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Freedom

The Fall of the Wall at 25

Friday, 7 November, 2014 1 Comment

On Sunday, Germany will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The construction of that infamous barrier began in 1961, and until 9 November 1989 it symbolized the cruelty of Communism and manifested the lie of “Democratic Socialism.” Those who gave their lives when attempting to scale it paid the ultimate price for freedom and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

The Atlantic has put together a memorable collection of 36 photos chronicling the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the most unforgettable images of the Wall shows East German border guard Conrad Schumann jumping over it, when it was just barbed wire. He made a new life in Bavaria, and saw the Wall fall in real-time on TV. But he struggled with his past and, suffering from depression, committed suicide in 1998. One more victim of an evil, discredited ideology.

The Berlin Wall


#StandWithHK

Monday, 29 September, 2014 0 Comments

The BBC is doing an excellent job with its LIVE Hong Kong protests: “11:16: Michael Schuman, says Hong Kong’s economic success is ‘inexorably intertwined’ with the civil liberties its citizens enjoy. ‘If Beijing knocks one of those pillars away ­if it suppresses people’s freedoms, or tampers with its judiciary, ­Hong Kong would become just another Chinese city, unable to fend off the challenge from Shanghai.'”

A estimated 50,000 residents of Hong Kong have taken to the streets to demand the democracy that so many of us enjoy and take for granted. Let’s stand with them in their brave fight against corruption, cronyism and totalitarianism. And it is a brave fight, considering the precedent:


Tank Man on Tiananmen Square

Wednesday, 4 June, 2014 0 Comments

Twenty-five years after the massacre of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, nothing recalls the horror of it all better than the photo of the incredibly brave Tank Man by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener. Today, China is seeking to suppress all discussion of the massacre by arresting, charging or harassing dissidents, artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of the victims.

Tank Man on Tiananmen Square


Democracy defined

Monday, 5 May, 2014 0 Comments

Jonathan Dimbleby attends a party in St Petersburg and discovers that the concept of “democracy” is not very well rooted there. But what is democracy. In 1943, when democracy was under threat, E.B. White attempted to define it for readers of the New Yorker. Snippet: “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor.”


The ugly side of the Atlético Madrid-Chelsea game

Thursday, 1 May, 2014 0 Comments

It was a pleasure to watch Atlético Madrid defeat Chelsea FC 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last night. For those who don’t follow football, Chelsea is owned by Roman Abramovich, the poster child of corrupt Russian oligarchs. Last month, Alexei Navalny, a leading Putin critic, wrote in the New York Times that Europe should target sanctions at the Russian president’s “inner circle”, including Abramovich, who he described as “the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth.”

Atlético Madrid Does that mean, then, that Rainy Day is adding its considerable weight to the Atlético Champions League campaign? Not so fast. It happens that the coming Saturday is World Press Freedom Day and that’s why the slogan emblazoned across the Atlético shirts, “Azerbaijan Land of Fire”, is so disturbing. Here’s the background: “On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2014, the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan is worse than perhaps ever before. Journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the authorities or cover risky topics such as human rights abuses and corruption face a range of pressures, including harassment, intimidation, threats, blackmail, violent attack, and imprisonment.” That’s Rebecca Vincent writing for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

Football can be a beautiful game, but it’s often an ugly business.


A one-woman revolution

Sunday, 6 April, 2014 0 Comments

“A year ago this coming Tuesday, I was travelling to London on a train, correcting the proofs of my biography of Margaret Thatcher. As we reached Charing Cross, I signed off the last page of the book (which concerns victory in the Falklands war). When I got off the train, I discovered she had died.” […]

Continue Reading »

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, they’re telling the Big Lie

Friday, 7 March, 2014 0 Comments

Truong Duy Nhat worked as a journalist at a state-run newspaper in Hanoi before quitting three years ago to concentrate on his blog, “Another Point of View.” He wanted, he said, “to write about things that I want to write.” Truong Duy Nhat Earlier this week, he was sentenced to two years in prison. His crime? The government charged him with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state.”

The infringement of those “democratic freedoms” centred on a post he wrote last May calling for the resignation of Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for failing to fight corruption. Dung has been linked to a series of major scandals, including the collapse of Vinashin, the national shipbuilding company and former star of Vietnam’s state-owned enterprises, which sank under $4 billion in debt.

The latest Vietnamese crackdown on free speech has targeted bloggers, activists, lawyers, Buddhist monks and Christian clergy and it’s part of a cynical move that would make Putin proud. For example, on the very same day that Truong Duy Nhat was being sentenced, the country’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh was in Geneva championing “Vietnam’s commitment to ensuring and promoting human rights” at the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This is a classic example of the Big Lie, which George Orwell termed “blackwhite” in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”


Kasparov checkmates Putin pawn Snowden

Friday, 4 October, 2013 0 Comments

It’s heartening to see that the grandmaster Garry Kasparov has more than 50,000 “likes” on Facebook. Not surprising, though, when one considers the quality of his posts. Take the 1 October one about the repulsive fact that the leaker and fugitive Edward Snowden has been shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament. As Kasparov points out: “…his providing cover to the Putin regime should disqualify him from any award bearing the name of the great Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.” And for the useful idiots in Brussels and across the West in denial about Putin’s police state, Kasparov adds: “The next day, the Russian Communication Minister announced that the Russian FSB (KGB) can listen to ANY conversation, read any email or text or any other form of communication with no warrant or special permission. I imagine Snowden will have some strong comments about this!” Doubt it. Pawns don’t speak.

https://www.facebook.com/GKKasparov/posts/10151918633533307

Note: The word “pawn” is often used to mean “one who is sacrificed for a larger purpose”. Because the pawn is the weakest piece on the chess board, it is often used metaphorically to indicate outright disposability: “He’s only a pawn in the game.”


Obama must strike now

Friday, 30 August, 2013 6 Comments

The spineless stance of the 285 British MPs who hid behind the tainted skirts of the UN last night does not change reality. To let the Syrian tyrant go unpunished now would assure him, and like-minded barbarians, that the proliferation and use of chemical weapons will be tolerated. And that cannot be. If the UK is unwilling to uphold this prohibition, it is even more important that the US does. In the words of The Economist:

The Economist “Because doing nothing carries risks that are even bigger. If the West tolerates such a blatant war crime, Mr Assad will feel even freer to use chemical weapons. He had after all stepped across Mr Obama’s ‘red line’ several times by using these weapons on a smaller scale — and found that Mr Obama and his allies blinked. An American threat, especially over WMD, must count for something: it is hard to see how Mr Obama can eat his words without the superpower losing credibility with the likes of Iran and North Korea.”

Obama must now proceed with a “punishment of such severity that Mr Assad is deterred from ever using WMD again. Hitting the chemical stockpiles themselves runs the risk both of poisoning more civilians and of the chemicals falling into the wrong hands. Far better for a week of missiles to rain down on the dictator’s ‘command-and-control’ centres, including his palaces. By doing this, Mr Obama would certainly help the rebels, though probably not enough to overturn the regime. With luck, well-calibrated strikes might scare Mr Assad towards the negotiating table.”

It’s time to hit Assad. Hard. Otherwise we can abandon civilization to the wolves. In his third year of wavering, two years after stating Assad had to go, one year after drawing — then redrawing — that red line, Barack Obama must act. Alone, if necessary.


Rotten Russia: Snowden in; Altunin out

Thursday, 29 August, 2013 0 Comments

In his devastating New Yorker takedown of the traitorous Edward Snowden on 10 June, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent… As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government — which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?” But worse was to come. Snowden went from one ghastly tyranny to another: Russia. And there he found asylum at the hands of the tender Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same Putin who was depicted this week by the Russian artist Konstantin Altunin wearing women’s undies and fondly arranging the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For this “crime”, the Russian authorities removed four of Altunin’s satirical depictions of Russian politicians from St Petersburg’s Museum of Power and shut down the exhibition. Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is said to be seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, in a perverse gesture of solidarity with the quisling Snowden, a group of cretinous German academics, the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, has decided to award him its “Whistleblower 2013” prize and €3,000. The real hero in this rotten Russia-centred drama, however, is Konstantin Altunin.

Putin on the style


The horror of Putin’s realm

Friday, 19 July, 2013 1 Comment

While the American traitor Edward Snowden eagerly seeks political asylum in Russia, the real face of Vladimir Putin’s police state has been exposed by the show-trial of protest leader Alexei Navalny. Yesterday, thousands took to the streets following his conviction on embezzlement charges. Navalny — a vocal critic of Putin — had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.

Scuffles broke in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in protests that continued late into the evening. Reports said dozens were detained by police.

That most useful site, The Interpreter, which translates important articles from Russian, offers Navalny’s last and very emotional blog post before yesterday’s sentencing. In it, he appeals to every single person in the country, with the exception, perhaps, of Edward Snowden. From “Before the sentence…“, a snippet: “No one is in a position to resist stronger than you. It is your duty to the rest, if you realize it; it is the sort of thing that it is impossible to delegate to someone else. There is no one else, except you. If you are reading this, then you are in fact the resistance.”