Archive for the ‘thinking about politics’ Category
Adam Kirsch is a senior editor with The New Republic. I recall reading his stuff before and remember that a lot of it was thought provoking. This review of WW II histories is no less thought provoking. The NY Times piece offers this set of seldom seen images of that horrible time that I brushed so close to in France during May and June 1940. Kirsch’s ending is most evocative for me:
After all, the present is always lived in ambiguity. To those who fought World War II, it was plain enough that Allied bombs were killing huge numbers of German civilians, that Churchill was fighting to preserve imperialism as well as democracy, and that the bulk of the dying in Europe was being done by the Red Army at the service of Stalin. It is only in retrospect that we begin to simplify experience into myth — because we need stories to live by, because we want to honor our ancestors and our country instead of doubting them. In this way, a necessary but terrible war is simplified into a “good war,” and we start to feel shy or guilty at any reminder of the moral compromises and outright betrayals that are inseparable from every combat. The best history writing reverses this process, restoring complexity to our sense of the past. Indeed, its most important lesson may be that the awareness of ambiguity must not lead to detachment and paralysis — or to pacifism and isolationism, as Nicholson Baker and Pat Buchanan would have it.
On the contrary, the more we learn about the history of World War II, the stronger the case becomes that it was the irresolution and military weakness of the democracies that allowed Nazi Germany to provoke a world war, with all the ensuing horrors and moral compromises that these recent books expose. The fact that we can still be instructed by the war, that we are still proud of our forefathers’ virtues and pained by their sufferings and sins, is the best proof that World War II is still living history — just as the Civil War is still alive, long after the last veteran was laid to rest.
My own Lilliputian view is that the world conflict known to us as WW II really began in Manchuria, now a major part of northeast China, in September 1931. Generals of Japan’s Kwantung Army, which occupied parts of southern Manchuria, decided for their own nationalistic reasons to undertake invasion and near war against China, which seemed a conquerable power at that time. It’s notable that Japan’s war in China lasted about 14 years and was followed by open civil war in China between the Kuomintang of Chiang-Kai-Shek and Mao’s Communist forces, which ended in October 1949.
- World Wars: Final Assessment – AN ALTERNATE HISTORY (isedphistory.wordpress.com)
A Reuters news item discusses future use of the Varyag, a medium sized hand me down aircraft carrier now docked in Dalian harbor. This kind of “news” about China’s naval plans must be sourced out of some part of the US Defence industry. After all, this semi-hulk has been in Dalian harbor for several years and is seen easily from Dalian roadways.
But the real military head games are being played elsewhere according to this link.
A new missile attack ship and on the ground evidence of a Chinese stealth fighter seem to get more visibility than the poor old Varyag.
Since “news” is often the leading edge of propaganda, it makes me wonder what is really going on here, especially since the US Secretary of Defence announced sizable military budget cuts this week. Whose “news” is this stuff!
During the “Cold War” there was lots of “news” about the imminence of Soviet military domination. Now we are being treated to “news” about China’s newly developed military capabilities. Is this just the latest version of “let’s frighten them so we can get our way”?
Since the US is and has been since WW II, the global paragon of flaunting its military toys, can it be surprising to anybody that China is now doing the same thing? When will India turn up in these military equipment annals?
One thing that seems encouraging is that a respected Taiwanese military analyst seems calm about all this “news”, calm but circumspect:
But for one top Taiwanese security analyst, rumors of the runway test and China’s other upgrades have already achieved their key objective: to mess with U.S. war planners’ heads.
“It’s a very effective deterrent on the minds of strategic planners in Washington,” said Lin Chong-Pin, a former Taiwan defense official who teaches strategy at Tamkang University. “The Chinese don’t have to do anything in the future. Their announcement has already thrown a monkey wrench in strategic planning for U.S. action in and around the Taiwan Strait.”
I live and work in Northeast China – Dongbei. So I tend to pay more attention to the Korean context. Taiwan Strait seems much farther away. But that’s little comfort in this age of ship and aircraft borne missiles!
- China speeds plans to launch aircraft carrier: sources (reuters.com)
- China Wants to Buy Another Cold War Carrier! (defensetech.org)
- US ‘cannot accept’ China military power: state media – AFP (news.google.com)
- Factbox: China’s aircraft carrier ambitions (reuters.com)
Last night, Xmas night, I was in a Chinese restaurant in Ganjingzi, a new and expanding neighborhood near the Dalian International Airport. I was the guest of Sherry Cai and Bin Qui, her husband. It seemed like a normal Chinese dinner in an average to good area, lots of fresh seafood.
And then there was a sort of night club show with pretty girls doing a sort of belly dance routine, an MC who recognized the only Laowai in the restaurant, yours truly. I guess this was more evidence in these good times in China, that the Chinese enjoy parties and celebrations as much if not more than many other places I have lived.
So I am in an Xmas mood this morning and couldn’t help feeling touched by these thoughts written by Alan Wolfe in a review of an interesting book about the connection between religion and culture. Here is a telling excerpt from that review:
We are, in addition, witnessing the severing of religion from the cultures within which it was once embedded. Religion and culture have long existed in an uneasy embrace. Catholicism is presumably a universal faith, yet long before the reforms of Vatican II allowed Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, Brazilian Catholicism owed as much to its South American roots as Polish Catholicism did to its Eastern European ones. Islam sought to conquer the world, or as much of it as it could, yet it was intimately connected to the Arab culture in which it was born. The only reason we do not find the term “secular Jew” puzzling is because we appreciate that Judaism is both an ethnic and a religious category. Much the same can be said for many of the other world religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.
If religion is in decline in the modern world, Roy argues, so is culture. On the one hand, we have multiculturalism, celebrations of diversity that somehow wind up making all cultures look and feel alike. More important, we face globalization, today’s true universal faith, which subjects all local customs to the laws of the market. Under the influence of both, religion loses whatever affinities it may once have had with the cultures that sustained it. Jakarta, the capital of the world’s largest Muslim country, lies some 5,000 miles from the holy city of Mecca, and even Mecca, Roy argues, has lost much of its specifically Arab character.
I am a declared Agnostic about all religion and especially about the intersection of religion and North American politics. Here the reviewer and the writer point out that religion begins in a cultural context but it tends to cool as its original cultural connection wanes and withers. Is that what happened to me? Did my cultural unrootedness lead to my Agnosticism? I think that could be the case.
In Dalian I am a Laowai but I don’t feel a strong cultural attachment to that connection, since most Laowai here seem to share a very shallow and uninteresting cultural view, at least here in Dalian. Oh, I can’t pretend to be Chinafied but I do enjoy my cultural connection with them better than I do the connection with Westerners. Maybe I just prefer to seem different because that’s what I have always felt in whatever city/community that I lived or worked in.
- A tuneful Christmas in Beijing. Why do the Chinese love singing so much more than us? (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- The Real War on Christmas: No Teaching of Religion (time.com)
Here is a quote I found about the latest perversion of their so-called “family values“!
What it means for a lawmaker to be “pro-life” is not a rhetorical question any more. The refusal of Senate Republicans, nearly all of whom identify as pro-life, to support the 9/11 First Responders bill, also known as the James Zadroga bill—a measure that would provide funding for healthcare for firefighters, police and others who became ill as a result of their 9/11 related work—gives this question new urgency.
The shameful spectacle of antiabortion Republicans preventing, as of this writing, the possibility of even a vote for this measure before the holiday recess also makes clear that this movement has gone beyond its historic valuing of the life of a fetus over that of a woman. Now it is mainly the male 9/11 workers whose lives are apparently expendable, because they cannot afford their own health care.
Let’s face it, they are anti-everything but themselves! Most of all to them human life is cheap and it is more often cheapened by their narrow-minded politics than not!
- 9/11 hero’s widow tells Congress to pass Zadroga bill (nydailynews.com)
- Bill Hemmer Grills GOP Senator On Earmark Hypocrisy (mediaite.com)
- Cornyn whines about getting called out for hypocrisy (dailykos.com)
- Conservative Media Growing Upset Over GOP Obstruction Of Zadroga 9/11 Healthcare Bill (pinkbananaworld.com)
Since I’m in China I didn’t know that Boehner went on “60 Minutes” last Sunday and did his usual crying game. There have lots of comments about from columnists like Gail Collins. Even that great celebrity shill, Barbara Walters talked about and not specially flattering terms. Her colleague on the View, Joy Behar, called Boehner “the Weeper of the House”. But I like Tim Egan‘s reflections on this Boehner faux crying game stuff:
For whatever reason, Boehner’s life story never gave him a broader governing vision for the folks he knew in his hometown of Reading, Ohio. When he turns on the waterworks while talking about them, it raises two questions:
Is Boehner crying because he escaped that fate? Or because of the person he has become — a politician whose votes show he couldn’t care less for the people he left behind?
So Republican, so callous, so faux and fundamentally hypocritical. Since US voters, especially those described as independents, seem to favor that crew of callous naysayers, does it mean that significant fractions of Americans would rather support hypocrites and faux representatives of democracy?
A telling excerpt:
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century by 2025
A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.
Gosh, don’t tell Sarah P! She’ll go ballistic
- Alfred W. McCoy: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century by 2025 (huffingtonpost.com)
- Taking down America: four scenarios for the end of the American Century by 2025 (energybulletin.net)
- The American Empire Is Going Down (lewrockwell.com)
- 4 Scenarios for the Coming Collapse of the American Empire (alternet.org)