A Stick in the Chinese Eye

A stick in someone else’s eye, but a stick nonetheless. Not only that, but the same old tiresome victim, those yellow hordes a half a world away, the Chinese. Shades of middle twentieth-century isolationism and communist hysteria. Until this country of ours undertakes some necessary revision and brings home some recoverable jobs, all that’s left is China-baiting.

RepchrissmithThis week it’s the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and, so no one of Asian descent feels left out, the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Lest we nod off, Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey is the chairman of these nattering nabobs of someone else’s business. Chris hasn’t actually been to China, but he’s eaten Chinese take-out and was all twittery and ready to go, when Abramoff Airlines stopped flying.

Not to be discouraged, Smith breathlessly announced that for the first time, a hearing in the House of Representatives will be blogged live from Capitol Hill. Thus China will make history, becoming the first sovereign nation to be blogged and flogged simultaneously by a nit-wit House subcommittee, picking nits.

It boggles the mind.

Smith burbles, “Modern communications have empowered individuals to get their news from different sources, and blogs have become a regular news source for many Americans.” Well, I don’t know, Chris. Blogs are a lot of things, mostly partisan rants, but then the Congress itself has become a partisan rant, so I suppose you’re comfortable with it

“Live blogs from different events in Congress will enable more Americans to hear their elected representatives, allow for increased transparency and encourage greater civic participation.” I’m all for that, most of our news of legislators recently has come from prosecuting attorneys. Possibly the Democrats who have been locked out of those midnight Republican legislative sessions will be able to catch a blog of the proceedings. But about the transparency thing, Chris—you won’t find much bilateral support for that one.

“It is important to note that the freedoms that we enjoy in America allow individuals to publish information and news on the Web unfiltered – even from within the walls of Congress,” Smith said. Excuse me, Christopher, I hate to keep butting in with questions. Does unfiltered include not losing your CIA job or being piled on and threatened at NASA? What about un-credentialed 24-year-old political contributors, Chris? Does this mean they’ll no longer edit scientific statements from their professional colleagues for party-line discipline?

“Those freedoms do not exist in China and individuals who attempt to speak freely are imprisoned and even tortured, and US corporations should not be aiding in that process.” Again, I have to presume. My presumption is that Rep. Smith means Google, Yahoo and Microsoft and not those other corporations that are actively involved in torture and imprisonment for the home team, like Blackwater and Titan.

MercenariesThe difference, hairsplitting as it may be, is that American laws that allow suspects to have their door battered down, be hooded, held without counsel, flown out of the country, kept incommunicado and tortured are said to be for our own protection and the security of this country.

On the other hand, for China to dare to control its citizens’ computer access to the Internet is an outrageous desecration of the the rights of otherwise harmless white men to gather in legislative council, to put down and denigrate sovereign yellow nations.

Check it out, dude. We only raise hell over the civil rights of non-Europeans. You don’t see the Honorable Christopher Smith sidling up to King Juan Carlos of Spain to complain about human rights issues among Basques. Nor does he give so much as a press conference concerning Gypsies turned away from English ports of entry. 

If all goes as it should, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will tell Chris and his entire committee to take a hike, a long walk on a short pier or, even more entertaining, a much needed trip into reality. They’ll be courteous about it, but that will be the message.

Separately, the State Department yesterday said that it had established a Global Internet Freedom Task Force. Just when you thought your White House was humbled, lo, another task force. The members of this armada will ‘monitor other governments’ policies on censorship and restriction of access to information.’ My god, does Alberto Gonzales know about this? The task force will make policy recommendations on how to maximize access to the Internet while minimizing government attempts to block information. Has anyone told the Saudis?

Presumably, the task force will then sail off the edge of the world, never to be heard from again.

And people ask me where I find things to write about.

More at my personal web site about what interests me in International Affairs.

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