Monday, March 31, 2008

Hero of the Month - Senator Chuck Grassley

Chuck Grassley is receiving the first True Conservative of the Month award because of his bravery in facing down the very-well-connected televangelist industry.

Thanks to our Constitution, Americans have the right to worship, or not, as we see fit. We DON'T have the right to enrich ourselves in the name of religion and build criminal organizations masquerading as churches and try to protect ourselves from the fallout by buying politicians. Fortunately for us, Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The likes of Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland damage the legitimacy of the honest small-town community churches that make up the vast majority of American religious establishments.

The most laughable thing about these guys is that they're accusing GRASSLEY of breaking down the walls between church and state. Got a bad case of psychological projection there, guys? Actually, the most laughable thing is Creflo Dollar's name. Seriously. That's really what he goes around calling himself.

Here's a big "thank you" to Chuck. As much as Americans complain about the damage these snake-oil-selling characters do to the fabric of our society, we should honor the people who try to keep them honest - like Senator Chuck Grassley.

The picture on the front of the Tibet News page

...originally was a group of Chinese soldiers in uniform, carrying Tibetan monk robes. Almost as if they would later change into them and set some fires so the Chinese government could point to Tibetans as the instigators. It's off their site now and I can't find it. But is anybody surprised that the Chinese government would do this?

But there is a new link to an article about a group of Chinese attorneys who have chosen to represent the Tibetans who are being wrongly jailed (even by Chinese law). These are brave people indeed, and they're the kind of people who are going to begin a true democracy in China. This is exactly why I make the distinction between the Chinese government and the Chinese people.


I'm Beating McCain at Sweet 16 Picks

The only one I missed was Louisville beating Tennessee, which I think everyone did. I didn't sign up for McCain's picks, how am I doing against him?

More Information on The Chinese Olympic Torch

As it turns out, I ran into some of the folks from the Tibetan Association of Northern California at the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday - the tourist crowds were out and the TANC folks were taking advantage of it to get their message out.

Needless to say, the Chinese government has been doing what they do best: lying, reinventing history and justifying their disgusting human rights record and oppression of a sovereign people as an "internal matter". This is a country with nuclear weapons that's been experiencing 10% economic growth for years and has a population 4 times the size of our own. Shouldn't they occupy more space in our headlines than they do?

I've been saying for a while that precisely because of the Olympics, 2008 will be an interesting year for China. The more open the Chinese government is forced to become, the better for everybody.

Anyway, when I said "What should I put on my blog", they said:"Come to the Human Rights Torch on April 8", and protest the Olympic Torch on April 9. The rolls of participating organizations
are growing.


More Government Agencies That Don't Do Much

Way to go Paulson!

I understand you have to look like you're doing something in response to a problem, even if you're not doing anything. That's classic big-company/bureaucratic behavior. But it's still not mutually exclusive to actually doing something.

How many new government agencies has this administration created? More than Clinton. Someone had to say it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"A Party Anxious to Read Our Email"

The ominous quote in the subject line came from an interesting Paul article on Time. My favorite part, of course:

"Paul's leave-us-alone libertarianism hasn't fit in with a party anxious to read our e-mail, improve our values, assert American power abroad and subsidize friendly industries at home. The party's recent mix of "national greatness" neoconservatives, evangelical theoconservatives and K Street careerists has had many goals, but leaving people alone hasn't been one of them. That's why Paul was the one getting booed at G.O.P. debates. And that's one reason why Paul's fervent followers were banned from the activist Republican website RedState."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chinese Olympic Torch in San Francisco - Link to Protest Info

The San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition is helping to organize protests during the Chinese torch event in San Francisco and you can sign up for an email list. If it's bad for the Chinese government, it's good for everybody else.

China's Long Arm in Nepal (and Greece?)

My very brief Tibetan history entry boiled down to: for at least 1300 years Tibet was an independent nation, until they were conquered by Red China in 1950, and Red China is now of course trying to rewrite history. I also mentioned the Tibetan exile community in Nepal. This is the same Nepal which has seen Maoist rebel activity badly damage the country for the last 10 years, to the point where the Maoists became part of a coalition government. Turns out Tibetans aren't safe in Nepal either. Greek police were uncharacteristically forceful in their treatment of pro-Tibet protesters too.

Interesting that supposedly sovereign states are arresting protesters on China's behalf. Ten years ago, before the Maoists were in the Nepali government, Nepal never would have considered China an ally. Wake up conservatives! This is how it starts.

Monday, March 24, 2008

McCain on Tibet

A nice direct statement from McCain (unusual for American politicians, not unusual for him) on what's going on in China. It's troublesome that American politicans (particularly Republicans) have until now shied away from calling attention to China's dismal human rights record, or (for whatever strange reason) its emergence as a world power. It's also smart that in his contacts with Sarkozy McCain is clearly distancing himself from the transatlantic name-calling that went on at the start of the Iraq War.

Not World War III...Orbit War I?

Years from now I hope we can look back on the Chinese military's shoot-down of an old satellite as the second Sputnik. Where Sputnik made us realize the Soviets were ahead in space exploration, this should make us realize the Chinese are ahead in military space technology. Our subsequent shootdown of one of our own satellites seemed necessary but also suspiciously timed. Were we proving we could do the same?

Air war has permanently changed the face of warfare; one can't well declare an advantage without air supremacy these days. Orbital war will do the same. We can't let China get a leg up here too.


Believe It Or Not, Sylvester Stallone Did Something Really Important for Democracy

Given the muted coverage by the U.S. media, I thought it was worth highlighting the new Rambo movie. There was very little talk about how cool Sly Stallone was for not only making a movie about the dictatorship in Myanmar, but using actual freedom fighters in the movie (video link).


Exactly Why We Should Do Something About Darfur

First, because we're the Good Guys. There's a humanitarian disaster going on there. Looking back, we found it incredible that reports of the ongoing Holocaust during World War II were largely dismissed, until American troops walked into the concentration camps. And it's happening again right now.

Now, entering the cynical world of realpolitik, we can use Darfur against China. China has long had a policy of playing Older Brother to the Third World. When the Cold War was on, they tried to play the US off the USSR and seemed to act as a lookout for the developing world.

That strategy has continued. China recognizes an opportunity to look good in the developing world, where it doesn't cost much to change people's lives by building a road or a school or a well.

Yet somehow China doesn't seem to be bothered by what's going on in Darfur. This is why the West should take the opportunity to show Chinese strategizing for what it is (Spielberg's quitting the Olympics over it was a nice symbol but we need a little more than that). Is the Free World up to it? Are American conservatives?


Iraq Was Never America's Most Important Foreign Policy Issue

That is, until the fake-conservative wing of the GOP made it so.

Long story short, military officers holding the rank of major or lt. commander or above were surveyed about the results of the Iraq war. One very interesting conclusion was that "either China or Iran, not the United States, is emerging as the strategic victor" in the Iraq war."

Couple this with the words of Chuck Hagel, one of the hardest working (and most honest) Republican Senators to come along in a while, in his new book: that the Iraq War might have been one of the five biggest blunders in history.

Quote from the article: "Hagel said that despite holding one of the Senate's strongest records of support for President Bush, his standing as a Republican has been called into question because of his opposition to what he deems 'a reckless foreign policy ... that is divorced from a strategic context.'"

Sorry fake-conservatives. If your loyalty to America and your conscience conflicts with your loyalty to the head of your party, guess which one should win?


An EU-NAFTA Union?

As cyber-conservatives we run into more than our share of conspiracy freaks. I mean just certified nutbars who we wish wouldn't use the same political label that we do. If I see one more post about the coin for the North American Union I'm going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. It's not real guys, check your sources and give it up.

Meanwhile there are real international alliances being proposed; what's more, I think they're to our benefit. That was my first reaction to the article I'm linking to there.

My second reaction: so that's the kind of shape we're in, that the Europeans think it's time to extend us a helping hand? Whatever the reason for the proposal (and that's all it is at this stage), in other entries I've supported the idea of a joint US-EC trade zone (essentially the economic answer to NATO). Unless there is a radical democratization of China's government, at the close of the 21st century it will be increasingly obvious that the world has again divided into three blocks: the West, China plus satellites, and the developing world. If we don't recognize that now we're going to be in even more trouble.


China is In This for the Long Haul

I thought it was worth putting this post up for perspective. Chinese governments are used to thinking long-term. Someone once asked Chairman Mao his opinion on the success of the French Revolution. His answer? "It's too early to tell." China has a more or less unbroken documented history stretching back twenty-five centuries. America has been occupied at least as long, but our current government is only 2.25 centuries old. It's arrogant to think the experience of history somehow doesn't apply to us. It's smart to use it to succeed in the future. I do NOT think it's arrogant to emphasize that the U.S. is only getting started. The next 2.25 centuries are going to be even better if we can help it. Still, we have a long road ahead of us.

Whatever decisions we make have to be realistic and long-term, because our competitors have been thinking that way for a long time already. Even Napoleon said, "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world."


Finally, the US and Europe Standing Up to China Together

In the 21st century, economic strategies are at least as important as military ones. This isn't new. It was not military power alone that built the British Empire. This WTO complaint was a small but important step that I wish would get more attention.

Tibetan History - A Summary

Many Americans are watching the events in Tibet unfold and feeling supportive of a people revolting against occupation, but don't quite know what it's all about. Of course, the Chinese government doesn't mind that one bit.

What it comes down to is that Tibet was a sovereign country, with its own distinct language and culture, until 1950, when Mao's army invaded it. Since then, the Chinese government has enacted a program of deliberately exporting Han (ethnic-majority Chinese) to Tibet to dilute its people and culture, and simultaneously tried to buy the loyalty of Tibetan officials in its puppet government. The Dalai Lama has become the de facto spokesman for the exile Tibetan government in India. There is at least one revolt (that we know about) in 1959, on March 10 - when the resistance began this year.

I've never been to Tibet, but I've been to Nepal, and I can tell you the exile community in Nepal is large. Tibetans put butter in everything, so you can tell by the scent of butter that you're in a Tibetan village or neighborhood. And walking around Kathmandu, you smell a lot of butter.

There's also a pretty big Tibetan community in the Bay Area. (The gal who makes my Subway sandwiches is Tibetan. By the way, she wants you to support freedom for Tibet.)

The Chinese government line that you'll hear Chinese diplomats and Xinhua repeating is that Tibet was always a part of China, and that the current revolts are entirely internal Chinese matters; that Tibetans are barbarians anyway and the Dalai Lama is an evil liar (watch the news for soundbites of China's official reactions - you'll recognize this line). Two generations have grown up hearing this bullsh**, so if you know or work with Chinese people who repeat this line, it might just be that they've never heard the facts.

But hey, don't take my word for all this - look it up online and make up your own mind. That's one piece of advice you won't get from Chinese officials. Of course, all the stiffly-worded Chinese propaganda sites will tell you otherwise. Fortunately they're pretty easy to spot. When they talk about "the highest restraint", or anything called "The People's", that's a big hint. (When they get really irritated they lose it and start talking about "resolutely crushing" things.)


The Great Firewall of China

Yes, there really is such a thing - a systematic attempt by the Chinese government to cut off its people from troublesome information, grown more sophisticated since the resistance began in Tibet. Google and Yahoo have both been disappointingly complicit in these efforts.

And fortunately there are electronic freedom fighters dedicated to disabling it (in Chinese - forward this blog or this link to Chinese-speakers interested in democracy).

Freedom of Information is crucial to the 21st century. Support anti-Great Firewall measures.


If You Go To The Olympics In Beijing

Or your neighbors, or relatives, or coworkers go: you have a golden opportunity to make a difference. There is no possible way that the Chinese government can block contact between the Chinese people and every foreigner that's going to be in China. Your Chinese may not be up to snuff, so take Western newspapers and books, preferably in Chinese. (Gift wrap them so they make it through customs, or ask people who've traveled to China before for their tricks). Leave them around where people can get them inconspicuously (hotel rooms, under chairs in restaurants). Hand out business cards with your email, not with websites (those get blocked quickly). Above all, be a good personal ambassador for the West, to help people see through the nonsense their government forces down their throats. It's going to be an interesting year for China.


North Korea

I'm not going to write much about North Korea. They're easily the worst country in the world today, a total realization of Orwell's fears in 1984. Saddam at his worst never came close. No hyperbole exists to convey what's happening there; read Soon Ok Lee's account before Congress. It's really graphic, but it's all true.

Where are the other conservatives demanding justice here?


Why Are American Conservatives Ignoring the Chinese Threat?

Supposedly one-third of all the cranes in the world are building Shanghai as you read. The number of high-rises in Shanghai that was put up just in 2006 was more than all the high-rises in New York. The run on commodities in the past few years has been largely triggered by the boom in China.

Where's the alarm? From ANYBODY? Happy-huggy flower types I can see not understanding why this is important. Why so little attention from conservatives? Despite the number of espionage cases.

Not only does China have nuclear weapons, a booming economy, the world's largest population, and a dictatorial government, it also has a collection of brutal satellite states like Myanmar and North Korea. I know a lieutenant in Air Force intelligence who "works on" North Korea (as far as he can tell me). What he can tell me is that he's unhappy with the Bush administration's relative
lack of attention to the China/North Korea issue. As an Air Force intelligence officer, this guy is, how should I say, not an ignorant liberal p--sy.

At some point I'm going to somehow measure the number of blogs primarily focused on Islamic terrorism versus China. China and North Korea openly admit to having not only weapons of mass destruction, but delivery systems that could hit you where you're sitting right now. Where's the call to topple THEIR leaders?

By opening China and increasing the country's prosperity through capitalism and freedom of information, we ALL win. But if American conservatives aren't watching China, no one is.


Steven Spielberg and the Chinese Olympic Committee

Whatever you think of the guy, your respect for Steven Spielberg has to have jumped a few notches recently. I can't help but wonder...he just finished another Indiana Jones movie, where the bad guys are the Soviets. Then he goes to work for the Chinese. You think maybe he noticed a few too many similarities?


Note the Distinction: China vs. the Chinese Government

Before I start getting emails about this, I have to make clear: it's the Chinese government that's the problem. I admire Chinese civilization and in fact I would argue it's one of the greatest civilizations that our species has produced so far. China's continuing impact on history (and on modern America) is exactly why China policy needs to receive more attention from American conservatives.

One of the greatest promises of the next few centuries is that our descendants may inherit a world of freedom and prosperity that benefits from the fruits of thousands of years of Western and Eastern civilization. I say "may", because China's current stifling, dictatorial government darkens the future not only for its own people but for America and the rest of the world. American conservatives should be the most vocal critics of China, but we're mostly silent. Why? Is short-term profit really that much more important than long-term values?


Support Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong Against the Chinese Government

If you've read some of my other entries, you know I'm not a huge fan of organized religion in government. (Neither was my namesake, the American hero who wrote Common Sense). In fact, there's nothing more dangerous and easily made into a tool of repression - take one look at Taliban Afghanistan or the Spanish Inquisition. But it's impossible not to recognize that people's individual faith can be a reservoir of strength and hope in dark times, and individual faith has unquestionably helped in the fight against tyranny.

In modern Asia, two of the worst countries are China (of course) and the incompetent China wannabe Myanmar. Myanmar was just in the news a few months ago doing much the same things to monks that China is right now. Things that China has also been doing to Falun Gong practitioners for years. I don't even know anyone who's Falun Gong, but if I'm for freedom of religion, then the position here is pretty much a no-brainer.

I've mentioned that the Chinese consulate is close to where I live. Every day there are Falun Gong practitioners meditating in silent protest in front of it. When I walk by them I always give them a quiet "Be strong, guys." It's the least I could do.

When you hear about Falun Gong, when you see a Free Tibet sticker - as modern conservatives - we should show support. Because IF IT'S BAD FOR THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT, IT'S GOOD FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

The Chinese Olympic Torch is Coming

First, visit

The one place in the United States that will see the torch from the Beijing Olympics is San Francisco. Why the Chinese would bring it to literally the most protest-prone city in the United States is beyond me. I guess they read the blog and wanted to meet me in person.

I'm a busy guy so I didn't know if we could connect. Lucky for them, I have an opening that day.

Regardless of the restrictions, or the attempted secrecy of the route, I will be there, along the route, with a sign in English and Chinese and Tibetan. We don't need a huge march to block the runner - just a consistent display along the way. Make that Chinese production team really work to get signage-free footage to show back home. I'm not sure what the sign will say yet but if I make the news I'll post the link here.

If you're a die-hard conservative, you might not be surprised that a Democrat mayor would look the other way when a collectivist dictatorship sends a delegation to his city. Unfortunately the current GOP administration lacks a spine as well, and has
removed China from the list of human rights violators.


Fortunately on the 8th of April, the day before the Chinese torch comes, the Tibetan Freedom Torch will also be visiting San Francisco. The Freedom Torch will have visited every country that the Chinese torch has visited - arriving the day before each time. I'm a marathon runner and would love to help carry the torch but there was a LONG waiting list in every country it's visited.

If you'll be in the area April 8th and/or 9th and you want to join us, by all means email me, and I can give you more information.

The Taiwanese Struggle for Security From China

Pretty bad when media coverage of a nation's struggle for sovereignty is so bad that the country's metal bands have to carry the message (warning if you're at work - Youtube link). Maybe the music isn't your cup of tea, but in all this coverage of Tibet, let's also remember Taiwan - that capitalist engine of a country that kept East Asia afloat in the late 90s when Japan began its stagnation in earnest?

China, of course, considers Taiwan no more than a rogue province, and in some strange form of appeasement, the U.S. has engaged them only lukewarmly on the matter. Neville Chamberlain found out how well appeasement works.


Oh Say, I Can See...

I thought this news item was worth posting. From my apartment in San Francisco, I can clearly see, about four blocks away, the red flag waving from the top of the Chinese Consulate.

While I certainly don't advocate vigilante firebombings, if you don't know much about China, this might be a big wake-up call to how hated their government is. Not a surprise for many.


How Often Does Your Company Borrow From Its Competitors?

In case you haven't noticed, the American dollar is in the toilet right now.

Most Americans weren't too bothered when the euro rose, unless you were on vacation in Europe. But the Canadian dollar is higher, and for the second time in six months too. The yen exchange rate has dipped below a hundred. Those are two economies much more tightly linked to ours than the EU. When THEIR currencies move relative to ours, we're in bigger trouble. Am I the only one who feels my national pride is bruised? It seems that Canadian tourists can't wait to tell us that the Loonie is ahead of the greenback, and there's not much you can say in return.

The dollar's devaluation really has three causes - oil dependence, the subprime bubble, and our MASSIVE debt. That third one of course is the most troublesome to conservatives, and it was the most foreseeable. And embarrassingly, it has mushroomed on a GOP President's watch.

Ready for the painful truth? We've gone from a public debt of $5.67 trillion at the end of Clinton's last year in office to $9.01 billion at the end of 2007 (those numbers are straight from the U.S. Treasury). If Bush is a conservative, then Clinton was a better conservative. Tough pill to swallow, right? Add to that a trade surplus that goes up one billion dollars every day, and a war that costs (conservatively) 270 million per day, and things aren't looking so great. The painful truth is: if you spend more than you take in, you go into debt. It's true for your family, and it's true for your government.

What's most worrisome is that China holds at least a trillion of that foreign debt. Imagine if Coke announced it was taking out a massive loan from Pepsi! To put it mildly, this puts the U.S. in a frightening position. As a result, government officials in Red China have more power over your currency than do most CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies. If that's not an argument to get the debt under control, I don't know what is. Come on conservatives. We're asleep at the wheel if we let this continue.

If It's Bad For China's Government, It's Good For Everyone Else

I was planning on posting staggered entries about China over the course of the next year. But unless you live under a rock, you know there's no time like the present to blog about China. They've been showing its true colors in Tibet.

Do a quick news search for Tibet and video, and you'll be treated to images about as Orwellian as they come: black helmets, boots stomping on heads, monks getting beaten...and it's going on RIGHT NOW. I've included some highlights of Tibet (and
Western China in general here.

Until 1950 Tibet was an independent country, and this isn't the first revolt they've had. Of course, you'll never hear this from the official anti-historians in China. And the Chinese don't tolerate such talk from diplomats. And they certainly don't tolerate it from Tibetans. Doing web searches on your own will inevitably reveal the official Chinese party line about the "evil" Dalai Lama (hippie-ish or not, I'm pretty sure he's not throwing firebombs in Lhasa). Me, I always feel dirty when Chinese propaganda shows up on my computer. And there's plenty of it. Fortunately it's usually pretty ham-handed and easy to spot.

The issues aren't just Tibet. It's much bigger than that. Does any of this look familiar? It should. Change the names and the dates and this could be going on in 1956 Budapest or 1968 Prague. Or 1959 Tibet for that matter.

Modern China is the 21st century Soviet Union, except with a strong economy, and an ongoing diaspora that puts sympathizers with their policies in every country in the world. In other words, a much worse nightmare than the Soviets ever were. The War on Terror is going to be viewed as a footnote to the beginning of the worlds' struggle against China. Remember the Hainan Island spy plane incident? Most are forgetting this. That was August 2001, the month before 9/11. Though we shouldn't forget 9/11, someone needs to remember Hainan Island too. And how about the multiple espionage cases involving scientists working for Federal Labs. Where is the outrage among conservatives? Or anybody?

The take-home message is the Russians were a warm-up for China. IF IT'S BAD FOR CHINA'S GOVERNMENT, IT'S GOOD FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

William F. Buckley, 1925-2008

Buckley's passing merits more than a mention I think.

While looking backward we can't defend some of the positions that he held early on (like being pro-segregation), we can be proud that he changed positions according to his conscience, despite severe criticism from his peers (like becoming ardently anti-segregation). This was a man not afraid to use his own (impressive) brain to apply reason and morality to the world of government and write passionately about his conclusions, even if they conflicted with orthodox conservatism of the day. In so doing he again grounded American conservatism in solid reason.

Perhaps the greatest testament to his legacy is the vacuum left by his passing. When I look for real thought-leader intellectual conservatives these days, I don't find many. Where are the 21st-century Buckleys?