Is Clinton Dyslexic? The Real Crisis.

According to CNN Clinton said that “Human rights cannot interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises.”
I think she must have meant that a global economic crisis can’t interfere with human rights and security. Without these basic rights everything else is moot. Money and security mean very little without human liberties. Turning a blind eye to human rights while seeking economic benefit is no better than abusing those right ourselves.
It seems to me that the real crisis of this generation is a crisis of conscientious, from the leaders of our country to the investment bankers and everyone else in-between.


The Next Reason for Global Environmentalism

China has reported a sharp uptick in the number of birth defects in their country. Even their insane government admits this is due to pollution.

It should go without saying, but I sure hope everyone realizes that pollution doesn’t need a visa. Expect China’s troubles to become the world’s troubles. Though this isn’t a China-only issue. The whole world needs to get dead-serious about the growing inhospitability our planet, and we need to do it yesterday.


A Note to Chinese People and the Chinese Government

I just read an article written by the Associated Press* detailing how the Chinese people feel betrayed by the west because of the incidents surrounding the Olympics. To this I have one thing to say.

The vast majority of us do not hate Chinese people. We love your culture and your people. However, your government —one which suppresses and tortures your own people— is very unloved. If you are surprised by the international communities reaction to the Olympics being held in China don’t blame us. Blame your government which has misled you into believing everything was fine. The reactions you are seeing now are simply what people have felt for a long time.

Think and ask why people are upset about Tibet. Ask why people are upset about human rights. Ask why you probably aren’t able to read this blog or this post! My government, America, is imperfect too, but that doesn’t excuse the Chinese government. Demand better of the people that lead you— just as I demand better of the people that lead me.

*2011/9/30: AP article no longer online. The link was changed to give context to the post.


Ignoring China Won't Change China

Konnie Huq nearly had the Olympic torch snatched out of her hands, but even that wasn’t enough to make her reconsider what the Olympics in China means.

In a BBC interview Huq says that “taking part in the procession doesn’t mean I condone China in anyway. She goes on to say, “I believe in the Olympic values, the Olympic ideals. I think sporting on a global scale is a brilliant thing. It transcends culture, race, money” It is unclear which Olympic games she’s talking about here, but please pretend that’s true. She continues, “it’s just unfortunate that China …uhm, has such a terrible track record when it comes to human rights” Before finally saying that “the two sort of issues are separate. Taking part in the Olympics doesn’t mean that you condone China. …I understand the cause completely, but you know, this is a platform in which change can occur.” What a tremendous stand Ms. Huq is taking! Thank god we have people like her willing to pay lip service to her conscious.

The fact is that the athletes, corporations, and countries participating in the Olympics are condoning China’s actions in Tibet and in the rest of its country. I was listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today and found his words fit well here. He says, “I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal,” and goes on to add that, “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” (Why I Oppose the Vietnam War)

I’m not going to demand that people should boycott the Olympics, but they should consider it. It is important in these times that each person consider their own morals and their own convictions. I’ve considered these things about myself and have decided that I will not be able to standby and watch idly as a harm done to people is swept aside in the name of “sporting on a global scale.” Nor will I allow people to make the audacious claim that participating in the Olympics will bring change. If the Olympics has any chance of bring change to China, which it likely does not, it is the opposite that is true. A complete boycott of the Olympics will tell the Chinese government that the world is unhappy with their oppressive and torturous attitude towards its people. A complete boycott will also be a message that even China’s monstrous hope chewing propaganda machine will be unable to silence.


Cuba Versus China (the politics of being useful)

Steve Marshall is an English travel agent. He lives in Spain, and he sells trips to Europeans who want to go to sunny places, including Cuba. In October, about 80 of his Web sites stopped working, thanks to the

The sites, in English, French and Spanish, had been online since 1998. Some, like www.cuba-hemingway.com, were literary. Others, like www.cuba-havanacity.com, discussed Cuban history and culture. Still others — www.ciaocuba.com and www.bonjourcuba.com — were purely commercial sites aimed at Italian and French tourists.
NY Times (A Wave of the Watch List, and Speech Disappears)

The question Americans should be asking is: Why is it that Cuba is so bad but China is okay? Clearly, lack of democracy is problematic. I won’t argue that the Cuban government is saintly. But it is also impossible to argue that Cuba approaches China’s human right violations by any order of magnitude. And that doesn’t even consider its various other violations.

Why is it that China kills, tortures, and suppresses its people and gets to host the Olympics, while Cuba keeps getting punched in the throat?

Leaving that question behind, we need to ask why the US Government is engaging in practices befitting of countries like China and Cuba. What makes our actions better? How is our suppression of free speech moral and democratic?

politics, technology

Will Yahoo! and the Others Change Their China Policies Now?

Shi landed in trouble three years ago when the Chinese government prohibited journalists to report on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.

When Shi forwarded the notice to human rights groups, the Chinese government pressured Yahoo to give them the name of the account holder, and they did so. Shi was also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

CNN: Yahoo settles dissidents suit

Yesterday’s announcement that Yahoo! is settling with the families of a men imprisoned and tortured with Yahoo!’s help sends a nice message, but is it enough to change the policies of companies like Yahoo!, Google, News Corp, and Microsoft which aid the Chinese government in suppressing democracy and commit human rights violations? Probably not. But that change is getting closer.

Yahoo! has tried to excuse their reprehensible actions by explaining that non-compliance with Chinese authorities could land their Chinese employees in jail. Clearly, the US needs to apply an equal pressure here. American companies must not be allowed to break national and international laws without consequence. NPR has reported that Congress is taking steps towards making this happen with something called the Global Online Freedom Act, which would make it an explicit crime for US companies to aid China’s effort to suppress and torture its people. The act finds that:

Technology companies in the United States that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian foreign governments have a moral responsibility to comply with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Technology companies in the United States have succumbed to pressure by authoritarian foreign governments to provide such governments with information about Internet users that has led to the arrest and imprisonment of cyber dissidents, in violation of the corporate responsibility of such companies to protect and uphold human rights.

Technology companies in the United States have provided technology and training to authoritarian foreign governments which have been used by such governments in filtering and blocking information that promotes democracy and freedom.

The act also decrees that “A United States business may not locate, within a designated Internet-restricting country, any electronic communication that contains any personally identifiable information.” and that “Any information that may be provided under subsection (a) for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes may only be provided through established legal channels as determined by the Department of Justice.”

The act basically says that America companies operating in China have conducted themselves in a way befitting of American values and laws. And since these companies are unable or unwilling to act in a lawful and moral manner the US Government will make them. While it would be nice if companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, and News Corp did what was right on their own it is good to see that at least Congress is trying to make sure US companies acting as the henchmen of dictators. That is, if the act ever gets voted on.

politics, technology

US Government's Slippery Slope Into Our Lives Doesn't Excuse China or the US Companies that Help China

There was an article on TechDirt yesterday that made an interesting connection and then bizarrely came up with a ridiculous conclusion.

The article pointed to a NY Times article about China’s high-tech surveillance campaign backed by technology from US companies, and connects that to two Boston Globe articles about the US efforts to track its citizens[1][2].

The TechDirt article gets all antsy about folks in congress not liking US companies helping China’s evil government when we are doing essentially the same thing here in the US, but instead of saying that it is time to check our own policies and stop US companies from doing inhuman things the author simple concludes that:

…unless we’re willing to look at the same issues in the US, it seems rather hypocritical to complain about US firms supplying the technology for China to do something quite similar to what we’re doing at home.

Clearly, we need to look at the same issues in the US, and I think in a small way we are. Do we need to do that more extensively? Of course. Does our government’s foray into totalitarianism mean that we should excuse the US companies supply technology that will be used to abuse human rights? No. Never.

When it comes to human rights no one country gets to set the standard, that standard is predetermined. The only question is how each country lives up to that standard. The US government has taken some steps back, and there is no excuse for that. The thing to realize is that nothing done in the US excuses the terrible things the Chinese government does and the US companies helping China can not be given a free pass.

politics, technology

Yahoo Just Doesn't Care about Human Rights

It has been said before on this little blog that Yahoo is a bad company for helping the Chinese government jail people for speaking out, but Yahoo just won’t admit to anyone that they did something bad. Free speech is obviously important and any company which helps a government suppress it should be regarded as equally repugnant.

It is even more repugnant to see Yahoo’s hollow response to a lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for its poor ethics. The Associated Press reports that, Yahoo has taken the bold stance of saying, “China should not punish people for expressing their political views on the Internet.” While once again reminding us that the people working for Yahoo in China might have faced penalties. This of course is their way of say, sucks to be you, people in China hoping to express your beliefs and opinions. Yahoo does a little PR dance to spin spin spin the bad news of what it did into a finger pointing game, rather than say anything meaningful.

Shi [Tao] was writing for the financial publication Contemporary Business News when he circulated an e-mail with his notes about a government circular about media restrictions. He was convicted of leaking state secrets.

Wang [Xiaoning] was sentenced in September 2003 on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power,” a vaguely defined statute that the Communist Party frequently uses to punish its political critics.(Seattle PI)

It is time to stop using Yahoo things.  No more mail, searches, flickr, or anything else that is related to Yahoo until they make a concrete commitment to protecting free speech. It may cost businesses money to take the high road, but no one ever said freedom was cheap, and while having even this tiny ethic comes at a cost to deny it is far more expensive. Every time Yahoo (or any company) helps suppress the freedom of a people anywhere they are spitting on the ideals of liberty and democracy. These companies are not fit to be representative of the United States, within our country or abroad.

technology, whatnot

Secret Shame: why I don't use Yahoo

The recent talk of Microsoft buying out Yahoo! reminded me that I wanted to write a little about why I try to avoid companies like Yahoo! and why other people should do the same. Corporations are not known for their compassion, but companies like Yahoo! have (for a while now) taken dispassion to a new level.

A little over a year ago news broke about Yahoo! giving the Chinese government information to identify political dissidents. Now a dissident and his wife are suing Yahoo! for getting him arrested and beaten. His crime— distributing articles for democratic reform. An American company is helping stifle democracy, but even worse it is helping commit human rights violations. Why would any company want to do such a thing? What could possibly be so important that a company would willing help a government find someone to torture? Wouldn’t it be nice if the answer wasn’t obvious?

Yahoo! would like people believe it cares (it doesn’t), so its spokesperson reminds us all that

Companies doing business in China must comply with Chinese law or its local employees could be faced with civil and criminal penalties.

Which is of course a cop out, but the world has a way of suspending honest reflection in the present if it is beneficial, only to show remorse for an inability to see the whole picture until a later retrospective moment. Or to put it another way, we turn away from what we can change to focus on what we can not, because it helps us. If the cost of doing business in a country is to have people beaten then the cost is too high. If the cost is to do things that positively retard the possibility of positive change in the country that cost is too far high. Or at least it should be.

And to be fair though Yahoo! isn’t the only one, just one of the worst. Another contender is the new Chinese MySpace. A company owned by Rupert Murdoch, who paradoxically owns Fox News, a channel that claims to be passionate about exporting democracy to countries like Iraq. MySpace China actively censors political conversations and encourages people to report dissidents to the government. On MySpace China you can’t mention Democracy, an independent Taiwan, or the Dali Lama. Nor can you do anything that would harm the unity of the country, so watch out.

Even the folks at Google (the company that claims they “don’t [want to] be evil”) are willing to sell their humanity for prosperity in China, asking shareholders not to vote for a policy that say they won’t engage in “proactive censorship.”

Corporations and The Market are amoral and inhumane, but America doesn’t have to be. Clearly, there needs to be laws created to deal with these things. So long as it is profitable and semi-legal corporations will eagerly participate. Changing the way American companies do business in China can only be positive— ultimately business won’t be lost because the Chinese government wants China to be modern and global. If they can’t dictate how that happens they will still do business, because otherwise they won’t get anywhere as a participant in the global community. People argue that by playing their game we are opening doors, but it is painfully obvious that we aren’t opening doors, we are nailing down the windows.

pet care

Pet Care Tip #257: Don't Feed Your Pet Rat Poison

Want your pet to grow strong and have a shiny coat? Here’s a tip on how to accomplish that: don’t feed her rat poison.

cat photoSound stupid? Maybe, but then again so does putting rat poison into canned cat and dog food and that appears to be exactly what Menu Foods Income Fund has done. The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets claims to have discovered rat poison in the canned food that has been killing cats and dogs across America.

The FDA says that the reason for the deaths is still unclear, but here is my guess: it might be the poison! While tasty to cats and dogs it has a nasty side effect of causing death. Perhaps it’s time for the FDA to force pet food (and human food) companies to clearly state the amount of daily allowed poison per serving on the label.

Wondering who Menu Foods Income Fund supplies to? Well, there are about one hundred brands of cat and dog food to worry about. Chances are, if you feed your pet canned food, you need to buy different food. Or start making your own.