No boycotts of the Berlin Olympics!

For some time now, certain misguided voices have been calling for a boycott of the Olympic games in Berlin, on the grounds that the German government is repressive and violates human rights. I hope these calls will not be heeded. Instead of shutting Germany off from the rest of the world, which would only harden the attitudes of Nazi leaders, we should be opening lines of communication with Germany which would maximize democratic influences on the country.

Oh, I know, Germany has been pretty rotten to its Jewish population lately, not to mention homosexuals, Communists, and others the Nazis consider undesirable. And there are lingering problems with freedom of expression and even rumors of concentration camps. But those calling for a boycott make the mistake of mixing up sports with politics, which are two entirely separate things and should be kept that way. And then there is the question of interfering in Germany's internal affairs, which is a disrespectful attack on the nation's sovereignty, and... sorry, what's that you say? Oh. Right, thanks for pointing that out.

Never mind!

More on the Olympics: New Yorker writer George Packer's blog, Interesting Times, features some thoughts about the wisdom of awarding the Olympics to China, in the context of Packer's reading Victor Klemperer's diaries. Check out the blog, but here is a key paragraph"

The Olympics are never just about sports. The national glorification of the Berlin Olympics, the medal competitions and accusations of cheating across the Iron Curtain, the platform for terrorism and Black Power salutes, the chants of “U.S.A.,” the boycotts and counter-boycotts, the moral corruption and cowardice of the International Olympic Committee—nationalist orgies and ideological displays are inherent in the Games and always will be. Don’t accuse me of equating China with Nazi Germany, for I’m not—but it’s becoming clear that the I.O.C.’s decision to give the 2008 Olympics to Beijing is its worst call since 1936. Now that it’s too late to turn around, China is busy breaking all its promises to improve human rights, allow uncensored coverage, or even—for God’s sake—clean up the air in Beijing so that marathoners don’t fall dead in the streets. I know we’re supposed to say nice things about China as a rising power and welcome it to the world stage because anything else inflames Chinese nationalism. But the Chinese leadership wants to have it both ways: quick to criticize President Bush for interfering in China’s sovereign affairs when he had the decency to meet Chinese dissidents this week, but eager to cash in on all the geo-political benefits that the Olympics will bring. China didn’t even bother to abstain last month but instead vetoed sanctions against Robert Mugabe at the U.N. Unlike Germany in 1936, China is prettifying its streets without pretending to prettify its foreign policy.

Humanity's past, humanity's future: That's the basic topic of a talk by Louise Leakey, daughter of fossil hunters Richard and Meave Leakey and a noted fossil hunter herself, earlier this year sponsored by TED. This video is good quality, both technically and scientifically. Thanks to for flagging it.

Time to attack McCain? Jonathan Chait argues in an opinion piece in today's Los Angeles Times that Obama is being entirely too timid about going on the offensive. Some of what he says makes sense to me, especially his point that by focusing mostly on himself rather than McCain, Obama is helping people to forget George W. Bush--and McCain's close association with his policies. Take a look and see what you think.

Olympic clampdown update: This just in from the International Federation of Journalists:

IFJ News Release

31st July 2008

The IFJ Denounces EBU-IOC Agreement that Restricts Radio Broadcasts on the Web

In a letter sent today to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) denounced the "extravagant requirements" imposed by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) on the EBU and its members for use of their radio broadcasts of the Olympics on the internet.

In an arrangement with the EBU, the IOC asks for the internet use of radio broadcasts to be limited under certain conditions, notably with the application of geo-block denying access from outside the EBU territory, thus impeding certain users from accessing the sites. Moreover, the arrangement prohibits the use of moving pictures and restricts advertisement on web to prior authorisation from the IOC.

"The IOC is violating intellectual property rights and the right of information. Such conditions constitute a clear infringement of the WIPO treaties, the International Covenant for civil and political rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" says the IFJ.

The IFJ makes a link between these latest requirements and recent internet restrictions imposed on journalists covering the Olympic Games by the Chinese authorities.

The IFJ asks the EBU to refrain from accepting the conditions imposed by the IOC and support "without ambiguity" its radio members, which in the name of freedom of information would refuse to comply with dictates imposed by the IOC and Chinese authorities.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in over 120 countries worldwide.

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Richard Parker said…
Thanks for the link to Jonathan Chait. I've just read the piece, and agree with it totally.

The American public needs to know McCain for what he is - a senile, bad-tempered blowhard (I'm familiar with the symptoms; I'm one myself)
Richard Parker said…
In 1936, Hitler had only been in power in Germany for 3 years, and had already transformed the country's economy - hyper-inflation was gone, and autobahns were beginning to get built. the average German was doing a lot better than the average American in 1936.

He was racist, certainly, but then so was almost every American president until (perhaps) Johnson.

And then he helped Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

There are, probably, local or other artists who could paint 'Guernica' for Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Santo Domingo etc but their paintings don't have the cachet that Picasso's had. (And his painting didn't have much value until long after WW2).

Kristallnacht didn`t happen until 2 years later, in 1938.

The invasion of Iraq came about 2 years after 9/11.

History repeats itself, time and time again, like a bunch of farts, don't it?
Michael Balter said…
Kristallnacht was not until 1938 but the Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jews of nearly all their rights, were enacted in 1933. Many in America and Europe, including Charles Lindbergh and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, continued to admire Hitler right up until the outbreak of war (and probably long after.)