Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reforming US and China: The Case of Obama vs. Deng

Reforming US and China: Obama vs. Deng

President Obama was elected on a platform of radical- economic, political, social, and in time cultural - changes.

Thus far, Obama appears to be serving up much of the same policies as Bush did – protective of the financial industry, aggressive on the anti-terrorism front and dismissive of citizens’ rights, etc.

One of the major complaints with the democratic party base is that Obama has not kept faith with his campaign promise of being ideological pure as a reform leader

A closer look at Obama’s legislative performance and policy actions show that he has been working slowly but methodological, in principle minded and disciplined ways, to advance his agenda; to bring about changes in America, from the bottoms up. The more noteworthy achievements are: the health care reform (much diluted), military withdrawals (much delayed) and legalize anti-terror fights (much compromised).

The question remains, why did President not act in a more resolute, speedy, and radical, or more simply, ideological way to change America in a more fundamental way. As a result, Obama looks weak and indecisive.

The answer is a simple one: as a person Obama holds admirable ideals, as a President Obama is acting pragmatically.

This commentary offers up another way of looking at Obama’s (lack of) performance in office. It argues that before we judge Obama, weak or strong, successful or unsuccessful, we should compare Obama with one of the most successful reformer in the world, i.e., that of Deng Xiaoping of China.

Deng Xiaoping, the putative father of Chinese reform, is credited with transforming China from a primitive economy to a developed one.

In terms of historical background, PRC governance is ideologically anchored, centrally planned, and personality driven. The Chinese modernization reform has effectively destroyed Communist ideology, eroding Party leadership and diminishing personality cult in the process.

The ideology and leadership void left by Mao is filled by Deng Xiaoping’s thought. Deng Xiaoping’s thought provided direction, e.g., securing “people democratic dictatorship” (“renmin minzhu zhuanzheng”), inspiration, e.g., reforming through “liberating the mind” (“jiefang sixiang”), doctrine, e.g., social reconstruction by “progressive policy decision making” (“jian jin juece”), and methods, e.g., hold elected officials accountable to “mass line” (“qunzhong luxian”). Specifically, Deng advocates "building socialism with Chinese characteristics".

Other relevant Deng’s doctrines guiding reform include: “emancipation of the mind” (from old) and “seeks truth from facts” (to new) to liberate new China from the stricture of old ideology in search of new ideas of all kinds, “democratic dictatorship” to put class enemies in check, “crossing the river by touching the stones” in calling for incremental and experimental reform, and “white cat, black cat, and the one that catch the mice is a cat” to conduct reform with pragmatism, i.e., by result.

In pursuing reform, Deng sought radical departure from old way of thinking and doing and preached bold new approaches to established ways and means.

Deng is a doer, not thinker. He is a consummate politician, not a romantic ideologue. He is a practitioner, not theoretician. Deng articulated a number of ideas on how to reform China, but offered no comprehensive theory or master plan to achieved them. In this, Deng is a pragmatist not an ideologue.

Except for insisting on stability and dictatorship, Deng’s theory of reform is open to all kinds of ideas and willing to experiment with anything that might work. Deng’s lack of ideological interest and attachment to pragmatic practices leaves the people in the dark as to what to expect, other than love the Party and money talks.

Deng’s reform policy, justified on pragmatic grounds, is not properly anchored ideologically or clearly explained theoretically. It is difficult to comprehend, still more to apply in practice. This has led a Chinese observer to observe, “In the case of contemporary China, the regime’s ideology is bankrupt. The transition from a socialist to a quasi market economy has created a great deal of social unrest. And the regime relies heavily on coercion to repress political and religious dissent.”

Thus, one of the more challenging problems confronting and confounding Chinese reformers is in seeking an understanding of what “socialism with Chinese Characteristics” portents and entails, in theory and practice. This creates problems in planning and implementing, researching and validating, explaining and understanding, assessing and improving Chinese reform.

As far as bringing about changes to America, Obama acts more like Deng, than Bush (single minded (America right or wrong), narrow perspective (do not read newspaper, I do not discuss invading Iraq with my father on earth, but father in heave), dogmatic personality ("I am the decider", inflexible approach (no precondition to negotiation with Korea).

Obama as with Deng speaks the language of an ideologue but act the role of a pragmatist: making changes incrementally, experimentally, and above all else with stability and continuity in mind. Compromise is the game, concession is the rule, and middle ground is the objective.

As reformers, Deng and Obama understand, people love to dream big (to have hope), thus talking up ideology is as important in China (socialism) as in the United States (democracy).

But Deng and Obama also understand, perhaps more so Deng than Obama, people everywhere need bread and butter (“minsheng” in China or a "good life" in the US ) more so than democracy and rights; what good is having rights when people do not have a job.

If you are a social scientist, seeking to proof “good life” is more important than “right governance” you do not need to go too far:

People in China want to be a Party member less (or not) so because they believe in the socialist cause but because being a Party member provides them with power and with it money (corruption).

Turning to America, people in the street know at heart that all the talk about ideology (democracy and equal rights) does not hold up against the reality of the market economy

People need a job for survival. People rarely need the government to do things for them; nowadays all major functions of government are privatized, from security, to ambulance, to mail etc.

Government can be replaced and lawmakers have term limits, but corporations last and last.

One can talk back to the government but never, ever, against the boos. Yet more people are happy with working for dictatorial corporations than being served by democratic government!


The purpose of this commentary is to provide the readers with a new perspective in understanding President Obama as a reformer; to clear up some misconception. Instead of faulting Obama for not delivering as promised or not doing as much as as he can, one should realize what people (all over the world) really want of their government - ruler.

The truth of the matter is: "Man do not live by words alone." In the ultimate analysis and in the real world, Obama is to be judged by deeds (job growth), and not by words(spreading democracy).

Roses are for dating, bread and butter keep a family going. In China there is a saying: "Firewood and rice makes for a marriage." I concede that they are necessary but not sufficient conditions to keep any marriage going.

Now perhaps you understand why Romeo and Juliet is doomed to fail (and fell out of love), and arranged marriages have a higher success rate (in providing for security). In China, as a male, if you do not have a job, a car and a house, you do not get a date, much less getting married. That simple.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Art of War and Art of Politics


A recent news headline reads: “Bin Laden documents sharpen US aim.” It then proceeds to tell us blow by blow how the FBI – CIA is processing the captured information from the Bin Laden raid: “The new information is the result of five weeks of round-the-clock work by a CIA, in real time-led team of data analysts, cyber experts and translators who are 95 percent finished decrypting and translating the years of material and expect to complete the effort by mid-June, two U.S. officials say.”

The news report also inform us what was discovered: “A law enforcement official briefed on the process said investigators have been analyzing raw digital data found on multiple hard drives and flash drives, and that some of it consists of sequences of numbers. Investigators were trying to discern potential bank account or phone numbers that might point to al-Qaida contacts in the United States or elsewhere, or codes that could produce other leads, said the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the analysis and spoke on condition of anonymity.Especially useful in the communications between bin Laden and his followers from Asia to Europe to Africa is the light they shed on the personalities of known al-Qaida operatives and what drives the various terrorist commanders who corresponded with bin Laden, officials said..” “(Bin Laden documents sharpen US aim,” AP June 8, 2010.

All in all it makes for interesting reading. Like a James Bond movie.

The feeling I got, as a citizen – reader, is that: (1) We are winning the war against al Qaida (AQ). (US IS WINNING. AQ IS LOSING.) (2) Our government is really working hard to protect us from another attack. (CIA-FBI IS WORKING HARD.) After I read many of the comments (851 comments, as of 6.48 am, June 9, CT), I found that most people feel that way. (“This is just fantastic . While I am sorry they could not take the creep alive at least the SEALS brought back what may become worth more than gold . Againg my complements to the professionalism of the SEALS . All thier training and the risks they took may very well save thousands of lives and not in this country alone !)

Then it suddenly dawn on me that such disclosures of intelligence gathering is penny wise pound foolish:

Why do we tell our enemy what the source and method, ways and means, in this terror fight? More importantly, what are we trying to achieve? (“For those of you who think they're divulging too much info...maybe this isn't even a fraction of what they actually know. Just relax, the top Al Qaeda members are going to start dropping like flies, just watch.”)


As a citizen I am for freedom of inform (FI) to a fault. Transparency helps with public decision making. Transparency is a check on abuses. No democratic nation can do without. The more information the merrier.

As a legal aid lawyer, time and again, I mounted FOIA suits against the government for with holding public information.

As a professor, I have written about, and condemned, the Bush-Cheney as one of most secretive administrations in US history (Impact of USA Patriot Act on American Society (2008).

As a police commander, I am for secrecy of military operations, to a fault. Sun Tzu (722–481 BC), the greatest war strategist in China, wrote the classics THE ART OF WAR, now a required reading at West Point, called for secrecy in military operations. (McNeilly, Mark R., Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare, (Oxford University Press (2001).

Sun said “知彼知己, 百戰不殆, 不知彼而知己, 一勝一負, 不知彼, 不知己, 每戰必殆 “ (“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”)

In this the Bush administration got it right. Keep your enemy guessing. Bush imposed total blackout of investigation, arrest and detention of terror suspects after 9/11. (“Ten days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy issued a memo to all immigration judges requiring them to close proceedings to the public and press whenever the Justice Department advised them to do so. The order was challenged in two lawsuits, which came to opposite conclusions.”

I do not agree with Bush on many issues, especially the use of 9/11 for political gain (expose of a CIA agent, but I support President Bush’s decision to keep information out of the hands of would be terrorists, bent on attacking USA.

In fighting terror (or any other war) secrecy is the golden rule.


If information is so important in fighting – winning (terror) war, why is it that the Obama administration is conducting a public briefing in prime time on the Bin Laden documentary – intelligence finds? Part of the answer might be that President is a true believer of FI. I have little doubt on this.

But I am equally convinced that the bigger reason is for President Obama to show off his military – anti-terror achievements for political gain, i.e. to enhance his election prospect. (In this regard, we can also ask about timing of Bin Laden execution.)

If indeed the President Obama is motivated by making himself looks good in the public eyes as a fierce, unrelenting and effective terror fighter, at the expense of national security, then he is not doing his job in keeping the nation save. (I like Obama, and still do.)

My research shows that coincidentally, the Bush administration has also done the same thing – politicizing the war on terror. President Bush – Cheney has raised the color coded terror warning signals a number of times, whenever it is to their advantage, politically, e.g., renewal of USA Patriot Act. appointments of intelligence staff, or in election year.


Sir Robert Peel, father of modern policing, was once asked. How do we know that police are doing their job. Peel replied, famously: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

The less we hear about CIA – FBI – Navy Seal, the better for the nation.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Duties Over Rights

A person is jilted by his girl friend. (We were not told the reason. In fact much is unknown about the case, including identity of the lady involved or actual disposition of kid to be. “Something tells me the reporter is once again giving only half of the story.”).

To take revenge (I do not know the motive), he put up a billboard on a main thoroughfare with the man (35-year-old) holding the outline of an infant, with the sign: "This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!."

The ex-lady friend now sued for harassment and breach of privacy. Who is in the right? (“Jilted ex-boyfriend puts up abortion billboard,” AP June 5, 2011.)

After reading many of 2,569 Comments (as of 4.3 am, central time, June 6, 2011, USA). I find that most of the comments were about right vs. wrong, winning and losing in court.

Some argued that there was no privacy claim to truth telling. (“The rule has always been that you are free to publish or speak derogatory statements about others as long as they are true. I don't know where the privacy twist gets into it.”)

Others suggested that the person has no right to cause intentional emotional harm to others. (“The bad thing is, he put her name on the sign and told that it was meant for her. In any case, he sounds like a jerk since he admitted he isn't even sure she had an abortion. “)

Still others thought it was best to engage in safe sex. (“A box of condoms is cheaper than a billboard.”) Each to his/her own. All make for good discussion, debate.k

My comments make/elaborate on one point that some commentators alluded to, but have not been taken seriously. Why right? Why not responsibility? (“Rights, rights, rights. What about responsibilities?“)


The dispute in the case is classical American – who has the right to do what to each other: right of privacy vs. right to free speech, both constitutional rights of the first order.

Ultimately, who is in the right, or more right than the other.


The real issue in this case? Why everyone is insisting on his/her right, no one is seriously talking about his/her duty.

If we were to start to discuss the role of duty in this case, the narrative suddenly changes:

What is the duty of the man to the lady? I submit that we as humans have a universal duty to not cause harm to others, even when we have a right to do so. Police officers is a good example. Just because they have a right to shoot to kill, does not mean that they should, in every case. That is what discretion is all about. That is also why good judgment is so, so important in policing. However, increasingly, US police training has been titled towards shoot (now taser) first and ask question later. UK police do it differently. Every effort is made to avoid using force, even in the face of violence, and warranted by the situation. Sir Robert Peel, father of modern policing, famously said: "Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient." That I believe is call sensibility and compassion, both duties of the most fundamental kind if we are to have a sustainable - harmonious society. (Later on substainability of society.) Why heap on pain, when the love is gone? (Here again, I “assume” that having baby is about love, not one night stand.)

What is the duty of the lady to the man? We as sex partners (or simply partners) have a duty to discuss with each other whether we want to have a kid before sex, and how to take care of him/her after. This is basic parenting. More simply, being responsible, to self and others. No one should have kids, accident or otherwise, if they do not want to assume their duties as potential parents.

What is the duty of both to the kid to be? (There is sure to be a debate abut when life starts/ends.) We as potential parents, have a duty to give birth to and take care of babies we made together. Alternative, as parents, we need to think about the future best interest of the kid. For the man, why have (unprotected) sex, if there is no common understanding that the kid would be taken care of. For the lady, if no baby is wanted, then she has a duty to tell the man so, before, not after sex. Alternatively, take precaution.


In the US Military Academy (USMA), 18 years old are taught about: Duty, Honor, Country.

In America society, everyone is expected to look out for number one: my rights first and last. Worse, my rights first, your rights last (or not). (Wall Street I: “Greed, in lack of a better term, is a good thing!”)

USMA taught our kids to sacrifice ones most precious thing (life and limb) in service of a nation. An “others – collective” welfare is ones dominant concern mentality. That is what a duty bound society requires. Pat Tillman exemplifies this world-view. He gave up millions to live a Ranger’s challenge. The nation applauded.

US society (corporation really) taught us all that in order to be rich, famous and happy we need to walk all over others. A “me – individual” interest is ones exclusive consideration attitude. That is what a right based society promotes. Sarah Palin personifies this life perspective. She earned millions by selling a Cinderella presidential dream. The public demurs.


I start with a few simple suppositions:

A RIGHT to do things, does not make it right to do certain things, and in a certain way.

A RIGHT tells us what things we can or cannot do, not whether we should or should not do certain things (in certain way).

RIGHTS without corresponding DUTIES bring out the worse in humans:

The sub-prime crisis is an example; in the name of profit, wall street bankers sell “junk” papers and defrauded the nation, world, with many kids doing without their first breakfast and last milk and still more seniors having to do more to make ends meet, in their twilight years. MBAs with huge mansions and fast boats, makes billions. MISs (man in street) with obligations and debts, lose everthing.

Our war effort in Pakistan is another; in the name of pre-emptive self-defense (Bush doctrine) we invaded Pakistan and killed thousands. US security paid with life and blood of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Muslim people.


In the US we have a Bill of Rights. In China (actually all around the world, known by different name) we have a Manifesto of Duties. We know a lot about Bill of Rights. We know little about Manifesto of Duties.

A Manifesto of Duties would read something as follows:

(1) People are born to duty and with duties, not rights.
(2) Duty comes before right.
(3) Duty trumps right.
(4) Right is contingent on duty.
(5) Rights are created by man, and enforced by law.
(6) Duties reside in nature, and compelled by morality.
(7) As humans we have the following duties to our fellow human beings:
(7.1) We have the duty to do the right thing.
(7.2) We have a duty to do good, not evil.
(7.3) We have a duty not to cause harm to people and damages to thing.
(7.4) We have a duty to create happiness and utilities.
(7.5) We have a duty to not to create suffering and do harm.
(7.6) We have a duty to help others to pursue life, liberty and happiness, the way they want it.
(7.7) We have a duty to think about others, first and last, before we think about ourselves.
(7.8) We have a duty to think about collective interests, more so than individual rights.
(7.9) We have a duty to think about the future interests, not just present rights.
(7.10) We have a duty to think about peaceful resolution of disputes.
(7. 11) We have a duty to avoid the use of violence, unless for self-defense, and then only as a last resort.
(7.12) We have a duty to leave the world a better place to live, work and play than when we found it.


If the above sounds familiar to you. It is. It is so because you (as parents, neighbors, friends, strangers) are already embracing duties not asserting rights, every day,willingly and instinctively. (That is also why the news story is so hair raising.)

Duty is in our blood, naturally, until wall street, military industrial complex, and politicians come along.

We need a Manifesto of Duties to safeguard our national heritage.

Again, long, long before we invented rights, we are born naturally with and to duties.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who is parenting Hong Kong kids?


The headline of a news report reads: “Hong Kong's 'tiger parents' face the pressure,” (AFP June 5, 2011). The story line is tried and a bit old – Hong Kong people are driven to success (economically) and place high expectation on their kids (academically), with higher still pressure to match. “So as parents climb the ladder in one of the world's most competitive economies, they and their children must also contend with the academic equivalent.”

The term “tiger parent” refers to a certain style of parenting (by Chinese) made famous by a Yale Law Professor Amy L. Chua in her book: BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER (2011)

The book distinguishes Western vs. Chinese parenting style (free choice vs. disciplined), content (rounded vs. academic) and goal (happiness in life vs. academic success). As summed up by Professor Chua: “Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.”

The book started a cultural war of sorts: “Refreshingly, and perhaps uniquely, Chua instead catalogs the various ways she tortured her two young daughters, all in the name of Chinese tradition and the goal of reaching Carnegie Hall (or at least the Juilliard precollege program). “

I am originally from Hong Kong, and have taught and visited with many of the universities there, now and then. I know Hong Kong.

The story has a ring of truth to it, at least with its central thesis: Hong Kong people work very hard in a competitive economy. Parents try very hard to mold their kids to be successful in life, academically and otherwise.

But as with most news stories these days, the above story (with catchy headline) is written to sell papers, more so than giving us the whole picture of parenting in Hong Kong, in a balance, nuanced and insightful way. For example, not all Hong Kong parents are “tiger parents” nor children are geared towards academic study. As Professor Chau said: not all American parents are alike.

As counter point - fact checks to the story, when I started teaching in Chinese U. of Hong Kong some 25 years ago, only top 5% made universities, now it is 18%, with many other opportunities for getting ahead, e.g., one can be a police officer (including being inspector without going to college. Though in reality, a university degree is still the golden standard for success in life, and as a person.

I do not want to get into a cultural world between East vs. West, a no win exercise, I certainly do not want to take sides, at least not within the confine of this blog (1000 words).

This blog offers up a simple observation (a question really) that should add more fire to the debate of what is proper patenting – goal, style, content – for Hong Kong kids.


In order to do parenting, good or bad, we need to apent time with the kids, less mining their business and more having their interest in mind, in a most personal, intimate, and above all else, involved ways. Practically, being a parent is a 24/7 job. Parenting takes time.

In the US “soccer patents” come to mind. (Of course I am being political correct here. It really should read “soccer mom” because mothers all over the nation still assume most of the child rearing responsibilities, as they struggle with economic security at home, even before the most recent sub-prime crisis!)

In Hong Kong, if truth be known, most of the parents are not there when the kids need them, the daily sort of way – “dad can we read a book/take a hike together?” Not just a “helicopter parent” – hovering around in all sort of ways, to keep an eye on the kids.

Ironically, “helicopter parenting” now has a new meaning – JIT (just in time) parenting., or MBA parenting if you like. Parents drop in JIT for the kids concert performance or HS ball game., to show concern, to allay guilt, to keep up with the Jones? Here I am surprised and amused that N.J Governor did not excite another culture war, this time between rich vs. poor parents. Gov. Chris Christie can afford spending $2000 plus for a state helicopter ride to attend his son's high school baseball game, when the working poor cannot afford a car to drive the kids to the park.
(Still recall the $25,000 dress, for a NJ HS pomp night.)


If HK parents are too busy to parent their kids, who is doing the job of real parenting, again day in day out (the “first in the morning” and “last in the day” test) , in the most minute sort of ways (from ironing the uniform to cooking the meals).

The answer is: domestic helpers: foreign and locals.

“In 2010, there were 284,901 foreign domestic helpers in the city, of which 48% were from the Philippines, 49.4% from Indonesia, and 1.3% from Thailand. They usually live in their employer's residence and perform various household duties such as cooking, cleaning, and child-minding.: (

If there were 284,901 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, here were at least that many in local helps (who worked illegally). That makes for 500,000 helpers. (One study show that nearly all (99%) domestic helpers are foreign, with 1% from China or locally, legally).

In 1996, there were about 1.8 million households. Of those about 1.1 millions have income between $15,000 to $45,000 (government income eligibility for hiring is $15,000; real life actually income is $17, 300) making them economically affordable for them to hire foreign help. In essence one out of 2 affordable families have a live in help.


If indeed many of the Hong Kong rich families’ kids are raised by domestic helpers, half of them from abroad, it would be interesting to ask: How do “foreign parenting” affects the net generation of Hong Kong ideas?

(1) The impact of the blood parents is much diluted by the presence of live in helpers who for all intent and purposes are the kids’ psychological parents. (Both of my kids were brought up by Pilipino maids).
(2) Since helpers are not there to maintain discipline, at least not acting as “tiger”, the kids are not really disciplined, beyond in the presence of their parents. In essence, we have “tiger parenting” by absentee parents and “ sheep (following order of price/princess) parenting” by daily routine domestic helpers.
(3) The kids will be affected by the language, education and cultural background of the domestic helpers of which 41% has post secondary education. (The most educated are the Pilipino.) For example, many of the kids now speak better English than my generation, less because of school but because of live in help.


The moral of the story is that it take more than “tiger parents” to turn out “tiger” kids. Education and molding kids happen in many ways, some planned, most happened by accident and by default.

Internet parenting, anyone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to fight a war on drugs and win!

War on drugs is a failure. That is a given. The question is why? That is not so clear.
“Global war on drugs a failure, high-level panel says”

Of course, the remaining question is can we fight a war on drugs and expect to win (at least reduction in drug use).

This commentary address the above questions in turn.

Depending on whom you ask, there are many reasons why we fail in war on drugs.

For prohibitionist, it is because we are not punishing harsh enough. But China has zero tolerance for drugs, with capital punishment to match. China still has a drug epidemic on hand, and growing fast.

For liberals, it is because we are punishing too much. But drug rehabilitation program has proven not as successful as people claim, though it is certainly more effective than punishment.

The issue with fighting a successful drug war is much more complicated. Let me explain.

When we are launching a war on drugs, what are we fighting against? It is certainly not about fighting drug use per se. Drugs are any chemical that induce physical – psychological changes. Since we use drugs every day, from Red Bull to beer to coffee, we can hardly do without. In essence, we need to be more specific about our war objective.

The war on drugs is a war on harmful addiction of all kind, of which drug addiction is consider the most prevalent and harmful, to self, to others.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has defined “Addiction” as:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Fighting addiction (of drugs, alcohol, texting) is thus a fight against a personally rewarding “habits” – more generally a “high” experience.

If fighting “addiction” is fighting a “high” experience, we need to do one of the two things (or both):

(1) Reduce the “high” experience, at least link the “high” with the “low”. This cannot be achieved by punishment alone, as we have learned so far. The reason is a simple one. After habituated, getting “high” is not a logical process; it is an automatic response that deny rationality of choice. (That is why the Internet craze is so bad on our students. They cannot concentrate without checking their text every second. For executives, it is the e-mail.) The only hope we have is perhaps to link “high” with “low” experience sufficient to rid people of bad habits. Many people get out of alcohol because of the morning after hangover. With technology today, we can induce the same reaction when people drink or use drugs. (By making this proposal, I am not arguing for such drug reduction policy. There are other weighty issues involved, such as paternalism and privacy. However, I am offering up a workable solution, if society so chooses. )

(2) Substitute the “high” experience (with harmful consequences) with other equally “high” experience. (with little consequences). I once posed the question that few can give me an answer. If smoking (illegal) marihuana give people high and drinking (legal) beer get people high, why do people still the first, and not the second. Inherent in the question is this idea – fight illegal drugs with legal drugs. While I am not so sure that all drug users will shit to using alcohol as a substitute goods, overnight, but I am dead sure that with enough education people will use legal drugs instead of illegal one, at least in the margin. That way, we still have a drug problem, but it is of a lesser magnitude, by health effect (doubtful) or social costs (most certainly, reduce demand on illegal drugs, generate tax etc.)

(3) Sight people from physical “high” to mental (spiritual, psychological) “high”. This is by far the best and most effective way to get people from addiction. Empirically, people who are happy until themselves – mentally ‘high” – have no need for drugs. In our society (US) we do not educate people to understand the two kinds of high end/high grade “high” (e.g., spirituality, achievements) and low end/low grade high (e.g., sex, drugs, gambling). This possibly is the better way to do to get ride of destructive addictions of all kinds, from drugs to media attention.

How to fight a war on drugs and win!

War on drugs is a failure. That is a given. The question is why? That is not so clear.
“Global war on drugs a failure, high-level panel says”

Of course, the remaining question is can we fight a war on drugs and expect to win (at least reduction in drug use).

This commentary address the above questions in turn.

Depending on whom you ask, there are many reasons why we fail in war on drugs.

For prohibitionist, it is because we are not punishing harsh enough. But China has zero tolerance for drugs, with capital punishment to match. China still has a drug epidemic on hand, and growing fast.

For liberals, it is because we are punishing too much. But drug rehabilitation program has proven not as successful as people claim, though it is certainly more effective than punishment.

The issue with fighting a successful drug war is much more complicated. Let me explain.

When we are launching a war on drugs, what are we fighting against? It is certainly not about fighting drug use per se. Drugs are any chemical that induce physical – psychological changes. Since we use drugs every day, from Red Bull to beer to coffee, we can hardly do without. In essence, we need to be more specific about our war objective.

The war on drugs is a war on harmful addiction of all kind, of which drug addiction is consider the most prevalent and harmful, to self, to others.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has defined “Addiction” as:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Fighting addiction (of drugs, alcohol, texting) is thus a fight against a personally rewarding “habits” – more generally a “high” experience.

If fighting “addiction” is fighting a “high” experience, we need to do one of the two things (or both):

(1) Reduce the “high” experience, at least link the “high” with the “low”. This cannot be achieved by punishment alone, as we have learned so far. The reason is a simple one. After habituated, getting “high” is not a logical process; it is an automatic response that deny rationality of choice. (That is why the Internet craze is so bad on our students. They cannot concentrate without checking their text every second. For executives, it is the e-mail.) The only hope we have is perhaps to link “high” with “low” experience sufficient to rid people of bad habits. Many people get out of alcohol because of the morning after hangover. With technology today, we can induce the same reaction when people drink or use drugs. (By making this proposal, I am not arguing for such drug reduction policy. There are other weighty issues involved, such as paternalism and privacy. However, I am offering up a workable solution, if society so chooses. )

(2) Substitute the “high” experience (with harmful consequences) with other equally “high” experience. (with little consequences). I once posed the question that few can give me an answer. If smoking (illegal) marihuana give people high and drinking (legal) beer get people high, why do people still the first, and not the second. Inherent in the question is this idea – fight illegal drugs with legal drugs. While I am not so sure that all drug users will shit to using alcohol as a substitute goods, overnight, but I am dead sure that with enough education people will use legal drugs instead of illegal one, at least in the margin. That way, we still have a drug problem, but it is of a lesser magnitude, by health effect (doubtful) or social costs (most certainly, reduce demand on illegal drugs, generate tax etc.)

(3) Sight people from physical “high” to mental (spiritual, psychological) “high”. This is by far the best and most effective way to get people from addiction. Empirically, people who are happy until themselves – mentally ‘high” – have no need for drugs. In our society (US) we do not educate people to understand the two kinds of high end/high grade “high” (e.g., spirituality, achievements) and low end/low grade high (e.g., sex, drugs, gambling). This possibly is the better way to do to get ride of destructive addictions of all kinds, from drugs to media attention.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to avoid killing innocent civilians in US foreign wars?

Another air strike by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with US in the lead in Afghanistan. Another batch of civilians (14, including 11 children; 9 by US count) killed. Another protest – President Karzai said: "Bombing Afghan houses is banned." Another apology by US commanders, with same justification (excuse?): “ISAF said the death toll was nine and has apologised while saying the strike was carried out after insurgents who had earlier killed a patrolling marine hid in a compound and carried on firing.” (“NATO risks becoming 'occupying force': Karzai,” AFP May 30, 2011.)

So what should the ISAF (read US forces) do to avoid killing civilians in foreign wars, otherwise known as collateral damages, starting with ground fighting in Afghanistan and drone attacks in Pakistan.

The radical solution by many commentators is: “Get out of Afghanistan”. What if this is not an option? What then?

The next best thing than getting out of Afghanistan is to establish one basic principle, fight foreign wars as thought it is a domestic war. Or as Kant would have it: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” (Categorical imperative or golden rule) Immanuel Kant Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785).

Kant’s golden rule in biblical terms means: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Mathew: 7:12. (In Chinese it is: “Do not do to others what you do not want happen to you.”)

While this principle is not a failed proof principle by any means, as in cases when US values are not the same as Afghan values, it has the benefit of forcing the US forces to abide by a set of rules of engagement that US can live with.

Would the US force bomb civilian houses in NYC, just because a few terrorists are hiding in the midst? The answer is obviously not. That is why in many hostage situation, the SWAT team would rather let the terrorists go than killing the hostages. The SOP and training of all SWAT team is to kill or capture terrorists, without sacrificing life or limb of civilians.

There is three simple reasons why SWAT team or US soldiers would not kill US civilian to get to terrorists: (1) The civilians are their brothers and sisters, part of their flesh, blood and soul. (2) The civilians are US citizens with constitutional - human rights. (3) The responsibility of SWAT/soldiers is first and foremost to protect the life and limb of the citizens.

Why then are the ISFA – US forces killing many Afghan civilians in order to get to a few terrorists?

Because afghans are not brothers and sisters. Because Afghans are not US citizens. In the ultimate analysis, given US mission - exterminate the terrorists, Afghan lives are dispensable, though always with “sincere” regret!

Until the Bush administration and because of war on terror, US has always followed Kant’s golden rule; after all US is the world’s promoter/policeman of universal human rights.

With the Bush administration, the US started to treat terrorists beyond the protection of international law. Specifically, terrorists can now be tortured for information and detained with no due process; a position sanctioned by Obama (See “Fighting Terror: Bush vs. Mao” in this blog).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Do people need a college degree?

Do we need a college education to be successful in life? Do we need a college education to be happy in life? At a cost of nearly $50,000/yr. for a private college, $20, 000 for a public university and $10,000 for a community college, people have a right to ask the question?

Ultimately, the question is a simple and straightforward one: Is the return from a college education worth the investment. As a lifelong learner (“Knowledge never rests, people do”) with years of education on my back and decades of teaching experience in my career, let me share some of my ideas with you.

For those of you who want a simple answer, the answer is it all depends. In most cases, the answer is NO.

The reason I say: “It all depends” is because college is a tool (education) to an end (life), and not an end by itself.

If college is a tool, then whether a person needs to go to college depends on
what he/she wants out of life. Then and only then can he/she find the right tool to get to success and/or happiness. (These are two goals, not one. That is the reason why educators, self-servingly(?), insist that college education is not about success (jobs), but about opening minds and enriching life. There is some clear and convincing evidence to suggest that college graduates are more happy with their life.)

The reason I say (in most cases): “No” is because if college education is a tool, then in most cases we can learn without going to college. College is just institutionalized learning, i.e., learning in classroom (textbook learning vs. learning in the field (experiential learning). For example in imperial China, a medical career started with following the master around. Turning to England, the common law lawyers learned by clerking with a senior solicitor or barrister, in chamber, not through law schools.

Back to the question of whether people need a college education. People need to ask themselves the follow questions;

(1) What do I want to do with life? Given what you want out of life, then you need to decide whether a college education is necessary? If you want to be just a laborer (garbage hauler) or crafts person (watch repairer), college is not necessary (again in most cases). But if you want to be MD, certainly medical school is a must, for no other reason than because it is required for licensing with AMA. Finally, if you want to open your mind and enrich you life, college might be the only way to go. (I said this because a liberal arts education is very hard to replicate, particularly when it is done well. That is why the new web based “e-U” education does not come close in delivering such kind of enriching education. “e-U” is designed for training (impacting job skills) not education (developing critical thinking).

(2) If your answer to (1) is that a college education is or is not necessary in light of your life goal, you still need to ask whether it is a good “return on investment” (ROI) in business world). Since time and money are limited resources for people to achieve their ultimate of life goals (security at the lower end and happiness in the higher end), a person need to decide how best to use time and money at his/her disposal.

The ultimate issue here is not only about college vs. no college, however expensive college is.

Instead, the real issue is about how best to invest our time, money, and effort to better the content and prospect of our life.

Since there are so many variables in making for a good life, it is fool hearted for anyone to say whether college is worth it or not. Thus I think it is impossible for people to say categorically that college is or is not for you.

That is really what the debate about. (If you want to discuss whether college really deliver on its promises, either job (law school) or happiness (liberal arts), we can, and should.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to solve problems in a democracy?


A May 27, 2011 blog entry reads: “As recovery falters, Washington offers little help,” May 27, 2011

Here we go again. Why is “Washington” (government) always the problem when things go wrong in our society, life; from deficit in education to increase in foreign aggression.

I would think that if we believe in democracy, which is government by and for the people, it is always the people’s problem - credit when things go wrong or right. If that should be the case, it is the people not the government that is causing the problem. How so? (Of course if you do not believe in democracy as a concept or think that democracy does not really work in practice, we have a whole new debate, for another day).

The problem we have as a nation - people, for a long time and particular now, is that we blame the messenger (the government) instead of ourselves for the problems we face. There are many reasons why we do so, the chief of which is that we fail to understand what democracy is all about.

Democracy is never about what government not doing anything, this and that, such as not making (debt ceiling) or enforcing laws (ethics inquiry).

Democracy is always about people doing something, here and now, such as embracing more duties (sacrifice for our children), and stopping to ask for more rights (to ingratiate our selves).


In dealing with the nation’s (people’s really) problem of the day, our democracy is not working the way it should because we fail to follow one of the very basic (scientific) principles of democratic governance by Professor Kam C. Wong:

“The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem.” (This is “scientific” because people who are not affected (impact test) and/or understand (knowledge test) has little motivation or capacity to solve a problem. (See my blog on “Arab Spring and Paternalism”).

Problem is in turn defined as: “denied expectations of every kind due to resource deprivation”. (People who have resources, chief of which are intelligence, spirituality and wisdom, rarely if ever have problems that they cannot solve.)

Resource is “anything and everything that can meet our expectations, from material, to spiritual, to thinking.”


If we apply my democratic theory: “The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem.” You will be able to solve any and ALL problems confronting us as a nation, people, and individual:

(1) ACKNOWLEDGE the problem. The first step to deal with any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. If we do not know there is a problem, we cannot begin to fix it. AAA people can tell you. To get rid of alcohol addiction, one need to acknowledge that (s)he is an alcoholic.

(1.1) The simple way to find a problem is to ask: “Is your expectation being met, on a daily basis and in small ways?” For New York is whether the sub-way is clean? For LA is whether we can negotiate the freeway short of crawling? For DC, is whether Congress people can agree to disagree? For you and me, is whether we are better off today than yesterday, this moment than last? Dream big and think small, that is the key here. That simple.

(2) UNDERSTAND the problem. To understand a problem is to analyze the problem for what it is: What is the nature, extent, and impact of a problem on our daily life? MORE SO, for what it s not? For example, we do not have a budget deficit problem, we have a consumerism and materialism issue. Or, ask the simple question: How does the happenings around us– crime, unemployment, education - deviate from our expectations of things, or affects us?

(2.1) Analyzing a problem – social or personal - is really harder than one thinks. There is a tendency for us to look at a problem as it is given to us: this is a “crime” problem or this is an “unemployment” problem, without following up with many more questions of what does “crime” and “unemployment” means to us? How do they affect us in everyday life.

(2.2) In essence, to call something a crime (as a problem) is not the same as to describe its experientially, and translated it as specific expectation denials of all kinds, shape and degrees. We might not be able to deal with crime, but we can certainly deal with aspects of and fall out from crime. For example, if you worried about theft, you can buy insurance against loss to protect yourself.

(2.3) Take murder as an example. Murder to the lawyers is a violation of rules. Murder to the doctor is a person who stops breathing. Murder to a janitor is a dirty floor. Murder to a professor is a statistic. What I am saying here is that the legal label of murder is not how we as a person/collective experience – think and feel – about it. Murdering of a father to a family means, depending on expectations, lose of kitchen help, children’s mentor, wife’s companion. We may not care or do anything about the legal problem with catching and convicting the criminal, but we certainly can do a lot in helping the kids to re-adjust or joining a church to cure our soul.

(4) OWN the problem. After we acknowledge (#1) and understand (#2) the problem we must now take control the problem by claiming it as our own. This is much easier than one think. It is easy because we can never outrun a problem by denying – delaying – or wishing it away.

(4.1) If problem is “denied expectation”, until and unless we have satisfied our expectation(s), the problem will always be there. For example, the nation has a deficit problem. What are we doing about it? For a long time, we try to borrow our way out, from the Chinese and Japanese. In essence we keep on borrowing, in hope that the deficit would somehow disappear. In so doing, we are not meeting our own expectations – pay as we spend. Instead, we try to shift our expectation – spend before we can pay, in hope that either our problem become that of government or our kids. That is to say that we hope that other people can alleviate our expectations (resource) deficits. That is fine and good, for a while, now we have a whole new problem (expectation deficit) on our hand – we have breached our responsibility (expectation of self) as parents and citizens. We have transformed a financial expectation deficit to one or moral expectation deficit; a worse problem.

(5) SOLVE the problem. There are two ways to solve a problem, or meeting expectations:

(5.1) Find resource to meet expectation. In terms of reducing deficits, and in economic terms, that means increasing productivity (working harder/smarter).

(5.2) Change expectation. Again, in terms of reducing deficit, that means changing our consumption pattern, spend less on defense (a depleting, destructive spending) and spend more on education (a renewing, constructive spending).

(6) DOING AWAY with problem. In the end, the best way to deal with any problem (expectation) is to rethink our problem (re-adjust our expectation), and make it go away. This can be achieved by learning to doing away with desire (expectations altogether – it is the lack of desire, not accumulation of wealth, that makes people happy.

(6.1) If that is the case, we should think about doing away with MBA – marketing, and live within our means. Here in the U.S., unbridled consumption is the problem, not the solution to our deficit problem.

(6.2) For some you can try Buddhism, for others you can visit a Jesuit faith. For people in dire straight, the solution might be suicide – the big escape form all wants and needs.


The scientific democratic principle I am proposing: “The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem” is based in part on another Chinese saying: “The person who causes the problem should be the one to solve the problem.” Or, in the U.S., we should clean up our own mess.

Friday, May 27, 2011


There are many ways to understand or decipher Arab Spring; historically, politically, and morally.

One way to understanding Arab Spring is to ask why the West are so eager to get involved. The narrative here is: What is good for the West is good for the Arab world, i.e., paternalism at work.


“Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm. The issue of paternalism arises with respect to restrictions by the law such as anti-drug legislation, the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, and in medical contexts by the withholding of relevant information concerning a patient's condition by physicians. At the theoretical level it raises questions of how persons should be treated when they are less than fully rational. ( - Int)

Paternalism makes three claims

(1) You do not know what you are doing, in governance or self-determination.
(2) I know what is good for you.
(3) Let me help you to make things right, if need be by force.


There are a number of objections to paternalistic offer of help.

First, paternalism is a noble and chivalry enterprise. However, such a noble instinct is not without its corrupting tendencies and destructive impact. The impetus to help, arising as it must, from a sense of superiority and well being, will easily lead to an arrogance of power (intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional or economical) in the helper. Dependency creates subordination in the helped and in time breed contempt in the helper. This is manifested in a relationship denominated not so much by the actual needs of the one that wants help but by the one who venture the help. Such tendency seems to grow directly, in proportion with the intensity of the willingness to help and conversely correlated with the helplessness exhibited by the deprived. In the end, the one being helped may be no better off, e.g. he may not get what he wants (only what others think he wants). He may even ends up worse off than before, e.g. he may get more than what he bargained for - a lost of self-respect for his own autonomy, and freedom. Such has always been the pitfall of paternalistic relationship!

Secondly, paternalistic motivation to help is never selfless. There is a certain kind of hypocrisy in all chivalry gestures. No one is totally, selfless, by venturing out to help others we are motivated by a need to gratify ourselves, i.e. an instinct to do good by our standard, not that of the person needing help. We should not for a moment think that the interest of the helper and the helped are one and the same. No assumption can be more wrong and more dangerous. A servant cannot be trusted to serve two masters. This is not an indictment against the integrity of the servant as much as it is a realistic assessment of such relationships. The annals of trust law are repelled with cautions against such divided allegiance. Our experience with others point unmistakably to that conclusion.


If paternalism works in making the world a better place to live, work and play as claimed, with the strong helping the weak, more developed nation coaching the less developed nation, I wonder what other CULTURALLY more advanced nations can help to improve the culturally less attuned - achieved nations, from managing deficits to reducing violence to decreasing drugs to building family to providing for seniors to protecting the young to improving morality….

The ultimate question to ask is why paternalism is only working in a one way manner, from the economically - military strong to the economically - militarily weak?

What is the relationship, if any, between economic and military proneness and cultural and moral goods?

Are rich people/country necessarily more cultured?

Are the militarily strong necessarily more moral?

Selling Death Kit and Right to Die

The Right to Die

ON May 26, 2011, federal agents (FBI, US Postal Inspection Services) raided the house of one Sharlotte Hydorn (91) of California with gun drawn, and searched for 11 hours, leaving the house in a mess.

Ms. Hydorn was accused of offering up for sale, by e-mail, a suicide kit – GLADD, resulting in the death of a mail-order customer from Oregon, Nicholas Klonoski, 29, suffering from depression but otherwise healthy. “She sells them for $60 each, including shipping and instructions, under the brand name GLADD, which stands for Glorious Life and Dignified Death.” “FBI raids home of suicide kit maker in California.” (FBI raids home of suicide kit maker in California,” Reuters, May 26, 2011).

I believe that we have a right to choose death over life, thus this commentary.


The US Constitution, commonly acknowledged to be one of the most advanced and exemplary one in the world guarantee people’s rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) specifically stated:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence further made clear the Government must respect the people’s right to choose for themselves the form of Government that is most conducive to effectual “Safety and Happiness”:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. “

The Declaration of Independence also warned that it is the habits of Government and nature of citizens to put up with Despotism of the worse kind, i.e., paternalism:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security…”


The issue about right to live vs. die, hinges on the meaning of happiness. What it is and who decides?

It is clear that the US government would not be raiding Ms. Ms. Hydorn’s house if she is selling a life support system, instead of a death inflicting one. But why not?

The simple answer is: Government somehow thinks, paternalistically, that all suicide is bad. Conversely, all prolonging of life is good.

I disagree, strongly, that taking life is bad. My position is that taking life is neither good nor bad. It all depends on ones life circumstances: whether it brings net happiness (or what amount to be the same “meaning”) to the individual involve.

To the question of what is happiness, it is the “uninhibited” pursuit of ones meaning in and of life, without infringing on the rights of other to do the same. Since meaning of life is subjective and cannot be experienced by others; other people, still less government, has no way to judge, still less impose.

If indeed the pursuit of happiness (meaning of life) is up to the individual to decide, I do not see how the government can now tell a person (except those who are not capable of deciding – immature or mentally sick) what meaning of life (and in turn happiness) is. More simply: life has no meaning except to the person involve.

More practically, the government do not know and cannot decide for the person what meaning of life (or happiness) is for one very simple reason, the government has no way of accessing the inner most thought and feeling of the person, as lived: (In theoretical terms, as I argued in another context: “The person who is closest to a person (by impact and knowledge) is the person to solve the problem.” Problem is defined as: unfulfilled expectations of all kinds, due to resource limitations.)

Ones life is made of many moments (M), M1, M2, M3 to Mn). A person’s experience (thinking + feeling) of M, individually and in aggregate (M1 + M2 + Mn), is what makes for net happiness score.

Case#1: I go to the library to read a book. It brings stimulation to my brain, but my body gets fat.

Case#2: I go to the bar to get drunk after I pass my examination. I make a lot of friends, but I have a hang over in the morning,

The above two moments of life have one thing in common. They both shortens my life for the factor of M/Mn (number of seconds / 60 years life span x 265 days x 24 hrs x 60 minutes x 60 seconds). I have just killed time in and by the moment. I submit to you, killing time, is killing life, in short form.

If the government can regulate my choice of life, to live or not to live. The government should be able to start with the most basic unit of life: the moment a person live – gong to the library (case#1) vs. going to bar (case#2). Since the government cannot (due to lack of capacity) and should not (due to ideology - constitution) regulate life in the moment, it has no right to regulate life and death.

Case#3: A person is 20 years old. He lives a happy life, up to this point. He wants to end his life because he do not want to allow the future to diminish his happiness thus far achieved. He should be able to do so.

In case#3, it is clear to everyone that whether a person is 20 or 60, happy or unhappy, sick or well. (S)he should have the absolute right to take his/her own life. (His/her obligation to country and contribution to society should be a consideration in his/her decision making, and might be make a pre-condition of taking ones life.)


It is not my purpose to argue for dead. I love life too much.

It is my purpose to promote happiness, i.e., to find meaning in life.

Life is worth living, without meaning, to the person involved.

As to whether promotion of death would soften people’s will to live or in turn deplete human stock, I defer to the wisdom Darwinism:

If people, individual and as a collective, find meaning in life, they will live. Otherwise, they will die, or at worse, engage dead man walking!


Kam C. Wong, “ Whose Life is it Anyway?”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why crimes are going down in USA?

Today the FBI reported that in 2010 the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) documents another year of decline in crime across the nation; violent crime down by 5.5%, property crime by 4.9%, and robbery by 8.1%. (The violent crime index comprises homicide, forcible rape, robbery and assault. The property crime index consists of burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. ) (“US crime rate is down: six key reasons,” Christian Science Monitor, May 24, 2011)

UCR Report: Jan. – Dec. 2011

Police agencies: 13,007
Population: 264,046,159
Violent crime: -5.5
Murder: -4.4
Forcibly rape: -4.2
Robbery: -9.5
Aggravated Assault: -3.6
Property Crime -2.8
Burglary: -1.1
Larceny-theft: -2.8
Motor vehicle theft: - 7.2
Arson: -.83

The decrease in crime has been going down for more than a decade.

Crime Rates in the US: 1960 to 2009

Crime Rate[6][10]
1960 1961 1963 1965 1967 1969 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009
Violent crime rate 160.9 158.1 168.2 200.2 253.2 328.7 396.0 417.4 487.8 475.9 548.9 594.3 537.7 556.6 609.7 663.1 758.2 747.1 684.5 611.0 523.0 504.5 475.8 469.0 472.0 429.4
Homicide rate 5.1 4.8 4.6 5.1 6.2 7.3 8.6 9.4 9.6 8.8 9.8 9.8 8.3 8.0 8.3 8.7 9.8 9.5 8.2 6.8 5.7 5.6 5.7 5.6 5.7 5.0
Property crime rate 1,726 1,747 2,012 2,249 2,736 3,351 3,769 3,737 4,811 4,602 5,017 5,264 4,637 4,650 4,940 5,078 5,140 4,740 4,591 4,316 3,744 3,658 3,591 3,432 3,277 3,036
Crimes per 100,000 population
SOURCES: US Bureau of Justice Statistics (2004),[6] Federal Bureau of Investigation, (2009)

The citizens are elated. The police are quick to congratulate themselves. The criminologists are more perplexed than ever: some suggest that it has to do with effective punishment, others think it is due to proactive police work, still others believe it resulted from change of demographics.

While I think all these factors do play a part (large or small – the verdict is not in, and will not be soon), my colleagues might have been missing the most important reason.

My colleagues might have made the wrong assumption, and in turn failed to ask the right question.


All my colleagues assume that the crimes have gone down. I do not.

I think crimes have not declined in the US, they have just changed in nature and manifestation. Since FBI – UCR measures traditional street crime, they are not measuring, as effectively, cybercrime.

In order for a crime to happen people must confront each other in person, e.g., with violent crime people must meet face to face to get angry, to kill. With property crime, offender must be tempted, then steal from a victim, in his/her presence.

In theoretical terms, and according to "routine activities theory", a crime happens, with the convergence of three factor, namely a motivated offender, an available opportunity and lack of guardian. In the Internet age, the offender - opportunity - guardianship structure is reoriented.

In this day and age, people communicate with each other by e-mail and connect with each other by face book. Such non-personal relationship, relationship makes personal crime unlikely to happen.

First, netizens rarely get mad over a cold media.

Second, if and when people get mad, they can start saying nasty things to each other, and ultimately cut the other party off. They cannot hit each other.

Third, even when one want to get even, more likely than not, they cannot find the person with ease. Alternatively, the person you want to get even with might be miles away.

Fourth, Internet provides a cooling off period when you want to get even.

Fifth, if you contemplate to get even electronically, that is not going to hurt people as in street crime.

Finally, when one decided to transfer their anger/motive to real life, he can be tracked down by the cyber police. This is an effective deterrence against all kinds of crime.

This is not to say that people do not have relationship problems. It is just that angry management is much more easier on the net.

What about rape? Since Internet makes x-rated materials freely available, should that not increase sexual offending. This issue was deal with by the Meese Report (1986). Reading it in its totality, the findings about linkage between x-rated materials and sexual offender is at best inconclusive, at worse unsubstantiated.

There are contrary evidences from Europe to show that x-rated materials do not contribute to sex crime, and might have reduced such incidents. (Kutchinsky, B. The effect of easy availability of pornography on the incidence of sex crimes: The Danish experience. Journal of Social Issues, 1973, 29:163-181. Abstract: Cites the Danish liberalization of legal prostitution and of laws concerning pornography and the ensuing high availability of such materials as a unique opportunity to test hypotheses concerning the relationship between pornography and sex offenses. It is shown that, concurrent with the increasing availability of pornography, there was a significant decrease in the number of sex offenses registered by the police in Copenhagen. On the basis of various investigations, including a survey of public attitudes and studies of the police, it was established that at least in 1 type of offense (child molestation) the decrease represents a real reduction in the number of offenses committed. Various factors suggest that the availability of pornography was the direct cause of this decrease. )

As to more instrumental property crime, the Internet offers many ways to get rich, illegally, or at least dishonestly. Internet crimes are the least reported and hardest to investigate offense. Internet crimes are intellectual crime. They are mind contest with no one getting hurt. Cybercrimes are usually not reported for fear of diluting good will.

Finally, the Internet also reduces crime in a very unique way. Most of street crimes – personal or property – are committed by juveniles and young people. Since juveniles and young people are spending more and more time on the Internet, gaming, surfing and networking, they have little time to commit crime.

In 1969, Professor Hirschi asked an interesting question, why do people not commit crime, instead of why people commit crime. He concluded that people do not commit crime because they are bonded to society in four ways, i.e., through in commitment, attachment, involvement, and beliefs. If Hirschi was correct, then the young people who are crazy about the Internet and spend hours and hours on it to learn gaming or do networking are not likely to be in the street causing trouble.

More simply, being hooked on the Internet, the young people have a purpose and meaning in life. The “commitment” and “involvement” with the Internet (activities and community) takes them away from street crime. Each hour the young people are glued to the computer means an hour less for committing crime or causing trouble in the street. This is not to say that the young people would not commit crime in Internet, but most of them are not reported as street crime.

The Internet has made our street safer by engaging our kids in senseless to parents, useless (perhaps) to society, but meaningful activities (for sure) to the young people!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons of Arab Spring: Obama will fail in Middle East?

On May 19, 2011, President Obama, implored Middle East countries to follow the west with US in the lead, in pursuing democracy, rule of law and justice:

“The United States … support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders - whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran. And finally....”

As a world citizen, I applaud the President in promoting “universal” human rights (and humanity?).

As a public intellectual, I have questions about US concept of “rights” as being necessarily “universal” in theory or as applied.. (See my comments: “Secretary Clinton accused China of human rights violation” (May 10, 2011) & “Clash of Civilizations: US vs. China over Google.” (May 10, 2011).

What I am arguing in this commentary is that good intention on the part of US to oppose government oppression and ameliorate economic exploitation does not necessarily (without considering local context, as in Syria) or automatically (even with further assistance and help from outside, such as Libya) translate into good governance for the people, especially, in giving what the locals want, i.e., substantive goods, in the form of better life.

My central thesis is this, good process, might promise to bring good results (Democracy), but in fact deliver bad consequences, as in Egypt (effectively military government), Libya (practically civil war) and Iraq (reality no effective government).

My sense is, the Americans are good at creating process but not at all proficient, or perhaps even wise, in achieving the substantively good results. Looking at our own form of democratic process in action: We put more people in jail and yet has the highest crime rates in the world. We have people still in jail because we would not give them the DNA kit to test their innocence. We bankrupt our nation, and defraud the world with forged negotiable instruments. The list goes on ….

In the following pages I will discuss why US insistent of rule of law, particularly, trumping substantive justice with procedural rules is wrong headed and ill fated.

My position is that:
(1) By nature and due to necessity, people all around the world pursue survival and happiness as end goals. These are substantive goods. Alternatively called end goals of life
(2) With construction and out of choice, many people around the world set up process to achieve, secure or maintain survival and happiness. These are called process goods. Alternatively called instrument for living.
(3) People all around the world prefer substantive goods over process goods, intuitively, i.e., felt, not reasoning. (This does not mean that there is no reason, or in the ultimately analysis, unreasonable.)
(4) When in conflict, substantive goods will trump process goals, instinctively. (This means that it is a matter of reaction, as a matter of disposition, and out of habits. Commonly called survival instinct.)
(5) No individual or country can long survive if they allow the process goods to come before substantive goods.

If Arab Spring stands for anything, it stands for the fact that rules are to be disobeyed, at times violently, if the rules stop people from getting what they want, in survival and happiness. Again let us listen to what Obama has to so:

“On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world - the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire. Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor's act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home - day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.”

President Obama used Bouaziz to make his case for a new dawn in democratizing the Middle East. What he fails to grasp is the fact that the only reason why Bouaziz, the street vendor, killed himself, in not that he yearned for freedom and democracy, it is that he was not allowed to make a living. Simply put, Bouaziz’s death has nothing to do with dignity, still less democratic governance. It has everything to do survival. In Chinese it is call “minsheng”, literally “people’s livelihood”.

If Bouaziz lived in a more prosperous place, such as Hong Kong, I doubt that Bouazzi would needs to burn himself. I choose Hong Kong because Hong Kong experienced a civil disturbance (riots) that led to many deaths and injuries, and 1800 people were arrested in 1966 over a 25 cents (50%) fare increase in Star Ferry harbor crossing, when Hong Kong was very poor and labored under an "enlightened" British colonial rule. (The US never once championed for a Hong Kong Sprint, then!)

I also choose Hong Kong, now 45 years later, because Hong Kong has one of the highest Kennedy ratio (rich vs, poor index) in the world, but there are also a lot of economic opportunities. Police arrest street hawkers daily, but there is no suicide, no riots. This is not as a result of a competent police or fair judiciary. This is because street vendors can always find some other economic opportunities.

In essence, from the “street” people’s perspective, concrete - particular needs for economic survival, not abstract - general sense of democracy, justice, is cause for rioting. In the end and as a rule, people in the street and people in the corridor of powers do not see eye to eyes on cause of and cure for public grievances.

The people in the street (undeveloped/less developed countries) want substantive goods.

Elite politicians in governments (of well to do - rich nations, until now, mostly in the west – original G-6 was France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) talk about process goods.

The elites always do things in the name of the people in the street, to satisfy their sense of being; world view (globalization beyond the reach of the commons, until now with e-revolution), identity (people are doers, elites are thinkers, people are rewarded externally and in small dosage, elite are rewarded internally, and dream big), values (people are materialists and pragmatists, elites are idealists and principle minded) and interest (immediate gratification, deferred gratification).

The above shows that governance is not about process goods (democracy) favored by the rich people/country, it is always about substantive good (survival at the low end and happiness the high end)for the working people.

Where do our sense of and yearning for substantive justice come from, I do not know. (Perhaps as Shakespeare would have we should: "The first thing we do, kill all the lawyers (philosopher).")

Whatever the origin, I find that every person I talked to, all over the world, except with US lawyers in court (not even in private, or should I say particularly in private), love to do substantive justice. I cannot say all western lawyers, such as English lawyers, are not concerned with substantive justice, e.g., UK allows credible but coerced evidence to stand. French legal system of course pursues inquisitorial justice, in search of truth with an examining magistrate.

Closer to home, we find parents telling the kids to speak the truth and owe up to their indiscretions. Many times, I recall, I got punished (more), not for doing the wrong things, but because I lied about it – hiding wrong doing is a cardinal sin, was the lesson I learned. My father, as with most (all?) parents, would not tell their kids that they have a right to remain silence, in the face of wrongdoing.

The whole point here is to set the record straight: substantive justice, not procedural justice, is what everyone wants.

Finally, if you are still are not convinced, you need to look no further than post 9/11 America. President Bush’ reaction to terror tells the world clearly and loudly what US stands for:

“Substantive goods – goal of survival is more important than process goods – tools of Constitution. That is why Bush authorized the torture of terrorists, detention of Muslims without charge, and electronically monitoring of the nation’s Internet.

In the US, a person has been murdered. A suspect was arrested. The detective interrogated him without giving him a Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in the court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” and contrary to Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

The suspect confessed and incriminatory evidence was recovered as a result of the confession. (You can make this a tortured confession if you like.) The case went to trial. What would happen?

The US courts would have to dismiss the case, since the prosecution was based solely in the admissible confession. The reasoning of the court should be a simple one: procedural justice (i.e., rule of law) trumped substantive justice (i.e., actual guilty),

It is clear from this case, the procedural rule established to seek the truth - justice leads to the wholesale avoidance of substantive injustice.

However, most people and many cultures in other part of the world, the likes of China (now moving towards an American procedural justice mode) and Iran do not follow procedure trumping substantive justice mode of justice delivery.

Why is it that China and many other countries prefer substantive justice over procedural justice? This is because substantive justice is REAL justice to the people in the street. People in the street have to live (do battle with), and live with (experience, feel) justice everyday.

Procedural justice makes sense to the elite – educated, trained, professional - justice administrators. Elites in courts only have to think about justice in theory at office, with imagination and (if need be) empathy to match. When a criminal escapes substantive justice to realize procedural justice, it rarely affects them in the real term, other than perhaps senses of professional misgivings and at times moral quandary.

Finally, even the criminals/suspects would readily acknowledge (as a police officer I talked to many), they got off (laughing out loud) not because they do not deserve to be punished but because they are lucky, or the system is dysfunctional. (Few people knows, criminals also have an internal justice compass. They just rationalize it away in appropriate time and situation.)

Why do the west (U.S.) condemned other countries that prefer substantive justice over procedural justice (ultimately substantive goods over process goods)? There are three reasons, one historical, one cultural, one social.

First, historically, the western civilization in general and US in particular suffers from oppression of the ruler. As an example, U.S. rebelled against England on account of “taxation without representation.” US wrote a constitution to keep oppressive government and abusive officials at bay. More simply, Americans subscripted to a “powers corrupt” thesis. Thus, stringent procedures were set up to check the government.

Second, culturally, western civilizations, with US in the lead, think logically and work mechanically (government as machine). This type of thinking is best represented by and exemplified in Weber’s work on bureaucracy – division of labor, chain of command, span of control, hierarchy, etc. It is believed that “machine” can set people free. Machine will not make mistakes, people do, is the rule. Procedural justice is machine delivered mechanical justice. Thus the notion, rule of law, not man. (But justice is always about man, and thus must be by man. We can only approach the rule of law, if we use a machine to enforce the law!)

Third, socially, western society has changed from a pre-industrial, primitive, to an industrial (now post industrial, information and networking) society. In a pre-industrial face to face communal society, substantive justice is the rule. In an industrial society, human relations mediated by all kinds of organizations/institutions, procedural justice is the norm.

When President Obama asked people in the Middle East to follow the example of the western world to give up their traditional system of government for a democratic one, he is correct with the first, and wrongheaded with the second.

President Obama was right on to suggest traditional society should not and cannot be maintained if it is the people’s wish (there is an issue of how many and what kind of people support change, but that is an issue of another day).

The President was ill advised when he suggested that Arab Spring should (normative) and dead wrong when he predicted that the people in the Middle East would (empirical) lead to American form of government and governance.

How do I know? As I intimated earlier, given a choice, real choice, most people in the street prefers substantive justice over procedure justice. Individually and collectively, people want substantive goods (food, shelter, education for kids) than process goods (voting, rule of law).

That is why Chinese government has long maintained, as vindicated by history, that people’s livelihood (“mimsheng”) is more important then people’s rights (“minquan”) and still more sought after democracy (“minzhu).

System of government (Democracy) or instrument of control (rule) ultimately are process goods. As process goals it can only work if it achieve the substantive goods of the people, as shaped by history, culture and society, underlying. (Or, as the Americans are fond of saying, in another matter, "guns do not kill, people do." More closer to home, Singaporean do not speak English, they speak Singapore-glish!)

Friday, May 20, 2011


On May 19, 2011, President Obama delivered a major foreign policy speech on the Middle East, addressing issues of Arab Spring that has engulfed the region of late, and shows no sign of abating, with the latest victim the Israel occupation of Palestinian land. As predicted Obama challenged the people from Egypt to Iran to rise to the occasion to seek economic and political reform and with it social and cultural change. More simply, the learn and act like the West:

“President BARACK OBAMA: There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It's not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo: It was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it's the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.” (NPR: “Obama Sees Arab Spring As Moment Of Opportunity.” May 19, 2011)

In concrete terms that means: democratic elections, free markets, peaceful relations with neighboring states — including Israel — rights for women and minorities, the rule of law. (NPR: “Obama Sees Arab Spring As Moment Of Opportunity.” May 19, 2011) (“Editorial: President Obama and the Arab Spring,” New York Time May 17, 2011.)

How would China react to Obama's invitation to open up the country to accept more Western political institutions (democracy, rule of law, human rights) is the inquiry of this commentary.


There will be no China Spring (Jasmine Revolution)for the foreseeable future. Why? Let us see what the Chinese leaders think about political reform vs. social stability.

Deng Xiaoping, the putative head of Chinese reform, promises economic and not political reform. More importantly his vision, still very much the Communist Party policy, is one of “crossing river by feeling the stone”, i.e., incremental experimentation, not radical reform.

From the very beginning and up till now, Deng’s reform insisted on “security above all.” To him, without stability there is no reform and nothing can be achieved. The insistent for stability is driven by the fear that China will suffer the fate of the Cultural Revolution and Russia’s disintegration. Intellectually, it is informed by “new authoritarianism” in the 1980s and “neo-conservatism” in the 1990s.

On March 4, 1989 Deng Xiaoping said in a CCP Central Committee meeting,

“The key to our success in modernization, reform and the opening to the outside is stability…. We must counter any forces that threaten stability, not yielding to them or even making any concessions. We must send out a signal that China will tolerate no disturbances.”

On February 26, 1989 Deng Xiaoping told President Bush that: “In China the overriding need is for stability. Without a stable environment, we can accomplish nothing and may even lose what we have gained…. China is now in period when it must concentrate on economic development.”

On May 13, 1989 Deng reiterated the point with CCP General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and Chinese President Yang Shangkun, “I’ve said over and over that we need stability if we’re going to develop.”

The concerned with stability is shared by President Jiang Zemin. On December 18, 1998, Jiang said:

“Stability is the basic premise for reform and development. Without stability, nothing can be achieved…In the process of carrying out reform, opening-up, and developing a socialist market economy, contradictions among the people may notably increase, and some may even become increasingly prominent…We need to nip those factors that undermine social stability in the bud, no matter where they come from.”

Stability was the reason most referenced by Chinese leadership for taking repressive actions against the students on June 4, 1989.

This fixation of stability is not particular to Deng and this generation of Chinese leaders, and is not likely to change soon. Change is not possible because since antiquity, China - emperor and people - is fearful of "luan" or chaos, which is deemed to be bad for the people, justifying rebellion, and seen as failure of governance (emperor), calling for his removal. A good emperor is one that can maintain social order and political stability, at all time and with all costs, if need be.

In support of the above observation is that Chinese rulers, then as now, is charged with delivery of people living ("minsheng") and not people democracy ("minzhu"). (The Chinese want to be fed by the government. The Westerners want to be free from the government.) (There is some strong evidence that in the US President is elected to the office, for economic performance, not political reform.)


In 2011 and foreseeable future, the stability issue that preoccupy the Chinese leadership is in how to deal with antagonistic vs. non-antagonistic forces of disorder, the likes of Falun Gong vs. mass incidents. While both kinds of disabling forces need to be put under control, antagonist forces must be mercilessly suppressed and non-antagonistic forces must be masterfully defused.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why kill Bin Laden?

Why Kill Bin Laden?

Bin Laden is now dead for 16 days. We need to ask some critical questions of the success and failure of the Bin Laden operation.

The first question to be asked is a simple but important one:


The President of the US, past (Bush) and present (Obama), has made two promises:

(1) Secure America from terrorist attacks.
(2) Bring Bin Laden to justice.

Increasingly it appears that Bin Laden was deliberately killed, making the Navy Seal operation a kill on sight mission, from the start:

Bin Laden was taken by surprise.
Bin Laden was a frail man, not capable of hurting anyone.
Bin Laden was unarmed.
Bin Laden did not try to fight back.
Bin Laden did not try to escape.
Bin Laden need was shielded by his (unarmed) wife.

If the above (assumptions of) facts are correct, the only conclusion one can draw is that the killing of Bin Laden was a deliberate execution. (It is also possibly that it is a human error. It is also possible that it is a spur of the moment, reflex type of act, reaction. When people are all pumped up in the heat of battle, reflex takes over. In the fog of war, the best battle plan, well rehearsed, becomes a figment of imagination, a second into an operation.)

The deliberate killing of Bin Laden might bring people momentary joy; short term bliss at the expense of long term pain.

This commentary argues that: It is not in the best interest of the US to kill Bin Laden then and there. As the President said, he expected more attack from the terrorists, in reaction to or succession of Bin Laden.



(1.1) If one of our, or perhaps only, purpose is to secure America against terrorism, then we should do everything in our power to capture him. If we have done so, we might get to know more about Bin Laden's capacity, intent and operations. With that, we will be able to take the whole Bin Laden organization down, piece by piece.

(1.2) Since the operation, no one has ask the question still less given a satisfactory answer as to why gathering intelligence from the head of a dangerous terrorism net work is not worth keeping him for a while longer, at the planning stage. With all the information at hand, Bin Laden will die one way or another. Why not spare him for a couple of months. The question is troubling. The silence is telling. The nation deserves an explanation.

(1.3) The question to ask here is whether the President have seriously considered capturing him, why and why not? (We were told that there was serious discussion of a a drone attack, to minimize loss. Which is reasonable.) If we should have the opportunity to capture Bin Laden, which we were told we could, but did not, what would we have learned?

(1.4) Finally, and most importantly, how might the loss of information from him, hurt or help with our terror fight? For example, is there a succession plane? Where are the sleeping agents? What is the next target of attack? At the very least, how good is our intelligence? Are we on the right track? Should we stop some dead leads, open up new investigations and clean a few (many?) of the innocent detainees?

How might suck information secure us, specifically against Bin Laden operatives, generally, how we are doing in fighting terror? For example, are the Pakistan supporting Bin Laden while receiving US aid? Are there double agents within our counter-terrorism ranks?

Now the secrets of Bin Laden is buried in the ocean? How would we ever know? For strategic planning or tactical operations, and for history?

(1.5) Alternative, the President can inform us the benefits of killing him? In the end, how killing him advance our counter-terror cause? Again, thus far, not a word about this cost benefit analysis. Everyone and anyone, from the President down just assume that killing is Bin Laden is the best cause of action.

(1.6) Three factors might make the capture of Bin Laden not a prefer cause of action.

(1.6.1) Bin Laden has been successful contained by the US global war on terror to the point of being insignificance, except in name. He has been marginalized. He knows very little. He control even less. (see 1.3.2) This line of argument has been denied by CIA. According to CIA, Bin Laden is still very much in control.

(1.6.2) Bin Laden has little control over the terrorists net-work, thus removing him would make little different. This thesis derives from the observation that the new terror movement built and led by Bin Laden is a decentralized one, world-wide. Each terror cell work on its own, not to the drum beat of Bin Laden. A Donald trump franchise, not an IBM subsidiary. It is not like the Red Army of old, highly organized with central command and control, through and through. Thus far, this is very much a theory that awaits proof. Even then, Bin Laden’s would be the one to provide answers to the command and control (or lack there of) of his terrorist organization, net-work, ways and means.

(1.6.3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bin Laden is terror personify. He is the organization, a one man band. If he dies, the organization dies with him. With his death, the whole terrorism operations build by him would fall, never to rise again. In essence Bin Laden is worth more dead than alive. But this is not a very compelling argument. We have learned that there was much dissension within Bin Laden’s ranks, to the point that Bin Laden is not in complete control. If that should be the case, Bin Laden is absolutely necessary to fill CIA in about his enemies within the ranks; the many Bin Ladens of tomorrow.


It is a national policy of the US on paper to capture (or kill if need be) Bin Laden to face justice. In order to do so we need to bring Bin Laden to face US system of justice. Executing him summarily is not US justice, even when the killing was ordered by a "war time" President. (Recall Bush use the same strategy to deny the Constitution, and with it the oversight of the Congress and judiciary. The nation still has not call him to account.) Bin Laden deserves his day in court. The US people deserve to know why they have spent trillions on this man. The victims of 9/11 might like to attend the legal execution, to express their anger, to seek final closure, or in some case to forgive and forget.

The international norm of war and peace is to bring war criminals to trial. We have done that in WWII when the German and Japanese killed millions of people. Why do we treat Bin Laden differently?

(2.2.1) Many Muslims here and abroad want to know why Bin Laden did what he did in their name. They deserve to have their name cleared. They deserve to hear it from Bin Laden that he is not in the mainstream and has not, and will not, represent the Muslim cause.

(2.2.2) A Bin Laden trial will help the Muslim worldwide in saying to the world: "We might not agree with American's quest to conquer the world through military power with the invasion of Iraq, drone attacks of Pakistan, navy inspection in Yemen, or ideological/cultural domination by way of bikini beauty contests in Afghanistan and fatty burgers in Inida, or commercial exploitation through setting up sweat shop Nike factories in Indonesia and charging juveniles pricey trashy hi-hop musics/x-rated movies/violent games on the net while objecting to government censorship (of vice)/parental electronic monitor (of porn) in China, but we think Bin Laden has no right to kill innocent people in fighting US, and should face Muslim justice, properly dispensed (if possible) by Muslims, not summarily imposed (for convenience) by Americans."

(2.2.3) In summarily executing Bin Laden, the President has proven Bin Laden correct: The US is not interested in (Muslim) justice, but in extending and expanding their own value, interest, and power.


I raise the above issues not because I think Bin Laden should live or die. My opinion hardly matters. But if we, as a people, really want to secure the nation (for the future) and realize justice (for all – victim, rule of law, world peace), we should have made every effort to capture him.

President Obama as Commander-in-Chief should explain why killing is better capturing Bin Laden in keeping US safe.

President Obama as the President of the US should explain why killing of Bin Laden does not defeat American constitution, law and justice.

Finally, President Obama, as our chief diploma, should explain to the world, why international moral norms and war conventions are not being honored.

For those of you who are conspiracy theorists, there might be a real possibility that Bin Laden was killed because he knows too much of things we rather not know!