Tuesday, August 12, 2008

opinionated women

I used to think that journalism was somewhat behind other writing professions in attaining gender balance, but I'm having a rethink about that. Today I just happened to notice that many of the best columnists are women and their articles are hardly restricted to issues that are traditionally considered to be feminine. Take for example:

(1) Washington Post writer, Anne Applebaum, writes about a weighty study that is being widely read in its Chinese original but not (yet anyway) available in English.
When China Starved, by Anne Applebaum, Tuesday, August 12, 2008; Page A13.


"Tombstone" -- in two volumes and 1,100 pages -- establishes beyond any doubt that China's misguided charge toward industrialization -- Mao's "Great Leap Forward" -- was an utter disaster.

[The author] is not a dissident but a longtime Communist Party member. For more than three decades, he was a reporter for Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. As a result, he had access to party documents that no one else has ever had.

Like the communist legacy, the famine exists in a kind of limbo: undiscussed in public, unacknowledged by the state, yet a vivid part of popular memory. Because China is no longer a totalitarian country, merely an authoritarian one, a journalist like Yang could spend 10 years working on the history of the famine, openly soliciting interviews and documents. But because the Chinese Communist Party neither openly embraces nor rejects the legacy of Mao, there is no public discussion or debate.

Why does a nominally Marxist party, one whose economic theories proved utterly bankrupt in the past, still preside over an explosively capitalist society?
(2) Or Chrystia Freeland in the Financial Times:
The new age of authoritarianism, by Chrystia Freeland, Published: August 11 2008 19:48

{image credit: FT}


Today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.

The Chinese Communist Party studied the collapse of Soviet communism with great care. And rather than seeing it as proof of the inevitable, global triumph of western liberalism, the Chinese comrades treated the Russian example as a textbook case of what a ruling Communist party ought not to do.

The west has been remarkably sanguine about this resurgence of authoritarianism, and one reason is that, this time, the comrades have money. Even as the Kremlin repeatedly confiscates the assets not just of its own businesspeople, but of foreign ones, too, investment bankers, and plain old investors, are flocking to a Moscow flush with petro-roubles. The same is true of the Gulf states. China, on a path to become the world’s largest economy, is the most attractive of all.

Russia’s expert taunting of the hotheads in Georgia, followed by immediate and massive retaliation the moment Tbilisi took the bait, is the latest evidence that, for the Kremlin, neo-imperialism is an essential bulwark of neo-authoritarianism. Bringing down the walls really did make the world safer. Now that so many leaders are building them back up again, figuring out how to contain the 21st century’s monied authoritarians is our most pressing foreign policy dilemma.
(3) Or the Post's Ruth Marcus, on a topic that might once have seemed appropriate for the Style Section (which evolved from the old women's pages), but is now Politics with a capital P:
A Tad Short Of 99%, by Ruth Marcus, Tuesday, August 12, 2008; Page A13


There are two especially creepy aspects to [the Edwards infidelity] story. The first is the reverential, almost messianic way Elizabeth Edwards spoke about "this fine man" during the interview with Couric. This was disconcerting at the time; excruciating, in retrospect.

Even creepier part is John Edwards's resort to the exculpatory language of pop psychology to explain his behavior. "I went from being a senator, a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want."

Right. The adulation made him do it.

He was the one who told us that character counted. As in these remarks about Bill Clinton in 1999: "I think this president has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen."

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