6.9.09

Healthcare, Curing the Disease not the Symptoms; Pt. 2: Checking the Rankings

Part 2:

Dr. Mark Hyman wrote last month in his Huffington Post article, Why Health Care Reform Will Fail: Part I -- The Business of Disease: We Pay For What Doesn't Work, "Recently President Obama's rhetoric has shifted from health care reform to health insurancereform. Getting more people access to a system that provides worse outcomes at higher costs is not an option for a sustainable health care system, nor a sustainable economy." The significance of this statement is that not only are we focusing too much energy on trying to reign in costs rather than quality and delivery, but also that if we as a country try and improve the return on our healthcare dollars that will, as a byproduct, save money. So, as with healthcare availability, first you have to evaluate why it is U.S. healthcare is ranked poorly and then determine how to improve those numbers to, in Obama's own words, use a scalpal rather than a hatchet.

The shocking figure relevant to this topic is the 2000 World Health Report ranking the U.S. healthcare system as 37th out of 191 of the world's nations. The most obvious problem with using this number in the debate is that it is nearly a decade out of date. The second problem is how the WHO ranks the systems of various countries. Redington Jahncke, in his September 1st article in The Advocate, does a very thorough breakdown of by what standards the WHO evaluates their ranking, and he points out that it uses a cumulative ranking process which is overwhelmingly weighted, 63%, towards "fairness."
To illustrate, let's use a simple 1-to-10 scale. Under the WHO's "fairness"
weighting approach, a nation whose measure for health or health care ranged
from say 3 for its least advantaged citizens to 4 for its most advantaged
would outrank a nation whose measures ranged from 6 to 10.
So even though the care provided to all citizens is better overall, the difference in quality is what brings the rankig down. He also points out that a certain level of double counting occurs, which can be seen in this method of evaluation, because as part of the ranking, the U.S. is evaluated lower for having a low rating given its advanced technology and wealth. Finally, Jahncke takes a look at how the U.S. ranks in actual health, noting that of the 8 there are only 2 absolute measures, which are responsiveness and life-expectancy. In responsivenes, defined as dignity, autonomy, confidentiality, prompt attention, quality of basic amenities, access to social support networks during care and choice of care provider, the U.S. actually ranks first, a figure not often mentioned in the healthcare debate. The life-expectancy number is not so encouraging however with a ranking of 24th. So it would seem that it would be to the advantage of Americans to focus on this problem of life-expectancy (and affordability) without making too many changes to the existing system, also keeping in mind that of the 23 countries ranked higher, only 6 have populations of more than 30 million and only 1, Japan, more than 100 million.

Obama will often talk about stories he's "read in letters and heard in town halls all across America." In reality though, if you go around enough and ask enough people you can find individual examples to prove any argument. For example, in 2005, my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a unique and aggressive strain of the cancer that, had she gotten it less than 10 years earlier, she probably would not have survived. It was thanks to a drug called Herceptin developed in 1998, along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, that my mom was able to fight the cancer. There was a woman whom my mom often sat next to during her weekly chemo and Herceptin treatments who also had a similar strain of breast cancer. This woman was a nurse from Canada. She had to come to the U.S., and, yes, had to pay exorbitant fees, in order to get the treatment that would ultimately save her life because Health Canada would not allow her the use of Herceptin. So it was thanks to an American drug, developed in America, and used for treatment in America that this Canadian was given the opportunity to fight her cancer.

One strategy that is often used to evaluate the quality of our healthcare more closely is to separate the serious diseases, such as cancer, from those associated with lifestyle choices such as obesity and smoking related diseases. Gary Becker in The Becker-Posner Blog, examines an unpublished study by Samuel Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania that compares mortality rates for breast and prostate cancer:
Preston and Hu show that this more aggressive detection and treatment were
apparently effective in producing a better bottom line since death rates from
breast and prostate cancer declined during the past 20 years by much more in the US than in 15 comparison countries of Europe and Japan. US death rate rates from
prostate cancer went from about 7% above those of the comparison countries in
1990 to over 20 % below the average of these other countries in recent years, or
almost a 30% greater fall in US rates. American death rates from breast cancer
declined from about 10% above the average of these other countries in 1990 to
slightly lower.
This would actually indicate that the U.S. is in fact, at least with regards to serious diseases such as breast and prostate cancer, performing quite well in treating diseases. So why is our life expectancy so much lower if it seems the U.S. should be more than competant enough to treat disease and illness? The next step is to look at what brings that number lower which it would seem is largely a result of life style choices, and fixing these problems could actually be an effective way in controlling much of the runaway costs of the U.S. system.

3.9.09

Healthcare Debate

This is a post from another blog I have, DiscussNotArgue, and though it doesn't fit into the chronology I think it does fit with the spirit of One Dimension of looking at the facts and arguments of both sides to come to a non-partisan solution in the middle. As the big debate right now is Healthcare in the United States, it is the subject that's really caught my attention. So as I've been sifting through information during my free time, this is what I've come up with:

Healthcare, Curing the Disease not the Symptoms; Pt. 1: Crunching the Numbers
It seems as if these days politics has become a competition in fear. Rather than who can come up with the best and most comprehensive solutions, it is about which side can scare the public enough into believing that they need to somehow be protected from the other side. This strategy is very effective as a distraction from the causes of what it is we are meant to fear as well as what the proposed solutions are. Obama points to this problem very directly in his recent town hall meeting in Colorado, "whenever America has set about solving our toughest problems, there have always been those who've sought to preserve the status quo by scaring the American people." In the recent past, it was the right claiming that Democrats couldn't keep America safe, another example is when during the 2008 election it was that we needed a change it was the policies of the Bush administration that was the cause of the entire financial collapse. And so the trend continues during the current healthcare reform debate. From one side we hear about death panels and Obama's secret Marxist ambitions. Alternatively, the flip side of the debate presents fear through a sense of urgency. This can be seen in Obama's own words: "because for all the scare tactics out there, what's truly scary is if we don't do anything." The idea of this is that we have a big problem on our hands so something needs to be done as quickly as possible, the underlying implication being that it doesn't really matter what that may be. What both of these arguments do is to shift the debate away from what are the causes of our problems and as a result we get a treatment for the symptoms, or no treatment at all, rather than a cure for the actual disease.

There is no denying, by anyone in the debate really, what the problems are that the United States healthcare system faces. The numbers are pretty clear: Americans pay more, fewer are covered, and the results are worse than in any other developed nation in the world. But what is the cause of such a bad performance in the country that is supposed to be leading the rest of the world? A good place to start, I believe, is to first look at where the numbers come from and then figure out why they are the way the are particularly in comparison to other countries.
One of the more shocking numbers is the number of uninsured in the United States, somewhere between 40 and 50 million people, nearly as big as the populations of Canada and Australia combined. However, according to the Census Bureau, in 2007, 18 million of the uninsured lived in households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more and an additional 14 million uninsured adults qualified for government health care programs in 2004. This means that somewhere around 70% of the uninsured population in the U.S. could be covered but have chosen not to. So the largest contributor to the problem of the massive amount uninsured is not necessarily affordability or lack of government presence. One contributing factor to these statistics are those people that are young and healthy and so choose not to pay for health insurance as they don't believe they need it. In fact, in 2007 there were 18 million people between the ages of 18 and 35 without health insurance (unfortunately I couldn't find information on what income bracket this group fits into, but for the sake of an educated case let's say 70%, taken from above, could be covered, which comes out to 12.6 million). It's often mentioned in the health care debate that if everyone or at least more people were included in the U.S. health care system, it would bring down costs, and though this may not be true of those with pre-existing conditions, at least for this group of presumably healthy 18-35 year olds it is, especially because if one of these individuals is suddenly met with an emergency, the burden really falls on those who have been contributing, an unfortunate situation that could be avoided if they had already been contributing to the insurance pool.

So looking at these numbers, it seems as if there are three issues that need resolving. The first is to deal with that 30% of people who can't afford nor qualify for coverage. This can be dealt with through a combination of bringing down costs, expanding Medicaid coverage, and tax cuts/rebates to make it more affordable. Second would be to bring in the people that either can afford their own or qualify for government coverage. And third, a large number of these uninsured have probably been denied coverage as a result of preexisting conditions, even though they may be able to afford a standard insurance plan. One possible solution for both of these problems is to take a page from the Australian system. In Australia, they use a combination of community rating, which helps to get rid of discrimination against the sick and elderly, and tax incentives for those who have insurance when they're young and healthy. Australia's system increases the surcharge on Medicaid by 1.5 percent each year if you make more than $50,000 per year and don't have private insurance. John Hempton in his blog Bronte Capital offers a detailed description of the Australian system as well as how it applies to the situation in the U.S. Hempton explains that this strategy brings in those who otherwise wouldn't get insurance (or collects revenue from those who don't) as well as saves on the legal and administration costs of denying coverage which, he says, account for 10 percent of costs in America.

There is another statistic that deserves some attention, one that Obama has put a lot of focus on, that 14,000 Americans lose their insurance each day. I think this figure can be a little misleading though and falls in line with the fear strategy. It's important to note that the census actually recorded that the total number of uninsured declined by nearly 1.5 million in 2007 from the previous year and the proportion of people without any health insurance actually fell by a full percentage point from a decade earlier, from 16.3 percent in 1998 to 15.3 in 2007. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2002 the people who had been uninsured for a year or more was between 21 and 31 million. This means that 10 to 30 million were only temporarily without insurance. So how to account for the 14,000 Americans who lose their insurance each day? The figure itself is misleading because more Americans as opposed to less are being covered each year. It seems safe to assume that many of these people are losing their coverage as a result of either losing their jobs, changing jobs, or moving to a different state. A couple options to solve these problems would be to provide similar and equal tax incentives for individual coverage as there is for employee coverage. In fact, one of the arguments President Obama has used in favor of the public option portion of the health care reform is that it creates a portable alternative that you could keep no matter where you lived or where you worked. If this is one of the President's goals, one which he seems to think is part of the solution to our healthcare woes, why not encourage rather than penalize people for getting their own insurance, which they could take from job to job and state to state?

I think that when you take a look at the numbers the problem of health insurance coverage in the United States is more than just a problem of insurance companies being bullies and not offering competitive prices or Americans simply not having access to affordable care. Why not try and address these individual problems, such as bringing in those that simply choose not to get insurance or those that lose coverage while inbetween jobs, rather than considering the whole system a failure. That's what we would do if we had a universal health care system; it wouldn't be scrapped if it proved to be ineffective. What I want to write about next is another issue that people seem ready to dump the blame onto the failure of the free market: higher costs for seemingly lower quality care. To examine that, you have to look at why the American system seems to get worse results and how that is reflected in costs.

Sources:
National Center for Policy Analysis: Crisis of the Uninsured: 2008
Bronte Capital: Health Care Reform and single payer- an Australian perspective
Census: U.S. Census Bureau
Obama's Grand Junction Townhall transcript

27.6.09

in the interest of debate ...

i would like to thank everyone who is following and participating in our discussion.

we have been trying to devise a better way to post our debate for clarity. with that in mind, we have installed a new comments widget from IntenseDebate. from their website:

IntenseDebate provides many new features meant to inspire discussion and easily follow the conversation.

In order to better organize the discussion, we've implemented comment threading which allows users to directly reply to one another.

Users also have an identity that spans across all blogs powered by IntenseDebate. Along with this is a reputation value, based on the quantity and quality of the comments users make, meant to give an overview of a user's commenting history. Quality is determined by the users through comment voting, which also serves to move the best comments to the top.

With all of our comment systems being interconnected, we make it easy to track users and their activities across all blogs using our system by providing email and rss notifications.

In short, IntenseDebate has completely transformed the commenting experience.

IntenseDebate. Comments Rediscovered.

thanks again, and we look forward to continuing our debates productively.

13.5.09

mccain would be the oldest president to take office during his first term - 23/10/08

From Buck on October 23rd, 2008:

McCain would be the oldest president to take office during his first term. Reagan was 78 when he left his second term as president, McCain is now 72. If you're reading about his survival expectancy from the New York Times, the newspaper that made false, unsubstantiated claims about an affair he was having and about his involvement in the Keating 5 incident, I'd be interested to know how they made those calculations without his medical records...

Didn't know about the money being from the party. I certainly don't support that She's clearly trying to play up the attractive, successful, woman card, which, honestly, is a strategy that has been working for her. My mistake on the haircut... but still, $400... I'd be interested to see more details on the Iraqi oil because there are people (like Obama) upset at Iraq's not using their newly found oil wealth. If the U.S. is getting 87% of the oil, that wouldn't be such a big deal, and at the price oil has been at, if we were getting Iraqi oil, the war probably wouldn't be costing us very much at all. The China thing I believe was a contract to build pipelines or drills or something. Still more proof that the U.S. isn't controlling everything.

"And Iraqi stability hinging on US presence is only necessary because the
instability was brought on by US presence."
How is that relevant now? It's something to keep in mind next time we're thinking about invading a country, true. And it shows that it was a mistake to go in (or at least our strategy and optimism was flawed), but still the instability being as a result of our invasion is more reason why we should stay in until things are stable. The instability is mainly not from insurgents attacking U.S. soldiers, a lot is Shiite vs. Sunni and the risk of civil war. It's all the militia groups that would like to gain power through force. Granted this instability is because the U.S. led a poorly organized invasion but that's all the more reason to insure that we fix the mess we made. Now on to your next e-mail... can't keep up here.


From Brent on October 23rd, 2008:

If you're reading about his survival expectancy from the New York Times, the
newspaper that made false, unsubstantiated claims about an affair he was having
and about his involvement in the Keating 5 incident, I'd be interested to know
how they made those calculations without his medical records...
The article was critical of all candidates not giving FULL disclosure of their health records, and was written by a physician who has covered the health of presidential candidates for the past 36 years:
"If Mr. McCain's 2000 left-temple melanoma was a metastasis, as the Armed Forces
pathologists' report suggested, it would be classified as Stage III. The
reclassification would change his statistical odds for survival at 10 years from
about 60 percent to 36 percent, according to a published study." http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/20/us/politics/20health.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&sq=doctor&st=cse&scp=2

I'd be interested to see more details on the Iraqi oil because there are
people (like Obama) upset at Iraq's not using their newly found oil wealth.
Yeah, I wish I could remember where I read that ... I'll find it eventually. Also I was reading about the falling prices of oil affecting oil rich countries:
"Now, plummeting oil prices are raising questions about whether the countries
can sustain their spending — and their bids to challenge United States
hegemony." http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/world/21petro.html?scp=1&sq=oil%20rich&st=cse


"And Iraqi stability hinging on US presence is only necessary because the
instability was brought on by US presence." How is that relevant now?
It's relevant now because some people present US presence like it is a selfless act without recognizing that it was one of the main causes to instability in Iraq. And I agree that the US should not leave until they have righted that.


From Buck on October 23rd, 2008:

What people also forget is what was there before the U.S., someone guilty of genocide. The problem was not that something was done, it's what was done and how it was done. Just saying something else that's often overlooked and forgotten.

12.5.09

i thought it would get a good reaction out of ya. sorry. - 23/10/08

From Brent on October 23rd, 2008:

Were you reading the republicans for change thing? I can't read it at work, it won't show up on the screen, but i thought it would get a good reaction out of ya. Sorry.

So fucking sad that this is what politics is. "I want change... blah blah blah."
My dad put it really well, Obama has pretty much just become a screen onto which
the world is projecting what they want from a president. It doesn't matter what
he wants to do, what his proposals are, what he's done. He's presented himself
in such a way, that people see whatever it is that change means to them.

I agree again, 100%. And it is very sad. The GLCP will hopefully bring real change, here and abroad. And about the election machines, I know what you mean. I recently read an article about the election campaigns here and I had to save the paper. Its a really good read, I'll give it to ya when i see ya. And again, I agree that a well run campaign does not equal a good president. Usually the opposite is true - if they need to dump so much money and manpower into the campaign they are covering up something, hiding something, or present themselves favorably when they in fact are not...

Also, this from the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002:

Sec. 323
'(a) NATIONAL COMMITTEES-'(1) IN GENERAL- A national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) may not solicit, receive, or direct to another person a contribution, donation, or transfer of funds or any other thing of value, or spend any funds, that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.'

(2) APPLICABILITY- The prohibition established by paragraph (1) applies to any such national committee, any officer or agent acting on behalf of such a national committee, and any entity that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained, or controlled by such a national committee.


From Buck on October 23rd, 2008:

Dammit Brent. You have the best job ever. I'm not even working and I can't keep up!

11.5.09

john edwards' haircut was $400, not $4000 - 23/10/08

From Brent on October 23rd, 2008:

I was reading the articles you posted on facebook, although trying to give the appearance i'm working at the same time lol.

John Edwards' haircut was $400, not $4000.

And it wasn't Palin's "own , hard earned money", it came out of the pockets of the National Republican Party.

I recently read an article saying that the us had negotiated something like 87% of Iraqi oil for itself and the other 13% for Iraq to do what it would with it. Hardly seems like a sovereign governments idea of independence. And Iraqi stability hinging on US presence is only necessary because the instability was brought on by US presence.

lol, the pumpkins are hilarious. i know what i'm carving up this hallowe'en!

"Good news is that McCain will not hit the average U.S. life expectancy during
his first term, nor will he even be the oldest president in his first term (that
would hit during his second term when he would pass Reagan). Not only that, but
the life expectancy isn't totally applicable as he will probably have access to
the best doctors in the world."


I was just reading an article in the NYtimes yesterday about the lack of full disclosure of medical data from all candidates, but that McCain would be the oldest president to take the office, and that his survival expectancy for his first term was 60%. And if he was lying about one of his melanoma's, which a military biopsy suggested, that it would drop to 36%.

Also, if we're going to question McCain's judgement, what about Obama's? He's
associated himself with people like Rezko, Ayers, and Wright for many many years
and now has taken council from people like the former C.E.O. Fannie Mae. I'm
just saying, "let's focus on the issues that the American people really care
about, like the Economy."


I agree 100%.

10.5.09

conservativesforchange.com - 23/10/08

From Brent on October 23rd, 2008:


lol, and this: http://www.conservativesforchange.com/


From Buck on October 23rd, 2008:

Oy, had to stop half way through. Some of things were uneducated. It's really clear that not only has McCain run a poor campaign that doesn't reflect how he would be as a President (because I've read things about him now and how he was before that are drastically different then how he presents himself through his campaign) and also how clever and brilliant of a campaign Obama has run. It's really sad.

Quick note, how well you run a campaign surely does not reflect how good of a president you will be. Bush ran brilliant campaigns in 2000 and 2004, one of the best campaign machines in decades, and well... we know where that got us.

So sad that this is what politics is. "I want change... blah blah blah." My dad put it really well, Obama has pretty much just become a screen onto which the world is projecting what they want from a president. It doesn't matter what he wants to do, what his proposals are, what he's done. He's presented himself in such a way, that people see whatever it is that change means to them.

The guy that said he wants Obama because we've moved too far to the right and so he hopes this will move us back in the other direction, is clearly a bit misguided. First both candidates are more to the left and McCain disagrees with Bush on many key conservative issues. Second, there's going to be a Democratic majority in congress even larger than there is now! maybe even a veto proof 60 in the senate. C'mon

9.5.09

the U.S. doesn't really believe that the situation in Iraq is fully stable yet - 10/23/08

From Buck on October 23rd, 2008:

But the U.S. doesn't really believe that the situation in Iraq is fully stable yet. They don't want a timeline for withdrawal but a withdrawal with preconditions that can be reversed if things get bad and unstable again. Thus since they don't believe the country is stable enough for their own standards, they want to make sure that if things go wrong in the country, at least the embassy and its residents will be safe and with power.

I don't think it seems like the U.S. is trying to secure resources for themselves. This can be seen in the fact that first, there were free elections in Iraq and someone was voted in who is now trying to negotiate the withdrawal of U.S. troops. More evidence of U.S. not only being in it for themselves is the fact that there are contracts and agreements being made with Chinese oil companies. Granted the U.S. does hold a lot of influence and steers more deals towards themselves, but this sort of does make sense since for a large part of the past few years, Iraqi stability has been hinging on U.S. presence and intervention. But still, I don't see how one large embassy is being built to ensure political dominance over resources, money, the country etc... when the gov. that was voted in that has been doing things that don't necessarily benefit the U.S. but rather that it shows U.S. lack of faith in Iraqi stability as well as wanting to maintain an influential presence in a country that we hope to maintain as a strong ally in the region.

Oh, and those pumpkins are nauseating.


And as for the Palin stories...Did you know John Edwards got a 4,000 dollar haircut??? His whole platform and stump speech was about fighting for the poor and class equality and all that. How do you spend 4000 dollars on just a haircut??? That's ridiculous. It does seem a little hypocritical of Palin, but at the same time, she's a self-made woman. Owned her own business, built herself up in politics, and had 5 kids all at the same time. She has the right to indulge herself with her own hard earned money. I don't see the Republican party as so much "looking out for the little guy" but more the party of "we want to make this possible for the little guy to one day achieve, and once you achieve it you can do whatever you want with your hard earned money." Of course that doesn't come off as sympathetic/empathetic. Unfortunately though, it is going to hurt her with the public because that how the public is and politics has to react appropriately: the guy who can mold his image the best is going to win, not who's honest.


Also, I do question McCain's judgement a bit about Palin. Initially, it proved to be a brilliant pick. He pulled way ahead after the announcement. Unfortunately that's wearing down now. It's true though, that I don't think I'd like Palin as president but for the same reasons as I wouldn't want Obama as president. She's got ties to an extreme pastor, she's inexperienced in many areas (still more experienced than Obama though), and she's a bit too far right in the spectrum (where as Obama is left). Good news is that McCain will not hit the average U.S. life expectancy during his first term, nor will he even be the oldest president in his first term (that would hit during his second term when he would pass Reagan). Not only that, but the life expectancy isn't totally applicable as he will probably have access to the best doctors in the world.


Also, if we're going to question McCain's judgement, what about Obama's? He's associated himself with people like Rezko, Ayers, and Wright for many many years and now has taken council from people like the former C.E.O. Fannie Mae. I'm just saying, "let's focus on the issues that the American people really care about, like the Economy."


P.S. you should check out the articles I posted on facebook last night. I got a bit of an urge to get some stuff out there all of a sudden. One is the Kennedy article I sent you. The other is a pretty non-partisan article on how foreign policy rhetoric has changed for the two candidates, and the third is about Obama's tax policy.

28.4.09

we should work towards global disarmament - 23/10/08

From Brent on October 23rd, 2008


"To your point about why it has to be the case that there is a game of chicken
is that there is a large amount of distrust. It seems to be a part of human
nature to not only be distrustful but also deceitful which just keeps the cycle
going. This is the case most of all when looking at extremist Muslim ideology.
Eventhough it is held by a very small minority, there is the thought that your
and others sacrifice are worth the cause of jihad. That's something that makes
the thought of Iran and north Korea with nukes so scary because they are known
to fund and supply jihadist groups."

Fair enough. Obviously Iran and N Korea with nukes is scary and must not be allowed to happen, but I feel the same way about any nation. I think we should work towards global disarmament of nuclear weapons.


"The embassy is another issue. Lots of countries have embassies in other
countries, granted the size is an issue. In Peru the US embassy is bigger than
any other Peruvian government building but no one is protesting the US military
presence in Peru... It does however give a bad impression of US egos."

True. But the size is an issue, and does show the ego of the US. It's like a "remember, we are the strongest and most dominant".


"It sounds like a lot of the size of the embassy is as a result of it wanting to
be self sufficient which would reflect the lack of faith in Iraqi stability in
the near future which would make sense and also of the US being a target of
violence for still some time. But there is nothing wrong with an embassy."

Absolutely nothing wrong with an embassy, but just because you call a structure an embassy doesn't make it so. This is a lot more like a military compound than an embassy. And it does show lack of faith in Iraqi stability, which would make you wonder how they can conceivably withdraw when they obviously don't think the country is stable enough for their own standards. And this ties back to the point you made about, rather than competing for economic dominance, the CIA incites revolts and props up US-favorable regimes. The same appears to be happening in Iraq - it appears as if they want to secure resources for themselves.

Obviously this is debatable and only time will tell, but I'm not ruling anything out. Probably will have to save euchre night as Pam is working Saturday and unsure when she is getting off. You let me know when and where is best for you and I'll be there!

And on a lighter note: http://yeswecarve.com/ lol!

27.4.09

there is a large amount of distrust - 23/10/08


From Buck on October 23rd, 2008

To your point about why it has to be the case that there is a game of chicken is that there is a large amount of distrust. It seems to be a part of human nature to not only be distrustful but also deceitful which just keeps the cycle going. This is the case most of all when looking at extremist Muslim ideology. Even though it is held by a very small minority, there is the thought that your and others' sacrifice are worth the cause of jihad. That's something that makes the thought of Iran and north Korea with nukes so scary because they are known to fund and supply jihadist groups.

The US is currently negotiating a withdrawal of forces agreement. As of now, it looks like troops will be totally out by 2011 including bases. US troops will also be subject to Iraqi law when off duty.

The embassy is another issue. Lots of countries have embassies in other countries, granted the size is an issue. In Peru the US embassy is bigger than any other Peruvian government building but no one is protesting the US military presence in Peru... It does however give a bad impression of US egos. It sounds like a lot of the size of the embassy is as a result of it wanting to be self sufficient which would reflect the lack of faith in Iraqi stability in the near future which would make sense and also of the US being a target of violence for still some time. But there is nothing wrong with an embassy.

As for drinks I work tomorrow night but get off around 9 and then the rest of the weekend I'm free as well. Saturday night works for me. Should we merge this with eucher night or save that for another time?

24.4.09

where the selection of palin was once seen as an asset ... - 23/10/08

From Brent on October 23rd, 2008

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/22/AR2008102201645.html?referrer=reddit

Palin considers herself an intellectual, and would like to name one of her kids "Zamboni"! lol.

From a story today in the washington post:

"Where the selection of Palin was once seen as an asset, a majority of voters now say McCain's vice presidential pick reflects poorly on the decisions he would make as president, according to the Post-ABC News poll. Overall, 52 percent of likely voters said they are less confident in McCain's judgment because his of surprise selection of Palin; 38 percent are more confident because of it. That represents a marked reversal from the initially positive reaction to the pick. Several GOP sources expressed anger about the damage the clothing story was likely to do to the ticket, coming just as the campaign is making its closing argument by employing "Joe the Plumber" in an appeal to average Americans. "That's what grates me. We're the party that talks about looking out for the little guy," said one top Virginia Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the GOP ticket. "Then something like that pops. It smacks of being hypocritical.""

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/22/AR2008102203346.html?hpid=topnews

The clothing story they refer to is: "the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 on makeup consultations and clothes at high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks in New York and St. Louis." In case you didn't know...

23.4.09

it is true of the vast majority of nations - 23/10/08


From Brent on October 23rd, 2008
1) About the anti-American propaganda: I got the impression that it was
meant more as Krushschev more personally engaging in the anti-American
propaganda, which would indicate him as being a difficult figure to
negotiate
with (which proved to be true).

Ah, I didn't read it that way, but I can understand it now being true. Although I would venture to say that Kennedy (and/or his predecessor, Nixon) personally engaged in anti-Soviet propaganda. I don't know for certain and can't look it up right now while at work lol...


It's dangerous and possibly detrimental to engage in negotiations at such a high
level with someone who clearly and publicly has a very negative perception of
you and your country. The advice that he was getting indicates at a more gradual
strategy, to improve relations from the bottom up before engaging in such high
level meetings.

Makes sense.


2) I totally agree about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. It's
something that I am pretty embarrassed about my country and have no defense for.

I wouldn't be embarassed, as it is true of the vast majority of nations. The US just happens to be the global superpower so can flaunt it more and is targeted more because of it. Because then it becomes a show of dominance rather than a negotiation. That is true. This hardly sounds like a negotiation at all ... what was the goal of the negotiations? This is something the article glazed over ... There were plenty of things to bring up about Soviet Union hypocrisy, human rights violations, etc...


To be the leader of a country and be lectured by someone else (from another
country) on your own nations policies has a very demeaning effect.

Very true.


So the way I see it is it's a game of a chicken and without very skillful,
delicate, and gradual negotiation will any side back down.

I know this is the way it is, but I don't understand WHY. We all share this planet, we don't have any other, but we are content to rush to its and our mutual destruction in a "game of chicken". Doesn't seem right, and there are alternatives.


I don't know a great deal about the Cold War, but at this time, there were no
satellite states. They were recent results of the collapse of the Soviet Union
when they broke off. I don't think there were any missile bases as close to
Russia as Cuba, but I don't really know too much so if you have some information
on that, feel free.

I'd be interested to research that, and I will, but can't while at work :(


Also, the Cuban missile crisis is pretty widely believed to have been the
closest to an all out nuclear war between the two superpowers.

Yeah, I'm aware of that. There was a great doc with McNamara called "The Fog of War". If you haven't seen it I highly reccommend checking it out.


4) True, the rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and
extremist Islam is different, but in terms of duration not so much. You can date
this back to the 70's under Carter who had to deal with the holding hostage of
the U.S. embassy in Iran. Then, closer to the present, you have the three
bombings previous to 9-11 by Al-Qaeda: the U.S.S. Cole, the embassy in Kenya,
and the truck bombing of the world trade center in the early 90's. So this is a
very long term situation.

Agreed. But duration is a nominal connection to make in this case. The Cold War stand off was the first of its kind (in terms of the mutual potential for widespread - truly global - destruction), and while the US/Extremist Islam could be debatedly as potentially destructive, there is no doubt of that level during the Cold War.


The difference between the two situations, though it does present different
kinds of threats and may require different strategies, doesn't change the nature
of the argument that rushing into high level negotiations, being relatively
inexperienced, couldn't result in a worsening of the situation rather than an
improvement. If Obama proves himself as impotent as it seems Kennedy did, maybe
Iran will increase nuclear weapons research, funding anti-american terrorists.

It is true the nature of the argument stands. I would agree that negotiations between lower level diplomats is necessary before any high level meetings, the table needs to be set, and much preparation on the part of the US president (whether it be McCain or Obama) would be mandatory.


(whether you like the U.S. or not, a lot of their targets/victims are Iraqis in
a strategy to maintain Iraqi instability, and as is clear by the recent
negotiations b/w Iraq and the U.S. if there is stability, we are willing to
fully withdraw)

I'm sorry, but the US is not going to withdraw from Iraq anytime in the near future. They are currently in the process of building an "embassy" in Baghdad - the likes of which have never been seen before. "The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River will be the largest of its kind in the world — the size of Vatican City, or 80 football fields, or six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York — on about 104 acres. With the population of a small town, it is designed to be entirely self-sufficient; it will have its own defense force and self-contained power and water plants. The high-tech compound will have 21 buildings reinforced to 2.5 times usual standards. Some walls as said to be 15 feet thick or more. State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, saying it is indicative of the work facing the United States here. "It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the US government in all forms for several years," he recently told journalists.This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism. "The presence of a massive US embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq."Clearly, the US has no intention of "fully withdrawing" at any point in our lifetime. There are many more articles and essays written on this subject I'd be happy to send along if you so wish...


5) Love letters are awesome!

Indeed! So when are we going to go for some drinks? I'm free all weekend, so let me know. Been having a problem with my front brakes on my motorcycle. The right side brake disc has shifted a quarter-inch or so over and is now rubbing against one of the brake pads. Basically, the front brake is somewhat permanently engaged. Have to get that fixed ...

22.4.09

no offense taken - 22/10/08

From Buck on October 22nd, 2008

No worries, no offense taken. I already knew your thoughts on those particular issues which you mentioned and, in terms of American hypocrisy and nuclear weapons positions, to pretty much all of it I agree. The real point of the article though is inexperience going into negotiations. I'll respond point by point.

1) About the anti-American propaganda: I got the impression that it was meant more as Krushschev more personally engaging in the anti-American propaganda, which would indicate him as being a difficult figure to negotiate with (which proved to be true). Also, you're right to point out that both countries engaged in the negative propaganda, which would mean that Khrushchev shouldn't have engaged in direct negotiations either... unless he felt that he was more experienced and could probably out match the other. It's dangerous and possibly detrimental to engage in negotiations at such a high level with someone who clearly and publicly has a very negative perception of you and your country. The advice that he was getting suggests a more gradual strategy, to improve relations from the bottom up before engaging in such high level meetings.

2) I totally agree about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. It's something that I occasionally feel disappointed in my country over and I can put forward no defense of substance. I see that much is done to advance U.S. economic interests which helps American businesses and the American people. But as a believer in the free market, I believe that we should compete for our economic dominance, for example giving better economic incentives to trade with a latin american country for coffee... rather than use the C.I.A. to incite a revolt in favor of a U.S. friendly government. In the long run, I think this would help U.S. international business as it gives less of a platform for anti-american governments to run on (like many democrats strategies being something along the lines of "well hey, it doesn't really matter what I propose, it couldn't be worse than Bush...") like Chavez for example. Anyway, the main point I get from that quote is not "the hypocrisy of American foreign policy" but "Khrushchev lectured him" because when you go into negotiations you can't get pushed around or "get the hell beat out of" you. Because then it becomes a show of dominance rather than a negotiation. And as the following events showed, poorly held negotiations can result in the furthering and increasing of problems rather than at the very least a stalemate. The lecturing probably would not have occurred in negotiations at a lower level, or at least could not have been used as such powerful leverage because the pushing around of a low level diplomat has a much smaller impact than of those negotations held at the highest level. Kennedy should not have allowed it to become a lecture but rather a back and forth dialogue. There were plenty of things to bring up about Soviet Union hypocrisy, human rights violations, etc... To be the leader of a country and be lectured by someone else (from another country) on your own nations policies has a very demeaning effect.

3) Like I said, I totally agree with you on the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign and nuclear weapon policy. It's a really sad situation and ultimately self-defeating. But the point of this is that this was a negotiation that turned into not only a lecture but a "beating." This goes back to the problem that I said a while back about situations with arms races is that it's a game of chicken where you don't want to stop because you don't know if the other will stop too. For Kennedy to be negotiating, propositions have to at least be put forward and discussed, propositions where, presumably, both sides will have to make sacrifices. Simultaneously, the leaders respectively have to show clout in that if conditions are not met by one side, there will be repercussions. If the negotiator is not only unable to give off that impression but is even unable to put him/herself in a position to give off that impression then there are serious problems. As Kennedy admitted, "I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.” Thus you lose any opportunity to engage in negotiations because 1) the person who is doing the beating will sense a gaining of momentum and will not want to give that up as the situation could prove as vital in gaining ground even for positioning in future negotiations since in this game of chicken, since you can't be sure the other side will slow down if you slow down you need to take advantage of any opportunity to get ahead and 2) because perceived influence in enforcing agreements declines so why not try and win the arms race by out-gunning the other if it seems like you can. That's what the U.S. eventually did, and even though in terms of the world it's not preferable, we did end up as the only superpower. So the way I see it is it's a game of a chicken and without very skillful, delicate, and gradual negotiation will any side back down. I don't know a great deal about the Cold War, but at this time, there were no satellite states. They were recent results of the collapse of the Soviet Union when they broke off. I don't think there were any missile bases as close to Russia as Cuba, but I don't really know too much so if you have some information on that, feel free. Also, the Cuban missile crisis is pretty widely believed to have been the closest to an all out nuclear war between the two superpowers. It was a situation very similar to in Watchman, a sort of first strike scenario, where the U.S. thinks the Russians could fire so we should fire first and vice versa. The point the article was making is that this was almost a direct result of the disaster of a negotiation session, not so much: well it doesn't matter if we have nuclear weapons or not but you're not allowed. Poor negotiating can lead to things coming to a head much more quickly rather than improving things or a continuation of a stalemate. It would be a totally different article to focus on the rights of nations to have nukes, thus the author wouldn't want to focus on that. I actually didn't get much of an impression that the author favored one side or the other. It seemed pretty unbiased in describing the lack of judgement in rushing into high-level negotiations.

4) True, the rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and extremist Islam is different, but in terms of duration not so much. You can date this back to the 70's under Carter who had to deal with the holding hostage of the U.S. embassy in Iran. Then, closer to the present, you have the three bombings previous to 9-11 by Al-Qaeda: the U.S.S. Cole, the embassy in Kenya, and the truck bombing of the world trade center in the early 90's. So this is a very long term situation. Iran, Pakistan, Al Qaeda, etc... may not have the all out fire power that the Soviets had and that does change the nature of the conflict. There won't be the kind of Cold War style stand off but that doesn't mean there aren't serious threats. The difference between the two situations, though it does present different kinds of threats and may require different strategies, doesn't change the nature of the argument that rushing into high level negotiations, being relatively inexperienced, couldn't result in a worsening of the situation rather than an improvement. If Obama proves himself as impotent as it seems Kennedy did, maybe Iran will increase nuclear weapons research, funding anti-american terrorists (whether you like the U.S. or not, a lot of their targets/victims are Iraqis in a strategy to maintain Iraqi instability, and as is clear by the recent negotiations b/w Iraq and the U.S. if there is stability, we are willing to fully withdraw), etc... It's a lesson on being prudent, and that making hasty decisions, whether they are well intentioned or not, can have detrimental effects.

5) Love letters are awesome!

16.4.09

Kennedy talked, Khruschev triumphed - 21/10/08

From Buck on October 21st, 2008

Kennedy Talked, Khruschev Triumphed - NYTimes Oped.


From Brent on October 22nd, 2008

Part of my argument that our priorities are skewered. I would like to see the average/median salaries of our politicians...
Funny, but very very sad.


From Buck on October 22nd, 2008

Haha, that is funny.


From Brent on October 22nd, 2008


Hmm.

I don't want to offend you in rebuttal of that article, so I'm forewarning you that:
a) the arguments I present are not necessarily my own, but rather are for the purpose of debate, and
b) you are probably going to take offense to what follows, but I assure you it is unintentional.

"Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda..."


Both sides "engaged" in propaganda aimed at their adversaries, so this argument is irrelevant.

"...as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, ..."

As he should. American foreign policy is notoriously hypocritical. Since the days it was founded and right up to today, it is and always has been a self serving policy disguised as a selfless one. I have no problem with people looking out for themselves, just don't tell me your doing something for my benefit, then rape me for your own gain, and then continue saying you are helping. And I am aware why they have to present it that way, otherwise their own population (hopefully) would resist such blatant aggression. But I digress ...

"Khrushchev's aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed "very inexperienced, even immature." Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was "too intelligent and too weak." The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.

Kennedy's assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the "roughest thing in my life." Kennedy went on: "He just beat the hell out of me. I've got a terrible problem if he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won't get anywhere with him."


So what I am understanding here is that Kennedy sucked as a diplomat (at least in comparison to Krushchev) and that because of this the Soviet leader started testing the limits of the Kennedy administration, by building the Berlin Wall and putting nuclear missiles in Cuba.


The flip side to this is that the US had plenty of nuclear missiles dispersed throughout the globe, if not under their own control then under satellite states, that were very close to Russia. Of course, no mention of this in the article. It's dangerous if the enemy moves near us, but it is necessary for us to be near them.

Also, the Soviet Union was a rival for global super power at the time, and it would be ridiculous to even compare Iran or Pakistan, or any Middle Eastern country for that matter, to the USSR. No comparison. And the US /USSR rivalry had been on going for a couple decades at this point and both sides were hardened.

And Pam just asked if I was writing you a love note.

To which I said, "Hells yeah."

15.4.09

interesting poll - 21/10/08

From Buck on October 21st, 2008

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10/21/poll-troops-support-mccain/


From Brent on October 21st, 2008

Haven't read all of the article but it is an interesting poll. I think it demonstrates the racial polarization of the American military - a very scary thought. Also, the poll was taken before the debates - I'd be interested to hear the results of a poll now, although I don't think they'd be drastically different.
Also, polls are irrelevant.

lol!

And the poll was before Powell endorsed Obama.


From Buck on October 21st, 2008

True, all polls are irrelevant but some may be less irrelevant than others, and I say this one is less so than the international opinion polls, seeing as how the troops have much more invested in the outcome of this election.

The reasons polls are irrelevant is because their meaning simply depends on how you interpret them. That poll could show racial polarization because black people are going to tend to vote for Obama because he's black, or it could show that whites don't want to vote for the black guy. It also could just show that blacks tend to vote democrat (which they do). I think though that people in the military would be less inclined to vote for reasons of race because of their lives literally being at stake. Maybe they are more for McCain because they realize that with a son in Iraq and another son in the Navy, and with personal experience in combat (and being tortured) he will make prudent decisions with regard to foreign policy, particularly involving the military. Anyway, didn't quite get the racial thing except maybe blacks generally being for Obama as in civilian polls, but you are right about Colin Powell maybe having some influence, don't know about after the debates though because people have seemed to generally agree, neither did really spectacularly well. Anyway, just thought I'd throw a poll of my own at ya!

14.4.09

mccain/obama comedy dinner! - 17/10/08

From Buck on October 17th, 2008



From Brent on October 17th, 2008

Lol, I gotta watch that dinner!
I'll get back to the emails you sent me over the weekend, including the global polls thingy.

13.4.09

obama's tax-plan disaster - 15/10/08

From Buck on October 15th, 2008

And just to even it out...

Didn't necessarily mean to get the politics emails going again but this is too disturbing to skip.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OGExY2UzNjQ5YjAyNWUzZmI2MDQyNmU4MmU2NGI3ZDg=


From Brent on October 17th, 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/17/uselections2008-barackobama1

What did you think of the debates? And I haven't got around to reading your links yet or posting my trip on rubberontheroad, been really busy past two nights. this weekend will be nice for catching up on that sort of thing.


From Buck on October 17th, 2008

Eh, that world opinion stuff is irrelevant, you haven't addressed my points on that yet.

Didn't get a chance to watch the whole debate cause I've been pretty busy with work. I watched certain parts, highlights and what not, looked pretty good. Definitely the best one and I think McCain did quite well from what I saw and heard.

10.4.09

9.4.09

those crazy latin commies - 11/10/08

From Buck on October 11th, 2008

In response to those crazy latin commies ; )

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YzZkN2YxMzVlZTBhOTNiMTBlODBhNDlkNGU4NmIwNTY=

And this is from a larger essay on the financial crisis. Gives a bit of an idea of what's at stake with having a far left president and far left congress:

Finally, on top of the survey in uncertainty and collapse in credit we also have the specter of a damaging political response. One of the major factors compounding the Great Depression was that politicians moved to hinder free trade and encourage anti-competitive practices. The infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was introduced by desperate US policymakers as a way of blocking imports to protect domestic jobs, but helped worsen the recession by freezing world trade. At the same time policymakers were encouraging firms to collude to keep prices up and encouraging workers to unionize to protect wages, exacerbating the situation by strangling free markets. The current backlash against capitalism could lead to a repeat, with politicians swinging towards the left away from free-markets. This happened after the Great Depression, it happened after the major recession of 1974/75 and I think it will happen again now. This will lock in the short-run economic damage from the current credit crunch into longer run systematic damage from anti-growth policies.

This is a bit of an old article, but still kind of applies. Scary to think that had Obama been president starting in January 2008 or 2007, there could very likely be the next depression by now (this links into the above quote):


No rush to respond though, just enjoy the weather and the ride and happy (Canadian) thanksgiving!

3.4.09

this whole apocalyptic kind of lecturing - 10/10/2008


From Brent on October 10th, 2008:

Ok, before I finish reading this and respond to everything else (you've gotten a bit ahead of me here!) you need to read this so that you will believe what I've said with regard to Hamas' constitution: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/17738.htm

I did believe you, I don't think I ever said that I don't...
C'mon, this is so one sided! This is against the founding principle of our party, the thing that the two of us are in total agreement, there are two sides to a story, and usually, both sides are to blame.
I don't send this stuff to you to try and say, "this is the way it is" ... I send it along to you to hear your opinion and take on it. You should feel proud that I'm asking you to respond to such material, as I really take your opinion seriously.

I don't know too much about the Palestine/Israel conflict either (this is why I'm exploring it), but I should mention that Chomsky is Jewish himself, and grew up in a "somewhat Jewish ghetto" in Philadelphia.

Have more to write but must leave office now. Talk to ya later!


From Buck on October 10th, 2008:

Haha, well I guess I came off a bit more aggressive then I intended. You know us crazy neo-cons!

What I remember was you in response to me saying that Hamas had in their constitution that Israel needed to be wiped off the face of the planet and that Israel was willing to withdraw settlements if they would take that part out. Then what I remember you said (and there's a very good chance I might be wrong, or just misunderstood) was that it was ridiculous that someone could say that, or that it was a ridiculous notion, who would say that? Something along those lines. But anyway, you can see from that link what's playing a big part in mucking up the peace making process. Actually, there has been a lot of ground made up in deals with Fatah, the other major Palestinian political group, but they're the ones that got kicked out when Hamas won, so that doesn't matter much.

So yeah, and with the founding principle of the party stuff, guess I came across too strong with that one. I think on the one hand, I was a little resentful of Chomsky, this intellectual guy who was saying everything that's wrong with the world with such authority and superiority, stating things so matter of factly and yet missing crucial parts of the stories. So I was more trying to explain what I take issue with Professor Chomsky on rather than with you. I don't know if I'm really explaining myself well, I don't know quite how to explain it. But it's just this whole apocalyptic kind of lecturing as he looks down on the human race without any practical solutions of his own, only saying "well this is all we have to do, the U.S. has to admit how evil they are, forget about making money and the world will be saved." but of course all you learn in economics is how the environment doesn't matter as long as we're all making money... haha there I go again. So yeah, sorry if i came off like that, I am proud that you want to hear my response and I definitely know that you don't send stuff saying "this is the way it is." I'm a big fan of these kinds of conversations, as you know

I look forward to your full response!

2.4.09

getting more disillusioned with chomsky - 10/10/08

From Buck on October 10th, 2008:

I gotta say, I'm getting more and more disillusioned with Noam Chomsky. So much of what he says seems so one sided. It would take a very big time commitment for me to research the whole Israel/Palestine issue, including, like I said in the previous e-mail, to simply find out more on the history of "palestine" which is more specifically a name for a general area in the middle east, literally. It seems to me the more apocalyptic image he can create and horrific situations he can describe the more he'll be believed because he's an MIT professor. There's a lot to be said about this strategy, sometimes you need to exaggerate a situation to get the necessary amount of attention in order to help form a solution, sort of over shoot things in the hopes of reaching a middle ground. However, at least in my eyes, he's losing some credibility. Like I said, I'd need A LOT of time to look into the history of the Israel/Palestine issue, but what I am aware of is that Israel did agree to grant Palestine sovereignty if Hamas took out those sections of their constitution, they refused. I also know that Israel started evacuating the settlements which constitute a significant point of contention within this conflict, not to mention that Hamas has recently fired rockets at an Israeli school. Chomsky says Israel uses the West Bank as target practice, and doesn't mention that Palestine does the same thing. C'mon, this is so one sided! This is against the founding principle of our party, the thing that the two of us are in total agreement, there are two sides to a story, and usually, both sides are to blame. Chomsky, in his role as one of the most influential intellectuals in the world, should make it a priority to tell the whole story. Given his status in the academic word, the simple act of ommision communicates a tremondous amount. The impression I got from this excerpt is that the state of Israel should be dissolved (not to say that that's what he believes, but that is the honest impression I got from the language he was using).

On to the next thing:
That is fair, but I did say that this was a superficial point and that I didn't agree with it for those reasons. I don't think either candidate will bring about any major change, but the appearance to the rest of the world of a democrat of mixed race as president after 8 years of bush comes as no surprise to be popular. Its too bad for McCain because the deck is already stacked against him, just being an old, white, republican following eight years of the very unpopular Bush.

The point I was trying to make about this, wasn't quite that it's a superficial reason to vote for him but that the opinion polls themselves and peoples reasons for saying he would be better for the U.S. or that they would vote for Obama are superficial. What I mean by this is that there does not seem to be any legitimate, solid foundation for why the international world would prefer Obama (other than "he said..."). The initial boost to U.S. favorability as a result of Americans voting for a black man would wear off after a few months and return back to regular levels. The same would happen after any drop as a result of McCain winning because again peoples reasons for not wanting him are purely superficial. So when faced with the reality of McCain and his pro-green environmental policies, favoring diplomacy, better leadership for the economy, the drop would be offset and return back to regular levels, and most likely better than Bush. What it seems like you think I meant by it being superficial is the same way people would vote Liberal in Canada just so Conservatives won't be in power, sort of like that's not a good reason to vote for a guy just because people have irrational desires to have Obama as next president of the U.S. But the reason i think it's superficial is because beyond possibly 6 months it won't really be any more of a boost to international opinion than McCain winning.

And third, the Space race.

A few things I take issue on with the Chomsky quote. First of all, he says:

"Nobody really believes that the US is trying to protect itself from North Korea. That's not serious"

Well I agree that that's not the reason we're developing our space program, but to dismiss N. Korea so easily is almost just as foolish. They have spent time working on missiles that could reach the western U.S., Hawaii and the coastal areas. That is pretty serious, and should not be so easily dismissed. Next, is his comparison to the development of Navy technology, which is an extremely good example:

You know, the development of space technology, including space warfare today, is similar in its technological-industrial significance to the development of navies a hundred years ago. If you look at say, England and Germany a century ago, which had the most advanced navies then, they were dealing with extremely tricky technological problems. Putting a huge gun on a moving platform and ensuring that it could hit another moving target was one of the hardest technical problems of the early twentieth century.

In fact, Clinton-era publications of the US Space Command describe control over space as a parallel to control over the oceans a century ago. Then, countries built navies to protect and enhance their power in commercial and strategic interests. Today, the militarization of space is intended to protect US investments and commercial interest and US hegemony around the world.

So what is Chomsky saying here? What I can gather is that since he believes the U.S. should abandon its ambitions for space and he is making this comparison, then he similarly believes England, which is the closest parallel to the U.S. today, should have abandoned their naval ambitions. Seriously? Do you think that would've been a good idea? Do you think the Germans would have abandoned their naval development if England did? Aside from the civilian benefits that come from military research, this is a ridiculous idea. It would have been terrible for England to stop developing their navy, and silly to think that Germany would have stopped if England did. In fact the best proof of this is the exact example that Chomsky himself uses about the U.S. and the militarization of space:

We're looking at the dawn of a new arms race. For example, Germany technically opposes the US space militarization program, but is bound to get involved. Otherwise it will be left behind in the development of advanced technology. Germany understands that very well. The US understands it too, and they fully expect that Germany and other countries that they want on board will go along with the program. The Bush Administration recognizes that US power is so overwhelming that it can't really be opposed, even if countries object to US actions.

So in the case of Germany, they would've been happy to continue developing their navy, including their devastating U-boats used during WWII, if England had stopped. It just means that they get a bit of time to get ahead while England watches on, until they realize they might as well hop on the bandwagon. That brings me to my third point, that none of this addressed what I said about China, that China would be happy to continue their space research even if the U.S. were to stop theirs. They don't pursue militarizing space just to make sure they keep up with the U.S. They also do it because there is a strong Chinese belief that not only should they keep up with the West but also that China is the center of everything and the most important, and they have the right to supremacy, see their central belief of "The Mandate of Heaven" which parallels very nicely to "Manifest Destiny." Again, all you have to do is look at their treatment of Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong. They believe they have every right in the world to those sovereign states, they historically "belong" to China, and so it is one of their central goals to bring that forward.

Finally, there's this point:

"Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market."

This is another example of Chomsky looking at only one part of the picture, and the more apocalyptic he sounds the more authority he seems to have, because why would you exaggerate the "destruction of the species"? What Chomsky failed to mention here is that what we're also taught in economics are theories of externalities and the "tragedy of the commons." Basically they outline how to deal with the environment etc... that we actually are better off, from an economics perspective, caring for the environment etc... and not exhausting resources and all this. I'm in a bit of a rush right now, but I can write more about it in another e-mail if you want.

Anyway, you're up!

p.s. How beautiful has the weather been/going to be this weekend?? It's awesome, definitely wanna go for some motorcycle rides... stupid homework...

1.4.09

a serious threat to not only a nations right to exist but a peoples - 10/10/2008

From Buck on October 10th, 2008:

Ok, before I finish reading this and respond to everything else (you've gotten a bit ahead of me here!) you need to read this so that you will believe what I've said with regard to Hamas' constitution: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/17738.htm

In particular:

"Religious hatred of Jews (not only of Israel) is expressed by a hadith or 'saying' that concludes Article 7: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews) when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say: O Muslims (.) there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. "Only the gharkad tree [evidently a certain kind of tree] would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."

And also:

"Article 28 widens the circle of hate to include all Jews: "Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people: 'May the cowards never sleep.'" The Charter in its preface quotes Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, as saying: "Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

So yeah, there is a serious threat to not only a nations right to exist but a peoples. It's not a joke. In addition this group among others, including the president of Iran, question the validity of accounts of the Holocausts. This is seriously scary shit, especially as a Jew. The fact that being in another country I genuinely have to be afraid for my life were I to say that I'm a Jew, the fact that planes in and out of Israel can only fly in one direction no matter which part of the world you're going to because all of their neighbors hate them. There are 1 million Muslim Arabs that live in Israel and in Palestine there are radio shows that proclaim that the the Jewish race is like a virus on the planet equivalent to HIV.

This is not to say that one side is more innocent of violations of human rights, but you can see in their constitution ... Israel wants to take over a territory from people (people that have never actually been formed into a country, you should read over their history. Currently, even their government is split, with two separate leaders recognized, and two parties fighting each other) and Hamas wants to eliminate a race of people from the face of the earth.

Now, I'll go finish the rest of what you sent me, and respond to the other stuff.

31.3.09

we are witnessing the death of a nation - 10/10/08

From Brent on October 10th, 2008:

Lol, this made me chuckle: "Latin leftists gloating over 'Comrade' Bush's bailout"

And something else from Chomsky that is anti-Obama, concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. Note I am transcribing this from a lecture of his ...
"
We are witnessing the death of a nation, something that doesn't happen very often, called 'politicide' ... What does Obama have to say about this? ... You can look at his website and you'll find this: "Our first and incontrovertible commitment in the middle east must be to the security of Israel, which is America's strongest ally in the middle east." Well there is a security problem, namely for the Palestinians. The question for them is survival and it isn't clear that they will survive. But there is nothing here about our commitment to security for the Palestinians, and for good reasons. They at most could be a weak ally of the USA, and there is a general operative principal that human rights are essentially determined by your contributions to power, privilege, and ideological needs, and Israel makes major contributions, so therefore they have rights, and Palestinians make no contributions, maybe even a negative contribution by their existence, so they have no rights. And Obama is quite clear about that.
Obama also tells you on his website that he favors increases in foreign aid, and gives his reason: "To ensure that funding priorities to Israel are met, military and economic, so for that reason we have to increase foreign aid. Also, Israels right to exist as a Jewish state must never be challenged." As far as I can tell, he's not on record saying that the existence of any country as a white state, or christian state, or muslim state, must never be challenged. You can check and see. But in the case of Israel, yes, it has to be. Can't be challenged.
Furthermore, we can't recognize Hamas, he says, which is correct. It is logically impossible for the USA to recognize Hamas, it would be like Germany recognizing the Democratic Party. It's a party, you can't recognize it. So we won't recognize the elected government in Palestine, which happens to be led by Hamas. And that makes sense on the basis of our conceptions of democracy, in fact it is very illustrative of them.
Palestinians voted the wrong way in a free election, therefore they have to be punished. That is so obvious that you can't even find a comment about it in the free press or anywhere else, cause it's obvious. You vote the wrong way in a free election you must be punished, that's democracy ...
It's totally irrelevant that Hamas has repeatedly called for a peaceful two state settlement of the Israel/Palestine problem, in accord with the overwhelming international consensus, which is barred and opposed only by the United States and Israel... Washington and Israel oppose it, therefore it doesn't matter if Hamas supports it along with everyone else ...
Where does this leave us with regard to the Palestinians? We have two possibilities: one is that the USA will join the international consensus, and Israel will go along with it, as it has no choice. Meaning the USA will accept a two state settlement on the international border, a position the USA has unilaterally blocked for 30 years, with very rare and brief exceptions, and Israel as well.
The other possibility is that the USA and Israel will continue doing what they are doing, right before your eyes, a policy that the Prime Minister of Israel called 'convergence' to rousing applause in the United States... meaning Gaza is turned into a prison where the people can rot, Israel can use it for target practice. As far as the West Bank is concerned Israel will annex everything inside the so called separation wall, which should be called the annexation wall, it's no longer in doubt, which includes valuable land and resources... All of this is totally illegal, there is an authoritative opinion in the world court, unanimous, including the US justice in a separate declaration, that any settlement in the West Bank is illegal in violation of International Law. No disagreement about this in the world, except the Israel High Court, and some people here, so it's all illegal... but that doesn't matter, the government supports it so it doesn't matter ...
"

30.3.09

the dawn of a new arms race - 09/10/08


From Brent on October 9th, 2008:


Even you, as a Canadian that is extremely interested in american politics, wasn't aware of Obama's blatant refusal to have any kind of debates or town hall meetings prior to the conventions, or McCain's desire for Nuclear disarmament, and I don't think you knew much about McCain's green ambitions either (McCain-Lieberman for cap and trade). So how straightforward really is the significance of the foreign polls, when people are so ill-informed.

That is fair, but I did say that this was a superficial point and that I didn't agree with it for those reasons. I don't think either candidate will bring about any major change, but the appearance to the rest of the world of a democrat of mixed race as president after 8 years of bush comes as no surprise to be popular. It's too bad for McCain because the deck is already stacked against him, just being an old, white, republican following eight years of the very unpopular Bush.

Now, regarding the space race. I'm sending the following quote from an interview with Noam Chomsky:

"
Noam Chomsky:

Take what's called the Missile Defense Program, which I think is mislabeled. It's actually a "militarization of space" program. The missile defense component is a minor feature that nobody takes very seriously. Nobody really believes that the US is trying to protect itself from North Korea. That's not serious. But the militarization of space is quite serious. Like a lot of Bush's policies, this one goes back to the Clinton period, but it's being enhanced. We are looking at the extension of military force from armies, to navies, to the air and now to outer space. You know, the development of space technology, including space warfare today, is similar in its technological-industrial significance to the development of navies a hundred years ago. If you look at say, England and Germany a century ago, which had the most advanced navies then, they were dealing with extremely tricky technological problems. Putting a huge gun on a moving platform and ensuring that it could hit another moving target was one of the hardest technical problems of the early twentieth century.

In fact, Clinton-era publications of the US Space Command describe control over space as a parallel to control over the oceans a century ago. Then, countries built navies to protect and enhance their power in commercial and strategic interests. Today, the militarization of space is intended to protect US investments and commercial interest and US hegemony around the world.

MADRE:

It's well known that the militarization of space is both extremely hazardous and easily avoidable. It would be possible to terminate it right now, before it even begins. Why isn't this happening?

Noam Chomsky:

We're looking at the dawn of a new arms race. For example, Germany technically opposes the US space militarization program, but is bound to get involved. Otherwise it will be left behind in the development of advanced technology. Germany understands that very well. The US understands it too, and they fully expect that Germany and other countries that they want on board will go along with the program. The Bush Administration recognizes that US power is so overwhelming that it can't really be opposed, even if countries object to US actions.

In fact, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans militarization. Potential adversaries of the US, and even its allies, are so far behind that these countries are very interested in maintaining the treaty. Europe and the rest of the world want a strong reaffirmation of the Treaty and the US is unilaterally trying to derail it. Termination of the treaty would mean that the US could develop satellite weapons, put offensive weapons in space. It would probably mean using nuclear power in space. All of this leads to some very dangerous scenarios, including destruction of the species.

MADRE:

The Outer Space Treaty is one of many international agreements that the Bush Administration has violated or terminated. What's the logic behind this trend?

Noam Chomsky:

It's actually quite rational. Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic.

Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational. Because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational.

"

To you, sir.

29.3.09

an incredibly optimistic view of the world - 9/10/08

From Buck on October 9th, 2008


So first off, I think it's an incredibly optimistic view of the world to think that China is only going after the weaponization of space in reaction to the U.S. Granted that is part of it, but I can tell you from my experience with China, the Chinese, and studying its people and culture (especially in modern times), there is a very good chance, almost guaranteed, that China would pursue it regardless. China is extremely nationalistic and has had a kind of inferiority complex ever since about the mid 19th century as a result of the west not only having surpassed them technologically and economically but also having effectively colonizing. Ever since, there's a very strong effort to define what is China and to ensure that what is China is the best or among the best in the world. You can see this with Tibet, the huge exhibitions of pride when they gained control of Hong Kong, their relations and threats toward Taiwan, their total disregard for the environment (another kind of Chicken race), and the whole mind set of their olympic games. And that's where the game of chicken comes in. The U.S. is not willing to take the risk that China will end their space race if they do it first.

As for the polls, it's true that the poll is straight forward but I would argue that its significance is not so much. First, like I said I believe that those opinion polls would only be reflected within the first few months after the election, if Obama were to win it would jump initially with McCain it would drop or stay flat. Then it would come back to an equilibrium, because as we seem to agree, there seems to be little actual difference between the two in terms of actual policy which is what ultimately will have the largest impact on opinion. Also it seems that there is a general optimism about both candidates, and for myself I'm pretty happy with the choices we have (at least with regard to foreign policy and world opinion). The real way to see how they would affect international opinion in the long run is to see their record in foreign policy. McCain has a very strong record, he's had good associations with foreign leaders for example, and is generally seen in a favorable light. He is also in favor of diplomatic strategies and would like to begin pulling out of Iraq because of the stabilization that has been happening there, not to mention what I said about his nuclear policy.

Second, in terms of the international polls, I think it's a really bad idea to base a decision based on those polls. Like I said there are other things that would determine long term public opinion. Second, as much as the international community may have invested in this election, the U.S. and American citizens have much much more. For example and most importantly at the moment, the economy, which I think Obama would not be very good for. It is especially not a good idea to be looking at international (particularly european) choices in this election just by looking at the point they're in. They're financial situation and political situation is a mess, a complete mess. Nobody knows what to do or is putting forward any ideas. There was a big summit called yesterday I believe, and Germany, the biggest economy in the EU didn't even show up! Not only that, but you have to look at what effects public opinion. The U.S. itself has a generally very left leaning media not to mention an entire entertainment industry that literally is in love with Obama. A good example to see how controlled the information is, I had a friend in San Diego that had just spent 4 months in Europe, and you know she said that most Europeans she met thought the election for president was between Obama and Clinton?? Even you, as a Canadian that is extremely interested in american politics, wasn't aware of Obama's blatant refusal to have any kind of debates or town hall meetings prior to the conventions, or McCain's desire for Nuclear disarmament, and I don't think you knew much about McCain's green ambitions either (McCain-Lieberman for cap and trade). So how straightforward really is the significance of the foreign polls, when people are so ill-informed?

Now I'm slacking from lunch! I'm starving and gotta head off to work soon. Stayed up til 5:30 last night too writing a paper, jeesh. But political e-mail debates always come first!

27.3.09

the weaponization of space: the U.S. and China - 9/10/08

From Brent on October 9th, 2008


Polls are a funny thing. They can be manipulated to serve a specific purpose as
well as the meaning of the results skewed accordingly.

Granted. But surely not all polls are so biased, especially when the question is as simple as: "Who is your prefered candidate in the US Presidential Election?"

Of 22 countries polled, the overwhelming answer (4 to 1) was Obama. The options given were: Obama, McCain, Either/Neither/No Difference, Other, and Don't Know. Again, relating this to what I said yesterday, this doesn't ask who would bring the best change but re-affirms my argument that he would be best to improve global relations.

Actually, that was also one of the questions: "The poll also explored the expected impact of the US election. In 17 of the 22 countries surveyed the most common view is that, if Barack Obama is elected president, America's relations with the rest of the world are likely to get better. ... On average 46 per cent think that US relations with the world would get better with Obama, 22 per cent that relations would stay the same, and 7 per cent that they would get worse. However only 20 per cent think relations would get better under McCain. The largest number - 37 per cent - think relations under a McCain presidency would stay the same and 16 per cent think they would get worse." http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/views_on_countriesregions_bt/533.php?lb=brglm&pnt=533&nid=&id=

Also did you know that McCain has supported dismantling our nuclear arsenal. Getting rid of em all in like 10 years (can't remember exactly what it was).

I was unaware that McCain had that policy. I'll look it up!

The trouble with the space race and nukes is it's like a game of chicken where
both sides would disarm but no one wants to risk being the first. Anyway, I
better get back to class!

I can understand that argument regarding nuclear weapons, but don't think it applies to the space race. With little currently in place, it is hard trying to argue that one wouldn't want to be first to disarm. Currently, the US is investing the most in the weaponization of space. This will CREATE an arms race, for other powers' fears of being targeted. Thus the Chinese test to blow an orbiting satellite out of space... Just my lefty input!

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-12/05/content_6298849.htm