‘King James’ vs. Shaq

The Hong Kong protests are proving to be a catalyst in the conflict between Communist China and the United States. This week, Communist China’s dictator buckled and backed down by canceling the extradition law that sparked the current protest. The Communist puppet running Hong Kong is reportedly being purged by the Communist Party for failing to crush Hong Kong’s resistance. The protesters, who wave American flags, openly defy the dictates and sing songs of liberty from a Broadway musical, are gaining — not losing — support from all over the world.

Meanwhile, Communist China cracks down on its American appeasers, such as Apple, Blizzard, Google, Nike and the National Basketball Association (NBA), which punished professional basketball businessman Daryl Morey for exercising his right to free speech in support of Hong Kong’s protests, pressuring him to apologize for aiding Hong Kong.

The severe contrast between Americans appeasing Communist China by sanctioning dictatorship and Americans opposing Communist China by denouncing dictatorship came to a climax this week in professional athletics — specifically between two Los Angeles Lakers.

Superficially, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal share similarities. Both athletes are extremely able, enduring and popular. Both men, who are black, faced serious challenges as boys. Although James is active and O’Neal is not, both sportsmen are Lakers—wealthy, high-profile men of achievement on a historic, dominant team, which originated in Minneapolis decades ago.

I do not follow, patronize or take serious interest in professional basketball. I’ve never been to a Lakers game and have no desire to attend. I’ve been to Staples Center in downtown LA where they play for my work, including covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention, and Kings hockey games, and I recently conducted research and interviews about basketball history for a book about the Munich 1972 Olympics basketball game that came out last month. So I wouldn’t call myself a sports fan. To the degree I follow professional sports, I prefer baseball. That said, I’ve taken an interest in both of these athletes. 

They represent today’s fundamental political choice.

The differences between Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James reflect each man’s character. Following the controversy surrounding Morey’s single expression of free speech simply stating an individual’s choice to stand with Hong Kong against Communist China in favor of free Hong Kong, I think the gulf between James and O’Neal affords a profound contrast in moral virtue.

Simply put, LeBron James came out for Communist China. He did so plainly and without equivocation. He denounced Morey while traveling during Lakers’ competition in China and thus sanctioned the idea that the individual exists to serve the state.

James’s manner was irritable, frustrated and hostile. His statement was delivered at length without any sense of confidence, rationality or contemplation, let alone inner peace. James did not speak and act as if he had studied the issues and reached his own conclusion. He spoke and acted as though he resented the very idea that any individual should think or speak for himself, let alone about philosophy. In alignment with his self-chosen moniker, “King James”, he acted like a monarch — more exactly, and mirroring his sympathy for China, like an emperor without clothes — who believes he ought not to be bothered by his servants and subjects — as if as king he’s entitled to unearned adoration, any one who speaks that he’s wearing no clothes be damned.

Shaquille O’Neal is like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. He spoke with confidence in his knowledge that Emperor “King James” wears no clothes. In alignment with his self-chosen moniker, Shaq, he spoke and acted as an accessible, thoughtful and intelligent man who presumes to speak only for himself. Shaq did this when he spoke up in defense of Morey’s exercise of free speech. Shaq neither wavered nor equivocated. He chose his words with purpose. He spoke with clarity and emphasis. Shaq did so in a proper context. Contrary to the annoyed demeanor displayed by James, Shaq spoke and acted with precision, eloquence and with the moral absolutism that he knows he’s right.

Life can be difficult and also wonderful and both Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James have a wealth of experience on both counts. Tragically, Shaquille O’Neal lost his sister, Ayesha, who died of cancer after a three-year struggle at the age of 40 within hours after Shaq’s defense of Americanism. As far as I know, Shaq is in Orlando at this writing in grief with his mother and family.

But the 7-foot basketball star, whose distinguished career is probably best known for the sense of playfulness and joy that he brings to the game and to his perspective on the game, is now also known to be better equipped to cope with life’s greatest challenges. With millions of dollars in deals, opportunities and his job as a sports broadcaster on a network owned by AT&T at stake, when, disgracefully, neither the president nor the speaker of the House chooses to explicitly stand with Hong Kong on the proper principle, individual rights, this moral giant spoke for rights with much at risk to lose.

Shaq spoke as if his words matter — and they do. He exercised his right to free speech, knowing that, at any moment, he could be fired, punished and persecuted and he exercised his First Amendment right anyway. He showed the moral courage that Tim Cook and Apple, Blizzard, Nike, Google and the NBA have not. Shaq spoke like a man who owns himself, his ideas and his expressions.

James, on the other hand, spoke like a man who is owned by Others, the People’s Republic of China, a dictator or any and all of those, any one except himself. There is no single greater contrast I can think of in two men’s moral character than what happened in the last couple of weeks and on the defining political point of the moment — a conflict between what’s on the verge of becoming the most oppressive nation on earth and what remains, as Shaq suggests, the greatest nation on earth. Let there be no doubt that the man, who, as a broadcast journalist, is also an intellectual, who goes by the name Shaq is not merely morally superior to LeBron James.

James chose a course of action which is low, depraved, predictable, common and rotten — James did what most in his position probably would do under the circumstances of traveling in a dictatorship and working under the auspices of a league shackled by its deal with a dictatorship. Shaq chose the lonelier and more courageous, solitary, rational and enlightened course of action. This makes Shaquille O’Neal the greatest American alive right now — at least in terms of moral leadership — whose singular act of heroism, even as those claiming that their purpose on earth is to defend the rights of the individual remain silent, deserves every American’s standing ovation.

These are dark days for America, darker every day. The president, whatever his record, has no real grasp of rights and capitalism. The opposition is a band of socialists and statists who seek total government control of every one’s life and aim to impeach the president for trivial reasons with neither due process nor just cause for the sole sake of lust for power.

With his historic statement against Communist China for the ideal of free speech and the United States of America, Shaq showed a prime example of the highest moral action. Leonard Peikoff once said that to save the world is the simplest thing — all one has to do is think. Shaquille O’Neal did exactly that.

As Shaq once said:

For all my friends in the media who like quotes, mark this quote down. From this day on I’d like to be known as ‘The Big Aristotle’ because Aristotle once said: ‘Excellence is not a singular act; it’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.’”

Shaq’s excellence earns my deepest respect. By proclaiming that Houston Rockets businessman Morey is right to stand with Hong Kong for liberty, the Big Aristotle honors America’s philosophical forefather and lives up to his chosen nickname. Shaq’s is a powerful example of the spirit of 1776 when America needs it fast. Though the press wickedly chose not to cover his pathbreaking act of principle, Shaq’s political speech gave Americans the moral clarity and guidance they urgently need. The few who know it, including the protesters in Hong Kong, have reason to be newly invigorated and inspired not to let it go.

 

Hong Kong Fights to be Free

Hong Kong’s protest leader Joshua Wong recently Tweeted this image of a painting, which imitates Liberty Leading the People (1830) by French romanticist painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), whose painting is at the Louvre in Paris. This brave young anti-Communist and his fellow rebels in Hong Kong fight as I write this for their freedom, lives and future. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, those supporting and participating in the Hong Kong protests fight for the future by living in it today.

Nothing on earth, based on what I know, matters more to the West’s survival at this moment than Hong Kong. That few think about, let alone grasp the meaning and magnitude of, this assertion is a fact of reality. Those that don’t want to know or do not care about Hong Kong, the West, America, rights and individualism are, ultimately, of no consequence.

Among those who do, it’s additionally discouraging to know that few choose to stand with Hong Kong. Rare friends, who on these issues are more like brothers, such as Andrew, Maryallene, Rohit, Amy and Mark, make a point to take the lead, express support and in clear and explicit terms.

Most do not, even among those who claim to know better, as I recently reaffirmed while skimming social media. After reading a portion of an extended comments thread from a post about a dispute between the author of an innocuous commentary about being gay and an anti-sex critic, this inversion became clear. The thread chiefly consists of aimless speculation about what one might do about this or that in response to (!) an arbitrary assertion. The comments are posted by those who claim (or ought) to know better as Hong Kong hangs in the balance. The frenzy’s not an occasional occurrence. Posting about trivial issues “while Rome burns” is chronic. Today’s best minds are consumed by memes, pictures and nonsense.

Meanwhile, Communist China, which poses a military threat to the U.S., Taiwan, Japan, Australia, South Korea and every pro-Western nation, allied with America’s worst enemies, Iran and North Korea. This comes as Hong Kong’s rebellion spins Communist dictator Xi Jinping and his dictatorship into turmoil. Today’s New York Times reports that

… at a meeting that has not been publicly disclosed, Mr. Xi met with other senior officials to discuss the protests. The range of options discussed is unclear, but the leaders agreed that the central government should not intervene forcefully, at least for now, several people familiar with the issue said in interviews in Hong Kong and Beijing…Now Mr. Xi faces an even bigger trade war, with much higher tariffs and greater tensions. The [dictatorship] appears to be hewing to a strategy of waiting out Mr. Trump, possibly through his 2020 re-election campaign, even as the dispute has become a drag on the economy…[Red China’s puppet in Hong Kong] offered a candid assessment of Beijing’s views, even if one she did not intend to make public. She said Beijing had no plan to send in the People’s Liberation Army to restore order because “they’re just quite scared now.”

“Because they know that the price would be too huge to pay,” she went on. “Maybe they don’t care about Hong Kong, but they care about ‘one country, two systems.’ They care about the country’s international profile. It has taken China a long time to build up to that sort of international profile.”

… State television and the party’s newspapers now refer to [Xi] as “the People’s Leader,” an honorific once bestowed only on Mao. “The People’s Leader loves the people,” The People’s Daily wrote after Mr. Xi toured Gansu, a province in western China. Mr. Xi’s calculation might be simply to remain patient, as he has been in the case of Mr. Trump’s erratic shifts in the trade war. In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Xi also gave a possible hint of the government’s pragmatism.

“On matters of principle, not an inch will be yielded,” he said, “but on matters of tactics there can be flexibility.”

Journalist John Stossel once told me during an interview in New York City that real news, i.e., the first draft of history, happens slowly. I think this is true. What happens in Hong Kong matters.

I’ve been writing about Asia, China, Korea, Vietnam and the Orient for decades and it’s impossible for me to ignore that, in this singular act of rebellion led by brave Mr. Wong and his comrades, the East comes to a climax which has the potential to uproot Communist China and pivot to buy time to save the West. The rational individual ought to dispense with the meaningless and instead watch, think, evaluate, judge and exercise free speech to support the rebellion for liberty in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong, who was arrested for crimes against the state and is out on bail, strikes me as savvy enough to know that even the best minds in the West are too easily distracted by pictures and other sensory diversions. So, he’s posted a painting as propaganda to support his noble cause. But in words and deeds, nothing less than his life, and his love of it, is at stake.

 

China, Asia and ‘The Last Emperor’

My recent post on Communist China, Hong Kong, Trump and the 2020 Democrats was on the cover of Capitalism Magazine. Though I do not endorse tariffs and I explicitly declined to do so or go into detail on trade, military and foreign policy, I credit the American president for ending 50 years of unchecked sanction and appeasement of Communist China. I also contrast the president with the 2020 Democrats in this context.

The impetus for writing my first and only positive Trump post since the pragmatist announced he was running for president four years ago is the realization that, for the first time in recent history, the U.S. government explicitly and actively challenges Communist China’s power, if not with consistency, let alone on principle.

This is thanks to Trump. I think opposing China is a mark of American progress. Read my post about Trump, Democrats and China on Capitalism Magazine here.

Capitalism Magazine also asked to reprint an excerpt from my review of Ken Burns’s PBS miniseries, The Vietnam War. Read the excerpt here. This is part of my recent series of Asian-themed posts, including a review of the Vietnam War-themed Broadway musical now touring, Miss Saigon.

I’ve also written a new movie review. Oscar’s Best Picture winner for 1987, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, has been on my list of movies to watch for many years.

Encouraged and emboldened by the protests for democracy and individual rights in Hong Kong, the pro-Western city now protesting control by Communist China, a cosmopolitan city which once welcomed American whistleblower and hero Edward Snowden, granting him sanctuary from the oppressive Obama administration, I recently watched the movie with China and its rich history in mind. Read my review of The Last Emperor, featured on the cover of The New Romanticist, here.

 

Great America, Trump Presidency and the Anti-Trump Threat

Hong Kong’s rejection of Communist China’s extradition rule and the governance of Communist China puppet ruler Carrie Lam is an unsurprising recent development. With its British colonial history, Hong Kong has been an outpost of Western civilization in the Orient; an Occidentalist center for trading food, especially seafood, goods and services bridging east and west. Much of the city’s population went along with Britain’s adherence to a pre-Communist agreement to return Hong Kong to China in 1997, which Leonard Peikoff once observed may have been influenced by Reagan’s refusal to back Thatcher’s withdrawal or refusal to recognize the agreement on the grounds that its terms were voided by dictatorship.

Hong Kong’s cosmopolitanism and independence endures. From freedom fighter and activist Joshua Wong to millions waving American flags and uniting to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the Broadway musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Hong Kong yearns to be free, not ruled by the government that cracks down as I write this.

Privately, I’ve supported China’s liberalization to make progress toward capitalism. But I am proud to have never endorsed, let alone romanticized, the People’s Republic of China. This is true from my newspaper commentary calling for Bush’s secretary of state, the utterly incompetent Colin Powell, who is one of America’s worst military leaders and statesmen, to resign over his appeasement of China’s refusal to return a U.S. military crew and plane to my denunciation of China’s sponsorship of sporting spectacles. I think too many, including businesses such as Apple, artists and Objectivist speakers, and, of course, elected politicians, coddle, appease or ignore Communist China. It is in this sense that I think President Trump is right to oppose China.

I am not a foreign policy thinker, though I’ve covered China in my writing and journalism. I am not a war, military or other type of historian. I do not study Asian history or military strategy for a living. I am certainly not an economist. I’ve read some books about the relevant topics. I’ve taken some courses. And I study philosophy. So, I recognize the implications of China’s threat to the West. Currently, I follow a range of several thinkers, commentators and scholars, including, in the past, the late John David Lewis, the forementioned philosopher Dr. Peikoff and Gordon Chang, among others. Accordingly, with Trump’s tariffs and trade war and Hong Kong as a potential flashpoint, I think China is in some sort of internal turmoil and poses a serious danger to the West. China recently allied with North Korea, a Stalinist state threatening nuclear attack on the U.S. and invasion of South Korea, which is currently governed by an anti-American who recently reneged on an agreement to share intelligence with Japan.

The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and not merely to protect that country, which, like Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and U.S. Pacific territories and states, is crucial to sustaining America. China’s militarism, coddled by Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama, including its advancement on the South China Sea, like its ally Islamic Iran, is dangerous. This is to say nothing of China’s constant attacks on Americans’ property. To his credit, and I am among the first to critique the nation’s president, before he was elected president and before bashing him became an American cultural fixation and leftist dogma, Donald Trump’s is the first American government to stand up to China. Whatever Trump’s motives, mistakes and complete lack of principles, and whatever the ominous signs of what his presidency and its often mindless following means, Trump on China is a step in the right direction.

For the first time in America’s modern history, and this goes to the issue of America’s future and retaining or reconstructing what makes America great, the United States acts primarily in the interest of the United States with regard to China. Mine is not an endorsement of tariffs in general or in specific. I disagree with most of what Trump thinks, including his positions on Snowden, the surveillance state and health care as a right, to name a few. I’ve said so and under my own name. But I think his standing up to China, if and to the degree he does, is important, possibly crucial, and good. If progress means advancement of civilized humankind with living on earth as the standard and I think it does, Trump on China in terms of demanding certain terms and conditions for trade and military policy, is progressive.

This brings me to Trump’s detractors, the so-called ‘progressives’ running for president.

The 2020 Democrats are a band of goons, thugs and loons. Democrats want to rob Americans for slavery reparations. Nearly every Democratic Party presidential candidate seeks to ban, control or dictate property, livelihoods, medicine, exercise of speech and cars. Many endorse socialism, socialized medicine and fascism. The frontrunner says he wants to dictate the automotive industry and force Americans to drive electrical cars. One candidate seeks to impose a national collective income. The same candidate plans to install gigantic mirrors in outer space to fight the sun’s rays in the name of opposing a change in earth’s climate, which Democrats believe is a kind of apocalypse caused by humanity. Every Democrat running for president seeks total government control of the medical profession. Even an otherwise reasonable candidate such as South Bend, Indiana’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, has come out for slavery reparations.

This fact alone makes Trump’s re-election more plausible and, while I didn’t support Trump in 2016 and actively spoke out against and oppose his protectionism and other anti-capitalism, I am willing to consider voting for the ex-Democrat as against a candidate who supports socialism, opposes pure capitalism and pledges to violate my right to speech, association and life to ban my car and confiscate my property for slavery reparations, a national income and socialized medicine, college tuition and whatever other lunacy they have in mind.

The premise of the Democrats’ totalitarian environmentalism and socialism is altruism. Why would you trust one who explicitly opposes egoism to defend the United States of America? Trump is bad, terribly anti-intellectual, and it’s true that he’s an authoritarian at least in psychological terms. However vulgar, nationalistic and anti-capitalist his presidency, which is marginally better than I forecast, he’s looking better than the alternative, each of whom shares the same moral premise and economic ideal as China.

As the West watches the world’s danger zones — Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Yemen, Israel, Seoul, Kashmir, Kabul, Taiwan, the Sea of Japan, Straits of Hormuz and South China Sea — especially Hong Kong, which once not long ago granted refuge to an American who defied the Obama administration to challenge the status quo and cripple the surveillance state, whose citizens seek to live in liberty, I think it’s important to stand up to China. For the first time in my life, the American president (an anti-intellectual made possible by his thoroughly anti-American predecessor) does.