Trying to Get India and Pakistan Together is Easier Said Than Done

The current administration, for all of the strange things it is doing these days, is right to at least try to facilitate this:

The foreign ministers of Pakistan and India, meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York at the weekend, did not agree on the resumption of formal talks between the countries.

However, their meeting – the first high-level contact between the countries since July – sets the stage for Washington-mediated backchannel talks for which Pakistan has already appointed a senior envoy, Riaz Mohammad Khan.

The central issues in this dialogue will be the regional “war on terror” and the establishment of a “fair bargain” between India and Pakistan over their respective interests in Afghanistan.

Although most people (especially Christians) are focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, in many ways the running clash between India and Pakistan is the most significant point of conflict between the Muslim world and a neighbour.  It’s certainly one of the deadliest, and has been since the two states were separated at independence sixty years ago.  And don’t forget that both India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers.

And that brings us to Afghanistan.  More than being just a place where terrorists train, Afghanistan is in effect the geographical centre of the “Old World,” and as such the locus for just about every geopolitical conflict in the world and involves all of the major powers, including Russia, China and Iran.  The India-Pakistan contest has always complicated the situation in Afghanistan, and the current administration hopes to simplify that.

It won’t be easy.  But for those of us who must content ourselves with watching, it’s something else for the prayer list.

The Warning Signs of Power Corruption in Organisations

Seen this kind of thing before, from the blog of attorney Chris Banescu:

Here is the risk inherent in leadership: The greater the leader’s power, wealth, authority, and influence, the more likely the leader could succumb to ethical lapses and moral failings. The risk increases if the organization has a culture that lacks financial or managerial transparency and accountability, has insufficient checks and balances on executive power, and discourages criticism from subordinates or members. When a leader with a poorly developed ethical or moral sense ends up leading an organization with a culture that prevents ethical self-examination, a slow but perfect storm starts to form that demands compromise from all levels of leadership and eventually leads to catastrophic consequences.

Read it all here.  HT to Virtue Online.

Dealing with Anti-Semitism at NBC, Palm Beach Style

Americans for Limited Government and Net Right Nation are rightfully indignant at this:

Americans for Limited Government is appalled that an employee of the NBC news network apparently felt it was appropriate to send an email to an ALG employee, in response to a standard news release, saying, “Bite me, Jew Boy.”

According to ALG records, the email came from the Blackberry and email address of Jane Stone, a producer for NBC’s Dateline. The email was sent to Alex Rosenwald, the ALG Director of Media Outreach. The news release to which Ms Stone apparently responded was one in which ALG called upon Congress to defund ACORN.

Americans for Limited Government does not contend that NBC or its parent company GE, are anti-Semitic. What is highly disturbing, however, is that there clearly is a culture at NBC that has allowed this person who clearly has issues to go unchecked.

Back home, epithets such as this got this kind of treatment:

I had many Jewish friends and classmates. Sometimes things didn’t go according to plan. My brother made the mistake of calling a Jewish classmate a “Jew boy,” and same son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob responded by fracturing his jaw. (That’s one way to deal with anti-Semitism!)

I doubt this would have happened if my brother had been my sister.  But, AFAIK, my brother never make the mistake of hurling this epithet again.

Iran and its Nuclear Weapons: The Only People Who Will Do Anything

“Cuban missile crisis in slow motion” is a good way to describe the situation:

Graham Allison, a Harvard professor who is one of America’s leading security strategists, likes to speak of the U.S.-Iranian nuclear confrontation as “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” Well, on Friday morning, that slow-mo process started moving a little faster, as President Obama issued a stark warning about a secret Iranian project that poses a “direct challenge” to the international order.

World leaders used language this morning that described a dangerous ladder of escalation ahead. Obama said Iran will be “held accountable” for its actions. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that unless Iran changes its nuclear stance by December, harsher sanctions will be imposed. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, normally no Churchill, said there was “no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”

Allison’s Cuban analogy may strike some people as alarmist, but it seems more and more apt to me. The United States and its allies have caught Iran cheating, again, on International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards — this time by building a second undeclared enrichment facility in a mountain near Qom. It was an Iranian effort to gain leverage, reminiscent of Moscow’s moves in Cuba in 1962 as described by Allison in his classic book, “Essence of Decision.”

But the Iranians–rightly I think–are banking that Barack Obama is, like Lloyd Bentsen described Dan Quayle, no Jack Kennedy.

It’s hard to imagine a protégé of William Ayers doing anything but making speeches, having meetings and getting his international cronies to pass resolutions while the engineers in Iran keep building nuclear weapons and the methods to deliver them.  It’s equally hard to imagine that the existence of these facilities were unknown in the top secret briefings which our intelligence community (or what’s left of it) regales presidents with for some time.  Until last January, the chief objective of most of those who own and operate this place was to keep George Bush from doing something about it, and that effort was successful.

There are only three groups of people who have the will to solve this problem.

The first, and obvious choice, are the Israelis.  Their biggest obstacle is the Obama Administration’s animus towards the State of Israel, who would doubtless take Zbignew Brezhinski’s advice and shoot down Israeli planes flying over Iraq towards their destination.  (But then there’s always Plan B…)

The second are the Russians.  I’ve always hoped against hope that their government will wake up to the fact that an Islamic state with major military capabilities is against a millennium of Russian experience, and that they’re going to have to choose between quick cash and long-term survival.  The Russians have proven they’ll forcefully deal with people like the Chechens; will they repeat the feat?

The third are the Arabs.  They in reality have the most at stake here; a nuclear Iran could put a lot of heat on those across the Persian Gulf (and, with nuclear weapons, it would be the Persian Gulf.)  I am confident that the cash-rich Saudis are diverting a little of their mosque-building budget to acquire nuclear capabilities of their own.  Those in the Middle East know a weakling when they see one; the Saudi’s can’t depend on the U.S. for their security indefinitely.

And the Chinese?  They have ring side seats to this.  They are the only long-term beneficiaries of this mess, assuming there’s a long term to be had.

P.S.  After posting this, I saw Susan G’s piece on the Daily Kos.  What a bunch of pap!  But that’s the trouble with too many liberal outlets; talk critical thinking, do propaganda.

The Real Socialists Hit the Streets

A few days ago I wrote a piece on how the “socialists” who are in the ascendant in our government have sold out.

Evidently the real articles–and their anarchist friends–have hit the streets of Pittsburgh:

Police fired canisters of pepper spray and smoke at marchers protesting the Group of 20 summit Thursday after anarchists responded to calls to disperse by rolling trash bins and throwing rocks.

The march turned chaotic at just about the time that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived for a meeting with leaders of the world’s major economies.

The clashes began after hundreds of protesters, many advocating against capitalism, tried to march from an outlying neighborhood toward the convention center where the summit is being held.

The protesters banged on drums and chanted “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop.”

The marchers included small groups of self-described anarchists, some wearing dark clothes and bandanas and carrying black flags. Others wore helmets and safety goggles.

One banner read, “No borders, no banks,” another, “No hope in capitalism.” A few minutes into the march, protesters unfurled a large banner reading “NO BAILOUT NO CAPITALISM” with an encircled “A,” a recognized sign of anarchists.

There are still a few true believers out there…

But that’s the way revolutions are: the idealists get them into power and then the “realists” get taken over by the power.  The right calls Barack Obama a socialist but the real leftists say he’s not.

The reality is that socialism, communism and revolution is a lot of fun until it’s actualised.  Then, things go downhill.

Another note: when I took microeconomics, my professor–no conservative–opined that there was little difference between a state owned monopoly and a state-regulated one.  In a broad way, that’s true.  That’s why the difference between, for example, the co-ops and the public option in the health care debate isn’t as significant as it looks.  Once we start thinking in these terms we blur the difference between facism and socialism, and our elites absolutely hate that.

The Ancestor of T-Rex: Moving the Goalposts (Again) of Evolution

Just when they thought it safe to hang their hat on a theory

This fearsome T Rex, as the Tyrannosaurus is hailed in popular culture after Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jurassic Park movie series, now apparently has an ancestor not much larger in size than an average human. The evolutionary downgrading was one-hundredth its size but astonishingly exact in features.

The twist in the tale was the outcome of the skeletal remains of “Raptorex Kriegsteini” meeting University of Chicago’s Paul Sereno, one of the world’s leading dinosaur experts.

The three-meter long Raptorex dinosaur skeleton was smuggled out of northern China to the US. It found its way to a fossil show in Tucson, Arizona, from where a private collector, Dr Henry Kriegstein, bought the Chinese-origin dinosaur remains without knowing its significance.

The 60-year-old Kriegstein, an eye surgeon and alumni of Harvard and Stanford Universities, contacted Paul Sereno. Sereno and his five colleagues [1] were stunned with the find.

“It shows that tyrannosaur design evolved at ‘punk size’, basically our body weight,” said Sereno, who has traveled across the world, including China and India, on the multi-million years old dinosaur trail. “And that’s pretty staggering, because there’s no other example that I can think of where an animal has been so finely designed at about 100th the size that it would eventually become.”

Designed?  I can hardly wait to hear the howls of indignation coming from the die-hard evolutionists.

But it isn’t unique.  Consider cats.  We have the small domestic version and the large wild version.  Both have similar physiologies.  Both have the same lazy, shiftless attitude towards life.  (Just live with one, and then watch the wild version in action or inaction.)  How did this happen?

There is design work going on here.  But those that don’t do it don’t understand it either.

Kevin Ayers: May I?

I’m continuing my series of videos of songs that pop up in the novel The Ten Weeks.  This time it’s Kevin Ayers’ “May I?” which appeared on his 1970 album Shooting at the Moon.  This rendition (I think) appeared on Spanish television in 1972.

Kevin Ayers is someone most Americans are totally unfamiliar with.  And it’s a pity; some of his material is charming in an offhanded way.  The son of a British colonial official, he grew up in Malaysia.  The exposure to the tropical climate and the non-European culture were mind-altering experiences, and his music reflects that.  (I can partially relate to that!)

Shooting at the Moon is special in that it features Mike Oldfield, who of course would go on to fame with albums such as Tubular Bells and the incomparable Hergest Ridge.

The Socialists Have Been Bought Off

The situation, as described by The Hill’s Brent Budowsky, is a revolutionary’s dream come true:

The great fault line in American politics today is not Democratic versus Republican, left versus right or black versus white. It is between the core political and financial power centers and the great silent majority of Americans who want to work hard, play fair, build a better life for their families and be treated fairly by government and business alike…

As Christmas approaches, there will be stories of humongous Wall Street bonuses alongside stories of unemployment rising above 10 percent and foreclosures remaining at record levels. There will be stories of speculation on Wall Street alongside stories of credit card rates still rising as banks rush to beat the effective date of the new credit card law.

It is not “Merry Christmas” for workers worried about losing their jobs or benefits. It is not “Happy New Year” for those receiving pink slips while others receive giant bonuses.

People like Lenin and Mao made careers and changed nations with stuff like this.

But the American left, the supposed home of socialism in this country, has been bought off.  They have been bought off by our major financial and corporate interests.  They say they speak for the people but they hold the people in contempt.  They say it’s for our good while they cut endless deals with the insurance and pharmecutical companies for programs whose main purpose is to turn the American people into clients and themselves into patrons, with the people’s money no less.

Marx used to say that history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a farce.  His followers did the tragedy, and now the children of the 1960’s and their followers are working on the farce.

Reason Isn’t the Issue in Education

The Archbishop of Canterbury may think so:

“…the sober testimony of the twentieth century is that the rationality of secular thinking is no guarantee of universal understanding and reconciliation. A rationality that has brought us into the age of nuclear weaponry and global economic meltdown invites some sharp questions, to put it mildly … As the Pope has argued several times in recent years, the drift towards relativism and pluralism is not the triumph but the defeat of reason …”

But I don’t.

The difference between theists and our secular opponents lies in the premises we’re working from.  Our opponents would like to think that, if we imposed “reason” on everyone, things would be wonderful.  But the quality of the reasoning is only as good as the quality of the premises from which that reasoning stems.

The way postmoderns avoid this problem is to posit that there are no absolutes.  That does break down reasoning (as the Pope observes) by denying the truth of any premises.  Once you do that any subsequent reasoning is of dubious import.

Pork Gets in the Way of Progress

This is the core problem with our government these days:

Last week the Center for Public Integrity reported that almost 1,800 “special interest groups” have already hired 2,100 lobbyists and spent an estimated $45 million to lobby Congress on transportation in the first half of this year. The center, which tracks money in politics, says its investigation of transportation lobbying shows that “Congress’s funding of transportation has become a broken process influenced by special interests.” According to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, the number of earmarks exploded from just 10 in 1982 to more than 6,300 in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU law.

Public policy in the U.S. is and has been trapped for many years between two competing teams.

The first is obvious: lobbying groups and even the one-person special interest group of every congressional district (the congressperson) or two-person group of each state (the senators.)  Their only idea is to line their own pockets through the public trough, or to get re-elected, or worse both.  When government was relatively small, this wasn’t so bad, but now that it’s so big, it’s a real problem.

The second is insidious: these “public interest” groups which are in reality pushing the same luddite agenda they’ve been doing since the 1960’s.  One of the signal weaknesses of American liberalism is its complete lack of understanding as to how productive economics actually work.  The Communists in the Soviet Union actually built an industrial power.  I don’t think the American left is either capable or desirous of doing the same, “green jobs” and all of that blather notwithstanding.

This kind of dialectic has spoilt our whole transportation policy for many years, and has done the same with our energy policy, which is why we import so much oil and have never properly developed either our domestic fossil fuels or non-CO2 producing energy sources (unlike the French and Swiss, for example, who invested so heavily in nuclear power.

The dysfunctionality of our political system is one reason why I am sceptical about nationalising our health care system (which is the end game, don’t kid yourself.)  It’s like the Middle East: by the time you’ve paid everybody off, you’re broke, and the system isn’t any better for the effort.

Our country has watched as real public spirit has eroded as reflexive flag waving has increased.  It’s hard to envision progress on any issue in this environment.