Dissident Liao Yiwu recounts his flight from China Liao Yiwu was jailed for four years after speaking out against the government's crackdown at Tiananmen Square. The government has denied him permission to leave China 16 times. Yunnan Province in southwestern China provides easy exit points to those who want to sneak out of the country, and the simplicity of sneaking out via Yunan tempted him. But Liao writes in The New York Times, "Instead, I chose to stay in China, continuing to document the lives of those occupying the bottom rung of society." When the Arab Spring broke out, the government began censoring references to the "jasmine revolution" in text messages and on the Internet and beefed up security with patrolling plainclothes officers. "When public security officers learned that my books would be published in Germany, Taiwan and the United States, they began phoning and visiting me frequently," Liao writes. They told him he would face legal consequences if he continued to publish in the West. When Salman Rushdie invited him to a conference in New York, he applied for a visa to leave, but the government rejected him. "For a writer, especially one who aspires to bear witness to what is happening in China, freedom of speech and publication mean more than life itself," he says. "I had no intention of going back to prison." He decided to leave and tell the world about the "simmering resentment" hidden beneath China's economic success. He journeyed to Yunan but instead of sneaking across the river, he decided to use his passport with his legitimate visas to Germany, the United States, and Vietnam, and walk through an exit point. "A miracle occurred," and the guard did not stop him, so he quickly boarded a plane for Germany. "Outside the airport," he says, "the air was fresh and I felt free."
Jacob Weisberg on Republican health care options At this week's Republican debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul whether the government should allow an uninsured "catastrophically ill" 30 year old to die untreated. "At that point, the rabble erupted in cheers and whoops of 'Yeah!'" writes Slate's Jacob Weisberg. The moment showed a "medieval" "mob-mentality" among the Tea Partiers in the crowd, Weisberg says. "What it clarified, however, was less the cruelty of the Tea Party crowd than the absurdity of the health-care positions of all of the Republican candidates." The candidates oppose the individual mandate in "Obamacare," leaving them with two options: the current "arguably more socialized system" or one that allows Blitzer's hypothetical 30-year-old man to die. Under an individual mandate system, like Obama's or the one Romney signed into law in Massachusetts, if people don't insure themselves, "they pay money, which you can call a fine or a tax, as you prefer. Under this alternative, the costs incurred by Blitzer's young man are not broadly socialized because they are covered by the fine on those who avoid signing up for insurance." Under the current system, hospitals are required to treat the 30-year-old man. "But the costs of his treatment are not absorbed by the hospitals. They are passed on to consumers, employers, and the government in the form of higher insurance premiums." This makes the system "more socialized" than Obama's, Weisberg says. "The third option is that of the Tampa Tea Party mob: Let the young man go to the devil." While Romney has supported the individual mandate system, he now says states should decide for themselves, which Weisberg argues would only complicate things. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry seem to support the option favored by the debate crowd. "Details remain to be worked out around the disposal of corpses and the distribution of orphans," Weisberg quips. "But, say what you will, theirs is not a socialist approach."