Sunday, November 23, 2008

Comedian Sentenced to 45 Years for Criticizing Burmese Government

THE For eight years, some of you have been paranoid enough to think that George W. Bush was an evil dictator who would take away all of your civil rights. Gad. Either you drank too much of the funny juice or you're just incredibly ignorant of the world outside of our own borders.

Compare outgoing President G.W. Bush to General Than Shwe, the dictator of Burma whose military junta rules Burma with an iron fist. A lot of iron fists, actually. You'll have to admit that your description of Bush as the second coming of Hitler was just a tad overblown.

As just one example of how real dictators operate, let's look at a story from last Friday's New York Times:

A secret court run by Myanmar’s military leadership on Friday sentenced a prominent Burmese comedian and activist to 45 years in prison, continuing a recent crackdown on dissidents.

Let's pause for just a moment for a point of information. "Myanmar" is another name for Burma. Trouble is, "Myanmar" is the name chosen by the ruling military junta, the folks who are killing and imprisoning thousands of their fellow countrymen. "Burma" is the name of choice for people within that country, the ones struggling for freedom. Yet, even knowing this, the New York Times and other big media corporations continue to use the name preferred by the military thugs. Still, even the Times writers get confused: Although they insist on calling the country "Myanmar," notice that they call the comedian "Burmese." That said, the NYT story continues:

The comedian, U Maung Thura, 47, better known by his stage name Zarganar, or the Tweezers, was detained in June after he organized a private assistance effort to help victims of the May cyclone, which killed more than 130,000 Burmese. With aid organizations and Western governments, he criticized Myanmar’s handling of the disaster. Full Story...

Than Shwe plans new crackdowns, even as he pretends to call for renewed "democracy." An excellent report by Index on Censorship recently noted this:

Burma’s military rulers have launched a fresh crackdown on dissidents in the country, with more than a hundred activists being handed harsh sentences in the last few weeks. ‘It’s a clear signal that the junta intends to eliminate and silence anyone who opposes their authority, especially in the lead-up to planned elections in two years’ time,’ said Win Min, an independent Burmese academic based in Thailand.

Remember how many of your Liberal friends were shaking in their sandals, afraid that the Evil George Bush would declare martial law and cancel the recent election that Barack Obama won? (Sure you do. They were fools and you should probably stop hanging around with them.) The report from Index on Censorship continues (emphasis mine):

More than a hundred dissidents, including Buddhist monks, members of the 88 Generation Students group, a prominent labour activist and community activists have been sentenced to jail for up to 65 years. As a result, the number of political prisoners languishing in Burma’s prisons has more than doubled in the last 12 months. ‘The junta is clearly conducting a major crackdown on all dissent in the country,’ said Zin Linn, a leading Burmese dissident and former political prisoner based in Bangkok. ‘They want to silence all opposition before the planned elections in 2010.’ Full Article...

Did Bush "silence all opposition" prior to any elections in the past eight years? C'mon, be honest. Did he?

There are thousands of people who have been unjustly imprisoned in Burma. This past week, six hip-hop performers were jailed. They were a group called "Generation Wave."

A hip-hop star in military-ruled Myanmar has been jailed for six years for being part of a political group, the latest in a string of hefty sentences handed down on dissidents, an opposition spokesman said on Friday. Zayar Thaw, a member of the popular band "ACID," was among 20 activists sentenced to lengthy prison terms Thursday, Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told Reuters.

Notice, again, the use of the name "Myanmar." Reuters continues:

He had been part of a youth political movement called Generation Wave that sprung to life around the time of last year's protests against soaring food and fuel prices and decades of repressive military rule.

Has the Bush Administration jailed any hip-hop artists for being hip-hop artists or belonging to any political movement, or for lyrics that are critical of Bush? If so, please name one. Back to Reuters:

Five other Generation Wave members were jailed for five years, Nyan Win said, adding that 14 NLD members arrested in June for holding a march on the birthday of detained party leader Aung San Suu Kyi had been sentenced to up to 2- years. Full Article...

Has the Bush Administration imprisoned any comedians for their harsh criticism of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina? Or any other comedians for their vicious criticism of Bush? How about bloggers? Has Bush imprisoned any critical bloggers?

CIOL India reports recently:

A blogger in Myanmar was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail by the military junta on Monday as part of a fresh crackdown on dissidents in the country. Full Article...

Although petty politicians the world over love to harass bloggers. (Bush has not bothered with them.) An example of anti-free speech politicians is Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, a member of Chicago's City Council (49th Ward). Moore keeps a printed dossier of several bloggers in his neighborhood, assigning the duty of printing out blog posts to an intern in his ward office. Moore's staff harasses bloggers, and several of Moore's local operatives maintain blogs that slander and lie about them. Moore pressures local police to harass bloggers. One of Moore's top aides has even blamed the high crime in Moore's ward directly on the bloggers; that same aide attacked this blogger last summer, destroying a camera. (See: "CTA Tattler Publisher Slanders Citizen Journalists," "ALD. MOORE AIDE ASSAULTS BLOGGER," "Lies on Lunt," Fear and Loathing in Chicago's 49th Ward")

Laura Bush, wife of the man that so many of you unjustly compared to Hitler for years (for which none of you were arrested or imprisoned), has been a big advocate of human rights in troubled Burma. As Julia Reed wrote at Women on the Web (WoW) recently:

She has actively supported the people of Burma, speaking out against the prolonged detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi and protesting the treatment of peaceful protesters by the ruling junta. She has urged the international community not to buy Burmese gemstones — which prop up the regime — and has visited the refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. Her own private library foundation is responsible for the rebuilding and restocking of countless libraries on the Katrina-ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, where she has made 23 visits and also driven school recovery efforts. She has focused attention on two of her husband’s better ideas, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest international health initiative in history to fight a single disease, and has visited ten of the 15 PEPFAR focus countries and ten of the 15 countries aided by PMI. Full Column...

Does Laura Bush sound like Eva Braun to you? I'm not asking you to suddenly love George W. Bush. Disagree with him, that's your right. However, after reading this, do you still think George W. Bush is an evil dictator? I mean literally, actually a dictator?

Burma Eats Its Young - New Yorker
White House Condemns Myanmar's Harsh Sentencing Of Dissidents -, France
Burma tries to silence opposition - Index On Censorship
Military regime puts popular rapper behind bars - First Post, UK
Weekly Business Roundup China’s Burma oil conduit threat - The Post, Pakistan
Throwing Away the Key in Burma - American Spectator
Journalist imprisoned for covering cyclone victims - CPJ Press Freedom Online
Burma, Myanmar: Young Female Journalist Jailed For 2 Years - OpEdNews
Myanmar blogger jailed for 20 years - CIOL, India
Blogger Arrests - WIA Report