2016-12-07

Michael Totten on PRC and Taiwan

My friend Michael J. Totten has a new piece on Red China and the Republic of China:

'I’d love to see the United States recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation as long as the Pacific Rim doesn’t blow up. For one thing, Taiwan is a sovereign nation whether or not Beijing and Washington say so. It has its own democratically elected government and its own institutions. It makes its own domestic, foreign and trade policies with zero input from the Chinese Communist Party. Its citizens have their own passports with "Republic of China" written across the top. Recognizing these facts is just an acknowledgement of reality. Ari Fleischer might not have been allowed to refer to the government of Taiwan, but those of us who don’t work for the government are free to recognize, talk about and write about reality. ...

... We all have to deal with the world as it is, but sacrificing Taiwan to the wolves is outrageous. Taiwan had a “permanent” seat on the United Nations Security Council until Richard Nixon, neverminding tens of millions of corpses, gave it to Mao Zedong. Nixon told Taiwan that the US was engaging instead with the mainland Chinese “not because we love them. But because they’re there.” Fine. It may have been necessary, but it was a nasty business. A bully got its way for four decades not because it is right but because it is bigger. Professional diplomats may have to bite their tongues but the rest of us don’t.'

Read the whole thing at the link.

2016-11-12

World Today: 2016-11-12

The North American press struggles to understand nationalism; a five-way conflict among stateless entities rages within Syria's borders; and an ancient nation seeks to find its place in the Middle East.


Diane Weber Bederman on journalists and the Trump victory:
You misunderstood the desire for a safe country, and law and order, and secure borders for xenophobia; fear of the other, rather than fear of un-secure borders. All of you seem to need to read something negative into comments made by those on the right. In Canada, we now have journalists who read “racism” into the word “values.” You also assumed, in your black and white thinking, and I don’t mean Manichean, that only white people care about secure borders, that only white people fear illegal immigration and immigrants in general, when in fact that there are not against immigration per se, it’s the type of immigrant. They want immigrants whose values are our values and who come here for freedom, not to spread their culture-a culture that calls for “Death to America.”
And you had the unmitigated gall to call these people racist, xenophobic, fearmongering, Islamophobes. You, dear journalists, spread the hate. ...
 Jonathan Spyer on Syria's five-way conflict:


These are: Turkish-backed Sunni Arab rebel and Islamist organizations against the Assad dictatorship, western backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) against IS, Kurdish YPG against the Assad regime, the aforementioned Sunni rebels against IS and, lastly, the Sunni rebels against the SDF.
The problem for those seeking to cobble together a force to take Raqqa city and by so doing destroy the Islamic State, is that the two eligible forces to carry out this action are the mainly Kurdish SDF and the Turkish-backed, mainly Islamist Sunni rebels – but these forces are at war with one another. ...
 Zalmay Khalilzad on Kurdish relations:
Khalilzad predicted Iraq might split into several regions and run independently but in coordination with the central government so Shia, Sunni, and Kurds can run their affairs.
“[Iraq] can stay together…if there is genuine power sharing, resource sharing among the big communities that make Iraq, essentially meaning the Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis,” he explained.
Additionally, he said the landlocked Kurdistan Region would need to be in “good relations” with its neighbors as well as regional powers to be able to grow and establish a relationship with the rest of the world.
“The better relations Kurdistan has with as many neighbors as possible, the better for its independence,” the former US Ambassador stated.
“Ideally, even if Kurdistan becomes independent it should have good relations with Turkey, it should have good relations with Iraq, [and] with other neighbors as well,” Khalilzad continued. ...
 Commentary.  The citizens and civil society of a region fortunate enough to take freedom and security for granted risk forfeiting that security, and that freedom, because they view outside threats as implausible and unreal.

2016-11-10

The Day After



The red bar was reaching ever closer to the middle point of 270, until it finally crossed it, leaving the blue bar behind.
The world ended. Nuclear missiles were launched simultaneously from Russia, China, Japan, North Korea, and Mauritius. Yes, even Mauritius. Simultaneously, a zombie virus outbreak happened in New Jersey, parts of California fell into the ocean due to a fault line collapse, and there were riots in Albuquerque. People who weren't straight, white, cisgendered, heteronormative, neurotypical, Christian men were rousted from their homes, beaten, and dragged across the Mexican border

The riots were unrelated. Albuquerque just likes to riot. We don't even send the news to report on them anymore.

Actually, none of that stuff happened....
 Read the rest at the link.

2016-11-04

Source Bias Checklist

  1. Internal consistency.
  2. External consistency.
  3. Dialog and dissent.
  4. Awareness of objections.
  5. Snarl words and purr words.
  6. Implicit bias.
  7. Narrative.
  8. Red herrings and straw men.
  9. Fallacies.
  10. Psychological factors.
  11. Source's experiences, perspective, perceptions.
  12. Debts and favors.
  13. Medium is the message.
  14. The human voice.
  15. Encourage anonymous sources to go on the record.
  16. Judge source's reliability and disclose potential biases.
  17. More specificity is better.
  18. Do not rely on anonymous sources for sensational reports.
  19. Source must have first-hand knowledge.
  20. Do not lie to protect a source.
  21. What is the source's ideological orientation?
  22. What are the source's financial interests?

On Trump

 I didn't vote for Trump in the primary - I was a Cruz guy and thought Trump was a buffoon. But the voters thought otherwise. At some point I realized I needed to get over myself. I stopped asking "What's wrong with all these other idiots?" and started asking "What are they seeing that I'm not?"

2016-10-29

New Beginnings

In 2004 I began posting at this blog under the title Deams Into Lightning.  The new title, 'Covenant Lands', is what I'll be using as we go forward.  (The phrase is a literal translation of 'Artzot ha-Brit', the Hebrew name for the United States.) The URL for this blog remains the same:

http://asher813.blogspot.com/

In the twelve and a half years that I've been posting here, my personal life has taken various turns, including moves from Portland to San Francisco and back to Portland, and overseas trips to Israel, Iraqi Kurdistan, and East Africa.

I'm now at a phase where my life is starting to become a little more settled, which I hope will allow me to devote more time to studying, and providing meaningful commentary on, the events in our complex and dangerous times.  Stay tuned.

2016-10-18

How Not to Fight Radical Islam

Any rational and civilized approach to the threat of radical Islam in a free society must be based on a clear understanding of what the threat is, and what it is not.

There has been discussion recently of banning certain types of Islamic dress in western countries, particularly France.  This leads to other questions.  Marine Le Pen is quoted on Arutz Sheva as saying, “If we banned the burka, we should also ban kippahs in the entire public sector ... in the name of equality we have to do this. We cannot just ban Muslim dress because then they will say we hate Muslims.”

A superficial response to radical Islam focuses on superficial issues. Distinctive dress, head coverings, or other articles of clothing worn by any religion should not be a problem for a pluralistic society. A better strategy would have been to target those islamic/islamist practices that are the problem, or that can be exploited to cause problems: child "marriage", FGM, sanctioning of domestic abuse, incitement to violence, and full-face coverings that can serve to disguise persons with criminal intent.

A generic ban on religious head coverings does not advance the cause of liberty, but rather sets it back.

2016-10-16

What if ... ?

There's been a lot of speculation lately about whether the Kremlin was the driving force behind the recent Wikileaks revelations about Hillary Clinton; and if so, "Why does Russia want Donald Trump to win the election?"  Following upon this, there is no shortage of theories by HRC supporters regarding Trump's supposed weakness toward Russia, ties with Russia, and so on.

I think it's important to ask questions about the provenance of new information, and to wonder what other parties might stand to gain from passing it on.  But when you start down this path, it's easy to build conjecture on top of conjecture, speculation on top of speculation, guesswork on top of guesswork.  And then you're going down the rabbit hole.

Look, as a pro-Trump guy I can play this game too.  Trump a Russian puppet?  But that's just what they want you to think!  You think Putin and his old KGB buddies are stupid?  They're putting out stuff that's damaging to Clinton with Russian fingerprints all over it, so that the Americans will trace it back to Russia and say, "Hey, all this anti-Clinton stuff is just Russian propaganda!"  And then the Americans will dismiss anything unfavorable to Clinton, and she'll be immunized against any and every scandal, because Russia!  And in fact that's exactly what is happening, you can see it on the social media if you don't believe me.  

Do I believe that that is in fact what happened?  I don't know.  And that's my point here:  I don't know.  I prefer to stick with what's known with some degree of certainty, where we can remain on reasonably firm ground.  Often in life we must form theories, hypotheses, or suppositions about the unknown; but we are safest if we start from a firm foundation of facts and stick to known facts as closely as possible.

Information and Sources

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it relevant?
  3. What are its implications?
These are the basic questions we ask ourselves when assessing the value of new information.  When the information comes by way of an unfamiliar source, it is perfectly rational and appropriate to question what motives may be at work.  

But when speculation along the lines of "Why do they want me to believe this?" takes precedence over accurately answering the basic questions, we are starting to wander down the rabbit hole of paranoid conspiracy thinking.

David Wong on America's Urban Elites

Cracked editor / writer David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) - himself a native of rural Illinois - has a splendid article on how half of America went crazy during this election season.  Yes, it's about Donald Trump, but it's not really about Donald Trump.

Every TV show is about LA or New York, maybe with some Chicago or Baltimore thrown in. When they did make a show about us, we were jokes -- either wide-eyed, naive fluffballs (Parks And Recreation, and before that, Newhart) or filthy murderous mutants (True Detective, and before that, Deliverance). You could feel the arrogance from hundreds of miles away. ...
Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down -- the fact that hard work is better than dependence on government, that children do better with both parents in the picture, that peace is better than rioting, that a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism, that humans tend to value things they've earned more than what they get for free, that not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb.

Go read the whole article at the link.

2016-10-14

Election 2016

Until recently, I've refrained from debating the upcoming Presidential election, or even discussing it at all.  The 2016 election season has been extremely contentious, and I decided it wasn't worth potentially losing friends over.  Besides, I like to take my time coming to an important decision.

So with all that said, I have made up my mind about this year's race, and I will be writing more about it soon, probably after the holiday season is over (Simchat Torah is the Tuesday after next).

2016-10-13

Sophistication

'Everyone who lived here said those things: provincial, self-satisfied, boring. If you said that, it showed you recognized these qualities but did not partake of them yourself.'

-Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye