Thursday, September 27, 2007

Myanmar (Burma)'s Yellow Revolution--it is Over?

"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you." - General Dwight David Eisenhower to the American troops just prior to the invasion of Normandy."

Update, September 29, 2007: The word now is that the Internet is now completely cut off, although there are a number of dissidents from Burma in Thailand who are continuing to send coverage to CNN if available. Where there were hopes for freedom, there is now despair. The number of persons killed is unknown.
There is amazing video coming from Burma (it's the military junta opposing the monks who renamed the country Myanmar, and who put up the poster shown above.) Blogs are reporting blog blocking, and the content of several blogs has disappeared entirely. The BBC has a great deal of coverage, but even they admit they are confused about exactly what is happening.

There is definite evidence that the security forces beating people over the head with rifle butts, raiding monasteries by night, and taking away Buddhist monks in prison vans. The monks continue to march, chanting prayers. Photos increasingly feature tear gas, wounded monks, and security forces.

There are reports of telephone lines down, and reports of cell phone outages, including the fact that no one has been able to reached by cell phone in Yangon since September 25. There is fear that the repressive military regime is working to cut off all communication with the outside world before the real reprisals begin.

Myanmar Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung Maung -- who notes that the protesting monks make up only two percent of the country's population -- has asked senior monks to end the protests that have gripped the country, telling them that if they fail to do so, the army will act.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Army Cracking Heads of Freedom Loving Monks in Myanmar (Burma)

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." --John 15:13
The Myanmar Army has moved in to end the protest in Burma. We know that there has been tear gas used, that monks and nuns (and possibly others) have been beaten, shot, and killed. The monks are urging the people to go home, telling them that they will continue the struggle for freedom.
Blogger Ko Htike, safe in London, is posting items sent to him from a variety of sources in Myanmar (Burma), but blogger Rolander has completely deleted his blog. The BBC has been soliciting information and collecting eyewitness accounts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Holding Our Breath on Myanmar: Is There Hope for Freedom in Burma?

A dawn to dusk curfew has been imposed in Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay, and the military trucks are out in force. Assemblies of more than five people have been banned in both cities. The world community is speaking out for freedom in Myanmar (Burma), but there are reports that the soldiers are well equipped with AK-47's.

The BBC and the Guardian have some of the better coverage, and the London based Burma Campaign UK has comprehensive background information, albeit from a biased viewpoint. Surprisingly enough, to my knowledge no blogger's group supporting the will of the people has yet emerged.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Democratic Revolution in Myanmar (Burma)?

For the past week, Buddhist monks in Myanmar (Burma) have taken to the streets in increasing numbers to protest the repressive military regime, following a sharp increase in oil prices. For the past couples of days, they have been joined by celebrities and civilians, seeking peaceful change and a democratic nation. It is estimated that the monks led 100,000 in today's protest.

The repressive Burmese government, has been allowing most the protests to go forward, in what is being termed "The Yellow Revolution." Whether that is due to respect for the monks--most of the military are Buddhists, and the monks enjoy high status within their county--or whether the regime is simply taking its time to react as in 1988 when the last large scale protests occurred is unknown. There is a video from the BBC at Youtube, as well as an updated report. The Irwaddy, a Burmese news magazine in exile in Thailand, has been covering the events in detail with frequent updates.

This response might be considered heartening, except for the fact that in 1988, similar types of protests were so successful that the capital city, Yangon (Rangoon) was completely in the hands of protesters until a deadly military crackdown ended the protests in hours.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jesse Jackson, Hurricane Katrina, & the Jena 6

Outside the United States, everyone seems to love a story that shows that race relations are very bad indeed in this country. While I wouldn't go looking in backwoods Louisiana for examples of anything modern or 21st century, the Jena 6 story has legs. One piece of the story involves free speech (or freedom of expression), so I'll point you to the best collection of viewpoints I've found--the comments following this story on what has happened in the town of Jena. Louisiana's Shreveport Times is providing continuing coverage on its front page--from which I plucked the photo above.

The Jena story is a true story of the rural south, and includes some typical themes: racial tensions, high school football, the strong arm of The Law, and hot tempers, all of which characterize this region. There isn't any mention of alcohol, another rural Southern leitmotif, but I imagine there's a story about that too in the incidents in Jena, and in best Southern style (to protect one another, most likely) neither blacks nor whites are talking about that one. Blacks and whites in the rural South have been going at it Hatfield and McCoy style for generations, but when it comes to outsiders, they know whose side they are on.

The story behind the story is the fact that following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people are not returning to their Louisiana homes in the numbers required to keep Louisiana's Congressional delegation at its current strength when redistricting occurs in 2010. It's estimated that 100,000 Katrina evacuees are here in Chicago alone, where they voted in the last New Orleans election, open to New Orleans residents throughout the country, and where New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, made campaign appearances.

I wouldn't be looking for the evacuees in the Chicago area to be rushing back to Louisiana any time soon. Chicago provides real economic opportunity for persons of all races, and a lot of former Louisiana residents are benefiting from that on a daily basis. Race relations are good here, which many Louisianians might find to be a plus.

Many of the blacks who left New Orleans and other towns in Louisiana in 2005 are affiliated with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation Push in Chicago, which easily explains his involvement with the Jena 6. Of course, the State of Illinois now has enough Democrats to ensure sweeping Democrat victories, and there has been a continuing effort on the part of Jackson (and Ray Nagin) to encourage many blacks to return to New Orleans to hold down the Democrat fort, so to speak. The truth is, many are preferring to stay in Chicago, which only goes to show "voting with your feet" isn't limited to foreign immigrants.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Speech: One More Reason to Stay Out of Florida

Florida weighs in against Free Speech at the Swamp, when University of Florida student, Andrew Meyer, asks a long winded question of former Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry. The question remains why Senator Kerry didn’t use the time-honored “Sir, do you have a question?” approach commonly utilized by experienced public speakers encountering someone who can't get to the point. We would note the somewhat "chilling effect" of tasers.
It's been a while since we've done a post on "One More Reason to Stay Out of Florida, but this one's a doozy.
Update: We found this video where Kerry clearly asks "What is the question?" but its after the policewoman taps Meyer on the shoulder.
Update 2: The police report reveals that nine officers were involved in the arrest. Andrew Meyer was unarmed. Why weren't this number of officers unable to subdue the student without a taser? Was Meyer rude, loud, and obnoxious? Yes, but nowhere does it say that freedom of speech is limited to the mannerly.
Earlier reasons to stay out of Florida: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Thursday, September 13, 2007

September 13, 2007 – Fall Festivus

Enough! Today I am feeling left out. All the Jewish people are off work celebrating the New Year and all the Muslim people are celebrating Ramadan, and all I can celebrate is a great parking space at the train? Truth be told, that was pretty good, but I want more.

With weeks to go until Reformation Sunday and Halloween—neither of which are very big holidays, after all—I am exercising my American prerogative to want what everyone else seems to have already: a holiday.

Yes, I know we just had Labor Day. While we duly labored at our house, cleaning up after the flood all day long, somehow it just didn’t bring joy. In fact, Labor Day never brought joy. For more years than I would like to admit, my father had me believing that Labor Day was a special family holiday dedicated to hard work around the house and yard. But how would I have known any better? Every year I was awoken early on Labor Day with a loud whistle and an announcement in stentorian tones, “Good morning! It’s Labor Day! Time to get up and work!” And work we did, all day long. Was that a WASP thing to do?

Actually, I don’t just want a holiday, I want a whole bunch of holidays. I need that to keep up. The Jews get more than a week, and the Muslims get a whole month. Is this fair? When it comes to loafing, it’s not an easy thing being a Protestant. But hey, this is America. Have a dream, get a goal, go for it.

Having achieved the dream and the goal quite easily, I am a little lost on how to go for it. How can you find a holiday? Make one up? Borrow someone else’s? I suppose I could convert, but seriously, a Christian is supposed to be out winning souls for Jesus, not converting, so you can cross that one off the list.

In a burst of ecumenicsal enthusiasm I checked a Roman Catholic “saint of the day” site, figuring that Southern Europe takes lots of days off under the guise of celebrating Saint’s Days. All that celebrating is pretty much what I had in mind, after all, and it all seems very jolly on those travelogues. Plus, they have good food in Southern Europe, and it's probably better on Saint's Days. Catholic isn’t 100% cheating, is it?

Well, if borrowing, ecumenical style, is going to work, its going to have to be another day. All I can find for September 13 is St. John Chrysostom, who seemed pretty promising at first. I knew a girl once whose father was a minister at St. Crysostom's church in Chicago and she was nice and fun loving, too. In fact, St. Crysostom's isn't even Catholic, its Anglican. I figured I was making real progress. Then I came across this: “John Chrysostom's preaching, by word and example, exemplifies the role of the prophet to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.” That’s not exactly what I had in mind. . .

How about a Fall Festivus? You remember Festivus, don't you, the holiday for the rest of us? They have it around Christmas, but who’s to say that Festivus can only come once a year? I don't think there are Festivus rules. But how would it be celebrated in the fall? I would have to think about that.

"Going for it" has exhausted me. I'm looking for a holiday, not work. Could it be that what I really need is a vacation?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Memoriam: Victims of 9/11
Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense

Wilmette Salutes GBS Students Foust, Brown and Demertzis

Wilmette salutes 17 year old Tom Foust, as well as his Glenbrook South school mates Tyler Brown, 16, and Zach Demertzis, 15, all of Glenview, for saving the life of an elderly Northbrook lady Sunday night. Foust and his two companions, who were driving behind her stopped her car and pulled the lady to safety when she turned onto train tracks into the path of two oncoming trains. That train demolished her white Lexus just seconds after Foust, who has life guard training, stuck his hands under her arms and dragged the lady from her car. Hurray for these young heroes who had the presence of mind to act quickly.

The elderly lady has not been heard from and has declined interviews. Shortly after the debris stopped flying, she asked the boys, "Can I drive my car home now?"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Leipzig Zoo's Tiger Triplets

While I've been busy trying to put my house back in order, these tiger cubs at the Leipzig zoo have been named Altai, Argun, and Tabira. The little ones, born June 30, have more pictures here. Today, there is more furniture out at curbs, so its clear Wilmette's citizens continue to work to put their houses right. I am noticing pieces of tree branches up on wires and caught in trees. It seems slow going getting back to normal.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wilmette's Storm: A Two Week Update

It's been two weeks exactly since the Wilmette's Great Storm of August, 2007. Today I have an Internet connection and at the moment it's working. I am tired of calling the DSL service technicians seeking just a little connectivity, and having them want sympathy from me because of where they live they have dial-up. I suppose they tell me this to try to convince me that the super slow, on-and off again connection which I have is pretty darned good. These technicians are really chatty, and they take up a lot of my time.

I have a call into the local cable company which is supposed to set me up with Cable Internet, supposedly far better than DSL. We'll see. The cable company had fast talking women at the other end who also had some kind of southern accent. It was very hard to understand them, especially because I've had better phone connections half way around the world. Actually, the connection volume was so soft I thought I was suddenly becoming deaf. Besides talking fast, those women were not nice and I did not like them. They also wanted to sell me their telephone service. I didn't tell them that I didn't want a telephone service where I could barely hear and required fast talking for it to work.

Today I went shopping, not buying, for carpet to replace the carpet that flooded after the storm. I didn't like it at all. The sales people give you very little information. Gone are the days that one could toddle over to Marshall Field's or Carson's for carpeting; they don't sell it anymore. When they did, the prices were clearly marked; the way their merchandise was displayed was logical; and they had a good selection. At the carpet stores I went to, the prices were not clearly displayed, leaving one wondering why they don't do that. I imagine the truth is not good. Like car salesmen they want to get you on the lot. I felt relieved that I bought nothing, but my problem is not solved.

The house is a jumble from all the stuff we had to move when we pulled out the carpet. Everything is unplugged and has been moved. I can't find anything. Stuff from the family room has migrated to the living room, and the house is a mess. All this activity is taking a lot of time away from my work, and I don't like that.

There is more garbage on the streets and the fallen trees are lying everywhere--still. The mosquitoes are vicious.

Thank God things are going well enough that I have not lost the will to complain.

The more stories I hear about the storm and the more I drive around, I realize how very lucky we are to be alive and well. With trees snapped like toothpicks, it is amazing to me that almost all the damage from Wilmette's storm can be solved by time and money.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wilmette's Terrible Storm: The Digital Divide Emerges

AT&T is peddling its “lightning fast” Internet service on TV again, and if I were you I’d turn and run in terror before signing up. Website censorship, blog blocking and even the Internet freedom-fearing Chinese government has been unable to accomplish what AT&T has done here in Wilmette, having effectively killed the Internet in two weeks flat.

Today is the one week anniversary of my restoration of electric power following that great and terrible storm in Wilmette on Thursday, August 24, 2007. Very slowly, order is being restored to the interior of our homes and life outside homes is looking more normal. There are plenty of trees to be sawed up and hauled way still, but the vast piles of garbage are gone. The ground has dried to the point that watering the flowers is necessary. But I digress.

For over a year, I had no need to call my ISP, AT&T. During the winter I rejoiced that I finally was getting a stable and reliable Internet connection from AT&T. When spring began, so did the Internet connection problems. After several fixes, the speed became so slow that Youtube stuttered. When I complained, AT&T techs cheerfully reminded that my connection was ten times faster than dial up. Those cheerful AT&T techs had little to say when I remarked that my connection really is not first world stuff, the speed rating somewhere behind central Africa or Sri Lanka.

Even though I pay for premium service, I was assured that my connection was “as good as the neighbors.” It’s not exactly like I wanted to keep up with the Jones’ here, folks. From all evidence, my premium service means I get to talk to someone quickly who promises to dispatch a repair man, but can’t help me at all. My latest trouble ticket from days ago remains unanswered, even though linemen have been in the house, behind the house, down the block, and it was announced that all phone problems in my area would be solved yesterday night. Well, I guess I can use the phone now, but that’s about it.

Despite the fact I have phone service, the Internet is now completely missing, gone. No intermittent connectivity here, there is nothing but the new knowledge that DSL isn’t reliable even though the phones are on.

I’m back at that restaurant again, blogging this update, having submitted myself to the Laws of Texas and indemnifying the entire management of the mother company for the privilege of a little connectivity. The food isn’t very good, but the wireless and plugs do me fine.

If you e-mail me, don’t expect a reply any time soon. Like in the olden days, I’ll toddle up town every now and again and see what the gmail postman has brought and dash off a quick reply. Meantime, I’m staring at the digital divide from the wrong side of the information highway, and I don’t like it one bit.