Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Chinese Finger trap

Hi all,

Sorry, went with a sort of cheesy title. I have a few different stories about China that I'd like to share and thought I'd put them together. I often lament my sense that Americans are a little complacent about their place in the world. China is rapidly modernizing, so are several other countries. I don't want this to be taken as a reason to 'attack China' (which, would be almost impossible, since who would pay for it--the Chinese have already lent us trillions of dollars for our two wars, they're not going to lend us any to attack them. By the same token, China is not interested in attacking us, since they really just want us to stay an open market and to pay them back their money some day.)

1. China has declared the economic crisis over as far as they are concerned. What this meant for them was single-digit (8.7%) growth instead of double digit (originally projected at 10+%). It's tough to get jobs in some sectors there, but as we see in following stories, they're creating jobs at an amazing rate.

2. Despite difficulties at Copenhagen, China is moving forward with clean energy technology--soon to eclipse Western countries as the single largest producer. They are also moving aggressively to find ways to finance the expensive conversion, provide incentives, and as a result, solar panels are popping up all over the place. Obviously, they could improve their environmental standards, but I'm glad they're making progress--when will we???

3. This was just an interesting piece by Brookings about where US and Chinese interests meet in Pakistan. A really useful insight into the dynamics of the AF-PAK challenge.

Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jesus and the Burka

Well, I am not an expert on French politics or the fine print of weapons purchases. Every now and then I feel obligated to point out something good that happened in the country of my passport (the US) and examine something unfair or bigoted in another country (in this case, France, altho I would really like the French approach to food--fresh!--to take root in the States).

Also, I did not grow up in an Abrahamic faith (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), so forgive me if I make mistakes in some terminology in this post.

After the embarrassing news coverage that US soldiers carry guns with Christian scripture on them (the now-infamous Jesus Rifles), will now have the scripture removed. I think this is a very good step forward. I think its pretty inappropriate--in terms of our constitution, the structure of our military AND especially in terms of our current two wars. If we're 'winning hearts and minds' and 'engaging with the Islamic world' and trying to 'support moderate Islam,' then then we need to also not be (or perceived as) radical Christians. So bravo to the US government for making some progress on separating Church and State.

Now, on the other side of the Pond and this conversation. A French parliamentary panel recommends that France ban burka/burqa (the veil that a Muslim woman can choose to wear across her face to be modest before God) in public places (hospitals and schools), but not in private buildings or on the street (which would be even a more gross violation of a person's religious rights. What's next? Removing a nun's robes? The Pope's garb? Tell Orthodox Jewish women to wear miniskirts? I feel like this is a double standard poorly masking a bigoted bias against Muslims. Are the veils harming anyone? I know plenty of strong-willed, independent Muslim women who choose to wear the veil, or the hijjab...sometimes from families who were very moderate and were surprised their daughters chose that path. I think these women should be allowed to wear what they want--plenty of people wear offensive clothing all the time without fear that the government will not allow them to wear it into hospitals...

Radicalizing religion does not help. Neither does abusing human rights and choices.


Cold Warriors say NO to Nukes

Dear readers,

I will be more prolific this week, but just wanted to let you know about a film on nuclear non-proliferation. The key to how important this, is the people involved:

"Nuclear Tipping Point is a conversation with four men intimately involved in American diplomacy and national security over the last four decades. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn share the personal experiences that led them to write two Wall Street Journal op-eds, in support of a world free of nuclear weapons and the steps needed to get there. Their efforts have reframed the global debate on nuclear issues and, according to the New York Times, "sent waves through the global policy establishment.""

Nuclear Tipping Point. Go here for information about the film.

The original op-eds in the Wall Street Journal are available on a pdf on the main site (WSJ charges for readership). Scroll to the middle and it'll open up.

Food for thought, hmm?


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Dear Friends,

Sorry for my absence--I was abroad in a country where my blog is blocked (not because of my infamy, but because all blogs with words like 'war' and 'terrorist' in them are blocked in that country).

A friend send this story to me. Apparently a poster showing ways Osama bin Laden 'might look' has the picture of an existing MP from Spain as one of the possibilities. The FBI forensic artist admitted he had used a 'picture he found on the internet', which turned out to be the MP's old campaign picture and just cut-and-pasted it to his poster.

The MP in question is justifiably concerned that he's now on no-fly lists (not that that prevents people from getting on planes). I'm sort of amused that the forensic artist just picked some random picture of a real person for his work. That seems a bit lazy and sounds like something that an unprofessional artist would do (you'd think he'd at least notify the FBI that he's using a real elected official's picture from an allied country that has its own counter terrorism team, who hopefully isn't drawing mock-ups of our politicians...).

Either way, it's another sign of our counter-terrorist strategy needs thorough and serious improvement.

Best of luck to us all,

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I'm writing this from a plane headed to China. I spent the second decade of my life there--1992 to 1999. It will be an interesting homecoming.

I have yet to really think about 2010. 2009 was a tough and great year. I finished my Masters program, where I learned many many things and, for perhaps the first time in my life, felt surrounded with a similar 'type' of people. SIPA is a place full of nomads, people who can enter any room and make friends, learn new languages, and are happy with a certain footloose life. They work hard and party hard because so much of life has been temporary. I never had to explain my background, why I want to learn to make chebujen (sp?) and chupe and why I'll never buy a house or live in one place.

I've moved 7 times this year. I've been job hunting for over a year. I'm teaching part-time. I'm in a wonderful relationship and have wonderful and close family and friends. I've started this blog and am trying to stay up-to-speed in both my field and to think out-of-the-box.

I'm a Buddhist and we don't (at least my sect) believe in heaven or hell after death. We believe that we are in interlinked levels of heaven and hell at all times. Two of the 'lower' levels of 'heaven' are learning and realization. 2000-2010 was probably my decade of learning--two degrees, a lot of self-exploration and lots of life skills. With this thought, I hope that the next decade will be about realization. I hope to develop wisdom, to understand how the things I learn play out in the real world and how to adapt myself without losing myself.

Exploring is part of my nature and I look forward to what I learn in the coming years! I also look forward to hearing your insights as this blog evolves into whatever it will become.

I wonder what I will realize.