Archive for November, 2010

Giving thanks for Europe’s hate

November 24, 2010

A friend that I hoped would know better emailed me a speech from Dutch legislator Geert Wilders with the subject line “Warning from Holland.”

Wilders was indicted for hate speech against Islam, and this lecture, apparently from 2008, offers ample evidence why. He denounces the Qur’an and the prophet Muhammad while denying that Islam is a religion, instead branding it a violent cult that targets non-Muslims for destruction.

Built on the fallacy that there is a single monolithic Islam that combines the worst of Osama bin Laden and Iran’s mullahs, Wilders mixes half-truths and outright lies to argue Muslims are taking over the world. “We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe,” Wilders claims. “This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West.”

On the contrary, Europe’s growing tide of bigotry, thanks to Wilders and his disciples, represents a great opportunity for America, and there’s no better time to remember it than Thanksgiving Day.

During a televised debate on outlawing Muslim headscarves, one participant noted that 70 years ago, Europe demonized another religious minority and that didn’t turn out well for anyone.

Take these words from Wilders’ speech: “All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it… The shops have signs you and I cannot read. You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity. These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics. These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe. These are the building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city.” Substitute Jew for Muslim, and that rant could have been given by a leader of the Third Reich.

But Europe’s history of hatred toward religious minorities stretches back far beyond Nazi Germany. America was founded in part as a response to Europe’s centuries-old tradition of prejudice.

The Plymouth Pilgrims that we Americans commemorate with our Thanksgiving holiday fled England and then Wilders’ Netherlands to find freedom. Their Puritan neighbors in Massachusetts Bay and fellow colonists in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland all founded their settlements in search of religious freedom they couldn’t find in Europe.

From those early crucibles of liberty to the Manhattan Project and Silicon Valley, the US has benefited from others’ intolerance, attracting the best and brightest from around the world. Immigrants from Alexander Hamilton to my Indonesian niece have extended America’s family and expanded our horizons, enriching us by every measure. Americans’ basic fair-mindedness and decency plus our shared heritage of immigration have triumphed over persistent nativist impulses throughout our history.

That’s something to be thankful for on Thursday. At the same time, please offer a prayer that America’s better instincts will overcome this latest wave of hate hitting our shores from Europe and let their weakness and shortsightedness keep making America stronger.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Singapore casino revenue remains a gamble

November 19, 2010

I’m a big fan of Fareed Zakaria, and Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN is must-see TV for me. That’s why I was so disappointed last week when he touted Singapore as the “top-ranked innovator on the globe” during his cyber-guided of a government-sponsored high tech research center. I told him so in an email with the subject line “Singa-puffery” that read:

Shame on you (and CNN, where I worked as a producer) for broadcasting this propaganda. I wish you’d instead used your considerable skill and clout to report on Singapore’s suppression of freedom, its nepotism, and its economic shenanigans at home and abroad. As a reporter attempting to cover Singapore, I know the kinds of obstacles you’d face. But, yes, the cyber-guides and the trains do indeed run on time.

Highlighting the sunny side of Singapore reinforces the government’s mythology that creativity can flourish under its particular brand of political, economic and social repression. Despite sky high white collar wages and living standards, housing subsidies, and international crossroads status, one of Singapore’s biggest challenges is keeping its best and brightest from migrating overseas.

Fallout from Singapore’s suppression and its “we’ll tell you what we want, when we want” approach spreads far and wide. Casinos, the latest big thing in Singapore, don’t escape.

Thanks to the government’s low priority on transparency, casino operators’ third quarter reports leave investors guessing about the size of Singapore’s gambling market. Analysts and investors also must guess about the split of the market between visitors and local residents. As I wrote in Asia Times, Singaporeans may face further restrictions on gambling if the government thinks they’re spending too much at the casinos, so the local market share number really matters. Singapore’s government has data that could shed light on this critical statistic, but it chooses not to reveal it. In fact, the government has not released any gambling statistics, except for a few random scraps mainly in response to questions in Parliament, since the first bet was placed in February.

Macau provides a full range of monthly and quarterly gambling statistics so that investors can make informed choices about its casino operators and build businesses to complement the gambling trade. Seeing Macau, no paragon of information freedom, beating it on a matter of transparency and openness should help Singapore realize it has a serious problem – and fix it.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Grand Prix brings Monte Carlo to Macau

November 12, 2010

I’m no auto racing fan, but the one motor sports event on my radar is the Macau Grand Prix. The 57th Macau Grand Prix runs November 18-21. Motorcycles, F3 racers, touring cars, and waiters with trays of champagne glasses will all compete on the enchanting streets of Macau. But all you really need to know is that it’s the one week every year when Macau is more like the Monte Carlo of Asia than the Atlantic City of China.

If you decide to go to Macau for the Grand Prix – or any other weekend when you (and, ideally, your partner) want to avoid the Atlantic City side of town – try staying at Ponte 16, along the banks of the Pearl River. For Grand Prix, the resort is a comfortable distance from the Guia racing circuit though still convenient to the course and to Macau’s renowned historical sites. Ponte 16 is Portuguese for Pier 16, the former landing site of ferries from Hong Kong in the Porto Interior (Inner Harbor) neighborhood, part of the real Macau, where local people live and work.

Along with the usual Macau resort amenities – pool, casino, transvestite stage show – Ponte 16 features the MJ Gallery, a Michael Jackson museum with music videos and memorabilia, including his moonwalk socks and sequined glove. As I wrote in Asia Times, you (and, ideally, your partner) may find the Jackson-inspired staff uniforms a Thriller.

PS- A happy FU Day to all on Saturday.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Ask not about the state of US politics

November 5, 2010

Tuesday’s midterm elections show how low US politics has sunk. Not because Republicans won, but how they won.

During the worst economic crisis since the 1930s Republicans disavowed any responsibility for the debacle rooted in Republican dogma and adopted, as a matter of party policy, opposition to every effort mitigate its impacts and address its causes. (Imagine if Democrats had reacted similarly to the outrageously undemocratic Supreme Court decision that handed George W Bush the 2000 presidential election or 9/11.) Then Republicans beat Democrats over the head with their failure to solve the crisis and, fueled by unlimited corporate and plutocrat spending, proposed as a solution the same save-the-rich policies dressed in populist clothes that sent the economy over the cliff; maybe this time Wall Street will stop when it’s just half-way down the abyss.

American politics wasn’t always like this. Fifty years ago, a young president spoke to higher ideals that would be mocked in today’s competition to call opponents the most outrageous names. As I wrote in Asia Times, that president also offered a prescription to revive the American tradition of seeking common ground instead of sowing conflict.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 189 other followers

%d bloggers like this: