Sunday, August 31, 2008

CINDY McCAIN: Out of Touch? Not Fair!

Cindy McCain's response to the Obama Campaign's attack on their family's wealth.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Celebrities and Political Influences

People in the United States admire our celebrities for several reasons. Their performances, whether in movies or on stage concerts, grasp the hearts of many. Although not everyone in the United States get to live a life of a celebrity and participate in their remarkable events, there is one event that they and anyone else have the opportunity to share. That event is presidential elections. Choosing the president of the United States is a very important decision that millions will make every four years. The people have to take in consideration health care, religious beliefs, education and several other political aspects. All of this, in the hope of finding a candidate that will best suit their opinions. Parents influence their ideas onto their children, but did you ever consider the role celebrities play in the influence of their fans?
During the 2008 election, we have seen a number of musicians, actors, and other valued persons promote the candidate who they have already chosen. For example, Oprah Winfrey. We have discovered that Oprah is endorsing Barack Obama. By knowing this information, it has the possibility of producing two different situations. The first situation includes the people who adore Oprah Winfrey and believe in what she preaches. If you are a fan, this could indulge you to reconsider Obama as your presidential vote. Also, since you agree with Oprah, you might as well agree that she is backing the "right" candidate. All of this resulting in you modifying what candidate you had previously thought of voting for.
The second situation involves the non-Oprah fans. We can not expect everyone in the United States to agree with her opinions. Let's say for example a group of people hold a grudge against Oprah Winfrey, for whatever reasons. Could this also alter who they vote for in the 2008 election? The answer is yes. If you have something against Oprah, this could provoke you to have something against Obama as well. There could be many reasons for this affect. One including the stubbornness of American society. If you don't want someone winning that is endorsed by someone you don't believe in, you are most likely not to vote for them.
We can not stop celebrities from expressing their different view points, but we can change the influence we take from them. The people in the United States need to know what THEY are expecting in the next president. They should not be swayed by the opinions of others, regardless of their popularity. EVERY opinion matters in this important decision, including YOURS.

Grass Fairy

Human Sex Trafficking

Human traffickers use fraud, and force to persuade victims to cross national borders for better opportunities and jobs. The victims are then forced into some sort of labor. Since the majority of these victims are woman and children, the most vulnerable members of society, they are often forced into prostitution.

Some of these women are forced into prostitution as young as 7 years old.

Human trafficking is the one of the fastest growing criminal activities.

According to estimates by the U.S. government, 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked globally each year. Some might argue and say that people are more worried about illegal immigration than women being abused and violated. In Germany, the government attempted to curtail Human Trafficking by making prostitution legal. But no matter how you look at it, woman are still being abused and taken advantage of. These women can’t tell anyone what is happening to them because then they would be killed. How can we stop it? Are we even aware that it’s going on? In 2000, the U.S. congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. But is it still occurring here in the United States? Many anti-trafficking initiatives have increased public awareness, more efforts are needed to stop this terrible crime.

-Sassy Pants

Remote Control

The United States affected by the lack of foreign language

Back in the day, the United States of America was at its best with being the top country in the world. Today, the U.S. might be falling behind in the competetive race to be the best. Right now we are falling behind in the category of foreign languages.
There are very few Americans who can proudly pronounce their knowledge in other langauges. In many other countries, children, from the ages 6 months to 1 year old, have already started learning their second language while most children in this country don't start till the age of 14. It has been studied that children who learn at an early age have been known to do better in school, score higher on standarized tests and are even more open to diversity.
There have always been times when learning languages has been a fad in the school system in the U.S. While in countries, such as China or France, it is a part of the cirriculum to learn English.
But how does this affect us economically, politically or even socially?
From an economic point of view, we have issues in the trade gap. International business are not able to meet the cultural or speak the langauge of their clients or partners from different countries. This causes those big companies to lose big accounts and economic support. For example, Chevrolet has marketed a car in Puerto Rico and Latin America called the Nova. But to people who speak Spanish, Nova means "no go." So as the need for trade in our economy relies a lot on other countries, we need people who are fluent in the langauges and have an understanding of our buyers.
Politically, not knowing other langauges can pose a threat to our nations security. Another example would be of the Berlin discotheque. U.S. intelligence was intercepting messages from Tripoli but no one could find an American employee to translate the message. If we had been able to, we might have been able to stop the danger. Having better knowledge of other languages may come to stop many tragedies.
Socially, U.S. students are deprived of a well rounded world education. This includes areas about fine arts, literature, and history.
The ability to speak other languages is a key factor in being able to communicate internationally and having a good knowledge of thier culture will help our economy stay up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abortion vs. The Death Penalty

Between the years 1995 to 2000 there was an average of 71 federal executions per year. The average amount of abortions performed each year was over 1.3 million in the United States. According to the article "Twin and Multiple Birth Rate" by Pamela Fierro, 4.8% of births are twins or multiple births, that would make the total number of abortions increase to roughly 1,348,000 per year. That is quite a bit more than the felons that were sentenced to death. My question is why is it okay to let so many innocent children die, but allow so many murderers and felons live out the rest of their lives.

It doesn't make sense to legalize abortion and outlaw the death penalty. One person's life should not be valued over another. When is it okay to take a life? In both cases a life is taken without the victims consent, which is wrong. Also, most individuals on death row do not chose to die and unborn children never get the chance to make a choice. Where do we draw the line? Is it okay to kill an unborn child who never had a chance to live, or is it better to execute the felon who made a fatal mistake? In many cases, felons have more rights than babies who have done nothing wrong other then be conceived. So why is okay to kill millions of children yet allow murderers and rapists to live? Something in this country has gone seriously wrong when the life of a felon is valued over the life of an unborn child.

Gay marriage ban oppresses a minority.

Marriage is a social and legal institution which (theoretically) binds two people who love each other together until death. Not only does this institution add solidity and recognition to a loving relationship, but it also gives the couple legal standing and various federal and medical benefits.

Some politicians and citizens defend their repressing anti-gay marriage views by claiming that their religion tells them homosexuality is wrong or that they are trying to protect the "sanctity of marriage." Now first and foremost I would like to debunk this ill-thought-out argument by stating that the United States of America is not a theocracy. The government should solely be involved in the legal aspects of marriage. If a church does not want to marry a homosexual couple, that is completely fine and they have the authority to do so, but the federal government should not be able to forbid a minority from getting married. It's as if they said all Asian-Americans were not allowed to marry. Secondly, whether a marriage is pure and sanctified differs from couple to couple. How could one consider a drunken Vegas marriage of a heterosexual couple more "holy" than that of a loving and devoted gay pair?

America was based on the ideas of freedom and justice, but denying a loving homosexual couple not only the right to have a formally recognized relationship, but also the legal benefits that come along with marriage is far from just. Some states have set up "civil unions" for gay couples, but these do not offer the same benefits as marriage and are not recognized by the federal government. Even if they were, history has taught us as a society that "separate but equal" is never truly equal. As Americans we all must come together to strive for equality in our country and that means equality for all, not just the social group that we as individuals belong to. Open minds, and take action
~Curly Jefferson

Jumbo Hippo's Blog Draft

By: Jumbo Hippo
Blog Draft
AP American Government

Abortion is a huge controversy in today's society. It's an issue that is
addressed in this year's presidential political campaign. It's becoming a more
and more common problem. I feel abortion should be illegal because it's
taking a life, it doesn't hold people responsible for their actions, and
although, under certain circumstances people feel it's ok, it's not.
An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the
uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. Since the egg has been fertilized it
begins the developing process of the fetus. That egg is perfectly able to
grow and develop during the stages of pregnancy and eventually become a baby.
Sadly, that process is disrupted when an abortion takes place. In my opinion,
abortion is considered taking a life and therefore should be illegal.
Abortion wouldn't be a problem if people used abstinence. People use a lot
of excuses to get an abortion, such as, a baby would be inconvenient or they
think they're too young. Those may be true but obviously they haven't
contemplated what they're doing and the affects that come from it. Getting pregnant
is one of those affects. People need to accept the consequences for what they
did and take the responsibility that comes with it.
Some say abortion is ok under certain circumstances. I still think in those
cases abortion is unacceptable. In the U.S. and throughout the world, there
are tons of loving couples wanting a child but aren't able to have one.
Adoption is a wonderful option. Instead of resulting to an abortion, people in
these situations can make a couples wish come true and bless them with a child.
Abortion causes lots of heat and arguments. I feel it should be illegal
because, it's taking a life, it doesn't hold people responsible for their
actions, and adoption is a better option. Abortion is a tough issue and many like
to avoid thinking about it. But how many lives will be taken before abortion
is made illegal?

HILLARY CLINTON: Speech to Denver Convention

Your thoughts on the speech by Sen. Clinton?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Americans Prefer Obama on Taxes

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes! Is that all we care about? Maybe not all, but definitely an issue most of us care about. Interesting results. Who do you think this poll favors?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No time for change...

Do you agree? Is Bob right? Should we make voting mandatory or change the election date? Are the middle class the group being taken lightly?

American Prayer - Dave Stewart (Barack Obama Music Video)

Does this video with Hollywood and musicians sway people to vote for Barack Obama? I mean, if George Castanza is voting Obama, shouldn't we all? How mnay Americans do you think will vote based on Oprah or Ringo Starr?

Passed Over

Will McCain win over Clinton supporters with an ad such as this?

Friday, August 22, 2008


This is the latest ad by the Obama campaign. Do you feel the ad is effective at portraying Sen. McCain as a person out of touch with the average person?

The One - Road to Denver

The McCain campaign has been trying to make Obama look as if he is a celebrity, see the celeb commercial on this blog) that people are following just because he is eloquent in his speeches. Do you think this is an effective strategy and ad for the McCain camp?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is the Appropriate Drinking Age?

(AP) -- College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

Other prominent schools in the group include Syracuse, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon and Morehouse.

But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

"It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

Research has found more than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence. One study has estimated more than 500,000 full-time students at four-year colleges suffer injuries each year related in some way to drinking, and about 1,700 die in such accidents.

A recent Associated Press analysis of federal records found that 157 college-age people, 18 to 23, drank themselves to death from 1999 through 2005.

Moana Jagasia, a Duke University sophomore from Singapore, where the drinking age is lower, said reducing the age in the U.S. could be helpful.

"There isn't that much difference in maturity between 21 and 18," she said. "If the age is younger, you're getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don't freak out when you get to campus." What do you think?

McCardell's group takes its name from ancient Greece, where the purple gemstone amethyst was widely believed to ward off drunkenness if used in drinking vessels and jewelry. He said college students will drink no matter what, but do so more dangerously when it's illegal.

The statement the presidents have signed avoids calling explicitly for a younger drinking age. Rather, it seeks "an informed and dispassionate debate" over the issue and the federal highway law that made 21 the de facto national drinking age by denying money to any state that bucks the trend.

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn't working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking," and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they "are told they are not mature enough to have a beer." Furthermore, "by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."

"I'm not sure where the dialogue will lead, but it's an important topic to American families and it deserves a straightforward dialogue," said William Troutt, president of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee., who has signed the statement.

But some other college administrators sharply disagree that lowering the drinking age would help. University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Clinton, declined to sign.

"I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we've made some progress," Shalala said in a telephone interview. "To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all."

McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn't working.

But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.

In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

McCardell cites the work of Alexander Wagenaar, a University of Florida epidemiologist and expert on how changes in the drinking age affect safety. But Wagenaar himself sides with MADD in the debate.

The college presidents "see a problem of drinking on college campuses, and they don't want to deal with it," Wagenaar said in a telephone interview. "It's really unfortunate, but the science is very clear."

Another scholar who has extensively researched college binge-drinking also criticized the presidents' initiative.

"I understand why colleges are doing it, because it splits their students, and they like to treat them all alike rather than having to card some of them. It's a nuisance to them," said Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of Public Health.

But, "I wish these college presidents sat around and tried to work out ways to deal with the problem on their campus rather than try to eliminate the problem by defining it out of existence," he said.

Health Library Health Library
Duke faced accusations of ignoring the heavy drinking that formed the backdrop of 2006 rape allegations against three lacrosse players. The rape allegations proved to be a hoax, but the alcohol-fueled party was never disputed.

Duke senior Wey Ruepten said university officials should accept the reality that students are going to drink and give them the responsibility that comes with alcohol.

"If you treat students like children, they're going to act like children," he said.

Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative's Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."

Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

"They're waving the white flag," he said.

Conventions Need a Believable Script

August 21, 2008

What must Barack Obama and John McCain achieve at their conventions? Conventions are the best, most controlled opportunities left for the candidates. Only the debates come close in impact, but they are unpredictable and not susceptible to the choreography available at the conventions.

Mr. McCain's handlers must achieve three things. First is a greater public awareness of the character that makes him worthy of the Oval Office. Mr. McCain's warrior ethic makes it difficult for him to share his interior life, though his conversation with Rick Warren did provide moving glimpses into it. To win, Mr. McCain will need to show more.

Al Gore's 'bounce' wasn't high enough.
Mr. McCain's second goal is to persuade Americans he can tackle domestic challenges. Voters trust him as commander in chief. The doubts are whether he understands their concerns about their jobs, their family's health care, their children's education, the culture's coarseness, and their neighborhood's safety.

Third, Mr. McCain must show voters he remains a maverick who will, as president, work across party lines as he has as senator. Naming a Democrat or two he will draw into his cabinet would remind people of his bi-partisanship.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings.

And is there really a "there" there? Besides withdrawing from Iraq, it's not clear what issues are really important to him. Does he do his homework or is he intellectually lazy? Is there an issue on which he would do the unpopular thing or break with party orthodoxy? Is his candidacy about important answers or simply about us being the "change we've been waiting for"? Substance will help diminish concerns about his heft and fitness for the job.

Mr. Obama's performance this summer has added to voter doubts, putting a large burden on his acceptance speech. There are challenges in a speech staged with 75,000 screaming partisans at INVESCO Field. Will it deepen the impression that he's more of a rock star than a person of serious public purpose, or can Mr. Obama have the serious conversation he needs to reassure Americans?

Neither candidate will be well served by making their principal focus the demonization of the opposition. True believers inside the halls and loyalists in front of their televisions will demand a certain level of abuse of the other party. But more Americans are undecided than have been in nearly 30 years. Voters want to learn more about these two men, their personal values and their public vision. Every possible minute should be spent on these.

Conventions are mini-dramas made for news coverage. Every hour, especially in the evening, is carefully scripted. Voters understand conventions are theatrical productions performed for their benefit. They grasp candidates are showcased as perfect as speeches, films, staging and flackery can make them.

But even well-scripted productions fail if they are seen as phony. Plays that don't ring true, actors who don't seem authentic, and storylines that seem contrived all fall flat. So too for political conventions. They succeed when candidates are seen at their natural best. "The Kiss" worked for Al Gore while "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty" did not.

How will we know if the candidates achieve their goals? Perhaps by observing the convention bounces -- the jump each receives in polls the week after their conventions. Professor Tom Holbrook of UW-Milwaukee says history suggests the candidate thought to be running ahead of where he should be (Mr. McCain) will get a smaller bounce, while the candidate generally thought to be running behind expectations (Mr. Obama) will get a larger one. Mr. Holbrook also finds the earlier convention gets the bigger bump, another Obama advantage.

Even then, the size of the bounce alone isn't determinative. Barry Goldwater and Al Gore got large bumps and lost, while Presidents Reagan and Bush in their re-elections received small bounces and won. The real question is durability. Are there lasting changes in how a candidate is perceived?

The day is long past when conventions were spontaneous and dramatic. It's hard to envision anything today like the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention or the Dixiecrat walkout in 1948. It's unlikely we'll see again dramatic floor fights as at the 1964 GOP convention at San Francisco's Cow Palace, or the 103 ballots it took Democrats to nominate John W. Davis in 1920. But conventions still shape voters' understanding of the men who want to be president. And because they do, conventions can still shape, and maybe even alter, an election.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stallone on McCain

Baracky and then this for those of you supporting Sen. McCain


Very Funny

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Texas Teachers Locked and Loaded

HARROLD, Texas — A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month, a newspaper reported.

Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change last October so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements.

In order for teachers and staff to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; must be authorized to carry by the district; must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and have to use ammunition that is designed to minimize the risk of ricochet in school halls.

Superintendent David Thweatt said the small community is a 30-minute drive from the sheriff's office, leaving students and teachers without protection. He said the district's lone campus sits 500 feet from heavily trafficked U.S. 287, which could make it a target.

"When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em' to a dog," Thweatt said in Friday's online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Thweatt said officials researched the policy and considered other options for about a year before approving the policy change. He said the district also has various other security measures in place to prevent a school shooting.

"The naysayers think (a shooting) won't happen here. If something were to happen here, I'd much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them," Thweatt said.

Texas law outlaws firearms on school campuses "unless pursuant to the written regulations or written authorization of the institution."

It was unclear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers. Wilbarger County Sheriff Larry Lee was out of the office Thursday and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, the newspaper said.

Barbara Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her organization did not know of another district with such a policy. Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school security expert who advises districts nationwide, including in Texas, said Harrold is the first district with such a policy.

The 110-student district is 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth on the eastern end of Wilbarger County, near the Oklahoma border.

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

Kareem Abdul Jabbar! Who are the others? I am terrible at recognizing Hollywood types.

Barack Obama and John McCain on abortion

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fact Check: Refuting More McCain Attacks

...and response. Do you think this is an effective way to deal with attack ads? Not a shiny commercial, no narrators, just a guy with a Red Sox hat in the background. I think it is an innovative way to deal with attacks, but will it work. We shall see...


Attack and...

Fan Club

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Focus - Chinese World Domination?

I found this article very interesting. For those of you who are still reading the blog from Comparative Gov't last spring, I think it will make some real sense. Will China go the way of Nazi Germany? Will the aging of China force it to turn it's attention inward? One thing is for sure,the opening ceremony was dazzling and that is exactly the way China wanted it to be. Those ancient drums sent a chilling, and I dare say, militaristic message to the West. So serious was this event, that even Costas was saying they had to tell the drummers to smile more. Read this article below from the British Newspaper The Telegraph.

By Charles Moore

Until yesterday, the most famous athletic moment in Chinese history was a solitary swim. On July 16, 1966, Mao Zedong, then aged 73, was filmed crossing the Yangtze River. He appeared, wrote his doctor, to be swimming "faster and further than an Olympic champion", but this was an illusion produced by the swift flow of the Yangtze: "Mao had only floated on his back, his giant belly buoying him like a balloon, carried down the river by the current."

China wowed the world with its opening ceremony
Mao chose to put on this show for political reasons. Having created the Cultural Revolution, he had stood back from the intended chaos to see what would happen. Now he was reasserting power: "Mao's swim in the Yangtze meant that his self-enforced exile was over. He was returning to the political stage. Two days later … he returned to Beijing. Henceforth, the Cultural Revolution would follow his direction."

Beijing Olympics opens with dazzling ceremony
Read more by Charles Moore
Looking at yesterday's astonishing scroll of Chinese glories rolled out on the floor of the Bird's Nest stadium, one sees, once again, a political purpose. "This is a historical chance for us," says the Chinese sports minister, "…we are burdened with a glorious mission." One World, One Dream, says the slogan. Whose world? What dream?

We all know that China has only become the great power it is today because it has abandoned Mao's economics. Deng Xiaoping, who emerged as leader after Mao's death, broke with the past and opened China up to markets. By 2020, it will be the second economic power in the world; by 2050, perhaps, the first.

advertisementBecause the economic change is so great, we pay less attention to the political continuity. Of today's top nations, China is the only one that has not had to abandon its totalitarian past in order to be accepted. The Communist Party remains in control. A vast portrait of Chairman Mao still looks down on Tiananmen Square. The greatest political murderer of all time is still canonised.

This is not to say that Beijing any longer believes that the world should be ruled by dogmatic Marxism-Leninism. But China's current leaders are in the line of Mao, and they are achieving what he attempted and failed - an illiberal form of rule that, in a sense, works.

In The End of History, the book which marked the high tide of Western post-Cold War cultural confidence, Francis Fukuyama noted that China, by killing students in Tiananmen Square in 1989, had "become just another Asian authoritarian state", and "lacked internal legitimacy". Because it had suppressed freedom, he suggested, it would suffer. That judgment was made in 1992. It does not, unfortunately, feel right this morning. In yesterday's ceremony, huge, illuminated footprints in the sky walked between Tiananmen Square and the stadium, while thousands cheered. Modern technology seemed to give physical form to the country's traditional "mandate of heaven".

China has prospered, while those that tried freedom - most notably Russia - have suffered. Even as they fret about human rights protests, the Chinese leaders must also congratulate themselves. "We are still here," they can say privately, "richer and more powerful than ever. Repression works."

But they cannot say it directly in public, and that is where the Olympics come in. Spectacular sporting displays are the classic means of projecting totalitarian power without talking about it.

If it all goes according to plan, those returning from the next fortnight will say how wonderful it was. Sportsmen will extrapolate from the comforts and respect offered to them, and declare that China is a splendid place. "It's like you're in a Marriott," reported one American competitor from the Olympic village, as if that were a form of paradise.

I have in front of me a dispatch from The Spectator in August 1936: "Competent foreign residents here [Berlin] say that the German Government and people really do desire peace … and one has seen several things in this festival which suggest that Germany wants to impress her Olympic visitors not only with her efficiency … but also with her desire to be friendly." "Harmony", proclaimed the dominant Chinese character formed by the heaving choreography last night.

I am not predicting that, in three years' time, the West will be at war with China. But I am pointing out the similarity of totalitarian political purpose. Youth! The future! Unity! National greatness! Cheering crowds, awed foreigners, dissent crushed! The Olympics offer all these things.

You might retort that China may be a global power, but it has become so because it has westernised, and will really succeed only when it has westernised some more, and become a democracy. We in the West have not fallen for a Chinese ideology or way of life. None of us has Chinese heroes. Few of us dress Chinese or look to Chinese entertainments. They are coming our way.

Yet suppose that, rather than westernising, China simply understands more coldly than we how the world now works. It has noticed that Westerners have become consumers and borrowers, and so it has become a producer and a saver. It has noticed that we live in a dream-world of our own films and computer games and celebrities, and it is happy to profit by furnishing the technological materials for these dreams. We play: it works: it wins.

Besides, the Olympic opening ceremony shows that China is now ready to glorify its own culture (not mentioning Communism, of course). "We Chinese invented writing and paper and printing and gunpowder and the compass," it in effect told us yesterday, "and we spread our power by land and sea. We are exquisite, resourceful and unique." "We are a high and ancient civilisation, growing in strength" was the message, conveyed with breath-taking elan. I bet the London Olympics in four years' time will not dare tell Britain's equivalent heroic stories.

What we are witnessing is impressive, but also frightening. If China really does become top nation, nothing in our history will have prepared us for such a thing. And nothing in its history suggests that freedom will be on its agenda.

The late, great Sir Denis Thatcher, bored at a formal dinner for the President of Finland, turned abruptly to the President's wife and asked: "What do the Finns think of the Chinese?" She explained that Finland was closer to Russia: the Finns did not think much about the Chinese. "Well, it's about time they did," said Denis, "because there are more than a billion of the buggers."

Indeed; but this brings me to the one hope we have when confronted with dictatorships - that they are undone by their own cruelties. A great evil of Chinese Communism has been its One Child Policy, assaulting family life and creating a nation of only children with 117 boys for every 100 girls (it's 105 to 100 in free countries). The good news for the rest of us is that, just as it is poised to overtake America, China will therefore find itself burdened with an aged population - roughly 300 million pensioners by 2035. If the East is grey, rather than red, it may thus deny itself the gold medal of world domination.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Legacy Of Mao

Aug. 3, 2008
(CBS) They're rehearsing the fireworks in preparation for the opening of the Beijing Olympics which debut later this week. But behind the scenes, complaints continue about the blocking of some Internet sites, and journalists are grappling with government restrictions - which would probably suit the late Mao Tse Tung just fine. Martha Teichner looks back on the legacy of Mao.


Call the Olympics China's coming-out party: The celebration of how far it's come and how fast, the Beijing skyline proof that Mao Tse Tung's determination to make China a superpower is coming to pass.

Thirty-two years after his death, if Mao miraculously woke up tomorrow, would he even recognize the capitalist colossus China has become? Would he recognize himself in the embalmed icon, the distant founding father figure, the Chinese Communist Party has cast him as in the new China?

It seems rewriting history where Mao is concerned is nothing new. He did it himself, big time.

You may have always believed the official line that Mao was the man who transformed China, a heroic leader, even if he did some bad things.

The real Mao, we discover, did horrendous things.

"Mao was responsible for well over 70 million deaths of the Chinese in peacetime, and he was as evil as Hitler or Stalin," said Jung Chang, "and he did as much damage to mankind as Hitler and Stalin."

She and her husband, historian Jon Halliday, are the authors of "Mao, The Unknown Story" (Random House), based on ten years of research.

"In China we interviewed about 150 of Mao's inner circle, in Mao's family, relatives, friends," Chang said, "and many people talked for the first time."

Even Chang and Halliday were shocked by what they learned:

"I did not realize how much of the misery and hardship he caused was done knowingly and so ruthlessly in terms of his own personal interests," Halliday said.

You've heard of the Long March? It changed history. In order to win their war against the ruling Nationalists, the Chinese Communists needed help from the Soviets. So between 1934 and '35, 80,000 Communist soldiers and civilians walked 6,000 miles across China, so they would be in a secure position to receive arms and supplies. Mao, supposedly the hero of the Long March, slogging along with everybody else, in fact, was carried.

"He even designed his own transport, a bamboo litter," Halliday said. "He said in his later life, 'I was lying in the litter. I had nothing to do. What did I do? I read, I read a lot.'"

Mao knew his political future depended on getting to the Russians first, so on the way he schemed to outmaneuver his party rivals, even though that meant the calculated sacrifice of the lives of thousands of Red Army soldiers.

"Whoever linked up with Moscow, had the communications with Moscow, and [was] recognized by Moscow as the party leader, would be the boss," Chang said.

"So at the end of the Long March, Mao is number one?" Teichner asked.

"Yes," Chang said.

"Well, Stalin I think spotted Mao as probably the guy in the Chinese Communist Party most like himself," Halliday said. "And of course Mao also like Stalin had long range vision. I mean, Mao could think strategically. He was very, very smart."

Ultimately he outsmarted Nationalist leader and U.S. ally, Chiang Kai Shek. Defeated, the Nationalists retreated to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan, where they remain to this day.

On October 1, 1949, Mao declared himself leader of the renamed People's Republic of China. The crowd chanted "Long live Chairman Mao," unaware of the horrific suffering his ambition would bring, beginning with a campaign which, he claimed, was to modernize China. He named it "The Great Leap Forward."

"Thirty-eight million people died of starvation and overwork," Chang said. "And Mao didn't want to stop. He said for all his projects to take off, half of China may well have to die."

Imagine: half the population. And for what? In fact, it was to pay for the technology to build an atomic bomb. China eventually exploded one in 1964.

China's people starved, because Mao was selling what food they produced to Russia and Eastern Europe. Glowing reports to the outside world about agricultural and industrial production were propaganda.

"And when he was shown the report of, you know, food shortages, of peasants starving, Mao said, 'Educate the peasant to eat less,'" Chang said. "He even said, 'Death have benefit, they can fertilize the land.'"

It was China's president, Liu Shao-Chi, who finally stood up to Mao and rallied top Communist Party officials to put an end to the famine. But Liu and the others soon paid: The infamous Cultural Revolution was Mao's revenge.

Beginning in 1966, "It brought trauma, misery, torture, death, to hundreds of millions of people," Chang said.

We've heard the name "Cultural Revolution," but who even knew what it was? Mao didn't just purge the party of anybody who could vaguely be called "elite"; he literally stripped China of all culture. His Red Guards - violent vigilante student groups - pillaged homes, burned books and tortured party officials.

Jung Chang's family suffered, too. It is their story she tells in her hugely successful first book, "Wild Swans."

"My father was one of the few who stood up to Mao and opposed the Cultural Revolution," she told Teichner. "And as a result he was arrested, tortured, driven insane, and he was exiled to a camp and died very young."

Her parents had been conscientious Communists, but even her mother was imprisoned and denounced.

"She went through over a hundred of those denunciation meetings," Chang said, "and she was made to kneel on broken glass, and she was paraded in the streets where children spat at her and threw stones at her."

A child herself, Jung Chang was sent to a work camp, and never saw her grandmother again. She died in 1969.

While literally millions of families like Jung Chang's were enduring the agonies of the Cultural Revolution, Mao had himself photographed swimming. He wanted his enemies to know he was well and in charge. Mao loved to swim, but how's this for weird: He never bathed or brushed his teeth.

"Instead he would have his servants, his mistresses wiping him every day with a hot towel," Chang said. "He didn't like to wash his hair either, and he liked this slightly itchy feeling."

Mao was a serious womanizer, and he was famous for doing government business from his bed.

His rare public appearances were all about the cult of personality. The party faithful would wave the little red book, the collection of Mao quotations everyone in China was ordered to carry - and never to question.

"You know, we were told that socialist China was paradise on Earth," Chang said, "but if this is paradise, what then is hell?

"I blamed people around Mao, I blamed Madame Mao, but I could never contemplate Mao."

Madame Mao Jiang Xing (Mao's fourth wife) was his attack dog. She was one of the so-called Gang of Four, enforcers who ultimately took the heat. Within a month of Mao's death the Gang of Four were arrested and tried. Madame Mao committed suicide in prison.

Mao died in September 1976, after 27 years in power. The world struggled to process his impact.

Given China's secrecy, China watchers had little to go on.

What did it mean that in 1972 and again in 1976, President Nixon went to Mao, not the other way around?

The Cultural Revolution ended with Mao's death, and in 1978 Jung Chang was allowed to go to Britain to study. She's lived there ever since.

She keeps with her one of the shoes her grandmother wore (on bound feet), the arm band Jung herself wore as a Red Guard, some Mao badges - a little history of 20th century China in objects.

"Mao left a tattered China," Chang said.

Teichner asked, "How do you explain the economic miracle that's transformed China?"

"The economic miracles happened because Mao died, and people had had enough of living under Mao's kind of rule," she said. "I mean, they wanted a good life."

Jung Chang is equally dismissive of claims that Mao liberated Chinese women.

"They became more equal in, you know, basically slave labor."

"If there's one criticism that has come to light in the book, is that there's such an unrelenting sort of attack on Mao," Teichner said.

"Well, one way to answer that would be to say 'No,'" Halliday said. "Should one be even-handed about Hitler, for example? I mean, Mao did what he did."

Mao has been conveniently repackaged. A generation of Chinese born after his death know only the revisionist version.

"Young people don't know that's the myth," Halliday said. "I mean, they think he is still the great hero."

"So the truth of Mao really isn't out in the open in China, even now, 30 years after his death?" Teichner asked.

"No, not at all," Chang said.

And may never be. "Mao, The Unknown Story" has been published in Chinese, but the book is banned in China.

Last week, Amnesty International released a report claiming that human rights violations in China have actually increased since Beijing was awarded the Olympics.

Repression may, in the end, be what remains of Mao's legacy.

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