The Approach to No Regrets

The approach that I’ve attempted in my book No Regrets is to simply tell the story.  Lay out what happened/happens in Afghanistan/Nation Building and let people decide for themselves if it’s good, bad or somewhere in between.  I try not to lead to an opinion.

My opinion is that the Afghans are not ready for “democracy” or even Republicanism/Pluralism.  They are still tribal, patriarchal, superstitious (religious) and, by our standards, medieval.  There is nothing that an outside force can do to elevate them to a higher plain.

For the most part, they still sell their daughters into marriage.  They still see dark people as inferior.  They still believe that non-believers (in Islam) are inferior.  Their politicians are corrupt and see that as the way of business and governance.

Warlords still rule every facet of political life, social justice and still guide the way through violence or the threat of violence.  Mullahs still rule the social sphere.  Islam guides their thinking to a large degree.

We can only influence and hope that they integrate some of our mannerisms, culture (political and social) and values into their way of life.  In many ways we have done this already — positively and negatively.  However, the people of Afghanistan are a long way off from becoming anything resembling what the West would recognize as civilized or modern.  They’re somewhere around 1500 in terms of Western attitudes and such.

Women have no real rights.  Factions vie for power in the post-ISAF Coalition Afghanistan, corrupt officials steal every silver coin upon which they can lay their thieving hands and Mullahs still spout lies that America or the West is trying to crush Islam when, in fact, most of the West could care less about Islam except to the degree that it violently affects our cultures because of their obsessions over Israel, Wahhabism and a new Qaliphate over all of the old Muslim possessions.

I still keep an ear to the ground in Afghanistan as I care very much what happens to that nation and it’s people.  I have friends there.  I’ve heard rumors that the Taliban, or some factions thereof, are leery about the post-Coalition Afghanistan.  These talibs worry over the influences of Iran and Pakistan.  They are suspicious of the aims of those two Muslim nations.

However, China is out there to play some role in the post-Coalition Afghanistan.  China has invested billions in the region and has a vested interest in a peaceful, non-fundamentalist Afghanistan.

I hope my books creates discussion of some sort .  I’d love that.  Aside from lining my pockets, it might enlighten a few muddled headed souls about Islam, nation building and the US Coalition among other things.  How’s that for naivite’ and arrogance all rolled into one?

There are, of course, many negatives to the story of Afghanistan and our efforts therein.  Yet, there are also stories of hope and kindness.  There are patriots in that nation that wish for a strong, healthy Afghan Republic that is free of insurgents, Taliban, coalitions, war and violence.  Many private citizens work hard in the private arena to bring business to the country and to bring employment and build a strong economy with which Afghanistan can forge ahead.

Within the coalition, as misguided as it may sometimes be, there are many who work hard during their tours of duty in the Stan to leave behind a lasting legacy.  Schools are built.  Water pumps installed in villages that, theretofore, had no running water.  Hospitals are established and staffed.  Fire Stations are manned and equipped.

There are many who wish work to halt corruption and to find a way to work for the future.

If these folks are supported and successful, Afghanistan may prevail.   May the Gods be with them, comfort them and carry them to a day of promise and fulfillment.

 

Terrorism Equals Cowardice?

Nagasaki = Terrorism?

TERRORISM? Atomic Bombing of Japanese Civilians in World War II
I know it’s popular to say so, but, acts of terrorism as executed by groups such as al Qaeda and al Jihad are not rooted in cowardice. These are not cowardly acts.

Blowing up innocent people is a terrible act. That, however, is not the goal of the act. All acts of terrorism do not consist of blowing up innocent people.

The governments of the world take part in acts consistently of which the end result is the death of innocents. Blowing up, shooting or in some other way killing innocent persons occurs all the time at the behest of the most powerful nations on this planet to include the United State, Great Britain, Australia and Russia. Smaller nations also conduct operations of this sort.

How is this different?

Each time the United States enters into a conflict such as the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, we do so in the full knowledge that innocents will die by our hand. We make these decisions consciously. Are we cowards for doing so?

Terrorism is naught but a form of war. It’s a war conducted by a smaller “power” against a larger power. Both parties have goals at which end they deploy the means at their disposal. For Arab insurgents and terrorists, the means at their disposal is partly small scale targeted bombings meant to produce psychological terror on a target population. For the US and other greater powers, we have greater means to produce terror and to intimidate or cause the destruction of our enemies.

A person who takes a bomb into a crowded market place or who drives up to an armed guard station with the intent to inflict damage is not a coward. The act is not that of a coward. The act may be heinous. It may be cruel and devastating. Cowardly, though, I think it is not. These people are acting in a cause in which they believe. No different than the belief of a soldier fighting for a State.

Their methods may be criminal in that they oft times target civilians, but, they are not cowards. It makes us feel good to call them cowards, but, it’s simply feel good politics to label them as such. And that label works to our detriment. These folks are dedicated fighters. Insanely dedicated in many ways but dedicated they are. No coward can commit him or herself to a goal and no coward is willing to die for a cause.

The United States has knowingly killed innocent people in the process of apprehending or killing it’s enemies. Are we cowards as well?

The Colonists engaged in psychological terror in the rebellion against the crown. Sherman’s March to the Seas was directed at Civilians. We decimated cities such as Dresden in World War II wherein we specifically targeted civilians. We detonated two atomic bombs over civilian populations. Were those cowardly acts?

The difference, the only difference, is that we rationalize these decisions as necessary to our war aims. Terrorists do the same.

From wikipedia:

“Terrorism” comes from the French word terrorisme,[10] and originally referred specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the Reign of terror. The French word terrorisme in turn derives from the Latin verb terreō meaning “I frighten”.[11] The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BC. The Jacobins cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.[12][13] After the Jacobins lost power, the word “terrorist” became a term of abuse.[6] Although “terrorism” originally referred to acts committed by a government, currently it usually refers to the killing of innocent people[14] by a non-government group in such a way as to create a media spectacle.[15] This meaning can be traced back to Sergey Nechayev, who described himself as a “terrorist”.[16] Nechayev founded the Russian terrorist group “People’s Retribution” (Народная расправа) in 1869.

In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act”.[17]

This is one of hundreds of definitions of terrorism:

A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states.”[23]

If we accept this as a definition of terrorism, then the NATO Air War in the Balkans was an act of terror. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were as they were targeted violence against a civilian populace designed to produce the response of capitulation from the Imperial Japanese government. The genocide of the Native populations of the Americas were acts of terror. The targeted bombings of civilian populaces in World War II on the European front were acts of terror. The British reaction to the IRA and others were acts of terror. The acts of Southern governments in the pre-1970s USA directed at the black populace were all acts of terror. Historical and ongoing US support of despotic governments such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, the UAE and Iraq are all acts of terror. Chinese governmental acts to control their populace through fear are acts of terror. The Shahs use of Savak in Iran was terrorism.

The question then is who are the terrorists? When did the war on terror begin and which party is actually fighting against terrorism or are both parties fighting different types of terrorism? Why is the US government supporting nations who regularly use terror to control their populace while we are fighting a “war on terror.”

Who are the terrorists?  US or THEM?  Both?  If we use terror to fight terror, are we cowards as well?

Geo-Politics: Change the Dynamic ~ Offer Incentive

If I were President…

1.  We get less than 20% of our oil from the Middle East.  I’d halt this immediately.

2.  That oil shortfall would be sourced from our own reserves and Canada.  I’d even throw a bone to Venezuela in exchange for their withdrawal from OPEC.

3.  I’d close all bases in the Middle East.

4.  I’d place a base in Israel and Egypt.  Keep the base in Turkey.

5.  I’d tell Egypt and Turkey that they have choice.  Either they’re with the West or their with the Muslim world.  If they decide that they’re with the Muslim World, then we withdraw all support and all bases from those countries.

6.  I’d tell Europe and Asia that America is no longer responsible and will no longer take action in the Middle East except in the case of defense of our allies.

7.  The Allies in the Middle East would be designated as Israel because they are a Democracy as well as Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.

8.  Our alliance with Egypt, Turkey and Jordan would be predicated upon Democratic reforms and their renunciation of a foreign policy based upon Islamic Internationalism.  These countries can keep their Islamic Nationalism, if they chose to do so.  That choice would mean our pulling all resources and support from their nations.

9.  Support of Jordan and Egypt would also be predicated upon an agreement to assimilation all Palestinian refugees.  All refugee camps would have to be closed down.  Those refugees would have to be given full rights in the countries in which they are located.  The US would assist with funding for housing and job training for these refugees at 50% of the cost.  This Aid Package would be closely guided by a contractual auditor to ensure that the monies were being used to build infrastructure and not lining the pockets of corrupt officials.  If bribes are insisted upon, funding would be withdrawn.

10.  Continued support of Israel would be predicated upon a real peace plan with the Palestinians.

a.  Israel would either permanently partition the West Bank and Gaza as sovereign nations and pull out completely leaving the Palestinians to their own fate.

or

b.  Israel would annex the Palestinian areas and alter their constitution making Israel an officially and legally secular nation.  Part of that constitutional reconstruction would be safeguards for all religions, creeds, ethnicities from persecution, etc.

There would be a ten year time frame to effect these changes with specific milestones in place.  If these milestones are not met, we would pull all support for any or all of these nations.

We would offer the new Palestine Nation, if created, a package of aid in return for a turning away from Islamism.  The US would provide financial and expert support in building a nation from the ground up.  A referendum from the Palestinian people would be required to receive this Aid Package.  In essence, the Palestinian people would be required to request it via said referendum and the leaders of Hamas, Fatah as well as members of any other quasi-governmental group recognized by the people.  If the people did not vote for our assistance, the offer would be withdrawn.  This Aid Package would also be closely guided by a contractual auditor to ensure that the monies were being used to build infrastructure and not lining the pockets of corrupt officials.  If bribes are insisted upon, funding would be withdrawn.
The onus would then be on these nations.  If they decided to go along with us, they would have our support.  If not, we would withdraw from them and leave them to their collective  fates.

I would have these treaties ratified by the US Congress and the United Nations.

There would be no military solutions offered.  Either they come on line with us or we no longer have a reason to be associated with them.  End of discussion.

As for the Gulf and their oil, that would be the responsibility of whomever wishes to continue to purchase oil from those nations.  China, France, Germany…whomever it may be.

We would continue to patrol the ocean lanes for support of international trade.  The Straits of Hormuz — no longer our problem.  Saudi Arabia — keep with your Wahhabism/Salafism on your own shores or risk offending more nations.

Egypt seems to be progressing towards Democracy.  This surprised me as I thought that the Muslim Brotherhood would take them in the direction of Islamic Sharia.  This is a positive development.  Jordan would need to step away from Monarchy and join the rest of the world in Democratic reforms.

Over the short term, these initiatives would seem expensive.  Over the long term, these initiatives would save America and the Globe much in terms of blood and treasure.

This would be my solution.

In effect, we would be saying; “Join the World and we will support you.  Remain in the Dark Ages and we will abandon you.”

I want out of the business of supporting corrupt and/or stubborn regimes.  Whether that regime be Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Western Europe.

The next thing that I would do would be to withdraw all forces from Europe.  The only way we would keep US troops stationed in Europe would be if at least 50% of the costs were funded by the country that wished for us to be there.  All real estate used by the forces stationed in those countries would need to be loaned permanently at a cost free basis for the duration of the deployment to that country.  A Status of Forces Agreement would have to be met whereby our Servicemembers would be subject to US Law and the UCMJ only while in country.  All services for our Servicemembers would be provided without interference by the United States.  All Servicemembers would be on a Tax Free Status in that country.  That nation would also have to be a member in good standing of the Democratic Nations of the World.

If they are not willing to do this.  No problem.  We will simply not have a need to act in defense of their Nation.

I would also pull out of South Korea.  On the way out, I’d tell China that if North Korea attacks, we would bomb the North into the dark ages.  That would be my final and only dealing with North Korea.  If the people of the North are too brainwashed, too stupid or too weak to fight for change, this is not the problem of the United States of America.  Let China feed North Korea or South Korea if that be their desire.

I would pull all of our forces out of Japan.  Japan doesn’t need us there and many of the people don’t want us there.  Next, I would enter a treaty with the Philippines wherein we purchase land from them to station our Pacific Forces.   I would base a Marine Expeditionary Unit and an Army Mechanized Infantry/Stryker Division there along with a Carrier Fleet being on Station at all times.

China would be warned that Japan is still our ally.  Taiwan would be told to work out their differences with China.  If China became bellicose and threatened invasion, we would act in defense of Taiwan.  Unless the threat is based on Taiwanese provocation.  In that case, Taiwan is on their own.

I would also make an alliance of mutual support with India.  Our Armed Forces would conduct joint operations/exercises with India.  If possible, I would allow for a treaty whereby US Forces would be permanently stationed in Southern India.  This would hinge upon Indian acquiescence on the Kashmir debate.

I would withdraw all forces and support from Pakistan and Afghanistan.  If Pakistan wanted our support, they would have to oust the Saudi Wahhabis and the Deobandi.  Pakistan would also be required to sweep the FATA and NWFP of taliban influences.  They would also be required to withdraw from the Kashmir debate.  This would be the price of assistance from the US.  No debate.  No equivocation.  If they want our support, they give up their dispute with India over Kashmir and halt support of all terrorism directed towards India.

India and Kashmir would be required to allow a full vote by the Kashmiri people.  1.  Independence  2.  Annexation by Pakistan  3.  Retention by India

International Election Officials would oversee the vote.  Any monkey business by either side and no deal.  Kashmir should be able to decide it’s fate.  Their fate should not be decided by Muslim terrorists or Indian Soldiers.

We would withdraw all support from Pakistan if this is not followed through to completion.   With regards to India, we go to a neutral stance.  India has no need of our support.  They’re a viable nation in their own right.

Aside from moving away from the Defense of Europe, I would do nothing in Europe.  They’re sovereign nations that can navigate their way through the world in their own rite.  We should not be providing defense for them unless they are willing to subsidize it.

On patrolling the commercial sea lanes, I would require that other nations either subsidize fleet operations or provide support in the form of personnel and equipment.  Either that or we protect only US shipping.

It’s time for the free ride to end.  The Nations of the World (especially Europe) have enjoyed peace at the expense of the American tax payer for far too long.  They decry our every move.  It’s time for them to step up.  The World doesn’t want Team America — World Police or so they say.  Let them have their desire.

These actions would save American Tax dollars.  They would remove us from the Middle East conflicts.  They would place the onus on other nations to conduct their own defense and improve the lot of their own citizenry.

After these offers, blame for the sorry affairs of the world could no longer be placed at the feet of America.  The primary sources of conflict would have been given a viable alternative.  If they chose the path to peace, it would be with our leadership.  If they chose the path to war, it would be at their own behest.  The blame would lie with themselves.

Another thing that I think would be a positive is for an exchange program wherein a Battalion of another Nations forces would be given the opportunity to come to Fort Irwin, Texas to train with US Forces.  I’d rotate the Nation on a regular basis.  6 Month rotations.  This would be a tremendous opportunity for our Armed Forces and theirs.  I’d offer this opportunity to India, Romania, South Korea, Hungary, Egypt, Russia, Thailand, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and other Nations with whom we would engage in treaties of mutual defense or with whom we wish to improve relations.

The last item on my agenda would be reforming the UN.  That, though, is a whole other post.

That would keep us from any more of this:

Along with legislation mandating a Declaration of War in order to commit forces to a Ground Invasion of another country.  I have no problem with bombing a perpetrating country into the stone ages.  If there are viable targets.  I would also work to repeal the prohibition against assassination of World Leaders.  We could have saved a lot of money and lives by simply putting a .99$ bullet through the forehead of Saddam Hussein.  We could save a bit more by spreading about 200 USD worth of lead throughout the Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian power structures.

Beijing — The Forbidden City

 

WOW!  I was going through old posts and came across this one.  Apparently, I’d uploaded the pics and never gone back to it.

These are from the winter of 2006.  My first long trip to Asia.  Amazing what an experience that turned out to be.  I became more or less addicted to Asia.  I’ve been back to China since then and lived in Thailand for a year aside from various excursion throughout Southeast Asia.

This was my first big trip with Becca.  I’m sure I drove her crazy.  lol  Nagged her to death and caused her all kinds of inner turmoil.

We’ve since traveled all over the world.  India.  Greece.  Italy.  France.  Israel.  Turkey.  Egypt twice.

Some of the most exciting experiences I could ever have dreamed up as a child in Louisville, KY.

Life is freakin’ incredible.

Fast Food Overseas

Fast food overseas.  It’s a little different.

This is one example.  Lots of tuna and corn offerings over here.  In China as well.

McDonalds in India offers no beef burgers at all.

In Israel during some of their Holy Days, they offer only unleavened bread.

Some of the stuff tastes pretty good.  Some of it is wierd.  KFC does not offer their famous cole slaw in Thailand in so far as I know.  They offer a tuna/corn salad instead.  It’s pretty good stuff. I grab one every time I stop in to a KFC.

A few differences here and there…

Monetary Notes of the World


Unny and I had this table custom made for our new digs out in the ‘burbs.  Cost a bit, but, not too much.  It’s made from teak wood.  I wanted something in which to display the monetary notes which I’ve collected from my travels.  I only wish that I had some of the notes that are in my storage room back in the States.

There are notes in there from China, Dubai, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Vietnam, North Korea and a few other countries.  As well as notes from old French Indochine.  The note with the tiger is from Vietnam during the US war era.  I actually got that one from ebay.com because I thought it was cool.

There are also coins in there from all over (Japan, Malaysia, EU, England, etc).  Some old ones but mostly newer coins.  I placed my three French Indochine Silver Dollars. They’re probably counterfeit, but, I don’t care.  That actually makes them a little more interesting to me and I paid a pittance for them.  3 or 4 bucks.  Nothing to cry over.  I knew or thought that they were fakes when I purchased them.

I also placed of couple of Greco-Bactrian coins in there.  Supposedly, they’re silver and over a thousand years old.  I don’t know.  So many fakes being sold in Afghanistan these days.  Even so, those coins are supposedly a dime a dozen over there.  Chances are they’re real.  They’re not rare, though.  At least not for anyone who’s traveled in Central Asia.  They’re all over the place there.  It is said that one can find them walking out in open ground or on fields and such.  They’re that common place.  Neat little pieces of history.

The necklace is a Kuchi piece that I purchased at a bazaar in Herat.  It’s made of brass and copper with a few worthless gems thrown in for good measure.  It has an old animist relief on it.  Looks to be an old Ganesh likeness to me. I also placed my Bamian Buddha stamps in the lower right corner and four little jewelry/snuff boxes.  The two with Camels depicted on them are from Dubai and made from silver and glazed to make the camel likenesses.  The other two I purchased in Herat.  Those two are supposed to be silver as well.  Though, I doubt it.

There you have it.  My little collection of monies (and sundry items) from around the world.

All Around Beijing ~ From the Forbidden City to the Summer Palace in 7 Days

I went off to China again.  Unny and I spent 7 days in Beijing and then went on to Xi’an.  The pics below are all from Beijing.  We popped around the city, traveled by taxi, subway, train and the little three wheel taxi the name of which I can’t recall right now.

We had a great time.  Spoke to a few pf pir Chinese neighbors and generally trotted around the city as safely as if we were in the States.  Beijing has to be one of the safest cities in the world.  There are Army and Police all over the place.  Everywhere you look.  Even with them trolling around everywhere, I never felt like Big Brother was watching.  Though, I’m sure that they were.  There are cameras in every building and seemingly in every corner of the city.  I didn’t see as many in Xi’an.  Neither the police nor the cameras were as ubiquitous.

http://www.beijingcentre.com/Beijing-Travel-Information/Beijing-Serviced-Apartments-Lama-Temple/Beijing-Serviced-Apartments-Lama-Temple-Buddha.jpg

Above is a picture of the Buddha from the Lama Temple.  It’s the tallest Buddha in the world carved from one piece of wood.  One big tree.  They wouldn’t let us take a picture, so I had to google this one to post here.  It’s a beautiful and serene temple.  Peaceful.  Incense burning continuously.  Smoke billowing around the altars.  Buddhist pilgrims wandering around paying homage to Buddha and his principles.  It’s a beautiful feeling.  Peace all around.

We walked out of the Lama Temple to grab something to eat and then catch a bus.  After we ate, we passed a Camel shote store.  Camel seems to be a Chinese version of Timberland.  Same look and same line of clothing and shoes.  Apparently, China not only bootlegs electronics by whole clothing lines as well.  Unny had been walking around in these thin shoes.  They’d rubbed her heel raw in one place that was starting to get nasty.  I’d told her that she needed better shoes, but, she wouldn’t listen.  This time, though, I  put the full press on.  There’s no way that she could climb the Great Wall with those shoes.  I tried and tried to reason with her and get her to buy a pair of hiking shoes.  Finally, I prevailed.  So when we passed the Camel Store, I asked her again.  When I described the Great Wall to here again.  Reason finally prevailed.  Thank God.  Her feet would have frozen on the Wall in those little thin shoes that she brought with her.  We walked into the Camel Store.

I walked in the store and started laughing.  They had some groovy music playing, so I started to dance around the store like a wild man.  Jumping and gyrating.  The ladies in the store were laughing.  Unny, though, is a little shy.  So she kept telling me to stop.  I just kept going and laughing.  Unny finally just started trying on shoes.  She bought her shoes.   I bought a jacket.  We decided to take a taxi to the Hostel.

Our 7 days in Beijing were nothing less than incredible.  Some days we froze our butts off and some days, we were enjoying ourselves so much that the cold just didn’t matter.

The Confucius Temple was being renovated last time I was there as were major parts of hte Forbidden City.  So I was able to see before and after versions.  The Chinese artisans did amazing work.  The Confucius Temple was beautiful.  I love how peaceful all of these temples are.  The Forbidden City looked much the same.  Immense and awe inspiring but with a new paint job.

It’s funny.  Walking around Beijing, you don’t get the feeling that you are in a communist country.  It’s very commercial.  Very consumer oriented.  The major difference is in employment.  You can tell that the Chinese create jobs.  They still operate on a mass project basis.  Mass employees over taking an area and getting the job done.  Whereas in the West or more modernized nations, we have machinery and automation that takes the place of mass numbers of people.   Aside from that, the police for the average tourist are just curiosities.  As are the Military men and women walking about.  You don’t really feel any oppressive weight bearing down on you.  The Facebook thing is an obvious clue that you are in a totalitarian country.  Xi’an had an even more open feel.  Out there, there was almost no presence and Xi’an had a fairly large Muslim population.  I wondered at that as I was walking round.  They all seemed fairly content in their lives.  Who knows.  I didn’t sit down and talk to them about it.  Although, I did have an interesting conversation with a girl who works in a Shop/Cafe down by the Xi’an Mosque (more on that later).

Unny and I had a great time.  That’s what mattered for us.

More later.  For now.  Here are some photos from the first few days in China.  Hope you enjoy.

Jinshanling and Simitai

These are the pics from our day at the Great Wall.  What a cool day!

I screwed up a bit, though.  I had my camera on an off setting.  The pics aren’t as good as they could be.  I’ll try to fix some later.

For now, these will do.

At the end of the portion of the Wall that we trekked, we took a wire rope bridge ride to the bottom.  Much faster and saved us about 20 minutes more walking.  That and it was really fun and cool.  Hook up, jump and zoom…to the bottom in seconds.

Once we made it to the bottom and re-joined our group, we headed off to have lunch.  I think it took us about 3 hours to walk the 10 kilometres from Jinshanling to Simitai.  I was ready for a nap afterwards.  We headed back to the hotel and napped for most of the rest of the day.

The next day, Unny stayed in while I went out to see the Marco Polo Bridge.  It’s a bridge described and made famous by Marco Polo’s writings of his journey in China and on the Silk Road.

Later that night, Unny and I took in a Chinese Acrobatic show.  It was a great show.  The acrobats ranged in age from what looked like 12 to 21 or so.  A hugely talented group of young folks.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Warriors

Finally made it to Xi’an (Jee AHN) to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  Unny and I spent the last week traveling around Beijing.  We visited the Forbidden City, Baita Zu, the Confucius Temple, the Lama Temple with it’s huge Buddha statue, the Summer Palace, the Beijing Zoo and all of the Pandas and Albino Bengal Tigers, The Temple of Heaven and, of course, Tienanmen Square.  We tooled around the Hutongs and Bei Hai Park as well.  We had a great time.

After 7 days in Beijing, we flew down to Xi’an to see the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the beginning/end of the Silk Road.

The night we arrived, we were exhausted.  I was down with a cold from Jinshanling and Simitai.  We both just passed out.

The next day, we arose early and headed out of the city to see the Soldiers.  It’s about a 35 minute drive from Xi’an to the Qin Terra Cotta Warrior and Horse Soldier Museum.  Nice little drive through the country.

We had an “English speaking” tour guide who spoke English.  Just not so well.  He guided us around but didn’t really provide much detail and couldn’t really articulate much for us.  So we just took it in and read the literature ourselves.

Near the end of the main Museum Hall, you pass through a book store.  A small, ancient looking Chinese guy is sitting there surrounded by books and postcards about the Terra Cotta Warriors.  He’s one of the Seven Farmers who found the Warriors while digging a well.

We purchased one of the books and a packet of postcards and he signed the book for us.  It’s kind of funny, though.  As they call him “the founder of the Warrior Museum.”  Meaning simply that he’s the guy who found the Warriors.  Not the actual FOUNDER of the Museum.  I got a good little chuckle out of that.

He signed our book and posed for a couple of photos with us.  We told him; “Xie Xie” and shook his hand.  He was quite proud and signed our book with huge Chinese characters.  He signed his name and “Founder of the Warrior Museum” on the inside of the book.

We moved on our way and continued through the Museum to the brass  chariot and horses.  They’ve only found one set of these Chariots and horses.  Though they speculate that there are three more.  One for each of the four cardinal directions.  The one that they found was painted White which (I think) designates South in Chinese mythology/symbolism.  Eventually, as they continue to excavate the site of the Warriors, they expect to find three more spread out in the other three directions.

No timeline, though.  They’ll get around to it as they get around to it.  China doesn’t seem in much hurry to do anything in so  far as these antiquities are concerned.  I reckon they figure that they’re under there and aren’t going anywhere and they’ll get around to finding them eventually.

They take a long term view of the whole thing.

Of course, I took hundreds of photos.  These are 95 or so of them.  I didn’t resize them.  So they may take a bit of time to open if you are on a slow network.

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province by local farmers drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Lishan (a mountain).[2] This discovery prompted archaeologists to go to Shaanxi Province, China to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang, “shi huang” means the first emperor) in 210-209 BC. (He declared himself the first emperor of China in 221 BC.) Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Shi Huang Di in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as “Qin’s Armies.”

The material to make the terracotta warriors originated on Mount Lishan. In addition to the warriors, an entire man-made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated.

According to historian Sima Qian (145-90 BC), construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and involved 700,000 workers. Qin Shi Huang was 13 when construction began. He specifically stated that no two soldiers were to be made alike, which is most likely why he had construction started at that young age. Sima Qian, in his most famous work, Shiji, completed a century after the mausoleum completion, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and “wonderful objects,” with 100 rivers fashioned in mercury and above this heavenly bodies below which he wrote were “the features of the earth.” Some translations of this passage refer to “models” or “imitations,” but he does not use those words.[3]

Enjoy.  We certainly enjoyed seeing them live.

Unny Confronts Mao

We’re in Xi’an now.

Don’t have a lot of time to go through and edit pics and such.  Trying to get out and see the Terra Cotta Warriors and such.

So here’s a quick pic of Unny at the Gate of Heavenly Peace with Mao Zedong.

  1. 1417
    1417 – Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is a symbol of China. It was built in 1417, originally called Cheng Tian Men (Gate of Heavenly Succession), meaning that emperors obeyed the order of Heaven in ruling the country.
    From China Travel Service-Destination beijing tour beijing guide beijing travel …Related web pages
    http://www.chinats.com/beijing/beijing10.htm

  2. 1651
    1651 – An impressive 110 feet tall, Heavenly Peace is the main entrance to Forbidden City, which has been renamed the Palace Museum. Once the walled estate of emperors, only the Emperor himself was permitted to use Tian An Men — guards kept everyone else out.
    From GameFAQs: Mario is Missing! (SNES) FAQ by Raging_DemonTENRelated web pages
    http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/snes/file/588464/9516

  3. 1919
    May 4, 1919 – sity on May 4, 1919, to discuss a course of action. What could be done about their government’s unpopular decision to cave in to the Treaty of Versailles? Naively, they expected the Western democracies to respect the sovereignty of their nation rather than indulge sity on May 4, 1919, to discuss a course of action. What could be done about their government’s unpopular decision to cave in to the Treaty of Versailles? Naively, they expected the Western democracies to respect the sovereignty of their nation rather than indulge in Great Power scheming. Determined to express their frustration at their government’s capitulation, about three thousand Beijing students assembled in the large forecourt of the Forbidden City directly north of

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    From Quelling the PeopleRelated web pages
    books.google.com/books?id=xVCqntzw8XMC&pg=PA18 …

  4. 1949
    Oct 1, 1949 – Mr Li, then a relatively junior reporter, joined several hundred of the most influential figures of 20th-century China on October 1, 1949, to climb Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — at the entrance to the palace of the emperors. Mr Li, his skin mottled Mr Li, then a relatively junior reporter, joined several hundred of the most influential figures of 20th-century China on October 1, 1949, to climb Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — at the entrance to the palace of the emperors. Mr Li, his skin mottled with age and his white hair combed carefully back from his temples, is so slight that he is almost engulfed by his armchair. He pulls himself to his feet to greet a rare visitor to the sprawling apartment that was given to

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    From Retired reporter Li Pu recalls Mao founding People’s Republic of China – …Related web pages
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia

  5. 1966
    Oct 2, 1966 – Many of those standing proudly on the tribunal under the arching eaves of the Gate of Heavenly Peace must have trembled a little at the harsh tones of their new master. They had come a long way through many battles and over many weary roads to be thus denounced in pub- lic.
    From Lin Piao Stridently Dominates Bizarre Peking CelebrationRelated web pages
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/485881272 …

  6. 1976
    Feb 24, 1976 – PEKING – An old campaigner far from home pressed the flesh of the proletariat in Peking today. Richard Nixon swept through the Gale of Heavenly Peace, shaking hands, tweaking babies and inviting one and all to come visit him in America. what do you want him to be when he grows the
    From Nixon politicks at Gate of Heavenly Peace .Related web pages
    news.google.com/newspapers?id=2nQuAAAAIBAJ …

  7. 1989
    May 27, 1989 – Article: Battering at the gate of heavenly peace. (Tiananmen, includes related articles on economic reform, Chinese army, 1919 revolution and reaction in Hong Kong) … find The Economist (US) articles. Battering at the Gate of Heavenly Peace WHATEVER its resolution, the drama that has
    From … : Battering at the gate of heavenly peace. (Tiananmen, includes related …Related web pages
    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-7635807.html?refid

  8. 1995
    Oct 13, 1995 – The most objective study so far of the political storms that swept across China in 1989, “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” has drawn fire both from both the Tiananmen Square dissidents (who say it discredits the movement) and the Chinese government, notes reviewer Emily Mitchell.
    From MOVIES . . . THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACERelated web pages
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,4898

  9. 1996
    May 18, 1996 – By KEVIN THOMAS TIMES STAFF WRITER. In watching Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton’s superb three-hour documentary “The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” you have to wonder whether Mao Tse-tung would have created Beijing’s vast Tiananmen Square if he could have foretold the bloody massacre that
    From The Gate of Heavenly PeaceRelated web pages
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/cl-movie960518-3

  10. 1999
    Sep 27, 1999 – By MA FENG. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would be on hand to witness the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China. I had arrived in Beijing from Shanxi province in April 1949, two months after the city had been “liberated,” to attend the first national youth
    From TIMEasia.com | Visions of China: Gate of Heavenly Peace | 9/27/99Related web pages
    http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/99/0927

The 10 Day Weather Forecast for Beijing

10-Day Business Travel Forecast for
Beijing, China

Forecast Conditions

High °F
Low °F

Precip.
Chance

High Temperatures Low Temperatures Precipitation Wind Speed

Tonight
Dec 19

Clear
Clear

N/A
14°

0%

High not valid after 2pm

Sun
Dec 20

Sunny
Sunny

37°
13°

0%

37°F

Mon
Dec 21

Sunny
Sunny

39°
15°

0%

39°F

Tue
Dec 22

Mostly Sunny
Mostly Sunny

41°
16°

0%

41°F

Wed
Dec 23

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy

39°
19°

10%

39°F

Thu
Dec 24

Partly Cloudy / Wind
Partly Cloudy / Wind

36°
10°

20%

Fri
Dec 25

Sunny
Sunny

25°

0%

25°F

Sat
Dec 26

Mostly Sunny
Mostly Sunny

29°

0%

29°F

Sun
Dec 27

Sunny
Sunny

31°
12°

0%

31°F

Mon
Dec 28

Sunny
Sunny

33°
14°

0%

33°F

Unny gets cold when it is 80 degrees fahrenheit.    I can’t begin to imagine how she will react to these temps.  It’s gonna be funny to watch it, though.


No Need for a Jewish Homeland?

Animosity against Jews intensified. Notes nailed to the homes of Jews accused them of working for Israel and corrupting Muslim morals. “Jews were specifically targeted by Houthi rebels,” says a spokeswoman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington.

In January 2007, Houthi leaders threatened Jewish families in Saada. “We warn you to leave the area immediately… [W]e give you a period of 10 days, or you will regret it,” read a letter signed by a Houthi representative cited in a Reuters article.

Virtually the entire Jewish community in the area, about 60 people, fled to the capital. Since then, they have been receiving food stipends and cash assistance from the government while living in state-owned apartments in a guarded enclave, says the Yemeni embassy in Washington.

President Saleh, a Shiite, has been eager to demonstrate goodwill toward the Jews. On the Passover holiday, he invited TV crews to videotape families in the government complex as they feasted on lamb he had ordered.

Raida became the last redoubt of Yemeni Jews, who continued to lead a simple life there alongside Muslims.

Ancient stone homes dot the town. Electricity is erratic; oil lamps are common. Water arrives via truck. Most homes lack a TV or a refrigerator. The cell phone is the only common modern device. Some families receive financial aid from Hasidic Jewish groups in Brooklyn and London, which has enabled them to buy cars.

Typically, the Jewish men are blacksmiths, shoe repairmen or carpenters. They sometimes barter, trading milk and cow dung for grass to feed their livestock. In public, the men stand out for their long side curls, customarily worn by observant Jewish men. Jewish women, who often marry by 16, rarely leave home. When they do, like Muslim women, only their eyes are exposed.

It is bewildering to me when people question the need for a Jewish Homeland.  The Jews have been persecuted for centuries.  Since the Roman era diaspora.  Christian purges, Czarist pogroms, Islamic expulsions.  The Holocaust of Nazi Germany.  Jews are forever the scapegoat for the inadequacies, incompetence and criminal acts of the elite.

Yet, today, people question the need for a homeland wherein the Jews can defend themselves and live with dignity.  A place where the Jewish people can live without fear.  A place where a future as a Jew is possible.

Palestine is a fiction.  There was never a Palestine in history except as a Roman province.  The name itself comes from the Roman language.  The Romans dubbed the area Palestine as an affront to the Jews.  Palestine is the Roman transliteration of the word Philistine.  Thus, the Romans named the area once known as Judea after the ancient enemy of the Kingdom of Judea.  Jews have had a constant presence in the area for thousands of years.  They have been present in the Levant since the time of the ancient Kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia and the ancient Persian Kingdoms.  Alexander’s Generals and historians wrote of the Jews there.  The Romans conquered them there.

Then came the Muslim Empire.  The great and bloody Empire of Islam.

Islam conquered the area and forced mass conversion on the inhabitants of the region.  Well, technically the didn’t force conversion.  You had choices.  Flee.  Become a slave.  Pay a hefty tax called the Jizya.  To avoid all of these choices, one had merely to convert.  State three times the words “there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his Prophet.” Yes, many people “chose” to convert to Islam.  And what a choice it was.

Today, all across the Muslim world, Jews are second or third class citizens.  They are treated poorly.  Subject to rules and regulations and the whims of a mostly illiterate populace.  Antisemitism is on the rise across the globe.  Especially in Europe and the Arab lands.

The Arabs like to say that Israel is a guilt price for the actions of Europe during World War II.

And perhaps there is some truth to that.

Even so, the Jews have paid their own blood price for that land.  When Israel declared independence in 1948, the Arabs attacked.  Killing thousands of Jews and proclaiming that they would drive the Jews into the sea.  The Jews fought back and held off that bloody calamity.  The Arabs maintained a steady war of attrition for the next 30 to 40 years.  Attacking at the borders.  Raiding across the border and murdering families and communities much like the bloodletting and rockets that the Palestinians and Hezbollah plan and execute today.  In 1956, 1967 and 1973, the various Arab factions have pursued outright war against Israel by closing the straits and bottlenecking the Red Sea, by bombarding the country with artillery and build ups on the borders of Israel and by outright attacking as Sadat did in the ’73 October War.

Yet, through it all, Israel has survived.  They’ve had the assistance of the US at times.  Their enemies have also had assistance.  The Soviets paid for most of the militaries of Egypt and Syria.  The Army that attacked Israel in 1973 was “mentored” by Soviet “advisers.”  Soviet pilots were shot down in combat action in the ’73 war.

These are things that the opponents of Israel will deny or claim inconsequential.

Israel has always existed in one form or another.  Most of the land that comprises Israel was owned by Jews in 1948.  This land was purchased from the Arabs who owned the land.  Most of the business in Israel in 1948 was Jewish owned.  The Arabs who lived in the area in 1948, moved there because of developments created by the Jewish immigrants to the area.

I have been to Israel.  What is striking about the region is that Israel is much like a mini-European country in a vast wasteland.  Exit Israel and enter Egypt or Jordan or Syria.  You enter a time warp.  As if traveling back to the Ottoman Empire.  If Israel were to fail as a nation, this is the same fate that awaits the land.  It will corrupt and fall into disuse and neglect.  This is why the Arabs want it?  The people of Israel took a barren wasteland and made it into a paradise.  The Arabs simply let the wasteland stand as it is.

I do not support the creation of a Palestinian State.  Never do I think this should happen.  A Palestinian State would be nothing more than another Islamic Despotism wherein the people are kept illiterate and a few corrupt leaders in the mold of Yassar Arafat will enrich themselves at the expense of  the masses.  The Arabs of Palestine would do better to make their own treaty.  Expel the thugs of the PLA, Hamas and FATAH and make their own treaty with Israel.  Create a non-religious state and live side by side with Israel in peace.  Either as an autonomous region or a City-State along the lines of the Vatican.  Live in peace with their neighbors and let religion be no issue at all.

Israel is the only beacon of light in the darkest region of the Planet.  In almost every country that claims Islam as it’s dominant religion, the people are merely slaves to the whims of despotism and tyranny.

Israel should be supported by all democracies and all liberal peoples.  The PLA and the other groups that keep this war going should be international pariahs.  Iran, Saudi Arabia and any other country who supports these groups should be ignored.

But, of course, oil makes that impossible.  America, China, Europe and India will kiss the feet of the Arab oil men of the Middle East and ignore the real injustice of the region.  And the despots of the Arab Nations will forever use Israel as the scapegoat for their corruption to avert the eyes of their illiterate masses away from the real enemies that are the leaders of their own nations.

Health Care, Socialism, Democracy and President Obama

http://www.getreligion.org/wp-content/photos/barack_obama2.jpg

Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with an egalitarian method of compensation. In Marxist theory, socialism is a transitional phase between capitalism and communism characterized by unequal distribution of wealth and compensation according to work done. [1][2][3] Contrary to popular belief, socialism is not a political system; it is an economic system distinct from capitalism.

Forerunners of communist ideas existed in antiquity and particularly in the 18th and early 19th century France, with thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the more radical Gracchus Babeuf. Radical egalitarianism then emerged as a significant political power in the first half of 19th century in Western Europe. In the world shaped by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, the newly established political left included many various political and intellectual movements, which are the direct ancestors of today’s communism and socialism – these two then newly minted words were almost interchangeable at the time – and of anarchism or anarcho-communism.

Capitalism typically refers to an economic and social system in which the means of production (also known as capital) are privately controlled; labor, goods and capital are traded in a market; profits are distributed to owners or invested in new technologies and industries; and wages are paid to labor.

Democracy is a system of government in which either the actual governing is carried out by the people governed (direct democracy), or the power to do so is granted by them (as in representative democracy). The term is derived from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía (info)), “popular government”,[1] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos), “people” and κράτος (krátos), meaning “power” in the middle of the fifth-fourth century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.[2]

In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’,[3] there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom.[4] These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power.[5] Additionally, all citizens are able to enjoy legitimized freedoms and liberties, which are usually protected by a constitution.[6][7]

Technically, Obama was/is engaging in a socialist act when he purchased majority shares of several organizations (banks, car manufacturing, etc).  We shall see in due time whether that was a wise act or something less.  It may have been the action that put the economy back on chart.  It may have been wasted money.  Time will reveal it’s truths.

Many in America are comparing a Political Theory with an Economic Theory.  It’s apples and oranges.  One can be both Socialist and Democratic.  One can be both Capitalist and Democratic.  One can not be a pure Socialist and engage in Capitalism or vice versa.  Though China is proving that one can be both Communist and Capitalist right before our eyes or perhaps they are simply oligarchic capitalists.

When someone states that Obama is Socialist that does not preclude him from being Democratic in political system preference.

President Obama is more Socialist than say Forbes or Reagan (perhaps).  He’s no more Socialist than Bush in my opinion.  Bush approved/extended a few programs that many might consider Socialist and if he had been able to sit for a third term, I believe, he would have acted much as did Obama.

On the question of health care, The United States must care for it’s citizens in our post-Industrial age.  The economy and capitalism is not going to do this nor are they designed in theory to do so.  Companies are attempting to cut back on expenses to improve the bottom line.  Canceling health care benefits.  Canceling pensions.  And so on and so forth.  If the United States is going to be a Nation of values and humanity going forward, it must care for it’s citizens.  Health Care is an important part of that plan.  In my opinion.  If America is truly a Nation of, by and for the people, then Health Care is and must be a priority.

It will likely mean heavier taxes.  Personally, I think some of those taxes should come from the businesses that benefit from American Capitalism, the Federal Government and from our military protectionist adventures around the world.  Some must come from the citizens themselves.

Additionally, I think in order for citizens to qualify for said health care, they should be willing to serve in some capacity the country that provides these benefits and “entitlements.”  “To whom much is given, much is expected” after all.  Some want much and expect to give nothing in return.

Welfare as we know it should be heavily reformed as a means to cut spending.  To qualify for welfare, I believe, that one should show that one is working towards something such as higher education or some sort of self improvement.  Welfare should be a graduated system rather than an all or nothing system.  If recipients are not working towards some goal, they should be willing to work in some service category such as working for an NGO or volunteer work or community service of some sort.  I’m completely against giving anyone’s tax dollars away for nothing for all or a great many years of one’s life.  Disability and ill-health should be taken into consideration, of course.  I know too many people back home in Kentucky who have never worked a day in their trailer park livin’, mayonnaise sandwich eatin’ lives.  Yet, they sit and collect tax dollars in the form of food stamps and other forms of social services.  Some of these folks sell drugs on the side or engage in other illicit activity.  Many do not.

Corporate welfare and other handouts should face heavy scrutiny as well.  Why are we giving corporations and other entities these moneys or tax breaks.  Foreign aid and foreign military support should be scrutinized in the same manner.  Why do we still have forces in Europe?  Korea?  Japan?  It’s time to pull out of these places.  Those forces could be better deployed elsewhere or home.  Why are we funding despots when we should be pressuring them to reform.  If they haven’t reformed by now, it’s not going to happen in most cases.  We have carrots with no sticks following on.

Socialism and Democracy can co-exist and America has proven this to a more or less limited degree over the past 70 or so years.  Sweden is rated the most democratic country in the world according to the links below.  It also engages heavily in social welfare.  I don’t know if larger countries can maintain that same model.  But, perhaps, it is worth the chance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Sweden

Suvarnabhumi Airport Opening Video (2005)

My gateway to Southeast Asia.

It’s the nicest, most organized Airport that I’ve experienced.  Easy in and easy out.

I don’t feel like I’m entering or leaving a Nazi concentration camp as when entering or exiting America.  There is organization and a flow to this airport that does not exist in any of the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.  And unlike entering and exiting the Middle East there aren’t thousands with their hands out for tips and bribes.  It’s much less hectic than the European airports through which I’ve flown.

As soon as I touch down at Suvarnabhumi, a smile creeps onto my face and a lightness enters my step.  I’m happy.  I’m home.  I feel more at home in Bangkok than almost anywhere on this planet.

I am entering the land of smiles.  And the land of smiles is the gateway to the East.  The true east.  Not the dirty and violent Islamic Middle East.  This is the enchanted land of myth, silk, smiles and exotic Asian mysteries.  Angkor, Luang Prabang, Sukhothai, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Xi’an, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Mekong, Lhasa and Katmandu, the Taj Mahal and the Ganges.  Ancient histories.  A region shrouded in myst and legend.  The home of the the great conqueror Genghis Khan and the religion and philosophical enlightenment of the Buddha.

It’s also home to the most beautiful beaches and women in the world.

Every time I land at Suvarnabhumi International, these thoughts run through my head.  My next adventure awaits me.  I’ll swim the Mekong and climb the Great Wall.  Explore ancient temples or dance all night at RCA.

I love this place.  Thailand uber alles.

The Great Wall — Badaling

Becca, Sonya and Dave go to China.

We arrived in Beijing on the 2nd of November. The International Airport at Beijing was one of the easiest through which I have ever passed. Security was easy. The Chinese guards weren’t the most polite or happy looking folks with whom I had dealt in my travels,but, they were efficient. It was a hassle free exercise. We grabbed our bags downstairs and passed through the final customs guards. Continued on through the Airport and found our way to a Taxi stand. I had our Hotel Information handy. We grabbled a taxi and were on our way. Fairly easy.

I thought that China would be immensely difficult. Customs guards checking and cross checking. But no such thing. It seemed to me to be easier for me to pass through because I was American. This is a familiar phenomenon by now. And it makes sense. They know that we aren’t there to disappear into the back alleys and become illegal immigrants or join the criminal underground. The customs officials barely give Americans a second glance. On the way in.

One really cool thing about the Airport at Beijing is that they sell cell phone SIM cards right next to the baggage claim. You are immediately able to get in touch. I don’t know if we would have ever found our hotel if not for having purchased those SIM cards. Our taxi got lost on us. That was a debacle. lol But still good times. Who knows. He was probably scamming us.

We finally made it to our Hotel. The Jade Youth Hostel. I had picked that hotel because it was within about 15 minutes walk to the Forbidden City. One of my must see sites for this leg of my Asian Adventure. After checking in to the hostel, we dropped our bags and headed out to check out the town at night.

I had been in Southeast Asia for the past month and a half. I was used to hot weather, shorts and sun. I had like one pair of long pants with me and a couple of pair of shorts. That was it. No jacket and nothing warmer than a long sleeve t-shirt. That first night, the temp dropped in Beijing to the low 40s. I was freezing as was Becca. So we headed out to do some shopping. We each bought a fleece and I think Becca purchased a jacket.

While walking around near our hotel, we came upon a night market. Mostly food. We also hit a fairly large shopping area. Some clothing stores. Camera shops. They had some knock off cameras there. Nikon, Fuji, Olympus and Canon. There were all kinds of knick knack stores. And there was a really cool Tibetan shop selling Tibetan Buddhist religious items. Lots of t-shirt shops. We bought our Great Wall souvineer shirts here. Becca and I stocked up on some Christmas gifts here later.

Like the goofy Americans we are, we wound up eating at a McDonalds. One of the neatest sites of the night was a Lebron James billboard that stretched across a city block. Lebron is BIG in Beijing. I hear he is big all across China.

After eating, we head back to the hotel. We have a couple of beers and then head back up to the rooms to sleep. The one thing you immediately notice about China is that customer service is not important. It’s almost like you are bugging them when you ask for a service of some sort. You have to develop a relationship with them to make things go smoother. I joked and flirted with all of the girls. it always seems to work for me. It is of no use to become agitated or upset over the lack of customer service. I witnessed an elderly American couple get pretty irate with the reception desk girls. They just froze and nothing was accomplished except to make the couple even more upset. It’s better to smile and find a way to solve the problem. Once we started talking, we could usually find a happy resolution to most of our problems and challenges.

The next day [3 November], we get up and explore the Forbidden City. I had read that there was a Starbucks in the Forbidden City. Not true. Too bad. I was looking forward to buying a double mocha and drinking it there. I’ll talk more about this later on and post some pics.

That day, Sonya arrived from Kyrgyzstan. She and I had been talking for a while. I had met her at Bagram Air Field and then spent three really nice days with her in Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic about a year earlier. Sonya is originally from South Korea. Her mother had moved her and her sister to Bishkek so that they could go to school. Sonya learned Russian, Kyrgyz and English. Her little sister was in China learning Chinese. Both of these extraordinary girls and their brave Mother all speak three and four languages.

Earlier in the day [3 November], Becca and I explored the Forbidden City. It was magnificent. Like I said, more on that later. That night. I went back to the Airport and met Sonya. Now that Sonya had arrived, it was time to head out to the Great Wall. Sonya, Becca and I booked a tour from the Jade Hostel to see the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall the next day.  Badaling is one piece to the defense system that was the Great Wall. It is actually a series of  fortresses. These “walls” guard passes that allow access to China from the Mongolian steppes and other areas where threats to China existed. Obviously, they didn’t work. The Mongols conquered China anyway. And the world hasn’t been the same since. Badaling is one such stretch of wall. It’s the tourist wall. It’s been restored and is well maintained. Millions come to visit the Wall every year. Not just foreign tourists like me but many Chinese as well. Even so, remember to bring your own toilet paper. lol

Ming Tombs included it probably took three or four hours to get to the Great Wall. I felt like a little kid approaching Disney World driving up to the Wall. I’ve read about this place my whole life. I’ve heard stories about it. I’ve seen pictures of it. None of these things begins to describe the Wall. It’s massive. It’s ancient. It’s a work of engineering art. And it runs long and high into the mountains. See the pictures below.

The wall runs in a semi-circle. Our tour guide dropped us at the beginning of the wall and gave us a brief description of the trek we were about to make. He told us that we could walk the whole thing if we desired to do so or climb to the certificate point and turn around. I had no choice. I had to get to the top. About half way up, I started to doubt the wisdom of that decision. I was dying. lol I was actually about to say to hell with it when an elderly Chinese lady passed me. That was my “AW, HELL NO!” moment. I made it from end to end. i was dead and my legs were about to fall off. Ultimately, you get up so high that the air is thinned out. I was half running up the stairs and half walking. So I was getting out of breath. Eventually, I slowed down. The girls were pretty far behind me. So I would run up a bit. Wait for them. Sometimes, we’d stop and have a drink or take some pictures together. We had fun. They looked miserable some of the time, though. I didn’t tell them climbing up was kicking my butt as well until the next day. So I kept laughing at them.

The experience of the Great Wall is incredible. You are walking across the ages. Walking across history. The Chinese were “civilized” while Europe was living in forests and caves. Always at sites like these, I can feel the humanity that has come before me. It makes me feel a party to their history.

The wall is a series of stairs and runways and causeways that stretch on and on and up and up. I’m not sure how long it is. But it must extend for at least a mile. Probably more. Much of the stairs are virtually straight up. 90 degree angle. Then there are stretches of ramp and some parts level out. You can see in the pictures below. When you reach the top, you are over a thousand feet above sea level. You are in the mountains. For the most part, you are above the mountains.

I had conquered the Great Wall at Badaling. But the wall had conquered me as well. lol The next day, I had to hold the hand rails on stairs to keep myself from falling. It was a challenging climb to say the least. But I loved it. And it is exhilarating to make it to the top. You arrive there exhausted and completely satisfied. Everything else in China was bonus after the Great Wall.

Free Tibet Now!!!

Tibetans and their supporters are on the move throughout the free world. It’s the perfect time to move against the communist human rights violating monolith that is China.

China . The Host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. It’s sacrilege. The Olympics are supposed to be symbolic of peace,cooperation and harmony among nations. Amongst peoples. China, the megalithic Communist Monster. China the world devourer. China of Tienanmen Square fame–Tanks to squash a student protest. China who allowed millions to perish so that a few well fed maniacal murderers could retain power. China. Led for nearly 3 decades by Mao Zedong. The greatest mass murderer to walk the earth. The man who oversaw the murder of 70 Million Chinese so that he could frighten the rest into obeisance. Mao Zedong.

In 1950, China invaded Tibet. Extending the Maoist carnage and murder spree into the worlds most peaceful province. China rolled into Tibet and commenced to torturing and murdering Monks and ordinary citizens in the thousands and hundreds of thousands.

Why did Mao want Tibet? What was his claim?

It was simply a matter of Chinese prestige. Mao thought that all of the peoples of the area should have the opportunity to be murdered in his evil grasp and under his failed leadership.

In 1246, a Mongolian annexed Tibet into the greater Mongolian Empire. That Mongol Ruler was Khubalai Khan. Great Grandson of Genghis Khan. Khubalai Khan eventually conquered and united what we know today as China. This is the first instance in history of a united China. Khubalai founded the Yuan Dynasty. This is considered the first Dynasty of modern China. The China that we know today.

The China we know today was created by a Mongolian. Don’t tell the Chinese this. For some reason, it angers them. They see the Mongols as a primitive people. But it took a Mongol Emperor to bring China together. it was a Mongol Emperor who first brought Tibet into the Chinese sphere of influence.

China’s claim to Tibet is as ridiculous as a Mongolian claim to China.

China has brought herself these troubles. The Chinese want to join the Global scene as a full and respected partner. Yet, they still want to carry on as belligerent neighbors. Taiwan is another example of Chinese over-reaching and trouble making. Taiwan is a separate nation. Yet, China continues to want to claim it as part of mainland China. China wants a peaceful partnership with the free world. BUT they don’t want to be held to the standard of peaceful nations. China wants to make money off the West even as they terrify and cow their own citizens. Even as they deny many of their citizens basic human rights.

The Taiwanese have built a country based on capitalism and free markets. It’s people were thriving even as Mao was murdering millions in his failed Cultural experiments (revolutions). Yet, China demands the right to rule over the island nation as if China were the author of Taiwan’s successes.

Now that the Olympics have given the enemies of China a world wide forum, expect the Tibetans and other groups to surface. As the Olympics draw closer, it will be more and more difficult for China and the governments of the participating nations to ignore their demands.

Tibet has international support. I’m interested to see where the pressure on China leads. Will China react as they have in the past with violence and severe punishments? Will they cave to international pressure? Will China be forced to stop murdering innocent folks for the crime of desiring freedom and liberty? Will the world stand up and be counted? Or will the same eyes which refused to see the genocide in Darfur be willfully blind still?

Will Tibet finally gain their independence or at least autonomy? Or will Chinese hypocrisy and murder be rewarded yet again by it’s eager accomplices in the West?

Of course, we all want our cheap electronics, tennis shoes and t-shirts from Walmart via cheap Chinese labor. Therefore, the chances of China being held to any real standard of human rights is slim to non-existant. It’s the same with oil. We want our cheap products. And Hell! We’re free. We have our liberty. Why should anyone care about those damn Chinese or Tibetans? Or anyone else for that matter.

I’ve met a few Tibetans along the path of my life. They have always been nice, peaceful people. Exactly what you would expect. As if each Tibetan were an emissary of the Dalai Lama himself. Poised. Perfectly composed. Even when the subject of the mighty Dragon arose.

Peace.

Questions or Comments are always welcome.