Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ignorant or Malicious

I think the organizers are mostly the latter, and the attendees are mostly the former.
It is funny though that many conservatives are saying that Muslims should not build a mosque anywhere near ground zero out of sensitivity for the victims of 9/11 families.  There is an obvious parallel to this rally in the pre-civil rights oppression of African Americans, incidentally by a cohort of Americans then that is remarkably similar to the average tea party protester today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

I love Ron Paul.  His recent rant about the demagogery surrounding the NYC mosque is a classic piece.
Money quotes: 
"The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer."
"Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses."
"It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don't want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty."
Ron Paul was and is the only true conservative of the Republican Party.  All of these other fools...Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and the like, are frauds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Super interesting article about a Chinese Lt General

Democracy is the most powerful weapon:
I personally think China will surely democratize smoothly in the next few decades.  There really won't be a defining moment; it will be a gradual process.  The Chinese authoritarian state is/will gradually morph(ing) into a one-party state with increasingly full civil liberties.  Eventually it will look like Japan for the last 40 years, where the dominant political party held control but politicians competed for control of that party.  Opposition parties may compete, but will generally do poorly.  Finally one day, an opposition party will win an election, but hardly anyone will notice, as happened in Japan last year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the mosque "at ground zero"

Sam Harris is not OK with the mosque because he believes that Islam is unlike other religions and that previous Western liberal tolerance towards Islam betrayed weakness.

I disagree with him on several counts. The first is the issue of Islam being a violent religion in passage. That, it undeniably is. There are quotes in the Koran that invoke violence. But at the end of the day - what does that prove? Nothing, really. There are violent sections of the Christian bible. And furthermore, people do not need religion to make them evil - they can do that on their own. They also don't necessarily become evil because of religion. In other words, even though Islam does advocate violent action in certain parts, it does not follow that Muslims are destined to become violent. No doubt someday they will mostly come to ignore their religious tenants just like we have here in the West.

The most important point of disagreement is the context of our tolerance. There is a fundamental difference between European tolerance and American tolerance of Islam. Europeans were tolerant from a position of Muslims on that continent not being well integrated into the society at all, an extremely anemic European growth rate, and a very robust Muslim birth rate from a relatively high starting base population. In other words, Europeans are tolerant of Islam out of weakness.

In the United States, we can be tolerant of Islam for different reasons - we can be tolerant because of our strength. We do not have to fear Islam because we know that it poses no threat to America. Why? Well for starters, American Muslims are far more integrated than European ones. This is a testament to our melting pot society, which has an almost limitless capacity to absorb and welcome newcomers. Muslims succeed in America, and they feel welcome in America. Furthermore, they represent a very tiny proportion of the population, barely 1%.

Americans should not worry about the mosque near ground zero because we are strong enough such that we don't need to. Allowing the mosque reflects our confidence and strength, even though a similar situation in Europe might have reflected weakness. This partially explains the European tendency lately to overreact in bits of anti-Islamic hysteria (the Swiss, the French); they are compensating! Nobody in the world will question that our allowing the mosque is from a position of strength - except maybe all of the unpatriotic Americans who are expressing their vote of no confidence in their country by whining about this issue.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bombing Iran

"Netanyahu’s belief is that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone; it is the world’s problem, and the world, led by the United States, is duty-bound to grapple with it."

This is a quote from Jeffery Goldberg's recent comment in The Atlantic. I will admit that the Iranian Republic of seven years ago is different from the one of today. Then, there was a widespread distribution of power among clergy, the religious assembly, the Supreme Leader, Ahmadinejad, and the Revolutionary Guards. Now the more moderate clergy has been sidelined, and the more extremist Revolutionary Guards and their leader Ahmadinejad have consolidated power.

The nation looks more like a police state / dictatorship than it did seven years ago. I absolutely hate WW2 analogies, but I actually think it is appropriate here: Iran now looks like Germany in 1932, where the brownshirts and the SS were on the brink of a major consolidation of power within the nation. So too may the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Ahmadinejad be poised.

Any time power gets more concentrated, it is unstable, and more dangerous - especially when the people in whose hands it is concentrated have apocalyptic religious beliefs, and thus are likely irrational and hard to deter. So before having finished the article, I will say that the thought of a military solution to this problem does not turn me off nearly as much as it did previously.

If I was Obama, what would I do? I would tell the Israelis flat out that settlements in the West Bank stop TODAY if they want our military / diplomatic support in a year from now if things get a bit hazy. If we have to go to war, we have to go to war. The world has to know that we at least did everything possible to prevent that eventuality, which Obama has virtually done, save successfully restrain Israeli provocation in the West Bank.

The chicken or the egg?

Actually, I am pretty sure that scientists recently figured out which came first.  Anyway, I sometimes wonder:  are Americans short sighted, gullible, and stupid because this is the dismal state of our national media?  Or is our vapid and useless media just catering to a hopeless audience?  I mean, Fox News for example certainly did not invent stupid, it just profits from it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chinese docs and patients

I did a month long surgery rotation in China in April.  When I came back, I told people (friends, family, docs) that American surgeons have it lucky:  if the patient does not do well, the worst that could happen is we get sued.  In China, you get sued and you get beat up by the patient's family.
I don't think people believed me when I told them this, or maybe thought I was exaggerating.  I'd tell them that if a patient had a bad outcome, the docs in some places would wear a helmet to work the next day.  And I'd get this look like "Nick, you're full of it."
Quote from a recent NYT article.  "In 2006, patients or their relatives attacked more than 5,500 medical workers, reflecting wide discontent with China's public health care system."
See?  I wasn't exaggerating.  American doctors have it great.  Our patients generally respect us.  They only sue us 5% of the times when they could.  And, they don't beat us up when things don't go well.

quote of the month

"There's still this notion that we should build big roads everywhere because the car represents personal freedom. Well, that's bullshit. The truth is that most people are prisoners of their cars."
This comes from a great article about traffic and road congestion, and the future of American urban planning.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Barack Obama is a better man than I

Apparently he has initiated regular face-to-face meetings with senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

It would have been really difficult for me to do this sort of thing given the extremely low opinion I have of McConnell in particular. But this sort of action is really the thing that Obama promised for his presidency. "Change" was never about being liberal or moving the country to the left. That had been done before. It was about consensus seeking and bipartisanship. Just because the Republicans have downright refused to play government thus far does not make Obama a less bipartisan politician.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Gay marriage

Many people agree:  government is too big, it shouldn't be involved in private affairs, and individuals should be free to live as they wish so long as it doesn't harm others.

Many of those same people would however disagree that the government shouldnt be involved in private affairs vis a vis marriage.

I guess they think gay marriage will harm others?  Id be interested to hear an argument for that position that couldn't be extended to outlaw all sorts of "amoral" behavior, thus destroying the separation of church and state and turning America into a theocracy.

And then of course many of these same advocates of private freedom of government intervention might also oppose homosexual military service, again because I somehow should believe that gay military service harms others.  Even though every other western nation allows it, including Israel.

Everyone likes big government when it suits them, I guess.

Monday, August 02, 2010


My rule of thumb is that more access to more information by more people is always a good thing. And even in the case of Wikileaks, it is a good thing. If the war in Afghanistan is going so poorly that we have to lie to the American people about it, maybe we should reconsider how or whether to fight it. Anyway, I think that nation-building in Afghanistan is, while perhaps an exercise in futility, not a grave threat to world peace. I would think Wikileaks could really do a much better job at promoting world peace if it figured out a way to get information to citizens in countries like North Korea, Iran, and other places with tons of censorship. More information to more people = better, after all, and Americans already know Afghanistan is not going well.