Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Some Links and Observations
A few interesting articles have crossed my path recently:
Stephen Schwartz (no relation, as far as I know) comments on similarities between the Cold War-era Soviets and the Saudis of today. He makes some telling points; it's well worth the read. For example:
While Soviet communism pledged to its subjects and acolytes that the revolution would achieve prosperity, freedom, global prestige, and even the human colonization of space, it delivered none of these. Shortages and deprivation characterized Russian daily life until the end of the Soviet system, as did censorship, repression, and forced labor. The economic system that Communist rulers from Lenin onward had argued would catch up with and surpass the West failed to manufacture a single consumer product competitive with a capitalist brand. Who on earth, given a choice, ever bought a Soviet razor or pen or, more recently, computer or car, except in Third World backwaters where clunky Ladas and Yugos were sold at a discount so low as to amount to the dumping of goods?(Hat tip: Jeff Goldstein, who points out that, if these similarities are real and important, Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State makes even more sense than before.)
Saudi Arabia faces the same dilemma...
Another article that caught my eye, courtesy of Roger Simon, was this beauty by Julie Burchill. (As I recall, she resigned/was fired by The Guardian for not being sufficiently anti-Israel. If so, here she demonstrates that bias, with a vengeance, and it's a pleasure to read!)
Just in case anyone is wondering if I use my blog as a warehouse for URLs I'm afraid I might lose -- yes, of course. Isn't that what you use your blog for?
Finally, I had occasion to catch up on my Belmont Club reading recently, and something occurred to me. When I was a boy, I noticed (and resented) that people who kick up the least fuss are often required to do the most work. (Maintaining discipline takes serious effort! Coddling bullies and troublemakers certainly brings on a host of problems, but it does have the advantage of requiring very little work. If you're lazy, incompetent, unprincipled, or just extremely busy, that sort of thing looks attractive after a while.)
Similarly, countries that play by the rules are often held up to the highest standards... while countries (and organizations) that do not are given a free pass. Why is this? Is it simply the same playground rules, writ large? I have to wonder.
Daniel in Brookline
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Smash Responds to a Deserter
One of my favorite blogs (and blog communities) is Citizen Smash; I've been hanging out there for a while. The proprietor is a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves, and he did us all a service, a year or so ago, when he was called up to serve in Iraq. (If that's too ephemeral for you, put it this way: he did us all a personal favor by blogging about his experiences. He made the U.S. presence in Iraq come alive for many of us.)
These days, he usually writes as a civilian -- about news that interests him, issues of patriotism, stuff like that. (Occasionally he'll tell a good story if it's relevant to the news; I look forward to those, as do many of his readers.)
The news yesterday was of Pablo Paredes, a USN petty officer (3rd class) who refused to be deployed to Iraq. Citizen Smash has responded powerfully, as is his wont... and it's very much worth reading.
Here's an excerpt:
OK then, let’s talk – man to man.
In the big scheme of things, your action will have no impact on the war. The Bonhomme Richard sailed out of San Diego on Monday, along with her entire battle group. Your attempted desertion may have caused a media stir, but you did not delay the battle group’s departure by so much as a minute. The embarked Marines are on their way to the Sandbox, to perform the mission that they were trained to do.
You did, however, manage to fuck up your own future.
Read the rest. As Harry Truman was reputed to say, it's a crackerjack.
Daniel in Brookline
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Maps of Israel
At the risk of violating copyrights (and thereby alienating both of my regular readers), let me offer you a map I haven't seen in a long time:
What's special about this particular map of Israel? Well, it makes no mention whatever of the disputed territories. No outlines (nor labels) for the Gaza strip, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, which nearly every other map-maker feels obliged to do.
(Update: too bad I provided a link directly to Amazon.com, rather than to an archived copy of their map. It seems that they've corrected the "error"; the map displayed above does outline the territories, does not include the Golan Heights, and doesn't even mention the name Israel. Mustn't be controversial, I suppose. Interestingly, Lebanon isn't mentioned either. Given Syria's virtual annexation of Lebanon, that sort of creative map-making makes me wonder.)
For comparison, check out this one (unusually detailed, but otherwise typical), courtesy of the CIA:
Even the Israeli Government Press Office draws those boundaries, in the interests of bending over backwards to avoid the appearance of foul play:
Please note that the official Israeli map even draws the Golan Heights in a different color, which is silly; they were formally annexed by Israel in 1981. Showing the Heights in a different color today, twenty-three years later, makes about as much sense as doing the same for the Louisiana Purchase. (UPDATE: That may not have been the best analogy. You can find better ones here, if you're interested.)
For the record, I'm not offended by any of this. The Palestinian areas (comprising most, although not all, of the West Bank and Gaza Strip) are semi-autonomous, by negotiated agreements with Israel, and as such special mention on maps is justified. On the other hand, there is no such country as Palestine, nor has there ever been such a country, in spite of the wishful thinking of some people.
In reference to that last link, by the way, I might add that borderless maps of Israel are not that hard to find -- it's just that they're usually labelled "Palestine", by those who make no secret of their desire to eliminate Israel altogether. Finding a counterexample -- in MapQuest, of all places -- is highly unusual.
Daniel in Brookline
Photos From Libya
Michael Totten, for reasons I have difficulty imagining, chose to take a trip there. He's back now, with some remarkable photographs, including some gorgeous Roman ruins. As he points out, recent pictures of Libya are hard to find these days.
Check 'em out! You won't be sorry.
It's Getting Busy Out
I apologize (to both of my regular readers) for not posting lately. There's plenty to talk about, to be sure... but I've been quite busy, and somewhat preoccupied even when I have time on my hands. (I'm told that getting married can do that to a person.)
I'll be back from my honeymoon after New Year's Day; you can expect more content from me then. In the meantime, I'll post from time to time, when I have room in my head for doing it.
I don't know if that "quote of the day" bit is a good idea or not, but I'll try to keep it alive for the time being. Here are a few favorites to sink your teeth into:
* "I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but by how high he bounces when he hits bottom."
-- Gen. George S. Patton
* "It is surprising what a man can do when he has to, and how little most men will do when they don't have to."
-- Walter Linn
* "Lawyer: One who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation."
-- H. L. Mencken
* "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."
-- Victor Hugo
* "My favourite spectator sport is watching people who should know better searching for something (and often claiming to find it) where it never could be. Women claiming to find feminism in Islam is a good one."
-- Julie Burchill, British newspaper columnist
* "There is also this benefit in brag, that the speaker is unconsciously expressing his own ideal. Humor him by all means, draw it all out, and hold him to it."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
* "I'd like to know if I could compare you to a summer's day. Because -- well, June 12th was quite nice, and..."
-- Terry Pratchett, "Wyrd Sisters"
Be well, and thanks for stopping by!
Daniel in Brookline