Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Olympics time!

A friend reports from Beijing:

"I am reassured at the notion that they are alerting people to the dangers of chemical attack, but I wish they would explain how you can tell a chemical attack apart from the air pollution."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How do they do that?!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Free Speech Zone - Beijing Edition

The announcement by Beijing Wednesday that there will be "protest areas" at the Olympics, was eerily reminiscent of... well, political conventions in the US, or economic summits in Europe.

I think it's a shrewd move by the Chinese authorities. There may very well be public demonstrations at the Olympics. For foreigners -- if they manage to get in, despite the wild visa cuts that seem to be leaving Beijing hotels half-empty -- there should be relatively little fear in protesting. If you're an American protesting for Darfur, or a European protesting for Tibet, they probably won't think of doing anything too too bad to you. If you're Chinese, who knows, but I still think they'll be out there protesting. Maybe the Falun Gong people, among others.

The Chinese authorities know this and need to handle it. Creating free speech zones is perfect. They can fill the zones with pro-China stooges, if they like. And even protests within the zones still have to be permitted, so they can still say no to everyone you'd expect them to say no to. For anyone who protests in town (the zones are way out of town), they can say "look, these people are protesting in an unpermitted area!" The Western media will probably be fairly good about not being fooled by this all, but surely some media, and the all-important Chinese audience, will get the message that this is somehow a matter of the specifics of who can protest where, not a basic question of China blocking protest altogether.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Global warming means more kidney stones.


I had never paid much attention to kidney stones. Apparently they happen more in warmer places. So in the U.S., with global warming, the "kidney stone belt" (who knew?) will be migrating northward, says a new study this week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gengen Genocide

The folks at Olympic Dream for Darfur have quite the new Mark Fiore video on the Beijing Olympics. (Turn on sound).

Monday, July 14, 2008

War crimes, schmar crimes

James Ross of Human Rights Watch has a real saddening piece in Salon, pointing out that Bush could pre-emptively pardon everyone in his administration for future prosecution under US law for having ordered the use of torture.
Constitutionally, neither Congress nor the courts can prevent President Bush from signing such a pardon. It would, however, be the first preemptive pardon in U.S. history for war crimes. And because of his own possible criminal role in approving the torture program, Bush effectively would be granting a self-pardon -- something Nixon seriously considered but no president has ever done.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FISA wrap-up

Here's how Glenn Greenwald puts it:
What is most striking is that when the Congress was controlled by the GOP -- when the Senate was run by Bill Frist and the House by Denny Hastert -- the Bush administration attempted to have a bill passed very similar to the one that just passed today. But they were unable to do so. The administration had to wait until Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress before being able to put a corrupt end to the scandal that began when, in December of 2005, the New York Times revealed that the President had been breaking the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law.

Here are the Senate Democrats who voted for the bad bill today:
Bayh - Carper - Casey - Conrad - Feinstein - Innuoye - Kohl - Landrieu - Lincoln - McCaskill - Mukulski - Nelson (Neb.) - Nelson (Fla.) - Obama - Pryor - Rockefeller - Salazar - Webb - Whitehouse.

Last but not least, there are many Obama quotes to pick from on this to remember the history, but I'll go with this statement from his campaign from October 2007 that Greenwald cites:
To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.

What will be next?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Red Hook update #44926165

From New York magazine:

Vendor rep Cesar Fuentes confirms that the vendors still haven't gotten everything straightened out with the DOH. “We expect to clear our last compliance burdens … next week and hopefully open our season either the weekend of July 12th or July 19th,” Fuentes says, disappointing hungry New Yorkers everywhere.

Update: Ok, make that July 19th or maybe July 26th.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Calling a spade a spade

In Saturday's LATimes, Janet Hook laid out some simple truths in her article "Obama is shifting toward the center" --

Barack Obama, as he introduces himself to the broader voting public, is emphasizing centrist -- even conservative -- positions on hot-button issues.

In recent weeks, he toughened his stance on Iran and backed an expansion of the government's wiretapping powers. On Wednesday, he said states should be allowed to execute child rapists. When the Supreme Court the next day struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, he did not complain.

These views would fit many Republican candidates, but they are the recent profile adopted by a man who has been called the most liberal Democrat in the Senate.

The article has plenty of sloppiness -- "a man who has been called the most liberal Democrat in the Senate" -- is factually accurate, just like it's factually accurate to say that social security has been called a bad idea. But the main thrust of the article -- that these stances Obama has taken are, in some cases, conservative ideas, is exactly right.

Somalia, Sudan, whatever

On Monday, John McCain had to be corrected by his own aide when referring to the location of Darfur. From --

"We can't right every wrong and achieve every laudable goal," he said, using Darfur as an example of where many Americans want to act, but have yet to identify a reasonable course of action.

"How can we bring pressure on the government of Somalia?" he asked, which prompted Mark Salter to correct him. "Sudan," Salter said.

"Sudan," McCain repeated. "There's a realpolitik side of my view of the conduct of American foreign policy."