coalition with much of the burden borne by partners.
    3. The outcome of wars should be an institutional legal framework to manage the peace, with the United States being the most influential force within this multilateral framework.
    4. Any such framework must be built on a trans-Atlantic relationship.

    …This view on multilateralism and NATO is summed up in a critical statement by Obama in a position paper:

    “Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change — that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure.

    “Our alliances also require constant management and revision if they are to remain effective and relevant. For example, over the last 15 years, NATO has made tremendous strides in transforming from a Cold War security structure to a dynamic partnership for peace.

    “Today, NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has become a test case, in the words of Dick Lugar, of whether the alliance can ‘overcome the growing discrepancy between NATO’s expanding missions and its lagging capabilities.’”

    …Obama has been portrayed as radical. That is far from the case. He is well within a century-long tradition of the Democratic Party, with an element of loyalty to the anti-war faction. But that element is an undertone to his policy, not its core. The core of his policy would be coalition building and a focus on European allies, as well as the use of multilateral institutions and the avoidance of pre-emptive war. There is nothing radical or even new in these principles. His discomfort with military spending is the only thing that might link him to the party’s left wing.

  114. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    gosh, assuming that “Republican traditions” are the polar opposite of “Democrat traditions” (since they seem to take opposite sides on most things), those “Democrat traditions” as stated would go a long way towards explaining the mess Bush has left the US in.

  115. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #111:
    “I really do see that “human rights” today have become “token” rhetoric for geopolitical maneuvering” – be that as it may, how do you hope to stop a country from playing such a card? After all, it’s their prerogative. My point all along is that, if you don’t like your country to be the target of human rights advocacy, then do something to address the suggested shortcomings. That’s how you take that card out of play.

    Now, if nation A hopes to undermine nation B, and hopes to appeal to the populace of nation B, do you think nation A would accuse nation B of a complete falsehood, or of at least a partial truth? If someone accused Canada of systematic human rights abuses, how much traction do you think that would have for Canadian individuals not named Maher Arar (btw, that’s the guy that the RCMP and CSIS (Canadian intelligence) passed to the CIA, who then rendered him to Syria for some fun and games)? If the card is being played, I’d assume that there is some truth to it. Some would complain about the dirty pool; hopefully, others will choose introspection instead.

    “We can keep the world safe from radicalism by working steadfastly to keep global inequity from getting too out of control.” – I agree. Might human rights be one of those inequities?

  116. RMBWhat Says:

    But really are there any introspections? Or just more “pretensions?” More of the same.

    For the record, I saw some dude post some ass-hatery research about 1.5 gen, 2 gen Chinese immigrants’ support for the CCP. Get you head checked mofos. I don’t love the CCP. I don’t love the western “lies” government either. I don’t support nobody. And to CIA readers, I definitely don’t support the terrorists.

  117. Steve Says:

    @SKC #114: Not opposite but definitely different.

    There were two roots of Republican foreign policy tradition, one was the Teddy Roosevelt internationalism and the other in Henry Cabot Lodge’s opposition to the League of Nations. However, after WWII it got more complex as the realities of the Democratic coalition process caused Eisenhower, Nixon and to a lesser degree Reagan to modify previous behavior. Again, per George Friedman of Stratfor’s analysis of a possible McCain presidency, the foundation of Republican foreign policy early in the last century was:
    1) A willingness to engage in foreign policy and foreign wars when this serves U.S. interests.
    2) An unwillingness to enter into multilateral organizations or alliances, as this would deprive the United States of the right to act unilaterally and would commit it to fight on behalf of regimes it might have no interest in defending.
    3) A deep suspicion of the diplomacy of European states grounded on a sense that they were too duplicitous and unstable to trust and that treaties with them would result in burdens on — but not benefits for — the United States.

    The isolationist side of the party was big on Naval Power and saw China as a potential ally while being very suspicious of Japan, and wanted to do that solely through a strong Navy. They did not look at moral issues at all, simply the realities of the situation.

    After the war, the isolationist side which was led by Robert Taft was discredited and under Eisenhower the Republican party came to represent moral opposition to communism and the Soviet Union. But it was more a strategic fear than true moral opposition. Eisenhower didn’t doubt the idea of American exceptionalism, but his obsession was with the national interest. Thus, when the right wanted him to be more aggressive and liberate Eastern Europe, he was content to contain the Soviets and leave the Eastern Europeans to deal with their own problems.

    The realist version of Republican foreign policy showed itself even more clearly in the Nixon presidency and in Henry Kissinger’s execution of it. The single act that defined this was Nixon’s decision to visit China, meet Mao Zedong, and form what was, in effect, an alliance with Communist China against the Soviet Union. The Vietnam War weakened the United States and strengthened the Soviet Union; China and the United States shared a common interest in containing the Soviet Union. An alliance was in the interests of both Beijing and Washington, and ideology was irrelevant. (The alliance with China also revived the old Republican interest in Asia.)

    With that single action, Nixon and Kissinger reaffirmed the principle that U.S. foreign policy was not about moralism — of keeping the peace or fighting communism — but about pursuing the national interest. Alliances might be necessary, but they did not need to have a moral component.

    While the Democrats were torn between the traditionalists and the anti-war movement, the Republicans became divided between realists who traced their tradition back to the beginning of the century and moralists whose passionate anti-communism began in earnest after World War II.

    The collapse of communism left the Republicans with a dilemma. The moral mission was gone; realism was all that was left. This was the dilemma that George H. W. Bush had to deal with. Bush was a realist to the core, yet he seemed incapable of articulating that as a principle. Instead, he announced the “New World Order,” which really was a call for multilateral institutions and the transformation of the anti-communist alliance structure into an all-inclusive family of democratic nations. In short, at the close of the Cold War, the first President Bush adopted the essence of Democratic foreign policy.

    Afted September 11th, George W. Bush tried to re-create Reagan’s foreign policy. Rather than defining the war as a battle against jihadists, he defined it as a battle against terrorism, as if this were the ideological equivalent of communism. He defined an “Axis of Evil” redolent of Reagan’s “Evil Empire.” Within the confines of this moral mission, he attempted to execute a systematic war designed to combat terrorism.

    Where McCain will stand within these traditions is hard to say. But it is probably safe to say that he will use moral terms to pursue a realistic policy. That was Reagan’s strategy and McCain models himself after Reagan. The Republican tendency is to focus more on Asia and less on Europe, as the Europeans aren’t trusted. (FOARP, this does not include the UK. French and German support has always been most important to Democrats) But in the end, only time will tell…

  118. Allen Says:

    @SKC,

    Now, if nation A hopes to undermine nation B, and hopes to appeal to the populace of nation B, do you think nation A would accuse nation B of a complete falsehood, or of at least a partial truth?

    We had a misunderstanding.

    “Human rights” is for domestic consumption, not external consumption. In my discussion above: I’m not worried about the U.S. brainwashing the Chinese. I am only worried about the U.S. brainwashing its citizens to justify going after the Chinese.

  119. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #118:
    thanks for the clarification. Obviously, that changes things.

    Now, maybe I’m being completely dense here. But when you say you fear the US using human rights as a pretense to justify to Americans for “going after” China, what precedent is there for the US to use such a pretext in such a way? To my simplistic understanding (what’s more sad is that this is already taking into consideration many of the things I’ve learned from Steve’s various posts), WW 2, Korea, Vietnam were not about this. Bosnia and Kosovo seemed to be about genocide, which to consider as “human rights” would be to use an extremely broad definition. Afghanistan was about 9/11. Iraq was to have been about WMD’s. So from a “military” “going after” POV, I’m not sure they’ve shown a proclivity to use human rights in such a fashion. Besides, (and especially) after Iraq, I don’t think Joe the Plumber would have much appetite to send little Johnny over to fight the PLA just because the CCP supposedly aren’t doing right by the Chinese people.

    And if you mean “going after” in an economic sense, I think the US would get better mileage by saying to Joe the Plumber’s brother who lost his job that it was due to outsourcing to China. No need to worry about human rights violations there either.

    And if you mean “going after” by some other covert means, I doubt the US would be announcing that to CNN, and seeking public approval anyhow.

    And besides, are you now telling the US what she can or can’t say, to her own people???

  120. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve #117:
    thanks for that. Once again, by my “learning value per unit pixel” meter, you’re full scale deflection and then some.

  121. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To RMBWhat:
    I have no illusions about being able to distinguish whether one is truly engaged in introspection, or merely pretending to do so. I’ll work on that once I’ve got introspection down pat on a personal level first.

  122. Allen Says:

    @SKC #119,

    I’ll leave most of what you ask to future discussions … as things occur – since I think that’s the best way to discuss things given that I’ve already written a lot on this already… (sorry, but what you ask will take time, and I don’t want to do a half job; in addition, I don’t want to hog this up as my “personal” blog (instead of a “China” blog) – but suffice it to say if you ask most people around the world, in Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands, etc. – they will agree with me).

    Please also note I am not just talking about Bush, who may be politically unpopular, but who is really not that much worse than other Western leaders. In my posts throughout this thread, I am really talking about the West as a whole.

    But regarding your last question “And besides, are you now telling the US what she can or can’t say, to her own people???”

    No. I’m just asking Western governments to stop hiding behind their “human rights” ideologies and rhetoric to conduct geopolitical warfare.

  123. Allen Says:

    @SKC,

    One more thing…

    I don’t always agree with Noam Chomsky, but if you have time to dig into why some like me see human rights as mere tools for Western Imperialistic designs, Chomsky recent article titled “Humanitarian Imperialism: The New Doctrine of Imperial Right” may be of interest.

    The article concludes with the following:

    Perhaps a few genuine cases of humanitarian intervention can be discovered. There is, however, good reason to take seriously the stand of the “improvident rabble,” reaffirmed by the authentic international community at the highest level. The essential insight was articulated by the unanimous vote of the International Court of Justice in one of its earliest rulings, in 1949: “The Court can only regard the alleged right of intervention as the manifestation of a policy of force, such as has, in the past, given rise to most serious abuses and such as cannot, whatever be the defects in international organization, find a place in international law…; from the nature of things, [intervention] would be reserved for the most powerful states, and might easily lead to perverting the administration of justice itself.” The judgment does not bar “the responsibility to protect,” as long as it is interpreted in the manner of the South, the high-level UN Panel, and the UN World Summit.

    Sixty years later, there is little reason to question the court’s judgment. The UN system doubtless suffers from severe defects. The most critical defect is the overwhelming role of the leading violators of Security Council resolutions. The most effective way to violate them is to veto them, a privilege of the permanent members. Since the UN fell out of its control forty years ago the United States is far in the lead in vetoing resolutions on a wide range of issues, its British ally is second, and no one else is even close. Nevertheless, despite these and other serious defects of the UN system, the current world order offers no preferable alternative than to vest the “responsibility to protect” in the United Nations. In the real world, the only alternative, as Bricmont eloquently explains, is the “humanitarian imperialism” of the powerful states that claim the right to use force because they “believe it to be just,” all too regularly and predictably “perverting the administration of justice itself.”

  124. Allen Says:

    Here is a shorter article – “Humanitarian Action Can Mask an Imperial Agenda”.

    Here is a short excerpt:

    For today, as throughout history, what we now call human rights advocacy can also be used to feed agendas of hatred, arrogance and aggression.

    More than 2,000 years ago, denunciations of the real or alleged barbarity of their enemies was a staple of Greek and Roman war propaganda. In the 16th century, the Spanish used the atrocious habits of some of the American Indians to justify their conquest and dispossession. The Spaniards’ European enemies in turn used the “Black Legend” of Spanish atrocities against the Indians as an excuse for attacking the Spanish, after which they treated Indians living in their colonies in exactly the same way.

    This delightful spectacle reached its apogee during the heyday of western imperialism in the 19th century. The British denounced Russian and Austrian atrocities, while starving and brutalising the Irish and others. The Russians wept crocodile tears over the Boers while slaughtering the Poles. The Americans lectured everybody else while conducting savage campaigns of their own at home and abroad.

    All the western states used the barbarism of non-western societies as an excuse to conquer them for their own good. The echoes of this tradition can still be heard in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s statements that France has always stood for human rights, while herself never having committed crimes against humanity – a claim that would come as a very considerable surprise to France’s former colonial subjects. Yet amid all this hypocrisy, many westerners, including Christian missionaries, have also worked with sincerity, self-sacrifice and success to end many dreadful abuses.

    Today, the problem of mixed motives and agendas is exemplified by the issues of Darfur and Chechnya. Western human rights campaigns on these issues have drawn much of their support from elements – especially in the US – that have not exactly been distinguished by their concern for oppressed Muslim minorities elsewhere in the world, or for the wider interests of the regions concerned. Important sections of both campaigns have been characterised by utter one-sidedness, contempt for study of those regions and an attitude to casualty statistics more characteristic of war propaganda than of responsible advocacy. They also display an indifference towards the practical questions of how to achieve and maintain peace.

    As Alex de Waal, Mahmood Mamdani and others have written, it is hard to resist the conclusion that anti-Arab and US imperial agendas are responsible for a considerable part of the focus on Darfur. Far too much US activism seems to be quite uninterested in the real requirements of peace and development in Darfur, Sudan and the region as a whole.

  125. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    first of all, no thanks to you for making me suffer through that Chomsky article. I don’t know him, am unaware of his reputation, and am not at all familiar with his work. But if there is such a thing as verbal diarrhea, then he’s got a bad case of it here.
    Now, what I write doesn’t get published, and what he writes does. So he must be doing something right. But I was taught to write with an intro including a premise, a body with subsections as required, and a conclusion drawing on what came before it. He’s got the intro, a long litany of “facts” and opinions derived from what I can only assume to be an impressive list of sources among those in the know, then promptly runs out of time and leaves it at that. His title is more of a conclusion than his conclusion, if one can call it that.

    Style complaints aside, it seems to me his complaint about the US (the majority of his focus) is that they care not enough about the humanitarian aspects of their actions, rather than too much. However, apart from his POV on Kosovo/Serbia, I don’t think he provides much support for the assertion that the US is justifying her actions on humanitarian grounds. In fact, I don’t think he establishes human rights as a tool; if anything, based on his “facts”, he should argue that human rights is a casualty. And I wouldn’t discount such an assertion.

    But now you’re confusing me with what you’re trying to say. I’m only pulling quotes from you since post #100:
    “West seem to bring up issues of human rights only where convenient to advance its geopolitical goals. The West wages wars against weak gov’ts in the name of human rights.” (#100) – I don’t dispute that the WEst/US do things to advance their interests; such is their prerogative. But I don’t see where they’ve done so in the name of human rights, to westerners/Americans, or others.
    “human rights as currently applied is more about attempts to manipulate fears and ideologies to support otherwise unjustifiable projection of power rather than about promoting genuine long-term humanitarian aid” (#105) – again, in light of #118, are they manipulating their own people? This to me does not jibe with Chomsky.
    “I really do see that “human rights” today have become “token” rhetoric for geopolitical maneuvering” (#111) – but at what time has this token been used to justify a conflict, armed or otherwise. In Chomsky, the US has caused much human rights anguish, but I don’t see them having used that as the pretext for doing so.
    ““Human rights” is for domestic consumption, not external consumption.” – (#118)
    “if you ask most people around the world, in Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands, etc. – they will agree with me).” – (#122) – they might agree with you that the US pursuit of her interests hasn’t left a human rights legacy to be proud of in their countries. But I’m not sure they’d say that the pretext for US activities, as sold to US people, was to protect human rights in Africa, Latin America, etc.
    “I’m just asking Western governments to stop hiding behind their “human rights” ideologies and rhetoric to conduct geopolitical warfare.” – (#122)
    “why some like me see human rights as mere tools for Western Imperialistic designs, Chomsky recent article…may be of interest.” (#123) – again, based on my reading, I don’t see how CHomsky supports your 122 or 123.

    I realize I’m cherry picking through your entries to make a point, much like Chomsky cherry-picks through decades of events to make his. If you want to say that the US, in her eagerness to assert her interests, herself tramples on human rights, I would have no quarrel. But if you say that the US uses human rights to justify her pursuit of her interests, I don’t see any precedents. If you say that the US will use China’s human rights record as the pretense to physically attack her, I’m not buying. If you’re saying that the US can’t talk about the pursuit of human rights to Americans and others, that’s ludicrous. If you’re saying that the US can’t criticize China’s human rights shortcomings before Chinese and Americans, good luck with that. And if you’re saying that Chomsky article supports your POV, I’d have to disagree.

  126. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “I’m just asking Western governments to stop hiding behind their “human rights” ideologies and rhetoric to conduct geopolitical warfare.” – I completely disagree that western governments do such a thing. But if you believe that western governments roll out of bed in the morning with something other than the pursuit of their own interests at the top of the to-do list, then we need to talk. But if they can take a swipe at another country’s human rights record, like, say, CHina’s, while going about their business, well, that’s all in a day’s work. And if, in so doing, they score points with their constituents, well, that’s just gravy, baby. But none of this should obscure the fact that human rights (however defined) are important, and worthy of advocacy.

  127. TommyBahamas Says:

    @Allen,

    Thanks for the Noam Chomsky links.

    I am surprised that it’d taken this long (over a hundred posts later) before someone finally quoted this living American genius. Particularly on the subject of “Human Rights, Intervention and International Order,” which Chomsky would be among the top of the top intellectuals in today’s world to comment on. He is celebrated as the thinking-man’s professor and mentor, but the nationalists and the imperialistic capitalists’ arch-enemy.

    Here’s a BBC interview of this controversial genius:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug7Pkf2SsuA

  128. Hongkonger Says:

    Country Joe…Wow, this brings back memories….Woodstock 1969….seems like nothing’s changed….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBdeCxJmcAo&feature=related

    Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again.
    He’s got himself in a terrible jam Way down yonder in Vietnam
    So put down your books and pick up a gun, We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

    Chorus: And it’s one, two, three, What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it’s five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain’t no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Well, come on generals, let’s move fast; Your big chance has come at last.
    Gotta go out and get those reds —The only good commie is the one who’s dead
    And you know that peace can only be won…When we’ve blown ‘em all to kingdom come.

    Huh! Well, come on Wall Street, don’t move slow, Why man, this is war au-go-go.
    There’s plenty good money to be made, By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade, Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
    They drop it on the Viet Cong. Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
    Pack your boys off to Vietnam.

    Come on fathers, don’t hesitate, Send ‘em off before it’s too late.
    Be the first one on your block,To have your boy come home in a box.

  129. Ted Says:

    ““Human rights” is for domestic consumption, not external consumption. In my discussion above: I’m not worried about the U.S. brainwashing the Chinese. I am only worried about the U.S. brainwashing its citizens to justify going after the Chinese.“

    I think I understand your angle on this one. The U.S. Currently has no specter with which it can justify large-scale state to state confrontations. Communism is all tapped out unless China does something really off the wall (unlikely). Terrorism as a foil only works for small scale meddling, but you’re worried the U.S. is trying to turn “human rights” into a tool for interference in the big game. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. Currently, when it comes to human rights violations, everyone is left pointing fingers at each other (see Russia – South Ossetia). Further conflicts like Russia, South Ossetia, and Iraq will only weaken the use of Human Rights as a reason to “help”. Well according to this article http://cmp.hku.hk/2008/10/12/1283/ it looks like China is coming up with its own set of rules… maybe this first report was only meant to test the waters.

    As for Chomsky, who would be his Chinese counterpart reflecting on the evil machinations of the Chinese throughout history (I mean who, within the current system over here)? I’ve already stated that my understanding of Chinese nation building over the millennia is in its early stages but all I see is a differing method of rationalizing the same ambition — to promote your own ideology over your competitors, to present your own model as the best model. China may have stepped back from the international stage during the past 100 years but she’s about to wade back in, and her influence will be no less than it was a few hundred years ago.

    I see a lot of these Human rights arguments the same way I see the emerging lawsuits against Microsoft in China.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSPEK37090120081028

    China is using (some would say bleeding) the western system until it’s strong enough to enter then, once ready, China demands to renegotiate the framework that allowed it’s rise. If the ideals of the international system that China is entering reflect those of the nations that developed the international system, how can wholesale reevaluation of these ideals, including but not exclusively human rights, be considered non-intervention?

    I cheered when I heard what Microsoft was doing… It’s also a little scary… Good thing I didn’t go with a pirated version, OpenOffice is great.

  130. GNZ Says:

    @ Allen #112
    Your seperation of the scenarios/issues is a common one but I’m not sure its one that has a logical foundation except in as far as it is a convenient position for a up and coming country to adopt just like the opposite is a convenient position for a globally dominant state to adopt.

  131. Steve Says:

    @SKC #125: When I sent those edited synopses of McCain and Obama’s probably foreign policy strategies, I had to cut down Friedman’s analysis for each one to something reasonable for the post, so I skipped over his take on a certain wing of the Democratic party that includes guys like Norm Chomsky. But since his name has been all over recent posts, maybe it’s a good idea to get into that part? Well, here goes… again, courtesy of George Friedman (whose analyses I believe are fair and well written) from http://www.stratfor.com As long as I add the link, their website is fine with my using their analysis here.

    Democratic Party Fractures
    That is one strand of Democratic foreign policy. (I had already given this in the original post) A second strand emerged in the context of the Vietnam War. That war began under the Kennedy administration and was intensified by Lyndon Baines Johnson, particularly after 1964. The war did not go as expected. As the war progressed, the Democratic Party began to fragment. There were three factions involved in this.

    The first faction consisted of foreign policy professionals and politicians who were involved in the early stages of war planning but turned against the war after 1967 when it clearly diverged from plans. The leading political figure of this faction was Robert F. Kennedy, who initially supported the war but eventually turned against it.

    The second faction was more definitive. It consisted of people on the left wing of the Democratic Party — and many who went far to the left of the Democrats. This latter group not only turned against the war, it developed a theory of the U.S. role in the war that as a mass movement was unprecedented in the century. The view (it can only be sketched here) maintained that the United States was an inherently imperialist power. Rather than the benign image that Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman had of their actions, this faction reinterpreted American history going back into the 19th century as violent, racist and imperialist (in the most extreme faction’s view). Just as the United States annihilated the Native Americans, the United States was now annihilating the Vietnamese.

    A third, more nuanced, faction argued that rather than an attempt to contain Soviet aggression, the Cold War was actually initiated by the United States out of irrational fear of the Soviets and out of imperialist ambitions. They saw the bombing of Hiroshima as a bid to intimidate the Soviet Union rather than an effort to end World War II, and the creation of NATO as having triggered the Cold War.

    These three factions thus broke down into Democratic politicians such as RFK and George McGovern (who won the presidential nomination in 1972), radicals in the street who were not really Democrats, and revisionist scholars who for the most part were on the party’s left wing.

    Ultimately, the Democratic Party split into two camps. Hubert Humphrey led the first along with Henry Jackson, who rejected the left’s interpretation of the U.S. role in Vietnam and claimed to speak for the Wilson-FDR-Truman strand in Democratic politics. McGovern led the second. His camp largely comprised the party’s left wing, which did not necessarily go as far as the most extreme critics of that tradition but was extremely suspicious of anti-communist ideology, the military and intelligence communities, and increased defense spending. The two camps conducted extended political warfare throughout the 1970s.

    The presidency of Jimmy Carter symbolized the tensions. He came to power wanting to move beyond Vietnam, slashing and changing the CIA, controlling defense spending and warning the country of “an excessive fear of Communism.” But following the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he allowed Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security adviser and now an adviser to Obama, to launch a guerrilla war against the Soviets using Islamist insurgents from across the Muslim world in Afghanistan. Carter moved from concern with anti-Communism to coalition warfare against the Soviets by working with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghan resistance fighters.

    Carter was dealing with the realities of U.S. geopolitics, but the tensions within the Democratic tradition shaped his responses. During the Clinton administration, these internal tensions subsided to a great degree. In large part this was because there was no major war, and the military action that did occur — as in Haiti and Kosovo — was framed as humanitarian actions rather than as the pursuit of national power. That soothed the anti-war Democrats to a great deal, since their perspective was less pacifistic than suspicious of using war to enhance national power.

    …The Democrats responded to events of the last eight years as they traditionally do when the United States is attacked directly: The party’s anti-war faction contracted and the old Democratic tradition reasserted itself. This was particularly true of the decision to go to war in Afghanistan. Obviously, the war was a response to an attack and, given the mood of the country after 9/11, was an unassailable decision. But it had another set of characteristics that made it attractive to the Democrats. The military action in Afghanistan was taking place in the context of broad international support and within a coalition forming at all levels, from on the ground in Afghanistan to NATO and the United Nations. Second, U.S. motives did not appear to involve national self-interest, like increasing power or getting oil. It was not a war for national advantage, but a war of national self-defense.

    The Democrats were much less comfortable with the Iraq war than they were with Afghanistan. The old splits reappeared, with many Democrats voting for the invasion and others against. There were complex and mixed reasons why each Democrat voted the way they did — some strategic, some purely political, some moral. Under the pressure of voting on the war, the historically fragile Democratic consensus broke apart, not so much in conflict as in disarray. One of the most important reasons for this was the sense of isolation from major European powers — particularly the French and Germans, whom the Democrats regarded as fundamental elements of any coalition. Without those countries, the Democrats regarded the United States as diplomatically isolated.

    The intraparty conflict came later. As the war went badly, the anti-war movement in the party re-energized itself. They were joined later by many who had formerly voted for the war but were upset by the human and material cost and by the apparent isolation of the United States and so on. Both factions of the Democratic Party had reasons to oppose the Iraq war even while they supported the Afghan war.

    S.K., as you can see you are not a part of this particular faction though many other contributors on this blog are. I’m also not a member of this faction, so there are at least two of us, ha ha. I believe 20 years of being married to Laozi’s daughter has managed to erase virtually all the guilt that 16 years of Catholic school education instills in a child. :)

    Incidentally, I think lumping so many countries into this category labelled “the West” is highly inaccurate. I’ve been to most of the countries that are under this heading, and they are certainly not some kind of monolithic group that walks in step with each other. You can say that there is a philosophical tradition they share, but only to a degree. Most of the time they are quietly banging heads with each other. The only real definition I would give “the West” is that they have bought into the American system of trade that replaced the British imperialistic system of the 19th and early 20th century. This is the reason each country doesn’t control X country for oil, Y country for mineral deposits, etc. and pay Z price based on their vertically oriented supply chain. Instead, there are world markets and world prices. The United States Navy insures the logistics of moving these resources around the world from source to end user are kept safe. Though some might complain of US “hegemony”, every country is grateful for this protection, including China. But beyond that, the concept of “the West” to me is pretty shallow and only used to lump a group of unique nations into a big pool that is usually written about in a negative way. I prefer to be more specific in my attacks.

    @Ted #129: “China is using (some would say bleeding) the western system until it’s strong enough to enter then, once ready, China demands to renegotiate the framework that allowed it’s rise. If the ideals of the international system that China is entering reflect those of the nations that developed the international system, how can wholesale reevaluation of these ideals, including but not exclusively human rights, be considered non-intervention?”

    I believe you raise a very good point. I am sure that China will want to change the western system as it draws itself deeper and deeper into it. To me, this is a natural projection of its increased influence, and much better than China being isolated from the rest of the world. I guess the issue of non-intervention is in the eye of the beholder. China will insist it is not intervening while other countries will insist it is.

    I think people sometimes forget that geopolitically, China and the United States are natural allies. China’s historic natural enemy is Russia, and Japan is also a potential threat. India is a minor threat, not a major one. There is no chance that the United States would ever invade China and no chance that China would ever invade the United States. Currently, there is some friction over Taiwan and Tibet, but nothing major and most of the rhetoric is just propaganda to keep certain issues in the public eye. Any time two major powers are dealing with each other, there will be a certain amount of friction between the two which is natural, but I think certain bloggers exaggerate that friction based on emotional responses that I can assure you are not felt by the leaders of your respective countries. They are looking out for their national interests and for their party’s ability to maintain power. It’s like we’re playing checkers while they’re playing chess…

  132. Hongkonger Says:

    @Steve, “I believe 20 years of being married to Laozi’s daughter has managed to erase virtually all the guilt that 16 years of Catholic school education instills in a child. ”

    Sorry, I am not religious, so I am only guessing that you are saying that Catholics are generally guilt-ridden, no? I thought the central message of Christianity is salvation in the name of the Savior of love? The idea of celebacy screws it all up, if you asked me. It was some greedy medieval Pope who came up with that idea to prevent further church properties from falling into non-Catholic or secular hands through marriage, right? Arh, this then atrociously persecuted, love-thy-enemy religion, finally died the day Constantine made it a State religion.

    Indeed, the bombing of Hiroshima was a bid to intimidate the Soviet Union. When he left office in January 1953, Harry Truman was intensely unpopular, even widely despised. Truman’s presidency saw the genesis of a world-spanning American political and military empire. Even before the end of World War II, plans to project American military might across the globe were already drawn in Washington. As planned the United States would dominate the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Western Hemisphere through a network of air and naval bases. Then there would be a system of air transit rights and landing facilities from Saigon to Manila to North Africa. But they had no guarantee that such a radical reversal of American traditional policy could be sold to Congress and the people. It was the confrontation with the Soviet Union and “international communism,” that was begun and defined by Truman that furnished the opportunity and the rationale for realizing the globalist dreams.

    When Truman revealed his new “doctrine” to Arthur Vandenberg, a former “isolationist” turned rabid globalist, advised him that, in order to get such a program through, the president would have to “scare hell out of the American people.” That Truman proceeded to do. And history repeats itself half a century later with W.

    Human Rights, aye? How about the most basic of rights, i.e. the rights to live, to eat, to live in a home? We all realize that it isn’t chance or bad luck that keeps people trapped in bitter, unrelenting poverty. It’s man-made factors like a glaringly unjust global trade system, a debt burden so great that it suffocates any chance of recovery and insufficient and ineffective aid.The gap between the world’s rich and poor has never been wider. Malnutrition, AIDS, conflict and illiteracy are a daily reality for millions.

    Those with powerBack in 2001 the governments of the eight wealthiest nations on the planet said that they were going to do something about it – in what was seen as a breakthrough, they promised to halve world poverty by 2015.

    Seven years later, as we approach the half way point towards the 2015 commitments, the world is failing dismally to reach those targets.

    Excerpts from, “What is wrong with WTO?”

    “Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system [as far] as his army can reach.” Stalin speaks of Truman’s ressurrection of American imperialism.

  133. Steve Says:

    @Hongkonger: My answers to your questions are yes, yes, agree, yes, and partially agree. Any time a religion combines with political power, the goals change and the religion loses much of its true value. I think this applies to all religions. Why are Koreans mostly Christian? Because the Buddhists assumed political control centuries ago and ran the country into the ground. Home grown Christianity was a reaction to their taking secular power. The Reformation was the same, until the new forms of Protestant thinking also took over governments and debased themselves. In my own personal opinion, all religions are based on preceding mythologies and those mythologies are based in the truth of the human condition, so there is truth in all religions but sometimes it can be difficult to find.

    You seem to be in that third faction of the Democratic party described by Friedman. Along with your listed man-made factors, I’d add probably the greatest man-made factor, bad national government. How many times have we seen a country mired in poverty turn around when a new national government reformed the process and allowed the people to become successful on their own? Hong Kong has been enormously successful over the years. It is also the easiest place on earth to start a business, has little government interference, virtually no corruption, well written laws, etc. If you give people the structure to be successful, they usually are.

  134. Wahaha Says:

    SKC,>>>” I completely disagree that western governments do such a thing. But if you believe that western governments roll out of bed in the morning with something other than the pursuit of their own interests at the top of the to-do list,..”

    Either you have agenda against anything that is related to communism or you live in another world.

  135. Allen Says:

    @SKC #125,

    Thanks for “cherry picking” my quote – I actually quite appreciate it, as it keeps me honest. I think we really simply have a difference in worldview that will have to be unentagled (if possible) as we discuss more.

    But here is my “terse” answer to you last quote.

    Your wrote (I did the numbering):

    1. If you want to say that the US, in her eagerness to assert her interests, herself tramples on human rights, I would have no quarrel.
    2. But if you say that the US uses human rights to justify her pursuit of her interests, I don’t see any precedents.
    3. If you say that the US will use China’s human rights record as the pretense to physically attack her, I’m not buying.
    4. If you’re saying that the US can’t talk about the pursuit of human rights to Americans and others, that’s ludicrous. If you’re saying that the US can’t criticize China’s human rights shortcomings before Chinese and Americans, good luck with that.
    5. And if you’re saying that Chomsky article supports your POV, I’d have to disagree.

    1. Awesome – so far so good! ;-)
    2/3. Without arguing the details, I’d like to point out some US cherry picking of humanitarian “disasters” to “fight” and which “not”. I’d like to cite Iraq and Nicaragua as offensive examples. I’ll point to the demonization of Russia and glorification of Georgia (in the name of democracy) and not making the Israeli/Palestinian conflict a human rights issue while making Kosovo one as recent examples of more cherry picking (hiding behind human rights ideologies to pursue geopolitical interests). (note: I am not taking sides here with Israel or Palestinian Arabs, I am just noting gross mistreatments between Palestinian Arabs and Kosovo Albanians.)
    4. We’ll just disagree. Of course the U.S. can preach whatever to its citizens. But if it’s speaking like an angel and doing like the devil … that’s where my problem is.
    5. OK – we’ll disagree again. Chomsky’s article wasn’t the best written (in terms of style), but it goes into many cases – including those in the most “progressive” and “liberal” of administrations – how U.S. uses high moral rhetoric to pursue geopolitical warfare.

  136. Hongkonger Says:

    Well said, Allen,

    “(note: I am not taking sides here with Israel or Palestinian Arabs, I am just noting gross mistreatments.) But if it’s speaking like an angel and doing like the devil … that’s where my problem is. Chomsky’s article …goes into many cases – how U.S. uses high moral rhetoric to pursue geopolitical warfare.”

    Gross mistreatments of Palestinians (Muslims). ABSOLUTELY.
    speaking like an angel and doing like the devil ……UNfortunately is true of too many government
    high moral rhetoric to pursue geopolitical warfare…. when what it really is for land, oil and the sales of weapons.

  137. TommyBahamas Says:

    ” I’d like to point out some US cherry picking of humanitarian “disasters” to “fight” and which “not”….Allen

    Will someone enlighten me again, why is Israel not an accountable member of the Nuclearpower Club? And why aren’t its terrorist leaders/generals/presidents ever condemned/stand trials for crimes against humanity ?
    I really appreciate some of Jerry’s level headed comments on his own culture and ethnic plights throughout history. But for the US government and the religious sector to “cherry-pick,” for instance, to help fulfill some dellusional several thousand year old legend of some divine promise for the “chosen race” ? That’s archaic supremacism to the max with the blessings of many modern western government.
    Ask any fundementalist Christians. Hell, at least half of these clean-cut, God fearing, middleclass folks believe in this crap and therefore wholeheartedly support Zionism. They do so because they believe Jerusalem is the City of God, and 1948 was the beginning of the countdown for the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth for a thousand years from Jerusalem. (Actually, some more enlighten Christians tell me that “Jerusalem” actually simply meant a New City, not some historical holy site.) Talk about “high moral rhetoric to pursue geopolitical warfare.” Talk about medieval sanctimonious bullsh*t of the highest level in the 21st century.

  138. TommyBahamas Says:

    Speaking of enlighten religious folks, here’s an excerpt of an email I received this morning

    ” ..having voted Republican my entire adult life. …A More Perfect Union, from Obama,…swayed me over. I am buying wholeheartedly into his campaign mantra of change and hope for a better America. Having many friends who live overseas and having dialogged at length with them about the States, it is clear to me that we need to have a different kind of approach to foreign diplomacy and the threat of terrorism. I am hopeful that Obama is commited to searching out innovative and less than American traditional strong-armism of dealing with perceived and real threats to our nation.

    I hope this helps you understand that not all bible-believing Jesus honoring God loving people are sold on the McCain platform.

    “Faith. Obama’s fusion of Christianity and reason, his non-fundamentalist faith, is a critical bridge between the new atheism and the new Christianism.” -from conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan with The Atlantic
    Best-selling author and well-known speaker, Brian McLaren, on the issue of abortion and how a vote for Obama will actually contribute to lowering the abortion rate in this nation and how the abortion issue has been politicized by Republicans:

    When I share these facts and reflections with my friends, many are surprised. For over thirty years, they’ve been told that voting Republican means voting out abortion. Many begin to wonder if we Christians have been manipulated by clever but cynical political operatives who have used the issue of abortion to win elections, without ever really intending to make a significant difference.

  139. Allen Says:

    @Steve #113,

    This is a little off topic, but this quote caught my eye:

    over the last 15 years, NATO has made tremendous strides in transforming from a Cold War security structure to a dynamic partnership for peace.

    I’ll tell you where my worldview is, so you can see where I am coming from. In the Europe theater, I personally don’t really see NATO as necessarily good and Russia as necessarily evil. I see NATO as simply an alliance of one political entity and Russia as another.

    Both can claim it is a stabilizing force – i.e. a political entity for “peace.”

    With that said, do you really believe NATO (and perhaps by extension, the U.S.) is, above and beyond all other political entities in history, “a dynamic partnership for peace”? And if so – why? Is it simply because NATO is made up of “democratic” nations?

    Just curious…

  140. Nobody Says:

    Evil vs. good? You mean, like in the comic books?

    I hope the NATO democratic nations love their children too

    In europe and america, theres a growing feeling of hysteria, Conditioned to respond to all the threats, In the rhetorical speeches of the soviets
    Mr. krushchev said we will bury you, I dont subscribe to this point of view
    It would be such an ignorant thing to do, If the russians love their children too

    How can I save my little boy from oppenheimers deadly toy, There is no monopoly in common sense, On either side of the political fence, We share the same biology, Regardless of ideology
    Believe me when I say to you, I hope the russians love their children too

    There is no historical precedent, To put the words in the mouth of the president
    Theres no such thing as a winnable war, Its a lie that we dont believe anymore
    Mr. reagan says we will protect you, I dont subscribe to this point of view
    Believe me when I say to you, I hope the russians love their children too

    We share the same biology, Regardless of ideology, What might save us, me, and you
    Is that the russians love their children too

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c87uooTuPoY&feature=related

  141. Steve Says:

    Hi Allen~

    I’m not sure if you realize that what you quoted was directly from Barack Obama, not me. I was acting more as a collector of information and added the summaries of both Obama and McCain’s party foreign policy history since I believe whoever wins an American election will have a tremendous bearing on relations with China, so relevant to our blog.

    However, we can still share worldviews. I happen to agree with you that NATO isn’t “good” and Russia “evil”. What I believe is that European history is really complicated and share your disdain for such black and white terms to describe the various relationships there. I feel those are more for public comsumption than anything else.

    What I see are attitudes and relationships formed over decades and centuries that reflect the feelings of different countries for each other. Though English might put down French who might put down Italians who might put down Germans, etc. (but everyone loves the Swiss, ha ha), all these countries have gotten along pretty well since the end of the war without much animosity. As far as Americans are concerned, what I’ve heard is that most Euros like Americans but not necessarily our government. That waxes and wanes. They tend to like Democrats much better than Republicans, and that makes sense since Democrats are closer to Europeans than Republicans have been.

    But the situation concerning former Soviet allies and Russia is much different. Go into Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Ukraine, etc. and you’ll hear a different story. They still hate the Russians. They hate the government and blame the people. They suffered harshly after the war. They want nothing to do with Russia if they can help it. Older people feel their lives were stolen and they were never able to enjoy what life should have been like. They’re happy for their kids and grandkids and want them tied to Western Europe far more than Russia. They can get very vehement about it if you have that conversation.

    This goes against all geopolitical common sense. The countries bordering Western Europe have always lived in a bipolar world, but places like Georgia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, etc. who share borders with Russia are going to be tied to that orbit whether they like it or not, and their futures depend on it because of location. The West can’t defend Georgia, it’s too far from the German/French axis and borders Russia. The only country left from the Soviet Union that still has close relations with Russia is Belarus. Everyone else is totally alienated. Russia has had much better luck with countries far from its periphery, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.

    Everyone wants to join NATO for one reason and only one reason, to have protection from Russian dominance. Russia is having to live with its past behavior. NATO was created to counter the “we will bury you” threats of people like Khrushchev. Obama calling it “a dynamic partnership for peace” is Orwellian doublespeak. It’s a defense organization based on military power.

    This is why GW Bush isn’t your typical Republican president. None of the others would have committed to treaties designed to protect countries bordering Russia. Republicans typically see Europeans as possessing Byzantine ethics and unreliable as allies.

    I don’t see NATO’s composition as democratic nations being of any relevance to the alliance. It was created to combat the Soviet Union, then after the fall was morphed into a multinational defense organization to keep Europeans united, and today is seen as a counterweight to growing Russian power. To me, it’s just another Grand Alliance.

  142. Steve Says:

    Nobody~ you’ve given away your secret identity! Everyone, let’s welcome Gordon Sumner to our blog! :)

  143. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #111

    I have been ruminating, contemplating, studying. Hence my silence.

    “today’s brand of human rights” is just too nebulous for me. Nations use pretenses as shields for their actions; think of it as internal/external PR. Whatever they calculate will sell, they go with. And this has been going on a long time. Some reasons are for internal consumption, some for external.

    The “spinning” of humanitarianism, the “Communist Domino Effect”, “terrorism” and self-defense cover a lot of the pretexts and pretenses for going to war. Occasionally, there are legitimate reasons for war. Most often, not.

    A short list of some questionable, some detestable American interventions and some of the players, which is in no way intended to be comprehensive or sequential.

    The Spanish American War. “Remember the Maine”. Let’s liberate Cubans and Filipinos from the horrible Spanish occupations, only to be followed by ours.

    The Congo. The assassination/murder of Patrice Lumumba. Our support of Joseph Mobutu. Defeating communism.

    The Bay of Pigs. Supporting anti-Castro forces to overthrow so-called Communist dictator, Fidel Castro.

    Chile. Overthrowing Salvador Allende, assassinating him and installing Augusto Pinochet. The murder in NYC of Orlando Letelier by Pinochet’s secret police.

    Iran. Overthrowing Mohammad Mosaddegh and installing the Shah of Iran. The US and the Brits were most concerned about the nationalization of the BP oil fields. It is all about the oil, baby. The Iranians (Persians) have never forgotten this.

    Nicaragua. We hated the Sandanistas. They overthrew our puppet Somoza.

    The School of the Americas. Our school to teach Latin American thugs and armies how to be more efficient and deadly thugs. Ask the Guatemalans, amongst others.

    Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was our ally in WW II. The OSS promised him that he and the Vietnamese could unify after the war. The French would leave. Now would you just go out and help remove our soldiers from Japanese POW camps in Burma. 2 million Vietnamese died during Japanese occupation. When the war ended, “Oops, we lied. The French are staying. Tough luck. But thanks, anyway.” I would be pissed.

    Vietnam. Gulf of Tonkin attack. Did it really happen?

    Haiti. Our man in charge, “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

    Timor L’Este. The Indonesian invasion of Timor L’Este. The Domino Effect, again. We not only supported the pro-West Indonesians in 1975, we provided our Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force. Again, all about Dominos and oil.

    Iraq. WMDs and “terrorism”. All about oil and huge corporations. Outcome: if there wasn’t terrorism before, there is now. If the Iraqis weren’t miserable before, they are now.

    Afghanistan v Russia. We armed and supported the Afghani Mujahideen, who later became the Taliban, in their war against Soviet intervention. Ronald Reagan brought key members of the Mujahideen into the White House for a photo op. He likened them to the founding fathers of our county. One of the Mujahideen that day: Osama bin Laden. Somehow, I have problems with favorably comparing Osama with George Washington. :D

    Pretext, pretense, spinning, wanting to look good, etc. as reasons/ruses for intervention. Hey, I will agree with that. But I will stay away from the wholesale dismissal of human rights and democracy.

  144. Nobody Says:

    Thanks Steve for the intro. I am a musical, lyrical bumblebee, but I ain’t he who once said, “My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting, who is this Gordon character?” ;-)

  145. Steve Says:

    Nobody~ I had to make them guess…. couldn’t make it too easy. ;)

  146. GNZ Says:

    Its a common meme in the west that hypocrisy is the ultimate crime. Its demonstrably ridiculous because it implies if a person supports killing people he becomes more righteous if he actually does it. It seems to be a case of elevating the rules to a higher level than the goals the rules are supposed to achieve.

    Jerry,
    If I was to support action overseas that means that the situation is very desperate (as well as there being a meaningful way to improve it). The problem is that if the situation is desperate there are no saints. Saints are probably already killed. What you have is the bad, and the very bad.

    When you are dealing with those sorts of people the person who is just plain bad today might be the worst person around tomorrow particularly when the even worse guy is dead. Sometimes you are forced to support one side or the other (e.g. trading with one party) and sometimes you might get it wrong, that guy might get worse after you help him.

    International politics is a complicated thing and I think chomskyesk arguments hugely oversimplify what is going on.
    To me Iraq (for example) is about many things and many forces coming together but three interesting onesrelevant to my point here are
    1) how it is a classic example of the biases towards war of international politics
    2) the crazy fetish I see particularly in the USA against hypocrisy and flip flopping that means people only get punished for changing positions.
    and
    3) the US’s fetish for simple memes like ‘Baath party’ is evil – so must be disbanded or democracy is good – so must be instantly put into practice or for that matter Osama is bad and so must be opposed at all costs.

    If the US was nearly as evilly rational as people like Noam suggest it would never have ended up in Iraq.

  147. Nobody Says:

    Sorry, dude, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Einstein.

    I believe that the knack to create complication is human, especially those stupid and ambitious human in politics. The reverse, however, is the mark of geniuses.

    A Sign hanging in Einstein’s office at Princeton reads:

    “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Sounds very much like LaoZi’s intro of DaoDeJin.

    “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” So says Sir Albert Einstein.

  148. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #143,

    That post is definitely worth the wait … thank you.

    I’m still wondering however whether “human rights and democracy” is such tenuous concepts that only certain nations “get it” while most others “don’t” – whereby the nations that “get it” have a special responsibility to lead the rest of the world to see the light? Or whether “human rights and democracy” is such universal concept that the rest of the world will inevitably get it – as long as global inequity can be kept under control (thereby reducing radicalism)?

  149. Allen Says:

    @Steve #141,

    Very interesting post. I’ll have to travel Europe some time. There are many things I didn’t expect – but that could be true… Thanks again!

  150. Jerry Says:

    @GNZ #146

    Its a common meme in the west that hypocrisy is the ultimate crime. Its demonstrably ridiculous because it implies if a person supports killing people he becomes more righteous if he actually does it. It seems to be a case of elevating the rules to a higher level than the goals the rules are supposed to achieve.

    Says who? The ultimate crime?

    If I was to support action overseas that means that the situation is very desperate (as well as there being a meaningful way to improve it). The problem is that if the situation is desperate there are no saints. Saints are probably already killed. What you have is the bad, and the very bad.

    When you are dealing with those sorts of people the person who is just plain bad today might be the worst person around tomorrow particularly when the even worse guy is dead. Sometimes you are forced to support one side or the other (e.g. trading with one party) and sometimes you might get it wrong, that guy might get worse after you help him.

    Let’s not talk hypothesis and speculation here. I am not going to play the abstract academic supposition game. Let’s get a little more concrete here. Many examples abound. Since you cite Iraq, why don’t you apply this to Iraq? Let’s go back to just after 9/11/2001. Why do you or the US want to support action in Iraq? Who in the US wants to go to war? Who are the players in this push for war? What are their motivations? How will they benefit? Who are the dangerous players in Iraq? What are the dangerous situations which call for war? How will war remedy the situation? How will war with Iraq make the world a better place? How does this benefit the average American? How does the “military-industrial complex” benefit by this decision. What plans does the military have for the war? What plans does the military have for occupation? How do you win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqis? How will you get Iraq and Iraqis back on its feet? How will you measure success? How will you measure failure?

    I think your discussions about hypocrisy, flip-flopping, our primordial response to violence and evil, and pretenses/pretexts/ruses are side issues. They will all be used to steer the course towards war, and once involved, to stay the course. They are not the motivation and driving force. They are merely PR and marketing.

    International politics is a complicated thing and I think chomskyesk arguments hugely oversimplify what is going on. …

    If the US was nearly as evilly rational as people like Noam suggest it would never have ended up in Iraq.

    Why, perchance, do you think Chomsky-esque arguments hugely oversimplify complicated international politics? Where do you get the opinion that Noam Chomsky considers the “US” as evilly rational? Who in the US does he consider “evilly rational”?

    Regarding memes, why do you consider “hypocrisy is the ultimate crime” and “the US’s fetish for simple memes like ‘Baath party’ is evil – so must be disbanded or democracy is good – so must be instantly put into practice or for that matter Osama is bad and so must be opposed at all costs” as cultural constructs or ideas? Do you consider the US a monolith?

  151. Wukailong Says:

    Quoting Jerry: “But I will stay away from the wholesale dismissal of human rights and democracy.”

    That’s my point exactly. I hope China will be a much freer country in the future, but I would never dream of wanting the US bombing the cities and countryside to achieve that goal. That would be downright crazy (but there were voices like that back in 2003, just before the Iraqi war).

    As an aside, I feel anger at the way the concept of human rights and democracy have been dragged into the dirt by the US’ international behavior. Of course there is a smear (and relativization) campaign against the concepts directed by a small group of nationalist hotheads, but the market for their ideas would have been much smaller without the interventions.

  152. Steve Says:

    @Allen #149: Two items you might find interesting~

    If you ask almost any American who won WWII in Europe, they would say “We did” and mention D Day, Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, etc. If you ask anyone from eastern Europe, they would give the correct answer, the Russians. After the Battle of Stalingrad, the war was essentially over and it was just a matter of time. That battle was fought before the US even entered the war. Eastern Europeans tend to be extremely well versed in history and are great conversationalists, very articulate in expressing their opinions.

    The other interesting battle from that war is one that very few have even heard of, though its strategic significance was up there with Pearl Harbor. It is the Battle of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and Russia in May 1939. The consequences of the battle were that Zhukov went from a relative unknown to Russia’s best general (and used blitzkreig tactics before the Germans) and Japanese got her ass whipped, stopped looking at Siberia for its future mineral resources and turned its attention to SE Asia and in the process, how to get the US Pacific fleet out of the war, hence Pearl Harbor. All because of one battle that nowadays, very few even remember.

    Americans tend to see the world through an American prism and think everyone else uses that same prism~

  153. Steve Says:

    We’ve been having this theoretical argument about American foreign policy, citing eminent theorists, facts, opinions, world events, etc. to justify our arguments. But I think we might have forgotten the views of typical Americans~

    Most Americans can find China on a map because it’s that big country on the other side of the Pacific. Many have never heard of Taiwan and confuse it with Thailand. They could not find Iraq on a map. They don’t care.

    They knew that years ago, communism was bad and capitalism was much better. Today, the world pretty much agrees with them. But since the fall of economic communism, they have no idea that there are different economic systems besides their own.

    Most Americans like the Chinese people but don’t like their government. They don’t like the Japanese because they remember Pearl Harbor and WWII. As far as Europe, they tend to be Anglophiles (majority), Francophiles (minority) or just think all Europeans are behind the times, the women don’t shave their legs, they drive small cars and talk funny. They know the Taj Mahal is in India but that’s about it. They like Australia because they have kangaroos, and New Zealand because they speak English, filmed The Lord of the Rings there, and how can you dislike a people who call themselves Kiwis?

    What I’m trying to get at is that most Americans don’t care about foreign policy in the slightest. Because they don’t, they are uninformed and their opinions easily manipulated by the party in power. There is also a small minority who cares intensively about foreign policy, but has to find blogs like this one to discuss what they think with anyone that actually cares the way they do. To this day, there are a huge percentage of Americans who believe WMD’s were found in Iraq and who believe Saddam and the Taliban were allies.

    I live in San Diego. When I drive around the city, the greatest percentage of political signs on front lawns are telling me to vote Yes for Proposition 8. This proposition concerns whether to eliminate gay marriage by statute. This seems to be considered the most important issue we face these days.

    For me, this is the biggest danger when it comes to our foreign policy. As Jerry said, if the marketing campaign is good enough, you can get most people to believe whatever you want them to, including it seems, most Senators and Congressmen.

    I was getting a hair cut last night by the lady who has cut my hair for 15 years. She is originally from Taiwan but has lived here since college. When I asked her about the election, she said that she thought both Obama and McCain were good men but she didn’t trust either’s advisors, and hadn’t decided yet who to vote for. Rather than looking at the individual, she was looking at the influences behind the individual, and who would actually run things once they were elected, the “elite” that Jerry often mentions. I thought that was pretty insightful.

  154. Jerry Says:

    @Steve #113, 117
    @S.K. Cheung #114, 115, 125

    Thanks, Steve, I had never heard of George Friedman. He seems to deal in different aspects of foreign policy than Noam Chomsky.

    This is a good analysis of Obama, as far as he takes it. We really know very little about Obama, so I hope what Friedman reports will show up in action and principle. I remain skeptical. I hope Obama proves my skepticism needless. I would be very happy.

    Together, Chomsky and Friedman, provide a more detailed analysis of foreign policy than is available in the mainstream media.

    —————-

    #114

    Yes, SK, he does suggest a summary genesis of Bush’s faux pas. Chomsky goes in a little deeper. I am making my way to your remarks on Chomsky, which I find humorous.

    —————-

    #115

    As you say, you or I might be introspective. I don’t think we represent the norm in Canada. In the US, well just forget it.

    “Might human rights be one of those inequities?” I agree totally. But it does matter who is pushing this. If it is Shrub (GWB), Dick Cheney, or Bill O’Reilly, methinks it meretricious and hubristic. If it is Jimmy Carter, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, MN, or Noam Chomsky, they have far more credibility. Can you imagine Steven Harper lecturing Quebecois on human rights? Ugh!

    —————-

    #117

    Again, thanks for more G. Friedman (and thank God it is not Thomas Friedman).

    Comments.

    Where McCain will stand within these traditions is hard to say. But it is probably safe to say that he will use moral terms to pursue a realistic policy. That was Reagan’s strategy and McCain models himself after Reagan. The Republican tendency is to focus more on Asia and less on Europe, as the Europeans aren’t trusted. (FOARP, this does not include the UK. French and German support has always been most important to Democrats) But in the end, only time will tell…

    Hmmm … “moral terms to pursue a realistic policy” How does the “Iran-Contra” affair, Ollie North and John Poindexter fit into that? Sounds to me like the “same old same old”. Hmmm …

    I had an interesting conversation in Hanoi with Joyce, a Tanzanian woman whose father was an ambassador to London and the UN. I met her at a friend’s wedding reception. She was educated in boarding schools in the UK and went to university in Connecticut. I asked her for her take on John McCain. Her remark was that he was duplicitous. On one hand he touts (or lets his campaign tout, my comment) his POW status. On the other, why was he a POW? Because he, the USN and his fellow pilots were literally raining down terror in the form of bombs, cluster bombs and napalm. Hmmm … Gee whiz. Bye bye “Heroic John” image.

    —————-

    #125

    SK, I am at long last at your comments on Chomsky. DISCLAIMER: I enjoy Chomsky and his 30 minute sound bites. I feel very much at home with them.

    Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch. Oy vey. LMAO. :D

    Welcome to the World of Noam. Boy, did Allen set you up. :D Several comments.

    Chomsky is easily the most distinguished intellectual in the world. He is a brilliant linguist. He is a brilliant mathematician. He has contributed greatly to the world of computer science. His hobby is foreign policy, at which he is probably the most knowledgeable man in the world. He is a true genius. And he abhors the 5-30 second sound bite.

    Oh God, he can be detailed. Thank God you weren’t one of his children. He is very self-deprecating when he describes his lectures to his kids; I remember him talking about this during a lecture at the UW in Seattle. One night, one of his daughters stopped him as he was getting ready to lecture his kids about some misbehavior. “Dad, tonight, can we just have the 5 minute “Readers’ Digest” version rather than the typical 30 minute lecture?” The audience howled. We all know this about him. Preparing to go into a Q&A session after the lecture, the host joked, “Dr. Chomsky is prepared to thoroughly answer all your questions during the next 10 hours.” The audience howled again.

    SK, Chomsky is a scientist. He is a teacher. His father was a scholar. Many of his talks cover subjects not covered by the media. His detailed analyses serve as reference documents for his listeners. His analyses, IMHO, are the best constructed, most thorough, most imformative analyses I have ever read or heard. You call it “verbal diarrhea, then he’s got a bad case of it here”, I call it detailed, thorough analysis. And I am used to this and I will explain why in the next paragraph.

    Chomsky’s propensity for detail and thoroughness are traits shared by many American Jews of his generation. Studs Terkel has it, Howard Zinn has it, my dad has it, the late Morrie Schwartz had it. I think they feel/felt a need to prove their self-worth and value. They grew up in an era where Jews were continually ridiculed. And they passed on this trait to their children. Trust me, I know this one. I see the same propensity in me, my daughter and son and Jews of my generation and their children. My friend, Moshe, a Russian Jew who grew up in Israel, calls this the “Jewish overachiever gene”. Oy vey.

    The reason I laughed about Chomsky’s joke about lecturing his kids is because my dad had the 30-60 minute lecture. No quick sound bites for my father. And he is still like this. And just because turn-about is fair play, I occasionally do this to my kids. And my daughter’s explanations to me are lengthy, in return. I just chuckle. She can go 30 minutes without taking a breath at times.

    That said (long-windedly, I confess), the US uses lots of different pre-texts and pretenses for its actions, interventions and policies; whatever works. And as I have said before, I am all in favor of criticizing oppression, poverty, persecution and lack of human rights. Whether it occurs in China, Israel, the US, Canada, France, Africa or wherever. Nobody has a superior right to the bully pulpit. There is more than enough blame to go around. Nonetheless, it will not stop my criticism. How about that for a paradox or dichotomy?

    You mention Kosovo and Bosnia. Some see genocide, persecution and oppression as the reason for our “humanitarian intervention”. I also see the Black and Caspian Seas, oil and pipelines. I see the dissolution of Yugoslavia as a means to better access the Black and Caspian Seas. I also see Afghanistan as a “pipelines” issue.

  155. Allen Says:

    I am going to make a request. I think Oli alluded to it in some of his earlier comments… but then we went on to focus on geopolitical aspects of human rights.

    I think we should have a follow up post sometimes – by some Mainlanders perhaps – on his/her impression of what “human rights” in China should be at this point in time.

    For me, the concepts of human rights and democracy in the West seems to make a lot of sense when one looks at it as a response to a history that included feudalism, slavery, genocide, Nazi’s rise in Germany, and colonialism. There is a sense in the West that the concept of human rights and democracy formulated here are critical to enabling the West to escape from what seemed like a perpetual cycle of violence and injustices.

    The Chinese also has a history of social injustices as well as violence – rooted in foreign invasions, internal strife, poverty, gov’t corruption, cultural revolution, and misguided (but well-intentioned) policies such as the great leap forward, etc.. The last 30 years may have been good. But given Chinese history, what human rights concepts or governance contracts should be implemented to enable the Chinese people to forever escape and break the cycle of violence and strife?

    I’d look forward to a post – or series of posts – on this topic…

  156. Allen Says:

    @Steve #153,

    Thanks for the humorous and insightful post. In particular, you wrote,

    What I’m trying to get at is that most Americans don’t care about foreign policy in the slightest. Because they don’t, they are uninformed and their opinions easily manipulated by the party in power. There is also a small minority who cares intensively about foreign policy, but has to find blogs like this one to discuss what they think with anyone that actually cares the way they do. To this day, there are a huge percentage of Americans who believe WMD’s were found in Iraq and who believe Saddam and the Taliban were allies.

    In some ways, this is the reason why I, who used to not care too much about Mainland politics (other than economically related developments), became so riled about the Torch Relay protests earlier this year.

    I am not saying I myself am that informed about Tibet, but no doubt most of the protesters are the same “who believe WMD’s were found in Iraq and who believe Saddam and the Taliban were allies” – not very informed about Tibet and completely ignorant about China as a whole.

    But in the media’s coverage – the mere existence of the protests was taken as evidence that China must be in the wrong.

    It’s this sort of blind faith in “people’s” power (reflected in a blind ideological righteousness toward “democracy,” rather than objective standards of good governance) that got me so riled up about the political ideologies I have been spoon fed here in the States as to rethink my entire conception of human rights and democracy altogether.

  157. RMBWhat Says:

    No doubt, Chomsky is awesome…

  158. TommyBahamas Says:

    “It’s this sort of blind faith in “people’s” power (reflected in a blind ideological
    righteousness toward “democracy,” rather than good objective governance, which should be the purpose for “democracy” in the first place) that got me so riled up about the political ideologies I have been spoon fed here in the States as to rethink my entire conception of human rights and democracy.”

    INDEED, “blind faith” breeds IGNORANCE of those existing on SPOON FED morsels of half truth by the media. And It was the hubris and arrogant words of the same as GUESTS of CHINA who are in constant judgement of their Chinese host and people that got me riled up.

    Empty barrels do make the most annoying noise, don’t they? After a year or so of debating these educated expat ignoramuses, during which time I was banned within a week from the first china bashing blog, to getting name-called on Time China blog, to being branded a troll with threats of banning by the host at PKD, that I discovered this blog not a few months ago!. I am so glad I have. I have learned more here in one week than so many wasted months elsewhere put together.

    May God continue to bless y’all at Fool’s Mountain.

  159. GNZ Says:

    @ jerry

    “Says who? The ultimate crime?”
    Allen for example said
    “But if it’s speaking like an angel and doing like the devil … that’s where my problem is.”
    would we prefer they talked like the devil and acted like the devil? seems to me how they talk is a good thing if we consider it angelic and yet arguments of that form are extremely common.

    “Why do you or the US want to support action in Iraq?”

    There is no use at all in answering the question that is along the lines of “who are the bad people?” what you need to know is why are they bad and what are the systems/processes involved. To you the processes seem to be side issues – but if you never address them you will keep on having the same problems.

    Think of the area of crime – most people concentrate on punishment – they locate some guilty parties and put them in jail. But as long as the jails are breeding grounds for crime, rehabilitation isn’t seriously investigated and so many other systems promote criminality you are fighting a battle you are going to slowly loose. Those systems are more than just side issues – they are the real problem and they also often line up with policy instruments.

    Analysis of whether war was required in Iraq is not really the sort of thing one does nowadays because the debate has moved on to how badly the US has already done it and screwed it up. But ongoing sanctions was not a sustainable position or a very useful policy it was just killing people. One could theoretically have fought a war that was less harmful than sanctions, of course one could also have removed the sanctions in exchange for favorable oil deals and ‘supported’ a Saddam reigeme with free reign in the vein of some of your other examples .

    I think questions like ‘how does the MIC benefit are the wrong sort of questions – we should not care if they benefit – we only care if that benefit comes necessarily at out cost. I presume your point is that it does. In that case the proactive question is what systematic changes would solve that problem.

    “Why, perchance, do you think Chomsky-esque arguments hugely oversimplify complicated international politics?”

    his arguments are usually of the form “the US (or the MIC or whatever) did X in order to achieve Y”. In most cases that isn’t a accurate way to talk about it.. Interesting you follow that with…

    “Regarding memes… do you consider the US a monolith?”

    A meme is a meme. fair enough in the spirit of my previous point the US doesn’t ‘have the meme” the memes exist in the USA. But such things can change (if that is what you are getting at) and everyone is a product of everyone else – for example the way the right is now is partly a product of how the left has related to it – of course most of that was not intentional.

  160. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #154,

    About the issue of conciseness, you quoted regarding Norm Chomsky:

    “Dad, tonight, can we just have the 5 minute “Readers’ Digest” version rather than the typical 30 minute lecture?” The audience howled. We all know this about him. Preparing to go into a Q&A session after the lecture, the host joked, “Dr. Chomsky is prepared to thoroughly answer all your questions during the next 10 hours.” The audience howled again.

    I remember listening to a Chomsky’s talk one time regarding mainstream media where Chomsky stated that the key problem with modern media is the public’s aversion for anything other than a 30 second – 2 minute soundbite.

    At first, I thought – so what. People have no time. We want our news stories to be concise. No big deal…

    But then I continued to listen.

    The problem with relying on soundbites for information is that you are limited to subject matter that is accepted by the “conventional wisdom.” To discuss anything else outside of “conventional wisdom” would require one to use different terminologies (since standard rhetoric can be over used and carry too much connotation baggage), challenge one’s assumptions, and examine one’s worldviews, etc., etc.

    But all this would take time – time far beyond the time allotted to the typical 30 second – 2 minute soundbite.

    Something then clicked in my mind!

    What Norm observed was that with a combination of the public being intellectually lazy and the media being profit enterprises forced to commercially pander to the public (neither of which by itself is particularly alarming by the way), we now have created a self-perpetuating, mutually re-enforcing system of propaganda and mind control that rivals any system of top-down propaganda that the Russians and the Chinese devised!

    In my humble opinion, Norm really is a genius…!

  161. Hongkonger Says:

    He is celebrated as the thinking-man’s professor and mentor, but the nationalists and the imperialistic capitalists’ arch-enemy. Here’s a BBC interview of Noam Chomsky, the controversial genius:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug7Pkf2SsuA

    Chomsky is easily the most distinguished intellectual in the world.

    No doubt, Chomsky is awesome…

    In my humble opinion, Norm really is a genius…!

    How about an article on this genius? All I know is he got his PhD. in like 2 weeks and despelled Skinner’s Nurture vs Nature Behaviorism or sth like that. He is in his mid 70s and has been MIT professor for a long time. I read somewhere that he holds 40 honorary degrees — is the father of American Anarchism (?), and the most quoted academic in the world while at the same time one of the least known geniuses. Huh?

    Jerry, please help. I am confused.

  162. Jerry Says:

    @GNZ #159

    I don’t like hypocrisy. Allen has said he does not like it. I disagree with you that it is the ultimate crime. Hypocrisy is used to shield/obscure/obfuscate tyranny, oppression, persecution, racism, poverty and hatred, to name just a few. Hypocrisy hides the truth. But I would not put it on a par with transgressions and cruelties such as tyranny, oppression, persecution, etc.

    Let’s just ignore history and our wonderful tendencies to keep repeating it because we ignore it. Instead, let’s create polite, abstract, academic, sanitary constructs/suppositions/speculations. So much easier to control! So tidy! And we can wrap it all up in very nicely packaged solutions. Obviously, this paragraph is written with “tongue seriously, painfully in cheek.”

    I am a realist. I am a pragmatist. I would rather deal with reality than have it bite me in the butt while I am blissing out in some tidy, academic, abstract world. I just have way too many “Jewish” genes. Chomsky, I would guess, has similar genes. So does Howard Zinn. So does Studs Terkel. So does Norman Finkelstein. So does Tom Lehrer. And if you want to look at hypocrisy, look at Alan Dershowitz and David Horowitz. And “dey is my peeps, too!” I just hope they are from a different tribe.

    Regarding Chomsky’s “his arguments are usually of the form “the US (or the MIC or whatever) did X in order to achieve Y”. In most cases that isn’t a accurate way to talk about it.”: Well, I mentioned that we humans have an awful tendency to ignore history and keep repeating it. Chomsky has observed the same. Now Chomsky does not include everyone in his references to the US, anymore than I do. He is referring to current actors in the political scheming who bring about our continuing faux pas in our foreign policies and interventions and strong-arming. Yes the actors change, the metaphors change, but the underlying scripts remain the same. So why would Noam’s basic analytic form change? As the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!” (BTW, même and meme are not the same? Boy is that an unintended pun, eh, SK?) You ever wonder why, after 400 odd years, Shakespearean plays are still applicable? You ever wonder why Tom Lehrer’s satirical, cynical, funny-as-hell songs of the late 50’s and early 60’s are still to the point?

    Enough said.

  163. Steve Says:

    @Allen #160: Eureka, you got it!!

    I hate the evening news. How can you tell a meaningful story about what is really happening in 30 second to 2 minute stories? 90% of the news is local or national, and virtually none is related to international issues. But here comes cable, with 24 hour news stations! Soon they are reporting on OJ Simpson’s travails, a murdered 5 year old beauty queen, a singer who shaves her head and an actress who gets plastered every night and goes anexoric. Will Brangelina’s marriage last? :(

    Where is the international news? Where are the in depth stories? Nowhere to be found~

    I could never figure this out. Why does CNN Hong Kong or the international BBC station present a quality product while the American version of CNN gives us Anderson Cooper 360?

    Now you’ve given me the answer by quoting Noam. What we have is “a mutually re-enforcing system of propaganda and mind control”. What we have here is a failure to communicate!

    I’ve never lived in Russia, but China’s propaganda is pretty blatant. It’s directed by the party and is very consistent. When I lived there in 2001-2002, everyday there was an article about how China had developed Tibet and life there was so much better than before… a veritable paradise; everyday there was an article about Taiwan being a province of China and the “one China” vision was the truth, and “so-called president Chen” was a traitor, scalawag, ne’er-do-well, worthless insane person who was the second stupidest person in the world (the first was Annette Liu). The stories would put a “crank” addict to sleep, but they were consistent and expected. I always felt sorry for the writer, who probably lived in Beijing or Shanghai, read boring government press releases everyday filled with statistics and who had never been to either Tibet or Taiwan. What a horrible job~

    When the stories are not directed from a central source but are ingrained in the culture and structure of the media, the influence is much more subtle. But I have seen the light. I have taken the red pill. I have broken free of the Matrix!! ;)

  164. Steve Says:

    @Jerry #154: The part before that quote was Friedman’s but since I couldn’t fit the entire paper, I kinda summed up the paragraph you quoted and some of it is my own opinion. I just wanted to be fair to Friedman and not give him credit for my simplified analysis.

    The Stratfor website isn’t just Friedman but his entire staff. Unlike Chomsky, his group are analysts who think in terms of geopolitical strategy and tactics and try to create summations of world situations, how they happen, why they happen and how they are percieved by different governments and different parties. They don’t take sides, but try to present all sides. They have several very good analysts. They also have a free daily podcast that covers the major issue of the day as they see it. I have it bookmarked and always check it out if it relates to Asian matters. I think it is pretty fair in general and definitely a good perspective that can be compared to other analyses for a more well-rounded view.

  165. Wahaha Says:

    TOnyP4 #71,

    excellent link, the following caught my eyes :

    …It has become very easy to write Western articles about Asians or China as a less human ‘other’, with the attitude that certain evils or guilts are true before investigation…

    Like I said, human right is just a tool used by some fed-up westerners to feel better about themselves, they think they are superior as a human, and therefore they are given the right by their god to criticize other or spew their nonsense in whatever the way they like.

  166. Jerry Says:

    @RMBWhat, #157
    @TommyBahamas #158, 127
    @Allen #160
    @Hongkonger #161

    #157

    Yes, RMBWhat and Tommy, Chomsky is awesome. Well at least to us. I can’t speak for SK, who I think has made his opinion quite clear. Eh, SK? :D

    LOL

    —————-

    #158

    Empty barrels do make the most annoying noise, don’t they? After a year or so of debating these educated expat ignoramuses, during which time I was banned within a week from the first china bashing blog, to getting name-called on Time China blog, to being branded a troll with threats of banning by the host at PKD, that I discovered this blog not a few months ago!. I am so glad I have. I have learned more here in one week than so many wasted months elsewhere put together.

    May God continue to bless y’all at Fool’s Mountain.

    God bless you, too, Tommy! I like that expression, “Empty barrels do make the most annoying noise, don’t they?” :D Except, perhaps, when in the musical hands of somebody from Trinidad and/or Tobago. Perhaps the aforementioned “clanging gongs” could learn from our Caribbean brothers. :D

    I find that most of the China blogs are mostly mindless, egotistical and bombastic. There are some good contributors. It is just that you have to wade through so much fecal matter to find the diamonds. The epitome seems to be PKD. Like you, I love to learn. Richard seems to be a little too concerned with protecting his seemingly fragile ego and winning, and seemingly uninterested in learning. Learning is winning; pyrrhic victories are about losing and failing to learn. How sad. What a waste. I would posit that when you stop learning, dreaming and having fun, you are really dead. You may be technically alive, but that is all. Richard, you are really one sad duck. :D

    That said, FM is a diamond. Thanks.

    —————-

    #160

    BTW, Allen, it is Avram Noam Chomsky. He goes by Noam.

    I remember listening to a Chomsky’s talk one time regarding mainstream media where Chomsky stated that the key problem with modern media is the public’s aversion for anything other than a 30 second – 2 minute soundbite.

    Ah, yes, I have heard him say that many times. Just think back to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 150 years ago. Debates have changed a lot since then. IMHO, they were much more informative then.

    What Norm observed was that with a combination of the public being intellectually lazy and the media being profit enterprises forced to commercially pander to the public (neither of which by itself is particularly alarming by the way), we now have created a mutually re-enforcing system of propaganda and mind control that out rivals any system of top-down propaganda that the Russians and the Chinese devised!

    Allen, I agree wholeheartedly that “we now have created a mutually re-enforcing system of propaganda and mind control that out rivals any system of top-down propaganda that the Russians and the Chinese devised!” This is exactly what Walter Lippmann laid out in “Public Opinion” (1922). Perhaps the ruling elite have succeeded in “dumbing down” education and the media, and hence the populace. Perhaps many Americans “have drunk the Koolaid” of consumerism, materialism and corporatism. Perhaps these cultural myths are so pervasive and so extensively marketed, we have little time or desire for reflection. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I am living in Taipei, where are I am neither held captive by Chinese culture nor subjected to the overwhelming hyperbolic bombast of American and western culture. Perhaps that explains me being a loner. Who knows? I just know that I feel happier and more content. Except for the absurd pollution and unconscious motorbike riders.

    —————-

    #161

    “He is celebrated as the thinking-man’s professor and mentor, but the nationalists and the imperialistic capitalists’ arch-enemy.” Ah, yes, that he is. The NYT and WP consider him a pariah and a thorn in their side.

    HKer, I have been paying attention to Chomsky for years. How do you sum that up in one article? And that would be a contradiction in terms. It has taken me many years to absorb Noam, and I had an advantage in growing up in the Jewish culture with a father much like Chomsky. Chomsky is a scientist and my father a businessman. But both are thorough and detailed. And I continue to learn a lot from him.

    That said, you can go to AlternativeRadio.org, zmag.org, Chomsky.info and commondreams.org for starters. You should also check out his Israel debate with Alan Dershowitz, a fellow Jew. You should check out David Horowitz, another fellow Jew. Dershowitz and Horowitz are Chomsky detractors. Regarding similar views on Chomsky, check out Norm Finkelstein and the late Edward Said, a Palestinian. He has a video based on his book, “Manufacturing Consent”. Hope this helps.

    Chomsky takes time; he is not in the mainstream paradigm. Noam is most thorough and detailed. How un-American. And that is a “for sure!” He will be 80 years old in December. As far as the other info you cited, I don’t know.

  167. GNZ Says:

    “Yes the actors change, the metaphors change, but the underlying scripts remain the same. So why would Noam’s basic analytic form change?”

    because it, apparently, isn’t effective?
    What makes you think of Chomsky as a pragmatist? he seems like an idealist to me.

  168. Jerry Says:

    @Steve #163, 164

    #163

    I could never figure this out. Why does CNN Hong Kong or the international BBC station present a quality product while the American version of CNN gives us Anderson Cooper 360?

    Now you’ve given me the answer by quoting Noam. What we have is “a mutually re-enforcing system of propaganda and mind control”. What we have here is a failure to communicate!

    Amen. :D
    —————-

    #164

    I agree that they are complementary. And I know that you condensed his analysis. And Friedman is the son of Holocaust survivors. Remember, I know that gene pool. I know our proclivities. :D LMAO

  169. Jerry Says:

    @GNZ #167

    because it, apparently, isn’t effective?
    What makes you think of Chomsky as a pragmatist? he seems like an idealist to me.

    I find him quite effective. Great teacher. Great analyst. Relentless. Thought-provoking. And he inspires me.

    He is part idealist in that he wants a better, more civil world, which I do, too. If that is idealism? Hard-headed, relentless, practical, pragmatic, over-achieving, realistic Russian Jew. As I told Steve, I know that gene pool.

    I believe you are stretching in your desire to dismiss him.

    But think and act as you will, if that makes you happy.

  170. Wukailong Says:

    Wow, all these comments about Chomsky.

    I used to be more positive towards the man before I’d read any of his articles or books. Certainly he’s popular in Europe because of his vehement criticism against the US, and even though I can agree with many of his viewpoints he’s just too emotional or ranting to make reading worthwhile.

    Scientifically, he’s a mixed bag – he’s done some great contributions in the field of linguistics and computer science, but also been obstructionist and dismissive of others. As you might know, the linguist George Lakoff holds political views not that far from Chomsky, but they are bitter enemies and live on different coasts.

    So, get points from Chomsky, that’s a good idea. But don’t idolize the man.

  171. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: “It’s this sort of blind faith in “people’s” power (reflected in a blind ideological righteousness toward “democracy,” rather than objective standards of good governance) that got me so riled up about the political ideologies I have been spoon fed here in the States as to rethink my entire conception of human rights and democracy altogether.”

    I’m curious about this. This seems to be a common trajectory for many Chinese who’ve been abroad for a while. I think I’ve followed a different path – I was much more leftist and dismissive of “Western” claims of democracy until I began living in China.

    So what do you think about democracy and human rights as concepts? I get the feeling you’re quite negative towards them and whatever ideals they embody. What vision do you have for a future China that follows some different thinking? What do you think of rule of law as a concept? Do you think China must keep its current system indefinitely?

    I agree good governance must be an important factor for any country that wants to develop. I’ve never thought of democracy as a hindrance to this, though. I think, however, that a country that has one of these but lacks the other (like India with democracy but very poor governance) has a lot of improvement to do, and of course – installing democracy in a country by war is just downright crazy.

  172. Jerry Says:

    @Wukailong #170

    “even though I can agree with many of his viewpoints he’s just too emotional or ranting to make reading worthwhile.” You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. I like to read his writings.

    I have watched his debate with Alan Dershowitz at Harvard. He is very level-headed, rational and cogent. If you consider Chomsky emotional and/or ranting, then where does that put Alan Dershowitz? Or David Horowitz?

    “So, get points from Chomsky, that’s a good idea. But don’t idolize the man.” Who made you the ultimate arbiter? I will do as I like. And others are free to do as they like. If I chose to idolize him, I would do so. But I idolize no one; I am too pragmatic for that. Nonetheless, he does inspire me and I admire him. He is an amazing intellectual. Do you have a problem with that?

    He disagrees with Lakoff and other former students. Such is the world of academia and science at times. And Noam, like all of us, is human, warts, shortcomings and all.

    Scientifically, he’s a mixed bag – he’s done some great contributions in the field of linguistics and computer science, but also been obstructionist and dismissive of others. As you might know, the linguist George Lakoff holds political views not that far from Chomsky, but they are bitter enemies and live on different coasts.

    Again, those are your opinions, to which you are entitled. And your point?

    WKL, I am a mixed bag myself. Sainthood will never be within my reach, alas and alack, I guess. :) Even Ted Williams, the last player to hit .400 in a season, only succeeded in getting a hit in 40% of his official at-bats in 1941. And with his ornery temperament and contempt for Boston Red Sox fans, I guess you could say he was a mixed bag. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever met a “perfect” person. Everyone I have met is a mixed bag. Hell, Mother Teresa was probably a mixed bag, and she will likely be canonized as a saint someday. I never met her.

    BTW, in spite of all his shortcomings, I admire Ted Williams. Must be something about Boston. :D And, Steve, Ted is from San Diego. :)

    WKL, in my own life, I have encountered people who rub me the wrong way. For whatever reason, they just “bug” me. I encountered a few people like that at Microsoft. I have encountered them in my own family and life. Sometimes we got into some rather stupid, overheated arguments. I finally learned to avoid these people when it was practical to do so. And when around them, make the best of it. And to learn from the experiences. Life is messy and difficult at times. Life hurts at times.

  173. GNZ Says:

    effective as spreading his ideas, yes – but we still have the same problems, so I suggest not so effective at solving those problems.
    I am not dismissing him in as far as he brings up some points that are worth considering (I agree with Wukailong’s post above, including the academic mixed bag) but with a pinch of salt. However I don’t like having to add my own salt because I know the average person won’t they will just accept it or reject it at face value. I think that can be dangerous.

    I have an example… I was a meeting once with some very powerful (extremely rich) Chinese. We were discussing international politics. the men started to rattle off reasons why the USA was evil, most of which were the sort of thing one might read in a Noam Chomsky book, some of which I considered ridiculous and others half truths.
    But I left thinking – if I believed all that… I’d be considering a preemptive strike on the USA.
    there is a lot of hatred out there for the USA now, and these memes play well amongst the sensible and the not so sensible/uninformed.

    Anyway I suggest some of the examples you gave are quite likely to have happened in a fairly similar manner without the USA (or even a worse one), and I also noticed that the Vietnam example seems to be asking the USA to make good on illegitimate promises (how on earth would the USA have the right to promise Sth Vietnam to them?) to a very dangerous person by supporting him in his invasion of another country. In reality I suppose it was the promise that was at issue (which should be highlighted), the lesson being one should always be open and honest during world wars…

  174. Jerry Says:

    @GNZ #173

    Comments:

    effective as spreading his ideas, yes – but we still have the same problems, so I suggest not so effective at solving those problems.

    Well, I am sorry. Nobody said that this would be easy. This is not an RPG, a computer game or a video game. This is real. It is an uphill battle. It is waged one day at a time. Persistence and patience are our biggest tools. Maybe we will always have war? Maybe not? It is hard work to change the entrenched lust for war and intervention, its intentionally hidden benefits for the ruling elites, the charades of the elite and the clever marketing/PR which they use to manipulate the public. Nonetheless, I think it worthwhile work.

    It took the Jews many centuries to gain a better life and freedom from persecution. We are still eliminating the vestiges. It took many years for African-Americans to escape the bondage of slavery in the US. We are still eliminating the vestiges. This is life.

    However I don’t like having to add my own salt because I know the average person won’t they will just accept it or reject it at face value. I think that can be dangerous.

    C’est la vie. Reality is hell. Patience and persistence.

    I love adding my own salt. Nobody quite represents my thoughts like I do. Chomsky may be in the neighborhood, but I always have my own twist. I am not his parrot. Hence, I regularly carry my own figurative salt and pepper mills so that I can season my own remarks as I see fit.

    So the rich guy was quoting ideas which may have come from Chomsky? So what’s the moral of this tale? So Chomsky and I should stop criticizing our government because somebody might use our ideas as a pretext for a pre-emptive war against the US? ::LMAO:: His desire for war and his motivating drives are his impetus. Whatever rationalizations, pretexts, ruses and pretenses he uses are his marketing/PR cover for his drive.

    And the hatred for the USA is an illusory hatred. You think the average guy, “Joe the Plumber” personally benefits from these wars. You think most Americans constantly dwell on how much they hate the Chinese? On constantly harassing China. Do you think that I assume that the views of the Chinese authoritarian government represent all Chinese? Do you think that I view the people of China as a monolith? No to all of those questions. Hatred blinds us from seeing the world as it is.

    Ho Chi Minh is a dangerous person? Says you. Others say differently. He is a mixed bag who did a lot for Vietnam, some which I like, some not. And the American puppets like Nguyen Cao Ky, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Ngô Đình Diệm were saints? I think not. I lived through this period and somehow had a high draft lottery number which kept me out of the American War. Thank god.

    The OSS lied to Ho Chi Minh. I am not saying that they should have handed over South Vietnam to Ho; that country did not belong to the US. I would have just asked everybody else to get out of the way. That includes the French, Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Russians. Yeah, like that was going to happen. 2,000,000 Vietnamese died during the Japanese occupation. Another 3,000,000 during the American War.

    That war had some memorable pictures. There is the heart-stopping shot of naked 9 year-old Kim Phuc, whose clothes had been burned off her by napalm, running down the road. That still makes me sick to my stomach. She is now a Canadian citizen. And the incredible shot of Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing VC prisoner Nguyen Van Lem. The photographer, Eddie Adams, regretted that photo for the rest of his life. He said that the dramatic nature of the photo immediately assigned guilt and removed context.

  175. Wukailong Says:

    Interesting. I must have touched a nerve here somewhere…

    “Who made you the ultimate arbiter? I will do as I like. And others are free to do as they like. If I chose to idolize him, I would do so.”

    You’re welcome. I’m not stopping you.

    “Again, those are your opinions, to which you are entitled. And your point?”

    To take him with a bag of salt, that is, not too seriously. However, I realize he might be greater in the US in a sense because he doesn’t say what half the populace thinks, as in Europe. In Europe, you can find his books everywhere.

    Also, of course, it’s dangerous to believe the words of a master, or someone people hold up as a wise man. That holds for any master, of course (even though they are sweet-talking like DL ;) )

    Anyway, I take the rest of your advice and stay away from things that make me unhappy or my life worse. ;)

  176. Steve Says:

    @Jerry & Wukailong: I’ll admit I’m new to the ideas of Noam Chomsky so I googled him and found a site that had various video clips of interviews about assorted subjects. What I found is that he is a very engaging, natural speaker. He also seemed to take a systematic approach. He raised some issues where his conclusions seemed truthful to me, but also came to certain conclusions that as Wukailong noted, seemed pretty idealistic.

    However, what I look for when reading someone’s philosophy is consistency and whether the conclusions are one sided. What I mean by that is whether that philosopher applies his/her conclusions to just one country or applies them equally to all countries. As an example, many times on this blog I have read critiques of either China or the United States that if I just changed the names, would equally apply to the other country but the author’s critique is always a “one-way street”. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, in my thinking.

    A two to ten minute video clip won’t give me what I need to really get a good feel for the man and what he thinks. Jerry, can you recommend a particular book of his as a starter? I’m more of a book guy than a summary guy and would like to plunge into his worldview before rendering an opinion. It seems you have read a lot of his works so I’ll rely on your expertise. Thanks!

  177. Steve Says:

    @TommyBahamas #158: “Once someone’s mind is stretched by a new idea it can never return to its original form.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

    Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, paraphrased this quotation last night after they lost the World Series. However, I thought it might apply more to this blog than to their situation~

  178. Wukailong Says:

    I don’t want to give the impression that I’m opposed to Chomsky. The point of my original posting was to not get too animated by the “genius” but also question his views. If there ever were trials against countries and US was the accused he would be great as a prosecutor (he does have a case), but I want to have a broader picture.

  179. FOARP Says:

    Guys, let me put this as simply as I can: although I am unfamiliar with his theories on linguisitics, I do understand that Chomsky was quite a ground-breaker in this field and deserves respect for them, but I have never read anything by Chomsky on politics that I felt reflected anything but the paranoid delusions of an extremist ideologue. I do not believe that the United States is a ‘failed state’ or in the process of becoming such – nor does Chomsky provide real evidence of such, I do not believe that the press is ‘manufacturing consent’ – nor does Chomsky prove that it does. The things I admire him for are mostly about what he has opposed – his actions in Turkey for example, but I do not support or even like his politics.

    Oh, one other thing that is to his credit – a friend of mine (an admirer of Chomsky) has written to him on several occasions about his political theories and on each occasion received a full response. Not many writers with such a high profile would o this.

  180. Allen Says:

    @Steve #176,
    You wrote:

    As an example, many times on this blog I have read critiques of either China or the United States that if I just changed the names, would equally apply to the other country but the author’s critique is always a “one-way street”. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, in my thinking.

    If that ever applies to me – you need to let me know … instead of leaving me looking stupid! ;-)

  181. Steve Says:

    Allen, you never look stupid~ plus, if you did, there are plenty of people besides me who’d let you know. :)

    I’ll try more often to point out when that happens. Another thing I’ve noticed is the use of certain phrases that while not offensive in themselves, when used in a certain way can imply a meaning indirectly. I’ll use something I’ve seen in many articles written about China, and just saw today in Time Magazine. They were talking about the rural land reform and how this might cause millions of peasants to migrant to the big cities. The phrase used was “hordes of their country cousins appear on their doorsteps”. The word “horde” is used correctly but in this context, it has a negative connotation.

    We all know about the “Mongol hordes” and even the “Golden Horde” so when used about Chinese, it implies these people will sow havoc and destruction wherever they go. The author might not have intended it, but it is implied and might have been drifting in the recesses of his mind. I can read most posts here and without even comprehending the meaning, know their position just by the specific words chosen to describe certain events. Try it; it’s easy. The language gives away the intent before the meaning is clear.

    My best friend has a degree in linguistics and she’s always pointing this out to me…. the different implications of using words such as death, murder, genocide, killing, massacre, assassination, homicide, ethnic cleasing, holocaust, etc. Is it the Battle of Wounded Knee or the Massacre of Wounded Knee? The word chosen displays the intention of the author before the article or post is even read.

    A word may have several meanings. If called out, the author would choose the most innocent meaning yet others might take it in its most negative connotation. Jerry has correctly stated that we all should avoid ad hominum attacks; it’s OK to attack the message but not the messenger. However, if we attack the message using certain words, we are in essence attacking the messenger. If we all kept that in mind, it would make for a more civil discourse and less need for defensive replies. However, if the last post really pissed you off, then by all means go ahead and ignore everything I just said! There are exceptions to every rule, and no need to be tolerant of fools, ha ha.

  182. TommyBahamas Says:

    It was Hugo Chavez who introduced me to Chomsky. At the United Nations 61st General Assembly, President Chavez opened his speech by introducing a book to the leaders of the world that day.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6WX64O8S1U

  183. Nobody Says:

    How Very true, Steve: “The language gives away the intent before the meaning is clear. ”

    The 2nd President of America, John Adams fought for liberty, i.e. total independence. Washington delivered it, but then there were the pro-English faction of Hamilton and the pro-French of Jefferson. They both helped ruin John Adams reputation through the media.

    What has changed since 18th century American media history?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYlyb1Bx9Ic&NR=1

    Do we blame the factory workers when toxic toys are discovered ? No, we blame the factory owner(s). Why then blame the journalists? Who owns the media?

  184. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve (#181): Also, the constant use of the word “regime” to refer to the Chinese government comes to mind…

  185. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: It would be interesting to see an answer to my question in #171, perhaps a post?

  186. Allen Says:

    @Wukailong #171,
    You wrote:

    So what do you think about democracy and human rights as concepts? I get the feeling you’re quite negative towards them and whatever ideals they embody. What vision do you have for a future China that follows some different thinking? What do you think of rule of law as a concept? Do you think China must keep its current system indefinitely?

    I actually don’t have a negative attitude toward democracy and human rights – only a negative attitude where they are proposed as a one-size-fit-all, you-must-have-it-or-you-have-an-illegitimate-government solution.

    I don’t think of democracy or human rights as a goal – but as a means. If it’s useful for China to develop good governance, then of course they are important. If China can develop good governance without them, then they are not that important. The key is creating a good government that works for the people – to liberate people from poverty, and to empower people so they can unleash their talent and energy to pursue better lives and dreams.

    Now regarding what I think democracy and human rights should be for China, I’d start with what I wrote in #155,

    The Chinese also has a history of social injustices as well as violence – rooted in foreign invasions, internal strife, poverty, gov’t corruption, cultural revolution, and misguided (but well-intentioned) policies such as the great leap forward, etc.. The last 30 years may have been good. But given Chinese history, what human rights concepts or governance contracts should be implemented to enable the Chinese people to forever escape and break the cycle of violence and strife?

    Given Chinese history, at this point in time, human rights in China must start with nation building. Right or wrong, Chinese people, justly with their history, believe that it is only with a strong nation that the Chinese people can be liberated to become first world citizens again.

    Of course, a focus on nation building doesn’t mean giving the gov’t a free reign – quite the opposite. After all, over the last century or so, the amount of suffering the Chinese suffered under misguided policies, revolutions, and gov’t oppressions probably rival that from foreign invasions.

    For me today, human rights in China means developing a less corrupt and more transparent government. Human rights developments means promoting more economic developments to reduce disparities in wealth among the population because economic disparities inevitably lead to social inequities which lead to internal strife. Human rights in China means developing a more secure social support system that includes better healthcare system, better social security system, better public services, etc. Human rights in China means producing greener technologies and policies to clean up the environment so people’s health are not jeopardized. Human rights means moving China up the technological ladder so its people do not have to slave away in sweatshop factories. Human rights means taking steps to prevent China from falling into the abyss of another cultural revolution or great leap forward ever again.

    There are others … but I hope this gives you a glimpse of what I consider the truly important “human rights” for China.

  187. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: Thanks a lot for the answers. It turns out we are much more in agreement than I thought. ;)

    I remember having a fruitless discussion back in May (in Sweden) with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a long time, trying to recount a discussion of liberal criticism against Yu Hua’s TV programs about Zhuangzi. Basically, their [liberals] idea was that her programs might strengthen conservatives by presenting populist interpretations of the philosopher’s thinking. My friend’s reaction was that her programs presented great viewpoints that will “lead to democracy”, and began lecturing me about how bad the Chinese system is. When I showed her books by Yu Keping on political reform, she doubted there was anything to it and said they were probably just for show. She hardly reads Chinese. It was quite a strange but interesting experience.

    So I definitely resonate with this: democracy and human rights must be so much more than allowing people to vote. When people don’t get this, I think I feel very much the same as you do.

  188. Steve Says:

    Allen~ I might have misunderstood you but when I hear the term “nation building” I usually think of it as the concept of being a nation, that is, the united feelings of the people in that nation. When I was in China, I always felt that to be very strong among all the Chinese I met. Their Chinese character was constantly referred to in a “national consciousness” sort of way.

    All the Chinese I knew were Han Chinese. I never dealt with any minorities but I would think within the majority of the provinces, the idea of the Chinese nation as being an immutable fact was pretty self evident. All the developments you propose seem very rational to me. Are these what you mean by “nation building”?

    My concern is how the present government structure, being so opaque, can achieve the goals you have set for it. When I studied Political Science, I found that polling and day to day politics weren’t that interesting. But what I found super interesting was how to set up a government, how different systems can achieve different results and how some systems were incompatible with possible goals. My concern for China is that her government has inherent structural weaknesses that have not changed with her development and are incompatible with the goals you hope to realize.

    I wouldn’t call your proposals “human rights”, though. To me, most of them seem like good governance acheived by economic and social advancement. The quality of government is not a human right, it is a political process. Promoting economic development is not a human right, it is a sociatal goal. Healthcare, social security, public services and environmental improvements are all worthy endeavors but not human rights.

    For me, human rights are individual in nature. They protect the individual from the government or from the majority; in other words, an individual is the ultimate minority. I’m not espousing a certain set of human rights, but I also believe they are not part of a communal function but are a matter of individual liberty.

    You gave a very thoughtful answer to Wukailong’s question about different thinking. Do you feel China can achieve those goals under the present government structure? If not, can the government be tinkered with or will there need to be wholesale changes? Do you feel the improvements you propose can be achieved with going to a more democratic government, or the current authoritarian one party system will be adequate? How can China incorporate the rule of law when currently, the Party makes decisions for the country that are not dependent on the law?

    These questions aren’t meant to be critical of China or China’s current government structure. It is what it is. I feel your post is very positive and can advance our discussions of China’s future in terms of human rights development with Chinese characteristics.

  189. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    I hope you didn’t go the Her Lady of Perpetual Uselessness…hands down the best Catholic school name in the book, IMO.

    To Jerry:
    after reading what everyone’s written about Chomsky, I surmise that he’s a guy who’s garnered respect from many smart people, including many on this blog. So clearly my head’s been in the dirt on this one. I asked my wife (who gives less than a flying fig about politics) if she knew of Chomsky, and she said, oh yeah, he’s the linguist and political scientist who’s on CBC Radio 1 sometimes…which proves 2 things…one…that my wife is much smarter than me (and she’s been telling me that for years) and two…I’ll likely never develop a taste for Chomsky, since I find CBC Radio 1 to be talk radio which induces deep stupor within 12 seconds, and if Chomsky’s on it, then to me he’d be a saviour for insomniacs, like many other of that station’s contributors. But if you don’t mind summarizing his points, then I might learn something. Never thought of myself as a Coles Notes kinda guy, but for him, I might have to go that route :-)

    To Wahaha:
    “Either you have agenda against anything that is related to communism or you live in another world.” – please tell me it didn’t take you 5 months to realize that I hold communism and the CCP in the same esteem as bubonic plague and melamine-laced milk.

  190. Steve Says:

    To S.K. Cheung~ Actually, and I’m not kidding… my elementary school name was “Our Lady of Victories”. Talk about a kick ass education! Those Sisters of Charity certainly kicked my ass if I didn’t behave well.

    As for Chomsky, I’ve watched a few of his video clips on the net but won’t make a judgement on him until I’ve read his work. So it’s off to Borders this weekend to get a feel for his overall philosophy. Someone earlier remarked that just because someone is a genius, that doesn’t make him right. To that I would add that it is easy for someone who is brilliant to argue with what is called an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy. Noam Chomsky is a recognized authority in linguistics. That doesn’t make what he says about linguistics necessarily correct, and certainly doesn’t give his political views greater creedence. I’d use the example of Bertrand Russell, one of my favourite philosophers and an excellent writer who had certain ideas that just didn’t bear out in practice. He was excellent at philosophy but not so good at social behaviour.

    On the other hand, if his viewpoint has merit based on its own validity, then it doesn’t matter whether Chomsky is an expert in that field. A cogent argument always has merit. I’ll let you know what I think. I owe it to Jerry, who has been singing his praises for quite a few posts. Jerry, I’m dedicating Saturday to you! :)

  191. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “I don’t think of democracy or human rights as a goal – but as a means. If it’s useful for China to develop good governance, then of course they are important. If China can develop good governance without them, then they are not that important.” – as you say, we simply have different POV’s, and we both figured that out about 5 months ago. If I boil it down, it seems you want good governance +/- human rights, whereas I would want to see good governance + human rights. Our differences may also stem from what we might define as human rights (I say might, cuz mine is pretty nebulous still).

    I would agree that human rights do not include democracy, and have nothing to do with government, if only that such rights should be so basic as to transcend political ideology, or the mode of governance of the day.

    I agree with all your stated goals in the last paragraph of #186, with the caveat that I don’t consider any of those things to be human rights. That they need to be in China’s case once again illustrates just how much further she needs to go. But I hope China can progress in parallel with her recognition of human rights, and not at the expense of them.

  192. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    then you must be one of the proudest Catholics around :-)

    Good luck with your weekend project. I agree with you about this whole concept of “expert”. An expert is someone who’s proven their mettle in the past; but it’s still no guarantee of the quality of their present or future endeavours. Particularly in the arts, where “quality” is strictly in the eyes of the beholder.

    I’m afraid my weekend pursuits will be far less cerebral…it’ll probably be spent recovering from a Halloween hangover.

  193. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve, SKC: I think that several of the things Allen mentions are actually human rights, if we accept the universal declaration as a guideline. Some examples:

    “Article 22
    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

    “Article 25
    1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

    “Article 26
    1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

    There are some other articles there as well that support this point, though I agree that I want to see a future China where both are accounted for.

    And as I’ve said somewhere else, I have a firm belief that one day, one-party rule will be ruled out, and when that happens, a lot of the discussions about China’s uniqueness will just stop. :)

  194. Allen Says:

    @Steve and SKC,

    Great questions – I agree that we fundamentally disagree on what human rights are.

    Let me answer some of your questions.

    First. regarding what I mean by “nation building,” fundamentally I mean what I described in #186. As for whether this requires “national unity,” I’d say yes – especially given how how costly national disunity had been.

    I’d however like to point out that Chinese nationalism does not equal to Han nationalism – as many Westerners presume. If you really want to know what Han nationalism would be like, you can look to “democratic” India for what Hindhu nationalism has brought, and then multiply that at least 100 times. It is really ignorance, in my opinion, to equate Chineseness with Han.

    Second, regarding “structural weaknesses” of the Chinese government. It may or may not be true. I can say there are “structural weaknesses” with the U.S. gov’t, too – especially considering how strong the executive, the Supreme Court, and the Administrative agencies have become…

    One 911 had changed aspects of America society in so many fundanmental ways. The U.S. is one to two attacks from becoming a totalitarian, Orwellian, xenophobic state. Is the U.S. gov’t stable?

    Third, regarding Steve’s characterization of conception of “human rights” as “social goals” but not “human rights” – I don’t know what to say? To me, the purpose of gov’t is to improve the conditions in which people find themselves. Improving people’s lives = human rights. Period.

    I think our differences comes from Western doctrines and ideologies. In the West, there is this strong sense that the power of the government must be constrained – that government is inherently oppressive. Hence, we need to have law, bill of rights, human rights, etc. – all to constrain government – no matter how “good” the government is.

    That’s fine. There are many ways to constrain government and to regulate governance. I have nothing against “human rights” as you envision it. But personally I think that’s too much of a “bludgeon.” There are many other ways – perhaps more refined – to regulate governance.

    Given that there could be other possibilities, if the West can pursue its grand experiment in “democratic” governance, shouldn’t the Chinese be given some room to experiment with their form of governance also?

    Finally, as for where China will go from here? Who knows?

    There are many contradictions in the character of the Chinese economy, governance, social fabric, culture, etc. This is not surprising since what you see is only works in progress. So don’t be so judgemental (I don’t think you two necessarily are – I am just writing for our other readers).

    We live in special times. Open your eyes to other possibilites. Go visit China.

    You will meet among the most optimistic, hopeful and energetic people you have ever met.

    And perhaps you will have faith in how much brighter our future will all be when we have a prosperous, peaceful, and stable China…

  195. Allen Says:

    @Wukailong #193,

    Thanks for helping me out.

    Personally though, I don’t care much for the Universal Declaration (don’t tell that to my Human Rights professor who thought I was a star in his class!).

    I’ll blurt out a few more basic premises I have about human rights:

    I don’t think human rights is to be found in a document.

    I don’t think human rights is static.

    I don’t human rights is a one-size-fits all type of issue. It needs to be tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of each society.

    To the extent human rights refer to “universal values,” I don’t think it needs to be “taught” or “doctrinized.”

    We are not talking rocket science here or derivitives economics. Truly “universal rights” ought to be quite natural and intuitive.

  196. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “Improving people’s lives = human rights.”- agreed. But my western perspective perhaps can borrow from the famous American tagline: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Your definition seems more concerned with the “life” part – admittedly essential. You gotta take care of the basics, your dress/eat/live/transportation. But once those are fulfilled, the latter 2 to me are just as fundamental, though maybe less rudimentary.

    Now, admittedly, when the west comments on China, it’s from a western perspective. I wonder how many PRC citizens see a need to constrain their government, and how many are content with the status quo.

    And China has all the room it will ever want to experiment to her heart’s content. I just can’t guarantee that it’ll be a sound-proof room.

  197. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: Good points. I think we need to make sure, though, that the concept isn’t too unclear or just means whatever we want it to mean (like what happened to the concept of “democracy”). Also, the reason I’m using the Universal Declaration is only because it’s one of the most concrete descriptions, and because a lot of countries have officially ratified it and so can be held accountable (at least in theory).

    From a personal point of view, though, I think the concept of “universal values” is quite nonsensical. I believe most people will agree on some important values (after all, we are all human), but there are no universal values put down in our genes that we all share.

  198. Jerry Says:

    @Steve #190

    As for Chomsky, I’ve watched a few of his video clips on the net but won’t make a judgement on him until I’ve read his work. So it’s off to Borders this weekend to get a feel for his overall philosophy. Someone earlier remarked that just because someone is a genius, that doesn’t make him right. To that I would add that it is easy for someone who is brilliant to argue with what is called an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy. Noam Chomsky is a recognized authority in linguistics. That doesn’t make what he says about linguistics necessarily correct, and certainly doesn’t give his political views greater creedence. I’d use the example of Bertrand Russell, one of my favourite philosophers and an excellent writer who had certain ideas that just didn’t bear out in practice. He was excellent at philosophy but not so good at social behaviour.

    On the other hand, if his viewpoint has merit based on its own validity, then it doesn’t matter whether Chomsky is an expert in that field. A cogent argument always has merit. I’ll let you know what I think. I owe it to Jerry, who has been singing his praises for quite a few posts. Jerry, I’m dedicating Saturday to you!

    Thanks, Steve, but I would advise that you do it for yourself. I intentionally did not answer your request in #176. It is really an impossible request, at least the way I look at the world.

    Chomsky is a genius. Chomsky is a relentless investigator and brilliant analyst. Very methodical. I do admire him. He inspires me. I know that you have heard these words from me before.

    All that said, nobody is my idol, master, sensei. I am nobody’s parrot. I am just way too ornery, incorrigible and independent to a fault. All of those to a fault. So why would I say all that wonderful stuff about Chomsky.

    First of all, I grew up in that culture: Russian Jewish American. I know the tough times my dad had growing up a Jew in the predominantly German city of Cincinnati, Ohio. I know his friends, my uncles and others who grew up in that same era. I know how ornery, brave and relentless they were and are. And loveable.

    So I am now very comfortable with Jews of my dad’s age. It took some growing up and maturing on my part, but I appreciate the older generation much more now. And Chomsky grew up in that same era.

    That goes a long way to explaining why I feel so comfortable with Noam. Sure he is ornery, opinionated, stubborn and hard-headed. Not unusual at all. But I learned how to deal with that. And I like it. We call it chutzpah, in a very complimentary way. All in all, he is a haymer mensch.

    Now you may ask why I admire him and why he inspires me? The thing I most admire about him is his courage and independence. His willingness to look at Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. That takes a lot of guts considering the flack, hate and ridicule hurled back at him by some Jews like Horowitz, Dershowitz, AIPAC, Israel-Firsters, Likud and Kadima party members. He protested against the Vietnam War when he was sure that he would end up in jail and/or lose his job at MIT. He refuses to sell out.

    What inspires me? Is it his answers? No. Is it his viewpoint? No. What inspires me is that he is such a worthy, detailed, intellectual sounding-board. He challenges me. He pushes me. I test our analyses against each other. I test our conclusions against each other.

    Noam has no use for Major League Baseball. Well, I love baseball. I guess we will always disagree.

    I love the wisdom and stories I hear and read from Chomsky. I love listening to my dad, my Uncle Charles, my Uncle Tom, and my Aunt Shirleen and my Aunt Elsie. I love listening to Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel. Great stories and great wisdom. And how can I forget? I just love listening to the late Morrie Schwarz.

    Good luck this weekend. :D

  199. Allen Says:

    @SKC #196,
    You wrote:

    “Improving people’s lives = human rights.”- agreed. But my western perspective perhaps can borrow from the famous American tagline: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Your definition seems more concerned with the “life” part – admittedly essential. You gotta take care of the basics, your dress/eat/live/transportation. But once those are fulfilled, the latter 2 to me are just as fundamental, though maybe less rudimentary.

    I don’t think life, liberty, pursuit of happiness is inconsistent with what I said or whether what I said focus on any of these aspects. To me “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” is part of “social justice” – which is the main reason why I keep on cheering for “nation building.”

    Let me share some more of my worldviews:

    Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide me “life”? No. It’s my mom (and dad) – perhaps God. And then myself to keep myself healthy. And as I get older, perhaps my doctors when I get into trouble…

    Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide me “liberty”? What is “liberty”? As we discussed before, personal freedom is a function of many factors. Yes it can be hampered by government regulations, but it is also dependent on access to economic and technological resources; it is a function of the moral fiber of the society; it is shaped by culture and family needs; and so many other factors related to unique circumstances by which individuals find themselves.

    So – No. Government is not responsible for my “liberty.” Government is supposed to provide an environment of peace and prosperity where I can be empowered to be “Free” to do things I want.

    As for whether it’s the government’s responsibility to provide me “pursuit of happiness.” I think you know what I’d say. I myself am responsible for my happiness. Not the government. Not the Dalai Lama. Not the Pope. Just me.

    Finally – I want to make a note for the readers regarding “freedom” in general.

    I really believe the West has “freedom” today not because of “human rights” or “democracy” – but simply because it is prosperous and geopolitically strong. When China used to be strong – such as during the Tang and Song dynasties, it was also very “Free.” The culture was vibrant, the society was dynamic, and vigorous interactions existed between various components of societies as well as between China and the outside world.

    Freedom comes from peace and prosperity.

    If you care about “freedom” for China – take a long-term view. Understand what it takes to enable true, sustainable freedom – rather than nitpick about why full “freedom” isn’t here today.

  200. GNZ Says:

    “Whatever rationalizations, pretexts, ruses and pretenses he uses are his marketing/PR cover for his drive.”

    and you think marketing and PR don’t effect drives?

    c.f.
    “And the hatred for the USA is an illusory hatred. ”

    As illusionary as hatred of elite Jews might have been. But that does not mean they (the hatreds) are not dangerous.

    “Ho Chi Minh is a dangerous person? Says you. He is a mixed bag who did a lot for Vietnam, some which I like, some not.”

    I chose the word dangerous rather than anything else, mixed bags are dangerous. Anyway – a not dangerous leader would have worked out a peaceful accommodation with the french, USA and south Vietnamese put in place a government that was not so eager to fight it’s neighbors like Laos, and decided to not go with land reforms because they might kill too many people.

    “I would have just asked everybody else to get out of the way. That includes the French, Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Russians. Yeah, like that was going to happen.”

    so you are saying you would have made an empty request? I’m sure he would have been left just as unsatisfied with the “Claytons solution”.

  201. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    if improving people’s lives = human rights, and provision of and/or fostering an environment conducive to the enjoyment of life/liberty/pursuits = improving people’s lives, then as I said, I don’t think anyone has quarrels with China doing what needs to be done to “develop a more secure social support system that includes better healthcare system, better social security system, better public services, etc….” (#186). But I don’t see anything wrong with asking of China: so when are you also going to promote various freedoms which might then allow your people to achieve as yet unfulfilled pursuits?

    The long term view is fine…but unless you think the system will stay as is for “x” years, then suddenly reinvent itself at “x”years + 1 day from now, it seems reasonable to seek interim change as we await the manifestation of those true sustainable freedoms.

  202. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung #189
    @Steve #190

    Come on, SK. No need for apologies from you, OK? SK, you are plenty smart.

    “… my wife is much smarter than me (and she’s been telling me that for years)”. Sounds like my daughter. I keep telling her, “I wish that I was as smart as you think you are!” You can tell your wife that I said the same to her. On second thought, you better not. She might hunt me down like a dog. ::LMAO:: And on the run.

    SK, if Chomsky ain’t your cup of tea, so be it. Find your inspiration where you will.

    I wrote to Steve in #198 about Chomsky and others. I have since learned, after writing to Steve, that Studs Terkel died in Chicago at 96 years old. I had mentioned him in #198. Studs was a loveable, articulate, incorrigible, amiable, ornery old cuss who I dearly loved. Studs, I will miss you. Thanks for all the wonderful memories and wonderful stories. Thanks for brightening the life of this ornery curmudgeon, me.

    Steve and SK, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

    “Either you have agenda against anything that is related to communism or you live in another world.” – please tell me it didn’t take you 5 months to realize that I hold communism and the CCP in the same esteem as bubonic plague and melamine-laced milk.

    ::LMAO ROFL:: SK, you are against melamine-laced milk and bubonic plague?? I never knew. Who would have thunk it? BTW, since you didn’t mention melamine-laced eggs, are you ok with that?? LOL :D

  203. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry:
    in theory, yes…though having not tried either (at least to the best of my knowledge), I can’t say that with 100% certainty. I would also in theory not be a big fan of melamine-laced eggs…so it’s a good thing I buy the Canadian grade A variety. And to be fair, I haven’t tried communism and the CCP either. But of my affection for those 2 things, I’m quite certain. :-)

  204. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung #201
    @Allen #199

    #199

    Allen, you wrote:

    I don’t think life, liberty, pursuit of happiness is inconsistent with what I said or whether what I said focus on any of these aspects. To me “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” is part of “social justice” – which is the main reason why I keep on cheering for “nation building.”

    To me, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are more than just social justice. It is part of the social contract in which citizens give up natural law for civil law. And it is the citizens who are sovereign. Thus we work together as citizens to codify and stipulate just what is meant by the phrase “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. This phrase was so important to our founding fathers, they put it in the US Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    Jefferson borrowed and reworked the phrase from George Mason in the Virginia DOI. Mason had written in the first article,

    That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

    Mason had borrowed and revised from John Locke’s writings in “The Second Treatise on Civil Government”, Chapter II, “Of the State of Nature”

    Chapter II, Sec. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

    I am not publishing Jefferson’s, Mason’s and Locke’s work here to forever dogmatize and freeze their words. I am instead showing a progression, upon which we can borrow and improve. But let us not arbitrarily destroy the concepts.

    “Freedom comes from peace and prosperity.” Hmmm. … Perhaps aided by peace and prosperity. Freedom and the drive for freedom seem to me qualities of the human spirit. Perhaps the peace and prosperity come from freedom and the drive for such. Still pondering this? Hmmm. …

    —————-

    #201

    SK, you wrote:

    I don’t think anyone has quarrels with China doing what needs to be done to “develop a more secure social support system that includes better healthcare system, better social security system, better public services, etc….” (#186). But I don’t see anything wrong with asking of China: so when are you also going to promote various freedoms which might then allow your people to achieve as yet unfulfilled pursuits?

    I agree. I would ask China also to start listening to the Chinese people, to find out what they feel and think. I think that the promotion of “various freedoms” would go a long way to helping the Chinese people develop a social contract in which they are sovereign. Rather than systems imposed by the CCP and regional governments or by the West, let the Chinese choose for themselves. They might need their own version of the “Declaration of Independence” in order to do this. Hopefully, they could achieve this peacefully, much like the “Czech Velvet Revolution”.

  205. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #204,

    Thanks for taking the time to not just try to understand the context of the original context for the phrase “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” but also the evolution of that phrase. I commend you for the effort!

    There are definitely lots of “food for thought.”

    I will make just one quick comment.

    Sometimes when I read classic texts such as the Declaration of Independence, etc., I try not to get too enthralled by the the high rhetoric too much.

    This is because while the founding father of this nation (U.S.A.) were raising exalting rhetoric of “equality”, “liberty” and “freedom,” they also considered the right to vote to be a privilege of male land owners only, believed in and owned (in many cases many families of) slaves, and treated the natives of this land with high contempt.

    As I read these texts, I can’t but help to ask: what kind of “liberty” and “freedom” and “equality” did these people really have in mind?

    These are not the faults with our founding fathers really, but symptomatic of the entire age.

    If you look at the age of enlightenment as a whole, you will also be flabbergasted that despite all the associated wisdom and discovery of political ideals that we associate with the period, the Europeans of the same period would also go on to divide up, colonize and enslave most of the world – sometimes under the very banner of enlightenment.

    I am not saying you should not look back to the enlightenment or our founding fathers for political inspiration. But personally for me, these documents (read in context) do not give me answers.

    I think it is much better we take stock of today’s circumstances, our common histories, and decide for ourselves what human rights and liberty ought to mean for today’s world. Why go back to those documents when we have over 200 more years of history to draw from than those “enlightened” leaders of the enlightenment? ;-)

    P.S. By the way, I still think the motivation for the Declaration of Independence is social justice – not human rights per se. I will requote part of the sections you quoted: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    At the time, the main social social injustice (as seen from the founding fathers) was tyranny by the monarchies (i.e. the “long train of abuses and usurpations”). That’s why the document was directed at “liberty” from bad governments and not necessarily at “liberty” from slave owners or universal suffrage.

    Had the document been truly about “universal rights” – had our founding fathers’ attention truly been focused at promoting rights and not simply solving a perceived social injustice, how could the founding fathers have glossed over so much inequality and tyranny that exited right under their nose?

    Just my 2 cents.

  206. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #205

    Thanks, Allen. I am glad that our ideas evolve. I am not a dogmatist. Improvement is the name of the game as far as I care. Oftentimes, our concepts are wonderful, e.g:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

    Unfortunately, the implementation/manifestation of our well-meaning, fine concepts are often flawed. This is usually more obvious with 20-20 hindsight. But sometimes we know that our implementations are hollow, right from the get-go. Hence, improvement and updating seem to be perpetual duties.

    Sometimes when I read classic texts such as the Declaration of Independence, etc., I try not to get too enthralled by the the high rhetoric too much.

    This is because while the founding father of this nation (U.S.A.) were raising exalting rhetoric of “equality”, “liberty” and “freedom,” they also considered the right to vote to be a privilege of male land owners only, believed in and owned (in many cases many families of) slaves, and treated the natives of this land with high contempt.

    As I read these texts, I can’t but help to ask: what kind of “liberty” and “freedom” and “equality” did these people really have in mind?

    These are not the faults with our founding fathers really, but symptomatic of the entire age.

    As I read these texts, I can’t but help to ask: what kind of “liberty” and “freedom” and “equality” did these people really have in mind?

    These are not the faults with our founding fathers really, but symptomatic of the entire age.

    If you look at the age of enlightenment as a whole, you will also be flabbergasted that despite all the associated wisdom and discovery of political ideals that we associate with the period, the Europeans of the same period would also go on to divide up, colonize and enslave most of the world – sometimes under the very banner of enlightenment.

    I agree whole-heartedly. I love the concepts in the DOI. I love the concepts behind the Magna Carta. Nonetheless, the implementation leaves us wanting. The implementation cries out for improvement. And this we have done in our constitution and its amendments and in our laws. And it is an ongoing struggle. We are nowhere close to perfection.

    Allen, I rarely find “great answers” in life. I find directions, suggestions and usually many more questions. The answers which I do find evolve over time. And I also find that the DOI and the Constitution provide, not answers, but some very fine, ageless concepts and food for thought. The provocation of thought is fine indeed.

    P.S. By the way, I still think the motivation for the Declaration of Independence is social justice – not human rights per se. I will requote part of the sections you quoted: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    Allen, I beg to differ. I agree that “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are part of social justice, and as Rousseau and Locke would argue, natural rights. But Jefferson wrote further, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. This to me was a call to incorporate these natural rights into civil rights, using the social contract. The people are sovereign.

    Now, we are not locked into this. Nonetheless, it has become part of American and Western tradition. And, in general, the ongoing, evolutionary codification of these natural rights into civil rights has served us well.

    Had the document been truly about “universal rights” – had our founding fathers’ attention truly been focused at promoting rights and not simply solving a perceived social injustice, how could the founding fathers have glossed over so much inequality and tyranny that exited right under their nose?

    You are right in that life is messy and imperfect. But let us not throw out the wonderful concepts of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” because our founding fathers were very short-sighted, somewhat tyrannical, inequitable and protective of their own status. Perhaps you could call it “Revolutionary CYA”? :D

    I also like Jefferson’s concept of incorporating those natural rights into the social contract.

    BTW, I always enjoy Howard Zinn’s take on the writing of the Constitution. I will paraphrase and take liberty with his words. “When 50 or so rich white guys reflect on what they have just done to King George and the British, it changes their point of view. Sure the Declaration of Independence was great. But, come on! Are we going to let others do to us what we just did to King George? Are you kidding? Of course not! You think we are stupid?” Hence, great concepts and implementation diverge once more. Hence, part of the reason for my ongoing distrust of government. ::LOL::

    Just my 2 shekels. Mazel tov, haimisher mensch! :D

  207. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry,
    when I first referred to “life/liberty/pursuits” in #196, I was not intending to focus on the DOI on its own merits, nor of the flaws in its implementation over the last 232 years. But I did want to contrast my construct of human rights (using a famous American framework) to what I think is Allen’s rather narrow one. Simply put, even after society takes care of the basics (in Cantonese, your dress/eat/live/transport), there are still other human rights which are likely desired, and should be on offer. And it’s those remaining things where China seems to have much room to improve, and for which her feet should continue to be held to the fire…in an encouraging way of course.
    Which, in my way of trying to channel Chomsky, is to say I agree with #206 (and if not by insight or intellect, then at least by word count) :-)

  208. TommyBahamas Says:

    @Jerry, “… come on! Are we going to let others do to us what we just did to King George? Are you kidding? Of course not! You think we are stupid?”

    Howard Zinn is absoutely right. The Boston Tea party was against crown monopoly. John Adams, an idealistic disciplinarian lawyer believed in strong governance because I think he bought into the Biblical dogma of original sin. He said that men left to themselves are capable of geat evil. I wonder if by men, he meant the masses or men of means and power. I suspect more the latter.
    Indeed, there is no reason for trusting any government. The legacy of dirty politics in whatever system is a guarantee. Why is that? Because they can. Dispite crimes against humanity, Kissenger won the Nobel Peace price. The ousted war-PM of the UK,Tony Blair is immediately appointed as special envoy to ME peace resolution – What? what a joke. A spit and slap at the face of justice. Hence it behooves us to humbly learn from Chomsky’s research and analysis; pay attention to journalists who do not work for the media mogols, even Conspiracy theorists, some of whom are truly closer to any truth than all of us eager laymen put together speculating away day and night, will ever come near to.

  209. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #206,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like your idea that the founding fathers really had all these grand ideas (and we are not just revisionists) and that whatever fault we see today was only a result that period’s “implementation.”

    Of course, I don’t buy it! :-D Alternatively, we need give China the same leeway and accept CCP rhetoric at face value, giving the Chinese gov’t ample more time to “implement” their visions of a “just and harmonious society” and not get so worked up on China’s current contradictions!. ;-)

    Anyways, in many ways, what the founding fathers really thought is really not that important: it’s our conception of “alienable rights” (universal rights, human rights, whatever) today that is relevant for today’s discussion anyways. So with that said, I guess we are back to square one (after our slight detour into history!)?

    @SKC #207, you wrote:

    But I did want to contrast my construct of human rights (using a famous American framework) to what I think is Allen’s rather narrow one. Simply put, even after society takes care of the basics (in Cantonese, your dress/eat/live/transport), there are still other human rights which are likely desired, and should be on offer.

    sigh……… (that’s for melodramatic effect! ;-) )

    I never said human rights only equal to dress/eat/live/transport or anything to that effect! I have always said (from day one on this board) that human rights is more than the narrow “human rights” contemplated by the West.

    I had always said to prescribe human rights, one must look at the needs of a society holistically. In some societies today, it means providing dress/eat/live/transport. In others, it means severing ties with the monarchy. In still others, it means working to rid of past racial injustices. In still others, it means revolution against the capitalists!

    Every society’s needs and every society’s priority is different – (see e.g., #155). The concept of “inalienable rights” may have served the West well (as Jerry said). But to promote it in lieu of an eye to social justice (an amorophous concept to be understood by understanding the problems confronting a society as a whole) is blind.

    I will say it again. I am not against any body’s version “human rights”! I am only against the rigid prescription of any one version as a one-size-fit-all solution to the world’s problems!!!

    (OK, my voice is hoarse now – I’m going to sleep now…)

  210. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung #207

    Well said, SK. And a whole lot more succinctly than I. :D LOL

    I am in favor of your broader construct. At least that is what I think I wrote. :D It just seems that I need a lot more words to say that than you need. I admire your clarity and brevity. And as they say, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (or as we would write on the internet-censorship thread, “Evitybray isway ethay oulsay ofway itway.”) And you are a very funny guy. :) BTW, here is a site which will do your translations into pig latin: http://users.snowcrest.net/donnelly/piglatin.html.

    Hmmm. … Channeling Chomsky. … Well, I am proud of you. Does this mean you are Jewish? :D LMAO

    Stop it Jerry, you have exceeded your daily limit of fun. ::LOL::

  211. Hongkonger Says:

    Once again, The CCTV Cup English Speaking Contest is here.

    The first time I watched it on TV was back in 2003. I was amazed.

    Beside the idea of and successful implementation of one-country-two-systems, the brilliant adaptation of an adopted political system with Chinese characteristics, the carrying out of an examplary economic system with miraculous outcome, the graciousness of having Mark Roswell, a Canadian national to become the celebrity Mandarin instructor nationwide, and the creativity of Li Yang crazy English shouting methodology, I wonder if this is another something that is unique to China?

  212. GNZ Says:

    interesting canada seems to have better human rights than the US just like england was much more progressive on equality than the US for example the US was one of the last bastions of slavery in the world.

    It would seem the US might have best progressed that part of the constitution by loosing the war of independence and never having a DOI.

    A bit ironic.

    oh and being much richer than comparable countries hasn’t prevented it from being less progressive than same countries.

  213. Jerry Says:

    @TommyBahamas #208

    I love Howard Zinn’s willingness to look at history from a different, non-mainstream approach.

    Adams, an idealistic disciplinarian lawyer believed in strong governance because I think he bought into the Biblical dogma of original sin. He said that men left to themselves are capable of geat evil. I wonder if by men, he meant the masses or men of means and power. I suspect more the latter.

    I think the latter. Adams, along with most of the founders, was an elitist, and an oligarch. Most of the others were also plutocrats.

    I shudder when you mention Kissinger. I shake my head at the mention of “Poodle” Blair. I learn from Chomsky’s research and analysis, too. I pay attention to non-mainstream journalists. I refuse to dismiss conspiracy theorists out of hand. I believe that I should keep my eyes, ears and mind open.

  214. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I thought I was being adequately careful in not saying that you equate dress/eat etc to the entirety of the scope of human rights from your POV. However, as I first alluded to in 191 in response to your last paragraph of 186, I felt that your definition(s) of human rights in China was constituted of such basic things as to merit a comparison to dress/eat etc to contrast with what I thought human rights consisted of, which is to say more than just the basics (hence also my diversion into life/liberty/pursuits, whereby life=the basics, but there’s more to rights than just the basics ergo liberty and pursuits). If your POV is that human rights is comprised of a much broader spectrum, then I’m glad to hear it.
    And if you say China needs room to pursue hers, no biggie. But once again, I object to your characterization than the west is “prescribing” a set for China to consume, twice a day, with food. Rather, I’d say the west is not shy about asking China what her problem is, and why not give ours a try. For even if one size doesn’t fit all, I’d imagine most would try it on for size first before concluding out of hand that it doesn’t fit at all.

  215. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #209

    I think we agree more than you think we do. I don’t see us back at square one.

    Let me clarify the meaning of concept as I intended in my writings. To me, a concept is a scalable, expandable framework/construct. It is the picture that we develop in our mind, using the concept, that limits the implementation/manifestation. As the picture expands and becomes more encompassing, it still fits inside the concept.

    Maybe it would have been clearer if I described “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as an underlying principle or foundation. I don’t know.

    Obviously, Jefferson had some picture in his mind when he wrote those immortal words. He just did not understand how big those words were, that concept was, that principle was. He probably never saw, in his mind, those words applying to slaves, the non-landed masses, women and Native Americans. Or maybe later in life he did and was torn by the dichotomy in his soul. But I believe that the picture in his head and the heads of others, at that time, limited the implementation of the concept/principle. I believe that I have a broader, more evolved picture in my brain of what that concept/principle means. And hopefully it will keep growing and evolving.

    I am not seeking to revise history here. Jefferson, Washington et al, were who they were, no more, no less. They all had flaws; so do we. But we have the benefit of seeing them in hindsight. What I am saying is that the concept/principle, as written by Jefferson, is scalable/expandable to the larger picture which we now have in our minds. So let us not just dismiss the concept/principle because it was written 232 years ago.

    Let’s work at expanding our viewpoint, expanding that picture in our mind, so that we are more encompassing, more understanding, more just and more accepting of each other. As I said earlier, we stand on the shoulders of giants. I am grateful.

    And, Allen, please remember what I wrote earlier in #204, in response to SK in #201. I agreed with his statement in #201 and then added:

    I would ask China also to start listening to the Chinese people, to find out what they feel and think. I think that the promotion of “various freedoms” would go a long way to helping the Chinese people develop a social contract in which they are sovereign. Rather than systems imposed by the CCP and regional governments or by the West, let the Chinese choose for themselves. They might need their own version of the “Declaration of Independence” in order to do this. Hopefully, they could achieve this peacefully, much like the “Czech Velvet Revolution”.

    It is not my desire to impose anything on the Chinese people. It is not my place. But if I can reasonably help in creating an environment which allows them to choose their own path, I would be more than happy to do so.

    As I said Allen, I think you and I agree more than you think we do. And I am grateful for the discussions we have. Thanks. :D

  216. Hongkonger Says:

    “As I said Allen, I think you and I agree more than you think we do. ”

    Did anyone pay attention to what was said at WEF 2008?

    http://www.weforum.org/en/events/ArchivedEvents/AnnualMeeting2008/index.htm

    A new world order must arise to cope with…blah, blah, blah…

    Rising energy prices, growing demand for biofuels, higher rates of obesity and commodities shortages are trends that suggest the precariousness of a globalized food chain. Panellists discussed the implications of these trends for governments, businesses and culture, and the effect they have on traditional family meals.

    How about sending McDonald’s, KFC back back to where they came from for starter? (Just kidding)

    Some insights from the session include:

    Mass production of food and demand for cheap, consistent products have resulted in unsustainable practices in growing food. For example, one variety of potato displays the ideal characteristic of fast food French fries. Overproduction of this plant threatens genetic diversity and requires inefficient use of energy.

    Consumption of food that arises from this kind of production could lead to an “overfed and undernourished” population.

    Climate change is a major issue for rethinking the food supply. Addressing issues such as water shortages and excessive greenhouse gas emissions will require better technologies for agricultural production.

    Corporations that rely on unsustainable production models are squeezed between pleasing shareholders and needing to adopt more responsible environmental practices, which can have higher short-term costs.

    Consumers are increasingly expressing preferences for environmentally-friendly, sustainable agricultural practices. One participant noted that the limiting factor on the organic produce market in many parts of the United Kingdom is not demand from customers but availability of products. “Vote with your fork,” noted another participant.

    Expanding these practices beyond niche markets to feed a larger percentage of the population remains the biggest challenge for “fixing” the food supply.

    Food production will have to change due to rising energy costs and more responsible environmental planning, and the short-term result is likely to be higher costs. As one participant predicted, “the price of doing things [that are] bad for the planet is going to rise” due to new policies like carbon emissions restrictions.

  217. Allen Says:

    @SKC #214,
    You wrote:

    I felt that your definition(s) of human rights in China was constituted of such basic things as to merit a comparison to dress/eat etc to contrast with what I thought human rights consisted of, which is to say more than just the basics (hence also my diversion into life/liberty/pursuits, whereby life=the basics, but there’s more to rights than just the basics ergo liberty and pursuits). If your POV is that human rights is comprised of a much broader spectrum, then I’m glad to hear it.

    Only the last sentence is correct. We disagree on a lot. But I hope I have made it clear beyond any doubt that my personal vision of human rights is very, Very BROAD – it encompasses not that the dress/eat etc nor the life/liberty/pursuits. But I prioritize dress/eat etc over (not in lieu of, please) the life/liberty/pursuits. It’s about prioritization because you have to understand the problems of the society as a whole. It’s not about “in lieu” because having mechanisms for the “people” to provide feedback to the government regarding their needs and desires is very important in any system of just governance.

  218. Allen Says:

    @Jerry #215,
    Your wrote:

    He just did not understand how big those words were, that concept was, that principle was. He probably never saw, in his mind, those words applying to slaves, the non-landed masses, women and Native Americans. Or maybe later in life he did and was torn by the dichotomy in his soul.

    I can’t disagree with that. The “rhetoric” used initially against the monarchy in the Enlightenment period definitely took on a life of their own that in due time transformed (is still transforming, since the West is still far from perfect) Western society for the better…

    You also wrote:

    Let’s work at expanding our viewpoint, expanding that picture in our mind, so that we are more encompassing, more understanding, more just and more accepting of each other. As I said earlier, we stand on the shoulders of giants. I am grateful.

    The Chinese definitely should not ignore the “giants” of political theory in the West. Westerners should however also understand that that the Chinese have a deep and grand heritage and culture that provides more than enough to guide her own development, if need be.

    And at the risk of sounding like a broken record: I wish Westerners should show more humility about their so-called ideologies in solving the world’s problems. If the goal is to “help” the Chinese, take more time to understand the depth and breadth of her problems before jumping in to prescribe (this doesn’t apply to you, I am just ranting in general!).

    I am also glad for these discussions (agreement or not) … and look forward to more in the future! :-D

  219. Allen Says:

    @HongKonger #216,

    If climate change does wreck havoc to food production and change rain patterns across the world, food and water will become even bigger issues for humanity in the coming century. Sigh… :-(

  220. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To HKer:
    sounds like we all need to do the 100 mile diet. And I suppose organic helps too. But it does require choices, and sacrifices. For the former, especially when you live in the Great White North, there are some things we just can’t grow (bye bye bananas, kiwis, the list goes on). As for the latter, the general understanding (perhaps misconception) is that it is more expensive. It could work if people, as a society, accept paying more for food and doing without some “exotic” stuff.

  221. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    if you say prioritize, instead of in lieu of, so be it. Perhaps your list in #186 was not meant to be exhaustive, but merely the first tier of priorities. In that case, I look forward to when China will have moved past her first to-do list, and moved onto the next wrt human rights. In the meantime, I guess PRC citizens can wait…they’ve had some practice at that. That being said, I see no problem with the “west” sharing some suggestions that PRC citizens can squirrel away for later, at their discretion, when the environment might hopefully be more conducive and receptive. As I said in #3, the west can talk, and that’s our prerogative; Chinese can choose to listen or not, for that is theirs.

  222. Hongkonger Says:

    It could work if people, as a society, accept paying more for food and doing without some “exotic” stuff.

    SKC,

    Yes, I am all for the 100 mile Diet.

    As for tropical fruits in the GWN, let those be your fruits-of -choice-on-vacation. The same goes for us in the tropics. When was the last time you tasted a tree-ripe piece of heavenly tasting fruit? When I was in Malaysia, I had durians that’d fallen from the tree – yummy. They were dirt cheap but heavenly tasty. Totally natural, wild, organic, non toxic and no zero GMO.

    WRT GMO, I wonder if that devilish practice has gone beyond the point of no return?

    Jerry?

    Speaking of Malaysia. Where is Oli? He seems to have gone missing these days.

  223. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To HKer:
    companies like Mosanto probably fly under radar, by choice. So who really knows how prevalent the GM stuff is in our foodchain? For that matter, we also don’t know how much hormone gets passed along in the meat we eat. That day of reckoning is probably decades off. BUt so far, no melamine for us…but that listeria can be a bugger.

  224. Jerry Says:

    duplicates [spam filter issues], removed.

  225. Jerry Says:

    duplicates [spam filter issues], removed.

  226. Jerry Says:

    @Hongkonger #216, 222
    @S.K. Cheung #220, 223
    @Allen #219

    Oh, boy, here goes nothing.

    —————-

    #216

    HKer, any time I hear that name, Davos, I cringe. It is probably a nice town, though.

    “How about sending McDonald’s, KFC back back to where they came from for starter? (Just kidding)” Well, it is probably a better idea than you think.

    Well, the discussion and insights sound wonderful and have been around for years in scientific circles. These are solid insights. The rub lies in their implementation. (Allen, think of these insights as great principles/concepts. It is the small, limited picture in the heads of corporate execs and thus government leaders which causes poor implementation. Sooner or later, execs will start asking, “But what about our profits? What about dividends we need to pay to investors? What about our stock price? And most importantly, what about my bonuses and compensation?” I know; it’s ugly! But certainly not new.) If we can somehow expand that little picture into a more encompassing, long term picture, we will be in better shape. Most execs, when faced with expanding the picture in their heads, opt to turn to marketing and p/r to co-opt the insights. That way they can have their cake and eat it, too. They try to fool the public and keep their priorities uppermost.

    I know that long-term, if we keep refusing to change, that this will end in the destruction of our ecosystems and human extinction. When and how much, who knows? But, as I have written before, WWF and Global Footprint have painted a dire picture if we continue to ignore the fact that ecological footprint is exceeding biocapacity on earth, currently at 25% overshoot in 2003. And we know that the overshoot is continuing to worsen, by the year.

    —————-

    #219

    Amen, Allen! But next time I say amen, would you please make it something optimistic. :D Not your fault, Allen. You are calling that the way you see it.

    —————-

    #220

    “sounds like we all need to do the 100 mile diet.” Maybe, SK? Now let me explain. I have contributed money to Sightline Foundation, a group which concerns itself with ecologically sustainable living.

    Here are some links from Sightline and some of their comments.

    http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2008/08/01/miles-to-go-before-i-eat

    Miles To Go Before I Eat

    What Seattle’s 100 mile diet looks like. …

    In his blog post that accompanies the map, Matt (Stevenson) writes:

    “As it turns out there is far less acreage in cultivated crops than in hay/pasture, and within 50 miles, each acre of cultivated crops would need to feed 172 people! If we assume that all of the hay/pasture can be converted into cultivated crops, the number of people supported by one acre drops to 22. Moving out to 100 miles improves the situation, with just under 31 people per acre of cultivated crops and just under 7 per acre for all agricultural land.”

    That means the numbers doen’t pencil out under any set of assumptions:

    “However, according to one study, a meat-based diet requires 9 acres per person! A diet that is primarily plant-based (with some milk, cheese, and eggs) requires 3/4 of an acre.
    (http://www.energyfarms.net/node/1490)”

    So even if we all became vegetarians we couldn’t sustain ourselves on the amount of farmland nearby (to say nothing of the type of farmland and local growing conditions). Not even close, although I’d be curious to know how the number change if we extended the line another 50 miles or so to capture the fertile valleys on the east slopes of the Cascades.

    Here at Sightline, we’ve written quite a bit about local food and its benefits (see here for a list). (http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2008/search?SearchableText=food&portal_type=blog&submit.x=25&submit.y=13) But the general tenor is that it’s very difficult — make that very, very difficult — to quantify the climate attributes of food, whether it’s local or long distance (http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2008/08/01/miles-to-go-before-i-eat/resolveuid/a858444eeb2ff72fd7ff054bce3d3272) (http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2008/08/01/miles-to-go-before-i-eat/resolveuid/23b0dc00902e4f935d3940141b41c293). One recent study, reported in an engaging article called Do Food Miles Matter? (http://www.climatebiz.com/column/2008/07/14/do-food-miles-matter) :

    “…found that transportation creates only 11%… of the greenhouse gases… that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption.”

    I guess there are several ways to parse this. I think 11% is kind of a lot. But on the other hand, a big chunk of that transportation figure is from consumers getting to and from the store (or farmers’ market); it has nothing to do with the locality of the food source.

    Still, all else being equal, local food may shave some greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Plus, not everything is about climate emissions. Eating local can have positive economic and cultural benefits: it helps sustain local farms and can encourage niche industries like troll-caught fish, organic poultry, or heirloom vegetable varieties. And at the end of the day, eating local is a bit like gardening: it’s just really, really satisfying somehow, even if you can’t put your finger on why.

    The upshot is that, while the “100 mile diet” sounds like a no-brainer, there are questions about feasibility and whether the diet actually lessons ecological footprint. I just wish things were easy and not so complex.

    “However, according to one study, a meat-based diet requires 9 acres per person! A diet that is primarily plant-based (with some milk, cheese, and eggs) requires 3/4 of an acre.” Sorry, SK, about the message on meat consumption. Yeah, I know, it is depressing!

    —————-

    #222

    GMO? Well, HKer, once GMOs get into the gene pool, the wind, water, birds, animals, etc. help spread those little genes far and wide. Once gene flow/migration takes place, “Katy bar the door!” Beyond the point of no return? Who knows? What effect? Who knows? I just don’t like flounder genes in my tomatoes. I know that.

    —————-

    #223

    Monsanto, Conagra, Conoco, Cargil, ADM. They all fly under the radar.

    SK, when you say Monsanto, I think Roundup, the Terminator F1 gene, rBST/rBGH, the privatization of water distribution, GMO, suing Canadian farmers because Monsanto GM seed had migrated to other farms not using Monsanto seed and patenting 2,000 year old uses of the neem tree in India. Thank god for people like Vandana Shiva, the biophysicist who stands in their way in India.

    One little story about a Monsanto GM corn experiment at an agriculture extension farm. Monsanto had modified a gene in corn so that you could nullify the systemic effects of
    Roundup (think of it as leveraging and synergy). So they could spray the crap out of the field with Roundup, while the corn was unharmed and the weeds all died. What a neat trick.

    Damned if nature and gene flow didn’t kill this little experiment. The next year, surrounding farmers were complaining that they could not kill their weeds with Roundup. It turns out that Monsanto, by the grace of the mechanisms of gene flow, had created GM superweeds, which had the same genetic modification as the GM corn. OOOOOPS! A cautionary tale for the ages. (here is a later report in 2005 about a similar incident in the UK. This time it was GM rapeseed. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/jul/25/gm.food)

    Oh, well. :D

  227. Jerry Says:

    Allen and Admin, I think my latest post got caught in your spam filter because of all of the links in the post. Help please.

  228. Jerry Says:

    @Admin
    @Hongkonger #216, 222
    @S.K. Cheung #220, 223
    @Allen #219

    Well, I have responded, but unfortunately, I think my links are blocking the publishing of my post. I think that they have got caught in the spam filter.

  229. Allen Says:

    @Jerry -

    Sorry about the late response. I approved all 3 posts you sent in #214-#216. They are probably just duplicates, but I want to make sure. Let me know which one you want me to keep and which ones to “delete.”

    Thanks!

    Allen

  230. Allen Says:

    @Jerry,

    You wrote:

    Amen, Allen! But next time I say amen, would you please make it something optimistic. :D

    You got that right! Perhaps SKC can help me link up with some Canadian Pharmacist. The drugs here in the States are too darn expensive… I cannot afford to take the full dosage of Prozac that I had been prescribed! :-D

  231. TahwYOJ Says:

    You guys are a bunch of pharam heads… Go with nature… It’s so much better for you…

  232. Jerry Says:

    Hi Allen (# 229),

    I made a slight change at the end of #226. So please delete #224 and #225.

    Thanks. I forgot about your links’ filter.

    Take care,

    –jerry

  233. Steve Says:

    Wow, I spend a couple of days reading Chomsky and come back to so many great comments! But I first owe Allen a retort:

    @Allen #194: Unfortunately based on conversations I’ve had in China, I have to disagree with you about Chinese vs. Han nationalism. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Uyghurs or Tibetans referred to by Han Chinese as not being Chinese; not being “one of us”. Now Allen, I truly wish you are correct since I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is really ignorance to equate Chinese-ness with Han, but so far the stories I’ve heard haven’t fit into that definition. Commenters from China, do you feel I’m all wet on this?

    I also have to disagree with you about structural weaknesses in both the Chinese and American governments, because the American government has a self-correcting mechanism while the Chinese government does not. It’s always a matter of degree whenever you compare governments. The Bush administration used this “War on Terrorism” to increase the power of the executive branch, but their overreach has decimated the Republican Party’s hold on power. Will the Democrats make changes to rebalance the equation? We’ll know in the coming year.

    The Chinese government is really interesting, because the major structural change has been in the power of the leader. Mao had absolute power, Deng less than Mao but still enormous, Jiang less than Deng and Hu less than Jiang. Each succeeding generation has had to rule more by control of a faction or clique rather than having that absolute power of yore. It’ll be interesting to see the changes after Hu leaves office. Someone on this blog mentioned that he really liked Zhu Rongji and how good he was when in office. That reminded me of something I heard in China; how it is China’s sorrow that the #2 guy is always better than the #1 guy.

    “One 911 had changed aspects of American society in so many fundamental ways. The U.S. is one to two attacks from becoming a totalitarian, Orwellian, xenophobic state. Is the U.S. gov’t stable?”

    Since 911, the Congress has changed hands, the Senate has changed hands and now the presidency looks like it’s about to change hands. The paranoia of the 50s was replaced by the liberalism of the 60s and 70s. The nature of U.S. government is to swing back towards the middle every time it goes too far to one side. Of course there is a segment of all societies that becomes xenophobic when attacked. It’s normal human emotion. Overall, I find your statement pretty extreme. The Bush administration has been pretty bleak, but I’d say it’s been stable.

    No argument about the purpose of government, but our difference is that you feel improving people’s lives = human rights. If the government gives a middle class tax break it improves people’s lives. Is a middle class tax break a fundamental human right? I don’t think so; for me it’s just good governance.

    “…shouldn’t the Chinese be given some room to experiment with their form of governance also?”

    China’s a big country. No one is going to influence their form of governance except the Chinese themselves. Governments and NGOs will continue to highlight the lack of certain freedoms they observe in Chinese society, and China will continue to criticize them as interfering in China’s internal affairs. My feeling about it is that as long as their society moves in an upward direction with positive incremental changes, the Chinese people (who in the end are the only ones that really matter in this equation providing China is not engaged in external wars) will support their government in the hope that conditions will continue to improve.

    @ Allen199: “I really believe the West has “freedom” today not because of “human rights” or “democracy” – but simply because it is prosperous and geopolitically strong. When China used to be strong – such as during the Tang and Song dynasties, it was also very “Free.” The culture was vibrant, the society was dynamic, and vigorous interactions existed between various components of societies as well as between China and the outside world. Freedom comes from peace and prosperity.”

    We could just as easily say that peace and prosperity come from freedom. Prosperity usually comes from allowing people the freedom to succeed. When Deng allowed economic freedom, China’s economy prospered. China recently changed the land ownership law in agricultural areas to allow more freedom for development, hoping to increase peasant prosperity.

    The Tang and Song dynasties were very successful compared to the rest of the world at the time, but these days the political and technological structures are such that an “emperor” system would no longer be competitive. The question of today is, can the present Chinese governmental structure continue to bring peace and increased prosperity to the Chinese people? If not, does the present government structure have within itself the capacity to make the changes necessary to do so?

  234. Steve Says:

    @Allen #205: You’re right; it was symptomatic of the entire age. Jefferson didn’t like slavery and wanted to eliminate it in the Constitution but the south would not go along. He kept his slaves because he could not run his estate otherwise under that economic system. (Jefferson was a terrible businessman)

    For me, the key aspect of those documents was how they left room for societal change. They were written vaguely enough so that there was future room to maneuver. My guess is that they understood this when they were written. A friend of mine from Brasil told me that they change constitutions every few years because each constitution is so specific that it becomes outmoded in a short time.

    But for me, the great beauty of the American Constitution is its use of checks and balances. By doing so, Madison was saying that we could not trust the government to stay honest so we had to pit it against itself. How many times in world history have we seen a leader achieve power with the noblest intentions, but over time convince himself that he should be the only arbiter of power and gradually turn in to a dictator?

    I disagree with you about the motivation for the Declaration of Independence. I think it was based in human rights, specifically the right to have representation in making the laws that govern you. You might think of that more as a political right rather than human right but at the time, such a right was considered human. It was the usurpation of that representation by King George and Parliament that pushed the colonies into revolt. At the time, universal suffrage wasn’t thought of as a human right and the abolition of slavery was attempted but abandoned at the time in order to create the new country. The sad fact about slavery is that it would have died a natural death if not for the invention of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

  235. Steve Says:

    @Hongkonger #216, 222
    Allen #219
    SKC #220
    Jerry #226

    One variety of potato caused the Irish potato famine, yet agribusinesses are still way too reliant on just a few varieties of each crop. Many new “hardy” varieties have lost much of their nutritional content and flavor. Fortunately, consumer demand for “organic” produce has had a “trickle down” effect (more than I can say for wealth) that has helped all food sources. Most people can’t be so choosy about the food they buy; they just cannot afford organic. Allen, your comment about water supply is very apropos. There may come a time when water supply issues start wars; wars of survival.

    The 100 mile diet? You mean some of the guys here have to give up their steaks? Impossible! :)

    I think the “crazy aunt in the attic” that no one wants to talk about concerning the environment, pollution and resource scarcity is the population of the planet. People cause pollution. You can cut waste but if the population keeps rising, it just wipes out whatever you save. That is the reason I give China a big pat on the back for their one child policy. It will not only make the nation more prosperous in the long run but help to get the world population under control, greatly help in China’s effort to clean up the environment, and lower the problem of scarcity issues. The only other solution is to lower the quality of life for everyone, and I don’t feel that is a fair or viable option. The optimum society would be one where everyone in the world can live a high quality of life, eat good food, get proper medical attention when needed and live in an orderly (but not too orderly) society. If people are fighting each other for scarce resources, all that goes out the window.

    Now if we could only get India to start cutting down on their population~

  236. Allen Says:

    @Steve #233,

    Rather than bury this thread of discussion under one on international human rights, can you can develop your thoughts in #233 into an independent post – maybe with a title “Is China’s government structure inherently unstable”? If you post between Nov 18 – Dec 6 – please note that I’ll be off on a trip to Taiwan and the Mainland around that time, so will not be able to participate, but I promise to chime in – belatedly if necessary – since I don’t want to miss all the fun!

  237. bt Says:

    @Allen

    I think we’re all developing a “FM addiction”, haha.
    Besides, your post suggestion is wise IMO.

  238. Wahaha Says:

    “…. because the American government has a self-correcting mechanism ….”

    Try to correct this :

    http://www.socialconscience.com/articles/2001/finance2.htm

    In modern world, who control economy, who control the country.

    In China, CCP control economy, hence they control China.

    In West, riches control economy, hence they control the policy of countries. What the west government have done to save the riches in this financial crises clearly proved that.

    In west, ordinary people are given the right to fight AGAINST EACH OTHER about how to distribute the money left by riches, they dont have the right to fight against riches.

    In central control countries, those who have power cut off 10% for themselves (corruption) and give 90% to people, that is why Chinese governemnt was able to pull 400 million people out of poverty but Indian government cant; that is why the problem of slums was never solved in non-developed democratic countries; that is why Russian people immediately lived better when government abandoned the democratic principles.

  239. Wahaha Says:

    Authoritarian system is a system to protect those who have power.

    Democratic system is a system to protect those who have money, “human right” is more about “human right of riches”.

    In democratic system, no1 can be offended and everyone must be treated equally. It sounds great, but it actually means no1 is allowed to offend the interests and right of riches, so riches or lucky bastards are given the right to exploit the poor people.

    It sounds so good that you cant force poor people, but poor people need help to get better, so in the end, poor people either be submissive to riches or be hopelssly living in poverty generation after geneartion. the final result is always accepting the fate of being exploited by riches).

    Look at any developing country under democratic system, there are always million of people in poverty plus couple of dozens of millionaires or billionaires.

  240. Steve Says:

    Wahaha, thanks for the link. The “self-correcting mechanism” I was referring to are elections. Back when the Republicans were completely out of control, they felt that they had achieved a permanent majority in both houses of Congress so many of them only served the rich and themselves, and not the people. Since then, they are no longer the majority in either house and are about to lose the presidency. Their drop has been swift and sure. Interestingly, your article makes mention of John McCain as being one of the few who tried to clean things up, and it looks like he’ll lose an election because his own party didn’t listen to him.

    The former Republican congressman from my Congressional district is currently serving a six year sentence in federal prison for taking bribes. Sometimes the system works. :)

    In the west, the majority of jobs are generated by small businesses, not large corporations. It’s no different in China. China’s rise has not been through SOC’s but through new startups that have achieved success. Capitalism is capitalism; it doesn’t change from country to country, but it is dependent on government. Governments make policies that affect business, and lately China’s government has done a better job of it than the Bush administration, so on that I think we can agree.

    The main driver of the Russian economy has been the increase in oil revenue. That is their weakness and the fact that China has built its economy not on natural resources but on manufactured goods is its strength.

    I thnk you’ll find that the government business leaders in China totally support the financial bailout in the United States. A significant part of their economy depends on a healthy US economy.

    I disagree with you about the Chinese government pulling 400 million people out of poverty. I believe that the Chinese government reformed the business environment so that the Chinese people could pull themselves out of poverty by educating themselves, working hard and providing quality products at good prices. Let’s not forget that China’s economic miracle was financed by foreign capital and know how. There were many factors involved with China’s success. I hope my having shared my expertise in the semiconductor industry when I lived there helped play a part, albeit an extremely small part, in that success. ;)

    True, India’s government has not reformed the business environment enough to allow for the same kind of economic progress. But let’s be fair. India’s economy is vastly improved from 10 or 20 years ago.

  241. Hongkonger Says:

    “Eating local can have positive economic and cultural benefits: it helps sustain local farms and can encourage niche industries like troll-caught fish, organic poultry, or heirloom vegetable varieties. And at the end of the day, eating local is a bit like gardening: it’s just really, really satisfying somehow, even if you can’t put your finger on why.”

    It is what we call in Chinese culture “人情味.” The mom & pop’s stores who’d greet their customers by name and ask about such and so. Dad would be offered a cigarrette from the shopkeeper and talk about the horse races. Meanwhile little Johnnie’s flirting with the lovely shopkeeper’s daughter who helps around the shop, while mom takes forever to finish checking her grocery list becasue she is gosiping with the other housewives including the shopkeeper’s wife.

    Nowadays, I feel so lonely pushing the trolley up and down the aisles of big supermarkets.

  242. Allen Says:

    I think we’ve all been mistaken. This thread is a complete farce because we have been debating human rights in the form of “democracy,” “freedom,” “right to pursue happiness,” or even “social justice,” (as I like to have it) etc.

    According to the Dalai Lama, however, an essential component of human rights is actually the “right to retire.”

    I swear. I am not lying!

    How could we all have missed that???

    Without considering the right to retirement, we could not have understood what human rights is truly about. We were doomed to failure from the start.

    We are all so dumb… (as were the Founding Fathers…) Maybe we should all just retire.

    (note: the above was written tongue in cheek as a joke… since hmm, I took too much Prozac this morning.)

  243. Steve Says:

    Lawyers on Prozac ~ some things never change…

    As I eat this last Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar, my human right to Halloween candy is about to expire. :(

  244. TommyBahamas Says:

    “an essential component of human rights is actually the “right to retire.”/ “I have failed…” DL.

    So, the DL is human now? If, as Allen suggested, we all took DL’s advice and retire, We’d all be farmers, literally eat by the sweat of our brows. i.e join the peasant ranks. Hm, Allen, you’re a commie at heart. Will the Capitalists turn their weapons into plows? Not without first capitalizing on their WMD first, of course. So, if we all retired, and head for the farms, the luxury bred elites will have no choice but to cuff, shoot or nuke us.

  245. Allen Says:

    @TommyBahamas – even gods, you know, have “human rights” nowadays!!

  246. Nobody Says:

    40 years ago….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFHDZdRfMdo&feature=related

    He was the nation’s hope to bridge the gap among the races and for an honorable withdraw from an unpopular unjust war….

    I pray America will do the right thing this time and honor your God of love, justice and second chance.

  247. Jerry Says:

    @Allen #218

    Allen, you wrote:

    The Chinese definitely should not ignore the “giants” of political theory in the West. Westerners should however also understand that that the Chinese have a deep and grand heritage and culture that provides more than enough to guide her own development, if need be.

    And at the risk of sounding like a broken record: I wish Westerners should show more humility about their so-called ideologies in solving the world’s problems. If the goal is to “help” the Chinese, take more time to understand the depth and breadth of her problems before jumping in to prescribe (this doesn’t apply to you, I am just ranting in general!).

    I had written, “As I said earlier, we stand on the shoulders of giants.” Let me flesh that out a little bit for you. My meaning of giants, while encompassing the Rousseaus, Voltaires, Jeffersons, Washingtons, Lincolns FDRs of this world, is also personal. It includes my grandfathers, grandmothers, my late mom and dad, some of my teachers, Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Red Barber, Mack Gaunt, Vin Scully,Edward R. Murrow, Bill Moyers, Barry Goldwater,Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King, George Carlin and many more. They have all helped me in various facets of my learning and their lives have inspired my own.

    I like what you wrote in those 2 paragraphs. Regarding help, I find that it is better to offer help than imposing it.

    I can’t disagree with that. The “rhetoric” used initially against the monarchy in the Enlightenment period definitely took on a life of their own that in due time transformed (is still transforming, since the West is still far from perfect) Western society for the better…

    Isn’t it so true that we can utter words which will take on a life of their own? Far greater than our original intent. You said, “is still transforming, since the West is still far from perfect”. Amen.

  248. Steve Says:

    @Jerry: Red Barber? You’re now on my all-time good guy list. Anyone who likes Red Barber is a friend of mine!!! I can still hear his voice in the back of my mind~

  249. Jerry Says:

    @Steve #235, 248

    #235

    Steve, that is an interesting remark you made:

    I think the “crazy aunt in the attic” that no one wants to talk about concerning the environment, pollution and resource scarcity is the population of the planet. People cause pollution. You can cut waste but if the population keeps rising, it just wipes out whatever you save. That is the reason I give China a big pat on the back for their one child policy. It will not only make the nation more prosperous in the long run but help to get the world population under control, greatly help in China’s effort to clean up the environment, and lower the problem of scarcity issues. The only other solution is to lower the quality of life for everyone, and I don’t feel that is a fair or viable option. The optimum society would be one where everyone in the world can live a high quality of life, eat good food, get proper medical attention when needed and live in an orderly (but not too orderly) society. If people are fighting each other for scarce resources, all that goes out the window.

    Now if we could only get India to start cutting down on their population~

    I like the simile you use about the “crazy aunt”. Regarding the impact of population increase on this planet, I use other similes, such as “the elephant in the room”, “the 800 pound gorilla” and “the third rail”. I agree with your comments on population. I fear that a rational discussion of population’s effects will bring up rants about “eugenics”. Being Jewish, I know all about how Hitler used eugenics in an attempt to rid the world of Jews and other undesirables, in an attempt to achieve the goal of creating “Übermensch”.

    The population of the world doubled from 1960 to 2003. In 1960, the world had a 50% surplus of biocapacity. In 2003, the global ecological footprint had overshot biocapacity by 25%. We went from a 50% surplus to a 25% deficit in a mere 43 years. Population appears to be the largest cause of this.

    Some sobering facts from the WWW/Global Footprint 2006 Living Planet Report

    North America has 5% of the population and 22% of global Ecological Footprint; they have 17% of the global biocapacity.
    Asia Pacific has 56% of the population and 34% of global Ecological Footprint; they have 24% of the global biocapacity.
    Latin America and Africa have 22% of the population and 15% of global Ecological Footprint; they have 36% of the global biocapacity.

    In summary, North America has overshot their biocapacity by around 30% and Asia Pacific by 42%. Latin America and Africa have a 58% surplus. Latin America alone has a nearly 70% surplus.

    “If people are fighting each other for scarce resources, all that goes out the window.” Scary to think about.

    I don’t have any answers.

    —————-

    #248

    Yep, Red Barber. My dad listened to Red Barber when he used to broadcast for the Cincinnati Reds. The same Red Barber who invented mythical baseball terms, “can of corn”, “rhubarb”, and “sitting in the catbird seat” and “oh, doctor”. Red Barber who mentored another great announcer, Vin Scully, starting in 1948, right out of Fordham U. Vin is still announcing, 60 years later.

    Red, Jackie Robinson, Rachel Robinson, Branch Rickey, Leo Durocher and Pee Wee Reese play such a large role in my mind in the life of baseball. 1947, Jackie’s first year, was 4 years before I was born. But listening to stories told me by my dad, Red, Jackie, Rachel, Pee Wee, Leo “the Lip” and others, I almost feel like I was there.

    Barber had earlier considered resigning from the Dodgers because he felt he could not support having a black player in baseball; Red was a good old Southern boy from the Deep South. Red’s wife told him he did not have to support Jackie, just report about him. Red changed his mind and stayed on. Ironically, Red and Jackie became best of friends. Red would tell this story on himself many times in his life. He just wanted people to know that change was possible. A truly inspirational story.

    Most of the Southerners on the Dodgers (except for Pee Wee) signed a petition against Jackie and threatened Leo, the Dodger’s manager, with a mutiny if the Dodgers played him. Stupid thing for those Southerners to do. You don’t threaten Leo. He basically told them (paraphrased), “If you don’t want to play for us, fine. Just don’t let the door hit you in your a$$ on the way out.” Typical Leo.

    Jackie, in 1947, had received hate mail and death threats. Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, had the most hate mail and death threats. Pee Wee Reese was from Louisville, Kentucky (which is downriver and nearby) and considered a home town hero in Cincinnati. Jackie was playing 1st base and Pee Wee shortstop when the Dodgers arrived in Cincinnati for their first away series with the Reds. Fans at Crosley Field were shouting racial invectives and epithets at Jackie, they were threatening to kill him, and they were throwing things at him. Apparently, Mister Reese was getting very disgusted with the Cincinnati fans, who idolized Pee Wee. He called time and strode over to first base. My dad said you could have heard a pin drop; Red Barber described it similarly. The crowd became deathly quiet. Pee Wee put his arm around Jackie’s shoulder, faced the fans and told them that Jackie was his friend and that they should treat Jackie properly. That was the end of the insults and projectiles.

    Pee Wee also was greatly pained in 1958 when the Dodgers moved from NYC to LA. (Along with other Dodgers and many Brooklynites.) Pee Wee never forgot all those years in Brooklyn. I heard Mark Reese, Pee Wee’s son, on NPR describing Pee Wee at a get-together during the 90’s in Brooklyn with fans.

    Finally, I remember when Bob Edwards on NPR would interview Red Barber every Friday. What a treat!

    The late Red Barber was and still is a giant in my life. And quite some intellectual, too.

  250. Steve Says:

    @Jerry: I can still remember attending the 1964 NY World’s Fair as a little kid where there was a giant counter that gave the US population and it was the first time you could see the numbers turning. During the fair, the population of the US passed 200 million people. Today, it’s 300 million so it took only 44 years to add the next hundred. To see the current world population, you can go here: http://www.peterrussell.com/Odds/WorldClock.php

    At least someone recognized my Ross Perot simile, though he used it to describe the federal debt. Most every country wants the North American lifestyle, but there aren’t enough resources for that to happen. Of course Chinese and Indians should be able to drive cars, live in nice houses and have the same lifestyle that we do, but it is impossible with the present population numbers.

    The Bush administration has been incredibly negligent in developing technologies to reduce waste. Gregg Easterbrook of the Atlantic suggested there should be a horsepower to weight ratio to reduce fuel consumption, which makes perfect sense to me. Do you realize today’s Ford Taurus can do 0-60 faster than a 1960 Corvette? That Aston Martin used by James Bond in Goldfinger would be considered a plodder in today’s world. Why do we need cars with that kind of speed and acceleration? You can trace the appearance of road rage to the increase in horsepower. Anyway, I don’t want to get on a tangent here but this is one of my pet peeves.

    Thanks for the statistics. They are real eye openers!

    I grew up listening to Red Barber (Baaba) announce the NY Yankee games on TV and the radio from the time I was born until ’66. You mentioned “Oh, Doctor!” Well, Red didn’t just tutor Vin Scully (the best of today’s breed) but also some guy named Jerry Coleman, who has done the Padres games for what seems like forever. Jerry’s pet phrase is also “Oh, Doctor!” and I’m sure he uses it as a tribute to Red, with whom he called Yankee games from ’63 to ’66. Jerry played 2nd base for years on those great Yankee teams of the 50s. He was also a decorated fighter pilot in both WWII and Korea. Speaking of baseball players who were fighter pilots, I live very close to Ted Williams Parkway here in San Diego. Ted played ball at Hoover High in San Diego, then went somewhere in the east and we lost track of him. :)

    Pee Wee Reese was a great man; he also played some baseball~

  251. Nobody Says:

    I find that it is better to offer help than imposing it.

    ” Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. Freedom is not money, that I could enlarge mine by taking yours. Our liberty can grow only when the liberties of all our fellow men are secure; and he who would enslave others ends only by chaining himself, for chains have two ends, and he who holds the chain is as securely bound as he whom it holds.

    We all struggle to transcend the cruelties and the follies of mankind. That struggle will not be won by standing aloof and pointing a finger; it will be won by action, by men who commit their every resource of mind and body to the education and improvement and help of their fellow man.

    History is full of peoples who have discovered it is easier to fight than think, easier to have enemies and friends selected by authority than to make their own painful choices, easier to follow blindly than to lead, … RFK, speech made in Aparthied South Africa, 1966

  252. Steve Says:

    Speaking of Human Rights and the International Order, this article appeared today in the Economist:

    Companies and human rights

    Test case
    Oct 30th 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO
    From The Economist print edition

    How far can America’s legal system be applied to foreign human-rights cases?

    UNDER a grey sky on October 27th, Larry Bowoto provided an improbable splash of colour in his Nigerian agbada gown before the federal courthouse in San Francisco. He is the lead plaintiff in a case against Chevron, an oil giant based in California, over something that happened in May 1998 on a platform operated by Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary, nine miles off the Niger Delta. A group of more than 100 people, including Mr Bowoto, took over the platform for three days to protest against what Chevron was doing in the delta. The protest ended when Nigerian troops arrived and shot at the protesters, killing two. Mr Bowoto was injured and is now suing for damages.

    Bowoto v Chevron is likely to test how the American legal system can be applied to human rights in other countries. The civil suit is being brought under the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, one of America’s oldest laws (it was signed by George Washington). The act allows foreigners to bring civil cases before American courts arising from violations of law or treaty anywhere in the world. It was invoked just twice before 1980, when it was used by a victim of state repression in Paraguay. Since then the act has been invoked in around 100 cases. In 1993 a case against Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity in Bosnia broadened its applicability to non-state actors. In 1996 a group of Burmese villagers brought a suit against Unocal, another oil company (subsequently bought by Chevron), over the use of forced labour by Burmese soldiers guarding the route of a gas pipeline. The case was settled in 2004.

    Opponents of the use of the Alien Tort Claims Act to sue companies for alleged human-rights violations associated with their operations include the Bush administration and many companies. They fear it could unleash a flood of suits and interfere with foreign policy. Proponents argue that international law has evolved since 1789, and now encompasses well-defined human rights that fall squarely within the act’s simple wording. In 2004 America’s Supreme Court affirmed that the act applied to violations of modern international laws as well as older ones, but its ruling left doubts about corporate cases. “It’s still a question of whether aiding and abetting is sufficient [to bring a case],” says William Dodge, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

    Bowoto v Chevron will test just this point. The plaintiffs say the Nigerian troops were transported to the platform in helicopters provided by Chevron and its local partner. Chevron says the protesters were hostage-takers who initiated the violence on the platform and are now motivated by the possibility of winning damages. Bowoto v Chevron has been making its way through America’s courts for nearly a decade and has been refined to a narrow Alien Tort Claims suit, making it an ideal test case. Marco Simons, a lawyer with EarthRights International, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs, notes that the case has survived around a dozen motions for dismissal.

    Nearly all Alien Tort Claims suits against companies—including one last year against Yahoo!, an internet giant, over assistance it provided to the Chinese government in the arrest of a pro-democracy dissident—have been settled on confidential terms. Only two have gone to trial. “Extractive industries especially need to go where the resources are—they have to do business with regimes with notorious records,” says Tyler Giannini, a specialist in human rights at Harvard Law School, who was one of the lawyers who argued the case against Unocal. “These cases are important because they are setting standards for what is acceptable and what isn’t.”

    But those standards are now in flux. “Some day the Supreme Court will take this on,” says Mr Dodge. And if Bowoto v Chevron does not make it that far, other cases are in the pipeline: in February a case against Royal Dutch Shell, another oil giant, will get under way in New York on behalf of Ken Saro Wiwa, a hanged Nobel laureate, and other Nigerian plaintiffs.

    Allen, as a lawyer, have you been following these cases? Do you feel this is blatant interference in Nigerian affairs by the American court system?

  253. TommyBahamas Says:

    “Most every country wants the North American lifestyle, but there aren’t enough resources for that to happen. Of course Chinese and Indians should be able to drive cars, live in nice houses and have the same lifestyle that we do, but it is impossible with the present population numbers. ”

    “What good can come out of a house of government that is built by the shackled hands of half fed slaves?” Mrs. Abigail Adams commented when she first moved in the unfinished White House with her President husband. I wonder if it ever crossed the minds of US founding fathers that in X generations (how many generations of Americans are there?) the Commander-in-Chief of these United States at the beginning of the 21st Century, will be a person not of colonial descent or British origin ?

  254. Wahaha Says:

    Steve,

    Democracy is built on money, tons of money. It never worked well, is not working well and will never work well in a country with high percentage of population living in poverty.

    West never had true democracy until 1960s, when West was so rich that everyone’s appetite can be satisfied. That is why westerners feel the greatness of democracy, cuz they could get what they want as government had money.

    In 1788 in UK, one parliment member raised the issue of banning slave trading, he was lost completely (not even a single member supported him.) and ridiculed.

  255. FOARP Says:

    @Wahaha – The first bill for the abolition of slavery was put before the house in 1791, and was defeated 163 to 88. Nobody could have voted to abolish slavery until this point.

    As for ‘true democracy’ not existing in the west until the ’60s, except for the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18, the criteria for voting has not changed since the introduction of women’s suffrage in the UK. The elections of 1929, ’31, ’35, ’45, ’50, ’51, ’55, and ’59 all took place under criteria which allowed all eligible (i.e., not insane, imprisoned etc.) adults over the age of 21 to vote. Remember of course that this span of time includes the elections of the thirties during the great depression, and also the 1945 election, when Britain was still engaged in the world war. Democracy is not considered a ‘luxury’ here in the UK, but a necessary part of our freedoms, and one that may only be deferred under circumstances of the greatest national emergency, and then only by mutual agreement through the forming of a national government including all the parties.

    It is to democracy that we owe the recovery of Britain from its nadir in the 1970s, to democracy that we owe the post-war establishment of the welfare state (one of the few things about the UK that the average Chinese citizen seemed to know was that 英国的福利很好), and to democracy that we owe our victory over communism – and the great reckoning that was levied on that corrupt and offensive institution by the people of eastern Europe in 1989.

    My message to you is this: CCP 4 ever? Dream on.

  256. Ted Says:

    Well, if my country is controlled by scary men behind closed doors, I like what they’re doing right now :-) Three cheers for President Obama!

  257. Ted Says:

    Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have an intelligent leader again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  258. Steve Says:

    Ted, I think the scary men behind closed doors lost tonight… well, except for the ones in the Chicago political machine, ha ha. I’m with you, very happy to be rid of a certain vegetation after eight putrid years! In fact, I am imbibing in a glass of sherry to celebrate. Americans once again have “soft power”!!!

  259. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha:
    when you say that China may not be ready for some form of democracy (and I include in this some rudimentary mechanism for empowering her people) because she is still poor by per capita GDP standards, or because her people lack education, or because the rule of law is not well entrenched, well, I can accept that, with the caveat that she should be working to improve those things, and a time may come when the country, or at least her people, feel they’re ready for more.

    But that China may not be ready for a certain system is by no means an indictment of said system. There’s not much wrong with the system, and western nations (including the one you’re slumming in) make good use of it. If anything, it’s an indictment of the CHinese system of governance that it has failed to provide such readiness, after 59 years (yes, I know her economic growth only started 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean she gets a free pass for the preceding 29).

    Perhaps CHina shouldn’t be aiming for “true democracy” (whatever that is); just aiming for “democracy” would be a good start.

  260. Ted Says:

    @Steve #258: I’ll be swilling Maotai tonight (wish I had a bottle of Oban) :-) BTW, I enjoyed reading the information you provided in #117 about the differences between the Republican and Democratic approaches to foreign policy.

  261. Allen Says:

    @Steve #252,

    Ahh … the Alien Tort Claims Act.

    Just so everyone is on the same page, the so-called Alien Tort Claims Act refers to a very short section of the U.S. statute passed in 1789 that states:

    The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.

    The Statute has become a controversial way for human rights activists in the U.S. to hold the American government, military, and multinational corporations responsible for alleged human rights violations committed in foreign countries in U.S. courts .

    The extent to which the statute can be used as a human rights tool is still being tested. For example, while the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Alien Tort Claims Act does give U.S. courts jurisdictions over tortious acts such as human rights abuses occurring outside U.S. territory, it has not defined the precise scope of “egregious human rights abuses” that can be brought to U.S. courts under the act.

    More specifically, while the court has held that “violation of the law of nations” under the Alient Tort Claims Act includes violations of international norms such as prohibitions against torture and other human rights norms, it has not defined precisely what other human rights abuses are actionable under the act as contradicting established “law of nations.”

    Personally, I don’t like this act. It’s not necessarily because the law “interferes” with other countries’ sovereignty per se (although its exercise would definitely have diplomatic repercussions). It’s because I don’t think U.S. judges should be allowed to interpret and construe nebulous concepts of international human rights norms. (It’s another if Congress actually pass explicit statutes spelling out what human rights norms are actionable under the statute.)

    Let’s face it: it’s difficult enough for U.S. judges to interpret federal statutes, state case laws, and the U.S. Constitution. To now throw only their plate something as nebulous as international human rights norm is decidedly unwise, in my opinion.

  262. Allen Says:

    Thought people might be interested in this little article from xin hua news titled “China to outline first national action plan to protect human rights”:

    BEIJING, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — China planned to draft its first national action plan to protect human rights, said the State Council Information Office on Tuesday.

    The action plan would cover aspects such as improving government function, expanding democracy, strengthening the rule of law, improving people’s livelihood, protecting rights of women, children and ethnic minorities and boosting public awareness of human rights, said a statement of the office.

    The action plan will be drafted by a panel from the office and Foreign Ministry, joined by more than 50 departments, public associations and non-governmental organizations, including the country’s legislature, top political advisory body, supreme court, supreme procuratorate and the National Development and Reform Commission.

    More than 10 human rights experts from key universities and academic institutions would form a group to advise the panel, the statement said.

    Once the plan was done, it would guide China in the development of human rights, it added.

    “As the first of its kind, the plan will leave important effect on the country’s human rights development in the future,” said Dong Yunhu, vice president and secretary general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

    “As this year marks the 30th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, the release of the plan bears great significance,” he said.

    “In the past three decades, China made great progress in protecting human rights practically and theoretically but it still needs a nationwide plan to guide where the cause should go.”

    “It is based on all the progress we made in this field that we began to make such a plan.”

    The Chinese government issued the first white paper describing the country’s human rights situation in 1991, officially adopting the concept of “human rights” in its political strategy.

    Since then, the country has issued 40 such documents on human rights protection but never a state action plan on what it is going to do in this field.

    “Those white papers revealed the past and the present situation. But through this plan, we look on the future,” Dong said.

    The plan embodies the government’s effort to carry out the country’s “constitutional principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights”, which was adopted in 2004, and the development concept of putting people first, he said.

    “The panel will carefully plan the human rights development in details and put forward practical policies and measures,” said Wang Chen, minister in charge of the State Council Information Office.

    But he did not release the timetable of drafting and when the plan would be implemented.

  263. S.K. Cheung Says:

    This is, at the very least, a good start. If enumerating and perhaps even codifying such “human rights” improves PRC citizens’ appreciation of the concept, and perhaps even binds the government to their provision, then that would be great news. And if, in so doing, they can improve the rule of law and expand democracy, then so much the better.

    Of course, the devil is in the details…as well as the timetable and actual implementation, as mentioned. But hey, you gotta start somewhere…

  264. Steve Says:

    @Jerry #249: Thought you might like to see this: http://yeli.us/Flash/Fire.html

    Ye Li took a Billy Joel song and set it to 120 different images, most or all of which you should recognize. It’s a walk down memory lane. Don’t forget to turn up the volume and click the “fullscreen” button on the upper left side to get the full effect.

  265. TahwYOJ Says:

    That’s cool, a bit old. Watching that made me feel like dang, I’m glad I’m alive. The world is crazy but I’m enjoying it and I get to experience/watch all the crazy histories go back like whoooooaaaaa! It put things into perspective.

    Watch time fly!

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  267. Iasbet Says:

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