Saturday, December 29, 2007

"The difficult we can do immediately; the impossible

will take a little longer."

-Herman Haupt, Chief of U.S. Military Rail Roads in Virginia, to Abraham

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Bhutto Assassination



"Investigators with our Product Safety Bureau have

identified the factory that produced the defective

sun roof that killed Mrs. Bhutto as "Al Qaeda Sun

Sun Roof Manufacturing, Inc." and have closed

it indefinitely. I congratulate those involved in

so swiftly bringing this investigation to a

conclusion," said the Pakistani President.

The Bhutto Assassination



"We must restore confidence in the safety of Pakistini

sun roofs," said the President.

The Bhutto Assassination


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Bhutto Assassination, America, Pakistan, and The Clash

In the long-ago Cold War, America "tilted" toward

Pakistan in its continuous subcontinent feud with

India. Our countries have remained cordial ever

since. In the "war on terrorism" President Musharaff

was one of the most outspoken (if somewhat panicked)

in the world, certainly in the Islamic world, in

condemning the attacks. He pledged help to the

Bush administration, and has delivered some.

The old bromide that politics makes strange bed-

fellows applies here, of course. India is the world's

largest democracy; Pakistan has had far more coups

than free elections. India is a stable country;

Pakistan has gone through more leaders than

Lincoln went through generals. Finally of course,

Pakistan is Islamic and India is Hindu and our Clash

is with Islam.

Bedfellow Bush has snuggled up to bedfellow

Musharraf, to the detriment of both countries, and to

our side in the Clash. He has done all that he can to

protect Musharraf against surges of Islamist violence

and assassination attempts. On the bedfellows theory

that would seem to be a good thing, but it's not. The

Musharraf regime is about to fall, that will be one of

the results of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto

today, and in it's place will be...who knows in Pakistan,

but eventually, probably later rather than sooner, an

Islamist government. And this one will have the bomb.

That's a very bad thing. Pakistan developed and test-

launched its bomb under President Musharraf, and

with President Bush looking on, or looking the other


The most vital threat that America faces in the Clash is

an Islamic bomb in the wrong hands. That is closer to

happening today than it was yesterday.

The bed-fellows approach has produced this result.

The U.S. never should have permitted Pakistan to

develop its atomic capability. This day was foreseeable.

In the Clash, instead of the bedfellows theory that

delays the inevitable, this page has proposed an

opposite theory, of encouraging the inevitable.

We have called it "constructive provocation" and,

applied in the context here, the U.S. would have, if

necessary, bombed the Pakistani nuclear facilities out

of existence. That would have brought down the

Musharraf regime. Constructive provocateurs would

say, better sooner than later, better by our action than

the improvised reaction that the bedfellows theory

produces, better that we fight the Clash at a time of

our choosing rather than the enemy's. Whatever one

thinks of theories, we should have prevented the

Pakistani nuclear capability by all means necessary.

Long before President Bush, America should have

gotten out of bed with Pakistan. Pakistan shares none

of America's values. The bedfellows approach shunts

that consideration aside--for defensible reasons--for

geopolitical expediency. But there's the rub. The

bedfellows theory is supposed to be temporary and,

given the "strange" relationships it produces, it is

critical that each relationship so produced be

constantly reevaluated.

It has been the long-standing view here* that Pakistan

has not been a net plus for America in the Clash.

Rather, we have consistently argued that Pakistan and

Saudi Arabia are our greatest enemies. Shortly after

9/11 The New York Times Magazine did a story on

President Musharraf's madrasahs, the Pakistani schools

that inculcate Pakistani children in Islamist hatred.

As does our other major "friend" in the Islamic world,

Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs were one way for President

Musharraf to buy off Islamist threats to him personally,

and to his regime. The result for America however is a

new generation in Pakistanis--and Saudis--who, when

they come of age, will act out their school lessons with

the violence and hate that they were taught.

Additionally, U.S. intelligence indicates that Osama

bin Laden is alive and well. In Pakistan. In that "lawless"

tribal area in the mountainous border region it shares

with Afghanistan. Reportedly, we had a bead on bin

Laden in that area of Pakistan at one point, but

Secretary Rumsfeld called off military action for fear

of destabilizing our "friend." Acting under a theory of

"constructive provocation," obviously the U.S. would

have gone in and gotten bin Laden.

President Musharraf's fiat does not extend over a large

geographic area of his country; he does not rule the

hearts and minds of a large segment of his people;

he hasn't been able to produce bin Laden; our

ability to capture bin Laden ourselves has been

thwarted by concern for our bedfellow; and he

is teaching his youngsters to make jihad on us.

Another old bromide comes to mind, with friends like this...

* Our Friends in Pakistan, May 29, 2002.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

China's Great Wall of Silence: China's "Eichmann's Defense" Law

At his trial in Israel in 1961 Adolph Eichmann defended himself

as someone who "never did anything great or small,

without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf

Hitler or any of my superiors."

At her trial in China in 1981 Jiang Jing defended herself in the

same way, "I was Chairman Mao's dog. He told me who to bite

and I bit them."

Israel convicted Eichmann and China convicted Jiang but

Israel is a nation of laws and applies them indiscriminately;

China is a nation of orders which it issues at its whim.

"Following orders" is not a defense recognized in a society

ruled by laws; it is a defense in a society ruled by orders.

It is for this reason that those responsible for the murder of

Bian Zhongyun and of 3,000,000 others during the Cultural

Revolution go unpunished. When it wants to, as in the case of

the Gang of Four, China issues orders holding people

accountable. When it doesn't want to, it issues no such orders.

Wang Jinyao, Bian's husband, has found this out over the

years. Wang has tirelessly sought justice for his wife's murder.

Pausing here for a moment we note another distinction.

"Memorializing" and "justice" both are important, noble

concepts. There are two parties to a murder, the victim and the

murderer. Memorializing focuses exclusively on the victim:

when we lay wreaths on the graves of our loved ones we do so

regardless of whether they died by murder, accident, in

war, or by natural causes. Justice focuses on both victim and

murderer. When Wang Jinyao went to his country's authorities

it was not to memorialize Bian; he has done that in his

apartment since 1966. Wang sought justice, he wanted those

responsible for his wife's murder to be held accountable in

some way.

When Wang sought justice he was cited a Chinese "law" that

codified Adolph Eichmann's defense. Wang was told that since

Bian's murder had occurred in the midst of a "mass movement"

the requisite criminal intent could not be imputed to any

individual. Without criminal intent there is no crime. Without a

crime there is no criminal. Therefore, no one was responsible

for Bian's death. Such was the Chinese government's order.

Justice is not revenge, the two, like orders and laws and

memorializing and justice, are often conflated. Justice is the

product of the shared values of a society, those values are

embodied in its laws and a society's fairness, that is, its

legitimacy, depends on the enforcement of those laws, that is,

those values. Wang Jinyao received no justice from his country

for his wife's murder because, you see, his country has no

justice to give. This is Public Occurrences.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poetry Lives, American Culture Lives

Credit, not for the first time, to Arts and Letters Daily at

Monday, December 10, 2007

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Struggle for History. Photo #1 Again

We have to understand our fellow man and their
perspectives; we have to take into account their
Now, to you and me, and anyone else without
a brain lesion, these are photographs of dead people.
But Red Guards have more complex thought processes
than you and me. They were the elite of the Chinese
educational system, the "morning suns" of progressive
Maoist thought.
To them these are not necessarily dead people. In the
reality which the Red Guards inhabit these folks could
all be sleeping. Yeah, see, never thought about that, did
you? That's because you're not as, how to say, erudite
as them, as they are, excuse me. Those people in the
bottom left hand corner, who's to say they aren't in
sleeping bags instead of body bags. Pshaw, we dumb
people are always jumping to conclusions.
Or they're dead people--no deceased hominids, no post-
living bipeds--but where is the evidence that they were
murdered, Huh? Perhaps they all died of heart attacks,
or from some other pre-existing medical condition, as
Dr. Weili Ye claimed was the case with Bian Zhongyun
in Carma Hinton's tour de farce Morning Sun. Were
there autopsies conducted, another salient point raised
by Weili Ye, Medical Examiner? No?
The Red Guards smell a rat, a frame-up of historical
proportions, just like that perpetrated on their own
Song Binbin. They'll get to the bottom of this, just you
wait and see. All they have to do is focus their super-
brains onto this conundrum and they'll come up with
an explanation, they'll come up with an explanation
all right, an explanation that satisfies--them. I am
Benjamin Harris.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Struggle for History. Photo #2

Here we see more of the results of the youthful
idealism of the Cultural Revolution celebrated by Carma
Hinton, Weili Ye, Liu Jin, and...Oh where to stop. So many
Red Guards, so little time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Struggle for History. Photo #1

Above are photographs of the corpses of human beings
murdered during the Cultural Revolution. As can be
seen they were splashed unabashedly across a full page
of a Chinese newspaper of the time. The newspaper
article in which they appear was sent by a person
living in the P.R.C. Similar such articles have been
published here previously (1). More will follow.

In a recent paper (2) Dr. Youqin Wang writes of the
dichotomy that exists between the Chinese
government's official history of the Cultural Revolu-
tion and the "real" history. The former ignores the
scholarly purpose of truth-seeking. It cites to other
official accounts, thus completing the circle, rather
than to original documents like that above or to first-
hand interviews. The official account is not really
history at all but a sanitized account whose purpose
is not factual accuracy but regime protection.

The Chinese government's purpose is aided by the faux
academic efforts of foreign apologists such as Americans
Carma Hinton (3) Weili Ye (4), and the openly Maoist website, by the French philosopher Alan
Badiou (5), and others. These "useful fools"--to use Lenin's
phrase-- perpetrate their ideology-disguised-as-history on
insouciant Western audiences.

The real history is being written by Dr. Wang whose
website is dedicated
to the memory of the victims of the Cultural Revolution,
by Roderick McFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals (6), by
Jonathan Spence (7), Jung Chang (8), Hu Jie (9), and
Harry Wu (10), among others. Except for Hu Jie, all are
living in the West.

There is a desperate struggle for the past going on here.

The Chinese government is winning that struggle. It is very
big and very powerful. By contrast, "my voice is very weak"
is Dr.Wang's poignant description of her own brave efforts
and those of Hu Jie. For five years Dr. Wang's website has
been blocked by the Chinese government's censors. The
regime pulled Hu Jie's film from a showing at a film festival
at the last moment. Books by the scholars mentioned
above are, of course, banned also in the P.R.C.

It is not a given in human affairs that "the truth will out."
The Chinese government is winning, and there is
nothing impossible about its ultimate triumph. I
remember being struck by something that
Professor Macfarquhar wrote, that if there is to
be an historical accounting of the Cultural Revolu-
tion that it will only be done by the Chinese people.

On the YouTube site of Hu Jie's film Though I Am
Gone, a young person posted that he hadn't known
that there was such violence during the Cultural
Revolution. He has never seen the corpses in the
above photograph. There is now a generation of
Chinese coming of age in a more open China who
do not know what really happened during the
Cultural Revolution, during the far more
disastrous "Great Leap Forward" of the 1950's, or
for that matter during the entire history of the P.R.C.

At the beginning of the school day the morning after
Bian Zhongyun's murder, Liu Jin, one of the Red
Guard leaders of the school, made the official
announcement over the loudspeaker:

"Bian Zhongyun's dead. That's it. There is no reason
to talk about it."

That is the Chinese government's position on
history also. Obviously, that position has
grounding in the thinking of many individual
Chinese. Even today, the individual perpetrators
of Cultural Revolution violence go unnamed by
even those dedicated to historical truth. The
government will win the struggle for the past
unless enough Chinese people decide that that's
not "it," that there is a "reason" to talk about it.

-Benjamin Harris, J.D.

1. Public Occurrences. June 8, 2007.

2. Official History and Parallel History, Victims or No
Victims: The Antithesis in the Historical Writings of the
Cultural Revolution. China Perspectives October-November
3. Morning Sun (film), 2005.
4. The Death of Bian Zhongyun. Chinese Historical Review,
Fall 2006.
5. "The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution." Positions,
Winter, 2005. Duke University Press.
6. Mao's Last Revolution. Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press, 2006.
7. The Gate of Heavenly Peace (1981), The Search for Modern
China (1991), Mao Zedong (1999), et al.
8. Mao: The Unknown Story. Anchor Books, 2006.
9. Seeking the Soul of Lin Zhao, 2004, Though I am Gone,
2006. (films)
10. Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade
Against China, co-authored with George Vecsey. NewsMax
Media, Inc. 2002.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


We are all Pittsburghers

"To encourage knowledge of affairs at home and abroad; to cure the spirit of lying which prevails
amongst us; to record memorable providences."
-Statement of purpose, Public Occurrences, September 25, 1690

The college football regular season in the U.S.A. ended last night. It has been the most unpredictable season in history. Seven different teams who were ranked #2 in the country have lost during the course of the season, five of them to completely un-ranked teams. Last night both the number-one and number-two teams
played their season-ending games. Had they won they would have played against each other after the new year for the national championship.

Both lost.

Missouri, the number-one team, lost to Oklahoma, a highly-ranked team in its own right. Number-two West
Virginia however lost to the University of Pittsburgh, an un-ranked team with a losing record, over whom
West Virginia was a twenty eight and one-half point favorite. To make the result even more surprising the
game was played on West Virginia's campus. "Home" teams in American college football have a decided
advantage. Most surprising is that Pittsburgh is West Virginia's most- despised rival, thus seeming to negate
the common concern that a superior team might overlook an inferior opponent. Finally, this was exactly the 100th game between the two schools.

None of this mattered. Pittsburgh won the game 13-9.

The game has been described in historic terms by American sports writers. To lose to one's bitterest rival, at home, in the final game of the season, when playing for a chance at a national championship, while being favored by twenty eight and one-half points is indeed historic.

At its best sports presents the human condition in the starkest of terms. West Virginia's coach sorrowfully described the game as a "nightmare." We have all had those. We are all West Virginians. But for Pittsburgh's fans, and for underdog fans everywhere, the result was a miraculous joy. We are all Pittsburghers.

We have not had occasion to document memorable providences in the five-plus years that we have been publishing this electronic continuation of Public Occurrences but Pittsburgh's victory was not just historic, it was providential, that is miraculous, and so, true to our ancient mission we hereby record it. This is Public Occurrences.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The IQ war: Here we go again

William Saletan, a self-described "liberal Republican," wrote in Slate this past Sunday that there are indeed genetic differences in IQ. The racial brain ranking is (1) Asians (2) Whites (3) Africans.

If that is true, there is no "and therefore..." to that result. That is, governments are not going to revive anti-
miscegenation laws or the like. There is no public policy consequence to that finding, if it is true. There is also no "private policy" consequence. Individuals should not be presumed to share their groups racial average.
The reason why there is no "and therefore..." is that intelligence does not equal goodness, nor even wisdom,
and both of those traits are far more important to the human condition than intelligence and there are no genetic tests for them. This is Public Occurrences.

Feel free to email us at

This is Public Occurrences

This second-favorite of our holidays falls this year on a bad

date in our history, the memories of which some of us still


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cell Breakthrough

Earlier today two teams of scientists announced that they had

resolved an ethical dilemma that had threatened the use of

stem cells to solve a host of medical conditions.

Published in Cell and Science, two of the most prestigious

journals in the world, the scientists reported that they had

been able to change common skin cells into embryonic stem

cells by adding four genes, thus avoiding the ethical dilemma

of having to destroy human embryos to harvest the stem cells.

Immediate reaction has been uniformly positive across the

political spectrum. "Everyone was waiting for this day to

come" was the reaction of Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the

National Catholic Bioethics Center, courtesy of the

Associated Press from The New York Times. "It really is

amazing," and "ethically uncomplicated" were the reactions

of two leading medical authorities at Harvard, according to

AP and NYT.

So, on this eve of Thanksgiving Eve, let us give thanks. This is

Public Occurrences.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This is Public Occurrences

Since posting the below at 11:22 this morning I have been

almost constantly at work on China so I was able to work as

hard today as I ever have.

Before going to bed, very early, last night I resolved to rise

early and go right into work. I wrote "work" on four business

cards. I put one in my cell phone so that when I opened it I

would see the note. I put one on top of the computer keyboard,

one in the bathroom sink, one in the doorjamb. I wanted to

give myself no room for getting into a non-work frame of mind.

I arose and didn't want to go into work. Not dread, just no fire.

But the alternative would be like yesterday, a lot of reading, not

the energy to write, then boredom and at five o'clock drink. I

didn't want that again.

When I turned on the computer I had an email from a person

in China who had sent me some useful information. It gave me

the fire and adderral-fired too, I worked on China for about

forty-five minutes. Then I got tired and had to rest. I read for

two hours, after taking another half of an adderral.

For twenty-two years I had a fire in me that allowed me to

work prodigiously. Then, after a trial, my recovery time was

longer than I was used to and I went to my G.P. and the result

was the Zodiac.

I have never been able to get the fire back continuously since

that trial. In my mind I had not been able to get it back because

of the treatment but the doctors told me repeatedly that it was

not the treatment. So then it was the onset of the Zodiac that I

blamed. The doctors said it couldn't be that either.

My girlfriend told me that she did not see the absence of the

fire except on those occasions when I would have to sleep all

day. Upon thinking about it she opined that the cause was my

dusky mutt brought home by my son. I completely discounted

that. Then relations with my son improved and he was happier

and I was happier and the dog went away. But I have still not

gotten the fire back completely. My girlfriend says I have but I

don't feel it.

It's probably age plus the drink plus the sleeping pills plus no

physical activity plus work plus China. I cut out drink for a

month but felt no increase in fire. A couple of weekends ago I

read all day both days and on Monday morning was too tired to

go to work. So I've tried to cut down on the reading and have

not written anything serious for awhile. Writing has always

been taxing, as taxing as work.

If I had my old fire I could work and read with no problem and

even write a little. A friend of mine is a scholar and I am

impressed and envious when I get an email that he's sent at

midnight or one a.m. I am Benjamin Harris

Sunday, November 04, 2007

China's Great Wall of Silence: Song Binbin Returns to the Scene of the Crime

September is back-to-school month and with that exciting and portentous time often comes school anniversary celebrations. Such was the case earlier this month at the Girls Middle School affiliated with Beijing University. The elite school was celebrating its ninetieth anniversary. The leafy campus and uniformed youngsters are pictured immediately above.

It's a warm, nostalgic time for the returning alumnae as they reminisce with old friends and relive their formative years, their experiences, their hi jinks, their memories of teachers and classes.

So it was for Song Binbin, class of 1966. Song's schoolmates put together a big poster for her with photographs from the different stages of Song's life since leaving the school (middle photo).

And Song has had an eventful life, one that indeed is worthy of documentation and remembrance. At top is a photograph of a delighted Song meeting the leader of her country, Chairman Mao Zedong. Meeting a head of state is the highpoint of most any one's life, more so when one is young, and Song was 19 at the time.

But the photo of Song with Mao is not just a photo of a young student meeting a head-of-state, momentous as that would be under any circumstance. As one can see from the context, the photo was taken at a big event. There's a huge crowd in the background. Song and Mao are also elevated above that huge crowd. In fact they are standing together on a reviewing platform. Imagine being a student up there with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he made his "Free at Last" speech to the multitude assembled beneath him on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument. That's what it must have been like for Song, the event of a lifetime.

Look more closely though. Song is not just standing there with Mao. She's doing something to him, she's touching him. She's pinning an armband onto Mao Zedong. She's a participant in an event.

The date was August 18, 1966. The occasion, the first rally of Red Guards in Tienanmen Square. That's part of the million-plus Red Guards and their supporters there in the background. And Song and Mao are indeed on a reviewing platform. They are on the balcony at the entrance to the Forbidden City, where China's emperors once stood to greet and address their subjects.

So much in Chinese culture is symbolic and it is the symbolism in that photograph that made it world famous. There had been "stuff" going on in Beijing throughout the spring and summer of that year: protests, some violence, confusion, disorder. It was not clear why this stuff was occurring; even the highest leaders of the country, men like President Liu Shaoqi and Premier Chou Enlai, were bewildered, and showed it even in public. Only Mao knew because it was Mao's idea. He was away from the capital for much of that summer, leaving the day-to-day affairs of state to President Liu. "Mao on the move was Mao on the attack," his personal physician has written and Mao was on the move. Very few even knew where he was but he was plotting a ruthless purge. Now this is normally small beer for dictators: there's a knock on the door in the middle of the night and the dictator's henchmen grab a real or imagined enemy of the dictator and if he's ever seen again it's with a bullet in his brain. It's the occupational hazard of the dictator's crony.

Mao's targets did in fact include those closest to him, like Liu Shaoqi. But if nothing else, Mao Zedong always thought big. It wasn't just some gray-hairs closest to him who he wanted to "disappear," Mao intended a purge of the entire Chinese Communist Party. There weren't enough henchmen for that. What Mao was brooding over that summer was how to carry out a purge on this massive scale and his strategy was as brilliant as it was murderous. He would use the Chinese people against their own leaders, and to insulate himself he made the movement's aim the removal of those who were insufficiently loyal to Mao and Maoism. Contrary to the most elemental teachings of Dictatorship 101, Mao's purge--to be called the "Cultural Revolution"--was to be a bottom-up movement. Lower level people in the society were to attack those immediately above them first. It was the littler fish eating the little fish who would then eat the medium size fish, until it reached the top.

And it is here that we come back to Song Yaowu. A few purges of intellectuals and apparatchiks aside, the Cultural Revolution began in the schools, and not the colleges and universities, but the bottom of the Chinese educational system, the middle (high) schools and elementary schools. Who were such neophytes to attack? Why, their teachers. Communism and Maoism in particular already had laid the philosophical groundwork: devotion to Mao and Maoism over devotion even of children to parents was made official C.C.P. policy in the 1950's.

Throughout Beijing that summer the schools gradually became unglued. Instruction ceased, teachers and administrators lost control, protests were everywhere, students seized control, and violence against teachers began.

The movement was accelerated at Song Yaowu's middle school because it was the most elite such school in Beijing, maybe in all of China. Only the best and the brightest attended. And those who were the daughters of the highest Party officials. "Classless" Maoist China was always elitist. Both Liu Shaoqi's and Deng Xiaoping's daughters were students at the school.

Song was not the progeny of such as that but her father was an important party official and so she got in too. She was a senior but had more clout than even age naturally would have given her. She became a leader. An early Red Guard member, she became one of the de facto heads of the school when authority collapsed.

At this cutting-edge school, Song (Binbin was her given name at the time) was the leading edge of the cutting-edge, and so on June 23 when one of the first acts of violence by students against teachers occurred it was at this school. Bian Zhongyun, the vice-principal of the Girls Middle School, was beaten. She survived and wrote a letter to Beijing officials describing what had been done to her and asking for help. She didn't understand that this Cultural Revolution had already begun and that the only real authority lay with her Red Guard students. As the violence spread and became more deadly throughout the schools in Beijing, Bian was beaten again on August 4. She told her husband that night that they were going to kill her.

The next day, August 5, Bian and other educators were paraded out into the schoolyard. They were spat upon, ink was thrown in their faces, and they were made to do strenuous physical labor under the summer sun. They were also mercilessly beaten and Bian was beaten to death. Later, after rigor mortis had begun to set in, her body was put into a cart and wheeled, like garbage to a dump, to the entrance to the hospital right across the street from the school. There they left the cart and Bian's body. It was the first murder of a teacher by students in the Cultural Revolution.

That night, Song Binbin,as the person in charge of the school, made the official notification of Bian's murder to the Beijing municipal authorities.

That was all on August 5. Meanwhile Mao Zedong had made a triumphal return from his plotting to the capital after a --symbolic--swim in the Yangtze river to demonstrate his vigor and ability to wield absolute power.

He ordered the removal of the groups that had been sent into the schools to manage the violence by the confused and tentative Liu Shaoqi. It was to be the beginning of the end for Liu. The violence escalated. Mao said it was "right to rebel" and the capital groaned day and night with the sounds of Red Guard marauding, plundering, beating, and murdering.

This was the context to that famous photo of Mao and Song. That moment was the official beginning of the Cultural Revolution, for when Mao Zedong allowed Song Binbin to pin that Red Guard armband onto him, he--symbolically--gave his personal approval to all that the Red Guards had done before, and all that they were to do after. Three million people would be murdered before it was over.

Overnight Song Binbin became the most famous Red Guard, and one of the most famous people, in all of China. The next day The Picture was on the front page of every newspaper in the country. For People's Daily, Song wrote an article about the moment, and how thrilled she was to be given the honor of being the one, the one, to pin a Red Guard armband onto The Great Helmsman, on that day of all days, the first Red Guard rally in hallowed Tienanmen Square. She giddily recounted their brief exchange. She told him her name. He asked if "binbin" did not mean "educated and gentle." She said yes. He said, "Better to be more martial!", and so Song Binbin changed her name and signed her People's Daily article with her new name, Song "Yaowu," Song "Be Militant." The leafy school that this month celebrated its seventieth anniversary was renamed the "Be Martial" school in her honor.

The Cultural Revolution lasted ten years, until Mao Zedong's death in 1976. Almost immediately his wife,Jiang Jing, and three others were arrested and officially held to blame for all. Eventually, the Chinese Communist Party issued an official condemnation of the Cultural Revolution, and that was it: case closed, you can't study the period in university, the Red Guards who committed even murder were never arrested, and their leaders went back to their lives of being bright young things.

Song Yaowu however was too famous to be forgotten. Her name still stirs hatred. She is still the--symbolic--face of that awful, awful period, and so she kept that face hidden after 1976. She immigrated to the United States and changed her name once more, to Yan Song. Always precocious and, as an elite, used to the best-of-the-best, Yan got her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, married, had a son, got a job working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and settled into a comfortable, prosperous, suburban life in Lexington and Concord, the birthplaces of the American Revolution.

Many, many, many people made attempts to interview her over the years. She was after all a participant in history. Even finding her was difficult. Not many knew her American name and she refused--for obvious reasons--to be interviewed about her life as Song Yaowu.

Then, in 2003, after "several years" of persuading, Song Yaowu found the right forum and agreed to speak. The forum was Morning Sun, a film on the Cultural Revolution being made by Carma Hinton, who is now at Carnegie-Mellon University. Ms. Hinton is an American, but grew up in China, the issue of William Hinton, an old unreconstructed Maoist.

Ms. Hinton was an elite just like Song. She was a communist sympathizer and Cultural Revolution apologist like her father. Song could feel safe in the hands of a Carma Hinton "interview." Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the usual suspect list of foundations, and narrated by PBS' Margot Adler, Morning Sun is a glossy look at the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of Carma Hinton's friends, the Red Guard student elites who were all broke out with radicalism back then but who now, with paunches and receding hairlines bespeaking the moderation of age, acknowledge that "mistakes were made." The film was widely praised by American critics.

Chinese (or at least Chinese living in free countries) however had a different reaction. Almost universally, the segment that stirred the deepest emotions, and overloaded Chinese message boards with angry posts, was Song Yaowu's. First, she "appears" in the film with her face obscured in the manner of a Mafia informer testifying against the Godfather. Still you can see that she sports a stylish coif and is dressed in a fashionable turtleneck. She has done well for herself.

Then she speaks. She is not asked any questions, she just talks, and is allowed to say whatever she wishes without fear of follow-up questions. On The Picture: You know how in Forrest Gump, Forrest is walking around Washington in uniform having just gotten a Medal of Honor from LBJ, and he insouciantly falls in line with a bunch of young people and they happen to be anti-war protesters going to a rally and they mistake him for a Vietnam Veteran Against the War, and they bring him up on the speaking platform to make a speech for them? It was sort of like that with The Picture, according to Song. She was Song Gumpgump.

She says, as a Red Guard, she was in the crowd that morning. She says that in the chaos of Mao's dramatic dawn appearance at the rally she and a group of other Red Guards ended up near the ground level entrance to the reviewing stand. She says that they were just invited on up. She says that the Red Guards began pinning armbands on governmental officials like Chou Enlai and Lin Biao and that some of her friends said "Somebody should pin Mao! Somebody should pin Mao!" "Binbin, pin Mao! Binbin, go pin Mao!" She says that she was pushed forward by her mischievous, timorous schoolmates and then...You know how in Forrest Gump the mic goes out just as he's about to speak? The mic didn't go out for poor Song, and neither did the cameras stop recording. Her Dentyne-ad smile threatens to crack her entire face and afterwards she is seen so giddily jumping up and down that she looks as a child not able to hold her water much longer.

For Song Yaowu is truly proud of that moment and her role in history and of The Picture, which is why her closest friends included it on the poster they made for her on the anniversary of the founding of their school, as well as those showing her bending over a microscope at work in grad school, receiving her diploma from M.I.T., and at work in her job with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The only photograph of her from the Cultural Revolution era is The Picture.

Cocooned with her elite friends Song Yaowu can be herself, the famous and proud Red Guard who had the honor of pinning Mao Zedong. That's who she is now, living out her retirement in Beijing.
Cocooned by Carma Hinton for American and western consumption, Song Yaowu can say that it had all been an accident of fate that she has had to suffer from ever since, that cruel fate had unfairly tied a tin can to her tail and through the pages of history it has rattled and banged.
The right can was tied to the proper tail and through the pages of this site it shall rattle and bang. This is Public Occurrences.

Anyone with information on the identities of those involved in the beating of Bian Zhongyun on June 23, 1966, August 4,1966 or August 5, 1966 please email Benjamin Harris, J.D. at

Friday, November 02, 2007

This is Public Occurrences

"I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and I now know

that thy right worship is defiance."

Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


My daughter goes to a rich kids school. Her mother and I

make a very good living. Her mother and I are about in

the lowest 1% income of families with children attending

the school.

Today Dianna went Yachting with her school friend

Natalie and Natalie's folks.

I know yachts. I've seen them. At the boat show once I was

even on one briefly.

Natalie also invited Dianna to go skiing with her family at

Vail over the Christmas break.

They own a house there.

Dianna's mom called the Stuarts and profusely thanked

them and, of course, offered to pay for Dianna's air fair.

I mean, come on, that's just courtesy.

Mr. Stuart is completely unaffected by his wealth. With

no condescension he informed Dianna's mom that that

would be unnecessary seeing that he had a private jet.

When Dianna came back from Yachting her mom said to

her, "Dianna, they take you Yachting, then they offer to

take you to Vail ON A PRIVATE JET?!" "Yeah mom, and

I told them that my dad, after he charges a lot on his credit


Friday, October 26, 2007

On the Genarlow Wilson case

This morning the Georgia Supreme Court ordered the

immediate release of Genarlow Wilson from state prison,

holding that Wilson's ten year mandatory sentence

violated the U.S. constitution's bar on "cruel and unusual


Wilson was convicted of an underage sex crime, having oral

sex with a 15 year old girl. Wilson was 17 at the time. The sex

act was consensual. Wilson spend two years in prison for this.

The Georgia Supreme Court was right. What is wrong is laws

like this. Georgia's legislature has since changed its law (but

did not make it retroactive) but there are other similar laws

on the books in many states, and not just in "backward" or

southern states. In a case in Miami a 14 year old girl was

dating and having sex with her 17 year old boyfriend. The

girl's parents found out about it and forbade her from

seeing the boy again. They grounded her and wouldn't let

her leave her room. The girl crawled out the window one

night to be with and have sex with her boyfriend. The boy

was arrested for a felony. That law is still on Florida's


Besides changes in the law (Georgia reduced the crime

from a felony to a misdemeanor) what is needed at least

as much is greater discretion and common sense on the

part of police officers and prosecutors. Each has discretion

in enforcing the law. The police do not have to arrest some-

one even when a crime has been committed and many,

many times don't. More importantly, prosecutors do not

have to file cases, and many, many, many times don't. The

prosecutor's job, his only job is to seek justice.

Cowed legislators respond to public pressure by enacting

draconian laws, cowed police officers make arrests they'd

probably just as soon not, and cowed prosecutors file cases

with too little concern for justice. What is needed is more

courage and less cowing. This is Public Occurrences.