Pacific Perspectives: Things I Have Been Right About — And From the Start!

Okay, so it is a rather short list…. still…

Los Angeles — This column probably will get obnoxious. At least I hope so.

Delightfully, it’s about things I said would happen and, guess what? They happened. You could look it up: The judgments enumerated, in one way or the other, have appeared over the years in columns going back to 1996. So there – and if you cannot stand my smug recounting of my utterly flat-out predictions or general clear-headed inclinations, I’d chuck this one and flip over to the sports or fashion section.

There’s no theme to the topics on this (admittedly short) list. They simply concern unsolicited advice, which, had only the world followed exactly as I prescribed, would have avoided much unhappiness. Oh, why don’t you all ever listen?!

Consider the general subject of world financial stability. (This is really important….)
To simplify (always my inclination) – you can put a lot of the blame on those sharpies in Armani suits who the dirty deals behind the hedges of the derivatives and “short” funds and so on. They absolutely cannot be trusted (because they are greed-driven) and you’d be a fool to think otherwise. I was an editor at The Los Angeles Times when it first occurred to me they were a hidden mafia — a nightmare that would upend global fiscal balance. Remember the Asian Financial Crisis that started in Thailand in 1997? Who was the first American journalist who openly worried about the destabilizing contagion? Go ahead—guess! You could look it up.

Before too long, I was not alone; and at one point even the notorious billionaire George (“Mr. Shortie”) Soros, in a moment of apparently honest remorse, dubbed derivatives and other blindingly complex and destabilizing financial investments as the financial world’s destructive “Al Qaeda.” Today’s consensus is, as a well-known financial journalist recently put it: “Hedge funds are now too big and numerous for their own good.” Solution: Get rid of them. But mark my word: We won’t and, once again, we will be very … very … sorry. Trust me on this.

Speaking of getting rid of something: how about those guns? The old Los Angeles Times, back in the early nineties, had the courage and foresight, under editor Shelby Coffey, to publish a series of magisterial editorials calling for significantly reduced gun possession in the U.S. Did that happen? Right – but should it have? Is there really any question …? But let me get off the subject before I am pinned down by Blog crossfire from the all-powerful National Rifle Assn.

Speaking of crossfire: Have you noticed that it’s getting nasty in East Asia? Beijing is elbowing everyone over ownership of this dumpy island or that which might (or might not) have luscious oil or gas or whatnot in the sea beneath. And Tokyo (suddenly awake, and angry) is bickering not only with Beijing but now Seoul, whose (to be fair) South Korean president started the squabble with a stupid visit to a disputed island. Hey, whatever happened to Asian Values, that model of humanism, getting-along nicely and face-saving? Why do these elephants have to fight over who has the biggest tusk?

I’ll tell you, it is exactly as I predicted: Even if the rise of China took the form of a Sunday afternoon picnic in the park, it was going to be disruptive. China is a titanic development. As a result Asia geopolitics are in turmoil. Despite all the economic interdependency, expect fireworks. If there’s enough of them, then maybe everyone will come to their senses and starting splitting differences. No one can – or should – get everything, not even aggrieved Beijing, obviously suffering from what the clever novelist Christopher Buckley niftily describes as Post-Colonial-Stress-Disorder.

Speaking of getting everything: Consider Rupert Murdoch. Until the recent catastrophe (i.e., the world discovered how morally rotten some of his newspapers were), he almost had it all. But having it all is a bad idea in the media. Media power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts media mavens absolutely. In the novel “1984,” George Orwell regarded the Big Brother of government as the nighttime intruder into the gentle darkness of our privacy. But what he forgot about was the evil impact of the commercial news media, obscenely profiting off privacy invasions (do we journalists really propose to justify smart-phone photos out of Las Vegas of Prince Harry’s partying bum under the high-minded banner of “the public’s right to know”? Please….) The Western news media in too many respects is out of control, and I am afraid a backlash is brewing like a giant tsunami that will dilute the good of press freedom as well as the bad.

Well, that does it for now — my smug recollection of where I was right. Ah – but do I hear a call for the list of my predictions that turned out wrongly? Sorry, that‘d be a much longer column. We have neither time nor space for that.

U.S. journalist and columnist Tom Plate is the author of the “Giants of Asia’ book series. The latest features UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, former South Korean foreign minister, and is due out this fall. Prof. Plate is the Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University, where he’s regarded as almost always right. © Tom Plate, 2012.

Columnist and Prof. Tom Plate, author of the ‘Giants of Asia’ series, is the Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University — and a Visiting Professor at United Arab Emirates University for Spring Semester 2012. Please see weekly webmagazine:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.