Bibi is Wrong! Why Israel will be safer from US-Iranian Nuclear Negotiations

Israel and the United States will both be much safer if they make a nuclear deal with Iran. This is International Relations scholar Sumantra Maitra’s view in response to Israel PM Netanyahu’s speech before Congress opposing a deal.

Hear why Maitra says:
– There’s no other option besides a deal.
– There are no norms in international relations.
– Iran can help America fight ISIS.
– Israel has more to fear from ISIS than from Iran.
– … and more.

But will this deal cause more countries to go nuclear?
And how can the world trust Iran?

Find out by listening to this episode of The World We Know with Mitchell Blatt and Sumantra Maitra.

Three Generations Celebrating Spring Festival

“Spring Festival was different when I was young. It was the only time we could eat this well. I remember waiting in line to buy the tofu we just ate, because it was such a luxury.”

photo (27)

“There wasn’t any tofu. That was egg.”

“I thought it was tofu, too.”

“When my parents were children, they were hungry most of their days. They would start preparing for Spring Festival one month in advance. … Now my children are being raised in McDonald’s and KFC.”

“I remember when the first KFC opened in People’s Square in 1992. People waited hours for a 10 RMB burger.”

“That wasn’t the first one. They opened their first one in Xujiahui.*”

“When did McDonald’s open?”

“They had stores in Shenzhen and Beijing.”

“KFC’s food is more suited to Chinese tastes. They have youtiao for breakfast.”

*According to CNN Travel, the first KFC in Shanghai opened in 1989. The first KFC opened in China in 1987.

The Evolution of Somewhere Only We Know

Somewhere Only We Know opened in China this week. Its a melodramatic romance by a famous director/actress, as I wrote in my review.

Interestingly, much of the plot was published online by a Czech war reenactment club. From the club’s article, published on July 30, 2014, you can see how the plot and construction evolved. The main character’s name at that time was reported as Jin Ying. She was named Jin Tian in the film released. The article says of Jin Ying’s boyfriend, “He takes care about his mother and sister.” In the film, he has raises a daughter and doesn’t have a sister.

Here is a translation of what the club wrote, as published on a Wu Yifan fan website: Continue reading

Somewhere Only We Know Review

Somewhere_Only_We_Know_posterSomewhere Only We Know is a moving, melodramatic romance with stunning choreography filmed in Prague, Czech Republic. The film, which is Xu Jinglei’s sixth as director, follows the travails of Jintian, played by Xu Jinglei, in Prague, trying to recover after her fiance.

Her grandmother, who raised her, happened to live in Prague as a girl. Jintian, who finds her grandmother’s sketchbook, tries to find out why she never married. She just happens to be notified that her grandmother’s Czech lover had sent an undeliverable letter four decades ago that would be forwarded to her. That kind of perfectly contrived coincidence holds the plot of the movie together. Cynics and people who don’t like melodrama will call it corny, overdone, forced. They may be right, but that’s a property of Chinese cinema and music.

Watch Hong Kong films like Wang Kar-wai’s Chungking Express, which includes lines like, “If May hasn’t changed her mind by the time I’ve bought thirty cans [of pineapple, with expiration dates of May 1], then our love will also expire.” Chinese popular music includes many songs about women distraught over relationships.

Somewhere Only We Know had a Wang Kar-wai veteran, Mark Lee Ping-bin, do the cinematography, which Continue reading

Why Republicans Should Criticize Anti-Vaxxers

Chris Christie and Rand Paul have been the subject of negative media attention after making comments to the effect that parents should have choice over whether their children get vaccinated. But wait, some conservatives are saying, President Obama made similar comments in 2008. Is this another example of double standards used to tar Republican politicians?

In a word, No. In the first place, blaming someone else for having done the same doesn’t excuse one’s own mistakes. In the second place, the facts on the ground have changed since 2008.

Double Standard?
First let’s set the record straight on what was said. Christie’s comments rise to about the same level as Obama’s. He said, “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.” (One problem is that, if too many people are unvaccinated, diseases can spread to people who have legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccinated or even to the few people who are vaccinated but still infectable.)

Paul, on the other hand, went further than just advocating parental choice—he even Continue reading

Mike Huckabee Hated Dancing in 1973, Too

We all say dumb things when we are 17-years-old. Mike Huckabee was writing them in the Baptist Trumpet, the newspaper of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas, at that age, which Buzzfeed has uncovered. So it wouldn’t really be news if he just happened to have said something stupid and changed his mind, but now he is still saying the same thing 42 years later.

Huckabee said,

I strongly recommend that Christian teens stay away from dancing, mainly because some people would just not be able to respect a person who attended dances.

It’s too easy to ask who are these “some people” who “would just not be able to respect a person who attended dances”? Yet, if there are such people, then shouldn’t Huckabee advise them to change their mind rather than advising average high school students who attend dances to feel shameful?

At age 59, he still appears to oppose dancing. He compared Beyonce to a prostitute for her dancing:

Jay-Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife [Beyonce] as a sex object?

and yet they [Barack and Michelle Obama] don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé


Huckabee did offer some good advice of his own in that column. He said,

I think it’s wrong for someone to criticize dancing (or anything else for that matter) unless he knows what he’s talking about. But most of the articles that I have read on dancing are written by people who know very little, if anything about what really goes on at a dance. Several years ago, I thought it would be perfectly all right to attend dances in high school, and I went. Since then, my beliefs on dancing have shifted somewhat, but at least I know the actual truth about some of the things that go on.

He should take his advice.

Sidenote: Continue reading

I Appear on Jiangsu TV

I was interviewed by Jiangsu Education TV last Thursday and Friday and this Monday. The reason for my fame? I’m a foreigner in China.


They wanted to know about my views on American and Chinese culture and on how foreigners celebrate Spring Festival, the celebration Chinese New Year, which starts on February 19, new year’s eve, and goes through March 5, which is Lantern Festival.

They filmed me drinking tea and talking with a Chinese paper-cutting master on Thursday and Friday then they interviewed me on Monday and asked about my experiences in China, my views on cultural issues, dating in China, studying abroad in China, food in China, and what have you.


It airs before Spring Festival. I will post the video when it is available.

Last summer, I participated in the Jiangsu TV Chinese for foreigner competition:

“Gun Facts”: A Conversation with Guy Smith on the Truth of Gun Control and Gun Rights

A group of gun control proposals promoted by Virginia’s governor, including “universal background checks”, was defeated by the state’s legislature.

Guy Smith, the author of “Gun Facts”, a book that “debunks common myths about gun control,” joins the show to discuss the latest news from Virginia and elsewhere as it relates to gun rights.

Topics include:
– Why gun control keeps failing.
– What are “universal background checks”, and would they be effective?
– Why he says the problem isn’t primarily about gun but primarily about criminals.
– And more…

My Summary of Sarah Palin’s First Speech of her 2016 Non-Campaign

Sarah Palin gave at speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit where a bunch of other Republican politicians (Cruz, Christie, Huckabee…) also gave speeches.

She said a lot of very Sarah Palin-y things. Here is my Twitter summary which should give you the gist of the first speech of her soon-to-be aborted 2016 presidential campaign.

My Profiles on 2016 Presidential Candidates

With 2015 comes the start of the presidential race. Already Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee have announced they are considering running, and others have hinted at it. As such, being an American columnist for, I began this year by analyzing a few of the candidates:

Here they are:

Jeb Bush

Bush’s two terms in office were widely considered to be huge successes. He had relatively high approval ratings in office and got a lot of policies enacted. He was innovative on some fronts, being the first governor to successfully introduce school vouchers, now a popular conservative education reform idea in other states. But since leaving office, Bush has been slammed by the Tea Party for taking positions on Common Core, a national movement to reform education standards, and immigration reform that right-wingers detest. In truth, when you look at his record in office, he was a very conservative governor, cutting taxes up to US$19 billion, vetoing about US$2 billion in spending, strengthening gun rights laws, and suing to keep a feeding tube inserted in the body of Terry Schiavo, a brain dead woman whose case the “pro-life” community rallied around. All of these positions are clear conservative positions, but the Tea Party has moved the Republican Party farther to the right since Bush left office.

Jeb Bush: A bipartisan punching bag

Mike Huckabee

In 1957, the Soviet Union released the satellite Sputnik 1, beating the United States in the first round of the Space Race. Non-reproductive sexual relations were criminalized in the privacy of one’s own home. Jim Crow laws and segregation prevailed across the South, and Sen. Strom Thurmond spent 24 hours filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

It doesn’t sound like it was a very good time to be an American, but you wouldn’t know it if you heard prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee describing it. Huckabee, who announced on Jan. 3 that he was quitting his Fox News talk show to consider a 2016 presidential run, never misses an opportunity to wax nostalgic about the bygone era of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.”

Mike Huckabee: stuck in the past

Mitt Romney

Is the third time a charm? Mitt Romney is quoted as having told supporters that he is strongly considering a run for the presidency in 2016.

Skepticism abounds. As Romney said in the documentary “Mitt,” those who lose are branded as losers for life. Richard Nixon was the only president in the last century to win the presidency in a general election on his second try.

But Romney is a driven man who learns from his mistakes. It was easy to see in the 2012 primary debates, where Romney made pointed attacks on his challengers, how much Romney had improved from his 2008 primary loss.

Moreover, Romney has earned the respect – if not the love – of the GOP’s conservative base and the Tea Party. The way the race is shaping up, he might have a path to victory that builds on both “conservative” and “moderate” support.

How Mitt Romney can win conservatives

Rand Paul

It’s impossible to say who is the most dishonest politician. There are too many good choices, and the most dishonest politicians are often the hardest to find, anyway. If they’re good at it, then you won’t know they are lying.

The politicians who are bad at lying are easy to spot. They’re right there on cable news or in print spewing transparent contradictions. When Sen. Rand Paul went on CNN in March 2013 to discuss his proposed anti-abortion Life at Conception Act, he responded to the host’s first question by saying, “I don’t think we’re in any real rush towards new legislation.”

This is Rand Paul’s approach to controversial questions across the spectrum. Unlike his father, Ron Paul, who would go on CNN and unapologetically defend his radical positions, Rand Paul will run from them in an instant in order to try to win votes.

Rand Paul: Too radical for America