Chinese hypocrisy and a Japanese Security Council seat

Perhaps I’m overly cynical. But I think it’s probably fair to say that the recent outpouring of Chinese rage over a Japanese textbook has much more to do with an effort to broaden the UN Security Council, in which Japan might gain a permanent seat, than about a textbook. “This is something we Chinese cannot accept. Japan should not be allowed on the UN Security Council. That would be like allowing a criminal to join the police,” says Lu Yunfei, who claims to have gotten more than 20 million signatures on a petition opposing a permanent Japanese Security Council seat. “Only a country that respects history, and takes responsibility for history, can take greater responsibilities in the international community,” said China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

But, according to BBC Beijing correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes:

Young Chinese are taught about the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. They are not however taught about the 17 official apologies that Japan has made to China over the last 30 years, including one from the Japanese emperor when he visited Beijing.

Nor are they told of the $30bn in aid that Japan has given to China since ties were re-established in 1972, aid that has helped build Beijing’s international airport and the city’s new subway system. You’ll search in vain for a plaque on either acknowledging where the money came from.

Wingfield-Hayes points to some not so glorious, more recent, and rarely mentioned Chinese history. He cites “Mao’s disastrous ‘great leap forward’ campaign in which more than 20 million people starved to death,” and a Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979. Does all this match Japanese atrocities in World War II, including the “Rape of Nanjing,” in which “invading Japanese troops butchered tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Chinese civilians in a month-long orgy of slaughter,” and “thousands more young Chinese women were later forced into sexual slavery as what the Japanese army euphemistically called ‘comfort women?'” Perhaps.

But it’s also worth noting that the current UN Security Council’s permanent members have something to lose with a broadening. Both proposals would expand the 15 seats on the present council to 24, diluting the value of any existing vote. There might be more countries with the only real power on the council–veto power, further complicating negotiations.

China isn’t the only country now on the Security Council with history to acknowledge. The United States sought to exterminate Native Americans until late in the 19th Century. The British ran a far vaster empire than the Nazis. France was in Vietnam until throwing up its hands in the 1960s — only to have an anticommunist paranoid United States step in. More recently, “French military intervention in the civil war in the Côte d’Ivoire has been decisive. France not only ordered troops to the country, it also provided military equipment to the badly equipped government army.” Russia inherited its seat from the Soviet Union, notorious for the atrocities of Stalin, and has questions of its own to answer in Chechnya.

If failing to own up to history should disqualify a country from a permanent seat, perhaps Prime Minister Wen Jiabao should begin by offering up his country’s own Security Council seat.

Nazis and Catholics

Some of the criticism directed at the German Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has touched a raw nerve in Germany. Some have referred to him as the ‘panzer pope,’ for his hardline views on church discipline and doctrine. This is unfortunate, for though the new pope’s views are unlikely to be constructive, Nazi epithets only provoke a backlash. Matthew Schoolfield wrote Deutschewelle, “I think it is only expected that the secular media would demonize Benedict XVI, a non-progressive pope. Traditionalists are no longer welcome in the mainstream media, even if they are the head of a traditional institution, such as the Catholic Church. Also, the media wants to sell papers.”

Schoolfield plainly has an excuse. Being from the United States, he has obviously accepted the right-wing claim that the mainstream press in this country is guilty of a left-wing bias, a claim which has been proven through repetition, rather than through logic. But these characterizations were published in British papers; so Schoolfield, wrong in his premise, then overgeneralizes to Britain. These newspapers don’t acquit themselves well, either; they are tabloids, known for sensationalist coverage, though not on the scale of a tabloid better known to Americans: The Enquirer.

The new pope, who having been compelled to join the Hitler Youth, “was drafted into the army in December 1944 and stationed near Traunstein. With the end of the war just days away, he deserted in the spring of 1945.” Depicting this man as if he were an enthusiastic Nazi can only have help to rationalize the views of those on the right who already feel they’re being treated unfairly.

Germany’s top-selling newspaper Bild was furious on Thursday at the coverage of the new pope by British newspapers, which had accentuated Benedict XVI’s past as a teenager in Nazi Germany.

“English insult the German pope,” said the front-page headline, below the words “Hitler Youth.”

Britain’s Sun tabloid, like Bild the highest-selling daily newspaper in its market, had headlined its coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday with the words “From Hitler Youth to… Papa Ratzi.”

“It is impertinent to reduce the German pope to a Hitler Youth on the day after his election,” Bild fumed.


One real problem here is that Germans are understandably sensitive about being stereotyped as Nazis. And that’s wrong. And to characterize Ratzinger as a Nazi incorrectly implies his participation was voluntary:

Eighty to 90 per cent of Germans in the right age bracket joined the Hitler Youth. Refusing to sign up could mean being sent to a youth “re-education camp,” akin to a concentration camp, said Volker Dahm, director of Nazi-era research for Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History.

But there is another problem. The Catholic Church has failed to respond adequately to some family-oriented concerns in the West. Consider this abstract for a New York Times article written prior to the funeral for John Paul II:

Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign in disgrace as archbishop of Boston for protecting sexually abusive priests, will be one of nine prelates to preside over funeral Masses for Pope John Paul II; Vatican officials consider Law powerful kingmaker; after stepping down in Boston in 2003 he was given prestigious although honorary post in Rome as archpriest of Basilica of St Mary Major; Vatican watchers will parse his funeral homily for clues about cardinals’ thinking on who should be next pope; by permitting him to take limelight at this time, cardinals have reminded American Catholics that their most painful recent chapter barely registered in Vatican.

This church, which speaks so highly of sexual morality, stands out among a number of religious and “family values” oriented organizations first for a sheer volume of pedophilia cases and second for a bureaucratic instinct to cover up offenses and reassign abusers rather than to discipline them. It is hard for many in the West to comprehend how the Catholic choice to be so repressive of a fundamental human need can have had any other result. Yet this new pope, along with his predecessor, adhered rigidly to a rigid and unworkable doctrine which at least some argue is unjustified even with a literal reading of the Bible.

In no way is the Bible the prudish book that so many of us think it is who have been reared in the Catholic and Protestant traditions. The quite plain speaking in the Scriptures (as shown in the original languages) would probably cause a lot of “Sunday School” teachers to blush at many of the instances.

There is no reason for this but a lust for power, as Wim Rietdijk argues:

[S]exual “censorship”, qualitative “famine”, anxiety generation, incoherence of unawakened wants and emotions, and poor experiment, markets, average attractiveness and catharsis make this domain one of primitivism, dependence in a climate of uncertainty, projection and manipulation in general. Not merely Medieval Church and Victorian morals manipulated frustrated people into the collective neuroses that fundamentalist religion, nationalism and more or less oppresive ideologies will be. Far more generally, other-directedness, anxious conformism and/or dependence on “the others”, idols and cult figures – from dictators to pop stars – go with censorship of emotion as well as that of reason.

Thinking of a German Cardinal as a Nazi is a mistake, but make no mistake about the cruelty of the Catholic Church imposed upon over a billion people.

Naturist Action Committee: VICTORY IN WASHINGTON! House Bill 1333 is DEAD!

**********************************************************************
NATURIST ACTION COMMITTEE
UPDATE
**********************************************************************
http://www.naturistsociety.com/NAC/
**********************************************************************
Copyright 2005 by the Naturist Action Committee, which is responsible
for its content. Permission is granted for the posting, forwarding or
redistribution of this message, provided that it is reproduced in its
entirety and without alteration.

DATE: April 22, 2005
SUBJECT: Washington State
TO: Naturists and other concerned citizens

Dear Naturist,

This is an Update from the Naturist Action Committee on an important victory in the state of Washington.

We have stopped Washington House Bill 1333 dead in its tracks. With your help and support, we have prevented bad legislation from being passed into law in the state of Washington. Following NAC’s action against it, the bill never moved out of committee.

BACKGROUND, BRIEFLY

Washington House Bill 1333 proposed a significant change to the state’s indecent exposure statute. Current law calls for a second conviction under the state’s indecent exposure law to be punished as a felony. HB 1333 would have expanded the law so that convictions from municipal courts inside or outside the state of Washington would be counted toward felony status, as well.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Al O’Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace).

WHAT DID NAC DO?

The Naturist Action Committee opposed House Bill 1333 and quickly hired a professional legislative lobbyist to assist its efforts. NAC worked with the sponsor of the bill and other Washington lawmakers, as well as directly with the City of Everett, which had requested the legislation.

The NAC Action Alert issued on January 30, asked Washington residents to contact members of the State House of Representatives. Your contacts with lawmakers proved to be very helpful. Thank you.

Along with NAC’s lobbyist and a speaker from the ACLU, NAC board member Mark Storey and NAC Area Representative Howard Williamson gave testimony before the House Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee in opposition to HB 1333. Also present in important supporting roles were several others who responded to NAC’s Action Alert.

PRESENT STATUS OF THE LEGISLATION

House Bill 1333 is officially dead. There is a possibility that a similar measure will be filed in next year’s legislative session, and with that in mind, the Naturist Action Committee will be working with supporters of the bill during the interim period between sessions. NAC believes there may be common ground that satisfies the perceived need of the City of Everett, while protecting the rights nights of naturists.

PLEASE HELP NAC TO CONTINUE HELPING WASHINGTON NATURISTS!

NAC thanks you for your support in this important success!

The Naturist Action Committee is a volunteer nonprofit organization that exists to advance and protect the rights of naturists throughout North America. Fighting bad legislation is necessary, but expensive. NAC relies on the voluntary generosity of supporters like you.

To donate to NAC, use the address below, or call toll free (800) 886-7230 to donate by phone using your MasterCard or Visa.

NAC
PO Box 132
Oshkosh, WI 54903

We appreciate your choosing to make a difference.

Naturally,

Mark Storey
Board Member
Naturist Action Committee

—————————————————————
Naturist Action Committee (NAC) – PO Box 132, Oshkosh, WI 54903
Executive Dir. Bob Morton –
Board Member Mark Storey –
Online Rep. Dennis Kirkpatrick –
—————————————————————

Islamic dress code applied to photography at Arizona high school


“Cover with Pride…”
Someone seems to have gotten a little hysterical about some photos at an Arizona High School. “At least one had been on display for two years.” But now, a photography teacher has been suspended, pictures have been taken down, and students are unclear on what photos they can use for a final exam.

Tucson High is known for its fine arts program and uses it to draw students to its campus at 400 N. Second Ave. Graduates from [Jerry] Halfmann’s program have gone on to work for major advertising agencies, at museums as curators and as photojournalists.

“The students and our pictures are being censored,” [Senior Ashley] Barreda said. “I can’t even put a portfolio out right now because all of my pictures have been deemed inappropriate. It’s really hard when you’re trying to take pictures of things and you have to look at every single picture and say, ‘OK is someone going to take this away from me?’ ”

She has three weeks to come up with a portfolio, which consists of 15 prints and serves as her final exam.

“Photography students at Tucson High Magnet School can no longer take pictures of people not conforming to the school’s dress code.” That means, “No spaghetti-straps or tube tops. No leotards. No swimsuits. No short skirts, dresses or shorts.”

Berlusconi resigns; nothing changes

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has resigned, but is expected to form a new government with the same coalition partners as he has now. Economic problems and the controversy over American soldiers shooting at an Italian Journalist in Iraq led to dismal regional election results, leading Berlusconi’s coalition partners to demand a new government.

Ratzinger new pope

[Updated] According to several sources, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has won election as the new pope of the Roman Catholic church, taking the name, Benedict XVI. “[D]espite a widespread assumption he was too old and divisive to win election,” Ratzinger won on the fourth ballot. According to the Reuters story, “Billed as the front-runner going into the conclave, Ratzinger, 78, was widely seen as a standard-bearer who would fall short of the required two-thirds majority and have to cede to a more conciliatory compromise figure.”

John Paul II appointed Ratzinger to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an organization within the church, originally established in 1542 as the Inquisition, or more formally as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Ratzinger is known for hardline positions on birth control and for having been less than diplomatic about other churches. As John Nichols, writing for The Nation put it, “Cardinal Ratzinger, who will now be identified as Pope Benedict XVI, has for a quarter century been the church’s heavy.”

As The National Catholic Reporter reported several years ago, many serious observers of contemporary Catholicism believe that, “Ratzinger will be remembered as the architect of John Paul’s internal Kulturkampf, intimidating and punishing thinkers in order to restore a model of church — clerical, dogmatic and rule-bound — many hoped had been swept away by the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 assembly of bishops that sought to renew Catholicism and open it to the world. Ratzinger’s campaign bears comparison to the anti-modernist drive in the early part of the century or Pius XII’s crackdown in the 1950s, critics say, but is even more disheartening because it followed a moment of such optimism and new life.”

The New Zealand Herald reports that many liberal Germans are reacting with dismay to their countryman’s selection.

Admired by conservative German Catholics, he is feared by many of their more liberal counterparts who have dubbed him “The enforcer” and “The panzer cardinal” because of his unflinching commitment to conservative doctrine. “Certainly no other German churchman divides opinion more than Ratzinger,” remarked Cologne’s Rundschau newspaper shortly after the Vatican announced his election. “Most of his critics are to be found in Germany and they are his fiercest,” the paper added. “For many in Germany the man with the ice grey hair is simply a symbol of religious dogma and conservatism.” An opinion poll conducted in Germany last week showed that 36 per cent of Germans opposed his becoming Pope whereas only 29 per cent supported his candidacy.

John Paul II had appointed “all but 13 of the 183 living cardinals,” and “114 of the 117 electors,” essentially ensuring that his successor would be conservative, and therefore not at all satisfactory to those hoping for progress on issues of women or sexuality. Even if the new pope dies soon, the electoral math is unlikely to change rapidly.

DeLay against the wall? That’s where the writing is.

[Updated] It’s now a topic for Doonesbury:

The question now is how long can House majority leader Tom DeLay continue to ignore the writing on the wall. According to the Associated Press:

One of Congress’ most conservative members on Friday became the second House Republican to urge Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside because of the ethics scrutiny he’s facing.

“If the majority leader were to temporarily step aside so that these trumped up charges can be dealt with in a less hostile environment, as they have proven to be an unnecessary distraction, it may be a productive move,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

Tancredo’s comments come after Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate Republican, urged DeLay to resign from his leadership position at the beginning of the week. Also, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics.

Republicans seem uneasy. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune says, “Republicans, on up to the White House, have not exactly been eager to defend the Texas lawmaker” and “that DeLay’s troubles only seem to mount, and the notion that he’s the victim of a Democratic Party/liberal media witch hunt just doesn’t hold water. DeLay was admonished by the House Ethics Committee three times last year. That would be the Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee.” Time Magazine quotes a Republican aide saying “every meeting we have is now a meeting about Tom DeLay.” Even the Bush administration, notorious for rewarding failure, seems to be questioning DeLay’s handling of the matter, as Time reports, “The White House is publicly standing behind a leader whose legislative abilities Bush respects and needs for the fights ahead. Bush still calls DeLay a friend, although spokesman Scott McClellan pointedly noted last week that ‘there are different levels of friendship.’ The President’s team is increasingly frustrated by the majority leader’s inability to mount a defense more persuasive than blaming his problems on a liberal conspiracy. DeLay, says a senior Administration official, ‘is handling this like an idiot.'”

[Republican leaders] can’t continue to aid the efforts by DeLay to dodge responsibility. The worst example is this: After the Ethics Committee rebuked DeLay for the third time, the GOP leadership neutered the Ethics Committee. The Republican chairman of the committee, Rep. Joel Hefley, was removed from his post over his objections, and the committee rules were changed so either party could block an investigation of a House member.

Republicans can argue that the committee chairmanship was due to rotate. But the rules change to block investigations was an incredibly blind and arrogant tactic. Don’t blame DeLay for that one. Blame House Speaker Dennis Hastert for letting it happen.

Dale McFeatters, writing in Capitol Hill Blue, describes the changes this way:

To start, the leadership deposed the incumbent Republican chairman of the ethics panel who presided when the committee three times admonished DeLay, replacing the chairman with someone presumably more malleable. They also installed two DeLay loyalists and fund-raisers on the committee.

And the panel’s rules were changed. Previously, if the committee, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, deadlocked on a complaint, the investigation proceeded. Under the new rules, if the committee deadlocks on a complaint, it is automatically dismissed after five days. Members can demand an immediate hearing, leaving the committee no time to investigate, and a member under investigation and the witnesses can share a lawyer.

Time writes of this, “It was easy for DeLay’s allies to dismiss signs of erosion in his support early last week when they were largely confined to criticism by moderate Republican Congressman Chris Shays, often a voice of dissent within the ranks. But it was more difficult after 10 former Congressmen, all Republicans, signed a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert imploring him to reverse recent revisions in the House rules that were apparently designed to shield DeLay from being investigated by the ethics committee.” McFeatters writes that “GOP critics of the changes, part of a larger plan to protect House Republican Tom DeLay, say the changes are making the party look bad.”

But Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri thinks, “Tom DeLay is not going to run away from a fight.” Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a Democrat, thinks Republicans are unlikely to choose him to continue as leader after next year’s congressional elections.

DeLay has said he is eager to appear before the House ethics panel to answer questions. But Democrats, in protest, have not allowed the panel to organize since Republicans voted to change its rules in a way Democrats claim would weaken the committee’s ability to investigate lawmakers.

Said Frank, “I, 15 years ago, had a problem because I behaved inappropriately. The ethics committee stepped in,… Newt Gingrich had a problem. He was reprimanded; the ethics committee stepped in. The difference between us and Mr. DeLay is, I think, we changed our behavior. Mr. DeLay changed the ethics committee.”

Berlusconi deal to save skin?

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not help himself with voters by allying himself with American President George Bush on the invasion of Iraq. When an Italian journalist being driven out of captivity was fired upon, and an intelligence agent who had negotiated her release was killed, and the agent was elevated to the status of a national hero, one had to wonder how Berlusconi would do in the next elections. The crisis arose quickly. Not so surprisingly, Berlusconi’s party took a drubbing in regional elections. As the Independent explains, “[t]he crisis was precipitated on Friday by the two parties, the UDC (Democratic Union of the Centre, a rump of the old Christian Democrats) and the New Italian Socialist Party, which pulled out of the government after Mr Berlusconi had refused to make drastic changes to his cabinet and programme following the disastrous showing of his own party, Forza Italia, in regional elections two weeks ago. Of the 13 regions up for grabs, his party managed to win only two.”

The next I caught was in a newsletter from Deutschewelle, which said:

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly agreed to temporarily resign and receive a new mandate from President Carlo Ciampi to form a new government. This comes after he reached a deal with rebel ministers of the Christian Democrat UDC party to rejoin a new centre-right government and avoid snap elections. The crisis began on Friday when four UDC ministers resigned demanding sweeping policy changes after the coalition suffered heavy losses in regional elections. The move left the government of the verge of collapse with observers predicting that Berlusconi would lose if a new general election were to be held now.

Only it hasn’t worked out that way:

There’s confusion over the state of the Italian government. This, after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi failed to resign during a meeting with President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Berlusconi had been expected to step down and then seek to form a new government. But after their meeting, President Ciampi said Berlusconi should go back to parliament to see how much support he still had. Earlier reports suggested that Berlusconi had reached a deal with rebel ministers of the UDC party to join a new centre-right government and avoid fresh elections. The crisis began last Friday when four UDC ministers resigned. They were demanding major policy changes, after the coalition suffered heavy losses in recent regional elections.

According to the Independent, this attracted fire “from Piero Fassino, the leader of the Democratic Party of the Left, the biggest opposition party, who spoke of ‘a crisis that is being transformed into an indecent farce…. With his behaviour, the premier is making a mockery of his coalition, the institutions and the whole country at once,’ he said.”