June 4: Tiananmen Square Day

June 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Disinformation, Enemies of Freedom, Fairness, Judicial Injustice | 1 Comment
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A drafting board with a T-Square and triangle. Photo by Michael Holley, October 24, 2012.

A drafting board with a T-Square and triangle. Photo by Michael Holley, October 24, 2012.

June 4 is Tiananmen Square Day: T-square Day

An emblem for Tiananmen Square Day.  Created by thepoliblog.WordPress.com

An emblem for Tiananmen Square Day. Created by thepoliblog.WordPress.com

Two previous posts (here and here) on this blog have marked the anniversaries of the massacres in Beijing and Chengdu on and after June 4, 1989. It is that time of year again.

Tiananmen Square Day honors those who believed in the rule of law.

The demonstrators in Beijing and Chengdu thought that the government of China would adhere to its own written laws. They thought that laws exist to benefit and protect the people, not just to benefit and protect the powerful – those who have appointed themselves to rule the country. The demonstrators’ concept was correct, but their prediction was wrong.

The government of China claims to observe the rule of law. But that is a sham. Laws in China are written or are re-interpreted according to the whims and interests of the powerful. In China today, the mafia is in control.

Recent items (here, here, and here) in the Washington Post underscore the arbitrary way in which the laws are invoked, and the impunity with which they are twisted.

Besides stunting Chinese society, besides the unfairness to individuals and communities, this looseness with fact and law could lead to international conflict. The unilateral reinterpretation of territorial claims in the waters around south east and eastern Asia are a recent example.

In discussing this and other government actions, it is essential to distinguish between the government of China, and China and the Chinese people. To say and write ‘the government of China’ takes more time and space than to say and to write ‘China’, but the distinction is so important that it is worth the extra time and space. Never insult an injured people by confusing them with their oppressors.

Tiananmen Square Day honors the rule of law, while demonstrating that the rule of law cannot exist without the separation of powers.

The separation of powers is the only way for the administrators, the legislators and the judiciary of any polity to be independent enough to monitor one another, and to limit each other’s abuse of power. The tendency to abuse power is inherent in human nature. Even people of good will cannot resist the temptation to abuse power. We are excellent rationalizers, so we easily trick ourselves. The trajectory of the French Revolution is a perfect example.

Black was the color chosen by the demonstrators in Beijing and in Chengdu. Wear something black on Tianenmen Square Day. If you need to be inconspicuous, wear black shoes, or a belt, or a tie, or a scarf or a purse.

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He got away with manslaughter

July 23, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Judicial Injustice | Leave a comment
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George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after Zimmerman's not guilty verdict was read in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013.

George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict was read in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013.

The not-guilty verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial for shooting Trayvon Martin was an injustice to Trayvon Martin, and to all of us.  Eugene Robinson’s analysis in the Washington Post is particularly perceptive on the topic, and makes important points that have not been made elsewhere.

Two previous posts (here and here) on thepoliblog also stress crucial features of the encounter.  Indeed, thepolibog was started out of frustration with the then-current state of the public discussion of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, because, at the time, essential aspects of the encounter were being ignored.

George Zimmerman got away with manslaughter.

But the jury’s verdict was ‘not guilty’.  Within our legal system, George Zimmerman cannot be retried for the same crime (no ‘double jeopardy’).

Those who believe him to be guilty can only treat him as they would treat any other guilty person who escaped conviction because of the imperfections of the judicial system.

He can be shunned.

A Russian Patriot Battles Russia’s Greatest Enemy

June 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Conceited, Disinformation, Enemies of Freedom, Fairness, Judicial Injustice | Leave a comment
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Alexey Navalny, 26 May 2012, photographed by MItya Aleshkovskiy

Alexey Navalny, 26 May 2012, photographed by MItya Aleshkovskiy.

For criticizing Putin, Alexei Navalny is being prosecuted on spurious charges of fraud and embezzlement.

This is a favorite tactic for Putin and his cronies.  They use it against anyone who criticizes them, including those who expose theft by officials.  It was previously used against Sergei Magnitsky (see below).

Navalny isn’t a perfect human being, but he is honest, and he is trying to benefit his country, not himself.

Not only is Putin and Co. Russia’s greatest enemy, it is very nearly Russia’s only enemy.

Recent actions by the Russian Parliament are evidence that responsibility for the imprisonment, judicial injustice, torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, and for covering up those criminal acts, reaches much higher than was supposed before.  By approving and protecting those responsible, Putin becomes a party to their crimes.

See also here and here and here.
Putin and his cronies do not defend Russia, they rape it.

Putin and his cronies do not love the Russian people, they despise them.  They regard the Russian people as unfit to identify abuses, or to propose solutions, or to govern themselves.

Putin is not the protector of Russia, he is the protector of those who pillage Russia

An example is Putin’s protection of those who persecuted Sergei Magnitsky, and then fostered Magnitsky’s death.

Magnitsky’s only ‘crime’ was to expose those who had pillaged Russia.  But corrupt officials charged him with some crime he had never committed, and a corrupt judge convicted him of that imaginary crime.  As noted above, that has become the standard trick in Russia for persecuting anyone who is inconvenient for those in power.

Putin never asked for an investigation.  When a few of the criminals were chastized by the Sergei Magnitsky Act in the US, Putin was not pleased to see the the culpable being punished.  Instead, he whined about the US legislation, and pushed a bill that ostensibly punished the US, but whose main effect was to hurt Russian orphans.

His response proved that Putin’s priority was to protect those who pillaged Russia, and that he cared nothing for the true patriots who exposed the pillaging.

That made Putin an accessory to the crime.

That erased all doubt.  Russia is ruled by a criminal mafia, and Putin is a member of that mafia.

While Putin remains in power, Russia cannot breathe.

Saint George and the Dragon, painted by Bernat Martorell (1390–1452). AA.VV.,El llibre d'or de l'art català, Edicions Primera Plana, Barcelona, 1997.

Saint George and the Dragon, painted by Bernat Martorell (1390–1452). AA.VV.,El llibre d’or de l’art català, Edicions Primera Plana, Barcelona, 1997.

Russia does not need to be defended against a dragon.  It needs to be defended against a pit of vipers.

Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), photographed 4 May 2007, 13:03 by Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA.

Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), photographed 4 May 2007, 13:03 by Tad Arensmeier from St. Louis, MO, USA.

De-fang Putin and his viper cronies, and Russia will unclench, stretch out, and breathe.

Putin’s Place in History

December 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Conceited, Disinformation, Dysfunctional Politics, Enemies of Freedom, Judicial Injustice | 2 Comments
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Official portrait of Vladimir Putin (2006). This file comes from the website of the President of the Russian Federation and is copyrighted.

Official portrait of Vladimir Putin (2006). This file comes from the website of the President of the Russian Federation and is copyrighted.

History will deem Putin to have sabotaged and delayed Russia’s development into an open, equitable society that can achieve its full potential.

Putin will be called

– Yeltsin’s biggest blunder

– Defender of Kleptocracy

– Defender of dictatorial regimes that oppress and stifle their own people

Let’s consider each of these, in turn.

Yeltsin’s biggest blunder

A previous post noted that Russia is at present like a Centaur:   human above the  waist, all brute below.  A deranged Centaur, whose brutal part fears and hates its human part, and strives to keep it on a tight leash.

So-called “Old Centaur”: centaur teased by Eros (missing). Grey-black marble, Roman copy after an Hellenistic original. From the Villa Adriana near Tivoli, 1736. Currently in the Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo, first hall, great hall. Photographed by Jastrow (2006).

So-called “Old Centaur”: centaur teased by Eros (missing). Grey-black marble, Roman copy after an Hellenistic original. From the Villa Adriana near Tivoli, 1736. Currently in the Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo, first hall, great hall. Photographed by Jastrow (2006).

Putin has delayed by more than a decade the Centaur’s transformation into something fully human.

Thin-skinned and scared inside, Putin stifles Russia’s best citizens, its most conscientous and brave citizens, its only true patriots, blocking them from contributing to its improvement.
Not long ago his boot came down on the rock group Pussy Riot.

The rock group  performance artists Pussy Riot, photographed 11 January 2012 by Igor Mukhin

The rock group performance artists Pussy Riot, photographed 11 January 2012 by Igor Mukhin

Today, with puppy-like eagerness to please his master, a corrupt prosecutor now levels ludicrous charges against Alexei Navalny, a brave blogger.

Alexei Navalny in Moscow, 26 May 2012, photgraphed by MItya Aleshkovskiy.

Alexei Navalny in Moscow, 26 May 2012, photgraphed by MItya Aleshkovskiy.

The ludicrousness of the charges is deliberate.  It is part of Putin’s intended message, as was noted by Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post.

Defender of Kleptocracy

Instead of protecting Russia from the mafia, Putin protected the mafia from Russia.
Instead of protecting courageous Russian patriots, Putin looked away when they were persecuted and killed.
A recent example was Sergei Magnitsky.

The grave of Sergei Magnitsky, 27 June 2012, photographed by Dmitry Rozhkov.

The grave of Sergei Magnitsky, 27 June 2012, photographed by Dmitry Rozhkov.

Putin could have stopped the persecution of Magnitsky.

Putin could have ordered an investigation into stealing by government officials  from the Russia nation, based on Magnitsky’s discoveries.
Instead he looked away while Magnitsky was falsely charged, arrested, tormented and killed by corrupt generals, judges, police, and doctors.
The names of the thieving generals are known.
The names of the corrupt judges are known.
The names of the police who ordered the beating and the names of the police who conducted the beating are known,
the names of the malpracticing doctors are known, at least to the ‘authorities’.
None of the culprits have been charged, nor punished, nor even admonished.

Russia Putinesca is not a tasty or nutritious dish for most Russians, only for the kleptocracy.

Defender of al Assad’s murderous regime in Syria,and of Khamenei’s murderous regime in Iran
Quite apart from any questions of national interest, it is not in Putin’s interest to see autocrats be challenged and overthrown.
It is in his interest for the world to contain as few open societies as possible.

Putin will also be remembered as being opinionated, but uninterested in facts and in the world at large.  He never grew intellectually, nor morally.

Putin will be remembered as an autocrat, and as a person whose foreign policy was driven by envy.

Laws Against Blasphemy Are Always Wrong

August 24, 2012 at 9:44 am | Posted in Enemies of Freedom, Judicial Injustice | Leave a comment
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The Trial of Giordano Bruno (bronze bas relief), obtained via Wikipedia

Giordano Bruno being tried. Bronze relief by Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), Campo de’ Fiori, Rome. Photographed in 2006 by Jastrow. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno)

If there are N different religions, at most one of them can be correct.  Then the only way of expressing the truth is blasphemy against at least N – 1 of them.

Blasphemy is not always good.  But laws against blasphemy are always bad.

Every law against blasphemy announces to the world that those who enacted that law do not believe that what they are shielding can withstand critical scrutiny.  It is an admission of weakness.  It announces a belief in the fragility of whatever is being shielded by that law.  It says, “People’s belief in these claims is brittle.  It anyone voices any doubt or question, the whole structure will collapse.”

In that way, every law against blasphemy, itself blasphemes against what it claims to shield.

A law against blaspheming the Koran, or Mohammed, or Allah, or Islam, itself blasphemes the Koran, or Mohammed, or Allah, or Islam.

A law against blaspheming the Bible, or Jesus, or Christianity, itself blasphemes the Bible, or Jesus, or Christianity.

A law against blaspheming the Torah, or the God of Abraham, or Judaism, itself blasphemes the Torah, or the God of Abraham, or Judaism.

So punish for blasphemy anyone who accuses someone else of violating a law against blasphemy, any judge who sentences the accused, and anyone who proposed or voted for or enforces a law against blasphemy.

Laws that prohibit criticism of a leader or a government, or a country’s policy, laws against political disrespect, are really laws against blasphemy: against political blasphemy instead of religious blasphemy.

Blasphemy and public criticism of governments and officials are good.  They expose weaknesses, and the glare of publicity then motivates fixing the weaknesses.  The result is a more coherent and intellectually defensible system of beliefs, or a stronger and better society.

The benefits from allowing public criticism are among the greatest strengths of an open society.  If leaders learn about problems only via official channels, they learn only information that has been filtered by a long chain of sycophants.  So the leaders don’t know what their major problems really are.  They hear only what their echo chamber repeats back at them, plus at most a few muffled contrary voices.

Turkey, China, Russia – are you listening?  (I included Turkey because it is so achingly close to being an open society, and its leaders are honorable patriots.  The other two are less advanced.)

Crowd-sourcing is a remarkably effective and comprehensive way of obtaining information, and of generating ways of solving problems.  One of the advantages of open societies is that they benefit from the crowd-sourcing of information and of ideas for solutions.  But crowd-sourcing works only when everyone can speak freely.

Ancient Athens was a democracy, but it was not an open society.  It used laws against blasphemy to stifle political discussion.  That is demonstrated by the trial of Socrates (URL1, URL2).

I continue to subscribe to the Washington Post, despite its increasing scrawniness and its increasing number of pushy ads (oversized pages, offset pages, pages that are deliberately made unavoidable by wrapping them around other pages).  I subscribe because the Washington Post so effectively uses exposés to force abuses to be fixed.  Watergate is a historic example.  The exposé on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a more recent one.  There have been many others.

A Petition on Political Diversity in Russia

August 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Judicial Injustice | Leave a comment
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The re-blog Pussy Riot rocks the world! (reblogged from the blog of internet brain child) provided links to three remarkable videos about the incredibly courageous “happening” that was staged by three female members of the Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral.  They prayed for the Virgin Mary “to drive away Vladimir Putin”.   Of course, now they are in jail, awaiting trial.   You have probably noticed that the judicial system in Russia today is not noted for its impartiality, nor for its freedom from political influence.

Now there is a petition that you can sign to support the three courageous performers.  The petition was created by Peaches, Simonne Jones, and John Renaud, who are artists and activists in Berlin, Germany, and it is hosted by Change.org.  Please sign it.

What if a Mexican Drug Cartel Ran a Country?

August 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Enemies of Freedom, Judicial Injustice | 2 Comments
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What would a country be like if it were run by a Mexican drug cartel – ruthless, lawless, dominated by insatiable greed and lust for power?

What if that country also contained outstanding scientists, mathematicians, engineers, writers, artists, musicians, dancers, athletes, and political philosophers?

You would have Russia, under Putin’s thumb.

You would have a centaur, but one in which the human half was not in control.  Control would reside just beneath the tail of the horse half.  The horse half would tolerate parts of the human half, but would feel threatened by the other parts of the human half.  The horse half would hurl the disliked parts of the human half against tree trunks, rocks and brambles.

A stark example is what happened to Sergei Magnitsky, who was a towering example of insight, courage and principle.  His torture and murder is recounted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Magnitsky .

Another valuable site is http://russian-untouchables.com/eng/sergey-magnitsky/ .

A bill that is now before the Senate would impose sanctions on those known to have participated in this horrific crime.  Passing the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 (S.1039) is a moral imperative.

Fortunately the bill has a long and bi-partisan list of sponsors.  To see the bill and its list of sponsors, and to track its progress, see
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s1039/text
and
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s1039/show .

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