Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
While Beijing insists that Tibet has always been part of China, Tibetans say the region was autonomous for much of its history. China reasserted control after the 1949 revolution and says it won't ever let go. It squeezes until it hurts. Along with hundreds of millions of Chinese, Tibet's people experienced the worst of communism's privations. Hundreds of thousands died during Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward. Communist forces destroyed thousands of monasteries. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and political leader, was driven into exile in 1959. Official state atheism notwithstanding, Beijing will prayerfully discern the name of his successor to ensure that he'll toe the line on Tibet's permanent status as part of China. The central government brutally suppresses all manifestations of separatism. Its forces have killed several Tibetans in crackdowns over the last week.
Although China's treatment of Tibet is scandalous, there's little if anything the U.S. can or will do. It does regularly register its concerns to China. Barack Obama even invited Beijing's ire last July by meeting with the Dalai Lama. But it's hard to imagine this or any administration risking a significant worsening of relations with Beijing for little Tibet's sake. China denounces all alleged inferences in its internal affairs. Being a dominant player in global and American markets buys a lot of deference. In Times Square, the bright red panel crowning this video tower, a potent symbol of capitalism, has been purchased by China's propaganda arm, the Xinhua News Agency, an ironic counterpoint to the demonstrators a few long blocks away, the types Xinhua calls bandits.
When two great peoples have interests in common, a numerically small people like the Tibetans will lose out. But China should understand that they'll probably never lose heart.
Just a recollection from retired journalist Bonnie Angelo, who, in an interview with me, confirmed the story she told Fulsom: In 1972, she saw a tipsy Nixon pull Rebozo into a group photo at a Florida restaurant and hold his hand for “upwards of a minute.”That's all you've got, Don? Nixon was a profound introvert whose anxiety spiked when anyone pointed a camera or microphone at him. Bet he grabbed Rebozo's hand and forgot to let go after his brain went into hyper-observing, -calculating overdrive. This two-fisted pre-presidential handshake with Jackie Robinson looks like a semi-permanent arrangement as well. Mrs. Robinson would gladly set you straight, as it were, if you have any suspicions.
Hat tip to fitnews.com for photo
Gingrich’s precipitous fall from power was the result of arrogance, self-satisfaction, and a fatal tendency to flit from issue to issue—and even from core conviction to core conviction—in the seeming belief that if he spoke well enough (and used as many adverbs as possible) no one would notice that he was doing something he had equally eloquently (and equally adverbially) opposed before.
Let’s be clear: Gingrich is an important figure. Regardless of what happens in Florida and beyond, he will be remembered as the man who brought the Reagan Revolution to Congress. Yet it will also be recorded that Newt compared the Great Reagan to Neville Chamberlain, dismissed Reaganomics as flawed and called Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union an utter failure a few years before the U.S.S.R. was relegated to the dustbin of history.
These unpleasant facts do not stop Newt from trying to embrace the same policies he once denounced (one wonders if he even remembers the contradictions at this point), but that’s what makes my former colleague so fascinating. And so troubling.
We're going to serve notice on future debates. We're just not going to allow that to happen. That’s wrong. The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.The Gingrich campaign, after crowds in Jacksonville roared their approval of Mitt Romney's attacks on Gingrich:
Members of Newt Gingrich's campaign accused Mitt Romney's campaign of packing the audience for the Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., with its own supporters to ensure that the dynamics would be favorable to Romney.All thanks to HuffPo.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Romney won this debate, and probably Florida, and so the nomination. Newt collapsed, as bullies and blowhards often do when somebody fights back. Santorum auditioned for Romney’s VP, and greatly enhanced his chances. Ron Paul shines on, that crazy diamond.
We have two systems to measure time: our everyday one which is based on the rotation of the Earth, and a fancy-schmancy scientific and precise one based on vibrations of atoms. The two systems aren’t quite in synch, though, since the Earth counts a day as a tiny bit longer than the atomic clocks say it is. So every now and again, to get them back together, we add a leap second on to the atomic clocks. That holds them back for one second, and then things are lined up once again.
Beginning tomorrow, the Chapman University law school in Orange, California is convening a 40th anniversary Watergate symposium that features Dean. We learn today that Shepard's been trying to get onto the bill so he can call the former White House counsel a nutcase and fool to his own bad face. But the professor convening the confab said no thanks:
"Look, I don't want to hurt people's feelings," [he] says of Shepard's draft, but there wasn't much intellectual content and it was marked with innuendoes.The politics still swirling around Nixon in the county of his birth is, to borrow the columnist's word, complicated. Who can say what will happen next as the struggle over his legacy continues? The irony is that while there's a good case to be made in defense of some of Nixon's actions during Watergate, attacking Dean doesn't help him anymore. It just helps his men.
For me, the true test of conservatism is empiricism. It doesn't look as if the Ron Paul medicine is currently working very well (although some of that blame must surely lie with the massive debt that Blair and Brown, like Bush, piled up in the last decade). Nonetheless: this is the data. Britain has flatlined or declined in the last six months. The US has grown.
So here's an obvious retort to Romney and his Obama-Is-A-European schtick. Obama should simply say that it is Romney who now wants to impose European-style austerity, and it isn't working. Obama, meanwhile, has chosen an American exceptionalism strategy, which is leading to growth. By relying on that renowned British homosexual, JM Keynes.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Sunken fountains ringed with the names of the fallen mark the footprints of the World Trade Center towers. The spaces will be encircled by the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower and several other skyscrapers, each designed differently and spaced at odd intervals, like American irregulars standing guard. Their grandeur and diversity (and, one hopes, low occupancy rates) will affront the murderers.
One of their victims, Lisa Frost, an alumna of St. John's Episcopal School, had been graduated from Boston University in the spring of 2001. She was aboard United flight 175, which the terrorists flew into the south tower. Her name is on panel S-3. My wife Kathy found the name of William Wik, who married her high school friend Kathy Norton. William escaped from the south tower but died after reentering to help others get out. His name is on S-60.
I don't know if this little girl and her family were visiting the name of a family member or friend. The carved names invite touch. Sometimes, depending on how the wind blows around the plaza, the marble is dampened by mist from the thundering fountains.
The small temporary visitor center (a Sept. 11 museum will open later, in a building that looks like one of the towers knocked on its side) displays only two relatively small photos of the towers on fire. The first has the U.S. flag in the foreground. The spare text says the attacks were the work of the "radical Islamist terrorist network al-Qaeda."
Wednesday was a cold, breezy day, and the flag over the memorial snapped smartly. The largest single contributor to the 9/11 Memorial is the Starr Foundation, controlled by Hank Greenberg, the former chairman and CEO of American International Group and the largest beneficiary of the former Nixon Center.
The spire of St. Paul's Chapel, where volunteers and clergy assisted rescue and recovery workers after the attacks, and the Freedom Tower, which looks like it's about two-thirds finished. St. Paul's is an institution of Trinity Episcopal Church, nearby at Wall St. and Broadway.
Near the memorial a passerby was having a spirited and friendly conversation with an Occupy Wall St. protestor. Someone had sent pizza for the demonstrators. Vigorous debate, openness of heart and mind, generosity of spirit. How American.
If you're keeping score, that means Bill Thompson discovered two of the top-selling U.S. fiction writers of all time. The same day he released Grisham's first novel, he also published mine, which was read by dozens. Two out of three ain't bad.
Kathy and I got to know Bill in the mid-1980s when we assisted Richard Nixon, along with his chief foreign policy adviser Marin Strmecki, on his sixth book, No More Vietnams. Bill was then working at Arbor House, where he helped the great Elmore Leonard (whose Rum Punch became Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown") achieve his first bestseller, Glitz, by getting cartoonist and Leonard fan Charles M. Schultz to draw a panel showing Snoopy engrossed in Glitz. On the basis of that success, he persuaded Nixon to give Arbor House a try and did very well by 37's defense of the Vietnam war and his own policies.
This afternoon's conversation was a leisurely one about, among other things, the radical changes in the book business and Bill's continued cutting-edge work in helping promising new writers. He doesn't have a Kindle yet, and he said he got a headache when I tried to show him how to read the Economist on my phone. But we decided that as long as people keep reading, it doesn't much matter how.
His plan guarantees that if people’s investments fail, they will still get all the benefits that current law promises them. How can the government save money while giving everyone their promised benefits and making up unlucky or incompetent investors’ shortfalls? It can’t. And won’t those shortfalls be larger if people know they can’t lose? Plenty of Social Security plans involve the government saving money in the long term by taking a hit in the present. Gingrich has managed to devise a plan that actually increases the program’s long-term cost. The price tag for Gingrich’s originality, based on estimates of similar proposals in years past, would be several trillion dollars.
Jerome C. Wakefield of New York University and Dr. Michael First of Columbia concluded that the evidence was not strong enough to support the change. “An estimated 8 to 10 million people lose a loved one every year, and something like a third to a half of them suffer depressive symptoms for up to month afterward,” said Dr. Wakefield, author of “The Loss of Sadness.” “This would pathologize them for behavior previously thought to be normal.”
But Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the chairman of the task force making revisions, disagreed, saying, “If someone is suffering from severe depression symptoms one or two months after a loss or a death, and I can’t make a diagnosis of depression — well, that is not being clinically proactive. That person may then not get the treatment they need.”
Europeans should not be afraid to allow Muslim students to take classes on Islam in state-financed schools and universities. The recognition and accommodation of Islamic religious practices, from clothing to language to education, does not mean capitulation to fundamentalism. On the contrary, only by strengthening the democratic rights of Muslim citizens to form associations, join political parties and engage in other aspects of civic life can Europe integrate immigrants and give full meaning to the abstract promise of religious liberty.
The rise of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties has led several European countries to impose restrictions on Islamic dress, mosque-building and reunification of families through immigration law. These policies are counterproductive. Paradoxically, people for whom religion is otherwise not all that important become more attached to their faith’s clothing, symbols and traditions when they feel they are being singled out and denied basic rights.
Kathy's superior instincts told her that we'd find a diner on 2nd Ave. We bought the papers -- actual printed newspapers, the Times, the Daily News -- and had eggs and coffee and juice. Then Kathy went to St. Patrick's Cathedral and I went looking for a Village Voice, which, I was distressed to find, is now just a flimsy giveaway like its sister paper OC Weekly and no longer the two-section authoritative cultural and political source book that I left behind in 1990. It still carries Michael Musto's column, though. This week he interviewed Joan and Melissa Rivers. He asked Joan about Golden Globe fashions. She said, "Meryl Streep is the best actress alive, but she looked like was wearing the Temple Grandin collection. Meryl, call me."
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The United States and its allies, especially Israel, must accept the fact that in the wake of the Arab Spring, Islamic governments are likely to dominate the Arab political landscape. This does not suggest that these governments will follow Iran's model and naturally commit themselves to hostility toward the West or seek Israel's destruction. Without throwing their caution to the wind, the U.S. and its allies will be wise to adopt a pro-active policy toward Egypt. They must demonstrate that they stand for democracy, in words and in deeds, and welcome any genuine democratic development in Egypt that leads to sustainable reforms and progress, however treacherous the road may be.
[A] year of turmoil has...reversed tentative economic progress in the Arab world's largest country, which accounts for 25 percent of the 300 million Arabs spread across 22 countries. Egypt's economy, which is the fourth largest in the Middle East, has been tanking. Tourism is drying up. Investors have been scared off. And foreign currency reserves have plummeted.
Prime Minister Kamal el Ganzouri broke into tears last month as he told journalists that Egypt's economy was "worse than anyone imagines." The situation is sufficiently dire that the government has opened talks about a $3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund, an idea it originally rejected as a threat to its sovereignty.
But to jumpstart the economy with an IMF loan, Cairo would also have to undertake reforms and reduce subsidies that could seriously increase public pain. By last October, 40 percent of Egyptians surveyed by Gallup already said they found it "very difficult" to get by, with nearly half of Egyptians saying they had faced times when they did not have enough money to buy food.
In an ominous sign for the future, youth unemployment -- in a country where 60 percent of the population is under 30 -- is currently estimated at 25 percent, with few of the young having any imminent prospects. Sayed and Abdel Nabi are among them. Many of the hardcore who returned to Tahrir last fall are the marginalized and unemployed, not the idealistic activists who launched the uprising.
Monday, January 23, 2012
This now is the party of Palin and Gingrich, animated primarily by hatred of elites, angry at the new shape and color of America, befuddled by a suddenly more complicated world, and dedicated primarily to emotion rather than reason. That party is simply not one that can rally behind a Mitt Romney. He too knows what he has to say - hence his ludicrous invocation of Obama as some kind of alien being. But it doesn't work. He believes it - since he seems capable of genuinely believing in anything that will win him votes and power. But he doesn't have the rage to make it work.
”Politicians. . .make their life’s work convincing 50 percent plus one of their constituency that they understand their fears and hopes, can honor and redeem them, can make them safe and lead them toward their dreams.. . .” In the 1960’s, “America was engulfed in a pitched battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The only thing was: Americans disagreed radically over which side was which. . .” In 1964, the voter “pulled the lever for the Democrat for president because to do anything else. . .seemed to court civilizational chaos, and who, eight years later, pulled the lever for the Republican for exactly the same reason.”
Sounds at least plausible today, doesn’t it?
Like Nixon, Gingrich is smart, with a wide-ranging and entrepreneurial mind. Like Nixon, Gingrich is a striver who seems insecure around traditional establishment figures even though he has achieved much more than nearly all the politicians, editors and reporters he seems to at once loathe and fear. Like Nixon, Gingrich is fluent in the vernacular of cultural populism, brilliantly casting contemporary American life in terms of an overarching conflict between “real” people and distant “elites” bent on the destruction of all that is good and noble about the U.S.
Yes, an unstable demagogue should be a lot easier for Obama to beat than a candidate who'd make a plausible president -- e.g., judging by past work product, Romney. But in a two-party system, either party nominating an unstable demagogue is a danger to democracy, both because any incumbent can be beat if economic conditions are bad enough or if catastrophe strikes, and because the takeover of one major party by extremists, reactionaries and hatemongers means we are always on the knife's edge. The counter-argument, often expressed by [Andrew] Sullivan, is that only by electing an extremist and getting its clock cleaned can a party submerged in its own ideology be dragged back to the center. That may have worked in the case of Goldwater. But Goldwater was a sober statesman compared to Gingrich, Perry, Palin.
The Arab Spring that many hoped would bring democracy to the Muslim world has morphed into an Islamist Winter that promises nothing but sorrow and future conflict. If the Palestinians, like the voters of Egypt, ultimately choose to embrace radical Islamists, there is not much the West can do to stop them. But they can draw the proper conclusions from this turn of events and forebear from policies that are based on the assumption that the Palestinians still desire peace with Israel. This is especially true for an Obama administration that is still beguiled by the chimera of a peace accord that the Palestinians clearly have no intention of signing no matter where it might place Israel’s borders.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
We are going to argue American exceptionalism, the American Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the American federalist papers; the founding fathers of America are the source from which we draw our understanding of America. [Obama] draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and people who don’t like the classical America.Silverstein:
Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is replete with multiple references to the Founding Fathers and American constitution as the embodiments of liberty and democracy. But note how he sets up Alinsky as a radical who is alien to America. The final nail in the coffin is his reference to “classical America.” Who or what is classical America? It is of course white Christian America, everything that Saul Alinsky and many of you out there reading this are not. This is a classic anti-Semitic diatribe gussied up in Tea Party rhetoric.
Gingrich won the South Carolina primary not because of advertising, but rather because of his debate performances. Eighty-eight percent of South Carolina Republicans said the debates were important to making up their minds, and in the two key debates, Gingrich hit every GOP erogenous zone. He scolded Fox News's Juan Williams when Williams asked him about the dog-whistle language Gingrich uses to stir up racial stereotypes. Williams, the author of Eyes on the Prize, a respected history of the civil-rights movement, knows of what he speaks. But Gingrich knows his party's base, and the base loves both the coded language and attacking anyone who calls them on it.