SPEECH AT WORLD CONFUCIAN CONFERENCE, QUFU SEPT, 2017 (47.7KB)
"NEO-CONFUCIANISM, CHINESE CIVIL SOCIETY, AND THE CHINESE STATE"
January 3, 2019
Some folk observe Party loyalty, others don't
LETTER TO WALL STREET JOURNAL
The collapse of the Weekly Standard (12/15, p.3) is a triumph of dogma over editing. Bill Kristol found Trump “vulgar” and so ignored Trump’s conservative steps that the WS had urged for years. Circulation dropped badly in 2017-2018. Worse, politics-as-spite won out. I wrote some twenty articles in Bill’s pages, many on China, but from 2017, declining to be a Never Trumper was death, whatever my topic. A sad detail was axing Letters to the Editor. Kristol didn’t want feedback; he wanted unwavering agreement with his undermining of the president. I wrote in my first piece rejected by Kristol in June 1916: “The same people who said Trump could not be nominated now declare his presidency a failure. Take a deep breath. Let the voters speak.” But Kristol did not trust the voters. He is an agreeable man and a good political operator, given an hysterical ex-cathedra cause, but a lousy editor. He wrote an editorial, “The Loser,” about Trump just prior to his victory. Fake news, perhaps?
Under Hayes the magazine has shriveled and weakened. If anti-Trump pieces couldn’t be conjured up the pages were filled with third-rate stuff. Authoritative analysis of Asia disappeared. Fred Barnes deserves credit; often his was almost the only voice of reason.
The WS sank because it transgressed Ben Franklin’s words in 1731 defending printers and publishers: “When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.” Franklin added, “Some assert, Printers ought not to print anything but what they approve.. [That] would thereby put an end to Free Writing, and the World would afterwards have nothing to read but what happen’d to be the Opinions of Printers.” Where some see “courage” in Bill’s never-Trumpism, others see authoritarianism and politics as aesthetics - conservative policies be damned.
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"The Danger of Trump’s Political Accomplishments" is Andrew Sullivan's latest article.
Sad. Appalling. All Americans should applaud our president's accomplishments. But for once-sensible Andrew these successes spell danger. Guess why?
BEIJING, Oct 1, 2018
Did two teenagers fool around 36 years ago after drinks at a California high school shindig? American left-wing media weep that one boy may have planted an unwanted kiss on a girl. Outraged eggheads on CNN sound like a gaggle of schoolmistresses. A Chinese student watching asks me, "Don't they care about the trade war?" Silly us. We forgot that a virginal high school record is vital to fitness for the Supreme Court. We thought the job just needed a brilliant legal mind.
LETTER TO WSJ, 8/2018:
Your coverage of the Helsinki Summit was factual and sober, but U.S. media reports generally were appalling. Totally missed was that Trump’s openness to Putin is a clever way of strengthening his hand toward China.
The same chorus sour about Helsinki, enthused over Nixon’s visit to Mao - not exactly a democrat - in Beijing. New York Times for example editorialized on 2/21/72: “Millions of Americans must have been thrilled last night as they watched the President arrive and
heard the Chinese band at the Beijing airport play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ while the American flag fluttered overhead.”
The left has lost its principles. Senator Ted Kennedy also praised Nixon to the skies in 1972 for his shrewd balance-of-power step. Today’s anti-Trumpers don’t seem to have a geopolitical bone in their body.
Kissinger said of Trump in a UK interview: “He transcends the mealy-mouthed rhetoric of the past, thereby forcing a new recognition of American power.” Indeed. We waited for such under Obama but it never came. A great opportunity, now.
Obama used to cry he would create, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” But Democats proved once again they had no idea how to spur economic growth and increase jobs. Now look at the news for June 1, 2018:
“NONFARM PAYROLLS SURGED BY 223,000 JOBS LAST MONTH AS WARM WEATHER BOLSTERED HIRING AT CONSTRUCTION SITES. THERE WERE ALSO BIG GAINS IN RETAIL AND LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY PAYROLLS. THE ECONOMY CREATED 15,000 MORE JOBS THAN PREVIOUSLY REPORTED IN MARCH AND APRIL.
LAST MONTH’S ONE-TENTH OF A PERCENTAGE POINT DROP IN THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE PUSHED IT TO A LEVEL LAST SEEN IN APRIL 2000. THE JOBLESS RATE IS NOW WHERE THE FED FORECAST IT WOULD BE BY THE END OF THIS YEAR.”
December 3, 2017
Russia non-stop in NYT, but there is Zero Evidence, after months of speculation masquerading as journalism, that Trump reciprocated any Russian efforts to “collude” over the 2016 election. If evidence comes, NYT, that will be “news fit to print.”
Constant downplaying in NYT of the astonishing success of the U.S. economy, with more success to come now with the Tax Bill
I mix with professors daily and find very few who demand that artists sing, paint, declaim, or write in accord with political dictates. Why then should cultural figures tell policy makers in Washington and State Houses what is acceptable in politics?
A jewel rewards the reader near the end of the current issue of HARVARD MAGAZINE.
Matthew Browne’s “A Coddled Campus” is thoughtful, informative, courageous, and well-written.
Still, I fear he misuses "coddling." Echo chamber, which Matthew uses correctly, can exist among adult equals. When John Stuart Mill in On Liberty said "truth is burnished by its collision with error," he was rejecting the conformism of an echo chamber, not assailing nurturing in a primary school.
I feel Matthew is too hard on students for "making careful decisions that ensure security" This is prudence, not self-coddling. But he may be too soft on faculty and administrators (he barely mentions either) who are the real problem. The echo chamber is real on the faculty, at Kirkland House, and to a degree at the Fairbank Center (three places I happen to know from inside over the years) and the worst part is that its existence is unrecognized.
Example: After Bush's reelection in 2004, the Fairbank Center held a panel, "Bush's foreign policy in Asia in his second term." The five panelists were all liberal Democrats. No Republicans were asked. (I noticed the omission as I was advising Vice-President Cheney on China at this time). Leaving aside unfairness, it was pedagogically flawed to exclude anyone from Bush circles, who just might have a clue to plans for the second term not known to Sinologists of the opposing party.
This no so normal that a similar example - shocking to Mill's insistence that truth can only be burnished by brushing error - came upon Trump's election, when the Asia Center and the Fairbank Center mounted a panel "Trump and Asia." No one from Trump's appointees or circle was on the panel.
Matthew says he feels no "gag order" to conform. You don't need a gag order to keep Harvard leftist. We few conservatives are constrained to a self-generated gag order by manners and experience.
I'm sorry to tell Matthew that angry people waving banners may be coddled as well as living in an echo chamber. And the professor who "criticizes the world deliberately and forcefully" is not necessarily burnishing truth by rubbing it alongside (what he considers) error.
Anyway Matthew is an icon of true liberalism compared with many of his “superiors.”
President Bush said in handing over to Obama in January 2009, “I owe him my silence.” As with his entire presidency, Obama liked a fine idea in principle (‘There’s only one president at a time ” Nov. 14) but failed to follow it. Sure enough, by the end of January, Obama was criticizing Trump.
More loquacious than Bush, but less gracious.
In The Australian Primrose Riordan’s story has Stephen Fitzgerald claiming, “Australia would have no influence with China unless ties were strengthened with Asia’s superpower.” Dubious. Successive recent governments of both parties in Canberra have rightly and enormously strengthened ties with China. But Premier Li’s warning "against siding" with the USA is a red herring. The surest way to lose leverage with Beijing would be to pull away from Washington. Read John Howard’s memoir. He found the US alliance “no impediment” to China relations, but actually increased our leverage with the Chinese. Alan Thomas, another former Australian ambassador in Beijing, found the same: “The Chinese were particularly interested in us because we’re an American ally,” he said in an interview.
LETTER TO WSJ, 12/14/2016
Andrew Browne writes (Dec. 13), “No Chinese leader could bargain over Taiwan and hope to hold on to power.” Well, Mao Zedong did. When President Nixon walked into his study in February 1972, Mao said, “The Taiwan issue is a small issue. The international situation is a big issue.” Mao had in mind the threat of the Soviet Union to both the U.S. and China. The result was U.S. stayed in Taipei for years.
Mao held onto power until his death in 1976, His remark to Nixon gained China political power and justified Nixon’s hope that the Taiwan issue need not lock both sides into a back alley. In Washington before the trip the Nixon administration fretted over this issue for weeks; just as U.S. media fret over the non-issue of Trump’s phone call with Taiwan. Real leaders transcend shibboleths and look at the world situation.
Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University .
DECEMBER 10, 2016
The left is up the wrong tree in its horror at Trump’s rude thrusts against academics, news folk, and unions. Pew surveys show all three circles are disesteemed by the American people. Trump lives and breathes from the barbs against him by reporters, professors, legal gods, and union loudmouths. As the Chinese would say, Trump’s critics pick up a stone only to drop it on their own foot.
OUR GOOD CANADIAN FRIEND CONRAD BLACK HAS AN APT WORD TODAY:
"Trump was running against the Bush-McCain-Romney traditional Republicans, the Cruz far-right Republicans, the Clinton-Obama long-term management of the Democrats and the quasi-Marxist Sanders left of the Democrats, and almost all the press and polling organizations. These were impossible odds against him, except that he won.
No one can deny that the people were there — his rallies were large and overflowing. Clinton had to recruit pop stars and others in her Hollywood claque of trendy-chic fundraisers and groupies to pull crowds. Trump had indicted the whole system: Wall Street, Hollywood and the log-rolling, back-scratching cadres of both parties were under siege together."
Have a look at “THE LOSER,” Bill Kristol’s tedious piece in WS on why Trump would lose to HRC (October 21, 2016). Oops. Latest word from Washington, which sometimes gets things wrong, is that a typo occurred in the office of the WS, and Bill really meant “THE LOSER: HRC.” We await the retraction/confession.
So far Trump talks and acts for unity. Boston Globe rails against “hate” Whose exactly? Well-financed leftist groups shout hate and “You’re not my president” as they surge around the country. BG gently averts its eyes.
A generally good Harvard seminar of which I am regular attendee held its dissection of the election yesterday. I declined this time, writing to the chairman: "I will not be attending today. I do not feel an election post-mortem where both speakers have been anti-Trump is a fair way for a university to proceed. Bill Galston's Democratic views are sincere and worthwhile. But Bill Kristol’s self-justifications, after months of opposition to Trump, would be of limited interest to those of us who rank party loyalty highly.
November 9, 2016
HILLARY’S LIES MATTERED – yes, sometimes the truth prevails, when we turn our heads away from the crushingly wrong, boringly repetitious liberal media
ON THE DEATH OF A GREAT:
Muhammad Ali’s off-the-cuff honesty embarrassed President Carter in 1980. Carter had said on January 20: “Unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan,” the US would boycott the Olympic games in Moscow that year. Ali was in Madras during a charity tour of India soon afterwards. I was in the same city to lecture on China on behalf of USIS.
Carter asked Ali to persuade five African nations to join the proposed boycott. After Ali accepted, a reception unfolded at the US Consulate in Madras, Ali stunned Americans and Indians alike by saying he didn’t really believe in the boycott. Next day he began a disastrous five-nation diplomatic mission in Tanzania. As African crowds and reporters surged around him Ali said, flustered,: “Maybe I’m being used to do something that ain’t right.” Indeed.
Ali’s candor wrecked his mission but exposed Carter’s poor judgment. The main result of the ensuing US boycott of the Moscow Games was the Soviet Union’s tit-for-tat boycott of the LA Games in 1984. Ali’s “gaffe” spoke the truth.
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IS STUDENT ACTIVISM RELIABLE? - MY DIARY RECORDS A UK WRITER'S VIEW
July 7, 1968, London
John Osborne remarks in an interview in today's Observer: "The trouble is that history has rather pulled the carpet out from under the working class. If anything takes over it will be technology, not the working class. And student power is a very factitious thing. It always seems to me that 'What am I' is a much more interesting question than 'What are we,' but now they're all 'we ing' all over the place. And acting as groups, which I find both uninteresting and ugly."
What a change from the way Aneurin Bevan wrote in In Place of Fear. In those early twentieth century days in the Welsh mining villages, he wrote, the question that posed itself was not: "What career shall I choose?" but "Where does power lie and how can it be attained by the workers?" It was a class question.
The proud, private individualism of Osborne is deeply hated by today’s militant student generation. They are just not interested in climbing up the usual ladders. At another point Osborne was asked: "Are you a patriot?" He replied: "A patriot for whom? A patriot for me I suppose." That is just it.
Trump read the mood of the British people accurately. Obama did not.
It is lame for President Obama to say the Orlando crime was “a case of homegrown extremism.” Once more he sells his country short.
Muslims disdain homosexuality. The American protestant churches do not and the Pope does not. A Muslim massacring the patrons of a gay bay in Florida is not a homegrown activity. The USA is a majority Christian country. Islam is not homegrown. It comes from the Middle East. Absent that transplantation, the dead gays in Orlando would be alive. Not homegrown, Mr. Obama, not at all.
June 12, 2016:
Muhammad Ali’s off-the-cuff honesty embarrassed President Carter in 1980. Carter had said on January 20: “Unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan,” the US would boycott the Olympic games in Moscow that year. Ali was in Madras during a charity tour of India soon afterwards. I was in the same city to lecture on China on behalf of USIS.
Carter asked Ali to persuade five African nations to join the proposed boycott. After Ali accepted, a reception unfolded at the US Consulate in Madras, Ali stunned Americans and Indians alike by saying he didn’t really believe in the boycott. Next day he began a disastrous five-nation diplomatic mission in Tanzania. As African crowds and reporters surged around him Ali said, flustered,: “Maybe I’m being used to do something that ain’t right.” Indeed.
Ali’s candor wrecked his mission but exposed Carter’s poor judgment. The main result of the ensuing US boycott of the Moscow Games was the Soviet Union’s tit-for-tat boycott of the LA Games in 1984. Ali’s “gaffe” spoke the truth.
SOUTH END LIBRARY (2.0MB)
TO NEW YORK TIMES
The Last Reservoir of Glamour From China’s ‘Four Great Actresses’” is a rich and welcome retrospective on women in Chinese theater But Jane Perlez slips In writing that Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, was an “opera star” in the Shanghai of the 1930s. Jiang Qing never sang in an opera either in her Shanghai years or in her arts career in Beijing later. Her theatrical life in Shanghai was in spoken drama – Nora in Ibsen’s “Dolls House” was her best-known stage role – and in propaganda films like “Old Bachelor Wang,” where she sang a single harrowing song about evil men and Japanese.
In Beijing when she ruled the cultural roost during the Cultural Revolution, she concocted propaganda theater pieces that she called operas. But she never acted in one. And these 1960s pieces were in no way akin to the Peking Opera of tradition. Deng (later) denounced them as unwatchable, just a mob rushing round shouting and looking for enemies.
Also, Perlez’s phrase, “the birth of modern China, nearly 70 years ago,” quite wrongly dates China’s modernity from the Communist takeover of 1949. As for Zhou Enlai being “the intellectual of the Communist Party leaders,” No, Mao was. Unlike Zhou, Mao wrote scores of books, long essays, and poems, and was more versed in Chinese history and Chinese classics than Zhou. Mao’s rural origins and volcanic ways made him less of a gentleman than Zhou, but he was more of an intellectual.
Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
Author of “Madam Mao,” “The New Chinese Empire,” and “Mao.”
POWER AND FEAR. 12/8/2015
OBAMA TALKS LIKE SOCIAL-WORKER- IN- CHIEF. HE WASN’T ELECTED FOR THAT. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE ENOUGH COURAGE TO DEAL WITH DANGERS AND WARD OFF FEARS. OBAMA WAS ELECTED TO BE COMMANDER- IN-CHIEF. THIS TASK HE HAS FAILED IN. HE HAS DIMINISHED OUR ROLE IN THE WORLD.
I suppose President Obama will call the Islamic-extremism outrage in Paris “workplace violence,” as he styled Foot Hood at a U.S military base in 2009, or “random violence,” his phrase for the attack on Jewish businesses and a magazine critical of Mohamed in Paris ten months ago. Certainly Islamic State is proving more than the “Junior Varsity” he absurdly judged it. Leadership at home or abroad is not in Obama’s DNA. President Hollande has called ISIS our Islamic-extremist enemy, and it is. A doctor who does not diagnose correctly cannot redeem himself by offering sweet words to the patient. Obama, in thrall to multicultural PC, still has not diagnosed the foe. Hence he will not slay it and his words are empty.
February 9, 2015
HERE IS CHARLES BLOW IN TODAY’S NYT:
“The Black Lives Matter protesters took some criticism for what others viewed as a lack of clear focus and detailed agenda. But in truth, raising an issue to the point where it can no longer be ignored is the grist for the policy mill. Visibility and vocalization have value.”
THAT’S A PRETTY GOOD DESCRIPTION OF PROPAGANDA. GOEBBELS CERTAINLY KNEW THAT “Visibility and vocalization have value.” HE APPRECIATED THE IDEA OF “raising an issue to the point where it can no longer be ignored.”
December 20, 2014
FALSE ANALOGY BETWEEN NIXON ON CHINA AND OBAMA ON CUBA:
WE HAD A COMMON INTEREST WITH CHINA IN 1972, TO STAND AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION. IT WORKED. WE HAVE NO COMMON INTEREST WITH THE CASTRO BROTHERS.
OUR COMMON INTEREST IS WITH THE SUFFERING CUBAN PEOPLE – WHO OR MAY NOT BENEFIT FROM THIS MOVE.
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Press interview in Beijing (24.9KB)
PATHOS FROM ANDREW SULLIVAN IN “THE DISH”:
“We elected Obama precisely to be calm and sane enough to be able to resist what he has now done. He betrayed us. His policy, such as it is, is utterly incoherent and as free from any sane fiscal footing as his predecessor’s. He has launched a war against an entity that even the CIA says poses no threat to the US. And his party will be eviscerated in the coming November elections as a result. If you voted twice for Obama to end these unwinnable, bankrupting, open-ended wars, why on earth would you vote Democrat to enable another one? Yes, the polls show support for the new war right now. But just watch. The easy part is over. The civilian casualties will mount, ISIS and al Qaeda are uniting again, the narrative of Islam against the West is back in the foreground, the completely farcical idea of arming “moderate Syrians” will go nowhere, and the terror risk at home will escalate. There will be no victories. Except for the Republican.”
CAN YOU DETECT A FLAW OR TWO IN THIS? MAYBE THREE? I GET CLOSE TO A DOZEN.
FIFTY YEARS ON - HISTORY, DEATH, MEMORY
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January 3, 2013
KOREAN EDITION OF "MADAM MAO" IS JUST OUT IN SEOUL
(see Works, Foreign editions of Biographies)
MEMORIES OF STUART SCHRAM (1924 -2012)
During a historic 1980 “Mao Trip” to China with Stuart and other colleagues, no errors by Mao had yet been aired publicly, and Stuart and all of us felt the excitement and frustration of the twilight Hua Guofeng period. Mao had been dead four years, but no public discussion of him occurred. “Let’s be frank, we are friends, there are too many unresolved issues,” we were told. So it was strong medicine to hear scholars, officials, and editors say: “People create Buddhas whom they worship,” and “Of course you cannot say the Gang of Four started the Cultural Revolution, Mao was responsible,” and “It is shocking to us that Mao never once visited Zhou Enlai while the premier was sick.” To recall the Mao Trip is to realize how much material became available to foreign scholars only later, some through Stuart’s pushing.
It may be hard to imagine austere Stuart Schram playing cards, but he did for several hours at Tianjin airport, as fog, mechanical issues with a Iluyshin 28, and schedule changes turned our trip to Changsha, via intermediate stops, into an 18-hour saga. Driving from Changsha to Shaoshan, Stuart jumped to see a newly-painted billboard with the now-questioned statement of Mao, “With you in charge I am at ease” and was shocked to be told that until 1977, inspection of CCP archive material required the signature of five Politburo members.
At People’s University the following exchange occurred:
Edward Friedman: “According to confidential material, didn’t Lin Biao criticize Mao’s authoritarianism?”
Hu Hua: “But Lin Biao was feudal himself – he appointed his son as his successor.”
Friedman: “That’s not necessarily feudal. Succession is a universal problem. A leader has to select someone he can trust.”
Hu Hua: “But Carter doesn’t appoint his son as his successor.”
Stuart stepped in to finesse the disagreement "If Lin Biao was influenced by China's feudal tradition, so should Mao."
Stuart was a demanding visitor, to the group’s benefit. In Tianjin at the social science academy he had a question: “In chapter 13 of Liu Shaoqi’s Xiuyang [Lun gong chan dangyuan de xiu yang] the author says the Politburo majority can sometimes be wrong. At the Xian Incident was the majority in favor of killing Chiang Kai-shek? Was that correct?” (He didn’t get an answer). When Zhuang Zhenhua at the Shanghai CASS rattled off the works of Marcuse, Stuart responded: “Why do you overlook his Soviet Marxism? Isn’t it important?” All this kept everyone in the room focused.
When Stuart complained to Hu Fuming of Nanjing University about blocked access to materials, Hu responded: ”You foreigners have to put up with it just for thirty days, we have to put up with it 365 days a year, then the next year, and the year after that.” At Changsha I wrote in my diary: “Stuart is growing increasingly testy as the heat rises and his knowledge of the places we go to also rises. …” In fact most of us felt Stuart’s sharp criticisms only made his occasional words of approval more valuable.
Over dinner Hu Fuming praised Mao’s “On Practice” and other essays, but Stuart interjected, “Most of Mao’s philosophic writings are largely plagiarized from a Soviet encyclopedia!” One day Stuart dared to ask, by citing an unnamed Chinese dissident, “why not have two proletarian parties, just as capitalist countries have two capitalist parties?” At the Hunan People’s Publishers, he pushed Fan Yinzheng, director the editorial room on the history of the revolution in Hunan: “The Hunan lishi ziliao is not properly ‘neibu [restricted access] but foreigners cannot buy it. Who decides these things?”
At our closing dinner Zhao Fusan of CASS lectured us that “the Mainland is not Taiwan” and admonished us for “impatience.” But Stuart’s impatience surely started the ball rolling toward better access to materials in China that eventually came.
Stuart, rooted in Mao sources and deep knowledge of Marx and Lenin, was immune to swings of opinion or even major changes of mind about Mao. He wrote in 1967, "I have tried to write without bias, if not without convictions." This he did. Using Mao for a purpose, noble or otherwise, is always unfortunate and Stuart never fell for it.
Stuart's focus was on what Mao meant, wanted, and intended. Some colleagues regarded this as limited, yet it provided a basis for all who studied what Mao actually perpetrated. Not everyone will discern the fundamental continuity or consistency in Mao that Stuart did, yet still explain Mao’s splits and attacks involving people close to him. One would have enjoyed a dialogue between Stuart and Liu Shaoqi on whether Mao was consistent.
Stuart was alert to balance and proportion. Mao was a flamboyant leader like Garibaldi, he said, yet also a technician of power in Lenin’s mold. The Cultural Revolution was not the necessary culmination of Mao's career, but it was one logical outcome of it . Mao warred against bureaucracy, yet this could be seen as vendetta against colleagues.
Stuart did not necessarily enjoy sitting on the fence, but he knew too much to slip into one-sided judgments. He declared typically at the end of his Introduction to Chairman Mao Talks to the People that he hoped the texts he presented "will perhaps help to combat false and oversimplified notions of whatever nature." That became a Schram mission accomplished. His writings on Mao are the benchmark.
“THE AUSTRALIAN” COLLECTS SOME EUROPEAN DISAVOWALS; AMUSING, SAD:
SPAIN is not Greece (Elena Salgado, Spanish finance minister, Feb 2010), Portugal is not Greece (The Economist, April 2010), Greece is not Ireland (George Papaconstantinou, Greek finance minister, Nov 2010), Spain is neither Ireland nor Portugal (Salgado, Nov 2010), Ireland is not in "Greek Territory" (Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan, Nov 2010), Neither Spain nor Portugal is Ireland (Angel Gurria, secretary-general OECD, Nov 2010), Italy is not Spain (Ed Parker, Fitch MD, June 2012), Spain is not Uganda (Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, June 2012), Uganda does not want to be Spain (Ugandan Foreign Minister, June 2012).
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Ron Haskins testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, June 5:
I want to emphasize the importance of individual initiative in reducing poverty and promoting economic success. Young people can virtually assure that they and their families will avoid poverty if they follow THREE ELEMENTARY RULES FOR SUCCESS—COMPLETE AT LEAST A HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION, WORK FULL TIME, AND WAIT UNTIL AGE 21 AND GET MARRIED BEFORE HAVING A BABY. BASED ON AN ANALYSIS OF CENSUS DATA, PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED ALL THREE OF THESE RULES HAD ONLY A 2% CHANCE OF BEING IN POVERTY AND A 72% CHANCE OF JOINING THE MIDDLE CLASS (DEFINED AS ABOVE $55,000 IN 2010). THESE NUMBERS WERE ALMOST PRECISELY REVERSED FOR PEOPLE WHO VIOLATED ALL THREE RULES, ELEVATING THEIR CHANCE OF BEING POOR TO 77% AND REDUCING THEIR CHANCE OF MAKING THE MIDDLE CLASS TO 4%.
INDIVIDUAL EFFORT AND GOOD DECISIONS ABOUT THE BIG EVENTS IN LIFE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS.
As was inevitable, the Global Warming alarmism is starting to unravel:
Ian Johnston, MSNBC.com, Tuesday:
JAMES Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his Gaia theory of the earth as a single organism, has admitted to being "alarmist" about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.
ALTHOUGH not the rebirth of Nature, Lovelock's Gaia perhaps provides a scientific frame in which Nature can be reborn. The missing element cannot be uncovered by mechanical science yet it finds empirical affirmation in the experience of humans at all times in all places.
But Lovelock says nobody has a clue:
THE problem is we don't know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books, mine included, because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn't happened ... The climate is doing its usual tricks ... We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now.
White House press secretary Jay Carney today said "it would not be appropriate" for President Obama to comment on the Secret Service prostitution scandal that occurred just prior to his visit to Colombia.
"This is matter that is being looked in an appropriate manner by the Secret Service itself. It would not be appropriate for the president to characterize something being looking into the Secret Service at this time.”
Why, then, was it appropriate for Obama to rush on and “comment” on the Florida shooting tragedy which is being ”looked at in an appropriate manner by the” relevant authorities? Or some time ago to comment on the Henry Gates incident in Cambridge. Massachusetts BEFORE any investigation had even begun?
Concerning Romney and wealth (my Jotting of 2/25) here is new data:
Josh Kraushaar writing at NationalJournal.com, April 10, about a survey of independents by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way:
The polling found that a message centered on income inequality was a flop with these swing voters, who said they were much more anxious about rising debt and with regulations and taxes on businesses. A clear 57 percent majority said they thought the American economic system was "basically fair" and that the deck is not stacked against them. They didn't primarily blame Wall Street or the wealthy for the country's economic problems; they instead fingered congressional gridlock. More than half (51 percent) of respondents said they preferred a candidate who advocates for an economy based on opportunity where "government lives within its means and economic growth is our top priority" while just 43 percent preferred a candidate backing "an economy based on fairness—where the rich pay their fair share, corporations play by the rules, and all Americans get a fair shot."
The left's politics of envy looks ever-worse.
Said President Obama of the slain Florida teenager: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Excuse me, is race really the most important thing about a precious human life? If a Republican president spoke thus of a white teenager shot in a controversial slaying by a black, (“If I had a son, he’d look like XXX”) the media and the Democrats would erupt in fury. The president is playing the race card, they would say. And they would be correct.
The relentless attention to Romney’s wealth by his critics is sad and un-American. As the WSJ put it on 2/23: “The only way to defeat Mr. Obama's politics of envy is with the politics of growth and rising opportunity. Voters don't really care about a candidate's wealth as long as they conclude he has a plan to increase theirs.” For years political science studies have shown Americans are not an envious people; they simply want a fair shot at becoming successful themselves.
NOVEMBER 28, 2011
As Visiting Professor at Shandong University October-November, 2011, Ross gave a course of lectures under the theme, MAO, THE CCP, AND AMERICAN CHINA-POLICY: YANAN YEARS TO HU JINTAO YEARS. He also spoke at a conference on “China's Road and China's Image” at the same university, in Jinan, his topic being “HOW TO MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF CHINA’S RISE AND ITS IMPACT ON AMERICAN INTERESTS,” (see Speeches for text). The conference was part of the celebrations of the 110th anniversary of the founding of Shandong University, the second oldest university in China, which only late in the piece took the idea of universities from the West.
It is appalling how Obama prattles about “creating jobs” when what he actually does – like his National Labor Relations Board hampering jobs at Boeing – speaks much louder. He is not clueless about economics; it is just that his ideology precludes him doing the right things. The Reuters economics columnist – yes, Reuters! – has had enough of Obama’s leftism intersecting with his political addiction to cronyism. Here he is:
by James Pethokoukis
SOLYNDRA, THE LOGICAL ENDPOINT OF OBAMANOMICS
CRONY CAPITALISM | SOLYNDRA
The bankruptcy of solar-panel maker Solyndra neatly encapsulates the economic, political and intellectual bankruptcy of Barack Obama’s Big Idea. It was the president’s intention back in 2009 to begin centrally reorganizing the U.S. economy around the supposed climate-change crisis.
To what end? Well, Obama claimed his election would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” But that was just the cover story. At its core, Obamanomics is about the top-down redistribution of wealth and income. Government spending on various “green” subsidies and programs, along with a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, would enrich key Democrat constituencies: lawyers, public sector unions, academia and non-profits.
Oh, and Wall Street, too. Who was the exclusive financial adviser to Solyndra when it was trying to secure the $535 million loan from Washington? Goldman Sachs. And had the cap-and-trade scheme been enacted, big banks stood ready to reap billions from the trading of carbon emission credits.
No wonder many Democratic strategists predicted their party’s 2008 landslide win would usher in a generation of political dominance. Obamanomics, essentially, would divert taxpayer dollars to the Green Lobby – and then into the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party. This is what crony capitalism is really all about: politicians enriching favored businesses, who then return the favor. Or maybe it’s the other way around, Who cares, really. It’s an endless, profitable loop for both.
And Obama almost pulled it off. The Great Recession conveniently allowed the president to start the spendathon under the guise of economic stimulus. (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, 2009). As it turns out, the $38.6 billion loan program for clean energy firms that Solyndra benefited from has created just 3,545 permanent new jobs after parceling out half its dough. That works out to around $5 million a job.
Unfortunately for the Obamacrats, the financial meltdown also undercut political support for cap-and-trade on Capitol Hill. Voters worried the scheme would slow growth and cost jobs. But without permanently and continually raising the price of carbon-based fuels, many green businesses can’t make the numbers work.
As Peter Lynch, a New York-based solar energy analyst, told ABC News:
It’s very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars. Those numbers don’t generally work. You don’t want to lose three dollars for every unit you make.
Unless, of course, American taxpayers make up the difference — though in the case of Solyndra, even government’s thumb on the scale wasn’t enough to save it. And it often isn’t enough when an investment’s goals are a fat political reward rather than a financial one. Indeed, studies of similar government investment efforts around the world show they’re usually a bad deal for taxpayers. An analysis of Canada’s government-backed venture capital fund, for instance, found the recipient firms “underperform on a variety of criteria, including value-creation, as measured by the likelihood and size of IPOs and M&As, and innovation, as measured by patents.”
Even after getting the loan, Solyndra spent $187,000 on lobbying efforts, according to Bloomberg, including trying to get the White House to push government agencies to install its panels on the rooftops of federal buildings and extend “buy American” rules that favor U.S. companies. Instead of revenue seeking, Solyndra was “rent seeking,” which means trying to make money by manipulating government .
And when the White House was trying to determine whether to sink another $67 million into Solyndra, its calculus was political not financial (via The Washington Post):
“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” the Office of Management and Budget staff member wrote Jan. 31 in an e-mail to a co-worker. “If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will be arguably worse later than they would be today. . . . In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”
That’s not how the private sector makes investment decision. But it’s routine for government where the stakeholders are politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists and favored constituencies. The takers, not the makers. That’s whose side Obamanomics is on.
Obama keeps talking of “put country before party” – and saying the Republicans don’t do it. How about putting the country before your relatives law-breaking habits, Mr President? Shouldn’t they be deported (both of them) or is there one rule for Americans and one for the Obamas? We in Massachusetts would like to know.
August 29, 2011
Our circle did another Joint Letter to President Ma Ying-jeou, this time regarding the indictment of former President Lee Teng-hui. It was also published in Taipei Times: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2011/08/02/2003509715
I happened to be in Taiwan when it came out, no comment to me on it from Ma’s side
JULY 6, 2011
I sent this letter to the NYT this morning
Long before Cyrus Vance backed down, our prosecutors and the media treated DSK miserably. Joe Nocera is over-heated and illogical: The fact that prosecutors cried when they heard the maid’s accusations means nothing. She did not say DSK raped her, as Nocera says (three times), but that she believed he tried to. It’s not yet “clear” that “something bad happened in that hotel room.” What’s the evidence that DSK left the hotel “in some haste.”? In fact he took a leisurely lunch with his daughter before leaving Manhattan for Kennedy airport to catch a flight he had booked one week before. Not a word from Nocera about the IMF’s loss of a brilliant person in the midst of Europe’s financial struggle.
The head of a major international organization based in Washington in which the United States plays a central role, and a leading figure in the democratic politics of France, did not have to be put into Rikers Island, a prison more severe than that for terrorists at Guantanamo. For Strauss-Kahn’s bail, $1m plus surrender of all travel documents would have been enough. But $5m assets collateral and the ludicrous extra of 24-hour armed guard were mindlessly added.
Should a United States governor or cabinet secretary be caught in a sex episode in a Paris hotel, I believe Americans would expect restraint from the French. There was more class to DSK’s wife’s statement, “As long as he seduces me and I seduce him, that’s enough for me,” than to the behavior of the New York police.
Unfortunately, conservative media, who ought to have a concern for dignity and a sense of proportion over such a tragic incident, joined the stampede against DSK, just as eagerly as liberal ones. Victor Hanson in “National Review “ 6/30/11 spoke of the “maid’s gruesome tale,” and his cover story headed “The Ugly European,” claiming DSK “pawed and manhandled” women in France, made zero connection between the man’s socialism and events at the hotel. His conclusion that the event “has reminded us how the modern European socialist mind works, is beside the point just like Nocera’s final passionate declaration, “I’d rather live here.”
I thought our reputation in Europe was supposed to improve under President Obama. A sense of proportion toward a distinguished French statesman who has zero interest in fleeing would help. Obama, who was quick to declare the Cambridge, Massachusetts police “stupid” before he knew of the circumstances of their questioning Henry Louis Gates last year, ought to apologize to France for the indignity of DSK’s treatment.
In March, Obama said of Libya that U.S. intervention would be confined to implementing a no-fly zone: “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” Three months later what IS our mission? Whose lives are we saving? Whose are we destroying? Nixon said 40 years ago he did not want America to seem a “pitiful, helpless giant.” Obama is making that nightmare a reality.
WSJ has an excellent editorial “Red Ghost over China” with the added merit of correctly labeling the forces resisting further liberalization as “leftist.” The packed trenches of liberal academic Sinologists prefer “hardliners” and unlike the editorial, they mostly avoid the term “Communist Party,” delicately choosing “elite.” Worst of all, they like to call leftists “conservatives.” This puts Chinese Leninists, of whom some exist in powerful posts, into a category manageable to the American liberal mind, like inconvenient Sarah Palins of the East upon whom light will eventually dawn. The legerdemain reflects a liberal inability to use “leftist” for anything palpably foolish, and zero understanding that conservatism means pro-market economics and a pro-individual political philosophy. The editorial is right to discern influential “true believers” in socialism in China. I don’t think they will win, but the struggle is not over.
I have some sympathy for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The facts of his actions are not yet clear, and my political views differ from his, but I think the United States has treated him miserably. The head of the IMF, a major international organization based in Washington in which the United States plays a central role, and a leading figure in the democratic politics of France, did not have to be put into Rikers Island, a prison worse than that for terrorists at Guantanamo. For Strauss-Kahn’s bail, $1m plus surrender of all travel documents would surely have been enough. But $5m assets collateral was also required and a ludicrous extra of 24-hour armed guards. If President Obama and Governor Cuomo were trying assure their feminist supporters they worry deeply about male chauvinism, their complicity in this heavy-handed treatment makes me cringe as an American. A celebrity in trouble with American law had better be a black man (think O.J.Simpson), it seems, rather than a white Frenchman, however distinguished.
May 20, 2011
WHERE’S THE BROAD VISION? – ARAB DEMOCRACY SHOULD BE THE FOCUS, NOT ONE MORE BASH ON THE FEEBLE DRUM OF THE PEACE PROCESS.
AS Jackson Diehl WRITES IN THE WP:
“In the end this looks like another instance in which Obama’s insistence on pushing his own approach to the peace process will backfire. The president was urged by several senior advisers not to delve deeply into Israeli-Palestinian affairs in this speech, just as he was warned last year not to continue insisting on a freeze of Israel’s West Bank settlements. Apparently at the last minute, Obama chose to include the 1967-lines idea in his speech. The result has been the draining of attention from the speech’s central discussion of Arab democracy, a cheap talking point for GOP opponents — and yet another pointless quarrel with Bibi Netanyahu.”
Nice to see would-be-god Paul Krugman flummoxed. Reality is an upsetting thing. He writes this morning:
“According to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, Mr. Obama has told Democrats not to draw any “line in the sand” in debt negotiations. Well, count me among those who find this strategy completely baffling. At some point — and sooner rather than later — the president has to draw a line. Otherwise, he might as well move out of the White House, and hand the keys over to the Tea Party.”
Being in hospital recovering from hip surgery, as well as reading new books, I am re-reading some previously enjoyed. Among the latter, this week I went back to “The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell,” vol 1, the best of the 4 vols by this man of multiple talents. He begins the book thus:
“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”
The book superbly lays out these passions before the reader.
GEORGE WILL has a reflection this morning:
To be 70 is to have escaped the disagreeable fate of dying young. But the Bible, which is replete with redundant reminders that life is real, life is earnest, adds this: “And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Have a nice day.
To be 70 is to have been born shortly before Pearl Harbor, to have lived through the war that was already then raging, and the Cold War, and to have arrived at the sunny uplands of today. Yes, of course, man is still, and ever will be, born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. But never before in the human story has the risk of death by violence been smaller for such a large portion of humanity.
To be 70 is to have been born about the time competent medicine was born, with the arrival of penicillin, other antibiotics and sulfa drugs. This is a reminder that contemporary America’s most pressing domestic problem is a consequence of success. The crisis — the obsolescence — of the previous century’s welfare state is a result of the social triumph represented by something unimagined 70 years ago, an enormous and expanding cohort of octogenarians.
To be 70 is to appreciate Mark Twain’s example of aging vigorously: “I am able to say that while I am not ruggedly well, I am not ill enough to excite an undertaker.” True, Twain had memory cramps of the sort that now are called “senior moments.” He worried, “I’ll forget the Lord’s middle name some time, right in the midst of a storm, when I need all the help I can get.” Nevertheless, he strode into the sunset wearing a snow-white suit.
Finally, to be 70 is to have lived 30 percent of the life of this nation, which is almost enough time to begin to fully appreciate the inestimable privilege of being a legatee of those who first unfurled the republic’s sails and steered it toward the present. That is why — with homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald — as we beat on, boats against the current, we should be borne back ceaselessly into the American past: It is impossible for the young to know, but never too late to learn, that America truly is something — perhaps the only thing — commensurate with our capacity for wonder.
(from today’s New York Times story in praise of the BBC)
“As Mr. Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government embarks on a grueling austerity program, it has accused the BBC of “extraordinary and outrageous waste.” MEDIA COMPANIES — ESPECIALLY THOSE OF THE RUPERT MURDOCH MEDIA EMPIRE, THE BBC’S CHIEF COMPETITOR — HAVE BEEN QUICK TO JOIN THE CRITICAL CHORUS.”
I highlight the sentence above to question why, if the Times chooses to mention that Murdoch’s company is chief competitor of the BBC, in similar contexts it never mentions that the New York Times is “chief competitor” (say in New York with the WSJ) of the Murdoch paper it is writing about? Murdoch is “quick to join the critical chorus,” it is implied, because it is “chief competitor of the BBC. Perhaps the NYT slanders Murdoch relentlessly in part because he is its competitor? It would be honest to mention this factor in NYT stories about the media. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
I greatly respect Christopher Hitchens, whom I’ve only once had the pleasure of talking to; and today anyone must admire his enormous courage. In a message to American Atheists the other day he said: “It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.” Here I demur. The two are not stark alternatives. For some of us who are Christians, and I think for Buddhists and others of faith, a belief in God (I leave to one side the pejorative label “despotism”) is the source of our solidarity with others. Seeing all humans as creatures, each man and woman as one speck in a larger pattern, we attribute an irreducible value to all. “Innate solidarity” is required by humanity’s common source in a Creator.
Either way, right or wrong, Christopher continues to inspire millions.
Some China specialists including me sent this letter today to the president of Taiwan about disturbing breaches of law in that country:
President Ma Ying-jeou
Office of the President
Taipei, Taiwan April 8th 2011
Dear President Ma,
As you will recall, on a number of earlier occasions, we the undersigned, scholars and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, have publicly addressed our concerns to you about a number of worrisome trends in Taiwan. We raised these issues as international supporters of Taiwan’s democracy who care deeply about the country and its future as a free and democratic nation-state.
At this time we write you to express our concerns about a recent new development: the charges by your government that seventeen former DPP officials violated the National Archives Act and two other laws by “failing to return” some 36,000 documents during the DPP administration.
According to a statement by your government on March 29th 2011, the case is currently being investigated by the Control Yuan, which indicated that criminal charges might be lodged as well.
The list of names of those being investigated includes DPP luminaries such as former secretary-general of the presidential office and minister of transportation Yeh Chu-lan, former secretary-general and foreign minister Mark Chen, former deputy secretary-general and ambassador to Washington Joseph Wu, former deputy secretary-general and foreign minister Eugene Chien, and former secretary-general and prime minister Su Tseng-chang.
We are disquieted by the timing of this announcement. If any documents had been “missing”, this should have been noted during the transition period between the DPP administration and your government in 2008. To come up with this matter three years later, when the primaries for next year’s presidential elections are underway, does suggest a political motive.
Moreover, the announcement of the “missing documents” actually came one day before Mr. Su Tseng-chang declared his candidacy in the DPP presidential primary. Mr. Su will undoubtedly play an important role in the upcoming presidential elections, either as a candidate himself or as a supporter of the eventual candidate. Announcing an investigation of him and the others at this time certainly gives the impression of a political ploy intended to undermine and discredit the DPP and its candidates.
We also want to point out that, in any governmental organization, after documents are seen and reviewed by the high officials, they are processed and filed by lower level officials. These generally are civil servants, who do not change from DPP to KMT administration. In Taiwan’s regulation-governed bureaucracy, they will not easily deviate from the established rules on handling of documents.
As observers of political developments in Taiwan for many decades, we believe that these charges are unwarranted and politically motivated. Obviously, in a democracy there is a need to uphold the law, but this needs to be done fairly and evenhandedly, without any hint of abuse of power.
In our view, this move by your government is seriously lacking on both counts. It appears to be an attempt to use the Control Yuan and judicial system for political ends, in an effort to appear “legal” and avoid criticism by foreign governments and human rights groups.
We therefore urge you and your government to sustain Taiwan’s democracy at the highest levels, and refrain from using the judicial system for political purposes.
The Taiwanese people worked hard to make the transition to democracy only twenty years ago. They deserve to have leaders who play by rules that are fair, balanced and unbiased.
Ambassador Nat Bellocchi, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan
Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington
Jean Pierre Cabestan, professor and head, Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University
Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
5. Ketty Chen, Associated Professor of Government, Collin College, Texas
Peter Chow, Professor of Economics, City College of New York
Stéphane Corcuff, Associate Professor of Political Science, China and Taiwan Studies, University of Lyon, France
Michael Danielsen, Chairman, Taiwan Corner, Copenhagen, Denmark
June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
Norman W. Getsinger, U.S. Foreign Service (Retired), The George Washington University Graduate Program, Washington DC
Terri Giles, Executive Director, Formosa Foundation, Los Angeles
Michael Rand Hoare, Emeritus Reader at the University of London, Great Britain
Christopher R. Hughes, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
Thomas G. Hughes, former chief of staff to the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Washington DC
Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota. Author, “Taiwan’s Statesman, Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia” and other works on Taiwan
Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan’s history
Hon. David Kilgour, former Member Parliament and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific (2002-2003), Canada
André Laliberté, Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
The Very Rev. Bruce McLeod, former president, Canadian Council of Churches and former moderator, the United Church of Canada
Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
Terence Russell, Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba, Canada
Christian Schafferer, Associate Professor, Department of International Trade, Overseas Chinese Institute, Chair Austrian Association of East Asian Studies, Editor Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia
David Schak, Adjunct Professor of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Australia
Michael Stainton, York Center for Asia Research, Toronto, Canada
Peter Tague, Professor of Law, Georgetown University, Washington DC
Ross Terrill, Fairbank Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA ; author of "The New Chinese Empire" and "Mao"
John J. Tkacik Jr., U.S. Foreign Service (Retired), and former Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, Washington DC
Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
Michael Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, the London School of Economics & Visiting Scholar, George Washington University
Stephen Yates, President of DC International Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs
Half-hearted intervention in Libya will bring more loss of lives there than staying out. We should be decisive, not apologetic; you cannot stop regime change in mid-course. Limited actions will only leave Qadaffi and the opposition rebels in terrible confrontation with each other, as we safely retreat. Can Obama not see this?
Obama and Clinton have many times said Gadhafi must go, now today the White House stresses it would not look good for us to bring him down. Let’s have the courage of our convictions. If he’s a monster, we should feel proud, not embarrassed, to swiftly help dethrone him and face the world with that pride.
And a little child shall lead them, we read in the scriptures. Similarly – with an apology to Paris – President Sarkosy is leading us over Libya. It is new - change we can scarcely believe in - for France to have to stir the United States to military action. Oh, but our president is off in South America…..
I remember his stirring words three years ago: "I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future."--Barack Obama, Democratic National convention, Aug. 28, 2008
If sad error in the interest of politics from a sometimes intelligent person intrigues you, read Peter Beinart in today’s Daily Beast.
He wants US isolationism in the Middle East!!!
I guess he’s so discomforted by Obama’s inability to lead in foreign policy that the neatest solution is to say no leadership is desirable. He gets history wrong; he gets the future wrong. This is the moment for American leadership. if we have the guts for it.
HOW DIFFERENT IS CHINA FROM THE MIDDLE EAST?
Mubarak fell within a few weeks of the demonstrations. In Beijing in 1989, the students mocked Deng Xiaoping and many called for fresh leadership. But Deng endured. In Egypt and China alike, what is the measure of victory?
Removing Deng as an old man out of touch would not have overturned the party-state of China. The Chinese democracy movement’s aims were modest until it was too late for a viable political strategy. They wanted respect for the just-deceased Hu Yaobang, whom Deng had purged a decade earlier. They asked for a “dialogue” with the government (which they got). But, fatally, the student leadership and the two pro-democracy members of the standing committee of the Politburo, Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili, did not link up with each other. Only such a link would have given Washington a chance to push for political change in China as it did (off and on) in Egypt.
In Cairo the youth revolution won, it seems; in China it 1989 it lost, it seems. But that is not the end of the story. The irony in China is that the man who cracked down was also the man who soon made a historical decision in 1991-92, to move to the right, not the left as his colleagues wanted, when the Soviet Union crashed, and to aim for “market Leninism,” giving the Chinese full bellies but keeping them politically docile. Had Deng fallen in 1989, there would have been immediate glee in the streets, but neither Jiang Zemin’s leadership or that of other Party leaders of the moment would have made the bold step Deng took two years later.
Of course there will be further chapters to this Chinese story, as to Egypt’s, though we may note some striking differences between China and the Middle East uprisings.
- Chinese students were totally respectful of authority week after week
- Chinese military is in no way separate from the Chinese Communist Party.
- Chinese rebels lacked a political constituency and a political agenda; do the Egyptian, Libyan, and Bahrain rebels possess these? I do not know.
I favor a Freedom Agenda for American foreign policy. But strong men sometimes can give the crucial green light for liberalization, small or great. In Asia we have seen that in China, Taiwan, and Korea. China didn’t get democracy out of Deng Xiaoping’s skillful change of gears, but it got prosperity under an authoritarianism now being nibbled at by technology and globalization.
AS CAIRO ERUPTED THESE PAST WEEKS, I HAVE BEEN ASKED ABOUT THE COMPARABLE STUDENT REVOLT AT TIANANMEN SQUARE IN CHINA IN 1989. HERE ARE PORTIONS OF MY EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT OF SOME OF THOSE EVENTS (FROM “CHINA IN OUR TIME”):
The night of the day April 26 Deng's threat to repress the student movement was relayed to the nation - without mention of Deng's name - in the form of the editorial in People's Daily.
Yet the endless rebroadcasting of the harsh People's Daily editorial actually helped the student movement by drawing attention to a rally planned to descend on Tiananmen Square on April 27. Telling people not to join the demonstration, the government nonetheless informed them of the demonstration. That day, like a huge bonus beyond their dreams, the student organizers found on their hands a tumultuous rally of one million people which made of Tiananmen Square a district of dissent. Citizens climbed trees to shout across the street their support for the students in a display of popular will that lasted 18 hours. The protestors' demands were trimmed to three: the government must talk with student representatives on a basis of equality, the police must apologize for violence committed against citizens the previous week, and the media must fairly cover the student democracy movement.
That night the radio carried an interesting announcement from the government. "We are ready to conduct a dialogue with the students at any time," it said. "But the dialogue must be through the normal channels, not as a result of resorting to extremist actions." The next day, April 28, People's Daily at last published its first news report on the spring's demonstrations. And the day after that, the Communist Party newspaper ran an editorial quite a bit milder than that of April 26, fairly politely asking the students to resume their classes.
Another rally in Tiananmen Square on May 4 added to the momentum of the movement. After the rally, Shen Tong, a biology major who organized seminars to discuss democracy and now was one of the student leaders at Beijing University, dropped by the house of his proud but anxious parents and overheard an exchange between his mother and his father, a Beijing city employee. "My friends at work were all asking me why my son is so fearless," Mr. Shen said to his wife. "And what did you say?" inquired Mrs. Shen. "I told them," said Mr. Shen, "it must be because we - the people of our generation - have been cowards for too long."
A moment of decision had arrived for party chief Zhao Ziyang. If the student movement were to have a fruitful outcome, it would have to be in conjunction with the bolder elements of a divided Communist Party, led by Zhao. Of the two other possible positive outcomes to the spring turbulence, a prompt dismantling of Communist rule was virtually out of the question, and the mere resignation of Premier Li Peng would not necessarily amount to much. Pundits abroad issued calls for Deng to relinquish control of the government, but in my view Deng - like Mao before him - was too much of an emperor for "retirement" to have any meaning. Death (or utter disgrace) was the only way for his power to come to an end.
Yet Zhao and the student movement were not in harness; indeed to a degree they were a threat, as well as a source of hope, to each other. Zhao could point to student opinion as an argument to push Deng toward bold steps of political reform, but Deng could rejoin that "turmoil in the streets" would undermine the Communist Party's authority and harm the economy.
After efforts to mount a student-government dialogue in the second week of May came to nothing, a hunger strike began in Tiananmen Square on May 13, a dramatic move designed to evoke a response from a government that was hiding behind vague, delaying gestures. "My hunger strike," Chai Ling cried to a gathering on the Beijing University campus, "is for the purpose of seeing just what the true face of the government is, to see whether it intends to suppress the movement or to ignore it, to see whether the people have a conscience or not, to see if China still has a conscience or not..."
Hundreds of students immediately signed up for the hunger strike. They took a fasting pledge and put on white headbands reading, "GIVE ME FREEDOM OR GIVE ME DEATH." They operated their administration from buses parked in the middle of Tiananmen Square, piercing the tires and removing the steering wheels so the government could not come and drive away their headquarters. With the start of the hunger strike the movement entered an emotional stage, and won enormous public support, but did not move closer to a political goal.
"Literary critics could be seen shouting in streets and alleys," Liu Binyan related, "famous writers ran around in a sweat, buying urinals for students." With a boldness unprecedented in the PRC, journalists marched in the streets to protest the lack of press freedom and support the student movement. "THE APRIL 26 EDITORIAL WASN'T WRITTEN BY US" cried the banner of one group of demonstrating journalists. Some newspaper editors marched to the door of the Communist Party's Propaganda Department, which instructed and censored all Chinese publications, and shouted through the windows, "Don't call us anymore!"
By the middle of May Tiananmen Square had become a city of protest, a spectacular locus of a student movement that had grown into a broad anti-government demonstration.
From May 13, when the hunger strike began, Ma Qingguo forsook his psychology textbooks and worked as a "student police" in Tiananmen Square. For ten days he never left the square, did not bathe, and slept each night under the Bridge of Golden Water beneath the portrait of Mao at the northern edge of the square. Part of his job was to keep open one of four lifelines (sheng ming xian) for ambulances to reach the hunger strikers near the Monument to the People's Heroes. "Our demands boiled down to something rather simple," Ma recalled. "That the government affirm our movement was patriotic, not turmoil, and that they talk to us and realize we were not seeking to overthrow them."
"Should the students push hard?" I wrote in my diary in mid-May, as I watched pictures of the events unfolding in Tiananmen Square, surprised that Deng was permitting so much foreign television coverage of the democracy movement. "Yes, they must push, because without pressure the Communist Party has too many reasons not to move ahead with reform. But the students must formulate goals as well as push," I went on. "The way to find out how strong the pro-democracy movement is would be to found a new political party, a Democracy Party."
In an exquisite piece of historical awkwardness, the hunger strike began just two days before the arrival in China of Mikhail Gorbachev, on a long-planned visit to bury the deep antagonism between Russia and China that went back to the days of Khrushchev and Mao. The flagging student movement benefited from Gorbachev's arrival and from the presence of 1200 foreign journalists in China to cover it. Here was a major reason for the extent of the world's knowledge of the student demonstrations, for Beijing had given permission months earlier for CBS, CNN and other news organizations to bring satellite dishes and extra journalists into China to report on the Deng-Gorbachev summit.
In Tiananmen Square, instead of the expected display of Soviet and Chinese flags, there were clustered the banners of a score of colleges inscribed with calls for democracy. One proclaimed in Russian, "DEMOCRACY, OUR COMMON DREAM." Another implied an aspersion upon the Beijing leadership, "WELCOME, TRUE REFORMER," acknowledging that in the late 1980s Gorbachev had dared to go ahead with political reform, while Deng stuck with economic reform. A third read, "GORBACHEV IS 58, DENG IS 85," with reverse arrows linking the two pairs of numerals. For young people, the age difference between the two leaders was devastating. "Our rulers are all old men," a female clerk said to a foreign friend plaintively, as if she had made a fresh discovery. School pupils rammed home the point about age with a startling cry. "If you fall," they shouted to the college students, "there will still be us to take over."
Never in the history of the PRC had a visiting leader's Beijing schedule been mangled by domestic turmoil as Gorbachev's was. The welcoming ceremony, planned for Tiananmen Square, had to be held instead at the airport, the Soviet chief's visit to the Forbidden City and the opera both were cancelled, and his press conference was at the last moment moved from the Great Hall of the People (outside of which 100,000 people were gathered to cheer the hunger strikers) to the guest house where he was staying. Copies of Gorbachev's address to the Chinese people did not reach the press as scheduled because the photocopy machine repairman was out in the streets demonstrating. Gorbachev had come to accomplish with Deng an historic reconciliation between the two Communist giants, but the world was changing under the feet of both men..
If the students had paid closer attention to the split within the party that opened in 1988 and widened further in early May 1989, the outcome of their passionate endeavors might have been less barren than it was. They stunned China and the world because of a purity of aim, yet the very abstraction of that purity made it difficult for their movement to be a politically successful operation .....
In the streets the police were nowhere to be seen and student leaders became heroes, signing autographs with one hand, scribbling a will with the other. Old women walked miles to bring salted eggs to the youths, food vendors donated their cakes and soda pop, and nurses volunteered their services after hours to tend the faint and the ill.
The All-China Women's Federation, the Communist Youth League, and other such officially-approved organizations, for long mere paper cut-outs whose words sounded like tape-recorded propaganda, became breathing, walking bodies that issued statements in prose with life and meaning to support the student movement.
There was something unrestrained and very proud about the days of freedom. It was as if all the things that are "true" of the Chinese ceased to be true. People were open, polite, enthusiastic, and candid. They avidly read Chinese newspapers and watched Chinese TV. They showed no trace of obseqiousness toward foreigners.
With Gorbachev gone, the Chinese government began its move against the demonstrators. The broadening of the movement during the Gorbachev visit from a student affair to an anti-government surge with wide worker support was one reason for the government's decision to act. Troops of eight armies began to approach Beijing. "The troops' arrival," said President Yang Shangkun in a whopping lie, "is definitely not aimed at dealing with the students."
The Communist leaders inside Zhongnanhai were enraged when students from the Central Arts Institute built and erected in Tiananmen Square a huge white styrofoam "Goddess of Democracy," which bore a resemblance to Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy, but also uncannily recalled the Statue of Liberty in New York. The art students took the goddess to Tiananmen Square in four parts on small carts. The 60-meters-high form was hoisted into the air to the accompaniment of music from Handel's "Messiah." Meanwhile tens of thousands of troops with AK47 rifles were inching toward Beijing, and military helicopters grated across the sky, creating an ominous air.
An astonishing number of Beijing citizens from all walks of life argued with the troops or ingeniously impeded their advance. Just as the grassroots citizen response to the hunger strike had broadened the democracy movement beyond a student affair, so the citizen resistance to the army's advance made the movement very nearly an uprising against the government. Clerks, shopkeepers, grandmothers, factory workers, drifters from outside of Beijing surrounded military trucks, lay down in front of them, let air out of the tires, blocked roads with trash cans, logs, bicycles, market stalls, and concrete slabs. At Xidan market, thieves announced a strike of ten days so that they could concentrate on impeding military vehicles....
"Don't go into the streets, in particular don't go near Tiananmen Square," said the Chinese-language taxi radio as we neared the Palace Hotel, a mile or two northeast of the square. "Citizens of Beijing, stay in your homes." Not deterred, I climbed out of the taxi, registered at the hotel's reception desk, put my suitcases in my room, and headed for the square. It was ten o'clock on the evening of June 3, 1989. "There is war!" said a pedicab driver, banging his fists together, as he quoted a fare five times the norm to pedal me from the Palace Hotel to Tiananmen Square. "I could be arrested," he added with a smile when, lacking an alternative for a quick descent on the epicenter of the student movement, I agreed to be gouged and climbed into his vehicle.
As we moved out of Goldfish Lane, which the Palace Hotel dominates, and rolled down Wang Fu Jing, Beijing's leading shopping street, the air was turbulent with shouts and sirens. "Why is this crowd still so numerous and bold and well-organized?" I asked my pedicab driver. "Because Zhao Ziyang is behind them!" he answered in a conspiratorial tone. I was virtually certain that the Communist Party chief had lost power since the declaration of martial law, but the government had not announced his dismissal and Chinese citizens had no way of knowing the truth.
It was not yet midnight and still possible to go into Tiananmen Square, and in my pedicab I approached it from the Beijing Hotel. The driver uttered dire words about "war" and "civil war," yet something of a festival air gripped many in the crowd as word spread of troops having been stopped on the outskirts of Beijing.
Through rising coils of smoke I made out the giant portrait of Mao that hung at Tiananmen itself (the Gate of Heavenly Peace), at the northern edge of Tiananmen Square (the Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace), and as I drew near it, the tall white student-erected statue of the Goddess of Democracy, its surface looking as smooth as marshmallow, loomed from the south. My pedicab whirred between Mao and the goddess, and Mao's pink-yellow face seemed to be suffering in silence as an angry post-Mao citizenry took the revenge of disorder upon him. On display were the symbols of two divergent philosophies of how to order society, a collectivist one and an individualist one.
Soldiers were jogging into the eastern fringe of the square past the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. "Go home, we don't need you," a young man cried to a row of troops. "We are all Chinese," a girl shouted in an appeal against the use of force.
The last voice I heard on "Voice of the Hunger Strikers" before we pedalled east out of Tiananmen was an anguished young woman's, perhaps Chai Ling's. "This evening people have been killed and wounded," she said, her voice at one moment shrill and the next cracking. "We say to the government, this cruel slaughter will only make us struggle harder for our goals." Strains of student voices singing "The Internationale" wafted across the square's expanse.
My driver sighed with relief as he swung into Wang Fu Jing. "Were the Martin Luther King demonstrations like that?" he asked as we found ourselves in a more normal street setting. "I suppose they were in a way," I said, groping a little for the comparison.
"Did you have as many people in the streets as we saw here tonight?" he inquired.
"About the same," I replied.
He jerked his head sharply sideways to look at me. "You know, mister, we shall overcome too." ....
Angrier, now, were the confrontations between the regular troops gathering at the square and the agitated crowds backing up the students' last-ditch struggle from Chang An Avenue and other streets east of the square. On all sides there were shouts, smoke, and cursing of soldiers. Rocks, bottles, and chunks of flagstone were being thrown toward the massed troops. I could not hope to enter the square again.
Soldiers in a variety of vehicles had been streaming into central Beijing from Nanyuan airport to the south, Shahe air base in the north, and the town of Tongxian in the east. When two public buses full of passengers dressed in identical white shirts reached a point just east of the square on Chang An, students and other citizens began to attack them with sticks and bricks and bottles.
"They are not ordinary buses," a man said to me angrily, "those 'passengers' are plain-clothes soldiers."
Convinced the bus was a capsule of infiltration, loaded with machine guns and hand grenades to aid a coming assault on the student-held square, the crowd finished the job of subduing its occupants. The bus was now half-burned, most of its windows were shattered, and I could see figures in blood-stained white shirts inside the vehicle.
"Stand on the bicycle seat and you'll get a better snapshot," cried a by-stander as I readied my camera. I followed the suggestion - scores of people were already standing on their bike seats to get a better view - and as I photographed the wrecked buses and the armored personnel carrier, I saw smoke puffing irreverently around the Mao portrait, the Goddess of Democracy, and the magnolia bulbs of Tiananmen Square's elegant street lamps.
T-T-T-T-T-T-T....T-T-T-T-T-T....T-T-T-T-T-T. For years that sound for me in China meant firecrackers, but tonight it meant gun shots, bleeding bodies, and death. The sounds were close, offensive, terrifying. Deng Xiaoping's soldiers were firing on unarmed crowds in the streets of Beijing for the first time since the revolution in 1949. "Tell the world our government has gone mad," a woman cried to me, tears running down her face.
That night, despite the horrors, my view of the capacities of Chinese people was enhanced. The courage, humor, practicality, and sense of history of youth whom I talked with intensified my faith in the Chinese ability to fashion a rich destiny for themselves. Yet I also felt that the courage of the crowd was almost suicidal, for Communists when their grip on power is threatened have a strong tendency to behave like Communists, and tanks and machine guns against an unarmed crowd can hardly lose.
A near-festival atmosphere turned into one of terror as fifty meters ahead of me on Chang An Avenue near Tiananmen gunfire rang out and people at the front of the crowd fell down. We surged back, turned around, and fled helter-skelter to the east. Where the crowd had made contact with the troops, to the west, the area of the Gate of Heavenly Peace had become an area of earthly tumult.
I went to the eastern section of Qian Men Wai Street, which runs along the southern edge of Tiananmen Square, and found it even more crowded than Chang An Avenue, and the people there even more agitated. Rows of tall apartment blocks line the broad street, and from each window a bunch of citizens leaned down to watch, many of them wailing or shouting. Qian Men Wai Street has fewer lights than Chang An Avenue and I felt less conspicuous, more part of the frothing crowd. On the street and sidewalks there were confrontations, gutter-level cursing, the whistle and snap of gunfire, and fury as the crowd realized that students and citizens at the western edge of the throng were dead and wounded.
My pedicab driver and I argued back and forth in a cooperative spirit. "If you stop, it's dangerous," he would point out. "You look suspicious. Let's keep moving." Hot, shocked, nervous, I would rejoin, "But I want to talk to people!" I would instruct my pedicab driver to take me deeper into the crowd, keeping to the darker edges of Qian Men Wai, then shots would crackle, cries of horror and alarm would rise from the front of the crowd, and impatiently I would him urge to turn around and flee from the danger, at times grabbing at his waist or tugging at his T-shirt in my eagerness to have him whip us to safety.
A woman rushed around uttering variations on one sentence: "Our students, our students! What are they doing to our students!" Yet there was also fatalism, which for many people may have eclipsed fear.
Sustained, repeated crackles of gun-fire close by made me retreat north along Zheng Yi (Righteousness) Street, and about 4 AM I reached the entrance to the Beijing Hotel. Some in the huge crowd in front of the hotel were now overwrought, including a woman who sobbed uncontrollably, kneeling on the ground, as she told those around her of having seen people mown down by gunfire minutes before. "Two young people fell dead at my feet," she screamed. Holding her spectacles in her hand and looking upwards from the pavement, she begged me: "Please tell the truth about our land!"
I found myself walking ever so slowly north on Wang Fu Jing Street toward the Palace Hotel. Despite the presence of troops, at each street corner citizens clustered to report news on the night's events, quizz each other, and offer the Beijing citizen's ever-ready philosophical analysis. A hubbub arose from the entrance to the lane where the green-roofed Capital Hospital stood. Ambulances came and went, exhausted nurses and doctors mopped their brows as they moved along the verandas, and tense crowds pressed toward the hospital gates seeking news of family or friends.
Buses, trucks, and other vehicles barricaded all the Palace Hotel's doors. At ten o'clock the previous evening, the spacious front courtyard between Goldfish Lane and the hotel's revolving doors had been a path of welcome to Beijing's newest and best hotel. Now its chain of vehicles said "No" to anyone outside with the crispness of the Berlin Wall. "The buses and trucks are blocking the doors for your protection," a flustered assistant hotel manager said when I asked the reason. "The trouble in the streets could overflow in here."
Just before 5 AM I fell into bed, 30-odd hours after leaving Boston, and there on the pillow was a chocolate mint and a card from the Palace Hotel management with a quotation from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Sleep that knits up the ravel'd sleave of care, the death of each day's life, balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course..."
The co-author of a gripping 2008 campaign book "Game Change," writes an interesting comment on Obama in New York magazine, Jan. 23:
"[President Obama] rarely consulted outside the tiny charmed circle surrounding him in the White House. "What you had was really three or four people running the entire government," says a former White House strategist. "I thought they put a pretty good Cabinet together, but most of those guys might as well be in the witness-protection program." A funny line, no doubt, but an overstatement, surely? Well, maybe not. "I happen to know most of the Cabinet pretty well, and I get together with them individually for lunch," says one of the most respected Democratic bigwigs in Washington. "I've had half a dozen Cabinet members say that in the first two years, they never had one call—not one call—from the president." . . . The president's friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett sometimes pointed out that not only had he never managed an operation, he'd never really had a nine-to-five job in his life. Obama didn't know what he didn't know, yet his self-confidence was so stratospheric that once, in the context of thinking about [Rahm] Emanuel's replacement, he remarked in all seriousness, "You know, I'd make a good chief of staff."
Bush and Condi were right, democracy is the fundamental issue for the Middle East, and they took the giant key step in Iraq. Obama has been fixated on Israel-Palestine, that is not the overwhelming issue. Alas, reading this week’s State of the Union speech, foreign policy itself hardly counts for Obama, only his forthcoming trip to South America! China? His famous Middle East initiative? Well, this is Obama whose candidacy promised to lower the sea levels, bring the Kingdom Of God on earth (in a South Carolina speech), heal the planet, “remake America”... Far too busy with transcendental stuff, in other words, to attend, on our behalf, to our actual world. Can he not after three days even call for an immediate ELECTION in Egypt, with Mubarak resigning in the interim?
Last week in Washington, brick-wall Hu Jintao reiterated that his Communist regime is democratic. Mao said that to FDR's diplomat John Service and reporter Edgar Snow in the 1940s. It wasn't true, and still isn't true. If we believe it we pay a price in repeated disappointments, wasted resources, and choosing the wrong partner in Asia.
The New York Times editorialized on the eve of Hu’s visit that Obama must tell the Chinese leader to “behave responsibly.” That is presumptuous. Kissinger told me back at the start of the 1970s opening, “We must tell the Chinese what we want, and ask them what they want.” He never gave China moral lectures. He got results; we’re not getting results at present.
The currency issue does not cause our trade deficit with China, but it does reveal the dangers to China as well as the world of the manipulation of financial matters by a command economy. Beijing keeps its currency low to keep prices low in dollar terms in China, out of fear of social unrest; the undervalued renminbi is not about us, it’s about their fragile system. Krugman rightly pointed out during Hu’s visit that market forces, where allowed, are pushing China’s prices higher and could correct the undervaluation problem in 2-3 years. But Hu tries to stop this out of terror at inflation scaring the Chinese billions. It is not an easy problem for anyone.
The White House said Hu had broken new ground on human rights. He hadn’t. “There is much room for improvement” is a phrase the Beijing regime has used often in talking about human rights (which it defines in terms of economic development only). Hu must have smiled all the way back to Beijing at tricking Obama. To ram the point home the Chinese media even cut that phrase out of broadcasts to the Chinese people.
We should welcome the rise of China, but a strong, united, prosperous and democratic China. Some presidents have put that “democratic” in, others including Obama haven’t. It’s crucial; regimes do matter.
The Chinese press wrote about Hu Jintao’s visit last week just as they did about Jiang Zemin’s to Clinton in 1997, stressing that China’s the equal of America (“two heavyweight players on the international stage”). But an anonymous Chinese blogger put it in perspective (“Do not give China a big hat, we are a poor country”). The blogger had a point. To know China well is not to tremble before China.
JANUARY 16, 2011
REMEMBERING A COMPLEX MAN
William Buckley once debated me passionately about China on his TV show, "Firing Line. Afterwards, letters flowed in from viewers, including one from the chief editor of the Boston Globe, who wrote: "I've waited years to see someone get the best of Buckley - now you've done it." Some of this response irritated Bill. Now years later, I notice, not long before his death in 2008, Buckley published a book with the arresting title, Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription. The title came from a letter he wrote to a viewer of that “Firing Line” TV show and reader of his magazine National Review. The viewer and reader, a Mr. Morris of Arizona, wrote to Buckley: “Three cheers to Dr. Ross Terrill. He slashed you to bits on the program. Cancel my subscription.” Buckley wrote back: “Dear Mr. Morris: Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription. Cordially, William Buckley.” So a book title was born, and Buckley’s ability to laugh at himself was displayed.
JANUARY 13, 2011
My friend JAMES TARANTO has impaled the NYT after the horrific shooting spree in Arizona.
He recalls from the past: "The editorial board of New York Times offered a voice of reasoned circumspection: 'In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions . . .,' the paper counseled.Here's how the sentence continued: '. . . from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.'
The Tucson Safeway massacre prompted exactly the opposite reaction. What was once known as the paper of record egged on its readers to draw invidious conclusions that are not only prejudicial but contrary to fact. In doing so, the Times has crossed a moral line."
Sadly, Taranto is correct.
Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
"It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.
That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of "the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country." Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal. . . .
Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.
As James says, to describe the Tucson massacre as an act of "political violence" is, quite simply, a lie. It is as if, two days after the Columbine massacre, a conservative newspaper of the Times's stature had described that atrocious crime as an act of "educational violence" and used it as an occasion to denounce teachers unions. Such an editorial would be shameful and indecent even if the arguments it made were meritorious."
JANUARY 14, ARIZONA AGAIN
Today, better news, the liberal politicians are proving better than the liberal media.
In his speech in Tucson yesterday, President Obama said:
"If, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy--it did not--but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud."
I welcome his implied rebuke to the NYT-driven line. It is especially pleasing – you will not read of this, perhaps – that those three words, "It did not," are not in the prepared text distributed to the media beforehand. As these things are done at the White House, they almost certainly were added at the very last moment by or spoken off the cuff by the president. Even more credit to him then. A left wing president personally rebuking the NYT for false accusations against the right is a striking event. Many independents in the Center, myself included, will vote for Obama's re-election if he follows centrist policies in the next two years.
The “Washington Post” today has a story by the fine reporter John Pomfret on our defense secretary’s visit to Beijing. It is about the “split” John sees between Hu Jintao the top leader, and the military leaders. The article says:
“Gates said that he asked Hu whether the flight test [of a new stealth aircraft] was directed at him but that Hu assured him it wasn't. "I take President Hu at his word that the test had nothing to do with my visit," Gates said. Still, asked by reporters whether the incident was a sign of a split between China's civilian leadership and its military, Gates said, "I've had concerns about this over time." “
It’s true that Hu and the Chinese generals are speaking with a slightly different voice. It is untrue that this is something out of the control of Hu, Wen and the other top civilians. They are playing the gullible Obama administration like a violin, getting maximum benefit from pretending that the civilians are patiently trying to deal with a military that wants to be tougher with Washington. Obama can’t seem to see this is a Chinese ploy to maneuver him into an even weaker position.
January 3, 2011
Today, the “New York Times” ran Zbigniew Brzezinski‘s “How to Stay Friends with China.” He was President Carter's national security adviser and the piece is in the spirit of Carter’s own recent Oped on Korea in the same newspaper: Be feeble about American interests and values but deeply respectful of China's.
Brzezinski makes no mention of American leadership in the world. No hint of democracy being different from authoritarianism. It was not Norwegians awarding the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo that brought on a ruckus between Beijing and Washington, as he says, but the absurd Chinese over-reaction to the award.
The only conclusion one can draw from Brzezinski‘s piece is that we can stay friends with China if Judge Brzezinski were to sit on the bench and rule, giving equal treatment to all. Beijing would regard that as America caving in. Being friends with China is not as important as pursuing American interests and defending American values in Asia.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
Reviewing a book for an academic journal, I was reminded of the arcane ways of our university grandees. Below I touch on two typical traits. I planned to put the paras in the review, but they are probably too sharp for academic sensitivities:
“…The Preface self-consciously declares that in this book specialists have given the “general reader” an "engaging introduction" so readers "may become their own public intellectuals.” This is pompous stuff. One reaches the “general reader” simply by clarity of thought and good writing, not by announcing an attempt to condescend to her.”
“ Problems of repetition and uneven quality in edited books like this would be vastly reduced if the same work sought its place in journals. Book publishers who complain about poor sales should stop giving in to academic institutional pressures. Book review editors of journals might also ask whether devoting majority review space to edited volumes is smart. Why are there so many edited books, thrown together for professional, not intellectual reasons? It is caused by the demands of promotion of academics through the system. ‘Publish something to get tenure’ is the reason for a number of irrational corruptions. For a majority of China books to be clusters of articles makes less sense as a publishing principle than as an imperative of our university structures. It all does little for students and less for that elusive general reader…”
DECEMBER 2, 2010
WSJ writer and friend James Taranto has unearthed an interesting comparison in two NYT editorials:
A YEAR AGO ON GLOBAL WARMING SCANDAL:
"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."—New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009.
"The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."—New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010.
Nobember 28, 2010
The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is coming full circle from the fame he had one night at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Too late and with tears, he visited the pro-democracy students, then under threat from the Chinese military surrounding Beijing. He praised them, but he also said, “We have come too late.” By “we” he meant himself and the then premier Zhao Ziyang. It was true they were too late. From above, these two leaders, and from below the student activists, had failed to link hands with each other before the dark hand of repression snuffed them out. Over two decades since, Wen Jiabao must have felt the weight of guilt on his shoulders for this failure. His colleague Zhao had been quickly purged in 1989 and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Wen Jiabao may now be trying to make amends. But he may, once more, be too late. Today the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party is solid with hardline Leninists. “Below” and “above” cannot link hands for political change today, because Wen Jiabao alone is not a sufficient “above” force to pull off the coalition.
November 21, 2010
So North Korea has lied once again about its nukes. The Obama administration has discovered it is “a dangerous country.” Oh.
Was Bush right after all? The New York Times writes today of the news the regime is secretly and rapidly enriching uranium: “The White House is clearly eager to use the new information to show that North Korea has made significant progress toward advancing its nuclear program even though it is under international sanctions for past violations. US officials were dispatched to Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, and Seoul, the other members in the moribund “Six Party Talks.’’
Let me get this correct. Washington is actually happy with the turn of events. It is pleased because talks may begin again. North Korea wants just that. They will demand a price for STOPPING the enrichment process, even though starting it was in defiance of several UN resolutions and a contradiction of statements made to the US and Japan. More talks. Talks leading - if successful! - to further Talks. Thus does Obama reveal his weakness to the world.
Christopher Hitchens is, alas, not the vibrant healthy man I last talked with at the Los Angeles Book Festrival a few years ago. But his mind is sharp as ever, as when he said these words the other day:
"I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness. Amazing. My conservative friends look at me and say, 'Welcome to the club. What took you so long?' Well that's what it took and I think it's worth recording."
In today's "Washington Post," one of our best pollsters, Frank Luntz:
"The tea party is not some fringe coalition hopelessly removed from the mainstream. It is not, as The Washington Post recently wrote, "a disparate band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage in the political process." The movement supplied the ideas that made independent voters flip from favoring Democrats by an 18-point margin in 2006 to supporting Republicans by 15 points Tuesday - and it will keep pressuring the government to change until the government truly changes."
I am not a Tea Party fan myself, but I do think some media should have taken the movement more seriously.
November 5, 2010
Exaggeration continues from the White House and it doesn't really help Obama."He is a person of the Pacific," national security adviser Donilon said of Obama as he heads to Asia today. "These countries, these cultures, are of deep interest to him. He understands these places in a way I don't know if any American president has." This overlooks LBJ (fought in the Pacific during WW2, many times in Australia), Bush (pilot in WW2 all over Pacific), Hoover (worked as an engineer in China and Australia) and many other presidents. The arrogance continues unabated and hides reality from this White House.Obama appears quite OK without the exaggeration.
Underling problem is the Obama folk and their cheer leaders may believe the illusions that engulfed them in 2008.
Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, last year published a quickie book, "The Death of Conservatism,” "American conservatism has degenerated into a hollow echo-chamber of movement die-hards and talk show hosts, disconnected from the broad public, which until recently it spoke for." Well, not quite.
In May 2009, James Carville gloated: "Republicans have no hope of making serious inroads into Democratic advantages in 2010, or likely in 2012 and 2014 and so on. It's time to call TOD on the GOP." We think TOD stands for "time of death."
Stuart Rothenberg noted that a trio of Republicans "have raised the possibility of the GOP winning back the House of Representatives next year": “That idea is lunacy and ought to be put to rest immediately.
Winning control of either chamber in the 2010 midterm elections is zero. Not "close to zero." Not "slight" or "small." Zero.
Big changes in the House require a political wave. You can cherry-pick your way to a five- or eight-seat gain, but to win dozens of seats, a party needs a wave.”
Oh, Stuart missed the wave.
Paul Krugman in October 2009:
“Lots of buzz about the possibility that 2010 will be another 1994, with the triumphant conservative majority sweeping back into its rightful place of power. And of course, anything is possible. But the signs really don't point to that. . .” .
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, with his usual nuanced take, weighed the political implications of ObamaCare's passage back in March:
"Failed, Mr. Boehner. You lost. You blew it. . . . I would think the "will and desires of your fellow countrymen" should be pretty damn clear by now: Your countrymen think your policies are of the past, and your tactics are of the gutter. . . . And so I offer this olive branch to the defeated Republicans and Tea Partiers. . . . You are rapidly moving from "The Party of No," past "The Party of No Conscience," towards "The Party of No Relevancy." You are behind the wheel of a political Toyota. And before the mid-terms, you will have been reduced to only being this generation's home for the nuts.”
Time's Mark Halperin in April 2010, "The President is on a path to be a huge success by the time of November's midterm elections."
These liberals seem to live in an Echo Chamber all of their own. The real world should not, cannot impinge on their self-regulated purity. This mis-judgment makes us centrists very suspicious of liberals exaggerating liberalism's triumphs and declaring conservatism's death. Can't we have some restraint?
November 3, 2010
“Elections count,” President Obama retorted last year whenever Republicans came up ideas for the economy. The Democrats had won in 2008 and that was that, his mind was closed. Well this morning we say to the president, “Elections count.” This time the Republicans got a landslide. Any Obama failure to adjust will be at his peril in 2012. Meanwhile let's hope for Boehner to be more gracious toward the losing side than Pelosi was after 2008.
Last week the president, who campaigned in 2008 by referring not to a "Red America" or a "Blue America" but a United States of America, urged Hispanic listeners to vote in this spirit: "We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us."
Recently, Obama suggested that if Republicans gain control of the House and/or Senate as forecast, he expects not reconciliation and unity but "hand-to-hand combat" on Capitol Hill.
What a change two years can bring.
PROFESSOR HAROLD BOLITHO DIED IN BOSTON ON OCTOBER 23. ROSS WAS HIS CLASSMATE IN AUSTRALIA MANY YEARS AGO AND RECORDS THIS MEMORY:
Harry - we called him Harry in the late 1950s in the honors program at the History School of Melbourne University - was well-organized and cheerful. He would tread heavily to Tutorial with steady purpose - I wouldn't quite say gracefully - down the sandstone corridors of the Old Arts Building, a handsome structure dating from the gold rushes of the 19th century that brought wealth to Melbourne. He would take his seat in the small circle, with folders under his arm and books on the Taiping Rebellion or the Federation debate in Australia during the 1890s, pages of importance indicated by slips of paper. Excitement at the two hours ahead of us was palpable on his face and in his large eyes. In class Harry was not talkative, but he asked many questions and gave crisp answers to the questions of Jack Gregory, our Oriental Studies professor, or John LaNauze, our Australian History professor. In those years half a century ago, we were small vacuum cleaners hunting knowledge from all corners. Hal had not yet made a move in the direction of Japanese History; his book "Treasures Among Men" lay far ahead, as did mine on the social democracy of R. H. Tawney. We would argue back and forth on the English Civil War: who among us would have supported the republicans, who would dare to say they would have favored the Royalists? We were not told by our teachers to absorb facts; we were challenged to investigate issues based on primary sources. Tawney had been visiting professor in the department for the full year of 1956, and Hal and the rest of us were regaled with stories of Tawney's year in Melbourne. Tawney told our teachers that to be a successful historian they would need a good pair of boots. Harry's traits in the History School at Melbourne were: Restraint, good judgment, hard work, and a generally optimistic disposition. His unshowy determination and steady application were unforgettable to all of us classmates. The Melbourne history school was a wonderful, if slightly elitist start to a college education, and Hal Bolitho was one of its richest fruits.
September 14, 2010
Amusing to see the Economist tell us this week (Sept 10) that Governor Rick Perry (R) of Texas will lose to Democrat Bill White in November. He won’t. The only point here is that the Economist walks a perilous line between European statism and USA public opinion. It backed Obama, to make Europeans smile. It pretends to centrist impulses, to boost its circulation amongst a conservative American public.
So here, this week, the editors tease the left with the far-off possibility that the Texas governorship with go to the Democrats - it won’t. But the article may help the Economist’s circulation. Such is media life.
August 29, 2010
Washington Post called Watergate an abuse of power, and it was. Elected 0fficials behaved as a conspiracy for a partisan purpose. Since that year of 1974, power has tilted from the White House and government in general to the media. This summer, surely it was an abuse of power for the Post to host Journolist, in whose columns writers presenting themselves as journalists behaved as partisan political operatives?
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