Month: February 2016 (Page 2 of 3)

Beyonce, Iraq, and conservative political correctness

Conservatives have a tendency to associate “political correctness” with liberalism. That is a mistake, because doing so would politicize the term. Critics of political correctness shouldn’t discriminate when opposing PC.

What would you call an incident where someone made a speech expression and then that person’s critics expressed unreasonably emotional outrage, twisted the facts, and then tried to boycott that person? When Rush Limbaugh tried to buy the NFL’s Rams as part of an ownership group and was forced to drop out after a campaign that involved Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton argued that views he had expressed were too racist (some of which were fake quotes, which CNN apologized for). Limbaugh attributed it at the time to “political correctness.”

Now go back to the NFL and there is currently another outrage-induced racial controversy going on. Only this time, it’s conservatives who are outraged and calling for a boycott.

Beyonce and Black Panthers

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Apple’s fight against backdoors is about protecting your security, not terrorists

The U.S. FBI is trying to compel Apple to make a change to its software that would allow it to hack into the iPhone of the terrorist behind the San Bernardino shooting. Apple is refusing, citing privacy and security concerns of its users.

This case isn’t about protecting terrorists from having their information accessed by the U.S. government, it’s about protecting innocent users. As I argued in December, Americans have the right to encryption devices.

There are many individuals and institutions that are much worse than the U.S. government, and all of them would have the access to the same drives and communications channels as the NSA and FBI.

This particular case has specifics that defenders of the government’s position could argue would limit it to only a small amount of phones–for more on the specifics, I would recommend reading Slate’s Will Oremus or Ben Thompson’s Stratechery–but the principle of information security should be applied forthrightly. After all, if someone argues that, because it is not as easy to hack into new iPhones as it is to hack into the old 5C the shooter was using, Apple should go ahead and do it, then they are leaving the door open for hacking into later versions of the phone if any when it becomes technologically feasible to do so (or to have the government compel Apple to make it possible in new versions).

Remember: Any precedent that applies to (suspected, or, in this case, proven) terrorists applies to everyone. Someone wrongly suspected of crimes or someone the government has self-interest in hacking could be next, and the backdoor could be used by foreign governments or hackers.

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Munich Security Conference 2016 and the foreign policy implications

Listen here:


Key points:

  1. If the Kremlin decides it’s a cold war, it is a cold war…regardless of what US/West wants. “The enemy gets a vote”…as Gen MadDog Mattis said. One cannot walk away, if a conflict is thrust on them by adversarial powers…and sooner or later, the West needs to come in terms to that.
  2. Major implications for China, if US-Russia bogged down in proxy conflicts in Europe and Middle East, China can develop economically more, with free hand in Africa, and Lat-Am and also in the finance sectors in UK and Germany.
  3. Russia is not the Soviet Union. The intention is there, but not the capability and global reach. Any proxy conflict will be localised in mainly East Europe an Middle East.
  4. However, if US leaves the ME to Russia and other regional powers to balance, and focuses attention to Asia, it will be interesting to see in the next few years. Just a word of caution, any conflict in Europe and Middle East, will pale in comparison to a Great Power war in Asia.

“Article 23 has been slandered and demonized”

Following Hong Kong’s protest-turned-riot on the night of February 8, that started as an effort by anti-Beijing and anti-government activists to defend hawkers from eviction, some Hong Kong government officials have called for a domestic security law to be reintroduced.

The protests started when localists, reportedly lead by the group Hong Kong Indigenous, surrounded unlicensed snack hawkers to try to prevent authorities from shutting them down. Ongoing controversy has followed government regulation of vendors at night markets over the past few years. Protesters started throwing things around midnight, according to the South China Morning Post‘s timeline, and then police fired warning shots at 2 am, but the riot only intensified, and fires were lit on the street starting at 4 am.

China’s central government labeled the localist protesters “separatists,” using a word they have used to refer to Xinjiang and Tibetan independence activists.

Now some government officials and pro-establishment activists are calling for renewal of an Article 23 domestic security law that was pulled in 2003 after mass protests. The protests led to the proposal, so-named because it is allowed for in Hong Kong’s Basic Law under Article 23, being withdrawn from the Legislative Council and then Secretary for Security Regina Ip resigning.

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What Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and the Republican Party’s anti-Trump movement have in common

The Economist (February 13th) reports Syrian dictator Bashir Assad’s forces are making a comeback. The Syrian army encircled Aleppo and took other cities to its northwest. If Assad ends up winning and reestablishing control over Syria, it will be because the opposition was divided.

It is a common problem in movements. Donald Trump leads the Republican primaries early on, despite over 50 percent of the electorate voting against him in each contest, because the Republicans haven’t united behind an opposition candidate. On the night of February 8, the streets of Mongkok, the most crowded neighborhood of Hong Kong, were ablaze with fires and bullet shots from the police rang out. Mongkok had been the site of some of the rowdiest protests during the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, and in 2016 it was once again, as localists fought police, ostensibly in the name of unlicensed snack vendors the police tried to ticket.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has long suffered from fissures between various groups and parties about how best to achieve democracy—and what “democracy” should mean in practice. In its fractured political system, the 16 parties represented in the Legislative Council are basically divided in “pan-democratic” and “pro-Beijing” camps rather than being divided by left-right ideology. Thus radical socialist democrats partner with upper-middle class free-market democrats. In 2013, I attended a deliberation day with Left21, where labour organizers talked about organizing around workers’ grievances, a few weeks after observing traders in suits talk about the importance of rule of law for business.

When localists threw bricks and bottles at police on February 8, they raised a question that has and will continued to fracture the democracy movement. How much resistance and violence should they use?

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“The Russians Are Coming!”

Relax…Russians are not invading the Baltic states anytime soon. As you know, BBC docu and the recent RAND Corp report both states Russia will win a war with NATO, without mentioning why on Earth would Russia want to even fight a war with NATO…so I read the report, so that you don’t have to.

Here’s my response, from a Neo-Realist perspective.

You’re welcome.

9 companies that paid Clinton to speak and donated to Clinton Foundation also lobbied Clinton at State Department

According to a Bombs and Dollars analysis of Hillary and Bill Clinton’s paid speeches over the past two years, the Clintons earned $2.5 million giving speeches to companies that also lobbied the State Department while Clinton was Secretary of State and donated to the Clinton Foundation.

In all, the Clintons raked in $25 million giving paid speeches in 2014 and 2015, according to financial records summarized by Politico, with Bill demanding higher fees per speech–$254,000 to $235,000.

The companies that lobbied, paid, and contributed to Clinton-related institutions were concentrated in the information technology and telecommunications industries.

Group Speaker Number of Speeches Total Speaking Fees Amount Contributed to Clinton Fnd.
GE Hillary Clinton 1 $225,500 Over $500,000 Hillary Clinton 2 $451,000 Over $125,000
Qualcomm Hillary Clinton 1 $335,000 Over $103,000
Microsoft Bill Clinton 1 $225,000 Over $26 million*
American Institute of Architects Bill Clinton 1 $250,000 Over $50,000
AT&T Bill Clinton 1 $225,000 Over $11,000
SAP Bill Clinton 1 $250,000 Over $10,250
Telefonica Bill Clinton 1 $175,000 Over $10,000
Oracle Bill Clinton 1 $300,000 Over $250

*Vox, which analyzed donations to the Clinton Foundation, included the Gates Foundation’s contributions. Donations reported by the Clinton Foundation are in ranges, so a company that gave over $125,000 could have given up to $300,000, for example.

Read on for a full analysis:

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Taiwanese political rivalries explained by baseball (Crosspost)

Crossposted from Mitchell Blatt’s ChinaTravelWriter blog.

A few weeks before I went to Taiwan, I was sitting in a noodle shop in Nanjing, China when a young man started a conversation with me about how much he hated Japan. China had held a heavy-handed military parade a few months before to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japan in World War II, and Nanjing was the site of one of the worst brutalities in the Pacific theatre. The Kuomintang (KMT) government that remains in charge of Taiwan until May 2016 instructed schools to teach that Nanjing to be the legitimate capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan), according to a 2013 Taipei Times article.

In the crowd at the Japan vs. Mexico baseball game (part of the WBSC Premier12) in Taiwan’s functioning capital, Taipei, it felt more like I was in Japan. Down 0-1 in the bottom of the second, Japan hit a home run with a man on first to take the lead, and the crowd stood as one and cheered. Some waved Japanese flags. Many wore jerseys of Japanese teams. A few groups in the bleachers even chanted in Japanese. If you want to see the difference between Taiwan and China, a baseball game isn’t a bad place to look.

Earlier that week, I watched as Taiwanese independence activists protested Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeuo’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was the first such meeting of KMT and Communist leaders since the end of the Chinese Civil War. “Japan is better than China,” more than one protester told me.

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Does Cruz use anti-Semitic dog whistles?

Washington Post op-ed writer Dana Milbank accused Ted Cruz of using “anti-Semitic dog whistle[s],” such as his attack on “New York values.” Does he have a point?

A lot of the phrases about “New York,” “Wall Street,” and “bankers” could be anti-Semitic in certain contexts, but they are also absolutely part of ordinary political discourse. That is what makes them potential dog whistles, after all, but it is also hard to say Cruz had any anti-Semitic intent or meaning with such thin evidence.

Milbank has to have a little bit of “chutzpah,” shall I say, to make this argument:

At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause.

But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.

It wouldn’t be the first time Cruz has been accused of using anti-Semitic dog whistles. What about his claim to support an “America first” foreign policy–the same slogan of Charles Lindbergh and those who opposed involvement in World War II?

But in this particular case, most of what Cruz said can equally be attributed to responding to Donald Trump’s equally nasty attacks. Let’s break down the points one-by-one:

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Rand Paul’s lost opportunity

A libertarian writes about how Paul alienated libertarians.

Senator Rand Paul’s disappointing finish in the Iowa caucus has ended his campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination. It didn’t have to end this way. Once hailed as “the most interesting man in politics” by Time magazine, Rand Paul entered the Republican presidential primary with the opportunity to fundamentally transform the GOP by bringing in Millennials, foreign policy non-interventionists, and social moderates. If there was an opportune moment for a libertarian Republican like Senator Paul to stand out from a crowded field of candidates, 2016 was it. Though he did assume a more libertarian message in the final weeks before the Iowa caucus, it was too little, too late. Rand sought to moderate his pro-liberty message to make it more malleable for traditional social conservatives and foreign policy hawks but led to alienating both mainstream conservative voters and his natural libertarian base. On the consequential issues of our time, foreign policy, immigration, civil liberties, free trade and criminal justice reform, Rand ultimately abandoned the principles that endeared him to libertarians across the country.

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