Jan 21

Obama sworn in as 44th U.S. President

Written by Allen on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 6:56 am
Filed under:Analysis, General, News | Tags:, ,
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Today we witnessed again another routine yet extraordinary democratic transfer of power in the world’s most powerful country.  For many, this particular occasion carries an especially momentous meaning because not only has America elected her first black (should be mixed) president, but Obama has also promised dramatic changes in the role the government plays in domestic governance as well as the way U.S. – as the world’s lone super power – exercises diplomacy abroad.

The following are excerpts from Obama’s inaugural address (full text can be found here):

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality…

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

MR. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. …

Obviously, in a speech of such magnitude, there are many themes, sub themes, under currents, as well as rhetoric.

For me, what especially stood out are rhetoric pointing toward a de-emphasis on domestic ideologies such as partisan debates of big government vs. small government, and an emphasis on unity and humanity’s common bonds – both on the domestic as well as international front.

On the International front, Obama’s reaching out to the Muslim world is especially touching.  But right after promising a new approach, Obama also warned:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

I am not sure what Obama meant by this.  Are these statements directed at authoritarian governments over the world, from the Middle East to Russia to China?

Does this mean that even as America pledges to work with the world on a less ideological term, she reserves the right to dictate policies under the rubric of concerns for humanity?

Obama ended the speech on a relatively even-keeled tone, with a call to duty, sacrifice, as well as responsibility.

What do people think of the speech and the inauguration?

Is Obama a real Internationalist or does he only sound like one?

Is Obama going to take U.S.-Sino relations to a new high – or will he turn protectionist and seek confrontation with China?

Any other thoughts?

There are currently 1 comments highlighted: 26178.

126 Responses to “Obama sworn in as 44th U.S. President”

  1. Charles Liu Says:

    The media has been calling Obama bi-racial.

    Also noticed Obama thanked George W. Bush for his service to our nation, seems to be echoing others in the new administration that while we look forward, the book on GW Bush’s shameful presidency will be closed (no one is going to the Hague for crime against humanity.)

    IMHO this is an important lesson for the Chinese to learn about peaceful transfer of power.

    Uncertain if the “unclench the fist” bit is aimed towards China; so many nations fits the bill, especially the curruption and deceit part. The “clean water” is definitely about Africa (about time we do *something*. Heck even China can claim moral superiority over us on Africa .

  2. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Great inauguration speech. Maybe didn’t hit the same oratorical highs of a JFK, but nonetheless impressive and inspiring for our YouTube/look-at-me age.
    Nice to see that your president is now capable of putting a few syllables together.

    I’m glad the US has a concern for humanity. The world needs more of that, not less. Where on earth do you get the “right to dictate” nonsense? He said: “know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy; that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”. He didn’t say “we will judge you on what you build and destroy, and we will take your fist and shove it down your throat”. Come on, Allen, of all people I didn’t think you’d be carrying on about how the world is out to get China at every turn.

    Besides, his priority is the economy. In that way, somewhat similar to Clinton in 1992.

    THe US reserves the right to do what’s best for her interests. If that means dictating policies to you, so be it. Just be glad that the guy making that determination now has more going on between the ears than the last guy.

  3. chinayouren Says:

    Allen, I think it is too soon to judge if Obama is a real internationalist or only a good speaker. Nobody knows what he will do and what they will let him do. In any case, his speech was beautiful and inspiring and I choose these lines which I hope become true:

    “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our Ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the Rule of Law and the Rights of Man, a Charter expanded by the blood of generations […] our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

    By the way, check the sad news of the fake translation in Chinese media:

  4. ecodelta Says:

    “Recall that earlier generations faced down ……………. fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

  5. Vincent Says:

    Charles, I think the PRC has gotten the peaceful transition of power down pat. Deng to Jiang, Jiang to Hu. I’m sure Hu to Xi will go just as swimmingly as well.

    I think this is an important lesson for Chinese to learn about *democratic* transition of power.

  6. ecodelta Says:

    “…drafted a charter to assure the Rule of Law and the Rights of Man, a Charter expanded by the blood of generations”

    Uh oh…. Charter 8 just jumped into my mind.

  7. Test Says:


    no one is going to the Hague for crime against humanity

    The US president doesn’t decide who goes to the Hague and who doesn’t – it’s up to the court to bring charges. As Bush’s successor, at a time when the country needs to stand together, he had to be reconciliatory. Only a fool would have laid into him on a day like that.



    I think this is an important lesson for Chinese to learn about *democratic* transition of power.

    What do you mean by that?

  8. Think Ming! Says:

    I couldn’t care less about his speech to be honest.

    I just hope to see Bush and his cronies prosecuted as the criminals they are.

    If this fails to happen then screw America.

  9. BMY Says:

    It was a beautiful speech. I have read over few times

    President Obama said” “Recall that earlier generations faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks….”

    It is true that communists and fascists had done many thing similar(I guess that’s what Obama means) but if we put the two “ism” on same ideological category which I think is incorrect.

    Karl Marx defined communism is “a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life.”(wiki) . Marx’s communism promoted classless, peace, freedom and democracy and I can’t see anything wrong with that. But Marx didn’t specify how to achieve/run communism on real economic and political level where communism failed in the hands of Lenin, Stalin and Mao alike. Stalinism and Maoism are not real communism . They are more about the revolution/struggle/governing style than ideology.

    Then what is fascism ?

    (wiki) According to Paxton, fascism is
    a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion…

    Stalinism and (some might argue also Maoism) might be very close to fascism but Karl Marx’s communism which was the original/real communism ideology is a very different (good) thing .

    Please give back the good name of “communism”

  10. TonyP4 Says:

    Random thoughts.

    * A great speaker, good credential, good education, not from a privileged family. Everthing just opposite to Bush. Give him a year for honeymoon and I bet he will do good tasks to US and the world – no way down from current conditions.

    * Leave Middle East alone – they have been fighting for over 2.000 years. Not to be a world policeman and fight wars we cannot afford. Why we need another carrier powered by two nuclear generators?

    * Economy should always be the prime concern. When every one has extra money, we can help the poor here and world wide. With money, we can fund research that will help the world too.

    * Respect countries with different backgrounds such as China. No more bully (you do not gain respect that way) and wanting to be #1 will not do the world any good.

    * The only way to help the poor is to encourage them to work – generous welfare system is not a good way to do so. Too many abuses and many bad examples just throwing money on education and housing.

    At the risk of being accused of being racist, the black are still second class citizens in the US despite the president, many atheletes, singers, movie stars, and dancers… The majority still live in ghetto/housing for the poor, with low education… Just check statistics on jail populaton, welfare recipients, high school drop-outs. Help them ‘how to fish instead of giving them fish every day’.

  11. Ted Says:

    Charles Liu #1 & Chinayouren #3:

    Obama thanking Bush for his service was a formality. The quote that Chinayouren pulled out (my favorite part of the speech as well) was the real assessment of Bush’s Presidency. In that quote, Obama essentially stated that Bush’s Presidency betrayed values central to the founding of our country and called his actions cowardly in the process. At least that’s what I heard.


    “I am not sure what Obama meant by this. Are these statements directed at authoritarian governments over the world, from the Middle East to Russia to China?”

    I think this is directed toward anyone who thinks he is speaking to them and is also meant to satisfy those Americans who support the Bush/Cheny approach to foreign policy. It’s certainly better than an “Axis of Evil.”

  12. miaka9383 Says:

    Here’s my random thought,

    – I thought the speech was inspiring.
    – The Chinese Government should not be paranoid about the things said in the speech because IMO if they react right away to the comments such as “communism” they are assuming President Obama is talking about them, but in reality it could be ANY communist government.

    – Middle East cannot be left alone because it affects America’s oil supplies
    – Respect goes both ways. And if Chinese Government’s policy is to partner with a government that allows “massive slaughter of women and children” based on a “Political Conflict” then I, personally, do not have respect for the Chinese Government or any government(I.E U.S on the Israeli government)
    – You do sound racist, but it is the fact that majority of African Americans still in poverty. But these Dancers, singers, movie stars and atheletes present a sense of hope, that things for them will get better if they just work hard at it. The Pop Culture needs to change, and maybe it will evolve to be better.

  13. ChinkTalk Says:

    No matter what the outcome of the Obama presidency, the Americans themselves should be proud. It takes chutzpah to vote in a black president. I didn’t expect that in my life time. To me, the US shows all the traits of a superpower and the ability to provide world leadership. If Obama plays his cards right, this will be further entrenched. His speech certainly shows that he is going the right direction.

    As TonyP4 says:”Respect countries with different backgrounds such as China. No more bully (you do not gain respect that way) and wanting to be #1 will not do the world any good.”

    I think Obama is very balanced in his approach, – “…but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”.

    But the Canadian media is ready with their anti-Sino commentaries: http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=1201767


    I think Obama in all his good intentions will be overwhelmed by the forces from the Right. It would be hard for countries like China to “unclench” if the Western media continues to take side swipes at China.

    I believe China sincerely wants to promote better US-Sino relationships, -http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-01/21/content_7418664.htm

    Why doesn’t the media emphasize on that?

    One thing is that I think China is ready to follow the leadership of the US if the US respsects China’s perspective; the US should realize that the most opposing force against US leadership is not China but the EU.

  14. chinayouren Says:

    @BMY – “Recall that earlier generations faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks….”

    Yes, that was not my favourite sentence either. But still, it is not necessarily comparing the two ideologies. It just lists them as two of the main threats that “Earlier generations” of Americans faced in the context of international conflict. There is nothing strange in that, and I don’t think we should try to see a hidden message where there is none.

    Who is against communism nowadays, anyway? Or, a better question: who is really for communism? Kim Jong Il?

  15. TonyP4 Says:

    @miaka9383 #12

    – With AK/other resources and conservation (like folks should live closer to start), we do not need Middle East. What we did and are doing to Middle East do not encourage them to give us oil. Basically we’re sided with Israel who does not export much oil. We have a fair share of oil per capita and we should not waste oil.

    – We cannot solve all the world problems. Do I need to know all the complexity of racial make up of Iraq being an American? Same for all problems in the world. Let them fix their own problems and let them fight their own freedom. We can help to some extend but not to send soldiers/bombs. Our POV may not be the same as other’s POV, so we should respect others.

    – Sometimes being honest has a price to pay for (in this case being ‘racist’). I value honesty over being politically correct as I’m not a politician. Our senator told the students ‘if you do not work hard, you will be sent to Iraq’. Polictically incorrect and insult to soldiers serving our country but it is true for about 75% of the students at that time.

  16. Steve Says:

    “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

    Charles Liu, et al: That sentence wasn’t aimed at China, it was aimed at Mr. Putin and Russia. Remember, the Democratic party is Eurocentric. Expect China as a priority to go down under an Obama administration compared to the Bush years. This is what worries China; that under Obama there’ll be less interaction and possibly more protectionism.

    @ Vincent #5: The transition from Hu to Xi (or whoever is actually chosen) will be the most important so far because Xi will be the first leader not picked by Deng and so without the blessing of one of the revolutionary leaders. I agree with you; I believe the CCP has coalesced around the idea of a peaceful succession. The danger would come during a troubled time, since that’s when authoritarian governments tend to choose strong leaders who don’t want to give up power.

    @ BMY #9: From a US perspective, fascism and communism represent the twin enemies of the 20th century; one in WWII and the other in the Cold War. Because the Cold War is quickly receding into the past, you might not realize how intense it was but being an older guy, I can remember it vividly… “duck & cover” under our desks in elementary school in case of a nuclear attack, etc.

    Karl Marx’s communism was utopian but no one was able to put it into practice without it turning into an oligarchal dictatorship. It seems the nature of man is that he likes to work for himself and own his own stuff. 🙂

    @ TonyP4 #10 & miaka9383 #12: “The majority still live in ghetto/housing for the poor” & “…but it is the fact that majority of African Americans still in poverty.”

    Though widely believed, both those statements are no longer true. It’s been building since the 1960s but especially in the last 20 years, African Americans are represented in just about every business and on every corporate management level. They have also made great strides in high end professions such as attorneys and physicians. The current poverty rate is 24.5% and that can be almost entirely traced back to single parent families and their children. Bill Cosby has been spending his retirement trying to address this problem, which he believes is homegrown and can be corrected from within the community. The current black population in the USA is estimated at 40.7 million. Here are some statistics that show where the problems lie:

    Families and Children:

    Percentage of families among households with a single-race black householder. There were 8.5 million black family households.

    Among families with single-race black householders, the percentage that are married couples.

    1.2 million
    Number of single-race black grandparents living with their own grandchildren younger than 18. Of this number, 50 percent were also responsible for their care.

    But on the good side:


    The percentage of single-race blacks 16 and older who work in management, professional and related occupations. There are 49,730 black physicians and surgeons, 70,620 postsecondary teachers, 49,050 lawyers, and 57,720 chief executives.

    (These statistics are all from the US Census Bureau)

    So the changes have been astonishing over the last 20 years, but there is still work to do, not only with African Americans but also with Latinos and Native Americans.

  17. pug_ster Says:

    I agree with Chinayouren about the wait and see attitude of Obama. I am sure that most people here agree that Obama is a great speechwriter and orator, but he lacks experience as a politican. He was able to win the election by portraying himself as a Washington Outsider while portraying other politicians as the old Washington Bureaucracy.

    Hey, I had high hopes for Clinton when he got elected in 1992 only to see him smeared in scandals. GWB has as much as a 90% approval rating after the 9/11 attacks but now sunk a low 22% approval rating when he left office. Right now Obama has around 66% approval rating and he hasn’t enacted one law or have done anything significant as president yet so most of the Americans have given him the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t, and I am a realist and I set my bar low after the disappointments from the previous 2 presidents.

  18. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve #16

    Jail population.

    Social Welfare recipient.

    Black and Latinos are not looking good percentage wise. They make progress in last 20 years, but still lack behind.

    I think most problems can be related to the culture of their single parent family and our generous welfare that encourages it.

  19. Steve Says:

    @ TonyP4: You’re not being racist, you’re being honest. There is still a significant percentage of African Americans that fall into every category you mentioned. The programs are there to help them; they just have to take advantage of what currently exists. Breaking the cycle of poverty within families is not easy but can be done with a change in attitude and behavior. Governments can only do so much.

    I read an interesting statistic the other day. It showed that violent crime rose when drug enforcement (Drug Wars) rose, and dropped when drug enforcement dropped. They went all the way back to Prohibition and the numbers tracked exactly. Too much of the prison population is in because of drug related offenses. How to combat this is problematic, but it needs to be addressed.

  20. Wahaha Says:

    Here is the problem for America (sorry I wont provide link, in case touch someone’s nerves)


    From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result


    Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J., released a study noting that 52.6 percent of Americans “now receive significant income from government programs.”

    That’s 52.6 percent – more than a majority.

    Just seven years ago, just about the time George Bush was preparing to enter the White House as a Republican president promising “compassionate conservatism,” that number was 49.4 percent – still way too high, far too close to that breaking point, but at least slightly less than a majority.

    Go back a little further in time, to 1950, and the number was a mere 28.3 percent.


    America has reached a critical breaking point.

    Will we learn from history?

    Is it too late to reverse course?

    Will we defy the odds?

    Will we be the exception that proves the rule?

    I sure hope so, but how are we going to outvote people whose livelihoods and slothfulness depend on casting ballots for the masters who serve them their slop?


    The following is NOT THE link.


  21. TonyP4 Says:

    @Wahaha #20

    You’re right in too much money go to welfare and entitlement in US. However, they can be fixed easily. It is OK to give to the poor blindly when the country is rich like in the 50s.

    * First the politicians cannot buy votes anymore. They cannot kowtow to senior citizens that could lead to bankruptcy of the social security system. They cannot promise to give money to the poor in order to buy their votes. When I hear how many billions will be spent to start these programs for the poor, I always wonder where the money would come from.

    * Encourage welfare recipients to work. They should not have less health care/welfare benefits when they start to work. Teenagers should not be encouraged to have babies in order to entitle to the generous welfare benefits. When you’ve three generations of teenager parents in same family, something is wrong.

    * Punish the welfare cheaters. There are so many. It is human nature to be lazy. We have ‘disabled’ fireman and policeman regularly displayed how active they can be on newspaper/TV. I know the entire gang of motor cyclists playing with the cycles all day long. They’re all capable to work.

    I know many workers who can hide their income (small business and restaurants) collect welfare, food stamp, free health care and until recently free fuel.

    * No benefits to illegal aliens. Few countries offer free full coverage of health care for illegal aliens. See what happens to California. You can call it harsh or uncivilized, but I call it realistic. Ask the Mexicans how they treat their own illegal aliens, you’ll be surprised and say how stupid we’re.

    Do you know there is real books to describe how to retire and live freely by benefits in US by Taiwan authors?

    There must be many other ways to cut down welfare/entitlement. Just use common sense.

  22. TonyP4 Says:

    There was an Asian ahead of me who bought the most expensive cut of beef with food stamps.

    The ‘disabled’ fireman got caught in Boston due to his appearance in body building contest. He is not physically disabled but mentally. 🙂

    Everyday examples abound!

    China censored Obama’s speech.

  23. WillF Says:

    As for the “unclench” part, I think that was definitely intended for China, though perhaps more so for Iran, North Korea, Myanmar/Burma, and Syria. I think (hope) that Obama is well-informed enough to realize that 1. democracy/human rights-based diplomacy doesn’t work (at least not with China) and 2. China’s current domestic situation looks almost nothing like that of the USSR or present-day North Korea.

    The “communism” reference, I believe, was not in reference to China but to the USSR/Eastern bloc that collapsed in the early 1990s. Note the use of the past tense in the statement: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism….” He was clearly referring to WWII and the Cold War.

    Anyway, I don’t think the Chinese have to worry that Obama plans to take a hostile stance toward the CCP. Obama needs a stable, growing China to achieve his #1 goal at the moment, which is ending the recession ASAP. Even after that has been accomplished (assuming it will be :\…), a political crisis in China would be a nightmare for Obama or any other US president. Not only would it spark another worldwide recession, it may lead to a massive arms buildup across the region, involving Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, and maybe even Japan, as the various neighbors begin to worry about the future security implications of a weak China. That doesn’t even take into account Taiwan’s reaction, which could set the stage for conflict down the road… ugh the whole thing makes me shudder just thinking about it.

    In short, while Obama may “talk the talk” when it comes to authoritarianism, he can’t “walk the walk” anywhere right now due to the economy, and even if the economy was good, he wouldn’t “walk the walk” when it comes to China anyway.

  24. Allen Says:

    Does anyone know why the President of the United States uses a cord phone and not a more convenient cordless phone? Is it for security reasons – or is it more of a nostalgic photo op?

  25. Steve Says:

    @ WillF #23: I was reading online papers from around the world and Kenya thought the “unclench” was referring to their country, and just about every other country you mention also felt it referred to them. Talk about killing ten birds with one stone! 😛

    There’ll be a lot more pressure to engage in human rights diplomacy on the Democratic side. The Bush administration made small talk about it, but behind the scenes it wasn’t much of a factor at all.

    I agree with you; I don’t think China will be the focal point of an Obama foreign policy. China is trying to build up its domestic economy and the only land it talks about that it doesn’t already govern are a few small islands and Taiwan. The US concern with Russia is that their foreign policy is to re-exert their sphere of influence over the former USSR republics and eastern Europe. That is far more a cause of concern to western Europe and the US, and Russia can and has played the energy card. It has a larger Navy per tonnage than anyone except the US, the largest air force, a smaller army than China but one that is closer to the EU, and more modern technology.

    Outside of occasional rumblings about the China/Taiwan situation (and those have calmed down with better relations between the two), China and the USA have no geopolitical conflicts to speak of. There are trade issues but both economies are so intertwined that those are relatively minor. China’s foreign policy is built around garnering support for its Tibet and Taiwan policies, and the accumulation of raw materials to feed its industries.

    Obama’s biggest concern is freeing up troops by withdrawing them from Iraq, solving the problem in Afghanistan/Pakistan and by doing so, restrict Russia’s ability to interfere in the affairs of its former empire. Currently, the US military is too bogged down to effectively counter any move Russia might make.

  26. Raj Says:

    Does anyone have a link to that video of where the Chinese translator stopped mid-way through after Obama talked about people resisting Communism?

  27. Charles Liu Says:

    Allan @ 24, Obama’s desk is empty – “What do I have to dial for office supply?”

    Yeah, Raj from PKD, as much as I hate to agree with you – the Chinese censor has over reacted. Obama was obviousely talking about the Soviets, and China ain’t communist no more.

    It’s best to not have censorship at all. Perhaps one day PKD will stop banning opinions it doens’t like.

  28. Ms Chief Says:

    @Raj #26: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxBVmkP04Ag

  29. Ms Chief Says:

    @Raj #26: Here is the video of Obama’s censored speech.

  30. MutantJedi Says:

    Charles @ 27. Perhaps, one day, they’ll figure out just how much attention deleting something can draw.

  31. Think Ming! Says:

    @ Charles 27

    I’m banned from PKD.

    I’m such a firebrand! I audaciously pointed out that Richard starting a debate about whether or not Raj ‘hates China’ was like something of anti-CNN.

    I had some great links on that Hudson River ‘miracle’ too.

    But anyway. . . I really hope we see war crimes trials of the previous US administration. The torture issue is surely clear cut enough to warrant an investigation and trial. Obama is nothing but hot air until Bush and co are investigated, tried and hopefully imprisoned.

  32. Allen Says:

    @MutantJedi #30,

    Well – some of the websites seem to be omitting translations of sensitive parts of the speech – see, e.g., wall street journal report.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #24:
    it’s corded because it’s his desk phone, which he’ll probably only use when he’s sitting right there. We all need cordless phones so we can schlepp it around the house while we talk; but when you’re the President of the United States, if he’s wandering the halls and needs a phone, I’m guessing people bring it to him (ahhh, the perks of the office…)

  34. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve #25:
    “I was reading online papers from around the world and Kenya thought the “unclench” was referring to their country, and just about every other country you mention also felt it referred to them.” – that takes the beauty of his speech to a whole new level. Without naming a single country, the ones with the “guilty conscience” stand up and identify themselves. Brilliant!

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To C-Talk #13:
    “It would be hard for countries like China to “unclench” if the Western media continues to take side swipes at China.” – why would China’s decision on whether “to clench or not to clench” depend on the actions of the western media? I thought it was all about CHina doing her own thing, and not at the behest of foreign governments. But now she’s going to be influenced by foreign media?

  36. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve (#25): “I agree with you; I don’t think China will be the focal point of an Obama foreign policy. China is trying to build up its domestic economy and the only land it talks about that it doesn’t already govern are a few small islands and Taiwan. The US concern with Russia is that their foreign policy is to re-exert their sphere of influence over the former USSR republics and eastern Europe.”

    I sometimes wonder why China is seen as _the_ bad guy in Western opinion when it’s so obvious Russia fits the mark better – Russia stops and starts its gas flow to get concessions, they have been waging a war for years that is worse than the Gaza onslaught and there are cases where journalists reporting about it are murdered.

  37. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#24): I’m also interested in telephone business, but mostly in what happens when two leaders of different countries call each other. I watched a Chinese documentary once about the Taiwan question where the narrator described how Jiang Zemin called Bill Clinton after Li Denghui had announced his “two states theory.”

    Now, how does this work? How do they talk to each other?

    – Obama, there’s a call coming in. The red phone.
    – From where?
    – Looks like Russia.
    – Er… Tell them I’m sleeping.

  38. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL:
    is there still such a thing as a hot line?
    I don’t know how much English Hu Jintao speaks, and I think it’s safe to assume Obama can’t do Mandarin. So I imagine there’ll be translators on both ends of the line…hopefully good ones.

  39. WillF Says:

    @Wukailong #36:

    I think Russia’s reputation in the West is as bad as, if not worse than, China’s. I don’t think China is seen as “the” bad guy as you say; people may be more afraid of China in the West simply because it’s seen as a growing power while Russia has been seen, until recently, as a shadow of its former self. But Russia is routinely slammed in the Western media. There was a bit of a honeymoon with Russia in the early 1990s, after the fall of the USSR, but by the late 1990s, and especially after Putin came to power, the West saw Russia as corrupt, autocratic, and aggressive. That reputation has only gotten worse as the current decade continued.

  40. shel Says:

    I never spent time on US presidential inauguration speech. This one was written by a 27 years old speech writer, who probably don’t have the skill to take care of a family. So don’t trust him too much on how to run the world.
    American are funny animals, easily wander away with beautiful talk, no wander politician there are mainly lawyers who are good at speech and nothing else.

  41. FOARP Says:

    @Charles – We’ve had this discussion before, but I think it worth saying – China no longer has a communist economic system, but its political system is still whole-heartedly communist. I cannot see how it can be wrong to refer to a country ruled by an entrenched communist party as ‘communist’. Indeed, there are still many Chinese who refer to the countries which are not governed in such a fashion as 资本主义国家, despite China being just as 资本主义 as the average South American state, perhaps more so. What the People’s Republic of China is not is 民主主义, but to say so would cut rather close to the bone.

  42. TonyP4 Says:

    Bill just forwarded his idea of saving the airline industry. The picture of the good looking stewardess is taken out so we do not lower the moral standard of this blog. My reply to Bill is as follows:

    Hi Bill,
    They have started this service in ‘Virgin’ Airline. There is a section for children and ladies (unless she is lesbian). The demonstration of sucking oxygen is breath-taking and every one pays attention. I stop dreaming what they do for first class service…:)

    We also offer job opportunies for your former ‘assistants’.

    We can double the profits by having a section for ladies and gays.

    Your bright ideas always work. Keep it up, Tony



    Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place.

    Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers! What the hell, they don’t even serve food anymore, so what’s the loss?

    The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a ‘party atmosphere’ going in the cabin. And, of course, every businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

    Because of the tips, female flight attendants wouldn’t need a salary, thus saving even more money. I suspect tips would be so good that we could charge the women for working the plane and have them kick back 20% of the tips, including lap dances and ‘special services.’

    Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt, and the airline industry would see record revenues.

    This is definitely a win-win situation if we handle it right — a golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.

    Why didn’t Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?

    Bill Clinton

  43. ChinkTalk Says:

    S.K.Cheung #35 – “why would China’s decision on whether “to clench or not to clench” depend on the actions of the western media?”

    To me the Western media influences the way people think and people elect politicians.

    Here is a good example of how China’s censorship of porn turns into a human rights issue.


    Please read the comments.

    You’d hear mantras like “boycott Made in China”, “boycott the Olympics”, etc. These are brainwashings by the Western media. If enough people are screaming and yelling, even most people don’t understand what they are yelling about, the politicians will heed. If you read the “The Truth about Canada” by Mel Hurtig, it shows that the Western media is controlled by just a few people. Hurtig brings the question of true democracy and freedom of expression when the “voice” of the people are actually controlled by a few.

  44. WillF Says:


    When your primary occupation is writing or executing laws, being trained as a lawyer is probably a good thing.

  45. Wahaha Says:

    From Wiki,

    Communist state is a term used by many political scientists to describe a form of government in which the state operates under a one-party system and declares allegiance to Marxism-Leninism or a derivative thereof. Communist states may have several legal political parties, but the Communist Party is constitutionally guaranteed a dominant role in government. Consequently, the institutions of the state and of the Communist Party become intimately entwined.

    What separates Communist states from other one-party systems is the fact that ruling authorities in a Communist state refer to Marxism-Leninism as their guiding ideology.

    A party with ” communist” in its name doesnt mean it is communist party, just like the democratic pary in north Korea is as far as it can be from democratic.

    Can anyone explain why they think that China is guided by Marxism-Leninism ? I mean how Marxism-Leninism has guided the direction China has been going in last 30 years ?

  46. Old Tales Retold Says:

    I agree with everyone who said that the unclenched fist comment was intentionally vague.

    I don’t see a problem with human rights / democracy diplomacy per se, just how it is carried out. Under Bill Clinton, the U.S. zig-zagged back and forth between tying trade to progress on rights to dropping rights altogether to tying rights to trade again and so on and so on…. A better approach would be for the U.S. to commit itself to more multilateral rights agreements and urge others to do so, as well, building from that framework. This has the virtue of clarity and evenhanded-ness. America has still not signed treaties on the rights of children, cluster bombs, mines, the International Criminal Court, Geneva Convention updates, etc, etc. China, of course, has also failed to sign many of these (though they have signed some that the U.S. hasn’t). We could sign them together! And then work from there.

    Speaking out about abuses abroad, treaties or no, is fine—and often necessary—but should work in tandem with real self-reflection. Some have suggested that the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report include a section on rights problems at home. The original purpose of the report was, of course, to guide American foreign policy (remember, the first editions were ordered by Carter at a time when the U.S. had been supporting right wing dictatorships and death squads in Latin America for decades and he wanted to redirect priorities). And there are fair concerns about a domestic section being too politicized—but then, the whole thing is politicized! I think it would be a start.

    As to TonyP4, Wahaha and Steve’s points about welfare at home… I think we just have different political leanings. I tend to think that the U.S. is rather stingy with welfare and unemployment benefits, especially compared to Europe. The problem, at least as I see it, is not that the U.S. is generous beyond its means (welfare spending is a pretty small slice of the pie compared to, say, military expenditures) or that people have gotten lazy or broken up their families because of free money, but that there are simply not enough good jobs in America’s cities or countryside.

    Welfare-to-work programs have been existence since the 1990s and Obama pioneered such programs in his home state, but while they have put poor mothers under considerable pressure and satisfied right wing pundits, they haven’t succeeded in producing well-paying, sustainable employment for any substantial number of people, just dead-end jobs. “Welfare-to-work,” at least as it is currently practiced, seems about as clear-headed as having people run on wheels for pay in England’s old “poor houses.” Investing in infrastructure (as both the U.S. and China are promising to do) and socialized medicine seems like a better route. Raising minimum wages could help, too, classical economists’ complaints notwithstanding.

  47. Old Tales Retold Says:

    I would add that welfare provides a solid counter-cyclical push during recessions, which can only be a good thing.

  48. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    For once, we’re basically in agreement, at least about China and communism. I think China in the past 30 years can only be described as Marxist in as much as it has focused on the economy as the root of progress rather than reforms to its “superstructure” of politics. The PRC is, however, profoundly Leninist, as was the GMD government in Taiwan, if we take “Leninism” to simply mean a reliance on a vanguard party.

  49. FOARP Says:

    @Whahaba – “What separates Communist states from other one-party systems is the fact that ruling authorities in a Communist state refer to Marxism-Leninism as their guiding ideology.”

    “Can anyone explain why they think that China is guided by Marxism-Leninism ?”

    Because they say they are? Because Leninism is actually not far off the political system currently in place, even if Marxian economics are not in place? From Wiki:

    “Lenin argued that the proletariat can only achieve a successful revolutionary consciousness through the efforts of a vanguard party composed of full-time professional revolutionaries. Lenin further believed that such a party could only achieve its aims through a form of disciplined organization known as democratic centralism, wherein tactical and ideological decisions are made with internal democracy, but once a decision has been made, all party members must externally support and actively promote that decision.”

    ‘Democratic centralism’ is quite arguably the system in place now. The accent here is on ideology, not practice. In practice, no country has ever been genuinely Marxian, all of them saw ‘true communism’ as a distant goal. Even Lenin was willing to allow foreign capital to invest in the USSR, and foreign workers lived and worked there. It was only Stalin who put the USSR into the deep freeze of the cold war. Was the USSR under Lenin not a communist country?

    As an aside, the party in place in North Korea at the moment is does not call itself a democratic party. Their name is the Chosun (AKA Chaoxian) Worker’s Party. Can anyone explain the whole Chaoxian/Hanguo distinction? I understand that the North Korean call their country ‘Chosun’ and the South Koreans call theirs ‘Hanguk’. I also understand that some more conservative mainland Chinese call South Korea “South Chosun”, and the South Koreans I knew in Nanjing insisted in calling North Korea “North Hanguk”. What I don’t know is where this distinction comes from.

  50. Wahaha Says:


    Sorry I made mistake. I mean north korea is actually ” Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. As it is called “democratic ..” therefore, it is democratic country, right ?

    The communist partys after WWII are all one-person dictatorship, hardly the communism described by Lenin.

    If China had been controled by Mao, Liu, Zhou, Deng, etc, not just by Mao, there wouldnt have been culture revolution at least. Furthermore, Liu, Zhou and Deng were very well educated, and had great respects to “Chou Lao Jiu”, if they had had power, few chinese scholars wouldve been sent to labor camp.

    So did ‘Democratic centralism’ caused significant human disaster ? If not, then how can you and others to use what Stalin did and Mao did to justify your opinion on “communism” ?

    I mean teh political system in China between 1949 and 1976 was one person dictatorship, currently it is ‘Democratic centralism’ . They are totally different political system, though both are titled by both CCP and West as communism.

  51. Charles Liu Says:

    Oh people make up your mind, is China communist or totalitarian? It seem whatever fashionable “diss” fits China, China is it.


  52. FOARP Says:

    @Whahaha – I agree that there would not have been the cultural revolution if Liu Zhou and Deng had shared power, but I don’t think Mao would have been satisfied with such an arrangement. I also doubt that a government with so many hands on the helm would have been very stable – the USSR after Stalin was ruled by a triumvirate that quickly morphed into a two-man show, in which Khrushchev then took the leading role. He then lost power when his economic reform program failed, you see, his power was not so strong than he could create a revolution to destroy his enemies. Mao created the cultural revolution just so he wouldn’t have to share power.

    As for saying that you believe that China is not communist – I think your reasoning is valid, what I was saying is that referring to China as a communist country is also valid, it depends upon what you understand communism to be. For myself, I know that Britain, America, and China are all capitalist countries, but one of these is a parliamentary democracy, one is a presidential republic, the other is a communist state. If you wish instead to say that Britain is a constitutional monarchy this is also accurate, but it is important to realise that this does not mean that a feudal system is still in place in the UK. I refer to China as communist, but this does not mean that I believe that it has a centrally planned economy, although I am aware that this is what some people unfamiliar with China think when they hear that it referred to as communist, just as some people who are unfamiliar with Britain think that our Queen actually runs the country. No country can be explained accurately in one word or sentence, and this is why experience is also vital.

    My final problem is, if China is not communist, but its ruling party continues to refer to it as communist, then what are we to call it if not communist? Communism is unpopular in many countries because of governments like those of Stalin, Mao, Ceauşescu, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il. Perhaps the most popular communist government is that of the Castros, but this is more because of his role in facing down the USA, and because of the enduring memory – justified or unjustified – of Che Guevara, than because of the system of government or because of any economic acheivements. Movements like the Shining Path, FARC, the Red Brigades/Red Army Faction, and the Viet Cong also helped make communism unpopular, even if they were not entirely unpopular in their home countries.

    However, Communist countries have been ruled in the fashion you suggest, I’ve already mentioned the USSR after Stalin, but there was also a period of shared government after Lenin, China under Mao saw periods where there was a degree of power sharing, it is just the way in which his government ended which makes us focus on him. So what I would say is that a power-sharing arrangement based on ‘democratic centralism’ can be communism, it is not as bad as a one-man dictatorship, it is certainly a lot better than a country in which there is a personality cult, but it is not full representative democracy, and this is why I criticise it.

    @Think Ming – Going back to the topic of the thread, I certainly think there is enough evidence to start proceedings for infringing human rights through the authorisation of torture against Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo, Gonzalez, and Bush. However, I can’t see Obama doing it. I would love to see Rumsfeld stand trial, as the evidence we have shows quite conclusively that he not only authorised torture but approved of it. My only hope is that at some point in the future the US will recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the ICC can take action.

  53. FOARP Says:

    @Charles – My advice? If you want to know if China is communist or not, go and live there and decide for yourself like I did. Saying that China is communist is not a ‘diss’, nor is there any contradiction between saying it is totalitarian and saying it is communist. This is an attempt to characterise the system of government there, one which the local government calls communist.

    I don’t believe you are serious about discussing China, you just know that communism is seen as a bad thing and therefore do not want that term to be used. That is not an adult position, but that of someone who merely wishes to score childish points.

  54. ChinkTalk Says:

    S.K.Cheung #35 and #43- here is another example how the media can influence people’s thinking. This article says that accupuncture is a fraud.


    Please read the comments.

  55. Wahaha Says:

    OTR #46,

    Tony in #21 said “it can be easily fixed.” I dont think so; it is also hard under authoritarian system, as it can damage the ruling party and distablize the society easily.

    Americans have got used to overspend, either using the money earned by themselves or the money from government. The realty is that American people have to cut their spending, they cant rely on the prosperity built on borrowed money. so American economy will porportionally shrink. There is no “make-everybody-happy” plan, such plans are very hard to be passed or carried out.

  56. Wahaha Says:


    What I mean is that most of the time in western society, the ‘communism’ people talk about is actually one-person dictatorship. If we say China is not ‘communism’, it actually means that China is no longer ruled under the will of one person.

    If you equate communism = Democratic centralism, or just political centralism, I will agree that China is communism.

  57. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    I agree there are no easy solutions, either for the U.S., which has gotten used to borrowing money, or for China, which has gotten used to selling consumer products to the U.S. and buying government bonds.

    But I think TonyP4’s prescriptions are wrong. If we cut back further on social programs, besides being unfair (why should the poor give up their benefits and not the rich?), this will only deepen the recession. Paying MORE to the poor, on the other hand, is the most powerful form of stimulus, as they are the people most likely to go ahead and spend the money, rather than save it away. Of course, increased consumption does not deal with the heart of the problem—in fact, as you imply, high consumption is a part of the problem.

    What is needed in the long term is a commitment to basic public services, incentives for industrial jobs, etc. Working Americans buy lots of fancy doo-dads, but they do so because better means of achieving peace of mind—healthcare, a good education for their kids, pensions, etc.—are frustratingly out of reach. China, too, needs to reorient itself toward the basic needs of its people (and will have to do so if American demand for its products continues to fall).

    And if the U.S. government takes on a big role in generating growth, it has the added benefit (at least I think it’s a benefit) of cementing US-China relations further through bonds—a more sustainable sort of partnership!

    As to your argument with FOARP, I’m not sure it matters that much what we call China. The CCP says it is communist. Some say China is “market Stalinism” (not my description of choice) or “authoritarian capitalism” or, of course, “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Describing the country as having a basically capitalist economy with a large state sector and a Leninist political system, while not a catchy two- or four-word phrase, seems the most accurate.

    However, while the word “communism” may be inextricably linked to one-party states (something I think you are fine with, as long as they are ruled by *parties* rather than individuals–right?), I hope no one drags socialism into this! The boundaries between Left and Right in China are a tad too confusing for me, but I hope there is still room for a principled progressivism there.

  58. Allen Says:

    Maybe another question to ask is: what does Obama mean by “communism” in the speech?

  59. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – I think we can be certain that he is talking about the cold war.

  60. ChinkTalk Says:

    S.K.Cheung #35 and #43

    Here is another example of how the media influences the people. This article tells how accupuncture is a fraud.


    Please read the comments.

  61. Allen Says:

    @FOARP – if we can be certain that “communism” means specifically communism in the context of the cold war – then with respect to the speech at least, it is irrelevant whether China is communist or not today – or is or is not in the future?

  62. Charles Liu Says:

    Agree with Foarp, it sounded like Obama is referencing America’s victory over Germans and Soviets.

    IMHO China is certainly socialist, if any a little pink in the middle?

    OTR, I haven’t researched this, but it seems CCP itself is already factioned within, and government policy direction is often based on this intra-party divide. During the Charter 08 discussion the Chinese bloggers made it clear there’s a difference between current socialist-reform faction and Zhao Ziyang’s western-reform faction of CCP.

  63. ecodelta Says:

    I think Trotsky defined what really happened it quite well with the terms

    Degenerated workers’ state:
    “A workers’ state because the bourgeoisie had been politically overthrown by the working class and the economic basis of that state lay in nationalized property. But degenerated because the working class became politically dispossessed. The ruling stratum of the is held to be a bureaucratic caste, and not a new ruling class, because its political control did not also extend to economic ownership”

    And deformed worker’s states:
    “States where the bourgeoisie has been overthrown through social revolution, the industrial means of production have been largely nationalized bringing benefits to the working class, but where the working class has never held political power . These workers’ states are deformed because their political and economic structures have been imposed from the top (or from outside), and because revolutionary working class organizations are crushed. Like a degenerated workers’ state, a deformed workers’ state cannot be said to be a state that is transitioning to socialism.”

    For a more fairy tale like description, just read the Animal Farm from Orwell.

    Also Stalinism, and Maosim are in fat counter-revolutionary forces, created the greatest personalities cult in history. What would Marx and Engels think of it?

    In China and Russian in the end , the bureaucracy restored capitalism in order to enrich itself.
    Who have profited more from the changes?

    Communism didn’t even exist, only as an illusion/deception, or as a mean to an end, an end which was far from Marx ideas. I pity those that really believed in that illusion, poor idealist, they were largely betrayed in the end. The revolution devoured its own sons.

    Also, the concept of a Vanguard just justifies the creation of a new type of oligarchy, far more brutal and vicious than the one it replaced.

    What is left of Marx socialist ideas? I only know one society which is really closer to them, the Kibutz in Israel.

  64. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Ecodelta,

    I’m on board with your thinking on this! Sadly, Marx and Engels were much better at analyzing society than at describing the forms of government and economy that should replace it—something to which they devoted comparatively little writing. That left the field open to Lenin’s rather rigid, top-down model (the whole vanguard thing came from him, not Stalin or Mao). I’m cautious, though, about holding up the kibbutz as a model, as it is basically a utopia built on a colonialist base (though less so than the West Bank settlements, of course).

    @ Charles Liu,

    There are factions within the CCP, of course, as there are in any party in any country, regardless of whether that party is the only party allowed or one of many. It seems like every outside (i.e. non-party) political reform movement in China has believed it has an inside track with a faction in the CCP—at least that was the case with the 1989 movement (the students thought they were backing and, in turn, backed by Zhao Ziyang and others) and the Democracy Wall movement (backing Deng Xiaoping, at least mostly—Mr. Wei was obviously an exception).

    I don’t know what those factions add up to. Obviously, there’s a lively back and forth within the top reaches. And there are client relationships up and down the pyramid of power. But there’s not a lot of space for normal people to access this. You might argue that this is the same in liberal democratic countries and you would be partially right, but if ordinary people put in some effort in the U.S. or, say, Brazil, they can have a hand in tilting one part of their preferred party forward and another back. For example, the organizations Democracy for America and Moveon.org have been able to bolster the Democratic Party’s left wing substantially, marginalizing the so-called “Blue Dog Democrats.” In Brazil, the old left has ensured that Lula’s party has not drifted too far toward economic liberalism. Then, of course, there’s the whole issue of being able to support one whole party against another…

    But I’m just repeating obvious stuff. I think I was trying to clarify the differences in my own head! Would you mind expanding on your point about Charter 08? I don’t quite get it, but it sounds intriguing.

  65. Wahaha Says:

    ….Paying MORE to the poor…




    Detroit, MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn’t elected
    a Republican mayor since 1961;

    Buffalo, NY (2nd) hasn’t elected one since 1954;

    Cincinnati, OH (3rd)… since 1984;

    Cleveland, OH (4th)… since 1989;

    Miami, FL (5th) has never had a Republican Mayor;

    St. Louis, MO (6th)…. since 1949;

    El Paso, TX (7th) has never had a Republican Mayor;

    Milwaukee, WI (8th)… since 1908;

    Philadelphia, PA (9th)… since 1952;

    Newark, NJ (10th)… since 1907.

    What is ironic in this is that the more you want to work for the poor, the poorer the poor people are,


    The more you listen to the voice of poor people, the poorer the poor people are ? (India ?).

  66. Hong Konger Says:

    I got this in my mail.

    MLK….JImmy Carter……and….What do you guys think of Obama’s AIPAC speech?


  67. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    Oh no… I thought I was safe from Glenn Beck here at Fool’s Mountain, yet he follows me even here! I don’t know why he’s on TV or the internet. Yes, the Democratic Party is in charge of most cities in the U.S., rich or poor (plenty of the wealthiest cities are also run by Democrats). And it is actually doing well in places like New Jersey, turning around some pretty poor, brutal places with mayors like Newark’s Corey Booker. Newark still has a ways to go, but it’s got a lot more hope than a decade ago. Recovering from the Reaganite 1980s will be a long, slow climb.

    But it’s true that the Democrats as a whole haven’t done much for poor people in a while; it has retreated, exceptions like those above aside. I agree with you there. I’m just not sure that “tough love” is what the poor need. When there simply aren’t many jobs available beyond minimum wage gigs at fast food restaurants, it hardly makes sense to blame workers for, well, not making more than the minimum wage! Especially when there’s no social system to speak of to bolster them in other areas, such as their health.

  68. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Hong Konger,

    I haven’t watched all those videos yet, but I was pretty disappointed in Obama’s AIPAC speech. Hopefully, it was just a campaign tactic and he’ll take a more balanced view as president, but it will require a lot of pressure from us, I’m afraid…

  69. TonyP4 Says:

    @Wahaha, OTR, #55 & #56.

    It is unfair to spend the money we do not have and let our next generations to pay for our debts.

    It is easy for the politicans to buy votes to promise they can give you what you want, but our children and grand children who have to pay for them cannot vote.

    The rich have their own share of suffering. Most of what they own have lost half of its value during this recession. They work hard for their saving. Let me know exactly what are wrong in my ‘prescription’ in #21. I just encourage folks to work hard and not depend on freebies. All welfare cheaters should be prosecuted – anything wrong with it?

    How many lessons of throwing good money on bad social programs do we need to learn from them? We had an expensive building complex by the ocean for the poor and we had to level them due to bad management.

    I will receive social security soon, but it is unfair our next genration will receive nothing.

  70. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – I wasn’t talking about the context of the speech, but in the context of whether it is or is not legitimate to describe China as non-Communist. However, the censor at CCTV obviously felt that what he said might have some relevance.

  71. Wahaha Says:

    ” I just encourage folks to work hard and not depend on freebees.”

    Tony, OTR

    1) When there is easy money out there, ‘folks’ wont work hard.

    2) When peopel get something easily (like social security in US), they think they are entitled to those benefits and easy life, whether or not they have worked for it or not.

    That is why I dont think there is easy fix.

  72. TonyP4 Says:

    I agree with Wahaha that the more money thrown to the poor, the poorer they will be. Many, many examples. It is human nature to be lazy.

    Why should I work if my welfare benefit would be reduced? To illustrate, if a welfare recipient works for minimum wages, s/he is not eligible for a lot of benefits. Same for saving. If s/he has over $1,000 in the bank, s/he cannot collect social security supplement.

    Several ways to cut the cycle of poverty. 1. Reduce the generous welfare security (easy money in Wahaha’s post). 2. Train/help the poor to seek jobs – there are many jobs that the poor do not want and go to illegal aliens. I’m not in social area and I bet there are many, many practical ways to do so.

    I do not like bailouts. As long as it can help follks to find jobs and we do not have better solution, it is ok with me.

    Social security is not a freebie for most. It is a deduction from our pay check and the employer has to match. I wish to receive what we contribute and nothing more so our next generation can have their share. Only the very poor depend on social security 100%.

    The social welfare is paid by taxes of the working class, rich and not so rich. When US is getting richer and the politician buying votes, we become a nation of handouts. When we do not have money, we print more or borrow here or aboard. The bubble will burst. If I were a rich man with $10M in bank, with inflation (due to excessive printing money), now it is worth 5M.

  73. Steve Says:

    Uh oh… it already started. I just ran across this article on Bloomberg.

    Here are the first few paragraphs:

    “Timothy Geithner’s warning that President Barack Obama believes China is “manipulating” its currency may trigger renewed tensions between two of the world’s three biggest economies.

    Geithner, Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, also told senators the administration will press China to “adopt a more aggressive stimulus package” to boost its domestic economy. The remarks on manipulation were a shift from President George W. Bush’s team, which stopped short of using the term in criticizing China’s exchange-rate management.

    “The signal this sends is not good” for ties between the two nations, said Charles Freeman, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former top trade negotiator for China at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. “It opens a Pandora’s box. We need the Chinese to hold onto their Treasury and agency debt.”

    Geithner’s comments triggered a drop in Treasuries on concern that demand from China, the largest foreign investor in U.S. government debt, may wane. They may also reignite calls among some U.S. lawmakers for measures to punish trading partners perceived to have undervalued exchange rates.”

    I had previously read that China was worried about an Obama presidency for reasons such as this. They felt the Bush administration treated them in a more “hands off” style and were easy to work with. For this administration to start off with a confrontational statement just two days into their term is not a good sign.

  74. Hong Konger Says:


    Please highlight Steve’s post # 25

    My sentiment exactly, OTR # 66

    Who is JR Dunn? A right wing pundit and anti-911conspiracy spokesperson:
    He is also Like a couple of people I know who sure loves Bush:

  75. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ TonyP4,

    Obviously, people who cheat on welfare have broken a law and should be prosecuted. Illegal immigrants are actually a net gain to social security, though, as they often pay into it through their paychecks but are wary of drawing benefits (the same does not go for hospitals, as I understand it). Your point about mismanagement has a bit more merit. Many city school systems are, indeed, very poorly organized, even when decently funded. But this is all one step removed from the root causes of poverty, which are structural.

    People are not poor because they have a bad character—lazy, eager for handouts, corrupt, etc. Broader cultural arguments have more substance (certainly, someone who does not grow up with a wide vocabulary spoken around him / her or successful role models is missing out on certain growth opportunities), but culture adapts to economics more than the other way around. Immigrants have moved up quickly in societies and welfare has been a last resort when times have been good. Class mobility in general—people achieving (or falling to) a different level than they were born into— was much higher decades ago. Real wages in the United States haven’t risen in ages and have actually fallen in recent years.

    Government programs can be bad. They are always in need of reworking. But they aren’t the real problem.

    I’m excited about Brazil right now. They’ve had rapid growth the last few years *with* a shrinking gap between rich and poor—the opposite of the U.S. and China. Obviously, every country starts from a different place, so comparisons are clumsy. But if you really want to draw on everyone’s talents, you don’t threaten people with poverty wages (or no wages at all) and hope that they will pull off something extraordinary; you create opportunities for them.

  76. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    As TonyP4 says, social security is not free or easy. It takes a chunk out of people’s paychecks. We aren’t talking luxurious packages here! We are talking the basic necessities for a life with dignity.

  77. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To C-Talk #43 and #54:
    read your links. Didn’t really think there was much to object to. THe internet article made a connection between stopping porn and eliminating politically sensitive content. The acupuncture article said it’s barely any better than placebo. One or two of the comments were maybe a little blunt, but I don’t see how that goes to show any systematic, big bad western media anti-China conspiracy with Canadian lemmings being led by the nose under an evil spell. And seriously, if you’re getting revved up again on western media bias, haven’t we done that topic already? Isn’t it time to move on? I’d suggest it is.

    And even if westerners are brain-washed by big brother and elect similarly brain-washed western politicians who continually pop blue pills so as to avoid exploring the depths of the rabbit hole, I still don’t see how that will have any effect on whether China chooses “to clench or not to clench”.

  78. Charles Liu Says:

    Steve @73, what you said reminded me which side Greenspan landed on the RMB peg/flaot opinion few years ago. In retrospect maybe the anti-Greenspan had something. The degree which China’s economic servitude had helped us by pegging lower has been consistently ignored:

    – weak RMB helps to keep US debt serviceable by lowering US national debt cost;
    – job exported by US firms won’t return from China regardless;
    – China’s situation is already worse than US, with higher import ratio, higher % of foreign involvement in domestic output, higher unemployment.

    And is China really manipulating its currency?


  79. TonyP4 Says:

    @OTR #75

    Black have been here since day 2. They speak perfect English. They have more opportunities in both education and jobs than most in the last 20 years. They’re still behind. Even most Cambodians immigrants who cannot speak English and are not educated pass most of the black in terms of jail population %, welfare recipients % and school drop-outs %.

    People are lazy by nature – my theory. We’re not lazy as our parents change this bad behavior.

    A large part of Brazil’s new riches is due to China buying their natural resources. With less buying and the low oil price, they’re starting to suffer. They need China to build their infrastructure and the newly-found offshore oil that could be the largest find last year. Given the ample natural resources, Brazil is growing very slowly in the last 30 years.

    Basically we’re in the same page despite my theories that should be kept to myself.

    Yes, compare to other countries, our social security is a lot – but as OTR said it is basic. I like to add the old and the poor in US have been well taken especially in medical care.

  80. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ TonyP4,

    I’m not sure where you’re going with the stuff about race. No one is disputing the numbers. But what do the numbers mean? Do they mean that a whole ethnicity is actually turning down abundant opportunities, being stupid on a monumental level? Maybe I’ve got ideological blinders on, but I just can’t imagine that culture can be at the heart of things (and I’m assuming you’re not making a racist argument about inherent physical / mental characteristics).

    Again, if there aren’t good jobs—and I don’t believe you’re really arguing that blacks have more job opportunities than others, unless you think that affirmative action is some sort of major shaker in society—then everything else is a second-order, superstructural mush. By good jobs I mean jobs with the opportunity of advancement, that allow people to save money away, that put kids through college, that hold families together, etc. Those jobs existed in cities in the 1960s and 1970s when blacks were making strides; they do not, for the most part, now.

    Cambodians and others come to the States with extensive networks that can sustain them. Moreover, there has been research that suggests that the further someone immigrates, the more likely that person is to be from a skilled, middle class background, for the simple reason that trips cost money, either up front or owed back to someone after a period of time. So, Middle Easterners and Africans are successful in the U.S. (long distance) but poor in Europe (short distance); Latin Americans are successful in Europe (long distance) but poor in the U.S. (short distance)—-to make some broad generalizations.

    As to Brazil, of course they are relying on China. But not everyone who is selling stuff to China is managing to raise up their whole society. Brazil is unique in this regard and I think this owes itself, again, to good policies. As you said, Brazil and others don’t look so good over 30 years, but what I’m excited about is the past few years, when they have picked up under left-leaning leadership.

  81. FOARP Says:

    @Charles Liu – It is central to ‘democratic centralism’ that the party should be factioned, but since once a decision is made within the party, away from the eyes of the public, this is followed by the whole party, then it is hard to see how these factions can play the role of representing factions within society. All political parties require a degree of decision making away from the eyes of the public, the democratic element should (but often doesn’t – cf. ‘bipartisan politics’) come in when the public get to compare the policies of each party and decide between them.

  82. FOARP Says:

    @Steve – The whole currency ‘manipulation’ thing is unbelievably stupid. The RMB has been moving steadily against the dollar, the US is not the PRC’s only trading partner, nor is it its largest last I checked. It depresses me every time I see this referred to.

  83. Steve Says:

    @ FOARP: Today’s rate is 6.84 RMB per one US dollar. When I was there, it was 8.2 RMB per dollar. Not that long ago it was 7.2 to a dollar. As you say, it has been steadily moving in the ‘preferred’ direction over the last few years… unbelievably stupid is right. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    @ Charles Liu #78: That Yale article you linked to is a few years old, so if you take what was said there and apply it to today’s exchange rate, China’s currency has risen more than what was expected. I think this issue is something we can all agree on. It’s also one of the few subjects on which you and FOARP actually agree. 😛

  84. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Maybe we’re all in agreement on an issue for once, then. I’m sympathetic to workers in the States who are disgruntled about the RMB, but speeding up a process that, as Steve notes, has already been moving along alright, won’t save manufacturing in the U.S. If anything, an appreciated yuan will make raw materials cheaper for China, leaving Michigan in the same place. Besides, while some of those jobs may return “home,” most will go elsewhere in Asia if anywhere…

    Besides, there’s the issue of Chinese farmers being hurt if food from abroad undercuts them.

  85. Charles Liu Says:

    Steve, I’d say we’re not all that different, otherwise we wouldn’t be hanging out here.

    OTR honestly we have no one to blame but our own WASP-homeboy (no offense) CEOs and decision makers. You are absolutely right if not China they’ll take the jobs elsewhere.

    I hope Geithner is just BSing the Congress to get confirmed; disagreeing with Congress’ hostile position on Chinese currency won’t help his confirmation, as he’s already got that tax dodge blemish.

  86. Brad Says:

    @ Allen

    “Is Obama going to take U.S.-Sino relations to a new high – or will he turn protectionist and seek confrontation with China?”

    There should be no illusion or magic about Obama. Obama is the president of the U.S. His top concern is first and foremost the interest of the U.S. The same can be said about his Chinese counterpart. Where the equilibrium state will be reached depend on the relative strength of each countries political, economical and military power. In zero sum games, in any areas like resources, trade, etc, there will be more confrontations between China and US. Because China is growing and expanding more and more into international space in all areas. Obama don’t have to seek it. It is the nature of the game.

    To make things worse, from the inaugural speech, Obama shows the strong mark of ideology brainwashing, us vs. them mentality. The attitude of eager to lecturing the rest of the world won’t help in establishing any constructive international dialogue. Like all the previous American presidents, Obama needs a learning experience regarding Sino-US relationship.

  87. FOARP Says:

    @Charles Liu – Some CEOs are WASPs, others aren’t, they all seem to have messed up just as bad, race doesn’t seem to be much of a factor, although you’d have more of a point if you were to say that they’re almost entirely men.

  88. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Brad,

    While there will definitely be a learning curve with the Obama administration, as with every administration, I didn’t find his speech particularly “us versus them” other than, understandably, in the portions about fighting terrorism. There is inevitably a bit of hubris in inaugural speeches (returning the U.S. to “leadership” in the world, etc, etc), so I’m not sure that really means that much. Bush’s first inaugural was much more modest than Obama’s and he ended up invading, torturing and generally turning international law upside down. As to all the game theory and realist stuff… well, that’s probably true, but I’m not sure it is everything.

    @ FOARP,

    I just like beating up on CEOs, whatever their race!

  89. Brad Says:

    @Old Tales Retold #88

    A country does not change its characteristics abruptly. Looking at the recent history of the U.S., no matter who was the president, the imperialistic expansions, wars, invasions are constant US behaviour.

    Zero sum games is certainly not the whole picture, but are the areas that need to be especially watched. Since there is less room for compromise, hence, more likely lead to serious conflicts.

    The Law of the Jungle still has its place in international relationship. Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan are lessons for all to learn. Ultimately, China should focus on strengthening herself. Do not count too much on personal relationships with leaders of any country.

  90. HongKonger Says:

    ” the inaugural speech, Obama shows the strong mark of ideology brainwashing, us vs. them mentality. The attitude of eager to lecturing the rest of the world ”

    Hm, thanks for putting into words of what made me instinctively switched channel half way thru his albeit eloquant but uncomforting (to me) speech.

  91. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Brad and Hong Konger,

    Fair enough. I also think the general trends will remain the same, for better or worse. Imperialism, of course, won’t die overnight. I am optimistic about many things from the Obama administration, though, and the closing of Gitmo (albeit delayed a year and with many unclear areas) confirmed for me this optimism.

    What will all this mean for Chinese-American relations? A lot depends on how things shape up domestically in the two countries. Personalities have their limits, but then there’s also popular opinion, including in China, and the question of internal bureaucracies and factions. That’s why I’m hesitant to predict too much based on “realist” theories of balance of power, military might, and, as you say, “the law of the jungle.”

    The big question is: what is in the best interests of the two countries’ peoples? Fairness, freedom, opportunity…. What does that mean in practice? I sure don’t know. I can just feel my way along.

  92. FOARP Says:

    I disagree, anyone who says that imperialism is alive today, doesn’t know what imperialism was. People might carry on in their own little nationalistic world when their country shows displeasure towards another country, but true imperialism? Dead and buried, since 1945, if not 1918. The wars killed the idea that one country could rule another with no negative consequence stone dead. Only places where government control of the media allows a mentality of “whistling past the graveyard” still harbour its ragged shadow. The kind of imperialism that, for example, brought an army to the gates of Omdurman, is no more, Even in Iraq the Bush government has been stuck with the full panoply of liberation WWII-style, even if it doesn’t fit at all, even where the locals are not even slightly happy to have them.

    Read the books of Churchill, HG Wells, Rudyard Kipling – is that kind of imperialism alive and publicly celebrated today? Certainly not. It exists, but is hidden.

  93. Steve Says:

    I agree with FOARP; imperialism is dead. That’s why they call it a global economic system, because there is a global price and anyone can have access to raw materials or finished goods if they are willing to pay the going rate. In the old imperialism, a country would conquer another and have exclusive access to its goods and trade.

    So instead of a win/lose scenario, the new economic system is more of a win/win. Each country tries to specialize in what they do best and trade is more free, though there is a certain amount of protection.

    I think these days, people confuse imperialism with spheres if influence. Countries can influence other countries in many ways, and power projection still exists. But as FOARP says, outright imperialism is dead. There were some vestiges of it in the old USSR.

    Churchill’s books are excellent. I’ve read just about everything he’s ever written. Kipling writes from the POV of the common soldier and about imperialism but I never felt he endorsed it, just described it and its consequences. I think he’s been misinterpreted by people who’ve only read a few of his writings.

  94. vmoore55 Says:

    Did BO say he will end affirmative action? Now that most of the top jobs are taken by the smart blacks in the US. So may be it’s time us Asians can take some of the left over top jobs that the whites don’t want to do.

    That AA program is how most blacks get a passing grade and that’s how they got those great token management jobs, that goes for BO too.

    Love to hear the blacks like BO say don’t judge a man by the colour of his skin. Good sayings are like TV ads, we listen and watch them but we don’t buy a lot of those stuffs.

    Those that like to believe that great speakers makes for great leaders, Hitler was one of the best speakers ever.

    And look at what a great speaker like Mendela did for South Africa. Hope the USA goes that way too.

  95. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ FOARP and Steve,

    I suppose this comes down to how we define empire. Imperialism as it was practiced before the Second World War is no more and even the Monroe Doctrine, America’s sphere-of-interest-to-the-extreme has been tattered since the end of the Cold War. But the United States still divides the world into the Southern Command, Central Command, Pacific Command, etc. Hardt and Negri write of how “empire” has shifted from being a question of inside and outside borders, center and periphery, to infinite breakdowns of boundaries within states, with a new order thriving in the interstices. Anyway, as with China’s status as a communist country or capitalist country, I’m not sure definitions are the most important thing.

    @ vmoore55,

    I’m not sure I get what you’re talking about. Are you saying Barack Obama got his job through affirmative action? Obviously, people are excited about electing America’s first black president… but that’s exactly what he is: the first. And there is now one, only one, black U.S. senator (Burris). Not much of a case for affirmative action in the highest reaches of government being a very significant force. If anything, the opposite, anti-black racism, is the norm.

    There are Asians in the new cabinet, Steven Chu being the most prominent, but also Shinseki and others. And Latinos and Latinas. Still, more improvements need to be made.

    What do you mean with the speeches? Mandela was great for South Africa; Hitler was bad for Germany and the world… seems like a contradictory set of metaphors.

  96. Steve Says:

    @ OTR #95: I’ll buy that. As far as the “commands” go, I was looking at the sizes of militaries a couple of days ago in reference to one of the posts here, and the tonnage of the US Navy as compared to any other in the world was just gargantuan. It made me realize how much we spend each year to protect sea lanes for world trade. I guess that’s why they call it the “American system”. Of course, having a huge US Navy projects power around the world. Power projection is a form of empire. But someone has to protect the sea lanes; someone has to keep trade free and moving, and every country in the world reaps advantages from this form of protection.

    The question is… should the US Navy be the primary protector of world trade? So far, no one else wants to spend the money. They’d rather we spend it. I’d rather we didn’t. There’s talk that the Obama administration wants to pass more of these costs to our allies, especially in Afghanistan. There might not be any takers. European countries like having the benefits without the costs; so would I if I were them. Japan applies its assets into increased trade while the US Navy protects it. Smart move on their part. I just think we can’t afford it anymore.

    China is building a manufacturing empire. Personally, I’m glad they are. I think back to my youth when China was a closed country; we knew next to nothing about it except for an occasional book by Edgar Snow or the best guess of John K. Fairbanks. Now when I’m in China, it feels no different from being in any other developing country and when in the biggest cities, the level of sophistication is close to any other city in the world. I’m glad they’re sending ships to the Gulf of Aden; the world can use them there. I’m also glad OTR’s in China to build bridges between cultures.

    Personally, I wish we’d pull our troops out of South Korea and Germany. Europe can protect itself and the few troops we have in Korea wouldn’t do much good in the event of war. I hope the troops in Iraq are home by the end of this year, though I realize it’ll probably take longer than that. Living in San Diego, I see too many guys go out in long overseas deployments, then back here for a few months and out again. What kind of life is that? Is it really necessary?

    I see no reason to be the world’s policeman. I’m sure it boosts the egos of politicians but they’re all sitting in Washington while others have to do the actual work. I’m not an isolationist, but I just think we’re way overstretched.

    Anyway, that’s my diatribe for the night. I guess I’m just tired after a long week… 😛

  97. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Steve,

    Thanks for the “diatribe.” You put things well.

    In terms of policing sea lanes, I agree that China sending ships to the Gulf of Aden is a great start. Shifting responsibilities away from America and to multi-lateral institutions or to several individual nation states will be tricky, but maybe it can start from “small” events like this.

    The U.S. has a hard time stomaching power-sharing; it even balked at ratifying the Law of the Sea, though the treaty would clearly be in its interests. Other countries have gotten used to living under America’s wings, as you said, or balancing against it. And the UN has found itself in a confusing position the past eight years.

    We’ll see…

  98. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To vmoore55 #94:
    affirmative action provides for access to educational and employment opportunities. But a person who has a “passing grade” still has to earn it. No idea where you’re going with that thought. Are you the same guy who a while back suggested that black surgeons are not as good as those of other ethnic backgrounds?

    It’s reassuring to hear that you think a phrase like “don’t judge a man by the colour of his skin” is only good as a soundbite. And they say racism is dead….

  99. TonyP4 Says:

    @otr #80
    I argue that the generous welfare system does not encourage folks to work – what’s wrong with that?

    Unless you’re in a cave for the last 10 years, everyone knows about the financial problems of the hospitals in California have been hurt badly by illegal aliens seeking free health care. Learn from the Mexicans how they handle this for their own illegal aliens. Would some Californians here shed some light on this topic.

    Do you read any financial pages that China bought a lot of natural resources from Brazil to make it richer these days? With the extra money, even the poor will get some money after the rich/ government get their share. I think Brazil should do far better with the ample natural resources per capita.

    Do you think the Cambodians have more connection than the black in general?

    Do you borrow money to give to the poor and let your children pay for your debt? Same for bailouts that I only agree if it provides jobs and get us out of this nasty recession. If you do not, why the government does this? It is just commons sense.

  100. TonyP4 Says:


    My dean in graduate school told me that he had benn pressured to hire a minority woman even in a bad recession and even she just met the minimum requirement. Is it an isolated case, or just in general the employers have to fill the racial/minority quota? If you’re qualified for the job, you would be passed because of the quota.

    Get into some related forum/comments. You will find the anger of Asian kids in fighting other less qualified minority kids get into better colleges before them.

  101. Steve Says:

    @ TonyP4 #99: Is the welfare system still so generous? I thought that back in the 1990s, Clinton and the Republican Congress passed welfare reform and many states went to “workfare” programs. Supposedly it cut down the number of recipients and eliminated the abusers. Is that true?

    I’m a Californian living in a city that shares a border with Mexico. Every morning, waves of schoolchildren come in from Tijuana to go to school near the border. The scam is that women come across the border to have their babies in San Diego, which makes that child an automatic American citizen (which I think needs to be changed), then they use the citizenship to send them to school here without having to pay local taxes which support the schools. The schools take these kids in because their funding from the state is dependent on enrollment numbers. For each extra student, they get more funding.

    Because the hospitals are much better in San Diego than Tijuana, even wealthy Mexicans will cross the border for hospital care. Since a hospital is not allowed to turn away a patient (though this might be changing), they get free medical care though they could afford it. It’s another scam.

    The third big scam is both illegal aliens and legal workers claiming workman’s comp injuries. They know exactly how the system works and how to abuse it.

    And I’m sure we all know about “fast marriages”. 🙂

    Be careful about using the “trickle down” theory in Brasil. Brasil is more of a rich/poor society without much of a middle class. I don’t think the poor have benefited all that much but the wealthy are doing extremely well. It’s interesting that the candidate they didn’t support has given them the best economic times in recent memory. One thing I’ve noticed is that for a society that claims racial harmony, every time I’ve met wealthy Brasilian businessmen, they’ve had light skin. Hmm….

    My guess is that Cambodians are probably better informed as to what programs are out there to benefit them. Their community is pretty close and they all pass along information to each other.

    Tony, you’d be hard pressed to find a more “balanced budget” guy than I am. What Bush and the Republicans (who’ve always claimed to be the party of fiscally responsibiity) did to our budget over the last eight years is practically criminal. Just think about it; why is the richest country in the world borrowing money from a relatively poor country? It makes no sense. It’s also never happened before as far as I can tell.

  102. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve, thanks for your insights always.

    The workforce is a good concept. After 10 or so years, it does not work. We still have many examples of 3 generators of teenage mothers and the gang of capable but not working cyclists that I know. We need better enforcement of a good law.

    Hong Kong had a similar problem on the children of HK father and China mother (many of them due to good and cheap Chinese by-product and wealthy HK male consumers). If HK allowed them to move to HK, they would screw up a lot of resources such as school. I do not know the result.

    We need to pass a law to balance the budget to some extend. We cannot spend for ever and ask next generations to pay for it. It is all not Bush’s fault for all the financial problems, but without the huge costs of the wars, we would be better off. I’m glad he did not agree with Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

    Brazil upper class most likely are from Portugal originally I bet. My image of Brazil is beautiful asses and orphans running around. 🙂

  103. Steve Says:

    @ TonyP4: My image of Brasil is Gal Costa singing a bossa nova song called Wave, written by Tom Jobim: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12GpDr1AsrE or if you want to go more Asian, here’s Lisa Ono singing another Tom Jobim song, The Girl from Ipanema: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GbTRR-YQ_s&feature=related 😛

  104. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ TonyP4,

    In comment #75, I was speaking about immigrants paying more into social security than they drew out and I explicitly noted that “the same does not go for hospitals, as I understand it.” Hospitals are indeed in serious financial trouble, in part for the reasons you noted, in part because of a lack of preventative medicine and soaring healthcare costs for everyone, immigrant or not (meaning that people wait until the last minute, i.e. until they are experiencing an “emergency” before they go to the hospital).

    In response to your other points, yes, I do think Cambodians have more worthwhile connections than African Americans (the same goes for Middle Easterners, Africans and others). When these immigrants arrive in America, they are immediately tuned into very useful networks that lend money for emergencies like death or illness, that put them in touch with small business owners, that lend money for starting up a business of their own, etc. Poor, inner city blacks are relatively cut off, despite having been in cities a long time.

    Welfare may make people lazy individually, but laziness doesn’t seem like a convincing explanation for the poverty of a whole people. Are rural, poor whites just lazy, too? Is anyone who is poor lazy and anyone who is rich industrious? There are larger, structural factors that matter more.

    Nor do benefits for the poor explain the American budget deficit. The Iraq War alone did do plenty of damage to U.S. debt. So did lopsided tax cuts. Social security, which benefits everyone, is a bigger drag than welfare. Besides, as Steve says, welfare has been trimmed substantially—excessively if you ask me.

    In direct response to your question, yes, I do agree that we should borrow money to give to the poor, especially when our economy is in need of stimulus—the poor will give the economy the greatest jump start of anyone. But, no, I don’t think it makes sense to borrow for a needless war; that money is basically a dead end (missiles exploded, tanks stuck in the desert), with the possible exception of the working class soldiers’ salaries.

    Affirmative action has done a halfway decent job of balancing out centuries of racism (it has benefited Asians as well as African Americans—Asians, too, are in those school “quotas” someone mentioned). I would go one further, though. Sen. Webb has advocated a sort of class-based affirmative action, one that would help poor whites in the countryside, as well. That seems like a fair idea to me.

    As to Brazil, it is certainly a brutally unequal place. My point is that in recent years it has made good choices that have reduced inequality while spurring growth. Not everything is solved, obviously. But the point isn’t that the poor have benefited along with everyone in Brazil but that they have benefited MORE than others. Brazil has avoided a false trade-off between fairness and prosperity.

  105. Steve Says:

    @ OTR #104: All good points. I just wanted to add on to something you wrote. Affirmative action did benefit Asian Americans at one time, but there came a point where Asian American students were filling practically all the minority quotas, so other minorities complained. I’m pretty sure that at least here in California, Asian Americans no longer qualify for minority status in the UC system. At that point, they wanted to be accepted based on merit but that’s not how the system works, so these days more qualified Asian American kids have lost out to minorities who are less qualified. So I guess you can say that Asian American kids are now pretty much “white” as far as the UC system is concerned.

    I believe that is what TonyP4 was referring to when he said “Get into some related forum/comments. You will find the anger of Asian kids in fighting other less qualified minority kids get into better colleges before them.”

  106. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Steve,

    Good clarification. Affirmative action is tricky in terms of its rights and wrongs. My main objection is to the idea that lots of people are just coasting by on the policy. The same goes for welfare.

  107. Allen Says:

    @Steve #101,

    When you wrote:

    The scam is that women come across the border to have their babies in San Diego, which makes that child an automatic American citizen (which I think needs to be changed), then they use the citizenship to send them to school here without having to pay local taxes which support the schools.

    I wonder what we can do to change this?

    The Constitution is clear that:

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

    It’s one thing to change policies on whether to give social benefits to “illegal aliens” but quite another to amend the “citizenship clause” above ….

    And once anyone become citizens, you can’t discriminate against them in terms of benefits.

  108. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #107: Everything you said is absolutely accurate.

    The only way to change it would be to amend the Constitution which was written at a time when this was not a problem. But asking citizens to pay taxes to educate children in their own schools while living in another country because of a “loophole” in the Constitution isn’t right either. I’d like to see the automatic citizenship based on birth taking place in the United States changed to only granting citizenship to children born to American citizens or ones who have been naturalized or have a “green card”. That’s just my personal opinion.

  109. FOARP Says:

    @Steve – However, you would then have the situation where people could be born, grow up, and have children in the US but neither they nor their children would be citizens. The US already has a substantial population of illegal immigrants, this would mean that their children would inherit their illegal status.

  110. TonyP4 Says:

    @OTR #104 & Steve #108

    – If you borrow money yourself and give it to the poor, you’re the saint.

    – We’re comparing black that have been here since day 2 and the newly immigrants from Cambodia.

    – We’re discussing welfare benefit to illegal aliens.

    – The constitution has been written long time ago and some clauses are not suitable for today’s society. That’s why we have amendments. Bearing gun and the naturalization of born-in-usa babies are not right.

  111. Steve Says:

    @ FOARP: That’s correct. In order to become a citizen, you’d have to apply for it, like just about every other country in the world. What is the UK’s law on this?

  112. FOARP Says:

    @Steve – People born in the UK become UK citizens (actually, they become subjects of the British crown). I was thinking of the situation that existed in Germany until fairly recently, where the descendants of illegal Turkish immigrants inherited their parents illegal status, thankfully this was changed about ten years ago. The problem for the children of illegal immigrants is that they cannot leave the country and apply for a visa to make their status legal, and if there is no way in which someone can legalise themselves within the country, then they are stuck in limbo. This can leave people who have never known any country but the one they live in stateless, or citizens of a country which they have never lived in. At least with the current system in place in the US and UK, once the problem of illegal immigration is solved, the population of illegal immigrants will disappear with time. Otherwise, you will have a permanent population of 2nd-class citizens.

  113. Steve Says:

    @ FOARP: I still think there are ways around it. For instance, the schoolchildren we talked about earlier don’t live in the USA, they live in Tijuana. The only reason they are American citizens is that their parents made a deliberate decision to have them born in the States for that citizenship, though the child will not be living in the USA while he is growing up.

    The problem of illegal immigration in the USA exists because neither Republicans nor Democrats want it stopped. Democrats know that immigrants vote Democratic and these people will eventually become legal, and Republicans know that industries such as construction, the hotel business and agriculture are addicted to the cheap labor. The problem of illegal immigration can only be solved at the employment level, not the borders.

    One of the requirements of government is to protect its borders and enforce its laws. How can you expect citizens to obey the law when government and businesses do not? I agree with your final conclusion; once the problem of illegal immigration is solved, the population of illegal immigrants will disappear with time.

  114. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve and FORAP

    Physically it is hard to stop illegal immigrants. One time, half of Mexico ran past the border gates at same time. The borders between Mexico and Canada is just too long to build two Great Walls. If you built one, you will be accused of being racist. 🙂

    However, it is easy to control it via heavy fines on employers. Most rich folks including many politicians have some illegal aliens working for them. Most of your offices are cleaned by illegal aliens. I bet the building owners hire contractors, and they in turn hire illegal aliens. When they are caught, they just close their small contract companies.

    Illegal aliens are not too bad as long as they obey the laws, pay taxes for the resources such as schools and health care. I do not blame them to seek better jobs. There should be a way to let them in via work visas as many jobs the local poor prefer to collect welfare than work – how many welfare recipients are not capable to work? That’s why I suggest to reduce the welfare benefits/encourage folks to work and prosecute those abusers.

    With this recession, the illegals are returning – like the reversed migration in China.


    I used to have a British passbook issued in Hong Kong. It does not have the same privileges as the one from UK. Is it discrimination or different colonnial classes?

  115. TonyP4 Says:

    Joke of the day.

    We were supposed to have 8″ of snow, but no snow. The beautiful but naive anchor lady asked the weather man, “Hi Bill, what happened to the 8″ you promised me last night.” The whole staff in the set laughed so loud that they’ve to go on commercial for the next hour.

    It teaches us to be careful to talk/write in public. Most jokes are 1. double meaning, 2. exaggeration, 3. making fun of others. This joke is all of above.

    I’ve another joke (#42) in this thread. Do you know the memo of Virgin Airline?

    Why Lewinski can provide expertise to this airline?

    Why Bill changed the definition of ‘Sex’ and ‘interm’ overnight?

  116. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4 #100:
    in that case, I would have many questions for your dean. Was he/she actually hiring and filling a declared vacancy? Or was he/she forced to take on a person that the faculty didn’t actually need? Was she the only applicant? Was she the best of a mediocre group of applicants? If she was equally mediocre as all the other applicants, but happened to be a minority and female, then I agree she had an advantage because of affirmative action. Unless she was the worst of the bunch, and hired before other better-qualified candidates only because of her race+/- gender, I don’t really think there is all that much to object about. And even then, as you say, it might be an isolated case, and we shouldn’t insinuate or over-generalize unless there is more substantial evidence.

    As for college admissions, I’m in a lull right now. Way too late to worry about it for myself; way too early to worry about it for my kids. That being said, and to use an old stereotype from my generation, your typical “Asian student” went home and studied every waking free moment, and did little else. I think higher-learning institutions now seek not only those with good GPA’s, but also with some demonstrated interpersonal skills and extracurricular interests ie. a well-rounded person, and not just a bookworm. So some of these Asian kids may not be as well qualified as they think, using that metric.

  117. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4 #115:
    that’s a good joke!

    The other day on Fox News, two female commentators were talking about how Barack and Michelle Obama like to do their fist-bumps. Nothing untoward about that, except that they referred to it as how “the Obama’s like fisting in public…” Had me rolling on the ground almost wetting myself.

  118. TonyP4 Says:

    #Cheung #116, the incident is over 30 years ago. I forgot the details.

  119. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4:
    then I’d say, regardless of the details, that that experience likely has little bearing on today’s circumstances.

  120. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ TonyP4,

    I am making the same comparison between the opportunities enjoyed African Americans and Cambodian immigrants. Obviously, not all African Americans are living in poverty. But those that are extremely poor often lack useful social connections. Educated immigrants, on the other hand, frequently have very useful networks that can front them certain costs, even if they arrive in the U.S. with very little money. I’m still not sure I understand your bigger point. Is it just that government benefits make people lazy and that this leads to deficits? Or is it something else?

    At any rate, thanks for the jokes! 🙂

  121. Allen Says:

    @Steve #73,

    Well the story about Geithner’s manipulation comment is still early … but here is a take on how this is bad economic news and can signal a renewal of American protectionism.

  122. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #121: Hopefully, there is another reason for Geithner’s remark. Now that there is a solidly Democratic Congress with a veteran leadership that is far more liberal than the average Democratic congressman or senator, suppose Geithner was trying to head off protectionist legislation? What if he were saying to Congress, “We’ll be tough on China so you don’t need to pass trade protection”. That would be a good thing.

    So it’s probably still too early to know what way the Obama administration will go concerning China. And maybe the editorials like the one you linked to (which have been far and away the majority) will also have some influence?

  123. Allen Says:

    @Steve, I wonder whether you have a view on whether China’s exchange rate should be floating, is too high, too low, etc.?

    I personally don’t. I don’t know what is the proper rate.

    My understanding has always been that it is to every country’s advantage (including China’s) to set its exchange at the “proper” level since at too high a level, its export would be expensive, and it would price itself out of global trade, but at too low a level, its asset would seem too cheap, thus allowing foreigners to sweep in and exploit its resources – including exploitation of environment, labor, capital assets, etc. (which obviously, many countries, including China, also don’t want too much of)

    So I always thought that it would be in the interest of both the U.S. and China’s interest to have a proper exchange rate… But maybe I am missing something.

  124. Steve Says:

    @ Allen: I think the Chinese government took too long to begin to increase the value of the RMB, but I agree in the way they’ve done it. When it was 8.2 to a dollar, if they had let it float it would have crashed their economy since they had become dependent on having certain costs for their business overhead. By bringing it down slowly, they have been able to adjust to the different value. Think of it like gasoline; if the price goes up a nickel per month, no one would complain but when the price goes up a dollar a month, everyone complains and changes their driving habits.

    Eventually China should let their currency float. My guess is it’d be around 5.5 RMB to the dollar. But I’m not sure if the government would allow it to float because they seem to have a “control” thing and once you let your currency float, you can’t put the cat back in the bag and you’d have to live with whatever fluctuations occur. Chinese government economists typically like to have more control of their economy. It gives them job security. 🙂

  125. Old Tales Retold Says:

    I think China’s basically done the right thing currency-wise. Letting the RMB fluctuate in a band makes sense for Chinese farmers and industrial workers alike. And I imagine it has a stabilizing influence in Asia, as it did during the East Asian financial crisis—-but then, I’m not an economist.

    Steve’s probably right about Geithner just trying to head off pressure. The Democrats haven’t done much for the American working class in terms of protecting their union rights in the workplace, building a decent health system or, as TonyP4 rightly points out, job training—so they take easy shots on currency, knowing that no White House will really put pressure on the RMB because, well, it doesn’t matter that much in the scheme of things. Pitiful.

    I’m hoping that congresspeople don’t just vote through the Employee Free Choice Act, but actually start going out on the trail and defending a progressive approach to America’s economy and stop ceding ground PR-wise to the Right.

  126. shel Says:

    It is stupid to think economist knows all about currency control. Its is worst to hunt around for answer based on that assumption. Ask the common people on the ground if you really want an answer.
    Business are no joke for any enterpreneur, and most honest businesses require stable environment, unlike currency speculators like Soros.
    Cost of doing business become high when environment is uncertain, like when you have a free float under a speculative atmosphere. Business people tend to avoid such a situation, causing market to be depressed. For those who have to continue business due to whatever commitment, the cost due to risk will be high, and they would beter be cautious. This cautiousness will depress volumn of transaction further..
    Free float can work only if there are adequate ruling to prevent money speculation. The next best is what china is doing, gradual adjustment that everyone know where its heading, with little opportunity for speculator like soros.

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