#ImWithHer, and some thoughts

Election has been unprecedented in so many ways. The good– a highly qualified woman who is poised, knowledgeable, and ready to be commander-in-chief is running as a major party candidate. The bad– a deeply unqualified man gets to run against her as her equal, despite a long and rich history of disrespecting women, people of color, and in general, any people that happen to cross his path when things do not go his way.

This presidential election has dredged up the ugly facade of America that’s always been there, just hiding behind the surface. In a way, I’m glad that it got revealed– in many ways, it’s much better than believing the shiny veneer that everything is all right. It’s not.

For years, picking up force during the 2008 elections and beyond, the Republican Party has condoned ignorance and demagoguery in their Party, and have allowed some of the highest politicians of the land to spout nonsense– the most extreme example, their 2016 presidential candidate. Without a resounding condemnation of their candidate, they implicitly lend credence to their candidate’s racism, bigotry, and sexism. Suddenly, the racists, bigots, and sexists who support The Yam became “mainstream”. They are not. I strongly believe in the goodness and generosity of the greater American public. However, the Republican Party chose to pander to that part of the electorate, helping their rise and destructive domination of mainstream politics. To put it crudely, they have made their bed and must sleep in it.

There are many respectable Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats, but now are demonized because of the radicalism that the Republican Party knowingly embraced. Conservative (or liberal) values does not mean one must have their way all the time. That is how our democracy was built– on compromise, not on one party rule.

I hope this election brings about the return of reason and compromise. And so, #ImWithHer.



[politics/analysis] my immediate reactions: Bin Laden’s death and Obama’s statement.

Osama Bin Laden was the bane of the Bush administration, and his death may just prove the savior of Obama’s administration. If Obama plays his cards right, this could get him a tipping point on the reelection scale. I do not like the four year terms of the US presidents–they are really too short to do anything meaningful and their actions can be undone rather easily (as the Republicans in Congress strongly like to hint). Even though Obama has done some questionable things, he hasn’t been horrifically bad, and I’d like to give him time to make good on his promises, many of which I think should be given time to be developed and tested.

Further implications beyond Obama’s reelection? Well, Bin Laden was a symbol of the Al Qaeda movement, and so Al Qaeda will be stalled a bit and demoralized, that is, if there’s not a sizable saint movement happening for him and another charismatic and strong leader waiting in the wings– but these reactions will take time to formulate. America is the one that has momentum now, and it can further cement its allies’ commitment to fighting Al Qaeda (“hey! we did it! we killed him! we actually have purposes in fighting wars!”). The drone attacks in Pakistan may seem less controversial in the US for the time being as well. We will definitely regain some of that old American swagger in international politics and perhaps this will be reflected in a more aggressive military policy. There is a lot to consider, and as just a lowly undergraduate who can only think of questions and can only inadequately provide vague answers, I suggest you read The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times tomorrow morning for Op-Eds and analysis.

My general reaction watching the Obama’s statement:

Appearance: Obama was wearing a red tie, and he was in a hallway with red carpet. There was no one with him. He walked in by himself and walked out by himself. This ties in with the theme of him being the lone commander-in-chief; he even said, “I gave the direction…” and “I ordered…”–though this is a group effort, Obama focused on his part. Interesting. Subtle reelectioneering? Or paranoid Michelle?

Demeanor: Obama was not looking at the camera while speaking. I’ve been told this is because he looks more ‘respectable’ and ‘handsome’ from a certain angle. Obama is also known for being a cool intellectual, and he certainly was that here. He was not angry, he was not even happy. He was mature, like he knew all along this would happen. And as the adult in the room, he reminded us that despite Bin Laden’s death, we need to still be vigilant. However, I wish he was more reassuring and paternal rather than the strict uncle.

International Relations: Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, and Pakistan has been an uncertain ally of the US. Obama reaffirmed their good relationship, and then branched onto Islam. Personally, I believe this part on Islam was most important, that America is “not at war with Islam” because we often get portrayed like that, to our huge detriment. We have no real allies in the Middle East (Egypt? Israel?). If there’s one world relationship America can improve tremendously, it’s Middle East. China can ignore us at Copenhagen, but the Middle East wouldn’t even bother to show up.

Bush comparison? The biggest thing that struck me was the difference between Bush’s seemingly precipitous decision-making process and Obama’s meticulous process that apparently took months. Subtle reelectioneering? You bet. Anything to get The Trump from holding office.

Speech quality: on the high end, but I wouldn’t say a classic rhetorically. No major doctrinal introductions, no major memorable phrase (“justice has been done”… I half expected “justice has been served!”). It will be a classic because of the subject matter, though. Ending with the pledge is genius. Obama opened with the concept of the one American family, and he reverts to one thing that all American citizens (should) know: the pledge.

I am sure all these analyst monkeys at WSJ, Economist, & NYTimes are working at breakneck speed now. This monkey blogger here will read all 495886 opinions tomorrow. And maybe write a blog post on it.

Click to see my original notes as I watched the live statement– if that sort of thing interests you:

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[politics/world] brief thoughts on Ai Weiwei’s disappearance

Ai Weiwei is an extremely, extremely talented artist from China, having collaborated in building the Beijing 2008 Olympics’ iconic Bird’s Nest stadium. He is also a human rights activist, and outspoken against the Chinese government, which is ruled by the authoritarian Communist Party. Recently, he has been arrested for investigation of ‘economic crimes’. Several world-renowned museums like The Metropolitan, the Guggenheim, and Tate Modern, have started petitions to release Mr. Weiwei.

Tate Modern put a sign on their building. Flashy.

China has lately been suppressing news media reports on the recent revolutions in the Middle East, and during this time, Mr. Weiwei posted on his Twitter: “I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!” This generated buzz about a possible ‘jasmine revolution’ in China, which led the Chinese government to start censoring the word ‘jasmine’. The artist has also accused government officials of corruption in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Clearly, Mr. Weiwei is a man of influence. Yet, arresting him doesn’t lessen his influence. In fact, it rather increases his influence–the Chinese government inspires more suspicion and more distrust in their constituency by using these methods. In this way, Chinese government has arguably done more to incite a ‘jasmine revolution’ than Mr. Weiwei himself.

Do I actually believe a jasmine revolution for democracy could ever really take place in China? No. Not now, at least. China is in a phase of rapid growth right now, and most ordinary people are more concerned about their economic well-being than issues of the government. When the Chinese government begins to seriously impinge upon the economic growth, then there will be a backlash (Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya are quite poor, aren’t they?). China is quite the opposite. They desperately want to become a superpower, and the best way to become one is to have huge economic clout.

China often gets called out by Western nations like the United States for its horrible human rights record. Yet, China always childishly repartees by taunting, “Well, your human rights record isn’t perfect, either! What about Guantanamo?” That is not a solution. Calling out another’s problems does not erase your own problems. At least for US citizens, there is due process. Yet for a citizen of China like Mr. Weiwei, his right to a fair trial and investigation can immediately be waived.

China needs to reconcile the fact that this is no longer the 1970s or the 1980s. There is much greater visibility in the world today, and what happens to a prominent member of the international community will get scrutinized, and what they are doing may be accomplishing the opposite of what they seek.

But one thing always bothers me. Though China’s actions may be ‘scruntinized,’ who can stop the Chinese government? No one, really, if it doesn’t come from the Chinese people themselves. Yet as I’ve said before, ordinary Chinese people are not concerned with these matters at all, and are rather mystified at the whole concept of protesting against the government. More troublingly, Chinese economic clout is already very large–they keep resisting a devaluation of the yuan, and they singlehandedly overturned the ambitious aims in the 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen:

China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. […] I left Copenhagen more despondent than I have felt in a long time. After all the hope and all the hype, the mobilisation of thousands, a wave of optimism crashed against the rock of global power politics, fell back, and drained away.

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room, The Guardian, Mark Lynas

China does not care about multilateralism or the opinion of other countries. It will continue using coal, continuing propping up dictatorships and other dubious governments, so long as it serves Chinese interest. In short, China is fast turning into a bully that even the United States can’t deflect. Or even worse, the United States is becoming a bystander, unable to do anything but watch.

Slate Magazine has a great article and slideshow of Mr. Weiwei’s works. I highly encourage you to look at the slideshow, because Mr. Weiwei, in all fundamental respects, is a staggering artist.

I would like to remark as a Chinese-American, I feel a loyalty to both countries, but that does not preclude me from analyzing either government, whether positively or negatively. Of course there are arguments against what I have just stated, and feel free to comment on them. Keep in mind, this is just a ‘brief’ analysis, so obviously I cannot address all facets of your brilliant tactical minds.

[photography/politics] some of the best photos from the White House 2011

Pete Souza has a dream job, taking photos of the President and his activities. His photos are simply stunning; the quality and composition are painstakingly thought out, trying to show us a side of the President and his consuming duties that we may not think about. Souza is extremely effective at portraying Obama as a human being—for every security briefing we see a photo of, we see pictures of Obama playing basketball, reading books to children, and laughing.

President Barack Obama laughs during a meeting in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011. / Lincoln is in the background. Not an accident. This photo blew me away.

President Barack Obama greets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Colonnade prior to their meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2011. / Can you say symbolization? Secretary of State is on the outside, President is inside.

President Barack Obama reads from his book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," during a visit by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and his family to the Oval Office, March 2, 2011. / I have a favorite justice. So kill me. Can you name all the justices sitting on the Supreme Court right now?

President Barack Obama stands by a cut-out picture of First Lady Michelle Obama during a visit to Miami Central High School in Miami, Fla., March 4, 2011. / I love Obamas sense of humor! Trout.

Want to see more? Official White House flickr photostream.