More odds and ends

Karzai is only out for himself….uh, yeah.


A couple of days ago, I heard some Congressman – I don’t remember who – complain that Karzai is a crook and only out for himself.  Aside from the obvious projection on the Congressman’s part, of course Karsai is a crook and out for himself, that’s why he sucked up to the Americans. If someone is an ambitious guy who is a crook and only out for himself and they live in a country occupied by the Americans, the road to success is to suck up to them to get into power.

That’s what Syngman Rhee in Korea did, that’s what Diem and Thieu in Vietnam did, and Maliki in Iraq. Rhee assumed dictatorial powers, under our protection, even before the Korean War broke out in 1950 and the war just gave him more power. Diem was a Catholic elitist running an Asian country through nepotism and corruption. Thieu gained power by a military junta we supported and then, after winning a fraudulent election, consolidated his authoritarian and corrupt rule over South Vietnam.

Maliki is still there, still trying to hold on to power, as his country spins down into sectarian violence.

So far, none of our handpicked guys have gone well.

American exceptionalism


To misquote the Tappet Brothers, Whenever I hear Sara Palin say it, I want to scream,  but I do think there is an  American exceptionalism. That belief is reinforced when I see the guest list for Obama’s White House State Dinner for the Chinese premier.

There were two Chinese-American White House aides, Christopher P. Lu and Christina M. Tchen. There were two Cabinet level Secretaries, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In no particular order, there was The Honorable Elaine Chao with her husband Dr. James Chao, John A. Chen from New York and The Great Jackie Chan from California, Mrs. Sherrie Chen, The Honorable Judy Chu, Representative from California, with Ms. Chiling Tong, and Mrs. Jean Chu. The ice skater Michelle Kwan and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the architect Maya Lin and the fashion designer Vera Wang, were all there.

There were powerful African-Americans like The Honorable Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement and The Honorable Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his wife Samara were there with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Lisa Nutter. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Aisha McShaw, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Kent Blake were there.

In the California mayor division, there was Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee – a twofer – along with Ms. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, and The Honorable Edwin M. Lee, Mayor of San Francisco.

Of course there were the usual suspects like Ms. Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, The Honorable Dr. Zbigniew Brezezinski and Mrs. Emilie A. Brzezinski, and The Honorable Jon Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to China, with his wife.

No other country on earth, can put this many powerful people of different races in the same room.On second thought, maybe this is not the kind of exceptionalism that Sarah Palin talks about.



The plight of the Siskins


I have no idea where the following quote came from although I am fairly sure that I didn’t write it. As an aside, the siskins reference in the title is about the siskinds at our bird feeder. Over a period of five years, the siskins increased almost exponentially until we had to fill the birdfeeder every day. The following year, there were no siskins. The population had increased until it was unsustainable and then it crashed. It just crashed, they just disappeared. End aside.

In the name of nature, we are asking human beings to do something deeply unnatural, something no other species has ever done or could ever do: constrain its own growth (at least in some ways). Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, brown tree snakes in Guam, water hyacinth in African rivers, gypsy moths in the northeastern U.S., rabbits in Australia, Burmese pythons in Florida—all these successful species have overrun their environments, heedlessly wiping out other creatures. Like Gause’s protozoans, they are racing to find the edges of their petri dish. Not one has voluntarily turned back. Now we are asking Homo sapiens to fence itself in.

What a peculiar thing to ask! Economists like to talk about the “discount rate,” which is their term for preferring a bird in hand today over two in the bush tomorrow. The term sums up part of our human nature as well. Evolving in small, constantly moving bands, we are as hard-wired to focus on the immediate and local over the long-term and faraway as we are to prefer parklike savannas to deep dark forests. Thus, we care more about the broken stoplight up the street today than conditions next year in Croatia, Cambodia, or the Congo. Rightly so, evolutionists point out: Americans are far more likely to be killed at that stoplight today than in the Congo next year. Yet here we are asking governments to focus on potential planetary boundaries that may not be reached for decades. Given the discount rate, nothing could be more understandable than the U.S. Congress’s failure to grapple with, say, climate change. From this perspective, is there any reason to imagine that Homo sapiens, unlike…

Somehow, this New York Times headline is just wrong

The headline – giving the location at Phnom Penh, Cambodia – is One of the worst stampedes in recent years killed at least 378 people at a holiday celebration Monday night. 


I like this

Samuel Beckett: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Countries are like high school students….immature high school students

Maybe once a month – and I am not kidding about this – I wonder why India doesn’t just say Fuck it, lets have a election to settle Kashmir. They have been in a low grade civil war and occupation government for years. It is costly, it hurts India on the international stage, and is hypocritical. Sure, India might lose Kashmir, they probably will lose Kashmir, but so what? They don’t really have it, all they have is a problem.

But countries don’t do that.

Now I read that the French are trying to make sure that the British continue to buy US nuclear weapons systems. Apparently, they are concerned that, if the Brits give up their nukes, there will pressure for the French to follow suit. Obviously this would be better for the world, but the French don’t want to give up their nukes. Sure, they have no real reason for them, but they want them it makes them feel good.

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