Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tom, you are my hero (well, you and Big Al). You make so much sense, suggest such brilliant solutions, and generally agree with me on almost everything. I would like to formally submit my application to join the "Tom Friedman Mentoring Society". I may also get a "Tom Freidman is My Hero" t-shirt to go along with the "Al Gore is My Hero" shirt already in my closet.
Not kidding about the t-shirt. The sentiment happens to be true; I am a supporter of We Can Solve It and Repower America, but the shirt itself is a good way to start an argument in good old suburban North Texas.
At any rate, My Other Hero Tom wrote in yesterday's NYT about the current state of the jihad. Did you notice the radical Islamists are losing the War of Terror? Well, they are.
As Tom so deftly points out, everywhere the the Beardy Boys have taken charge (Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, etc), they have brought with them total economic stagnation (if not outright retreat), lowered standards of living and education, unnecessary and unwanted violence, repression, etc etc etc. And now we're seeing militant Islamists lose elections (Lebanon, Iraq) or steal elections (Iran). The Paki middle class is tired of bombs in the streets of Peshwar and have withdrawn support for the Taliban and foreign rebels causing trouble in the Northwest.
The bad news is that the US' friends in the Arab world, those shining examples of secular, progressive, populist democracy like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are not really "winning", despite their medieval rivals' decline. This lack of a better idea is what keeps the jihadists in business, albeit in a much more limited capacity.
Go read the op-ed, along with everything Tom Friedman has ever written. The man's a genius.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
If you don't know what I'm talking about, drop me a line and I'll share the whole story.
In the meanwhile, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thirty-plus years down the road, the scare factor has pretty much worn off. They sure do rock, though.
BTW, I think this is from the BBC "Today" show from 1976, which would mean the guy on bass is Glen Matlock. Sid Vicious didn't join the band until a few months later. His presence made the band way rougher, way more edgy, and way more dangerous.
From MSNBC today: The ultra-orthodox Jews of Jerusalem have been rioting for days, burning trash, blocking streets, and generally making royal a-holes out of themselves. Their issue? They are pissed that authorities have arrested a Hasidic woman who has been starving her 3-year-old son.
The boy is hospitalized. His weight is, according to doctors, 15 pounds. This is a three year old kid. Fifteen pounds.
The unnamed mother, apparently mentally ill, has been caught on video at the hospital, disconnecting the kid's feeding tube. She claims he's ill, and she has nothing to do with it. Her Hasidic neighbors believe her and have used the excuse to go nuts against authorities.
The Hasidim are also still pissed at the more secular mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, for planning to open a parking lot near the Old City on Saturdays.
I know, right?
With the Hasidim, if you're not exactly like them, you are against them and, more importantly, against God. They will go to almost any lengths to impose their beliefs on everyone else. Sound familiar?
The Hasidim, Haredim, Chabad-Lubavitchers (call 'em what you want - there are differences, but not significant ones in my eyes) have become the enemies of Israel. Their growing ranks, and growing political clout, are making compromise with the Palestinians increasingly difficult. They also make the rest of Israel's (and the world's) Jews look like idiots. The Hasidim are the source of most of the ugly stereotypes which exist regarding Jews. They are as intolerant, close-minded, and self-righteous as any takfiri Muslim fundamentalist, and are, in their way, just as divisive and dangerous as any jihadist organization you care to name.
I hate these guys. I wish I had a suggestion for what to do about them.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Interesting timing on a couple of Internet items the other day.
Numero uno is Goldman Sachs’ quarterly financial reporting. Apparently the second quarter of calendar 2009 was a veritable bonanza for the button-down types at Goldman. The largest remaining investment bank on Wall St reported revenue of $13.8 billion and profit of $2.7 billion. This represents a staggering 65% jump in profit over the same quarter in 2008.
The MSNBC article linked above cites all sorts of nice, up-and-up reasons why Goldman continues to rack up the bucks despite the current environment of gloom and doom. Gutsy trading strategies and sharp employees are cited, along with billions in taxpayer money (all now repaid) and the death of most of the competition all contribute, according to the article.
Maybe so. But maybe there’s more to it.
Twenty-first century gadfly, and walking advertisement for the benefits of routine dental checkups, Matt Taibbi is back in the pages of Rolling Stone, administering a smack-down on Goldman specifically, and investment banks in general. He levies the charge that Goldman has been behind, or at least right in the middle of, every major market manipulation since the 1930s. More recently, Taibbi tells us, Goldman has engineered the DotCom bubble, the housing bubble, and last summer’s commodities (read: gasoline) bubble.
In the past, I have rejected Taibbi’s rants as paranoid, conspiracy-theory baloney. In retrospect, I’m not so sure I wasn’t wrong about that, at least in part. The guy does his research. Yeah, he makes some leaps that I have trouble following, but he makes it sound plausible.
I had, in fact, only been somewhat taken by The Great American Bubble Machine (the Goldman piece), right up until Goldman reported results the other day.
Co-inky-dink? I dunno. Read Taibbi’s article and you decide.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Its still down to who you listen to regarding causes and exactly who has done what to whom. However, it's safe to say the indigenous Uighurs (Muslims with ethnic and religious ties to other Central Asians like the Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Kazakhs) and the relatively-recent immigrant Han (the majority ethnicity in the rest of China), who have been sorta grinding up against each other for years, and not in a good way, have finally blown off a lot of steam. Mob violence seemed to rule the streets of Urumqi, the capital city of the province, earlier in the week. State media reports 150+ killed, thousands arrested, and who-knows-how-much property damage.
The images coming out of Urumqi this week are some of the scariest you will ever see.
This first YouTube clip is not for the faint of heart. Lots of blood and bodies; you get some sort of sense early in the clip of the chaos of the street. I'm not sure where this comes from; the text on the screen looks to be Korean, but I am no Asian language scholar. Anyone with any more info, please chime in:
From MSNBC, a recap of sorts:
The Beeb, always the best bet for international news from obscure places, has this bit of reportage from Quentin Sommerville, a good, kilt-wearing, caber-tossing Jock sent off to the far reaches of Asia. If you troll through the BBC site, you'll find a good deal more from wee Quentin and others.
We've mentioned the ethnic situation in Xinjiang here before. It's not at all clear whether ETIM or any of their fellow Muslim travelers are involved here. Certainly, they are in the neighborhood and watching closely, if nothing else. This sure looks spontaneous, but it's impossible to tell anything from 7000 miles away and no access to anything other than general media reports.
The question I've got is how did it start? Perhaps street protests are routine in Urumqi. A name being tossed about by the Chinese as a possible instigator is one Rebiyah Kadeer, a rather vociferous Uighur critic of the Chinese. Ms. Kadeer has spent some time in the Chinese clink, and is currently in exile in the US. Hard to see how she's encouraging mob violence from the other side of the planet, but they said the same thing about Khomenei in the 70s and look how that turned out.
The violence looks like it's been shut down by a massive influx of state security forces - everything from riot-shotgun-toting police to what appears to be platoons of People's Liberation Army infantry. However, the underlying tensions aren't going away any time soon. Given the People's Republic's usual ham-fisted manner with its own civilians, especially the minority groups, along with Xinjiang's importance both as an oil-producer and a buffer against the really scary Muslims in Pakistan, don't expect the Chinese to scale back the influx of Han or yuan any time soon, and don't expect this to be the last time you see violence in the streets of Urumqi.
The official party line from the Chinese government makes all the right noises as far as the domestic audience is concerned, and actually represents a signficant departure from the normal internal and external news blackout we've come to expect from Beijing. Worth a look: