You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 7, 2010.

Julien Assange did not steal the documents, he received them from those who did. Thus he is not a spy. He has chosen to publish some of them — OK, a lot of them. That makes him a journalist, like someone who reports for the NY Times, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal, all of which have dealt with classified information given to them. Thus, to prosecute Assange is to criminalize journalism, undermining the first amendment and free speech.

What is disturbing to me is not that he has published these diplomatic documents, but what some of the documents contain — characterizations of officials of other countries that are inconsistent with what our government acknowledges, trite and mean spirited personality profiles that should never have been dignified in official documents, and admissions of guilt of what amounts to war crimes or at least violations of public standards and treaties.

The persecution and prosecution should not be focused on the whistleblower, Assange, but on the officials and our and other governments who have not acted ethically or legally, as revealed in these documents.

December 7, 1941, is a date that rings in infamy, indeed. But the Japanese were busy elsewhere, in China, with butchery that is numbing to read. When we were in Shanghai recently, we stayed at a beautiful new Peninsula Hotel, right across the stream from the former occupying HQ of the Japanese.While young Chinese, like our guides, go shopping in Tokyo, their parents remember, and still have fond memories of the Americans, who helped them out before and during WWII.

The awful atrocities committed during the Nanking Massacre have been ignored and scarcely mentioned. I believe it is important that people hear and learn about what happened. Everyone knows about the Nazi Holocaust, but few know about the murders during the Japanese occupation, when more than 13 million Chinese civilians died. Everything here is true. If this topic interests you, more information can be found at these two addresses: http://www.cs.umn.edu/…t/njmassac/nmintro.htm, and http://www.arts.cuhk.h…jingMassacre/NMNJ.html. Please consider including these addresses on your own page of links.

It’s the birthday of the public intellectual, political writer, and the man known as the “father of modern linguistics,” Noam Chomsky, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1928). He grew up during the Great Depression, surrounded by poverty and anti-Semitism. His father was a Ukrainian immigrant and a famous Hebrew scholar, and growing up, Chomsky read the drafts of his father’s books, and that’s where he got some of his early education on the historical aspects of linguistics. Young Noam liked to take the train down to New York City to visit his uncle, a fourth-grade dropout who owned a newspaper stand where Jewish intellectuals would hang out and discuss workers’ rights, political organizing, and debate the virtues of Communism versus anarchism. When he was only 10 years old, Noam Chomsky wrote a political article about the fall of Barcelona to the fascists .

He went to college, became interested in linguistics. He disagreed with the accepted idea in linguistics that children learn language through practice and habit. Chomsky said that language is instinctive in human beings — he said that fish swim, birds fly, and people talk. His theories were radical, and he had a tough time publishing anything, but he finally came out with a book called Syntactic Structures (1957), in which he argued that there is a universal grammar innate to the human brain.

He might easily have stayed in the field of linguistics — he got a job teaching at MIT when he was 26 years old — but he started protesting the war in Vietnam. He urged his students to resist the draft, he stopped paying his taxes, and he helped organize a march on the Pentagon. He got arrested and ended up sharing a jail cell with the novelist Norman Mailer, who described Chomsky as “a slim, sharp-featured man with an ascetic expression and an air of gentle but absolute moral integrity.”

Since then, Noam Chomsky has continued to publish books about linguistics, but he’s also written a number of books critiquing U.S. foreign policy, books like Manufacturing Consent (1988) and What We Say Goes (2007).

Noam Chomsky said, “Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”

And, “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

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