Saturday, February 18, 2012
[H]e joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and over the next 30 years served as a translator for China’s leaders, including Mao (“He complained I spoke too loudly when I translated.”); Mr. Zhou (“He was like a father.”); Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife and a member of the infamous Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution (“She was the horror of all horrors!”); and Mr. Deng (“He was so short, I had to spread my legs to get lower when I interpreted.”)
During the same trip, I sat next to Nancy Tang at a banquet. When the conversation turned to the Sept. 11 attacks the year before, she looked at me with a steely smile on her face and in her ex-New Yorker's English berated Americans for not paying "enough attention to what's going on in the world."
IN those years of isolation from the West, Mr. Ji bicycled to work, earned about $10 a month and had but one blue Mao suit.
He was also one of only a handful of trustworthy and competent English-speaking interpreters in China. Another was his younger colleague Tang Wensheng, or Nancy Tang, Mao’s primary interpreter during the Nixon and Kissinger visits.
Mr. Ji said he had recommended Ms. Tang, who had been a family friend in New York. In the 1940s, their fathers had started a Chinese-language newspaper together.
When Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Nixon visited in the early 1970s, Mr. Ji and Ms. Tang served as the chief interpreters. The United States delegation usually came without its own interpreters.
“Nixon really didn’t trust the State Department to keep a secret, so we didn’t really have anyone of our own,” Winston Lord, an aide who traveled with Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Nixon to Beijing, said in an interview.
But shortly after that historic moment, Mr. Ji and Ms. Tang were drawn into the power struggles of the Cultural Revolution, which spanned the years from 1966 to 1976. Mao, in his latter years, grew suspicious of everyone around him, including Zhou Enlai. Historians say Mao’s close advisers, including Ms. Tang, struggled with Mr. Zhou and his associates.
The items had been preserved since the museum opened in 1952. [museum director Ali] Waheed said the the attackers did not understand that the museum exhibits were not promoting other religions in this Muslim country.
Practicing or preaching any religion other than Islam is prohibited by the Maldives constitution, and there have been increasing demands for conservative Muslim policies to be implemented.
Last year, a mob destroyed a monument given by Pakistan marking a South Asian summit with an engraved image of the Buddha in it. Pakistan is an Islamic republic that also has a Buddhist history.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Sixteen years ago, when I came out as HIV-positive and quit [The New Republic's] editorship, Buchanan, who had sparred relentlessly in public with me over gay equality, wrote me a personal hand-written note. He wrote he was saddened by what he heard - which was then regarded as an imminent death sentence - and wanted to say how he would pray that I would survive, if only so we could continue to argue and fight and debate for many more years. He was one of only two Washingtonians who did such a thing. I was moved beyond words. But he knew I loved a good argument as well. Over a gulf of ideological and philosophical difference, we could debate reasonably.Buchanan is indeed gracious in person, as I can attest from his and Shelley's periodic visits to the Nixon library when I was director. I haven't read the book that angered MSNBC, but I'm well aware of the broad outlines of his sometimes bizarre thinking -- diversity is hurting the United States, the U.S. shouldn't have have entered World War II, it would be better if we could return to the social and cultural conditions he remembers from his 1950s boyhood in Washington, D.C. He's also accused of antisemitism and excessively harsh criticism of Israel's allies in the U.S., although on this question his often-derided views about Jewish influence on our media and politics don't differ dramatically from those of Palestinians' advocates in progressive circles.
He's a complicated man and I will not defend for a second his views on many things. But he is also a compassionate and decent man in private and an honest intellectual in public. It says everything about the polarization of our discourse and the evolution of cable news into rival sources of propaganda that this ornery figure, still churning out ideas and books while others his age are well in retirement, is now banished.
For shame. Another step backward from real debate on cable "news".
It's also important to remember his opposition to the Iraq war, a classic if lonely expression of conservative isolationism. Although in her memoirs Condi Rice makes a respectable case for the Bush administration's process in the run-up to war in 2003, I'm still not sure Buchanan was wrong.
I don't defend his more noxious views, which Howard Kurtz wrote had become too "radioactive" for a cable network that Kurtz says has moved sharply left, as it evidently grasps for Fox News' intellectual near-irrelevancy. It's funny Kurtz used that word. In the early 1980s I was part of a Nixon team reading through White House files to flag documents we felt should be kept secret on privacy and other grounds. The same adjective occurred to us as we read some of Buchanan's pugnacious prose on the antiwar movement and class politics, foundational expressions of what later became known as the culture wars. As I recall, I wrote a letter that Nixon signed and sent to Buchanan saying jokingly that he needn't worry, because we'd buried his memos in lead-lined drums under the National Archives. Of course Nixon also got memos from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Ray Price, and other more moderate advisers and aides. He usually wanted to hear all perspectives on difficult questions before he made up his mind. On other occasions, such as when Buchanan was writing for Vice President Spiro Agnew, Nixon let Pat's right-wing freak flag fly. Here Buchanan seems to be quoting Agnew reading a script by Buchanan.
I also concur with Sullivan that one needn't agree with Buchanan to oppose his firing. Chris Matthews, who expressed regret about his bosses' move, isn't an apologist for racism, antisemitism, or homophobia. He's an advocate for vigorous debate as a hallmark of a healthy democracy. The man who fired Buchanan, Phil Griffin, exhibits more authoritarian impulses, believing that his views "should [not] be part of the national dialog." That reminds me of another example of the annoying new paternalism among our cultural and political elites: Rick Santorum saying that contraception is "not okay" and that as president he'd try to limit its availability. What happened to media tycoons and politicians who gave us credit for thinking for ourselves?
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I think the Affordable Care Act is a good starting point because the president's opponents seem to agree that it, more than anything else, shows his radicalism. If we can show that this, his signature piece of legislation, is not particularly radical at all, then it calls for a reappraisal of his entire presidency.
It's worth noting some background that many conservatives, to this day, remain unaware of. The idea of universal health insurance coverage in America has been kicked around for the better part of 100 years. Presidents Nixon, Carter, and Clinton all had serious proposals to enact universal coverage, but all failed to get them passed. So when President Obama set out to get it done in 2009, he took a more cautious and less transformative approach than all of those former attempts.
In fact, President Obama was so pragmatic about it that one of the core features of the law, the individual mandate, was borrowed from the Heritage Foundation, the rock-ribbed conservative think tank. Conservatives had promoted the mandate as a way to prevent free-riders in our health care system. Rather than offloading the cost onto the rest of us when they get sick and go to the ER, the uninsured would have to take responsibility for their health by purchasing insurance or paying a yearly fee. As soon as President Obama adopted this idea, however, conservatives no longer looked at it through the prism of personal responsibility. Now it is all about governmental coercion.
In other respects, the law is also careful to implement change incrementally. Rather than instituting a socialized system in which the government owns hospitals and doctors are government employees, President Obama left the private insurance market intact. Instead of creating a bunch of new programs, the law extends coverage to millions through the existing Medicaid program, and helps others comply with the mandate through subsidies. In short, the Affordable Care Act is bringing universal coverage to America in about the least disruptive way one could imagine, and with significant deference for existing systems and institutions. (Of course, the more outlandish claims about Obamacare being socialism are thus hard to defend. If it is socialism, conservatives ought to ask themselves why so many of them promoted it in the 1990s.)
Photo: Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong
Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, once one of Mao Zedong’s lieutenants, fell out of favor and was persecuted during much of that era. Xi Jinping is part of a remarkable generation that survived the apocalypse of the Cultural Revolution; as a teenager, he spent long, hard years living in a cave in the poor, remote Shaanxi province.
Xi fared better than the man considered his chief rival for power and influence in China — Bo Xilai, the Communist Party chief for the Chongqing metropolitan area, which is home to nearly 30 million people. Bo’s father, Bo Yibo, was one of Mao’s most trusted associates before being purged in the Cultural Revolution. The whole family was sent to a prison for five years, then to a labor camp for another five. Bo Xilai’s mother either committed suicide or was beaten to death.
I recount this history because it helps me understand why the men — and a few women — now running China are the way they are: impatient to make up for lost time, pathologically wary of the slightest instability, tough, resourceful, adaptable, coldly unsentimental and, as [Henry] Kissinger generalized in his introduction, convinced “that every solution is the beginning of a new set of problems.”
Hat tip to the Rev. Susan Russell for this photo of experts testifying at the hearing about women's reproductive rights.
One of the witnesses Issa refused to allow the Democrats to call was Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown University (where [Democratic Rep. Eleanor] Holmes Norton teaches at the law school), which Holmes Norton called "the foremost Catholic university in the country.
Had she been permitted to testify, said Fluke, she would have discussed the stories of Georgetown employees who are denied birth control coverage, including a woman who has lost an ovary because she was even denied coverage for pill not even needed for contraceptive, but for medical purposes. As a result of not having the proper medical care, the woman, now 32 years old, lost an ovary and is experiencing an early menopause, threatening her ability to have children.
Issa denied Fluke the opportunity to testify because she was "not qualified." She said, "women impacted by the [policy] are the most qualified to speak." Those voices, she said, "were silenced today."
When [Nikita] Khrushchev marched into an Iowa cornfield, the Soviet leadership was facing its own list of tensions, the “seeds of its own decay,” as George Kennan put it. For America, Kennan concluded, the response should be neither confrontation nor acquiescence, but instead something more complex: the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” America, today, faces a different kind of rival but a familiar challenge: to nudge China in all the ways that it can, while allowing the transformative processes underway to continue. It will satisfy neither extreme of the political spectrum, and that is good news.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
[He] wastes no time on the familiar caricatures of a sloshed, foul-mouthed chief executive and his wooden wife. His Nixons are an affectionate couple, surprisingly relaxed (she calls him “pal”) and intimate after three decades of marriage. And the president’s public awkwardness masks something more human.
“Nixon’s self-pity was a mere overlay, a kind of plastic transparency protecting the authentic anguish visible beneath,” Mr. Mallon writes. Even a cap on his teeth poignantly appears to be “infinitesimally whiter, and curiously more sincere, than the rest of his smile.”
It was pouring at St. John's in Rancho Santa Margarita when I left for a meeting at the Diocese. Out of Orange County, Interstate 5 (or the 5, as we say in southern California) runs northwest toward downtown Los Angeles. When traffic opened up north of Disneyland, we seemed to be headed into blue sky.
As the freeway turned a few degrees north around Imperial Highway, which connects LAX to Yorba Linda, this cloud bank suddenly loomed. A moment later it was raining again.
Something about all that water. I took the opportunity to inspect a Holiday Inn in La Mirada. When I emerged, the rain was over. The storm seemed to be moving southeast at the same rate the rush hour traffic was moving north.
I was 15 minutes from downtown as the setting sun colored the clouds lingering over the San Gabriel Valley. The foothills looked like they were on fire. I couldn't get a picture of that; too dangerous.
So far, this has not been an ordinary election year. It may be about to get a lot more extraordinary before it ends. War, the collapse of Greece, a stock market meltdown—anything might derail Obama, whose prospects appear much sunnier than they did a few months ago. Nothing could be more improbable than Rick Santorum swearing the oath of office in January 2013. But then who thought Barack Obama could become president when he first set out on his crusade?
"It is too easy to fire off a sarcastic or hostile response" with a nasty email, says Laurence Stybel, executive-in-residence at the Suffolk University School of Management and Entrepreneurship in Boston. "Once the 'send' button is pushed, the message is out of your control, and you can't deny having made the comments."
Consider Carol Bartz, the former Yahoo chief executive who, after being ousted, subsequently fired off an email telling the entire company she had been "fired over the phone" by Yahoo's chairman. That didn't do her reputation or her future job prospects any good.
"When there is an emotional situation, email is the worst way to handle it," says Goman. "The way the person on the other end receives it is totally out of your control."
Nearly half a billion children are at risk of "devastating and irreversible" damage from malnutrition, including stunted growth and undeveloped brains, according to a new report released by Save the Children. This "hidden crisis" kills more than 300 children every hour of every day and affects one in four children worldwide, according to the report.
Chronic childhood malnutrition has been called a "silent killer," as it is often not listed as a cause of death and does not benefit from as much attention as high-profile campaigns targeting malaria or HIV/AIDS.
Soaring food prices have left children particularly vulnerable. According to the Press Association, one-third of parents reported that their children did not have enough to eat, and one-sixth said that their children skipped school in favor of work. Chief executive of Save the Children Justin Forsyth outlined the gravity of the situation:
"Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition, often simply because they don't have access to the basic, nutritious foods that we take for granted in rich countries," he said.
Santorum could win the primary on an issue that guarantees him a landslide loss in the fall. The Christianists and theocons have over-reached - and the far right in the Congress is playing along too, further entrenching the view that the GOP is anti-contraception. Obama meanwhile seems like the sane compromiser who cares about women voters.If sanity also prevailed in GOP politics, Santorum's desire to bring about pre-1920 conditions in the realm of gender equity could be easily blunted by Mitt Romney. As Sullivan points out, Romney's health plan in Massachusetts also required Roman Catholic institutions to provide free contraception to employees who wanted it. Santorum, of course, can use that against Romney in the upcoming GOP primaries. By the same token, you might think that for once Romney would consider making a virtue of his record by saying that it's antithetical to conservatism for Santorum to say that as president he'd want to put an end to the use of birth control. As a matter of fact, Romney might say that Santorum is evincing tendencies that are borderline despotic. That would be the kind of bold move David Brooks called for on Feb. 10. If Romney is too scared of the right to take advantage of his opportunity (one might also say responsibility) on an issue of such profound concern to millions of Americans, you have to wonder about the efficacy of a system in which one party rewards sanity and the other relentlessly punishes it.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
TNI's new editor, Robert W. Merry, missed an opportunity to devote the January-February 2012 print edition to a look back and forward at Sino-U.S. relations through the prism of the Nixon initiative. I was glad to learn that the center itself has some programming planned.
Nixon's initiative had its roots in his cogitation while out of power about great power politics and how it could be reshaped to America's advantage. When he entered the White House in 1969 it was with one of the most fully formed strategic outlooks about foreign affairs of any incoming U.S. president. A fundamental aspect of the China initiative that Ignatius does not mention is that it was one leg of triangular diplomacy in which Nixon intended to use the relationship with Beijing to gain leverage in his dealings with the Soviet Union. On the China part of his strategy, Nixon was even ahead of his geostrategic partner Henry Kissinger.
Nixon personally planned the negotiating approach toward China, inventorying on his yellow legal pad the objectives of each state and where they might find common ground. It was a thorough thought process that—especially in taking account of the perspectives and interests of the other side—is sorely missing from much of what passes for public debate about foreign policy today. Nixon and Kissinger's super-close-hold manner of handling the initiative, in which even Secretary of State William Rogers was kept in the dark, had its disadvantages. Some signals from the Chinese were missed, and there were some avoidable stumbles in the drafting of what became known as the Shanghai Communiqué. But to the extent the result was a positive accomplishment, which it was, the credit was all Nixon's.
After all, isn't this mixture of emotions and motivations pretty representative of our experience? We love our partners and our children and our pets and friend and, if we're lucky, our jobs and hobbies and much more, but not all in the same way. And even our love for a single person varies and changes, not just over the years, but over the span of moments, as passion can turn to tenderness, which can turn to a desire to protect and serve, and then turn back to desire, all between the beats of a simultaneously fickle and courageous heart. In light of this, maybe the best we can say is that love in the Bible, like love in our everyday lives, is important, complicated, and at times a bit squishy. That is, it is too powerful and mysterious to be fully defined or grasped by any of us.
So perhaps for now it's enough to recognize that all the different kinds of love we have explored are part and parcel of our life in this world, that God created and blessed them for our nurture, and that behind and beyond all of our expressions of love is God's love for each of us. That's not everything we could say, of course, but I think that if we get that much straight we've probably gotten the heart of what the Bible has to say about love.
With your eyes' wide calm.
Though noonday shadows are assembling doom,
The sun remains when I remember them;
And death, if it should come,
Must fall like quiet snow from such clear skies.
Minutes we snatched from the unkind winds
Are grown into daffodils by the sea's
Edge, mocking its green miseries;
Yet I seek you hourly still, over
A new Atlantis loneliness, blind
As a restless needle held by the constant north we always have in mind.
From Good Poems: Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor, Penguin Books (2002)
Anglicanism was never a majority position in the church. In Elizabeth I’s day there were far more Roman Catholics and Protestants; so too today. The classical Anglican is a little like the political moderate. His or her views are rarely represented in elite debates, in the same way that “middle way” Christians feel left out when the media portrays a conversation between Rick Warren and the local archbishop as being theologically diverse. What makes Obama’s birth control decision Anglican is that it stakes out a position between two ideological absolutes: Religious freedom vs. health care equity. Will it satisfy the unspoken-for middle in the electorate (I’m straining not to use Mr. Nixon’s term)? I suspect so.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Being overweight is the key factor in type 2. Most people can prevent it by not gaining weight. And most people with the type 2 disease can eliminate symptoms by losing some weight. Genetics is certainly a factor -- many overweight people never develop the disease -- but 85 percent or more of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.Since 95% of diabetes is type 2, one begins to discern the vast health- and cost-saving implications of putting down the Fritos.
Defending insurers is a bit like expressing sympathy for the devil, given how their premiums have skyrocketed. Not so long ago, this page blasted Blue Shield of California for proposing three rate hikes in quick succession that threatened to raise some customers' premiums by nearly 60%. Since then, however, the nonprofit has pledged to cap its net income at 2% of its revenue. The cap means that any future increases in premiums will be driven by higher charges from doctors and hospitals, not by increases in Blue Shield's operating margins.
Hospitals costs have risen particularly rapidly, with the average daily fee for a bed in an acute-care ward more than tripling since 2000. UCLA's reimbursements from Blue Shield have almost doubled in the last five years alone, the insurer says. That's partly because the university has been shifting onto Blue Shield some of the expense of treating patients with Medicare, Medi-Cal or no insurance. But it's a trend that even University of California officials acknowledge cannot continue.
One more culprit occurs to me: I and my fellow discretionary overweight insured. I can hold down health care costs and insurance premiums by losing 30 pounds and reducing the chances and expenses of adult-onset diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. I decided this morning I couldn't wait for Lent. Hold me accountable, reader!
I want to say this to anyone who is listening: This is not okay with me. A man hitting a woman in anger is unacceptable and is not easily forgotten or forgiven. A man who hits a woman in anger deserves to be reported to the authorities and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of who might be inconvenienced in the process. A man who hits a woman in anger may eventually be permitted to go on with his own life, but he is not permitted back in my life, even if it’s been three whole years.Hat tip to Ciara Ney
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Preaching at St. John's this morning, Shivaun warned us against thinking that Christians are winners in the great salvation race and everyone else losers. Better that we all journey to God together. That may well be, but before the first service it looked as though Shivaun and Chris's daughter, Miriam Hope, who's turning one later this month, was going to beat mom to the pulpit.