A microscopic home.

this is a literary blog. i'm literate so i must have something to say. hopefully.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This is long. but you should read it anyways.

Things I’m Reading:

Atlantic November, 2005
Comment: Things Left Undone
By Richard A. Clarke

Imagine if, in advance of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of trucks had been waiting with water and ice and medicine and other supplies. Imagine if 4,000 National Guardsmen and an equal number of emergency air workers from around the country had been moved into place, and five million meals had been ready to serve. Imagine if scores of mobile satellite-communications stations had been prepared to move in instantly, ensuring that rescuers could talk to one another. Imagine if all this had been managed by a federal-and-state task force that not only directed the government response but also helped coordinate the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other outside groups.

Actually, this requires no imagination: it is exactly what the Bush administration did a year ago when Florida braced for Hurricane Frances. Of course, the circumstances then were very special: it was two months before the presidential election, and Florida’s twenty-seven electoral votes were hanging in the balance. It is hardly surprising that Washington ensured the success of “the largest response to a natural disaster we’ve ever had in this country.” The president himself passed out water bottles to Floridians driven from their homes.

(If I get more time I will type out more of this article, because it is a very interesting read. The writer, Clarke, bring up a lot of interesting points about the response to Katrina, including the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has now been reduced by a 10% budget cut and buried in a big department, is headed by the previous director’s former college roommate, a political appointee, whose past executive experience consists of running an international association concerned with Arabian horses!)

Scientific America, December 2004 (yes I’m a bit behind on my extracurricular reading.)
Stressing Violence
Aimee Cunningham

Tempted to knock that smirk off the cahier’s face after waiting in line for t20 minutes, knowing the parking meter is about to expire? No wonder: a mutually reinforcing relationship seems to exist between stress hormones and the brain pathway that controls violence. Dutch and Hungarian researchers found that electrically stimulating this pathway in rats activates the adrenocortical ( “fight or flight”) stress response. Usually it takes a confrontation with a rival rat to trigger such a reaction. Likewise, injecting the rats with the stress hormone corticosterone prompted them to behave aggressively. the results reveal a vicious cycle: violent behaviour boosts circulating stress hormones, which encourages more violence, and so on. The researchers suggest in the October Behavioural Neuroscience that tinkering with the stress response may provide a new means to control pathological violence.

(I just think it’s interesting when rats have the same response as human beings. And I’m all for the reduction of pathological violence if it can be done without changing humans too much.)

Harpers’ Magazine August 2005
The Christian Paradox : How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong.
By Bill McKibben

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s Wife. (mel note: where did they find these stats? Can’t really trust them.) This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in the Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbour. On this essential matter, most Americans – most American Christians- are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.

“And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behaviour. That paradox – more important, perhaps than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese – illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.”

“But is it Christian? This is not a matter of angels dancing on the heads of pins. Christ was pretty specific about what he had in mind for his followers. What if we chose some simple criterion – say, giving aid to the poorest people – as a reasonable proxy for Christian behaviour. After all, in the days before his crucifixion, when Jesus summed up his message for his disciples, he said the way you could tell the righteous from the damned was by whether they’d fed the hungry, slaked the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger and visited the prisoner. What would we find then?”

(oh don’t get me started on Christians. This article is really really well written and is a good example of my hatred towards people who profess to follow Jesus’ teachings. I am an atheist myself. But I see Jesus as being a pretty okay guy. I mean he came up with a lot of good things and morals to follow and yet these people who say they believe him, shit on his very belief system on a regular basis while professing to love him. It’s sort of like an abusive relationship. Someday soon I hope to write a very detailed essay on why I have the hatred for these people that I do. And then I’ll write another one on why the bible should not be taken word for word. Similar, but seemingly contradictory essays. stay tuned. )

If one has a chance to get Harper October 2005 issue it has a really long and pretty interesting article entitled “Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it. A correction.” By Ben Marcus.

lastly I’ll end with something pertinent to a history major.

Containing China: The United states is drawing a military noose around China, and India is glad to help. But is anyone considering the possible consequence?”
The Walrus, October 2005
By: Gwynne Dyer

If there’s anyone left to write the history of how the Third World War happened, they might well focus on June 28, 2005, as the date when the slide into global disaster became irreversible. That was the day when India’s defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a ten-year agreement in Washington on military co-operation, joint weapons production, and missile defence – not quite a formal US-Indian military alliance, but close enough to one that China finally realized it was the target of a deliberate American strategy to encircle and ‘contain’ it.

It is not clear yet what China plans to do about it, but since June the rhetoric out of Neijing has been unprecedentedly harsh. In mid-July for example, Major General Zhu Chenghu warned in an official briefing that China is under pressure to drop its policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict with the US over Taiwan. “We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,” he said. “We can’t win this kind of war.” And so China would deliberately escalate to nuclear weapons: “We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of [their] cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”

(China doesn’t have the means yet, but no major military official out of China has talked like this since Mao’s time. As the writer states, “It’s happening because the decision-makers in Beijing think that the crazies have taken over in Washington, and are trying to draw most of Asia into an anti-Chinese alliance. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that they are right.”)

I don’t really have the time to write out all of things in paragraph form, but here are some examples provided by the article:

1. America is determined to re-militarize Japan:
o Tokyo ended half a century of refusing to send troops overseas into war zones by committing a small contingent to the US-led occupation of Iraq.
o redefined the Taiwan Strait as a “common strategic objective “ of Japan and the US (implying that its force would joint eh US in resisting any Chinese attack on Taiwan.)
o US Pacific Command (PACOM) has 6 aircraft carriers, forty subs and 190 other surface ships that already dominate the Western Pacifica, and US has a large number of troops ( currently about 80,000) based in South Korea and Japan.
o US army’s 1st Corps, with responsibility for ground operations in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions is slated to transfer from Washington state to Camp Zama, South of Tokyo, while the USAF is proposing to move the 13th Air Force’s long range bombers and tankers from Guam to Yokota airbase in Tokyo.

2. Washington is busily revising old alliances and forging new ones throughout South-East Asia.

o Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian and Filipino forces regularly perform manoeuvres with American troops.
o last year the first high level discussion between the US and Vietnamese armed forces were held since the fall of Saigon in 1975. Admiral Thomas Fargo, the commander of PACOM, visited Hanoi and Saigon in Feb 2004 to “build on the US-Vietnam defence relationships” and by November, Vietnamese defence minister Pham Van Tra was in Washington to see Donald Rumsfeld.
3. Invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan
o invasion of Afghanistan led to US military bases not jus here but in other countries on China’s western flank.
o Invasion of Iraq was intended (among other things) to create a reliable US ally and “enduring” American military bases in the Persian Gulf, from which China draws almost all of its rapidly growing oil imports. Despite all the rhetoric about the “war on terror,” the Pentagon under Bush never lost sight of its real strategy.

(oh god that took forever. If you can find this article, read it. It’s a really great summary of how things that are happening now, which seem small, insignificant and unrelated, will have a huge impact in the long run. The decision America is making now with these alliances and by acknowledging China as a major threat, shows the fear that the Americans have is almost palpable. They have not been a great super power for years, and monetarily they are almost completely ruined. They have so much debt to outside countries, they are spreading themselves thin by invading countries in the Middle East and are making enemies in doing so. America has set the course for the next great world war. I can’t foresee yet if it is going to be completely different than the last, with it’s bloody battles and high causalities, or if it is going to take a form that we are completely unprepared for. And I am terrified. )

now I must continue studying Greek Art and Archaeology. I am making up a song to try and discern between the different drinking cups: Amphora, kylix, Krater etc etc. etc.

tomorrow's exam is at 11:30 in the am. I love the stress of exams. Don't hate me. My response is panic and the writing of obscenely large journal entries about things that have no importance to Greek Art and Archaeology. ha. ahh. oh well.


Blogger Rob said...

Several comments on the China thing.

1. China's getting richer... but there're a long, long way from being a credible military threat to anyone they don't border and will not be for a long time.

2. Forging alliances needn't necessarily lead to war. The WWI mess was because all parties thought going to war was in their interests. Alliances merely formalized this. The USA's containment strategy never led to direct war with the USSR.

3. US deployments in Korea and Japan are nothing new. They've been there for more than 50 years in varying quantities.

4. The US is the very definition of a hyperpower. Their economic and military power, despite what are effectively minor mishaps, is unmatched. They produce about 1/3 of STUFF in the world and spend 1/2 of WORLD military spending on their military. Of course the Iraq invasion is a major mistake, but the USA has made and survived bigger mistakes before (see War of 1812, American Civil War, etc. -- even Vietnam was a bigger deal).

5. Nevertheless, antagonizing China (or anyone, for that matter) without a damned good reason is a bad idea. As Brad DeLong, puts it: "A world 60 years from now in which Chinese schoolchildren are taught that the U.S. did what it could to speed their economic growth is a much safer world for my great-grandchildren than a world in which Chinese schoolchildren are taught that the U.S. did all it could to keep China poor."

5:53 a.m.  
Blogger imagesofagirl said...

oh rob. you're so funny.

8:06 a.m.  

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