Archives for category: op-ed
Sunrise Over the Pacific

The bronzed Aussie, the shimmering ocean, and the inviting beaches are images that I’ll carry away from Australia. Yet, the thing that makes me envious of Australia is its apparent lack of economic disparity among its citizens. While the gap between rich and poor Americans keeps growing, Australia is still relatively egalitarian. Australians enjoy a high standard of living, relatively low taxes, and a social safety net that Americans can only dream of.

Australians may complain that their country is becoming less equal; however, the statistics don’t bear it out. And although Australia’s huge investment in infrastructure, social programs, and health care may be cause for alarm among some economists, there is no doubt Australia’s commitment has paid off in terms of an improved standard of living for all of its citizens. It’s this commitment toward shared responsibility that stands in sharp contrast to America’s lassez-faire approach, which leaves thousands homeless, without work and health care.  

In addition, Australia has also done pretty well toward breeding tolerance and diversity. There is no anti-foreigner political party in Australia, unlike most of Europe and large factions within the Republican Party in the US. This generous Aussie spirit toward immigrants may be one reason enterprising young people flock to Australia adding to its economic prosperity, an advantage America traditionally enjoyed. 

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It’s been 3 years since my last visit to Brisbane, and it’s not surprising that things change. For the most part, I like the changes I see; however, one change that’s disappointing is the loss of the Mangrove Boardwalk, which was located in the City Botanic Gardens (Mianjin). The Boardwalk was one of the most memorable experience I had in Brisbane. It was authentic nature, right in the heart of the city. 

Last January, a storm destroyed sections of the Boardwalk and the City decided not to repair it. At a time when Brisbane is spending 72 million on the Riverwalk project, it seems foolish not to spend 1.8 million to restore the Mangrove Boardwalk.




Here’s an interesting survey conducted by the Gallup polling organization. According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) ranges from 10% in the District of Columbia to 1.7% in North Dakota. The national average is 3.5%. Of the fives states with highest percentage of LGBT adults (D.C., Hawaii, Vermont, Oregon and Maine), only Oregon has yet to legalize same-sex marriage. Oregonians will have an opportunity next year to change that in a voter referendum.

The states with the lowest percentage of LGBT adults (Utah, Tennessee, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota) are deeply conservative and unlikely to let their gay and lesbian citizens marry any time soon. 

Most Americans now back same-sex marriage according to recent polls. Personally, I don’t like the idea of letting states decide constitutional issues and rights. The U.S. Constitution enshrines certain rights and liberties as so important that they are above the politics of day. Freedom of speech and religion are never put to a vote. Why then the right to marry? The whole point of the U.S. Constitution was to protect the rights of the minority from the bigotries of the majority. Simply put: the right to marry, as protected under Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, should extend to all Americans, gay or straight. 

The Olympics are and have always been political. They have lent legitimacy to repressive states like China and the former USSR and made a mockery of freedom in Mexico. The Nazis used the 1936 Olympics to present an image of a peaceful and tolerant Germany. Now, 77 years later, there is an ominous parallel with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In less than three months, the Winter Olympics will begin, but I won’t be watching because of the anti-gay laws passed by the Putin regime. These laws ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Even among the Russians, it’s unclear what this exactly means, but people could be arrested for giving pro-gay speeches, discussing homosexuality or even holding the hand of a same sex friend. (I suspect this posting also breaks the law.) Violators face fines, imprisonment, and deportation. Already Russia’s crackdown on gays has seen it ban gay pride parades, arrest hundreds of people protesting the laws, and outlaw adoptions by same-sex couples. 


In effect, Russia has given the green light for hate, bigotry, and aggression of the country’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. In recent months, there have been attacks and even violent murders against gays, including 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi, whose killers raped him with beer bottles and then killed him by smashing his head.

At a time when most western countries are recognizing the rights of gay people, Russia is taking a giant step backward. A civilized world cannot tolerate Russia’s behavior and should condemn it for denying its citizens basic human dignity. Moreover, Olympic sponsors and broadcasting networks share in Russia’s culpability. Sitting back idly is tacit acceptance of Russia’s actions and can lead to more repression and persecution of gay people in the future. If Russia’s laws today were targeted against the Jews, as the Nazis did in Germany, would we support the Olympics?

The Olympics are and have always been political. They have lent legitimacy to repressive states like China and the former USSR and made a mockery of freedom in Mexico. The Nazis used the 1936 Olympics to present an image of a peaceful and tolerant Germany. Now, 77 years later, there is an ominous parallel with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In less than three months, the Winter Olympics will begin, but I won’t be watching because of the anti-gay laws passed by the Putin regime. These laws ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Even among the Russians, it’s unclear what this exactly means, but people could be arrested for giving pro-gay speeches, discussing homosexuality or even holding the hand of a same sex friend. (I suspect this posting also breaks the law.) Violators face fines, imprisonment, and deportation. Already Russia’s crackdown on gays has seen it ban gay pride parades, arrest hundreds of people protesting the laws, and outlaw adoptions by same-sex couples. 


In effect, Russia has given the green light for hate, bigotry, and aggression of the country’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. In recent months, there have been attacks and even violent murders against gays, including 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi, whose killers raped him with beer bottles and then killed him by smashing his head.

At a time when most western countries are recognizing the rights of gay people, Russia is taking a giant step backward. A civilized world cannot tolerate Russia’s behavior and should condemn it for denying its citizens basic human dignity. Moreover, Olympic sponsors and broadcasting networks share in Russia’s culpability. Sitting back idly is tacit acceptance of Russia’s actions and can lead to more repression and persecution of gay people in the future. If Russia’s laws today were targeted against the Jews, as the Nazis did in Germany, would we support the Olympics?



The poster, “Freedom of the Press Worldwide 2013,” is the work an organization called Reporter ohne Grenzen (Reporters without Borders). Using a variety of variables, including the number of journalists killed, imprisoned, or harassed, the organization has classified countries according to press freedom. The light colored areas represent countries with high levels of press freedom while the darker areas are viewed as places in a “very serious situation.” 

Detail Section


The USA, France, Japan, and the UK are considered “in a satisfactory situation” while Namibia, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic are rated as good, higher than the USA. I’m not an expert on press freedom, but I’m a little skeptical about these ratings. For one thing, Germany censors what the press can say about the Holocaust, Ireland has an unofficial policy of avoiding provocative stories about the Catholic church, Finland shies away from antagonizing its neighbor Russia, and the Namibian press is hardly scrupulous. Perhaps, the poster is referring to journalist safety. Yet, as far as I know, American journalists enjoy as much safety as their German, Czech, or Irish counterparts. 

The USA was the first country’s to codified freedom of the Press and freedom of Speech in its Constitution, and accordingly, the press have few, if any limitsJust listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, or grab a copy of the New York Times.



The poster, “Freedom of the Press Worldwide 2013,” is the work an organization called Reporter ohne Grenzen (Reporters without Borders). Using a variety of variables, including the number of journalists killed, imprisoned, or harassed, the organization has classified countries according to press freedom. The light colored areas represent countries with high levels of press freedom while the darker areas are viewed as places in a “very serious situation.” 

Detail Section


The USA, France, Japan, and the UK are considered “in a satisfactory situation” while Namibia, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic are rated as good, higher than the USA. I’m not an expert on press freedom, but I’m a little skeptical about these ratings. For one thing, Germany censors what the press can say about the Holocaust, Ireland has an unofficial policy of avoiding provocative stories about the Catholic church, Finland shies away from antagonizing its neighbor Russia, and the Namibian press is hardly scrupulous. Perhaps, the poster is referring to journalist safety. Yet, as far as I know, American journalists enjoy as much safety as their German, Czech, or Irish counterparts. 

The USA was the first country’s to codified freedom of the Press and freedom of Speech in its Constitution, and accordingly, the press have few, if any limitsJust listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, or grab a copy of the New York Times.

The recent revelations that the USA spied on many of its allies may have an impact on the upcoming German election. Chancellor Merkel has closely aligned herself with President Obama and many of his foreign policy positions. At one time, the President was the most popular person in Germany, and Frau Merkel’s close association with him was a political plus. No longer. The German love affair with the President has faded.

Shortly after the USA spy program became public, Regierungssprecher (Government spokesman) Steffen Seibert stated, “Wir sind nicht mehr im Kalten Krieg.” (“We are no longer in the Cold War.”) He expressed, what many in Germany were beginning to think: The United States is again imposing its might on the rest of the world. 

Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Syria, and now the NSA leaks have all dented the President’s image. In the German capital, there are weekly demonstrations against the USA, and there’s a general feeling of sympathy for the plight of Edward Snowden. Up till now, the opposition has tried to make this a major election issue but without much success. Frau Merkel is still relatively popular, but popularity can wane. Just look at what happened to President Obama. 
Moment of Joy
Despite the controversy surrounding next week’s New Yorker cover, I love it! Inappropriate? Promoting a gay agenda? Trivializing an important moment in civil rights history? Nope. It’s just a sweet symbol for gay marriage and love.

Discrimination still exists and most states still forbid same-sex marriage, but the train has left the station and there’s no going back. Homophobia is losing steam, and this week’s Supreme Court decisions mark a giant step toward equality for all Americans.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that ABC had done something really cool by permitting YouTube to show some of its movies from the 1970s TV series The ABC Movie of the Week. Many of these movies were quite good and unavailable on DVD. Unfortunately, my elation over ABC was premature. A couple of days ago, I discovered that most of these movies had been deleted. 

Airing these long forgotten movies was the sort of thing that could have helped ABC develop a sort of cult following and reminded people that ABC even existed. It’s unlikely ABC will ever get direct revenue from these movies, but they could have gotten some positive viral marketing. No wonder network TV is losing its audience and quickly becoming irrelevant as an entertainment medium.