Showing posts with label New America Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New America Media. Show all posts

Friday, December 12, 2008

Steven Chu—Smart Policy, Not Politics

President-elect Barack Obama’s appointment of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary reaffirms his commitment to change our national energy policy and make the development of alternative energy sources a top priority.

Since taking over the leadership of Lawrence Laboratory, the Nobel laureate physicist Chu has been busy promoting the need to combat global warming by shifting away from dependence on fossil fuel. His laboratory has become an active center of research on alternative energy. He has been prominent in various local and national forums stressing the urgent nature of global warming.

Chu has the technical expertise, personal charisma and passion to help Obama change the way we consume energy and heat up the atmosphere. Obama’s decision not to select a Washington insider, but someone with a firm grasp of the relevant technological issues, suggests that he is serious about finding the right person to deal with the threat of global warming.

To even remotely suggest that the appointment of Chu is in some way a response to the growing objection to incoming Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson – who was Secretary of Energy during the Wen Ho Lee case – is to discredit Obama’s intention to recruit the best and most qualified, not to mention discounting Chu’s sterling credentials.

Certainly, Richardson’s credentials could also be considered those of a heavyweight – except, ironically, for his record as the Energy Secretary under the Clinton administration.

In late 1998 and early 1999, right-wing opponents were attacking Bill Clinton from multiple fronts, including the accusation that military secrets were being leaked to China. To relieve the pressure of these attacks, Richardson made Wen Ho Lee, then employed at the Los Alamos Laboratory, a convenient scapegoat. He fired Dr. Lee two days after an article from the New York Times indicated that secrets had been leaked from Los Alamos.

Lee was fired without due process. He didn’t know what he did wrong. It took months after his dismissal for prosecutors and the FBI to come up with 59 counts against him, all but one of which was thrown out by the court. Lee had to plead guilty to one count of downloading sensitive data from a secured central computer in order to justify the nine months he had already spent in solitary confinement. (At about the same time, CIA Director John Deutsch took his own secured laptop home against regulations and he didn’t even spend a day in jail.)

The presiding judge apologized to Lee. The New York Times and other major members of the media published mea culpas. Even the FBI admitted falsifying evidence against Lee. Only Richardson to this day will not admit that he had done anything wrong. His inability to admit a mistake and apologize continues to be a heavy blot on his credentials.

The appointment of Chu should be a welcomed fresh breeze to erase the stench of a past national disgrace. As a native-born American, Chu presumably will not be subject to racial profiling. By serving as the director of an agency that less than a decade ago was so riddled with racial bias is to indicate that the Obama administration truly signifies a new beginning.

With an Asian American serving as the energy czar, national laboratories should begin to see increasing numbers of Asian Americans with a renewed interest in working there. It has been no secret that scientists and engineers of Asian ancestry represent one of our most valuable national resources.

This commentary first appeared in New America Media.
Dr. Robert Vrooman was the counterintelligence director at Los Alamos National Laboratory who fiercely objected WHL's arrest. Vrooman himself was reprimanded by Bill Richardson for continuing to oppose the charges and actions against WHL. He supported the campaign to free WHL through many speeches and the media. See his statement opposing Richardson's appointment in the Obama administration.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

High Stakes Drama Across Taiwan Straits, U.S. in Middle

Editor’s Note: Beijing’s recent refusal to let the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk into Hong Kong is a sign that all is not well in the Taiwan Straits. NAM contributor Dr. George Koo is an international business consultant. He has just returned from Beijing where he attended a Committee of 100 Conference, the first of its kind held on Mainland China. (First appeared in

BEIJING – If China were to engage in a military conflict with Taiwan, the United States best not interfere. This is the message China is sending to the United States in the recent drama on the high seas.

First, aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, with its crew and escorts of some 8,000 was abruptly informed that they would not be permitted to spend Thanksgiving in Hong Kong when the ship was within two days of arrival.

By the time Beijing rescinded the order 24 hours later, Kitty Hawk had already reversed course and headed back to Japan to the disappointment of family and friends gathered in Hong Kong in anticipation of reunions over America’s favorite holiday.

No satisfactory explanation has been offered. Both Beijing and Washington, D.C., have quietly downplayed the significance of this incident.

Some observers attributed denying entry to Hong Kong as a sign of Beijing’s weariness to endless American tantrums. Whether it’s the United States honoring the Dalai Lama, or the recent Congressional Commission report demonizing China for rampant espionage, or American media’s bashing of China over tainted products such as lead paint on toys, China is tired of being the go-to piñata.

Others simply felt that the military and diplomatic sides of the Beijing hierarchy were not on the same page. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was holding naval exercise in South China Seas and did not want the Americans to get too close. They told Kitty Hawk to stay away without consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on possible collateral consequences.

Some also speculated that Beijing's refusal to permit the Kitty Hawk to enter Hong Kong had to do with the United States’ decision last month to sell Taiwan an upgrade to three sets of Patriot II ground-to-air missiles, for approximately $930 million.

All the suggested explanations contain some grains of truth. However, looking at the Kitty Hawk matter in a broader context, there is a lot more at stake.

Just a week after Kitty Hawk returned to Japan – having spent Thanksgiving on the high seas – a Chinese destroyer sailed into the Tokyo Bay amidst great fanfare. The Shenzhen was the first PLA navy ship ever to dock in Japan and both countries played this as a historic and inaugural event of closer Sino-Japanese military cooperation. This is perhaps China’s gambit: suggesting that neutrality over Taiwan is in Japan’s best interest.

The Kitty Hawk was also involved in a massive exercise on the Pacific a couple of months ago. To the surprise and consternation of the U.S. Navy, in the midst of the exercise, a Chinese submarine “popped” to the surface within torpedo-hailing distance of the aircraft carrier. Though surrounded by a flotilla of American navy ships, apparently none detected the presence of the submarine.

Was this another unintentional act? Hardly. China is sending a message to Washington: In the event of a military confrontation, the damage and cost will not be one-sided. The objective is to help the Pentagon more accurately assess the burden of adding Chinese engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So why send this message to Washington at this time? Because Beijing is becoming increasingly alarmed by Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian’s provocations – and frustrated by Washington’s apparent inability to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Prosecuting on serious corruption charges is awaiting Chen once his presidential immunity expires. One way to extend his immunity is to stay in office, which Chen can do if he declares martial law and cancels the presidential election scheduled for March 2008.

Chen may be able to justify declaring martial law on Taiwan by declaring independence and hoping to provoke military reaction from Beijing.

Since Taiwan has missiles that can reach coastal cities across the straits, many Mainland Chinese now wonder if Chen might just initiate military action himself.

Chen has publicly asserted that Beijing will not take military action against Taiwan before the Olympics in August. He also assumes that the United States will come to Taiwan’s rescue.

He is wrong on both counts, but is oblivious.

Beijing is sending Washington a clear signal that the cost for Kitty Hawk or any U.S. naval ship caught in the Taiwan Straits when a military confrontation occurs might be far higher than previously imagined.

The Bush administration needs to throw away strategic ambiguity and unequivocally tell Chen to behave.

Perhaps by offering him asylum in the United States a la the late Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines (i.e., take his ill-gotten gains and get out of Taiwan), a crisis can be averted. Otherwise, tension across the straits could reach an incendiary flash point before March next year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yahoo Takes Hit Meant for China

Editor’s Note: U.S. Congress’ attempt to penalize Internet giant Yahoo is just collateral damage in the real political battle it is waging on China, asserts NAM contributor George Koo. (First appeared in

No matter what the U.S. Congress will have us believe, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was just the proxy for Congressman Tom Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery, in the controversy involving Yahoo’s turning over Internet usage data to Chinese officials.

At a Congressional hearing on Foreign Affairs chaired by the Democratic Congressman from California, Lantos denounced Yahoo and CEO Jerry Yang as “moral pygmies” for turning over the data.

Yahoo’s office in Hong Kong allegedly complied with China’s official request for records that would identify the sender of messages forbidden by the Chinese government. Consequently, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was apprehended and sent to jail.

At the televised hearing, the grief- stricken mother of the jailed journalist sat behind Yang throughout his testimony.

Lantos’ grandstanding, captured in full by the TV cameras, was as dramatic as Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the U.N. general assembly nearly 40 years ago.

Of course, Lantos is well known as the defender of human rights and a critic of China’s policies and practices. Yang was just the proxy for Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery.

Unfortunately, members of the U.S. Congress aren’t exactly “moral giants” when it comes to defending America’s own human rights and principles we hold dear.

Lantos led the inquiries into the horrors of Abu Ghraib; but when the Bush administration decided to stonewall Congress, Lantos and his fellow pygmies quietly went away.

Shortly before the Yahoo hearing, Lantos received a group of Dutch legislators after they toured Guantanamo. They suggested that the prison base “symbolizes everything that is wrong with this war on terror.”

One would expect a defender of human rights to agree, but Lantos was indignant. He said that Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay. (At least he seemed to recognize that atrocities had been committed in both.)

Apparently, this eager defender of China’s human rights has been clueless about the abuses committed by his own homeland. By declaring war on terror, Bush has successfully pulled the wool over a Congress that should know better.

In coining the term “enemy combatant,” the Bush administration has found a technicality to incarcerate prisoners indefinitely without semblance of any human dignity and due process. The U.S. Congress has simply gone along.

Now Congress is in the process of legalizing the wholesale deprivation of Americans’ civil liberties: AT&T will be allowed to eavesdrop, free from legal liability, and turn in e-mail traffic to the Department of Homeland Security.

The reasoning is that we Americans should be willing to give up some liberties in exchange for a more secure homeland.

The difference between the United States and China is that China asked for Internet data on select citizens, while the United States spied on its people without asking.

The United States, meanwhile, claims that the central difference between the two nations is that China is guilty of human rights abuses that would be unthinkable here. Unfortunately, when it comes to human rights abuses, China and the United States have more in common than we would like to admit. There is no limit to how hypocrisy can cloud one’s sense of right and wrong.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Not so Strange Case of Norman Hsu

Editor's Note: Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu's Chinese roots has attracted much attention after his financial shenanigans came to light. But New America Media commentator George Koo says Hsu's story is really an age-old American story.George Koo is an international business consultant and occasional contributor to New America Media. (First appeared in

Confidence man Norman Hsu drew the attention of the media on an otherwise slow summer by living the American dream and following the American way. He did this by giving away lots of other people’s money to politicians.

Until his unsavory past came to light, he was touted as a master bundler. After his expose, he went back to being just a petty con-artist who found the secrets to big times.

As anyone running Ponzi scheme can tell you, you have to bait your scheme by giving away money to early investors in order to establish credibility. Hsu’s action was a grand variation of the theme. Namely, he gave money to politicians and gained even greater credibility, instantly.

When the news first broke about the bundler’s prowess, the mystery was Hsu’s source of funds. Rush Limbaugh rushed to condemn China as the source of illicit funds. The actual truth turned out to be much more mundane. Hsu took investor’s funds and apparently gave some away in the form of political contributions.

Even though he was described as wanting nothing from the politicians for his financial support, he parlayed his hobnobbing with the famous and powerful into an aura of legitimacy that helped raised millions for various dubious schemes.

Mainstream media focused on Hsu’s Chinese from Hong Kong background as if his ethnicity merited heightened interest. Actually, there was nothing exotic about his story. He was following the American way.

To ask what is the American way is the same as asking why politicians flock towards the rich and famous. Because the rich and famous can write big checks and can influence others to do the same. If they are really good at it, they are called bundlers. If they step over the line and violate the law, they become launderers.

Conversely, those wishing to be rich and famous but cannot write big checks can spend their energy hustling for contributors in hopes of being recognized as bundlers. Successful bundlers get recognition and status. If the candidates they support get elected, they get appointed to positions in the government. At the very least, they get access and can claim to have influence in high places.

This is the American democracy in action. It’s all about money. To get elected, the candidate has to raise lots of money. Once elected, the successful candidate has to raise more money so as to scare potential rivals into not running against him or her again. The strength of any candidacy was measured by the amount money raised.

In less than one generation, the American democratic process has undergone a drastic transformation. Grass roots, door-to-door volunteers have gone extinct, replaced by professional telemarketers trolling for dollars. Neighborhood coffee klatches to meet the candidates now come with obvious strings where highest level donors get quality face time with the candidate and perhaps a photo op. Candidates now pay lip service to public forum where issues are discussed. Instead they favor artfully created spots on TV to present their best side to the public.

Today only money talks. Hsu simply used the system to create a new persona for himself. Others have done the same before him and others will follow. If they are not ethnic Asian, they will not be noticed.

Media’s attention has focused on the scoundrel but not the system that makes such scoundrels possible. Yet it is the system that is corrupt. In America, democracy is no longer one person one vote. It is $1 million (or some amount depending on the office but increasing with every election) one vote. It is not possible to run for local city council without raising a lot of money. Small wonder, public interest and voter participation is declining.

It’s laughable to go around the world telling others to be more democratic and be more like us when our system is badly broken and not one any other country would wish to emulate.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

U.S. Snubs Taiwan's Chen, Looks Ahead to Successor

New America Media, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: May 11, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: Washington’s refusal to allow Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian a layover in the United States last week speaks to Chen’s waning power in global politics, writes NAM contributor George Koo, an international business consultant who has met Chen and rival Ma Ying-jeou over the years.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian failed at his usual "transit diplomacy" when the United States refused to let him step on American soil during his trip to Latin America last week.

Chen’s failure to match the recent high-profile U.S. visits by China’s President Hu Jintao and political rival and Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou clearly indicates that Chen has fallen out of the White House’s favor.

Only 26 countries still maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, including Paraguay and Costa Rica, which Chen visited on his trip. In the past, Washington had given Chen permission for such stopovers, thus allowing him to give speeches, meet local Chinese Americans and even confer with politicians and government officials -- all despite vigorous objections from Beijing. China considers Taiwan a part of China and not an independent state.

Not this time. The administration would only allow Chen to land in Anchorage for a two-hour refueling and would not even let him de-plane and stretch his legs. Chen is said to have demanded the right to stop in New York. Washington said no.

An indignant Chen took off from Taipei and while airborne told the pilot to head west via the Middle East and Europe, bypassing North America altogether. The originally 12-hour flight to Paraguay ended up taking three times as long.
A flurry of reactions followed. Washington couldn’t understand what the tantrum was all about. Chen lashed out, blaming China’s President Hu for undermining his trip. Critics in Taiwan thought Chen overplayed his hand and brought the indignities on himself.

In his six years in office, critics say Chen has done nothing to help Taiwan’s economy but made only policy maneuvers that would help him stay in power. Most of those maneuvers cater to his supporters who favor independence and antagonize Beijing.

Publicly, Chen seemed oblivious to his own complicity in his comeuppance. For months, he had acted as the irritant between U.S.-China bilateral relations. Every time Washington asked Chen to show restraint and not annoy Beijing, he had done just the opposite.

Most recently, after promising not to do so, he attempted to dissolve the inactive, but politically symbolic National Reunification Council in Taiwan, which was created to study reunification possibilities between China and Taiwan. This did not please Beijing and Washington. Only after receiving a message in the sternest terms from President George W. Bush did Chen back down. Shunting Chen to Anchorage was payback from an exasperated Bush administration to an unreliable ally. Chen’s influence in Washington has vanished as quickly as his own popularity at home, which has sunk to below 20 percent.

In starkest terms, Washington is telling Chen that he figures little in the U.S. relationship with Taiwan. Beijing has ceased to pay attention to Chen but is actively wooing his opposition such as Ma and Lien Chan, the former head of the opposition Nationalist party who unsuccessfully ran against Chen. Washington is following the same script.

About a month ago, Ma visited the United States for 10 days, covering New York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- every city that would have been on top of Chen’s wish list. Ma enjoyed high-level access to senior officials of the administration including a three-hour conversation with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Ma is also chairman of the Nationalist, or Kuomintang party. He is Chen’s rival and likely successor. Ma’s unusually warm treatment in the United States should warn Chen that Washington is saying it would rather do business with Ma.

By raising not a murmur of objection to Ma’s extensive U.S. trip, Beijing is tacitly saying they too would rather deal with the rational Ma, rather than the erratic Chen.

Ma and Lien both favor rapprochement with Beijing. They recognize that both Taiwan and China have more to gain in cooperation than confrontation. Beijing has, in turn, reciprocated by welcoming Lien to China twice in one year and by buying more agriculture products from Taiwan farmers, thus eroding Chen’s support base.

Rather than allow Chen to dictate the tone of the bilateral relationship, the United States and China clearly understand that they have far more important common issues to resolve. Non-nuclear proliferation, especially with regard to Iran and North Korea, energy, environment, anti-terrorism, open trade, are among the common issues that weigh far more in the minds of the principals than the agitations of a frustrated sideshow.

To add to Chen’s consternation, California Senator Dianne Feinstein recently declared that nothing in the Taiwan Relations Act obliges the United States to go to war over Taiwan.

It seems that Chen, in his remaining two years of as a lame duck, will be increasingly irrelevant, his influence in Washington marginalized. Both Washington and Beijing will be patiently waiting to see who will bring Taiwan to the table when Chen steps down.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Too Much Ado in Congress Over China and the Internet

Editor's Note: America shouldn't tell China how its citizens should use the Internet, the writer says. George Koo is an international business consultant and contributor to New America Media. (First appeared in and subsequently reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle.)

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The current Congressional furor over China's Internet firewall can be boiled down to one simple conclusion: In my house, I rule; in your house, I also rule. In other words, we Americans insist that the Chinese should make use of the Internet in the same way we do.

This kind of logic makes as much sense as insisting that Beijing grant a broadcasting license to Voice of America inside China. So far, not even our hubris has reached that patently ludicrous conclusion.

In fact, the information and messages we think the Chinese people should not be deprived of are beamed by Voice of America from outside of China, not from within. If Google, Yahoo et al. wish to permit unfiltered access to all sorts of information to the people of China, they can. Just do it from outside of China.

In order to operate from inside China, it seems obvious that the companies would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the host country. We may not like those rules, but that's what sovereignty is all about.

Congress takes a different view, equating China's Internet policy to violation of human rights and denial of freedom of speech. Silicon Valley Internet companies are accused of dastardly complicity. Yet, ask Web surfers in China for their reaction, they merely shrug and cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

What about the human rights of journalists jailed in China for their indiscretion on the Net? In the same light, what about the many hapless innocent people caught in the U.S. fight against terrorism now languishing in Guantanamo or who were outsourced to third countries for torture? We may argue as to which is a greater violation of human rights, but ultimately, the resolution will come from within and not be dictated by another foreign authority.

In China, people use the Internet to play games, read the news and socialize in chat groups. Few use the Internet to purvey political messages; most do not care and do not feel deprived.

It's not as if China actively discourages use of and access to the Internet. Just the opposite: From about 1 million users in 1998, China has seen an increase to around 110 million users in just seven years. It will soon overtake the United States as the largest market of Internet users. Policy-makers in Beijing see the importance of information flow to economic growth more clearly than perhaps anywhere else.

Naturally, as China's market grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for Silicon Valley companies to ignore. Congress seems to think that China needs Silicon Valley technology more than the companies need the market. Not so. Chinese Internet users prefer China's Baidu's search engine over Google by a wide margin. Baidu's very success drove Google to entering the market. Huawei and Ztech are offering lower-cost networking switches to compete with Cisco. Yahoo leapfrogged its own effort to penetrate the Chinese market by spending $1 billion for a large stake in Alibaba, the most successful e-commerce Web site in that country.

Beijing's desire to control the flow of content while encouraging popular access are not mutually compatible over the long haul, so there's going to more information than controls. The situation fits the classic Chinese term for contradiction, mao dun, i.e., spear and shield. As technology advances, the power of the Internet will continue to grow and any firewall technology (the shield) will always play catch-up.

One of the Chinese government's reasons for the firewall is to restrict access to pornography in cyberspace. Its neighbor Taiwan, lacking such control, is a major source of purveyors of smut. It will be interesting to see how this contradiction plays out as the two sides entwine even more deeply in their economic integration.

Last November, Washington-based Pew Research announced the results of their global attitudes survey involving the people of 18 countries including China and the United States. One of the questions asked was, "How satisfied are you with the way things are in your country?" China scored the highest among the 18 countries with 72 percent indicating satisfaction and 19 percent not satisfied. In the United States, the results were reversed with merely 39 percent satisfied and 57 percent not.

Perhaps Congress was unaware of the Pew survey results since they were reported by few in the U.S. media. Rather than holding Congressional hearings on why China should make their cyberspace more open, shouldn't our elected politicians show more concern on why a mere 39 percent of our citizens are happy with the way things are going here?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Silicon Valley's Lead Role in Idea Economy Relies on Foreign-Born

New America Media, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Jan 25, 2006

Talk of Silicon's Valley's big comeback could turn out to be hype unless America reforms its shortsighted policies on immigration and education.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--"Silicon Valley is back," proclaimed the organizers of a State of the Valley conference that examined the economic health of the world-famous wellspring of technology. That's good news. But the bad news is that our fear of immigrants could threaten the valley's resurgence.

The conference, sponsored by the nonprofit Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, celebrated the reversal of a negative trend: Every year since the dot-com bust in 2000, the valley's total employment had declined. Last year the Silicon Valley payroll, however, showed an increase of about 2,000 jobs, or some 0.2 percent of a work force of 1 million. From peak to trough, the valley actually had lost more than 200,000 jobs. The minuscule gain was seen as hopeful sign that the hemorrhage has stopped.

Nonetheless, industry leaders and pundits at the event were quick with self-congratulations and applauded Silicon Valley's ability to reinvent itself and remain the world's center for new technologies. First, it had broken through in innovation on integrated circuits, then in information technology, then the Internet and life sciences and now as the world leader in an idea economy.

Beneath the thin veneer of good news, however, there's food for thought that can cause indigestion and keep one up at night -- at least for those worried about the future of this country. It's about our shortsighted policies on immigrants and education.

According to the survey released, Silicon Valley made up 1 percent of the nation's population but filed 11 percent of the patents and soaked up over 25 percent of all the venture capital invested in the United States. By any measure, this was a confirmation of the innovative and unique character of the valley.

This uniqueness can be attributed to demographics that are different from anywhere else in the country. Here, whites are already a minority, at 40 percent of the population. Asians make up 33 percent and are the second-largest ethnic group.

The foreign-born make up 38 percent of the denizens of Silicon Valley and account for 53 percent of the engineers and scientists working there. One can only conclude that the Silicon Valley spirit of innovation and enterprise is inseparable from the presence of immigrants.

Without immigrants there would be no Silicon Valley. Yet since 9/11, our national policy has been to keep foreigners out. This policy is indiscriminate and affects our ability to attract the talent that the valley needs. Some would even argue that the anti-immigrant policy has been used to keep out foreign students coming from China and India.

This country's past greatness, built on the backs of immigrants, is frequently forgotten. There's even the thinking that raising the barrier for foreign entry would lower the bar of entry to the industry for native-born Americans. Unfortunately, technological excellence cannot be wrung from those with mediocre credentials.

At every unveiling of the past year's scorecard for Silicon Valley, leaders complain about the inadequate quality of K-12 education in this country and publicly wonder where the next-wave-entry engineers will come from. Were it not for foreign students who came to study and decided to remain and work in the valley, there would have been no horses to drive innovation.

This country is not just leaving any child behind. A whole generation is being left behind. A recent international math test of 15-year-olds ranked the United States 29th out of 34 nations tested. This is just one of a stream of indications. We should be frightened out of our wits, but we've been hearing these kinds of results for much too long.

Out of the 300 semifinalists at the prestigious Intel Science Fair this year, a national competition for high school students, 67 have a Chinese surname. That's roughly 10 times higher than pro-rata share based on the Chinese population in the United States.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there were nine semifinalists, two with surnames from India and four from China or Taiwan. One can't tell by their surnames if the other three came from immigrant families.

Instead of talking about white flight from Asian-dominated high schools in Cupertino, Calif., we should be worrying about how to motivate more kids of any ethnic group to take an interest in math and science.

We don't teach our kids to be good in math and science. Yet we don't want immigrants who are highly trained and motivated to be too formidable a competition for native-born American kids.

What does this say about the future of the United States? How long can we continue to ring the gong of good news in Silicon Valley?