April 13, 2008 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Hadley: `Cop-out’ to skip Olympics start

Associated Press

8 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – It would be a “cop-out” for countries to skip the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics as a way of protesting China’s crackdown in Tibet, President Bush’s national security adviser said Sunday.

The kind of “quiet diplomacy” that the U.S. is practicing is a better way to send a message to China’s leaders rather than “frontal confrontation,” Stephen Hadley said.

President Bush has given no indication he will skip the event. “I don’t view the Olympics as a political event,” Bush said this past week. “I view it as a sporting event.” The White House has not yet said whether he will attend the opening ceremony on Aug. 8.

Olympics Stifles Athletes’ Free Speech

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

The IOC (the “International Olympic Committee”), the group that runs the Olympics, has figured out how to prevent participating athletes from demonstrating for Tibetan freedom and displeasing their Chinese hosts.  The age old tactic: a “chilling effect” on free speech.

It’s relatively simple: the IOC tells athletes that they have a right to free speech, but they don’t have the right to make “propaganda.”  IOC won’t define line between the two.  But if an athlete so much as steps even with one toe into the latter, s/he’s out. of. here.  Goodbye.  Put simply, the IOC doesn’t need explicitly to forbid certain kinds of free speech.  It can accomplish the same, desired result by harshly and intentionally chilling it.

A definition of “chilling effect”:

A chilling effect is a term in United States law that describes a situation where speech or conduct is suppressed or limited by fear of penalization at the hands of an individual or group.

And that, folks, is precisely what’s going on with athletes’ free speech at the Beijing Olympics.  

The Times reports:

Athletes who display Tibetan flags at Olympic venues – including in their own rooms – could be expelled from this summer’s Games in Beijing under anti-propaganda rules.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that competitors were free to express their political views but faced sanctions if they indulged in propaganda.

Got that?  Expression of political views: good.  Indulging in propaganda: bad.

But, you’re asking, is there a difference between the two? How does one know if one is expressing free speech or propagandizing?  What’s the difference?

The question of what will constitute propaganda when the Games are on in August and what will be considered opinion under IOC rules is one vexing many in the Olympic movement. The Olympic Charter bans any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic venue or area.  /snip

The IOC did not specify whether a Chinese athlete or a foreign competitor of Tibetan origin flying the Tibetan flag would be regarded as patriotic or propagandist. A spokeswoman said that there had been no discussion internally or with the Chinese authorities about use of the Tibetan national flag. Asked whether athletes would be allowed to hang the flag in their rooms, she said: “The village is an Olympic venue so it falls under the same rules and regulations of any venue which would mean that anything in there would be judged on whether it was a provocative propaganda initiative.”

The fact that the IOC has still not qualified the exact interpretation of “propaganda” means that some athletes remain confused about what they can say during the 16-day event without being sent home or stripped of a medal.

Unfurling Free Tibet banners or wearing Save Darfur T-shirts at Olympic venues are acts likely to be regarded as a breach of the charter, which was introduced after the American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute on the podium at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

So, as of right now, there’s no official definition of what constitutes “propaganda” and how propaganda might be distinguished from “free speech.”

The consequences of uttering or otherwise expressing “propaganda,” however, are quite dire.  This means that as things stand now, there is an enormous “chilling effect” repressing legitimate, free speech.

No athlete who has trained for his/her entire life is going to jeopardize participation in the Olympics by testing the definition of “propaganda” by hanging a Tibetan flag in a dorm room, by waving the flag on a victory lap, by speaking out about Tibet to the press, by showing a picture of the Dalai Lama, by wearing Tibetan malas, by wearing a Tibet hat or headband or t-shirt. Why?  Because that might be considered to be propaganda by the IOC.

So far, the IOC has been very much China’s lap dog.  As the Times reported:

A spokeswoman said that there had been no discussion internally or with the Chinese authorities about use of the Tibetan national flag.

You might wonder what this question of definition in the IOC rules has to do with China.  In fact, it has everything to do with it.  The IOC does not dare to step on China’s sensitivities about the topic.  In these circumstances, the message to athletes is incredibly simple.  STFU about Tibet.  Or go home.  Free speech be damned.

The IOC doesn’t need to enact a gag rule for its athletes.  That would be assailed as a “prior restraint” on free speech.  No, when the stakes are this high, a harsh “chilling effect” accomplishes precisely the same goal.  So much for the so-called “Olympic ideal.”  

One Foot Out

Embedding–great for videoclips, not so much for journalists or critical thinkers.

Unembed yourself.

Don’t completely identify with the representations that you most prefer.

Keep one foot out.

One of the difficulties with this critical distancing, or ironic stance, necessary, imho, for critical thinking, is that it is in tension with the activist need to present unalloyed support for whatever candidate or cause.

While I do believe that any Democratic president would be exponentially better than John McCain, and I am a Barack Obama supporter, I harbor only slim hope that a Dem president and a Dem congress will really accomplish our progressive goals. What will you do in 2012 if/when the Dems have once again disappointed us?

It is still important, imho, to try and progressivize electoral politics, but it is also necessary to keep a critical distance from the entire enterprise itself, indeed from the dominant values of “our” culture itself.

Café Discovery

Since I came out, I have been especially active in trying to promote National Coming Out Day in the fall, World AIDS Day on December 1, and Out and Proud festivities at colleges and universities wherever I could reach them.  The latter are usually in the Spring, since Gay Pride events usually are scheduled in the summer when activity on campus is light.

What if they gave an Out and Proud Week and nobody was?  Or maybe it’s just that nobody cared.

We arranged some programs and selected some going on around us and tried to encourage members of our campus community to attend.  There was little interest exhibited.  Not from straight folks.  Not from GLBT folks.  Actually, more straight folks showed up than gay folks…and some of the straight folks clearly hadn’t reached a positive place with regard to the issues.

And some do not understand that issues is plural.

I’m Not Bitter – I’m Outraged

Any more the bad news comes like the steady downpour of the tropical monsoon.

There is no time to catch one’s breath.

There is no pause to absorb the outrages of the day, no interlude to break the tragedies into digestible chunks, no relief for the overwhelmed between the vicious punches to the gut, the finger jabs to the eyes, the thunder kicks to the groin.


It’s called Karma.

Reading this MyDD analysis of Obama’s rhetorical flub about rural Pennsylvania voters, which would be 100% excellent if not for the writer’s insane devotion to ignoring the apostrophe whenever trying to condense ‘it is’ — which is a shame because otherwise the piece seems well written (for that it’s earned a mere 99% for its grammatical apathy), I couldn’t help but feel that the senator supposedly representing Illinois is facing a bit of Karmic justice.


Some might define power as being able to get what you want. But as Mick told us so many years ago…

I think many of us are feeling pretty powerless these days to affect change in our country. So I thought it would be interesting to have a little conversation about power and the different ways it works. I’ll share a little of my experience and hope you will chime in down below in the comments.

Palm open, fingers outstretched.

One of the very first film scripts I ever wrote contained the following exchange between a twelve year-old son (Christopher) and his father (Aaron):

AARON: Open your hand.

Aaron places a stone into Christopher’s palm; its smooth, sanded granite.

CHRISTOPHER: (confused) It’s a rock.

AARON: No. It’s your ability to love.

Christopher looks up.

AARON: Given to you at birth. Yours to offer up to others. You’ll say, “Look at this. Isn’t it something. Take it. Hold it.” Some will treasure it. Most will abuse it. They’ll scratch it or bust off a chunk. They’ll take another’s stone without ever telling and then they’ll cast yours aside. And each time you get hurt, you’ll naturally want to share it less and you might even be tempted to ball your hand  into a fist and lock it away for good. Don’t do that, Christopher. That’s death.


AARON: Close your palm up and you’re no longer living.

Aaron spreads Christopher’s fingers.

AARON: This is how you live your life. Palm open, fingers outstretched.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bad Moon Rising


I haven’t put together a video to song in awhile, than I came across “Lock Them Up”

The song in video is by ‘Nam Veteran Pat Scanlon brother member of Vietnam Veterans Against The War and Veterans For Peace.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bad Moon Rising

Elitist and Out of Touch

In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s inflammatory and slanderous insinuation that Americans are frustrated, bitter, and angry; and in response to his outrageous condemnation of Americans for clinging “to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or to anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”, Hillary Clinton spoke out in passionate defense of these victims of Obama’s shameful slanders and declared that “Senator Obama’s remarks were elitist and out of touch.  They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans.”

Thank you for clearing that up, Hillary.  It’s about time someone called out Obama for being so elitist and out of touch.  He must have inherited those elitist traits from that elitist socialite grandmother of his in Kenya, who’s always parading up and down some fashion show runway in a fancy evening gown from a trendy Paris boutique:



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