Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 29, 2007

Weekend Reading

Whether you consider Rudolph Giuliani a visionary or a failure, it cannot be denied that he left an indelible mark on New York City. His record as mayor has come under close scrutiny as Giuliani begins his run for the Republican nomination, with pundits and campaign watchers searching for hints of what kind of candidate-or President-he might be. He has proved to be just as controversial a subject now as he was during the years he headed and transformed the city’s government. For this weekend’s reading we offer our best articles on Giuliani’s tenure as mayor.

Succeeding Giuliani
Fred Siegel—January 2002

Giuliani and After
Dan Seligman—November 2000

The War on the War on Crime
Arch Puddington—May 1999

Can Giuliani Save New York?
Irwin M. Stelzer—December 1995

The Making of the Mayor 1989
Scott McConnell—February 1990

Whether you consider Rudolph Giuliani a visionary or a failure, it cannot be denied that he left an indelible mark on New York City. His record as mayor has come under close scrutiny as Giuliani begins his run for the Republican nomination, with pundits and campaign watchers searching for hints of what kind of candidate-or President-he might be. He has proved to be just as controversial a subject now as he was during the years he headed and transformed the city’s government. For this weekend’s reading we offer our best articles on Giuliani’s tenure as mayor.

Succeeding Giuliani
Fred Siegel—January 2002

Giuliani and After
Dan Seligman—November 2000

The War on the War on Crime
Arch Puddington—May 1999

Can Giuliani Save New York?
Irwin M. Stelzer—December 1995

The Making of the Mayor 1989
Scott McConnell—February 1990

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Ten Years after the Handover

At midnight, July 1, it will have been exactly a decade since the great city of Hong Kong passed from one sovereign to another. One moment it was a British Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom; the next it was a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. (Why the fancy terminology? Neither London nor Beijing, apparently, liked using the word “colony.”)

Colony or not, Hong Kong was handed from a democracy to an authoritarian regime. It was a disgraceful exercise of state power for both countries involved. This was not the mere transfer of a “barren rock,” as Hong Kong was once known. The city had become, by the late 90’s, a major international center for trade, finance, and culture. More than six million citizens woke up on July 1, 1997 as subjects of a new regime—without their electoral consent. It was clear that, had there been an election, the people of Hong Kong would have voted not to return to the motherland. So it’s no surprise that the city’s Chinese rulers, who do not believe in elections (especially those held among uncontrollable populaces), have blocked the development of democratic institutions in Hong Kong for the past decade.

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At midnight, July 1, it will have been exactly a decade since the great city of Hong Kong passed from one sovereign to another. One moment it was a British Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom; the next it was a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. (Why the fancy terminology? Neither London nor Beijing, apparently, liked using the word “colony.”)

Colony or not, Hong Kong was handed from a democracy to an authoritarian regime. It was a disgraceful exercise of state power for both countries involved. This was not the mere transfer of a “barren rock,” as Hong Kong was once known. The city had become, by the late 90’s, a major international center for trade, finance, and culture. More than six million citizens woke up on July 1, 1997 as subjects of a new regime—without their electoral consent. It was clear that, had there been an election, the people of Hong Kong would have voted not to return to the motherland. So it’s no surprise that the city’s Chinese rulers, who do not believe in elections (especially those held among uncontrollable populaces), have blocked the development of democratic institutions in Hong Kong for the past decade.

This is not what the Basic Law—Hong-Kong’s “mini-constitution—intended. That document promises the city universal suffrage. Yet Beijing has time and again told the people of Hong Kong that they’re not ready to make decisions for themselves. In the interim, a system rigged in favor of a small group of China’s favorite Hong Kong citizens has been used to pick the chief executive, as the city’s leader is known. So add Hong Kong to the list of the broken promises of communism. Despite major pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong every year since the handover—especially in July 2003 and January 2004—Beijing has continued to sneer at its residents.

There is, however, a small measure of justice in this world. In the ten years since the “reunification,” the people of Taiwan have watched how Chinese leaders have failed to keep their word to Hong Kong. Today, a sharply declining portion of Taiwanese—usually no more than 15 percent in the polls—want their island to join the mainland. For the rest of us, Beijing’s high-handed treatment of Hong Kong is even more evidence that the Communist party has no intention of ever permitting meaningful political reform in China.

So where was I during the last seconds of British rule on June 30, 1997? Standing in the Hard Rock Café in Shanghai, in the middle of a crowd of inebriated Chuppies—members of China’s explosively burgeoning upper middle class. They were cheering as they watched televised images of the goose-stepping soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army at the handover ceremony taking place in Hong Kong. For them, it was a moment of pride and joy: a long-held British colony was finally returning to the bosom of the motherland. I had other emotions.

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Jimmy Carter’s Foreign Contacts

Ray Bowyer, a captain on Aurigny airlines, which services the British Channel Islands, has been flying commercial aircraft for 20 years. He’s a man who knows the skies. Last week, while flying over the channel, he spotted an enormous cigar-shaped object through his cockpit window. He told a British newspaper, the Sun, that “it was a sharp, thin yellow object with a green area. It was 2,000 feet up, stationary, and approximately 40 miles from us. It could have been as much as a mile wide.” This report has set the worldwide aviation community talking about what the Unidentified Flying Object might have been.

Not all that far away, at approximately the same time, Jimmy Carter was addressing a human-rights conference in Dublin, Ireland, where he branded the Bush administration’s refusal to accept Hamas’s 2006 election victory as “criminal.” The United States and Israel, he continued, “decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah.”

Investor’s Business Daily called Carter’s statement “nutzpah” and “so malevolent and illogical as to border on insane.” But is there another possible explanation for the former President’s increasingly bizarre conduct, one connected to the cigar-shaped object in the sky over the channel?

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Ray Bowyer, a captain on Aurigny airlines, which services the British Channel Islands, has been flying commercial aircraft for 20 years. He’s a man who knows the skies. Last week, while flying over the channel, he spotted an enormous cigar-shaped object through his cockpit window. He told a British newspaper, the Sun, that “it was a sharp, thin yellow object with a green area. It was 2,000 feet up, stationary, and approximately 40 miles from us. It could have been as much as a mile wide.” This report has set the worldwide aviation community talking about what the Unidentified Flying Object might have been.

Not all that far away, at approximately the same time, Jimmy Carter was addressing a human-rights conference in Dublin, Ireland, where he branded the Bush administration’s refusal to accept Hamas’s 2006 election victory as “criminal.” The United States and Israel, he continued, “decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah.”

Investor’s Business Daily called Carter’s statement “nutzpah” and “so malevolent and illogical as to border on insane.” But is there another possible explanation for the former President’s increasingly bizarre conduct, one connected to the cigar-shaped object in the sky over the channel?

We have to return to an episode more than three and a half decades ago in Carter’s past. In 1969, two years before he became governor of Georgia, Carter was about to address a Lion’s Club meeting in the town of Leary, Georgia, when he witnessed a strange object in the sky; it was 30 degrees above the horizon to the west of where he was standing. At first it was bright white, but then, according to Carter, it changed color, going through a variety of hues: red, blue, black, white, and then disappearing.

His account was reported in the Atlanta Constitution by a young reporter named Howell Raines, who went on to become commander in chief of the New York Times. As governor, Carter also filed an official report of his sighting with the the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

When he was elected President in 1976, was it this episode that prompted Carter to make efforts to get in touch with alien life? On June 16, 1977, Carter placed a communication on board the Voyager I spacecraft for its trip outside our solar system. It was addressed to the “inhabited-planet and space-faring civilizations.” If one such civilization, he wrote

intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: We are trying to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.

It is perhaps only in light of these chapters of his past that we can understand Carter’s bizarre behavior in Ireland and around the world. “Nutzpah” may be the least of it. On foreign policy, Jimmy Carter stands more and more outside the American mainstream. Some have attributed this to bitterness over his failed one-term presidency. The true source of his disaffection may be something far more alien than that.

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