Another Perspective

Why Pussy Riot Deserves Our Sympathy

By 2.20.14

Let’s be honest: the images that came out of Sochi yesterday were sickening. Thugs in uniforms beating young women with horsewhips, kicking them to the ground and throwing their things in garbage cans — piggish behavior in defense, we are told, of “traditional values.” And why? Because four members of Pussy Riot, the feminist punk protest group, decided to sing and dance a bit. What a lot of nonsense. Or at least I wish it were nonsense rather than the creeping totalitarianism that it is.

At Large

Another North Korean Crossroad

By 2.3.14

There has been a well-defined pattern to negotiations pursued over the decades by North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — DPRK). It may be wishful thinking, but that pattern appears to have just changed and it looks like the Obama White House and John Kerry’s State Department have either missed it or chose to ignore the alteration.

The South Korean president, Ms. Park Geun-hye, sensing something different in the diplomatic climate, took the necessary first step in reconciliation on January 6, 2014 by again offering the possibility of resuming the reunion of relatives from North and South suspended since 2010. After a pro forma rejection Pyongyang quickly shifted ground in a few days and returned the same offer. The possibility of the effectively mutual gesture long had been available, but the timing now was right. The reason for the change in the position of the DPRK is what is most important.

Persecution of Christians Continues in Nigeria

By on 1.28.14 | 5:55PM

Various reports estimate that between 52-99 Christians were killed Sunday in Nigeria.

The Islamic radicals, who officials claim are militants with the Boka Haram, set off explosives in the small village of Kawuri, which killed 85 people and burned down 300 homes.

"We are still searching and burying corpses since yesterday," said Dala Lawan, a Kawuri official. "The first burial was 53 but more corpses are still being picked in the bushes and some with serious injuries also died. We have just found two more corpses, which brings the death toll to 85 for now."

A church service in Wada Chadkawa, another village, was attacked as well. Gunshots and explosives added casualties:

At Large

Corruption Haunting China

By 1.26.14

There is a practice in China that has been going on for many generations, but most prominently since the expansion of trade with the West in the 1800s. It has become accepted that whenever an advantageous exchange occurs a material or monetary “grateful thanks” will be offered. This is called a cumshaw, a foreign bastardization of the Mandarin, and it can be anything from a hotel gratuity to some special “additionality” to a multi-million dollar industrial deal. Under recent communist governments officials at all levels, including generals, have become rich by receiving cumshaws after approving certain civilian contracts and military purchases. What originally was a custom expressing thanks to an impoverished servant has led to high-level corruption — and China’s new president wants it rooted out.

Upon the Anniversary of Eisenhower’s Farewell

By on 1.17.14 | 4:58PM

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together...

-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

Chinese Government Cracks Down Again

By on 1.17.14 | 11:15AM

The Chinese New Citizens Movement's fight for constitutional freedom continues to face fierce opposition from China's new president, Xi Jinping.

Not only did the Chinese government arrest the movement’s leader, Xu Zhinyong, in July for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place," but the New York Times reported that another 160 protesters like Xu have been arrested over the last year.

What makes Xu such a dangerous threat? His rights campaign has centered on “anti-corruption”—fighting against abuses such as forced relocation of citizens, rape, beatings, and even a contaminated milk scandal.

In Memoriam

Goodbye to a Legendary Warrior

By 1.11.14

The death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the final curtain on a long sad drama that began in 2005 when he was felled by a massive stroke. He was a legendary warrior for Israel against its enemies and a genius of tactics and strategy. Arguably it took eight years in a coma to wring the vitality from him. He was a giant and an exemplar for those who believe, as I do, that the Jewish state is a benign democratic outpost of civilization in the Middle East. For all those who think that area of the world would be at peace were it not for Israel, let them explain why practically all of Israel’s neighbors are in internecine conflict there today and only Israel is at peace and prospering. Its peace and prosperity comes in large part from the contributions of Ariel Sharon.

The Hell-Hole Spectator

Dennis the Menace

By 1.9.14

Perhaps it had to be this way. Only Nixon could go to China, and only Rodman could go to North Korea. The weirdest man for the weirdest country, right?

I am nothing if not a child of the ‘90s, so I vaguely remember Rodman’s time in the NBA, especially his stint in Chicago: the successive rebounding titles, the freakish 72-10 regular season record in ’95-6, the pink hair and piercings. I also remember that on the playground and in gym class whenever someone did something unsportsmanlike — threw a dodge ball at somebody’s back or kicked a soccer ball too hard in the direction of a girl — we would all say, “Don’t be queer like Rodman.” We had no idea what it meant to be queer, but we knew that it had something to do with a man posing in a bridal gown and that it was, distinctly, a Bad Thing.

I wonder whether others my age remember this once-popular insult. It definitely wasn’t indigenous to my elementary school, as I discovered when I heard one of my older cousins employ it (“Pokémon? That game’s queerer than Rodman”). Just a piece of lore for the benefit of oral historians.

Robert Gates Pulls No Punches

By on 1.8.14 | 11:23AM

Last night, I thought perhaps we were making too much of former defense secretary Robert Gates’s criticisms of the Obama administration. Today, after reading the adaptation of his book published in the Wall Street Journal, I’ve changed my mind. The essay, fittingly titled “The Quiet Fury of Robert Gates,” scorches nearly everything in Washington, with particular fire reserved for the Obama administration.

On Obama and Afghanistan:

I witnessed a good deal of wishful thinking in the Obama administration about how much improvement we might see with enough dialogue with Pakistan and enough civilian assistance to the Afghan government and people. When real improvements in those areas failed to materialize, too many people—especially in the White House—concluded that the president's entire strategy, including the military component, was a failure and became eager to reverse course.

On Obama in comparison to Bush:

Happy New Year! Here’s a Post About Vodka

By on 12.31.13 | 1:22PM

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody! As many of us will be raising a toast to 2013 tonight, I found this story about boozy diplomacy especially apt for today. 

The article, titled "The Vodka Effect," traces the history of vodka in Russia in light of the recent dismissal of Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey for drunken antics. I always appreciate a drinking story, especially from world leaders: 

Still, with apologies to Gawker and the New York Post, this was hardly the most epic Russian bender by a public official ever. In historical perspective, it was downright tame. In the process of researching my new book Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State, I’ve come across dozens of accounts of drunken state banquets spanning Russia’s imperial, Soviet and post-independence past—both by Russians accustomed to such traditions, and foreigners shocked and appalled by them.