Monday, February 27, 2012

Australian Political “Soap Box” Ends – PM Gillard Keeps Job with Help from a Friend

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo Source: Former foreign minister Kevin Rudd arrives for the Labor leadership ballot, February 27, 2012; Hilary Whiteman, Q&A: Is this end for Australia's Kevin Rudd?, CNN, February 27, 2012.

On Monday, February 27, 2012, in one of the most watched political contests in the world, as CCN news (February 27, 2012) reported, Prime Minster Julia Gillard “won the ballot with 71 votes to 31 for Kevin Rudd, the former foreign minister who mounted a bold bid to win back the job he was voted to do in a general election in 2007.”

In light of Gillard’s victory and her path to victory, which was by the hand of Rudd himself and his reasons for doing so, it seems appropriate to quote an old saying, “The fox guards the hen house” or “Like a fox guarding the henhouse.”

A point of political intrigue on the part of Rudd is that “before the vote, Rudd vowed to abandon his leadership ambitions if his colleagues returned Gillard as prime minister” (CNN news, February 27, 2012).

The earlier mentioned saying derives from an older nursery rhyme, which reads, “Sleep, my little one, sleep. Thy father guards the sheep,” (Gregory Y. Titelman, Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, (New York, 1996)).

The same saying also variously translates as, “A Fox in the hen house”, and an earlier rendition that says, “To set a wolf to guard sheep” (Latin: Ovem lupo commitere).


Photo Source: “On Monday, members of Australia's Labor Party will be asked to choose between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard”;  Hilary Whiteman, Behind the scenes of Australia's political ‘soap opera’, CCN news, February 23, 2012.

With that being said, whether one approves or disapproves of what just occurred, especially Rudd’s seeming “political”-sleight of hand, he arguably now appears as the fox in the hen house.

What does this mean for the people or good citizens of Australia, well, it all depends.

If Rudd did so for the “greater good” (i.e., Latin: summun bonum), then who really should squawk?

As CCN news (February 27, 2012) rightly observed, “He wanted to demonstrate that he is the people’s choice. His clever publicity campaign and messaging has certainly made that clear to the nation.”

If, however, he is masterfully weaving a web of political machination and intrigue, then perhaps the good citizens ought to concern themselves with what just occurred.

This  is because we might also be witnessing the beginning of the unfolding of a story about a wily old fox, who will eventually stroll unchallenged from the hen house, with his arms full of squawking bags.

One suspects answers to all of these questions will be forthcoming either before, or during the time, the good citizens of Australia head to the polls on November 30, 2013.

For Gillard, in 2013, she will face a new challenge, because she will be facing a challenge from Tony Abbott, who is the leader of the opposition, which is a coalition of both the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia.

Indeed, from now, until November 30, 2013, we will probably witness the unfolding of many truths in Australian politics, especially about Rudd’s “political”-sleight of hand.


See also

Copyright protected: All Rights Reserved by M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mitt Romney’s New Gaffe, “Poor Mouthing”, or Cluelessness? – The Test of Likability and Trust

By M. Ulric Killion


Carlos Osorio/Associated PressMitt Romney speaking to members of the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field in Detroit; Michael Barbaro, Romney’s Cadillac Comment Highlights His Wealth, New York Times, February 24, 2012.

On the Republican (GOP) campaign trail, one of the forerunners, Mitt Romney, as reported by the New York Times, “explained that he owns two cars and his wife owns ‘a couple of Cadillacs.’”

Irrespective of whether one characterizes his words as a gaffe, blatant insensitivity, or simply, and quoting Joe Klein (Time Magazine), “poor mouthing,” he invokes a sense of cluelessness about the plight of those who are not rich or wealthy.

I am talking about the people or average Americans, who, when compared to rich or wealthy persons like Romney, are the less fortunate.

Wealth per se is not the problem, and wealth taken alone is not a drawback to a presidential candidacy, including even his candidacy.

The problem as usual is the likability factor and trust factor.

This is because the problem with Romney, and his ill-spoken gaffes and insensitivities, is that he keeps his cluelessness about the plight of real America or the average American in the news, and right in our face.

Moreover, the increasing frequency of gaffes and insensitivities only lets us know that he is genuinely clueless about how the non-rich or non-wealthy live.

As for the trust factor, the same holds true, because of Romney’s inability to connect with real America or average Americans.

Consequently, Americans generally know neither Romney—the individual, nor Romney—the politician.

His inability to connect with people prevents us from knowing and liking him.

As for Romney–the politician, the same is true, because he blows with the wind, as evidenced by a record in politics that shows him on both sides of the fence on many controversial issues.

For the same reason, if asked who or what Romney is, the answer would necessarily range from being a moderate, to a “severe” conservative, though admittedly he actually said “severely” conservative, as he recently characterizes himself.

Granted, the likability factor will be debated in neither the GOP race nor presidential race.

Nonetheless, the average American wants to like his or her president, and trust that the person elected to the highest office in the land knows, understands, and feels the pulse of real America.

In these respects, Romney failed both the likability test and trust test.

For all of these reasons, in terms of likability and trust, for real America or average Americans his campaign will soon fizzle out.

While Romney’s SuperPAC money, as Business Week reported, is keeping him in the GOP race, there are two things that his SuperPAC money will not be able to buy, which are likability and trust; rather, it will ultimately only engender the opposite effect—“growing” unlikability and distrust.


See also Michael Barbaro, Romney’s Cadillac Comment Highlights His Wealth, New York Times, February 24, 2012 --

DETROIT — Mitt Romney, whose improvisations on the campaign trail have repeatedly reminded voters of his extraordinary wealth, stumbled into the same perilous terrain here on Friday when, unprompted, he explained that he owns two cars and his wife owns “a couple of Cadillacs.”

Two Cadillac SRX’s, to be exact. The cost of a new model: $35,000 to $50,000.

(Ms. Romney owns 2007 and 2010 models: she keeps one at the Romneys’ home in Massachusetts, and the other at their house in California.)

The automotive disclosure came, inauspiciously; at the end of a major speech that Mr. Romney delivered about his plans to revive the stalled economy by cutting income taxes and reforming entitlement programs. . . .

See also Felicia Sonmez, Mitt Romney: Wife Ann drives ‘a couple of Cadillacs’, Washington Post, February 24, 2012 --

The “Cadillacs” line — which was not in the prepared text of Romney’s speech — would not be so troublesome if it weren’t for the fact that Romney has shown a tendency to make unforced errors on the campaign trail when making comments related to wealth.

Last month, Romney remarked that he “like(s) being able to fire people,” a comment that Democrats immediately seized on to paint the candidate as out-of-touch with the middle class. He has described his net worth as “between 150 and 200 some-odd million.” And he said in a CNN interview that he was not concerned about the “very poor,” a statem ent he later walked back.

Romney’s latest remark, while not a major flub, would seem to fit into that narrative: In an effort to emphasize that he drives all American-made vehicles, Romney instead drew attention to the fact that his family owns multiple cars in multiple states.

The timing of the comment is also unfortunate for Romney, coming at a point when the candidate is working to steer the GOP primary debate back to economic issues, his strong suit in the race.

See also The Republican Conundrum

Copyright protected: All Rights Reserved by M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Henry Tang’s Palace or “Hole in the Ground” - A Hong Kong Scandal

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo  Source: Henry Tang, “Why is this man smiling?”, (Cyril Pereira, Hong Kong “Elections”,  Asian Sentinel, February 10, 2012).

In Hong Kong, Henry Tang was thought to be a shoo-in for the new chief executive spot, because he was enjoying the backing of Beijing’s Communist Party leaders.

The shoo-in candidate, however, now finds himself embroiled in a scandal that could foretell the ending of his political career.

For Tang, it is a credibility issue, and one serious enough that his story was the dominant news story on Hong Kong’s televised news stations.

It is the story about what many are characterizing as Tang’s underground palace, while others are simply referring to his illegally built “hole in the ground.”

According to James Pomfret (Reuters),

When media reports first surfaced of a basement built under the swimming pool in violation of building regulations, Tang said at the time it was only “a hole in the ground to store things in, that’s all.”

Later, however, newspapers published architectural plans of the subterranean leisure space, measuring some 200 square metres, including a jacuzzi, wine cellars and spacious rooms in what the tabloid Apple Daily called an “underground palace” (James Pomfret, Hong Kong heir apparent's forbidden "palace" poses headache for China, Reuters, February 16, 2012).

A problem for Tang, the outrage of the public notwithstanding, is that many of his allies are now distancing themselves from him.

Despite calls for his resignation from the campaign for chief executive, Tang appears to be waiting for the turmoil to subside, perhaps in the hope of finding a way to salvage both his candidacy and political career.

Additionally, in explanation of the illegal construction at his premises, one senses that he may have even thrown his wife under the bus, because his twist now on the story is that the construction was attributable to his wife’s actions, as Henry Tang now says.

If ever there was poor timing for Tang, it is now, because, as earlier announced, the nomination for the candidates of the fourth term Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region started on February 14, 2012, and will end on February 29 (Chief executive election nomination opens in HK, Xinhua news, February 14, 2012).

Afterwards, and more importantly, once the fourth term chief executive is elected on March 25, the results are then submitted to the Chinese central government for appointment.

In other words, even if Tang can find a way to  politically survive at this stage of the selection process, in the end, Beijing will ultimately have the final say on Tang’s actions—they will either approve or disapprove.

Chinese Netizens Speak Out

In response to the news about Henry Tang and his illegal hole in the ground or palace, Chinese netizens did speak out. Their responses, however, were amazingly similar in tone, because the netizens appear not very sympathetic to his plight. The comments from netizens generally condemn his actions.

A sample of these comments, which are from the Hong Kong Internet, follows.

痴膠線的少年: Is Tang dog’s basement directly connected to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government? It is convenient for him to report to Beijing.

山神: I think the Liaison Office have more unauthorized building works than Tang’s home.

BusterKeaton: (Tang) can welcome them (Officials from the Liaison Office) to have “pool of wine and forests of flesh”.

Hui: New Kowloon Government

Luk: The new headquarter of HKSAR government is in fact located in Kowloon Tong!

炎蝗只酸: If he becomes Cheif Executive, there will be no autonomy. He is basically a mole.

清新開朗: F***! The basement must be larger than 2400 square feet. It is in fact connected to the basement of the Liaison Office!

Henry Tang’s palace or “hole in the ground”

The following photographs, which were earlier posted by Hong Kong Internet, show different views of the “illegal” construction at Henry Tang’s home. These photographs clearly illustrate the depth of the illegal construction, rather than being simply an illegally built “hole in the ground.”

Hong Kong Oriental Daily even revealed photos of Tang’s “underground palace”. Today (Feb 17th), it was disclosed that the swimming pool, with two glass windows in the bottom, is on the top of the wine-tasting room!


Hong Kong Sharp Daily Evening Version Revealed the Floor Plan of Henry Tang’s Secret Palace on Feb 15th 2012


The Boundary of Tang’s Illegal Underground Palace


Floor Plan of Tang’s Secret Basement


“The design of the mansion’s swimming pool is extremely smart. The basement kitchen can be entered through this.”


“Salon Shampoo Bed in the Basement.”


“Thermostated Wine Cellar”


Basement is on the right and ground floor is on the left


“The view of the swimming pool can be enjoyed from the basement wine-tasting room”

Source: The Secret Underground Palace of Hong Kong Chief Executive Hopeful Henry Tang | Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese


See also

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Economics by Mitt Romney – The “Zisi”-Effect

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo source; “I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” Frank Luntz, an influential GOP pollster and strategist, warned the Republican Governors Association at a meeting in Florida last month, referring to the Occupy movement. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism,” Peter Dreier, Is Capitalism on Trial?, Dissent, January 27, 2012.

1. The Capital Gains Tax Dilemma

Following the earlier scuttlebutt on Mitt’s Romney’s tax returns and his having to pay only a capital gains tax of “about” fourteen (14) percent, the news sources were inundated with the pros and cons of the capital gains tax. In other words, the lively discussions centered on whether the capital gains tax helps or harms.

The question of whether it helps or harms presents issues of whether it helps or harms the recovery of the U.S. economy, and also “who” does it help or harm, being Mitt Romney or/and other American taxpayers.

As concerns Romney having to pay only a fourteen (14) percent tax on his earning, there are pundits on both sides of the issue. Some argue that the capital gains tax fosters economic growth, while others are urging a more equitable tax system or simply tax equity for Americans.

Adam Sorensen, in Time Magazine, writes,

Mitt Romney stammered on Monday night when debate moderators asked him whether he’d release his tax returns. “I hadn’t planned on releasing tax records, because the law requires us to release all of our assets, all the things we own. That I have already released. It’s a pretty full disclosure,” he said. “But, you know, if that’s been the tradition, and I’m not opposed to doing that, time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I am going to get asked to do that around the April time period, and I’ll keep that open.” It wasn’t actually an answer–he’s already been asked–and worse yet, it was much more awkward than Romney’s usual Pomade pivot from unwelcome questions. On Tuesday he gritted his teeth and gave an answer that shed more light on his reluctance.

“What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying?” he said when prompted by reporters in South Carolina. “It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything because my last 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from some investments….” The answer confirmed Michael Scherer’s guestimation in early October: Because of capital gains, Romney pays a tax rate that’s much lower than what most U.S. wage earners will ever enjoy (Adam Sorensen, Why Mitt Romney’s Tax Rate Matters, Time, January 17, 2012).

The obvious problem is that Romney, like other wealthy persons, pays a tax rate that is “much lower than what most U.S. wage earners will ever enjoy” (Sorensen, 2012).

Then there is the source of his reluctance to both provide a full disclosure, as he says “a pretty full disclosure,” and discuss the issue of his tax liabilities, as he grits his teeth when answering questions about the taxes or tax rate he pays.

Initially, one would think that his reluctance to answer these questions might be attributable to guilt, but for the venture capitalist, it seems unreasonable to think so. The other possible source of his reluctance might also be simply “selfishness” or what in the Chinese language they refer to as “zisi.”

It is a selfishness that one should measure against the claims of some pundits that attribute a boost to the U.S. economy from the artifact of a capital gains tax. This is because, and borrowing from philosophical parlance, an artifact is “an object that has been intentionally made or produced for a certain purpose,” (Hilpinen, Risto, “Artifact”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

It is simply put: with this being said, the capital gains tax benefits Romney (i.e., selfishness or “zisi”), the economy (i.e., a boost to the economy that benefits all taxpayers), or both Romney and the economy.

In a perfect scenario or world, the capital gains tax ought to benefit both Romney and the economy by fostering economic growth.

The problem is that it may not do both, and herein might lie the key source of Romney’s reluctance to answer questions about his tax returns.

A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study demonstrates how a combination of labor market reforms, tax and transfer systems, and high-quality education can actually yield a double dividend, which is boosting gross domestic product (GDP) while reducing income inequality.

The latter study addresses the issues of income equality and tax equity. This is not an issue of class warfare, as so phrased by many, it is an issue of whether it is possible to have tax equity while also boosting economic growth.

In other words, the two goals are not in conflict. Those justifying the capital gains tax because it serves as a boost to the economy are impliedly arguing that you cannot have both – tax equity and economic growth.

The OECD study also addressed the impact of taxes and/or tax reforms on equality and growth. The study found that it is possible to reduce income inequality while also boosting economic growth.

As for role of the capital gains tax in reducing income inequality while promoting economic growth, according to the study,

Reduce distortions in taxing capital income. . . . Specific tax relief may also provide tax avoidance instruments for top-income earners. In particular, there is little justification for tax breaks for stock options and carried interest. Raising such taxes would increase equity and allow a growth-enhancing cut in marginal labour income tax rates, (Reducing income inequality while boosting economic growth: Can it be done?, OECD 2012, (forthcoming: Economic Policy Reforms 2012 - Going for Growth)).

The study also found that most tax expenditures benefit high-incomes groups, and cutting them will both increase income equality and promote economic growth. There are exceptions, however, which pertain to “in-work tax credits and other tax expenditures targeted at low-income groups”.

Although Romney earlier announced that he is not worried about the “very poor,” if he is worried about the economy, then he should be (Roland S. Martin, Romney’s Campaign GPS Ignores The Poor, Roland Martin Reports, February 3, 2012; his exact words were, “I’m not concerned about the very poor”).

However, like all other issues, he seems to employ capitalism in defense of his deeds, misdeeds, spoken words and even the ill-spoken ones (See cf., Joe Klein, Romney’s ‘Poor’ Mouthing, Time Magazine, February 2, 2012; he writes, “The real problem that Romney seems not to be acknowledging is that there are increasing millions of working poor in this country — people who earn just enough not to qualify for Medicaid or food stamps, people too poor to buy their own health insurance.”).

2. Republican Nostalgic-Capitalism

Romney keeps telling us that he is a capitalist or believes in capitalism, though he has yet to explain what exactly he means by his assertion. A problem is that his meaning of capitalism could arguably take on many shapes, forms, and animals, because capitalism defies a meaning or definition in the singular sense.

Quoting from an earlier article,

In terms of a potential new model or models, it is also critical to understand that in the twentieth century the classical model of capitalism experiences evolutionary changes (i.e., Darwinism). This is because capitalism evolves from its earlier origins, such as Adam Smith’s modern capitalism and even Max Weber’s rational bourgeois capitalism. The evolution did not commence (e.g., 18th-century France, Pierre-Francois Tubeuf and proto-industrialization (Lewis, 1993)) and then end with the advent of the nineteenth century-form of capitalism, which many also hail as modern capitalism. In terms of a historiography of modern capitalism (the 20th-century form), capitalism actually continued to evolve into new and different forms.

As many now recognize, especially those economists who are proponents of the varieties of capitalism theory, modern capitalism (commencing in the 20th-century) defies description of being a model in the singular sense (Deeg and Jackson, 2006). For instance, Michel Albert (1998) described the development of two competing models of capitalism or, borrowing from the title of his book, Capitalisme contre capitalisme, or capitalism against capitalism. This is attributable to the ending of the Cold War (i.e., after 1991), which produces an Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism (i.e., short-term profit, shareholders, etc.) and a Rhine model (i.e., long-term interest, capital-labor linkage, etc.). A confrontation between the models engenders capitalism against capitalism (Meng, 2008). There are many economists, scholars, or theorists (e.g., Ronald Dore, William Lazonick, Mary O’Sullivan, Meng Jie, Richard Deeg, and Gregory Jackson) that have explored and continue to explore varieties of capitalism or the varieties of capitalism theory (M. Ulric Killion, Post-global Financial crisis: The measure of the “Beijing consensus” as a variety of capitalisms, MPRA Paper 26382, University Library of Munich, Germany, 2010). 

As previously mentioned, Romney leaves us wondering what he means when he says he believes in capitalism. The same result ensues when he charges President Obama and his administration with promoting so-called socialist programs.

As Peter Derier, in Dissent, writes,

These findings are particularly remarkable because there’s been no significant socialist movement in this country for decades. After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the word “socialism” started making a comeback. But it wasn’t because the socialists were gaining momentum. It was because Obama’s opponents—the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the right-wing blogosphere, the Chamber of Commerce, and conservative media gurus like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh—labeled anything Obama proposed, including his modest health care reform proposal, as “socialism,” (Peter Dreier, Is Capitalism on Trial?, Dissent, January 27, 2012).

In other words, Romney’s repeated assertion that he believes in capitalism, like the race code words that GOP forerunners often employ, is just another code word for socialism.

Even assuming, as typical of the GOP forerunners, he is again reverting to nostalgia, by this one means the classical model of capitalism attributable to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, then he neither understands Adam Smith nor understands the real meaning of capitalism.

Moreover, and assuming he even read the Wealth of Nations, he stopped short of also reading Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiment.

An excerpt from The Theory of Moral Sentiment, at Chapter 1: Of Sympathy, reads:

That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiment, (Munsey’s ed., 2001)).

Romney, however, is of the variety of ruffians that are not worried about the “very poor;” thus, presenting for us, his unique variety of Republican nostalgic-capitalism, or simply, the economics of Mitt Romney. For many Americans, the great ruffian appears immune to the plight and suffering of the poor, or should I say, the “very poor.”

Moreover, this selfishness permeates thoroughly throughout his political discourse, which is obvious in his capital gains tax dilemma. His reluctance to discuss his taxes, especially his declaration that he will not raise the capital gains tax, does not serve him well. This is because Romney’s reluctance actually translates into “he” will not raise “his” personal taxes. The “zisi”-effect permeates his political discourse.

For many Americans, the economics of Mitt Romney, or his Republican nostalgic-capitalism, leaves much to desire. This is because, and by virtue of his political discourse, we have come to know that he, like other GOP forerunners, does not embrace the concerns of America as a whole, all of the American people, the poor, the “very poor,” and people of all faiths, creeds, color, and nationalities.

Romney, in particular, demonstrates to American voters that he will do or say almost anything to gain their votes. In past presidential elections and/or primaries, have you ever known a candidate to flip-flop on so many issues of critical importance to Americans? The “zisi”-effect is prevalent in his political discourse, because he will say what he “thinks” he has to say to get votes.

Additionally, the economics of Romney are in harmony with the political discourse and strategy of the new Republican Party or conservative Republican Party. This is because both Romney’s unique variety of Republican nostalgic-economics and the “zisi”-effect fit well with the party apparatus.

For instance, and reflecting the “zisi”-effect, the Republic Party’s calculus for success actually premises upon the doom of the economy. One of the few consistent themes of the GOP forerunners are the woes of a struggling economy.

The strategy is obvious, because in polling Obama was only polling low on the issue of the economy. A problem as observed by many commentators, however, is what the GOP will do in the event that the economy starts to recover, which it is now doing.

Quoting Chris Barry (ABC news),

“Since the depths of the recession, we've seen manufacturing stabilize and start to come back,” said Robert Dye, chief economist for Comerica Bank. “What we've seen in the auto industry lately has been good news for the state.”

In fact, it’s been very good news: Tax revenues have jumped so dramatically that Michigan now enjoys a $457 million budget surplus.

The auto industry is driving the nascent recovery in Michigan, where manufacturing accounts for more than 20 percent of the state’s economy. Indeed, U.S. car sales are revving up at the fastest rate in nearly four years, rising 11 percent in January over a year ago. The state's unemployment rate, while still higher than the national average, has dropped from 12.6 percent, in March 2009, to 9.3 percent in December.

The improving economy, while far from robust, has breathed real life into many small and medium sized companies that supply the auto industry (Chris Barry, Bail-Out Politics: Even Michigan's Economy Is Improving, ABC news, February 15, 2012).

A problem with their calculus for success is a recovering economy. As recently witnessed in the state of Michigan, the car industry is recovering with new jobs, with overtime for workers, car sales are up, and the success of the auto industry is reviving Michigan’s economy.

In response to the earlier bail out of the auto industry in Michigan, and again reflecting the “zisi”-effect, there are the economics of Romney, and his New York Times article, which is entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

As Barry (2012) observed,

The Republican candidates all opposed the bailout, including Romney. The son of former American Motors president and Michigan governor George Romney wrote an article in the New York Times, entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” His words may come back to haunt him.

“If (automakers) get the bailout … you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye,” he wrote, arguing in favor of a “managed bankruptcy” in which the government would guarantee loans, but not provide financing. He reiterated his position in an Op-Ed published in the Detroit News Tuesday. And he paired it with a new TV ad that shows him driving around Detroit neighborhoods.

While the economy is showing signs of recovery, especially in Michigan, and many Americans are still out of work, there is Romney in a recent ad now telling the world that, “President Obama did all the things that liberals have wanted to do for years and still, people in Detroit are distressed,” (Barry, 2012).

The “zisi”-effect is blatantly obvious, because, the use of word “liberals” as a code word for “socialist” or “socialism” notwithstanding, he is even in denial of the on-going economic recovery in Michigan. Rather, he is sticking with the GOP-message of a doomed economy.

As earlier mentioned, he even paired his message of doom with “a new TV ad that shows him driving around Detroit neighborhoods.” The “zisi”-effect continues to rear its ugly head.

3. Romney’s Economic Doom Message

One also wonders if Romney was in President Obama’s shoes three years ago, what he would have done differently. Despite the Republican economic doom message, the Obama administration inherited the worst financial crisis in U.S. history from the Bush administration and it now appears there is upward movement in the economy.

It is beyond conjecture that the great ruffian, by his own admission, would have done absolutely nothing for the so-called “very poor.” It is also reasonable to suspect other poor persons would have found themselves in even worse circumstances. This is because, as Joe Klein (2012) rightly observed, the great ruffian is unable to understand the plight of the poor who earn just enough not to qualify for Medicaid or food stamps, but not enough to buy their own health insurance.

As the great ruffian, in the name of capitalism, attempts to imply that the Obama administration could have done much more, he is wrong and being dishonest, as equally true of his doomsday economic message to America.

Following the earlier on-set of the sub-prime mortgage crisis (or financial crisis), Americans have been facing one of the worst financial crisis in U.S. history, which is not attributable to the Obama administration, though they are constantly working on issues concerning the economy.

The problem is the severity of the damage ensuing from the earlier sub-prime mortgage crisis, which allows Republicans, in the spirit of “zisi”, those moments for their public economic doom messages. Irrespective of whether a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House, the inevitable truth about the financial crisis is that its unique variety has a lingering after effect, which will persist for years to come.

In other words, it is unreasonable of anyone to expect full recovery in a short span of time, rather than incremental and gradual upward movements in the economy such as what is occurring in Michigan and the auto industry.

As Davide Furceri and Aleksandra Zdzienicka recently concluded, “Debt crises produce significant and long-lasting output losses, reducing output by about 10 percent after eight years. The results also suggest that debt crises tend to be more detrimental than banking and currency crises” (Davide Furceri and Aleksandra Zdzienicka, “How Costly Are Debt Crises?”, IMF Working Paper, No. 11/280, December 1, 2011).

More importantly, this demonstrates that Romney’s economic doom message is only a clever execution of spin and code words; all rolled into one neat little package of fear.

4. Conclusion

All of this is representative of the economics of Mitt Romney and the problems that associate with both his Republican nostalgic-economics and the “zisi”-effect (i.e., selfishness).

Indeed, in the end, if the GOP campaign has taught us anything, it has taught us that Mitt Romney cares about Mitt Romney. A problem for the American people is trying to ascertain whether he cares about anyone else in the closed world of Republican nostalgic-economics, or simply, the economics of Mitt Romney, because the “zisi”-effect is everywhere.

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Wang Lijun Mystery: Update No. 2

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo; In this Oct. 16, 2011 photo, Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing city police chief, delivers a speech during the 2nd International Forensic Science Meeting in Chongqing city.Color China Photo, via Associated Press; (Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Inside China’s Greatest Mystery, New York Times, February 12, 2012).

I earlier posted articles about the mysterious disappearance of Wang Lijun, the Deputy Mayor of Chongqing. In China, rumors were earlier circulating via China’s social media that Wang was at the U.S. embassy in nearby Chengdu, where he was seeking to defect.

For now, the rumor about his visit to the U.S. embassy is confirmed.

In the way of an update concerning the seemingly evolving mystery of Wang Lijun and his visit at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, while facts or verifiable facts are still pending, there are plenty of rumors, theories, and spins in the aftermath of his visit.

From earlier humors and speculations, such as Wang seeking to defect, seeking asylum, and suffering from overwork, the stories, humors, and theories did not stop, rather they begin to evolve and continues to evolve into a variety of possible scenarios.

Notwithstanding tidbits of information or, perhaps more accurately, theories coming from so-called “insiders,” what we are hearing are not verifiable facts, because Chinese officials are still remaining silent about official positions, if any, which might be forthcoming.

Today, for outsiders, what occurred and the future consequences of his actions are still pending.

One consequence of his actions might well be the ending of the political career of Bo Xilai. It is also noticeably that the many rumors and theories are actually beginning to focus on the relationship between Wang’s actions and the political career of Bo Xilai.

The relationship of Wang to Bo is critical, because Bo is the Communist party municipal secretary of Chongqing, which means he is Wang’s superior.

This is also a key year for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) because in 2012 the “Fifth Generation Leadership” will ascend to power.

Bo also enjoys the status of being a member of the elite 25-person politburo.

What is important to Bo’s political career is that it is from this elite politburo that members of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (SCNPC) are chosen.

The Chinese National People's Congress Takes Place...BEIJING - MARCH 06:  Bo Xilai, Secretary of Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, attends a meeting during the annual National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 6, 2011 in Beijing, China. Known as 'liang hui,' or 'two organizations', it consists of meetings of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), and its advisory auxiliary, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Photo: Bo Xilai.

The influence of scandal on Bo’s political career should now have become obvious, even more so when one considers other rumors or theories hinting at Wang being in possession of evidence of crimes and corruption, which impliedly will affect Bo.

Moreover, during this period, it only gets worse if rumors or theories hold true that Wang’s life was at risk following a rift with Bo.

For instance, the Financial Times writes, “Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing who tried to defect to the US last week, was often called RoboCop because of his ruthless pursuit of adversaries and his unquestioning loyalty to Bo Xilai, his political patron.”

Accordingly, he sought refuge in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China, because, “many speculate that” Mr Wang sought Mr Bo’s protection when the investigation appeared to be getting close to him, but that Mr Bo rebuffed him,” (Jamil Anderlini, Police chief turns against former mentor, Financial Times, February 13, 2012).

In the same vein, another article appearing in the Financial Times also ties the mystery to Bo Xilai.

“A mafia-busting former police chief called Wang Lijun spent more than 24 hours last week in the US consulate in the city of Chengdu arguing that his life was at risk after a rift with Bo Xilai, his boss and Communist party secretary of Chongqing municipality.” While scores of armed Chinese police surrounded the consulate, Mr Wang pleaded for asylum in the US. When that was refused he tried to cut a bargain with senior officials in Beijing, according to insiders.”. . . .

As news of Mr Wang’s attempted defection began to leak out on the Chinese internet last week, the government initially tried to claim that he was suffering from stress and was being given “vacation-style therapy”. It later said his trip to the consulate was under investigation.

After leaving the consulate, Mr Wang was taken to Beijing, where he is believed to be in the custody of state security and the party’s disciplinary inspection organisation.

Insiders said they believed this might have been the outcome Mr Wang was hoping for when he sought refuge in the US consulate because he is now probably in the hands of people who answer to Mr Bo’s political rivals. (Jamil Anderlini, The humbling of Bo Xilai, Financial Times, February 13, 2012).

The take on this story by the New York Times is no different, which reads,

Mr. Wang was Mr. Bo’s top cop until early February. Yet no one knows for sure and no one doubts that the truth, when it finally comes out, will prove extremely complex.

China’s blogosphere has been transfixed, with Sina’s weibo, or microblog, service, so far registering almost 2 million posts on the topic. (Mr. Wang later walked out of the consulate and likely flew to Beijing, personally escorted by a vice minister of state security, Qiu Jin, Bloomberg Business News reported.), (Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Inside China’s Greatest Mystery, New York Times, February 12, 2012).

 Chinese Netizens Speak Out

As also observed by the New York Times (February 12, 2012), following an earlier leak on the Internet, China’s social media was also busy formulating rumors and theories.

Their speculations, however, were a wide-ranging variety. Such as Wang’s attempt to defect to the United States, Wang is suffering from stress or overwork, Wang was seeking asylum at the U.S. consulate, and to being a mystery involving the politician Bo Xilai.

In illustration, a sampling or excerpts of these speculations from Oiwan Lam, at Global Voices, provides an excellent sampling of some of the rumors and theories of Chinese netizens.

Meanwhile on Twitter, netizens have their own speculation about what took place.

Bo Xilai left in the lurch: Corruption fighter Wang hops away, leaving Chongqing mayor and deputy Party Secretary Huang Qifan ("red songs") behind; Image by Rebel Pepper.

Tufuwugan, for one, believes [zh] that Wang Lijun has been made Bo Xilai's scapegoat:


I think someone wants to stop Bo from entering the Politburo standing committee and they do this by taking away his arms. Bo will sacrifice Wang Lijun to protect himself. During the cultural revolution, he even broke a few ribs of his dad's, so betraying Wang Lijun is nothing. Wang Lijun probably sensed that Bo would betray him, which is why he ran into the U.S. Consulate. This is such an exciting opera.

Alan Huang feels that Wang has been too naive in his political career:


Mongolian Wang Lijun learned martial arts since he was very young. He could have led the independence movement of Inner Mongolia and become a national hero. But, he betrayed his people and lives in shame. In a society where people's status is defined by that of their fathers, there is no way that a railway worker's son can fight against the head of the princelings, Bo Xilai. He has no idea who is in control, so naive.

Qiumazha on the other hand feels [zh] that Wang has made a good move:


Suddenly I feel that Wang Lijun is not stupid at all. He ran into the U.S. consulate in order to draw public attention, so that he wouldn't be vaporized. In addition, he claims that he has all the evidence [on Bo] hidden in a safe place. In the case that he's killed, the secrets will be revealed. That safe place might be the U.S. consulate. He has enough investigation experience that he should be more imaginative than any Hollywood director. Those laughing at Wang Lijun are too ignorant.

Since Wang Lijun has been very harsh in cracking down on political activists, dissidents in Twitter are happy to see him seeking help from the “enemy forces”.

Gongmingyaoyao mocks [zh] Wang:


Wang Lijun teaches us that all 50 cents know that the Americans are their daddy in critical moments like this….

Wuyuesanren echoes [zh] Gongmingyaoyao's comment on Sina Weibo:


I always said that our officials trust the U.S. government more than any other. People just don't believe that Sino-U.S. relations are that good. Now, Wang's move has proven it again, right? For us, those who are labelled as the US dollar gang [as opposed to the 50 cent party], we appreciate the U.S system and want to learn from it. But they [the officials] keep their family and wealth in the U.S. Please wake up, 50 cents!

Shang Guangluan reports [zh] on what he heard from the street:


My god… just now I had noodles in a small shop, a number of rural workers were talking about Wang Lijun. The incident has become people's entertainment. Their conclusion is: Wang Lijun will be shot to death for treason…

Political dissident Ye du points out [zh] that:


[Observation online] All people are talking about Wang Lijun online. The incident shows that in a society where everyone hurts everyone else, even though you are from the Establishment, there is no safety. Today you hurt someone, tomorrow you will be hurt either because of the clan you belong to or over someone's interests. That's why we say democracy is the way out of such mutually inflicted fear and harm.

Writer Ye Kuangzheng believes [zh] that Wang Lijun's move signifies a turn in China history:


It has been proven that Wang Lijun did enter the U.S consulate. This is the first time since 1949 that such a high-ranking government official has made such a shocking move. Lin Biao's escape, that failed. The fear that Wang is was confronting must have been enormous, or else he wouldn't have made such a move. Wang Lijun's actions and his future will have significant influence on China's future political ecology and the psychological state of government officials. This political earthquake has only just begun.

Source: Oiwan Lam, China: The Political Drama of Wang Lijun’s “Stress Leave” · Global Voices, February 11, 2012.

As earlier mentioned, for now the mystery of Wang Liwung remains a mystery, and will remain so until we hear an official statement from Beijing or other appropriate source.

For now, China-watchers only have the rumors, theories, and spins on this story, which are rumors, theories, spins, and statements from so-called “insiders”, which might or might not be sources of reliable information. However, in the end, time will tell all.

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.


See also

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Obama’s Accomodations to Religious Institutions – The Quiet Resolution of an ‘Ab Initio’ Non-Issue

By M. Ulric Killion


President Obama offered “accommodations” to religious institutions on the new health insurance rule Friday, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

As subjectivity, politics of the moment, and non-legal ramblings ruled the day, the so-called “contraception mandate” (i.e., the rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control) was actually a non-issue from the start, though now fully resolved by the Obama administration.

What many were perceiving as a building movement led by Roman Catholic bishops lacked a critical legal foundation in terms of both state and federal law.

It is perhaps for this reason that Roman Catholic bishops were urging Republications to initiate legislative action in response.

It is also for this reason that Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesperson promised Catholic bishops that House Republicans “will continue to work toward a legislative solution” (See Helene Cooper and Laurie Goodstein, Rule Shift on Birth Control Is Concession to Obama Allies, New York Times, February 10, 2012; presenting a fuller discussion of the role of Sister Carol Keehan and why the Obama administration modified the rule).

Otherwise, the move or adjustment was a wise decision by the Obama administration.

Although, strictly speaking in a legal sense, the so-called “contraception mandate” itself suffered from neither being illegal under state and federal law, nor in violation of constitutional rights (i.e., U.S. Constitutional Rights).

Additionally, as concerns issues of the legality of the rule, the record on the actions of Catholic bishops is actually one of somewhat conflicting positions on their part.

Moreover, the influence of subjectivity, politics of the moment, and non-legal ramblings notwithstanding, Rachel Maddow’s take on the issue provides an excellent summary of why this is so, and why this issue was a really a non-issue from the start.

When writing about Republicans, the new allegiance of Republican forerunners to “Personhood USA” (i.e., Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul,  and Mitt Romney have pledged to pursue “personhood” at the federal level), and the so-called “contraception mandate”, as Maddow rightly observed,

There is no constitutional infirmity in requiring religious institutions to follow the same insurance and labor regulations as other employers. Twenty-eight states already require that health insurance plans cover contraception; eight states do not even exempt churches from that requirement, as the Obama administration’s rules would, even before the president announced an expanded religious exemption on Friday. New York, whose Catholic archbishop has railed so vehemently against the administration on this issue, already lives under the rule he decries — it’s state law. The rule is also partially enshrined in federal law thanks to a December 2000 ruling of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. More than a dozen congressional Republicans proposed that this same rule become federal law in 2001, to a furious outcry from precisely no one (Rachel Maddow, War on birth control, Washington Post, February 10, 2012).

According to Maddow, “The right has picked a fight on this issue because religiosity is a convenient partisan cudgel to use against Democrats in an election year.”

For now, however, the non-issue is a dead issue, and GOP forerunners will have to explore other domestic agendas for issues on which to pursue their political campaigns.

This is because the issue that gathered so much press coverage and so much attention by GOP forerunners was always an “ab initio” (i.e., Latin: from the beginning) non-issue.

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Wang Lijun Mystery: Update

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo: Police outside U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China, February 7, 2012, BBC.

I earlier posted an article about the mysterious disappearance of Wang Lijun, the Deputy Mayor of Chongqing. In China, rumors were earlier circulating via China’s social media that Wang was at the U.S. embassy in nearby Chengdu, where he was seeking to defect. The rumors followed suspicions about his disappearance for a period of about twenty-four hours. Today, there was at least a confirmation of the rumor that Wang was at the U.S. embassy in Chengdu.

As reported by BBC News (Feb 9, 2012),

The mystery surrounding one of China’s top police chiefs has deepened after the US government confirmed he visited one of its consulates.

Some are speculating that Wang Lijun was seeking asylum, although the US state department said it could not comment on that issue. . . .

‘Own volition’

There has been speculation for several days about the fate of Wang Lijun following a disturbance outside the US consulate in Chengdu earlier this week.

Chengdu is just a few hours drive from Chongqing, where Mr Wang is also the deputy mayor.

People reported seeing swarms of police officers, who set up roadblocks outside the consulate.

Posting comments on Chinese micro-blog sites, some said a SUV-style vehicle with a Chongqing number plate was hauled away by the police.

Speaking in Washington, US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “Wang Lijun did request a meeting at the US consulate general in Chengdu earlier this week.”

In carefully-worded comments she added: “He did visit the consulate and he later left the consulate of his own volition.”

Ms Nuland said the state department did not talk about issues related to those seeking refugee status or asylum.

Mr Wang was removed from his post as head of Chongqing’s police department last week and given other duties.

Then on Wednesday the city government’s news department said on its micro-blog site that he had gone on leave.

“It is understood that Vice-Mayor Wang Lijun, who has suffered overwork and immense mental stress for a long time, is seriously physically indisposed. After agreement, he is currently taking holiday-style medical treatment,” read the tweet.

Wang Lijun, 52, headed an attack on organised crime in Chongqing that saw hundreds of people arrested, including the former head of the city’s judicial authorities. . . .

Source: Michael Bristow, Chongqing policeman Wang Lijun mystery deepens, February 9, 2012.

However, the disappearance of Wang remains a mystery with many unanswered questions. In China, people are generally in a state of disbelief, because it is difficult to speculate why he would disappear for so long a period, and more importantly, why go to the U.S. embassy.

The rumors now run the gambit from political defection, asylum, to stress from overwork. None of which adequately explains his disappearance, especially that of a Chinese official spending the night in a U.S. embassy.

The greater mystery is what was he doing at the U.S. embassy and why did he leave.

In the interim, while U.S. officials are not divulging any of the specifics regarding a meeting with Wang, one suspects that Chinese officials will insist on specific details of this meeting.

For this reason, it is reasonable to suspect that the mystery (or case) of Wang will remain an open mystery until such time.


See also Wang Lijun, Crime Fighter, Is Said to Have Tried to Defect, Posted February 9, 2012:


Wang Lijun, the deputy mayor of Chongqing, attended a conference in the city on Jan. 7. Chongqing authorities said in a statement that Mr. Wang had taken sick leave. Reuters.

By Ian Johnson, Feb 8, 2012 — BEIJING — In a sign that China’s political season is heating up, reports circulated widely on Wednesday that one of the country’s most famous crime fighters had tried to defect to the United States.

The reports were impossible to confirm, but China’s social media were filled with speculation about the fate of Wang Lijun, a onetime rising star in the western megacity of Chongqing, where he had been the deputy mayor overseeing public security. . . .

Source: Wang Lijun, Crime Fighter, Is Said to Have Tried to Defect –

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.