Fair is foul

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;

Hover through the fog and filthy air.

– Macbeth, Act I, Scene 1

Christine Fair

Warning: X-rated language, and then some.

Back to Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University who makes a habit of harassing ideological opponents and calling them Nazis. On Tuesday we revisited two incidents from last year that showed her in her characteristic attack mode. Here’s #3: this past January, at Frankfurt International Airport on her way to India, security officers refused to let her take a Speed Stick deoderant onboard because they classified it as a liquid, she argued with them, accused them of sexism, became “increasingly uncooperative,” and ultimately referred to them as “fucking bastards” and “fucking German Nazi police.” Eventually she was arrested for defamation and fined $260.

Brett Kavanaugh

Which brings us to her latest brush with fame. Tweeting about the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, she described the GOP senators as a “chorus of entitled white men,” identified Kavanaugh as a “serial rapist,” and wrote that they all “deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Abigail Marone

When Abigail Marone of Campus Reform wrote to Fair to ask her to elaborate on the tweet – and especially on the apparent call for violence – Fair replied by accusing her of harassment and, addressing her (for some reason) as “Aunt Lydia,” added:

I will not be silenced. I will continue to Tweet things that make you uncomfortable and I will do this by choice. I will select words and phrases that will make you and your fellow-travelers furious.

My choice of words is intended to make you uncomfortable. Because I—and tens of millions of women in this country—are uncomfortable with the ongoing war on our lives, our bodies, our fundamental freedoms, and our access to social and economic justice. Women—whether we are white, women of color, rich or poor—are potential victims of this war. And some of us have been victimized repeatedly….

And you, Aunt Lydia, are a potential victim of this war as well even though you shill for those persons and institutions who sustain it and seek to perpetuate it. Do you think your potential assailant will care that you enable the patriarchal structures that devalue our lives and the work we do and construct legal structures that privilege the attacker? Do you think complicit women and lousy men will be less likely to slut shame you because you are one of their paid-keyboards? No, Aunt Lydia.

As it happens, Professor Fair posted this e-mail in toto on her personal blog, which is called (we’re not kidding) “Tenacious Hellpussy: A Nasty Woman Posting from the Frontlines of Fuckery.” Let’s just say that the blog fully lives up to its name. To browse through it is to experience the repellent, hateful workings of a deeply disturbed mind. For example, in a recent entry entitled “On the Politics of Language and Women’s Rage and Why My Profanity is Sacred,” Fair dismissed media criticism of her notorious “castrate their corpses” tweet as an attempt “to scare, intimidate, and ultimately shut up those of us who see through conservative lies, ruses, and efforts to disenfranchise women, people of color, LGBTQI, non-Christians and anyone else who destabilizes their infantile Leave It To Beaver fantasy.” Noting that a colleague had suggested she “demur from using naughty words in expressing my rage over this administration’s unending assault upon our lives,” she declared that only obscene words could properly capture her fury over the fact that

[w]e [women] are less likely to be hired, promoted or compensated because of our god-damned tits and snatches. These conservative jackasses want to treat our cunts like a public good, yet we pay tens of thousands of dollars to maintain and sustain our civilization-giving pussies and civilization-nurturing wombs and civilization-feeding breasts.

Yet these motherfuckers have the temerity to deny us health care coverage. They have the audacity to force us to carry children….

And you want me to circumlocute my furor in floridity?

Fuck that.

Oh, one last thing: as of 2018-19, annual undergraduate tuition and fees at Georgetown University come to $54,104.

Georgetown’s not-so-fair lady

Brett Kavanaugh

Everyone in the United States of America, it seemed, had a take on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. One observer’s comment was more memorable than most. Referring to the Republican senators on the Justice Committee who were expressing support for President Trump’s nominee, this observer tweeted: “Look at this chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s arrogated entitlement. All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Christine Fair

Who was this observer? None other than Christine Fair, an associate professor of Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

We might say that Professor Fair has gotten her fifteen minutes of fame, except that it turns out this isn’t the first time she’s made headlines. In January of last year, the Washington Post published an op-ed by journalist Asra Q. Nomani entitled “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” Nomani explained her vote: for one thing, she couldn’t afford Obamacare; for another, she – a self-identified “liberal Muslim” – had “experienced, firsthand, Islamic extremism in this world,” and thus opposed President Obama’s tendency to “tap dance around the ‘Islam’ in Islamic State.”

Asra Q. Romani

This was too much for Fair, who tweeted that Nomani’s vote for Trump had “helped normalize Nazis in D.C.,” and called her a “clueless dolt,” a “fraud,” a “fame-mongering clown show,” and more. Nomani, in response to this barrage of insults, complained to Georgetown University, where she, too, had once been on the faculty. After Nomani made her complaint, Fair doubled down on the insults, adding a few obscenities and accusing Nomani of trying to strip her of her First Amendment rights. Nomani denied this charge. “I honor the First Amendment, I believe in the First Amendment,” Nomani said. “With all rights come serious responsibilities. Civil discourse is one of those responsibilities, especially for educators. We are models.”

Richard Spencer

That was episode #1. Four months later came #2. Fair was working out at a gym in Washington, D.C., when she noticed Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, exercising in the same room. Walking over to him, she asked if he was Richard Spencer. He said he wasn’t. (He later explained that he had denied his identity in an effort to avoid conflict.) “Of course you are,” she replied, “so not only are you a Nazi – you are a cowardly Nazi.” She added: “I just want to say to you, I’m sick of your crap….As a woman, I find your statements to be particularly odious; moreover, I find your presence in this gym to be unacceptable, your presence in this town to be unacceptable.”

She went on in that vein, until Spencer, according to the Washington Post, “asked for a trainer – a black woman – to help get him out of the confrontation.” A fellow gym member also stepped in to help him, managing to earn her own share of Fair’s wrath: “Right now you’re being ignorant,” Fair instructed her, “and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.” Eventually, the gym’s general manager got involved, chiding Fair for creating a “hostile environment,” in response to which Fair accused Spencer of creating a “hostile environment” for women and blacks.

The upshot of the incident? Spencer got his gym membership revoked.

Think what you wish of Richard Spencer. But this isn’t about him. It’s about Fair. He didn’t start that fracas in the gym – she did. And she didn’t just provoke him – she insulted an innocent bystander who, not knowing who either of them was, intervened for a purely admirable reason. It would be one thing for Fair to argue with Spencer at a public debate; but when she told him that his views made his presence in a gym – and even in the city of Washington, D.C. – “unacceptable” to her, it was she, not he, who sounded like a Nazi.

We haven’t gotten around yet to Professor Fair’s tweet about killing and castrating senators. Tune in again on Thursday.

Defending Antifa at Queen’s University

David Menzies

On September 23, David Menzies of Canada’s Rebel Media introduced the world to yet another idiot professor of whose existence it had previously been innocent. Cynthia Levine-Rasky, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, had written a letter to the editor to Toronto’s cooler-than-thou alternative weekly, Now, which was basically a billet doux to Antifa. “Many people,” she wrote, “are critical of the anti-fascist activists who protest white nationalist rallies….But they are taking risks that the rest of us will not.” They “mask up because white nationalists photograph and film them so they can identify them and attack them online and otherwise. Many anti-fascist protestors are young people with a lot to lose, including their jobs, their housing, their health, their future. We need to stop labelling these front-line activists since surely all of us are against white supremacy.”

Cynthia Levine-Rasky

Where to start? With the fact that “white nationalist rallies” of any significant size in North America are a fever dream of the far left, whose savviest members know very well that “white nationalism” is a chimera, even if a good many of the white, upper-middle-class college students and trust-fund malingerers who make up most of Antifa actually seem to believe, on some childlike, unreflecting level, that they are at war with millions of rabid racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, etc. Second, the conduct of Antifa makes it clear that they, and nobody else, are the major fascist phenomenon in North America today. They are not fighting fascists. They are fighting conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, moderates, you name it – anyone who may happen to disagree with their radical lockstep boilerplate. They “mask up” because they do not have the courage of their convictions. If they really were brave, they wouldn’t give a toss about losing their jobs or housing. Their convictions are play convictions. They may think they are valiant fighters against capitalism, but they are sunlight warriors, summertime Spartacuses, playpen rebels, gathering en masse to smash the windows of Starbucks branches at which they may well later turn up, maskless, to order a cafe latte grande.

Clash in Charlottesville, 2017

Of course the argument that North America in 2018 is rife with white supremacism is based largely on a single event – the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 between motley crews of rightist and leftist activists. Yes, some of the rightists who were there were extremists – some were even neo-Nazis or members of the Ku Klux Klan. Some of the leftists, in the same way, were Stalinists, Maoists, anarchists. Neither extreme is attractive. Neither is conducive to individual freedom and intellectual diversity. But one thing is clear. The extreme right in America today is an extremely minimal and marginal phenomenon. The KKK’s heyday is long past. The neo-Nazis are not about to take over the U.S. By contrast, the radical left is thriving. Only Clinton-level political machinations prevented a socialist, Bernie Sanders, from winning the Democratic Party 2016 nomination for president of the United States.

Margaret Sanger

But Levine-Rasky doesn’t buy this. In a recent article, she argued that white supremacists are a clear and present danger, and noted that white supremacism was certainly a real power earlier in the history of the U.S. and Canada. She pointed out, for example, the onetime popularity of eugenics programs, which aggressive promoted birth control as a means of keeping down the reproduction of nonwhites. She’s right to indicate that this sort of thinking was indeed widespread back in the day. What she neatly omits to mention is that eugenics, as preached by Margaret Sanger and others, was an integral part not of conservative political programs but, rather, of the progressive movement that led to the formation of the modern American welfare state. The determination of progressives to make use of modern science to limit the number of black babies was rooted in the very same totalitarian urge to control and restrict that undergirds today’s Antifa movement.

Teddy Roosevelt

Levine-Rasky makes a big deal out of the fact that Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, subscribed to this kind of thinking, but she omits to even admit that leftist heroes Wilson and FDR were far more worried about “polluting” of white America with the blood of other “races” than Teddy Roosevelt was. It should be recalled that Wilson, despite his image as a liberal-minded academic intellectual, was a vicious segregationist, while FDR locked up Japanese-Americans during World War II and refused to allow Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany into the U.S. In American today, the progressive obsession with group identity that made possible Wilson’s and FDR’s ugliest policies still exists not in today’s GOP but in the party of Obama and the Clintons – but you would never know that from Cynthia Levine-Rasky.

One ex-prez down, several chaebol CEOs to go

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

In recent weeks, we’ve been reporting – with a good degree of skepticism – on claims by the South Korean government that it’s engaged in a serious, vigorous, and comprehensive effort to curb the power of the nation’s largest capitalist monopolies. We’re referring, of course, to the chaebols, those massive, family-run conglomerates (including Samsung, Hyundai, and LG) that have dominated the South Korean economy over the last half century and more – so much so, indeed, that they routinely kill potential competitors in the womb and thus (as has been increasingly recognized and resented) stifle economic growth, discourage entrepreneurship, and squelch innovation.

Jay Y. Lee

Our skepticism on this front has been undergirded by such events as the sudden and unexpected release from prison, earlier this year, of Jay Y. Lee (Lee Jae-yong), the vice chairman and de facto head of Samsung (and arguably his country’s most powerful figure), after serving only a few months of a five-year sentence for corruption.

As if his release weren’t disappointing enough, Lee has since been invited by President Moon Jae-in, who poses as an anti-corruption warrior, to accompany him and a group of other chaebol bosses on a flight to Pyongyang, where they all explored possible business ties with the fanatically totalitarian, slave-labor-dependent Kim regime. Some reform!  

Lee Myung-bak

Well, there’s news from the supposed chaebol wars. No, a chaebol bigwig hasn’t been tossed in the clink. But another nabob has. On October 5, seventy-six-year-old Lee Myung-bak, who was President of South Korea from 2008 to 2013, was jailed for corruption. Arrested on March 22, he had been charged with receiving hefty bribes from Samsung and other firms, embezzling funds from the government treasury that had been appropriated for use by the nation’s intelligence services, and embezzling $21 million from an auto parts company that he owned through his brother. His sentence: fifteen years behind bars plus a $16 million fine.

Park Geun-hye

He’s not the only former president of South Korea who is currently serving time for corruption. His successor, Park Geun-hye, is six months into a thirty-three-year sentence. Two other South Korean presidents, as it happens, have also spent time in the slammer: Chun Doo-hwan, who held the high office from 1980 to 1988, and Roh Tae-woo, who succeeded Chun in 1988-93, were both convicted of bribery and sedition in 1996, and both were pardoned a year later.

Kim Sang-jo

If there is anything resembling reform underway in South Korea today, it may consist in the fact that corrupt presidents are now more likely to serve out their terms instead of being pardoned after a brief period of incarceration. But of course it remains to be seen whether Park and Lee are in the can for the duration or whether, like Chun and Roh, they’ll get sprung after the headlines die down. In the meantime, the self-styled “chaebol sniper,” Fair Trade Commissioner Kim Sang-jo, has yet to prove that he’s prepared to be as tough on current chaebol leaders as on the former presidents – who are, after all, being put away for engaging in illegal shenanigans with those very leaders.

Michigan’s recommendation-letter Nazi

John Cheney-Lippold

First of all, let’s make it clear that when we say “recommendation-letter Nazi,” we’re using “Nazi” in pretty much the same sense that it was used in the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld. In this case, the individual in question is a University of Michigan professor named John Cheney-Lippold. A few weeks ago, when one of his students, a young woman named Abigail, sent him an e-mail asking for a recommendation for a study trip to Israel, he agreed to provide one, only to send her an e-mail some time later rescinding his agreement.

He had, he explained, “missed out on a key detail,” namely the fact that the country she was planning to study in was Israel. This was problematic, because he supports the BDS movement. “As you may know, many University departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” he wrote. His boycotting of Israel, he told Abigail, “includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.”

His book

Cheney-Lippold teaches in the Department of American Culture and has written a book called We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves. He is considered an expert on the way in which we represent ourselves online. If there is anything positive about the way in which he represented himself to Abigail in that e-mail, it is that he was polite and apologetic. Nor did he try to upbraid her or guilt-trip her for studying in Israel. In the present climate, we suppose, he should get points for that, at least.

Still, anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

In any event, his e-mail to Abigail spread quickly on the Internet after a pro-Zionist group at U of M posted it on Facebook on September 16. One fact that emerged soon afterwards was that Cheney-Lippold was wrong in stating that many academic departments at the U of M were involved in the BDS movement. The university’s PR office issued a statement affirming that it opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education, and that none of the academic departments at the univeristy was officially involved in any such boycott. “It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their [sic] personal political beliefs to limit the support they [sic] are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” read the PR office’s statement. “We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

Another picture of Cheney-Lippold

Peruse that last sentence again. We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students. It is nearly beautiful in its near-meaninglessness, its riot of vague abstraction. Clearly, this is one university where communications with the outside world are in charge not of students of Chaucer and Shakespeare but of people who have proven themselves to be past masters of PR lingo.

For his own part, Cheney-Lippold, after being hunted down by an intrepid staffer for the Michigan Daily, provided the following comments. “I support the boycott because I support solidarity,” he said. “I follow the idea that people who are being discriminated against or people who need help … I feel compelled to help them. I was following a call by representatives of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa.” (Does he write like this? Or just talk like this?) “The idea is that I support communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

He had more to say. “As a professor, I’m not just a machine writing things for people.” No, you see, when you ask him for a letter of recommendation, you’re initiating a “dialogue,” which involves “talking through differences and really figuring out where each other stands, not expecting something or assuming something, but really trying to get into what is the key difference. Seeing what can we do more, how can we have a larger campus-wide discussion. I want to push it beyond the horse-race politics of what John did or did not say.” Horse-race politics? Don’t ask us, we don’t get it either.

Reforming chaebols? Or sucking up to Kim?

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

When it was announced last year, with big fanfare, that South Korea had finally gotten serious about tackling the outsized power of the chaebols, we were instantly cynical. This was, after all, hardly the first time that the government in Seoul had vowed to put Samsung, Hyundai, and the other family-run conglomerates in their place. But it never happened. Instead, the same old pattern continued: the chaebols kept throwing their weight around, kept paying huge bribes to public officials in exchange for laws, permits, and exemptions favorable to their business activities, and using their near-monopolistic market positions to smother fledgling firms in their cradles. Every now and then the head of a chaebol would get put on trial for corruption, and inevitably the case would either go away or the boss man, after being found guilty, would be given a get-out-of-jail-free card.


The latest case in point was that of Jay Y. Lee (Lee Jae-yong), vice chairman and de facto head of Samsung, who was sentenced to five years in prison last year only to be freed this year. On September 18, President Moon Jae-in, who not so long ago had essentially declared zero tolerance for chaebol corruption, hopped on a place with Lee and other chaebol honchos and flew with them to Pyongyang to explore the possibility of doing business with the Hermit Kingdom, perhaps even building factories in that totalitarian land. Even as their exploratory talks with Kim Jong-un were underway, Moon’s corruption czar, Kim Sang-jo, head of the Fair Trade Commission, was making his informal title of “chaebol sniper” look pathetic.

“With exports of semiconductors one of the few bright spots in an economy that’s showing signs of strain,” noted Livemint, the Indian business news website, on the day Lee & co. jetted northwards, South Korea’s “reliance on its most profitable company is deepening and thus reducing regulatory pressure on Samsung.” Chung Sun-sup, a corporate analyst, confirmed that the South Korean government “needs Samsung now.” Bruce Lee, CEO of Zebra Investment Management, agreed that the nation’s faltering economy “means a halt in chaebol reforms.” And Kwon Young-june, an expert in corporate governance at Kyung Hee University, concurred. “Reforms are dying on the vine,” he said. “The government will find itself more and more in need of conglomerates as long as it is fixated on quick results rather than long-term reforms.”

Indeed, by escorting the chaebol kingpins to Pyongyang, Moon was doing the very opposite of what he had promised: rather than limiting the power of the chaebols, he was doing his best to expand their power. What kind of head of state lowers himself to the role of chaperon, escort, cicerone, sherpa? With this one move, Moon provided the whole world with a vivid illustration of where the power really resides in South Korea. Did he serve them coffee on the plane, too?

But that wasn’t all. Far from curbing chaebol criminality, Moon was taking actions that seemed likely to invite criminality. North Korea, after all, is subject to strict international sanctions that would almost certainly be violated by any significant business arrangement with the chaebols. Lee Seok-ki, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, told the Korea Joongang Daily that “if we only look at the cost side, North Korea has more labor cost effectiveness than any other country on the planet – even Vietnam and China.” Well, yes – making use of slave labor by people who are forced to live on starvation diets tends to bring down wages. Surely, to any decent observer, the very idea of the filthy-rich chaebols maximizing their profits by employing the brutalized subjects of the Kim dynasty is as reprehensible a business proposition as one could imagine – and is also, of course, as far as possible from any concept of reform.

“Chaebol sniper” or chaebol masseur?

 

Kim Sang-jo

Last January, the Economist offered an optimistic forecast of the future of South Korea’s economy under Kim Sang-jo, that country’s newly appointed antitrust czar. Kim’s task, during his three-year term, was to “tame the chaebol,” those massive, family-run corporate conglomerates that were the engines of South Korean economic growth after since the Korean War but that in recently decades have increasingly served as a hindrance to further growth – and, in particular, to the establishment and successful development of small businesses. (The Korean language even has a word – gapjil – for the way in which the chaebol bully more modest-sized enterprises.) Moreover, the chaebols, which were once universally admired for having led South Korea out of Third World status, are now more and more the objects of public resentment because of their top leaders’ chronic corruption and impunity.

Moon Jae-in

At the time of his appointment, Kim, a former activist for the rights of shareholders, enjoyed the strong backing of President Moon Jae-in as well as of the great majority of his countrymen, who refer to him as the “chaebol sniper.” All these months later, has he lived up to that nickname? How much, exactly, has he accomplished?

For a close reader, the article in the Economist contained a few hints that Kim might, in fact, prove to be something less than a bull in the chaebols’ china shops. “The sniper,” we read, “would rather his targets surrender willingly and is encouraging ‘voluntary’ reform.” Some sniper! Indeed, the Economist admitted that some critics of the chaebols “carp that Mr Kim now seems to be more chaebol sympathiser than sniper,” though the Economist was quick to assure us that this view of Kim was “unfair.”

Hanjin Group headquarters, Seoul

Fast forward five months. Kim, reported the Korean media, was accusing the Hanjin Group, the parent company of Korean Air, of “breaching market rules.” At a press conference marking the end of his first year on the job, the “chaebol sniper” lamented the standard practice by chaebols of doing business with, say, real-estate firms and ad agencies that are affiliated with them rather than dealing with independently owned firms in those same sectors. “I honestly ask conglomerates,” said Kim, “to sincerely review if it necessarily needs these businesses that are owned solely by their controlling families.”

Wow, tough talk!

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

Kim said his agency had “tried to work on encouraging conglomerates to change their…management practices.” Tried? Encouraging? “We’re seeing positive changes,” he said, but “we still have a long way to go.” He said he regretted “not being able to bring changes that the public can actually feel,” and admitted that some observers might feel that his achievements thus far had fallen “short of expectations.”

No kidding. Is this a sniper or a masseur?

Oh no, there’s another one

Somebody figured out how much one of Ocasio-Cortez’s outfits cost

We had just about gotten used to the phenomenon of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the proudly socialist Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress from New York’s 14th District, which covers the east Bronx and some of the cooler parts of northern Queens. What Ocasio-Cortez lacked in actual understanding of the issues and of the basic facts of economics (even though she majored in the subject at Boston University) she made up for with talk-show-ready attractiveness, charisma, stylishness, and charm. When it turned out that her stories of being raised in grinding poverty in the Bronx were nothing but spin – in fact, she grew up in Yorktown Heights, a leafy suburb in Westchester County – nobody cared.

Julia Salazar

Now along comes Julia Salazar, who on September 13 won the Democratic nod for the New York State Senate race in the 18th district, which covers most of northern Brookyn, including parts of the super-hip neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she’s a Latina who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America, calls for the disbanding of ICE, and supports the anti-Israeli BDS movement.

Cynthia Nixon

Her primary victory came on a day that was otherwise disappointing for the far left in the Empire State: Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon lost the gubernatorial primary and Zephyr Teachout was a washout in the race for attorney general. In The New Yorker, which doesn’t usually devote a lot of space to state-legislature primaries, Masha Gessen spent a couple of thousand words recording for posterity the thrilling night of Salazar’s win: at her victory party in an East Williamsburg bar, the atmosphere was “incredulously triumphant,” with a young, largely white crowd “celebrating, hooting and clapping, each group to its own beat. They sang a union song, “Solidarity Forever,” one verse of which, sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” goes like this:

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong

Gessen acknowledged that in the weeks before the election, Salazar had “come under scrutiny: she self-identified as a working-class immigrant from Colombia and as a Jew, although she was born in Miami and was known as an evangelical-Christian anti-abortion activist during her time as an undergrad at Columbia University….There was also a bizarre incident involving Keith Hernandez’s ex-wife, an arrest for attempted identity theft (the charges were dropped), and a subsequent lawsuit that added fuel to the tabloid interest in Salazar.”

Masha Gessen

A more critical journalist might have paused to ponder the significance of Salazar’s wholesale misrepresentation of herself. Is she a compulsive liar? Is she a sociopath? Does she have any real core beliefs at all? But Gessen put her own special spin on Salazar’s systematic distortions of the truth: the young candidate’s campaign, wrote Gessen, “discovered something that the American President has known for a long time: communicating with people directly, whether by Twitter or by going door to door, takes precedence over anything that’s reported in the media.”

The real face of socialism

A curious take indeed: unlike Donald Trump, Salazar has not been the target of media bias, the subject of “fake news.” On the contrary, as Gessen’s own article exemplifies, mainstream journalists in the Big Apple are so enamored of her radical politics and her sexy-young-Latina-firecracker image that they’ve mainly been very eager to minimize, find excuses for, or tiptoe around her blatant falsehoods. The truth about Salazar’s primary win is that it represents a triumph of personality and trendy ideology over fundamental honesty and sound political thinking. Above all – and Gessen, who was born in the Soviet Union, should have recognized this and called it out – Salazar’s victory is one more lamentable proof that many young Americans are perilously ignorant of the tragic reality behind the word socialism. 

Gloria Steinem, lightweight icon


Camille Paglia has neatly summed up the positive side of Gloria Steinem: “I hugely admired the early role that Steinem played in second-wave feminism because she was very good as a spokesperson in the 1970s. She had a very soothing manner that made it seem perfectly reasonable for people to adopt feminist principles…Also, I credit her for co-founding Ms. magazine and thereby contributing that very useful word, Ms., to the English language, which allows us to refer to a woman without signaling her marital status.”

But as it happens, it’s Paglia, too, who has best summed up what’s wrong with Steinem. For one thing, “that animus of hers against men.” For another, her lifelong fixation on the supposed oppression of upper-middle-class white American women such as herself, who in fact were, and are, among the most privileged people the world has ever seen.

Camille Paglia

Then there’s “the simplistic level of Steinem’s thinking,” as exemplified by her comment that “women reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” (Or her attack on Paglia, about whom Steinem once actually said: “Her calling herself a feminist is sort of like a Nazi saying he’s not anti-Semitic.”) Then there’s Steinem’s “having turned feminism into a covert adjunct of the Democratic party,” one consequence of which was that she hypocritically kept her mouth shut during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In 2015, we reported on Steinem’s latest stratagem: a “walk for peace” from North Korea to South Korea, the point being, as she explained beforehand, “to call attention to this unresolved conflict that I suspect most people or many people have forgotten.” Or perhaps the point was to get her own name back in the headlines again, since she feared many people had forgotten her?

Steinem leading her Korea walk

Steinem quickly made it clear that she understood nothing whatsoever about North Korea. She planned, she said, to meet with North Korean women so they could compare their “experiences” as women in different societies. As if women in North Korea could speak honestly about their experiences without risking execution! The Daily Beast ran an article by Lizzie Crocker headlined: “Is Gloria Steinem a Propaganda Tool For North Korea?” Indeed, it was interesting to note that Steinem, who had made a career out of savaging postwar America’s supposed mistreatment of the female sex, said nothing in her Korea remarks about the nightmarish abuse of both men and women in the Hermit Kingdom.

Steinem and Ahn

It was even more interesting to note that Steinem’s partner in this inane enterprise was Christine Ahn, head of something called the Korea Solidarity Committee and a shameless apologist for the Kim regime. To judge by Steinem’s remarks about Korea, she had swallowed wholesale everything Ahn had told her about the topic. Why is Korea divided? Not because the northern part is a totalitarian dictatorship governed by a bloodthirsty tyrant, but because of the “Cold War mentality,” Steinem pronounced.

Steinem with Lahti

After years of such pathetic stunts, Steinem should be an object of ridicule. Paglia’s view of her should be the world’s view of her. But no, she’s remained a darling of the cultural elite. She’s the subject of an upcoming Off-Broadway play, Gloria: A Life, in which she’ll be played by Christine Lahti. A New York Times article took us into “the cool tranquillity of Ms. Steinem’s Upper East Side duplex,” where Lahti and Steinem fielded softball questions about the production. (Presumably the obvious title for the play, Oppressed in an Upper East Side Duplex, was too long for the marquee.) The Times noted that Steinem is also the subject of not one but two forthcoming movies: My Life on the Road, starring Julianne Moore as Steinem, and An Uncivil War, with Carey Mulligan as Steinem.

In 2018, does the American playgoing and moviegoing public really want to see dramas about the purported heroism of Gloria Steinem? This is, after all, a woman who, in the Times piece, is actually quoted as saying “it isn’t just that we live in a patriarchy. The patriarchy lives in us.” Isn’t it clear by now that, as an intellectual, she’s a lightweight? That, as an activist, she’s as domesticated a creature as you could imagine? And that, as a so-called oppressed person, she’s the very model of privilege?

South Korea: tame chaebol reform, or none at all?

 

Moon Jae-in

In South Korea these days, the billion-dollar question is this: is the administration of President Moon Jae-in serious about reforming the systematic corruption that’s been a national institution ever since Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and the other so-called “chaebols” began dominating its economy?

The history of chaebol criminality – which has largely taken the form of bribes to top government officials – goes back to the years following the Korean War. For decades, the South Korean public has increasingly cried out for reform. President Moon, who took office last year after his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office on corruption charges, has called chaebol corruption a “deep-rooted evil.”

But does he mean it? Or are the stiff sentences handed down in August to Moon’s crooked predecessor, Park Geun-hye, and her friend and partner in crime, Choi Soon-sil, a fluke?

Park Geun-hye

Then, of course, there’s the other, depressingly familiar, possibility: will Park and Choi, like their fellow crook, Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong (aka Jay Y. Lee), and a raft of convicted CEO-felons and presidents before him, end up being let out of jail on some technicality that leaves the entire country even more cynical about their judiciary’s dedication to equality before the law?

Kim Sang-jo

Well, so far Park and Choi remain behind bars. And only days after their conviction was affirmed – and their sentences enhanced – by a high court, South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) proposed new rules to govern the chaebols. The head of the FTC, Kim Sang-jo, who has acquired the nickname “the chaebol sniper,” has declared his determination to take on the ownership strucures of the two largest chaebols, Samsung and Hyundai.

Bruce Lee of Zebra Management

An abiding problem at these and other conglomerates has been that the families that founded them still rule them like kings, routinely making sweeping managerial decisions while ignoring the input of shareholders. Kim’s stated goal is to diminish the power of those families, whose grip on their conglomerates well exceeds their relative value of their ownership shares in those conglomerates.

How to address that problem? Well, under current regulations, a chaebol must own at least 20% of its listed subsidiaries and 40% of unlisted units. Kim’s new rules would raise those figures to 30% and 50% respectively.

Robyn Mak

That’s not all. Members of a chaebol’s founding family would not be allowed to have more than 15% of the voting rights in a listed affiliate of that chaebol. Other new rules would also limit the power of corporate kingpins to pull off mergers or spin off subsidiaries without shareholder support. They would also clamp down on circular shareholdings and other intra-conglomerate machinations and intensify disclosure requirements.

Yet in the eyes of serious observers, the commission’s proposed changes are too little, too late. “I would give 20 points out of 100, a basic score, to what the Moon government has done for corporate governance reform,” Bruce Lee of Seoul-based Zebra Investment Management told Bloomberg News.

Commentator Robyn Mak called the proposed new regulations “the first rewrite of antitrust rules in nearly four decades,” but added that given the slow growth of South Korea’s economy, the chaebols are in the catbird seat. “That means corporate governance reform probably will wind up weaker than originally anticipated.”

Indeed, modest though Kim’s proposed changes are, “Moon will struggle,” maintained Mak, “to gain political support to enact some of the new ideas.” We’ll keep abreast of developments.