Friday, May 30, 2008

Obama supporters should follow his lead

Isn't that obvious? If you support Obama, if you believe in the change he's so eloquently advocated, you do what the man says. What is the essence of the CHANGE Obama is talking about for the last couple of months? To seek common ground and solve real problems.

So if you really are an Obama supporter, please:
  • Stop Clinton hate. If common ground is what we are after, there are little but common ground between the two liberal democrats.
  • Stop calling for Clinton to quit. Obama said that Clinton has every right to continue her campaign.
  • Stop playing the old politics. Did Clinton really want Obama assassinated like RFK? Are you kidding?
  • Rein in your imagination. Did Clinton manufacture her tears in New Hampshire? Did she arrange to have people raise "Wash my shirt" signs? Did she intentionally lie about sniper fire in Bosnia? Obama would take her words and so should you.
I have no problem voting for Obama if Clinton cannot make the nomination. The man wants almost exactly the same things I'm hoping for -- except for his supporters. They rally behind his call for unity while playing the same divisive politics in his name. How curious!

It just came to light that Obama had to distance himself with yet another of his supporters -- the Rev. Michael Pfleger -- who mocked Clinton's as a racist. Obama was right to be disappointed. But the more telling fact is: If Obama cannot really influence his supporters, how is he gonna lead the nation?

Friday, April 18, 2008


Olympics is something that different people eagerly want to attach different significance to. But to the common people it is an exciting event where athletes from around the world come together and compete. There is the San Francisco torch bearer who saw the hope it represented in her fight against cancer; there is the Palestinian runner who kept up training in the midst of bullets and debris in Gaza; there is the Chinese American gymnast who looked forward to compete in her ancestral land which her mom left as a refugee 30 years ago. Are these hopes any less significant than those of the loudest protesters?

Recently many people raised the specter of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany and the origin of the Olympic torch relay from that era. They are saying: forget Olympics -- it has always been hijacked by politics. Yes, that is probably unavoidable. But the passion for it from ordinary citizens and athletes worldwide is also genuine and positive.

The Olympics is also a great opportunity to further help China join the world community and to welcome its role in major initiatives, such as Darfur. China bashing is counterproductive, and many governments in the West really stand on flimsy moral ground when they point their fingers at China on issues such as human right violations, arms sales, support for undemocratic governments, and suppression of the native people.

Here is a collection of links to websites that present somewhat different point of view on Beijing Olympics and Tibet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama and the Inability to Change

Some of Obama's remarks at a closed fundraiser in San Francisco have created a huge controversy. To be frank, I'm not in a position to judge what he said was true or not, as I know next to nothing about small-town America. But what's clear is this:

You cannot simply speak your mind in campaigns. You cannot pose competing aspects of an issue and hope the audience would appreciate their complexity. The only thing you can do is to follow party lines and talk in black and white terms.

Take trade for example. On the campaign trail, Obama is an out and out fighter against free trade. He has attacked Clinton hard on her and her husband's role in having ratified NAFTA. Yet in his book Audacity for Hope, he expressed conflicted feeling towards NAFTA and appreciated the complexity in the issues.

In the same book, he described the need to raise money from rich liberals, whose ideals are not quite aligned with working class Americans. Yet he expressed his commitment to the cause of the underprivileged nonetheless. In reality, it has proven to be not that easy to quiet that conflict.

Then there were the incidents of his aids talking about his real feelings on NAFTA to the Canadians and schedule to withdraw from Iraq to the British.

You see, Obama is trying to do the honest thing: to acknowledge the complexity of policies, to avoid the politics of misleading simplicity, to change. But time and again, he could not help but join the same game with the same tactics. Just today he mocked Clinton for things as trivial as a shot of whiskey followed by a beer at an Indiana bar. He begins to learn that only simple black and white slogans can survive election season, and people have no patience for nuance.

Why? The reason may be that it is not entirely up to the candidate; it may very well be the people. Many of Obama's supporters are out to tear Clinton down -- means of old politics -- in name of supporting Obama's new ones.

Now Clinton is not above the fray by any means, and that's exactly the point: Obama is not any different from Clinton, and is not a new messiah as has been portrayed so far. He is yet another politician.

I agree with Obama's view that issues are complex yet politics are made dishonestly simple. But I disagree that simply promising change should be enough for him to become the next nominee, because that promise may just be empty, as the candidate himself starts to find out.

Audacity of Hope

I borrowed Obama's book from the library but it was on loan for only a week. I've covered more than half of it and I was really impressed. Suffice it to say that the man knows every angle to an issue and is not naive.

If you are a supporter of a candidate, you should read at least a book by that candidate. You will learn a lot from the words that he or she writes. In the age of the Internet and 24 hour cable news, it is important to learn from the first hand source.

I should have more to say once I finish the next half.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Olympics, Tibet, and China

The latest uproar about Olympics and Tibet are getting quite ridiculous. Let's look at a number of issues at play:

Tibet Independence

People who want to express an opinion should first learn a little bit of history about Tibet and China going back thousands of years. Tibet was a subdomain of China in Yuan and Qing dynasties and its ruler subjugated to the rule of the emperor in Beijing. It is not a historic fact that Tibet has always been an independent country.

The West objected to Mao's conquest of Tibet in the 1950s, and believed that sending the Chinese army into the region somehow violated laws. By this standard, the U.S. government really has no legal claim to large areas of North America, which were inhabited by native Indians long before the white man arrived. Federal troops slaughtered many Indian tribes as the country pushed westwards to the shores of the Pacific. To further this logic, I'd like to see people examine anew the legality of our rights in Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere.

Not a single government in the world today recognizes the Tibet government-in-exile as the legal government of Tibet, and no state disputes the Chinese sovereignty in Tibet. Even Dalai Lama has said that he is not seeking separation but autonomy. However, he has been disingenuous: to him, true autonomy means having the rights of defense and diplomacy -- two main components of sovereignty. He wants to appear reasonable while demanding the unachievable.

Recent Event in Tibet

The facts of the recent event in Tibet are not completely clear. It is known that there were protests, deaths, looting, destruction of properties, etc. But it is not known that this is a suppression of peaceful demonstrations, pure and simple. West media jumped to conclusions right away and started reporting what they have always believed to be true rather than approaching this in an impartial manner.

Now the Chinese government has the right to enforce the law. The looting and arsons may not be the whole story, but they needed to be stopped. A similar situation occurred in this country when the Rodney King beating triggered the LA riot. That was a complicated event -- there were racial tension that was unleashed and begged the attention of the entire society. But blacks who looted stores and carried TVs and stereos home in broad daylight were not heroes of civil right movement. In fact, nobody can equate LA riot to a civil right movement.

On the other hand, by keeping out foreign journalists, China did make it hard to dispel the possibility of a crackdown. If nothing bad had happened, why the secrecy? I think China has a lot to learn from the transparency afforded by American democracy. Look at more than 7 years of the Bush Administration: you have large scale protests against the Iraq war, horrific abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, infinite detention at Gritmo, unauthorized domestic wiretapping, and so on and so forth, yet no gag order was placed on their coverage. In fact, Bush welcomed dissent: such things are a blessing in a democratic society. People can freely express their views.

So open up the media, China! Just as U.S. gets to continue our occupation of Iraq into the foreseeable future despite the protests, opinion polls, and a change of majority in Congress, you really need not worry about negative media reporting! Just follow the footsteps of America, which is exemplary in human rights, freedom, high moral standards, and everything else you are accused of lacking.

Olympics in Beijing

I was quite lukewarm regarding the event this summer, and thought China has put too much significance to it besides sports. But other anti-China groups actually think in the same way. They feel they can have their grievances heard by embarrassing China and disrupting the Beijing Olympics.

Boy, do they get this wrong! The violence in London and Paris did not make the Tibetan protesters look like the victim that they would like to have me believe. They didn't seem to be the nonviolent practitioners who follow the teachings of Dalai Lama. They did not appear to understand the democratic principles of respecting people who disagree with them and want to enjoy the Olympic moment. Thanks to their actions, I'm getting more and more excited about this each day, and found myself typing away at this post!

To his credit, Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he supported Olympics, that it is really deserving that the Chinese people get to host the Olympics. He understands the two issues are unrelated. People should listen to him. There are larger forces at work in China's rise to a prominent role on the world stage, and tying the frictions generated in this process to the Olympics will not resolve anything.


Let's face it: China is stepping up to the world stage, which has been occupied by others -- U.S., E.U. countries, Japan, etc. It is not a very big stage unfortunately. As China has grown in bulk, others are getting pushed aside. Some are in danger of losing their footings on the stage all together. Here are some comments made by the CNN host Jack Cafferty on April 9 Situation Room with Wolfe Blitzer:

"Well, I don't know if China is any different, but our relationship with China is certainly different. We're in hawk to the Chinese up to our eyeballs because of the war in Iraq, for one thing. They're holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of our paper. We also are running hundred of billions of dollars worth of trade deficits with them, as we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart. So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed. I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."
You see, we are deep in debt with the goons and thugs, we can't live without the products made by these goons and thugs, and the goons and thugs leave our people jobless -- and they expect to have a run-of-the-mill Olympics without hearing from us? Nobody has highlighted the real reason behind the upheavals surrounding the Olympics better than Mr. Cafferty. More than anything, it's economics.

Rather than focusing on retraining our people, promoting savings and education, investing in science and technology, stopping imperialist foreign policies, and making America competitive again, we hit China where it hurts most -- letting them lose face by boycotting the freaking Olympics! This is just brilliant.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guilt by Association

One of my favorite reasons against Hillary is the "baggages" she carries: "Oh, I'm just so tired of the whole Monica Lewinsky past!" And by association, let's not vote for Hillary.

As it turns out, Obama also has something on his back -- his pastor whose controversial comments have caused such a stir.

In both cases, the candidates were associated with people who have been intimately associated with them (Rev. Wright has introduced Obama to his faith, married him and his wife, and baptized his children), and these people did something unsavory in the past. How much bearing does that have on the qualification of the candidates? Very little. The only criterion, it seems to me, is go back and evaluate the person, and the person alone. Let's filter out these noises!

Talking about baggages, we should examine our own life, and think about the baggages we carry everyday. They may be mistakes we made or adversities we endured in the past. Are those necessarily bad things? Have they helped build our characters and made who we are today?

The bottom line is: let's elect a qualified human being to the Presidency, not a saint or savior. That has not happened and will not happen.

Obama's Speech on Race

I'm impressed with Obama's speech. It addresses the complexity inherited in the issue and that is what political discourse should have been all along!

Human affairs are some of the most complex. But when the time comes for us to select a political leader, whose full time job is to deal with such matters, we are all reduced to slogan-shouting, party-affiliating, emotional charged simpletons. Because of the short attention span, it has become dangerous to get into different aspects of an issue: NAFTA, exit from Iraq, etc.

As I have argued in earlier posts, the political process that comes after the elections is well-equipped to deal with such complexities, while election itself is anything but.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Republicans are voting for Hillary!

Many Obama supporters are passing along alarming news that Republicans in Mississippi are voting for Hillary Clinton. What does that mean? Clinton is probably a Republican. Voting for Clinton is the same as voting for a Republican, so you'd better think twice if you want to support Clinton.

If that is the rationale, then Obama clearly has work cut out for him -- his message of unity rather than divisiveness (American -- not Democrat or Republican, one America, not Blue or Red states) is not getting through to his ardent followers. For them, "Republican" is a almost a disgusting dirty word. It is almost forgotten that behind that label is a living breathing person who simply holds beliefs different from yours.

Another theory is that they believe a Clinton is easier to defeat in the General Election against a Republican candidate. However, a recent poll shows that if the election were held now, Obama is not faring much better than Clinton against McCain, so that is such a contrived reasoning.

Overall the Obama phenomenon does not seem to bring people together (unless of course you support the man), but tends to drive them apart, despite his messages. Why? Precisely because he's leading a movement. You either are part of the movement, or you should be run over by it. I've seen many Obama supporters who are the most partisan and least inclusive.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


What a wimpy word, compromise that is.

Isn't it because politicians in Washington do nothing but make compromises that our country is in such troubles? Shouldn't we stand for something solid and absolute?

Well, you've gotta realize that in politics, there is rhetorics and then there is reality. You speak absolutes in rhetorics to whip up support, then you make trade-offs in policies to move things along.

Consider the problem of outsourcing.

Hi-tech companies in Silicon Valley support it because it promotes free-trade, lowers cost, raises productivity, and spurs economics growth in the area.

Manufacturers in Ohio are dead against it because it robs them of jobs, weighs down revenue, and brings recession to the area.

So who's right and who's wrong? Both are right and neither is wrong. Therefore people's representatives in Congress will have a fight where some are for it and others are against it. And this is exactly what should be happening -- precisely because the fight represents the underlying conflicts of interests in the constituents.

The language of the fight will be in the form of rhetorics: one side would say: you are evil because you are anti-free trade; the other would counter: you are immoral because you don't care the well-beings of working families.

In the end, however, the outcome of the fight will be in the form of a compromise. Outsourcing will continue and workers in traditional industries will get help. Again this is exactly what it should be.

So next time you are about to make a decision on politics, skip the rhetorics and get right down to the meat of the matter. It saves so much time and energy, not to mention money and other resources, and always gets you what you eventually get for real, which is what counts anyway.

Finally, heroics are for adolescents. Compromises are for adults.

On Politicians

People vote for Obama because they feel that he is a different kind of politician. As if all of a sudden, Mr. Smith -- uh, Mr. Obama -- will go to Washington and usher in a new era this time around. He certainly talks like one from a different kind on stage.

Then there is revelations that his aides were discussing NAFTA with the Canadians or Iraq with the British media, reassuring them that Obama would be a realist once he becomes the President. An uproar ensued, elections lost, and people got fired.

I have absolutely no doubt that Obama will not simply repeal NAFTA or promptly withdraw from Iraq once he is elected. The campaign trail rhetorics are just political positionings to get votes. In other words, his aides were speaking the absolute truth. And that is simply unacceptable! Why? Because it shows that Obama is simply another politician, like the rest of them, who are practical, rational, and understands compromise and trade-off are the only ways to solutions.

Only problem is, that's bad campaign strategy. You've got to get the votes first, even that means catering to people's illusions and emotions. Once you are there, of course, you can apply the conventional, less inspirational but more effective tools of governing to problems at hand.

Obama is a smart man. He certainly understands how government works, and he is just another politician. He is really no better or worse than Hillary Clinton in this regard. But let that be our secret. People are so tired of George Bush for the last 8 years and they are desperate for something new. We've gotta give it to them, at least for the several months leading to November.