“I’m sorry” isn’t enough for the UCLA basketball players

Talk about privilege.

UCLAPlayers

UCLA basketball players Cody Riley (L),  LiAngelo Ball (C) and Jalen Hill (R) at a news conference on Nov. 15, 2017.

UCLA freshman basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill are hardly run-of-the-mill children. They were recruited to the UCLA not because of their academic promise, but because they were top-notch basketball players. That’s what got them their free ride at the school.

And their detention in Hangzhou China wasn’t because one of them mischievously left a store with a pack of gum without paying for it. Far from it. They were arrested for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store. Such sunglasses typically run $600 – $2000.

And their heists went beyond that. Chinese police have surveillance footage of the three shoplifting in three, yes three, stores in a high-end shopping center. These guys were on a shoplifting spree.

Anybody else pulling this stuff in China would be in prison. But these guys avoided prison sentences because of their celebrity and the intervention of no less than the President of the United States.

“Everyone’s making it a big deal,” said LiAngelo’s father, LaVar. “It ain’t that big a deal.”

But it was a big deal. And these aren’t naïve college kids from the sticks. For example, LiAngelo’s older brother, Lonzo, is a Los Angeles Lakers point guard and his 16-year-old brother, LaMelo, is a high school sophomore who has already committed to play basketball at UCLA and has launched his own $395 Melo Ball 1 sneakers.

A suspension after the ritualistic “I’m sorry” shouldn’t let these three off the hook. Their basketball careers at UCLA shouldn’t be suspended. They should be over.

A different world: the unintended consequences of China’s one-child policy

The deaths of female babies by drowning, sex-selective abortion, malnutrition, denial of health care and abandonment.

These are some of the grim consequences of China’s one-child policy.

chinaforcedabortion

In 2012, CNN reported that Feng Jianmei, 22, was detained and coerced into having an abortion in the seventh month of her pregnancy, according to her husband.

But they aren’t the only ones.

China, once fixated on explosive population growth and worried about the economy’s ability to cope with it, now has a new problem, too sharp a drop in birth rates and too many old people.

The ramifications for China and the rest of the world could be severe.

In 1979, Liang Zhongtang, a Chinese economist and demographer, insisted that the one-child policy would be a “terrible tragedy” that would turn China into a “breathless, lifeless society without a future,” but he was ignored.

In 1980, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, fearfully contemplating a population of one billion, initiated a one-child policy.

OneChildPoster

The rigorous enforcement of the policy quickly got ugly, with a particularly devastating impact on female babies, as families favored having male children.

“Chinese women’s reproduction is utilized as a feature of socialist modernization, a sacrifice for the good of the state,” said Winter Wall, founder and Managing Member at W3 Global Consulting in Denver, CO. “Reproductive rights in Chinese society have been co-opted by the government as a component of a broader push towards socialist modernization.”

While most Americans think of China in terms of the cheek-to-jowl masses of people crowded into Bejing, there’s much more to the story.

NPR reported this past year on the consequences of the one-child policy in China’s Rudong County in Jiangsu province.

The county launched a family planning pilot program in the 1960s. “Having a second child wasn’t allowed, so we had to work on (pregnant women) and persuade them to have an abortion,” Chen Jieru, the Communist Party secretary of a village at the time, told NPR.

The result? The policy, in combination with an exodus of young people to cities for better opportunities, has left the county’s young population shriveled while the elderly population has exploded.

The increasing number of the elderly is soon going to be a problem across China. There are now five workers to each retiree, but in a little more than 20 years that is projected to shift to 1.6 workers to every one retiree. “It spells shrunken tax coffers, reduced consumer spending and all-around diminished productivity,” said Mei Fong in her recently issued book, “One Child – the story of China’s most radical experiment.”

A senior Chinese economist, Liu Mingkang, speaking at the Asia Global Dialogue in 2012, said China’s population growth will end as soon as 2020 when its population will peak at 1.6 billion.

Youhua Chen, a demographer at China’s Nanjing University, has also gained some notoriety by warning about a sharp drop ahead for China’s population. The decline will be accompanied by soaring health care and pension costs, and collapsing real estate markets, he has warned.

Prof. Chen has predicted that China’s population will peak at about 1.4 billion and then fall precipitously to 500 million. His graph is below.

GraphImage

Title: Figure 1   Estimated China Population Growth 1950-2100   (Black line): Low (Plan, Program, Prospects…)   (Pink line): Medium (Plan, Program, Prospects…)   (Blue line):  High (Plan, Program, Prospects)   Graph courtesy of Mei Fong, Fellow, New America                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

If Prof. Chen is right, this means lots of problems.

“These problems will compromise economic development, strain social harmony, and place the traditional Chinese family structure under severe pressure; in fact, they could shake Chinese civilization to its very foundations,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy with the American Enterprise Institute.

There are already signs of a slowing Chinese economy that will be exacerbated by the aging of the population. China’s economy is “like a speeding bicycle that has to keep going just to keep from falling over, “ said the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a report on China’s Long March to Retirement Reform.

Gordon G. Chang, writing in World Affairs, has posited that the decline in China’s population will also exacerbate China’s economic challenges, particularly its competition with India.

China has recently loosened the one-child restrictions, but it hasn’t resulted in a baby boom. So the prediction still holds that sometime in the next 10 years, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous state at some point before 2025, Chang says, and India will keep growing while China declines. India’s India’s workforce will pass China’s by 2030, according to the UN.

“When you see a country’s population decline, the country will definitely degrade into a second-rate one,” said Yao Yang, an economist with Peking University’s China Center for Economic Research.

In light of all this, it’s India, not China, that could end up dominating the middle of this century.

That will change things…a lot.

Dear Senator Merkley: anybody can write a bill

Anybody in Congress can write a bill.

That, in itself, isn’t much of an accomplishment. The real test is whether you can get your bill passed. Jeff Merkley, after 6 years in the Senate, doesn’t seem to understand that.

Senator Jeff Merkley

Senator Jeff Merkley

In an effort to portray himself as an accomplished legislator, Merkley has a TV ad out asserting, “….I wrote a bill to make China play fair on trade.” The problem is Merkley’s bills never passed.

When I served in Washington, D.C. as staff on a subcommittee of the House of Representatives, I worked with the Legislative Counsel’s office to draft dozens of bills at the request of the subcommittee chairman and ranking minority member. That’s the easy part. The tough part is getting something through the entire legislative process in the Senate and House and signed into law. That is the grueling work, depending on persistence, personal relationships, hard work and knowledge of the legislative process.

As a newspaper reporter after leaving Washington, I argued on numerous occasions against writing up lengthy stories on bills submitted by Oregon’s members of Congress just because they’d been put in the hopper. It’s a too common tactic by legislators to garner media coverage on a topic without actually having to do anything substantive.

The public is too often fooled by this tactic because they either don’t understand the legislative process or don’t assiduously follow the progress, or lack thereof, of proposed legislation.

Merkley’s clearly trying to pull a fast one. The ad should come down.

Who lost Iraq? China Redux.

In the years following Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime’s loss to the Chinese Communists in 1949, when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy let loose his ill-founded accusations of communist infiltration in the United States, the country, eager to blame somebody, was wracked with questions about, “Who lost China”?

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Senator Joseph McCarthy

In the 1950’s, U.S. Senate committees studied what was seen as the failure of American foreign policy to prevent the Chinese Communist takeover.  McCarthyism is remembered today as a broad attack on presumed communists and sympathizers in the U.S., but it was also a targeted attack on the State Department’s experts on China, the so-called China Hands, who had told the truth as they saw it. A broad swath of these experts were either forced out the Foreign Service or had their careers completely derailed.

If Iraq falls to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, after the loss of thousands of American lives and the expenditure of  billions of American dollars, there’s little doubt that a new rallying cry will arise, “Who lost Iraq?”

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Potential targets are legion, which may well lead to a convulsive period in American domestic and foreign policy.

The blame game is, in fact, already underway.

On June 12, Fareed Zakaria wrote a column in the Washington Post titled, “Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush”. The Iraqi government is “corrupt, inefficient and weak, unable to be inclusive (of the Sunnis) and unwilling to fight with the dedication of their opponents,” just like the Chinese nationalists were, Zakaria said.

So Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the one who lost Iraq. But he came to power as a result of “a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration,” Zakaria said, so Bush lost Iraq.

But wait a minute. Things were much more settled in Iraq when Obama became president and his foreign policy team was hailing the country’s prosperity, embrace of democracy and relative quiet compared with earlier years. In 2010, Vice President Biden called Iraq one of Obama’s “great achievements”. In 2011, President Obama told troops at Fort Bragg, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

Wasn’t it the Obama Administration that made a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, encouraging adversaries and leaving the country’s elected government weaker in the face of continuing threats?

Or maybe it was the Obama Administration’s feckless foreign policy in dealing with Syria, with Obama insisting in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad would cross a “red line for us” and might trigger a U.S. military response, followed by Obama’s failure to follow through.

Perhaps that emboldened not only Assad, but also ISIS, which is already perilously close to Baghdad.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

Gary Alan Fine and Bin Xu, in “Honest Brokers: The Politics of Expertise in the “Who Lost China?” Debate”, note that much blame has been placed on the advice of a group of men and women labeled neoconservatives who got the U.S. embroiled in Iraq in the first place. “These policy experts have been targeted,” they say. “But more than just being wrong in their expectations, some critics, such as Seymour Hersh, suggest that these policy experts constituted a “cult,” and others allege that they were a group that placed the interests of the Bush administration, the Republican Party, or the state of Israel above that of the United States.”

Regardless of who made the decisions that have led to the current mess, hold on, because the atmosphere is going to get turbulent and all of America is going to feel it.