Monday, December 27, 2010

from John Mearsheimer

a quote from an article he recently published (i think in 'Public Interest'):

Finally, the ability of terrorists to strike the American homeland has been blown out of all proportion. In the nine years since 9/11, government officials and terrorist experts have issued countless warnings that another major attack on American soil is probable—even imminent. But this is simply not the case. The only attempts we have seen are a few failed solo attacks by individuals with links to al-Qaeda like the “shoe bomber,” who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001, and the “underwear bomber,” who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in December 2009. So, we do have a terrorism problem, but it is hardly an existential threat. In fact, it is a minor threat. Perhaps the scope of the challenge is best captured by Ohio State political scientist John Mueller’s telling comment that “the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s . . . is about the same as the number killed over the same period by lightning, or by accident-causing deer, or by severe allergic reactions to peanuts.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

small government death spiral

first principle: government, any government, is bad. the founding fathers were men of god, but (somehow) the government they created is evil. always. the country itself is stronger with small government. it became a superpower during and after WW2 because it had a weak government.

step two: continually deride anything the government does (exception: anything the government does to foreigners is wonderful).

step three: elect people to government office who claim to hate government. they will strip it of revenues, and do everything possible to demoralize it (except the military, and the spies, and their corporate friends, who get all the 'big government money' they ever want).

step four: sit and wait. the government will work less and less well. continue to preach government's essential iniquity. more people believe your pessimistic message. you are a genius, a prophet.

step five: elect politicians with increasingly virulent hatred of government. they will do all they can to ruin it, all the while proclaiming their heartfelt patriotism. everyone awaits the small-government utopia that will magically arise once no one is regulating the banks, food safety, labor practices, etc etc.

step five: look forward to social instability, poverty, violence, corruption, class resentments, environmental degradation, plutocracy, and other things typical of countries (haiti, kenya, nigeria) enjoying the benefits of small government. hey wait a minute! aren't we seeing some of those phenomena already? we must be even closer to the promised land.

congratulations! you have successfully proven yourself right.

[until people begin to wonder if maybe their nightmarish society and bad government are really a product of bad policies and dishonest, cynical politics -- and if maybe the prophets of small government were really in that gig for the money]

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

quite a name!

one of my wife's chinese language students goes by the name 'Thora'! i looked at it, puzzled. what kind of name is that? 'Thor' came to mind, and i mentioned to her Thor was the Norse god of thunder.

guess what? her Chinese name, or nickname, is 'Lei Lei,' or 'thunder thunder'!

i busted out laughing. apparently the little girl is super cute. and named thora!

just an example of Chinese people's craziness -- or creativity -- in choosing names.

i remember my students Dove and Dolphin. they were a couple. Dove was the man.

a new way for palestine?

from an article posted by the Jerusalem Fund:

There is a way out for Abbas - and the Palestinian people - of the trap of endless negotiations as the ground is pulled out from under their feet: To work for an end to the occupation before going into negotiations. What would this involve? The Palestinians would state that they are committed to living in peace and security with Israel, but will not negotiate until it withdraws its soldiers and settlers from the occupied territories, finally applying the principle that underpins United Nations Security Council resolution 242 of 1967 - "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war."

Thereafter, Palestinians and Israelis would negotiate final status issues, including a just resolution for Palestinian refugees, security and water. International peacekeepers would be placed between the two sides, including around Gaza, to maintain security for both sides until a final status agreement is signed.

This approach is gaining strength with Palestinian analysts. Amman-based analyst Mouin Rabbani recently wrote for the congressional newspaper The Hill that Palestinians should "agree to negotiate only the mechanisms of a permanent end to the Israeli occupation" before turning to final status issues. Ramallah-based businessman Sam Bahour, who blogs at e-palestine, says that trying to solve final-status issues "while the boot of occupation is still on our necks is hallucination at best and a crime at worst."