Things seem to be going from bad to worse and even beyond in Japan. I skimmed an article today written by Cynthia Tucker that emphasized a point that I have made in talking to others. That would be the dependence upon and even faith that we have in technology. Her article drew an analogy between the tragedy in Haiti and the three-pronged tragedy that has occurred in Japan. In an underdeveloped country such as Haiti, one would somewhat expect a natural disaster to cause the enormous devastation that took place. But, one of, if not the most technologically advanced countries in the world, with all of its preparation has still incurred enormous devastation of its own from the tsunami and earthquake. This holds a lesson for other advanced countries, particularly one that has a significant population in the Pacific Ring of Fire( Hint, hint, San Francisco,etc).
But there are still other ironies that are hard to ignore.Japan , of course, is the only county ever to suffer the effects of a nuclear attack. Now, it is incurring an as yet undetermined effect from damaged nuclear power plants. I think that there are some points to be made vis-a-vis Japan and its reliance on nuclear power to generate its electricity. One would almost think that Japan is the mpst nuclear dependent country in the world. Japan’s 54 reactors produce about 30% of its electricity. That figure puts the country as the 15th most nuclear dependent country, far behind both Lithuania and France,both of which get over 75% of their electricity via the nuclear route.
But, having said that, what still nags at me the most is that of which I spoke at the onset. Technology is not the cure-all and science does not nor will it ever have all the answers. Yet, we( meaning the United States primarily, but others to be sure) think that if we throw enough money or scientific knowhow out there, that anything is possible. Sometimes, it makes me to just want to unplug, sorta the human equivalent of acoustic music, huh?
- Japan Earthquake vs Haiti Earthquake (anadder.com)
- Japan vs Haiti: Why The Disparity? (anadder.com)
- The irony (ourdinnertable.wordpress.com)
- What can we ‘Learn from Nature’, from the Japanese disaster? A great deal… (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
For Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, the answer was of course beyond. But for the real life NASA, the answer is something else entirely. Seems that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden gave an interview last month to Al Jazeera( have no idea why) and told them what the mission of NASA really is.
Let me backtrack just a bit. Bolden told the Arabic network that the President had told him there were three things on which he wanted him to focus at NASA. Play the children’s game and see if you can tell which of the three does not fit with the other two.
Number one was for children to be re-inspired to focus on science and math. Number two was the expansion of our international relationships ( presumably as they relate to space) and number three was- drum roll please- to improve relations with the Muslim world and that furthermore it was his ”foremost” mission. In that context, Bolden was tasked to reach out and engage with the Muslim world and to make them feel good about their historic contributions in the area of math and science. ( History will tell you that those contributions were a rather long time in the past.) Somewhat strangely, Bolden resisted attempts to call his mission diplomacy. His quote was “It’s not a diplomatic anything.”
Shortly after Bolden’s comments created a predictable firestorm, both the White House and NASA backed him up, to a point, maintaining that improving relations with the Muslim world is a part of NASA’s mission, but not foremost. Seems to me that is confusion between the idea of co-operation and improving relations. Besides, Obama has been working rather hard at that Muslim outreach thing ever since last June in Cairo.
I did have one unanswered question. When Bolden was tasked to reach out to the Muslim world, that did include France, right?
Just finished the David McCullough bio of John Adams and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hard to do justice to such a lengthy book about such a towering historical figure. Some initial thoughts. The author commented in his intro that we cannot learn enough about our funding fathers, a sentiment with which I very much agree. Makes me once again wish that I had majored in history in college. My presidential reading continues to remind me of my lack of historical education. I shudder to think of how American history is taught or not in public schools today.
It was delightful to read the many excerpts from the letters of Adams and his wife Abigail. Their correspondence numbered well over a thousand missives of which about half have been published. It is quite remarkable how enduring was their relationship in light of the quantity of time they spent apart. Over the course of their first 14 years of marriage they had been apart over half that time. Of course with communication and travel in those days being what it ways, even their communication was difficult. Letters from the United States to France or England of Holland took months and sometimes never made it at all. There as at least one incident in which a packet of her letters was lost at sea when an American diplomat about to be captured by the English threw them overboard along with other sensitive documents.
i observed to my wife after finishing the book that I probably knew more about the Adams’ family and its manner of living than of my own parents, thanks to their prolific correspondence. In contrast, Adams’ contemporary,Thomas Jefferson,destroyed all such family correspondence. His was somewhat limited however,since his wife Martha died at age 33.
There is much to write about in reflecting on the ” colossus of independence” as Jefferson called him and I will attempt to do some justice to our second President, who seems to me as somewhat overlooked in the pantheon of early American leaders.
Guess I could have said apologetic regime but maybe I’ll save that one for another day. The latest apology should really not be a surprise. Obama himself has done a ” masterful” job at apologizing all over the world to all sorts of folks for all sorts of things.
For the most recent administration example we can thank Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor ( what a mouthful of a job title that is) Michael Posner. For what did he apologize and to whom? The what is of course, the evil Arizona law which no one in the Obama Administration has apparently read, even Homeland Secretary Napolitano. But she still would not have signed the law. Try and figure that one out. For the who of the apology, why that noted paragon of human rights, China.
Bill O’Reilly had a couple of great comment about Posner’s apology on his show last night. I really enjoyed his comment that China would probably like to have Posner replace Hilary as Secretary of State. The other comment was much more troubling and more reality based. He posed the question as to how China handles its illegal immigrants. Hint, it isn’t with a law like Arizona’s nor is it necessarily via deportation.
Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl took issue with posner’s mea culpa for the United States and demanded an apology. Isn’t that great, demanding an apology for an apology. Shucks, they may get one. That is one thing the Obama Admnistration is quite good at doing.
While we are on the subject, wonder what other countries are due an apology? Let us see. Maybe to Great Britain for winning the Revolutionary War, Germany for WWI & WWII, Russia for buying Alaska ( Obama might like that one) France for the Louisiana Purchase- not paying enough the list goes on and on and on and on.
The title is that of a book by the same name by Charles Cerami about the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It was a fascinating read on a number of levels. Once again, I was able to revel in and learn about a major event of American history. Just the cast of characters is amazing. Jefferson was the major player of course. But, on the American side alone there were James Madison and James Monroe, the next 2 presidents, Robert Livingston, John Quincy Adams, and after the fact a little Andrew Jackson. On the French side, one sees Napoleon and the wily Talleyrand as well as the lesser known but important Louis Pichon.
One quote from the book really hit home for me. Its source was our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. He called the purchase”next in historical importance to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. It was unparalleled in diplomacy because it cost almost nothing.” In raw dollars the price was $15 million. When interest is factored in up till the final payment in 1823( money borrowed from the Dutch) the total expended was around $ 27 million. That equates to less than ten cents per acre for an acquisition that doubled the size of the United States.So, in our infancy as a nation, we at one fell swoop surpassed the whole of Europe and “sea to shining sea” became just a matter of time.
Among the many things on which to reflect are the quality of our nation’s leaders at that time. It just amazes me to realize how incredibly capable our nation’s leadership was at what was our infancy as a country. Less than 30 years prior, there was a group of colonies with a rag tag army arrayed against the pre-eminent military power in the world. Now, Jefferson,et. al are jousting diplomatically with France and to a degree England, whose spectre hovered in the background throughout the negotiations. Virtually all the decisions made by France and the United States had an English influence. France needed money to wage war against England. The United States feared English control of New Orleans and thus the Mississippi River, and so on.
So, in looking back, the purchase now seems like a no-brainer. An offer that you can’t refuse, in a very good sense. That is what I always thought, along with astonishment at the price per acre. But the beauty of studying history tells us much more.
First, France had bullied Spain into “giving” them the land by treaty with the provision that it could not be sold but would revert to Spain. Obviously that did not happen. And what actually was being purchased? What was the western boundary and was Florida included? Napoleon’s response, it’s what you want it to be.
Did Jefferson actually have the authority to make the purchase? He wrestled mightily with the idea, leaning as he did, towards the states rights side. Did James M0nroe, our point man in Paris, have the right to agree to a price of $15 million when Congress had “approved” about 2 million. Would he be disgraced for the agreement? Might Jefferson even be impeached?
There was so much intrigue over the many months of negotiation that one must conclude it was near miraculous that the purchase happened at all. To me, calling the deal for Louisiana in the health care legislation the Louisiana Purchase did nothing but provide a coarse comparison to this monumental event that took place 207 years ago on May 2, 1803.
For certain, it was a gamble that not only brought the fledgling nation 875,000 square miles and all or part of 13 new states but in Madison’s words “one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.”
Or,”who’s in charge here? Alas, this well could describe the situation in the earthquake ravaged Haiti. ( By the way, we know now what caused the earthquake. Hugo Chavez has announced that it was caused by a new U S weapon. His statement would by ludicrous beyond belief if not for the fact that there are people who will believe it. And others who blame it on George Bush.) Now back to our original subject.
My son and I were talking briefly about things in Haiti and one or both of us commented on Haiti’s state before the earthquake. They already had a barely functioning government and crushing poverty and now this devastation caused by a massive earthquake. Virtually anywhere else in the world would have better positioned to deal with the aftermath than Haiti.
So, what is happening there? The country’ s leadership is either dead or invisible. The United Nations has suffered grave losses in personnel and facilities so who takes charge, provided security, operates the airport etc.? It seems, almost by default, that the U S military has taken charge ( see title quote by Francois Rabelas) of the country in a sense. And that brings a vast amount of criticism, from numerous sources.
People such as our friend Chavez, good ol Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua, the group Doctors Without Borders, Bolivian leader Evo Morales, various French groups and other humanitarian groups. Our troops are in a no-win position. Someone has to do what they are doing. And no , they are not there to occupy the country. Without some semblance of order the over one billion dollars that has been pledged so far will be squandered, stolen or worse.Our own Time magazine is calling it a” compassionate invasion.” Thanks for nothing fellows.
82nd Airborne troops are already there, probably some Marines and Navy as well as directed by Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. So, just one question, maybe two for all these clowns who are protesting. Who do want to handle all this stuff ? Political commentator Janet Daley, writing in the U K Telegraph called it a case of ” America is always wrong, part 85.” Reckon the French are just jealous. She made this telling point. If our interventions are kept to a minimum, they are “callous” and ” selfish.” If we accept full responsibility we are engaged in “imperialist occupation.”
For the troops that are there, I wish you God speed. We know you will do your country proud.
Way back in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson negotiated a deal with Napoleon Bonaparte that virtually doubled the size of the infant United States. This land deal which cost the princely sum of fifteen million dollars ( a really big deal in those days) bought us 828,000 square miles of territory and a lot of stability.
Now, it appears that some 206 years later we are seeing a second Louisiana Purchase. This one does not involve land but rather health care, Senators Harry Reid and Mary Landrieu and an illustration of how things often get done in Washington, DC.
In an ABC news article by Jonathan Karl, he describes language in the health care reform bill, tailored to be applicable to only one state, Louisiana. Beginning on page 432 of Reid’s bill, there is language referencing states that have been declared a major disaster area in the past 7 fiscal years. That statement refers to the commonwealth of Louisiana. The descriptive language continues for 2 pages. Bottom line says the Congressional Budget Office, this is a $100 million windfall or payoff, depending on one’s point of view. The senator from Louisiana says it is not $100 million but $300 million and she is somewhat pleased with what she has gained for her state, by pledging her vote in Senator Reid’s direction. Her Press Secretary, Robert Sawicki says she has been working on this deal for a while. Senator Maverick,aka John McCain, was not so happy about it.
One should not be amazed, I guess, since Rush has always said to follow the money. What is a bit refreshing is Senator Landrieu’s frank admission of her intentions, saying that was elected to accomplish, bring the $ home to her state. Refreshing, but a bit disheartening. Remember, we are still in the early stages of this bill. Today’s vote is just the first of several . You have to wonder what other commitments will be or have already been made that have no connection to the real issue at hand.
Paging Rep William Jefferson and wouldn’t Huey Long be proud.
Or, why is this man smiling? The man is Ali Asghar, Iran’s International Atomic Energy agency Ambassador. He just had a meting in Vienna on the Iranian nuclear issue. Short review, the administration was brokering a deal that would get much of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium out of Iran. Presumably, that would make it much less dangerous and the Iranians would not find it so easy to build a bomb. Russia and France were on board. All looked rosy, except that it wasn’t.
Iran, in the person of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to tweak the agreement a bit, compromise from both sides, if you will. He had previously said that the West had gone from insisting that Iran have no nuclear capabilities to discussing what kind of nuclear capabilities it would have. So Iran had moved up a notch or two or more from the Bush-era.
Quite interesting to note that there was almost universal opposition to the Vienna agreement in Iran. Both the hardliners and reformers were united in their negative response .( Bet Congressional Democrats would love to see that on a certain domestic issue.) Nobody can tell us what to do with our enriched uranium. So, now we have foot-dragging, delaying etc.
Who does this tactic both worry and strengthen? How about Israel who don’t Iran should have any nuclear anything. They can say, we told you this was a bad deal all along. Will it make them more likely to take military action on their own? That is hard to answer even as one of the largest joint US Israel military exercises , Operation Juniper Cobra goes forward.
Perhaps this telling comment from an Israeli military adviser is worth remembering. This, of course, unnamed source called Iran’s maneuvering, “bazaar bargaining at its best.” Wonder who will have the winning hand?
After the Iranian elections in June, there was lots of attention paid to alleged (and probably real) voting irregularities. There was widespread outrage at how demonstrations were held and a number of people were killed. The situation was probably as volatile as it had been in Iran in the last 30 years. Since things have quietened a bit, attention has perhaps drifted away. Methinks it is time for it to drift back.
We have just obtained the release of American journalists held in North Korea when we learn about 3 Americans being held in Iran. These three were tourists hiking in the Kurdish area of Iraq, near the Iraq-Iran border. The three were freelance journalist Shane Bauer as well as his companions Sara Shourd and Josh Fattal. One might wonder why travel in such an area even though it is known for its beautiful waterfalls. But, one could just as easily ask, why not?
The United States has asked the Swiss embassy in Tehran for assistance and is betting more direct help from Iraqi officials. In fact, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has met in recent days with ith Iranian minister to Iraq. He is hopefully optimistic that the three will be released. Of course, Iran is accusing the three of espionage which we deny. This incident seems to mirror one from May of this year in which an American journalist charged with espionage was released.
One can hope that a similar scenario will play out in this case. One other worrisome event is a complicating factor. There are”trials” going on now in which individuals are ” confessing” their wrongs in what are at best show trials, aimed at proving foreign involvement in the Iranian elections. An Iranian court has charged dozens of people with spying and plotting to overthrow the government. Obviously, the hardliners who run Iran have virtually no interest in reconciling with anyone at the present time.
One thing that has occurred. They have antagonised virtually the entire European Union. One can hardly imagine the following words coming from a French political leader. “France renews its demand for the release of the young academic, since the accusations against her are baseless. ” So said te French Foreign Ministry regarding French citizen and teaching assistant Clotilde Reiss. But we wish them success as well as for our own citizens.
George Washington was and is, many things to many people.We all know or should know a lot of facts about him and along with Lincoln,we all should at least one book about him. So, what can one say that has not been said before and with doubtless, greater clarity and literary skill. Answer, probably nothing at all. I Think it wise to look back periodically at people such as George Washington, to revisit their era and refresh our minds about what we really know about the first president.
As we know, he was a military leader, a planter, a surveyor as well as president. The first thing I take note of is that he was not, however, a politician. He would warn future generations about political parties among other things in his farewell address(more on that later).He married a wealthy widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, after a whirlwind courtship of less than on e month. Their marriage,which lasted 40 years, occurred at her home, known as The White House.
It is fashionable today to note that he was not a great military leader during the Revolution War( was almost captured once) but rather more of a lucky one. Probably, so it is said, without French assistance, he wold have lost. There is doubtless some truth there.I prefer to think of him as one who lead, one who inspired and one who persevered against overwhelming odds.
He was a reluctant President, particularly so in the acceptance of a second term when he could have been king or emperor or whatever he chose. We owe him, among much else, for the term,”Mr President” when it could have easily have tilted towards a monarchical form of address.
He forcefully refused a third term and issued his famous farewell address, which actually was published as an open letter in the newspaper on September 19,1796( my birthday). What is even m,ore noteworthy is that it draws on a letter written but not published in 1792, when he almost retired.
Three main elements make up the address, one being the warning about political parties. He well foresaw the part factionalism would play in the future.He warned against entangling foreign alliances, a problem already developing in his day. Thirdly was a section on morality and religion; from this I will quote:
Whatever may be conceded to the influence of education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Truly, as Henry Lee said at his funeral, that of all Americans, “he was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
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