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1701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 04:46:13 PM
Thank you. 

BD,

When an institution goes off the rails as the UN has, I think it does matter.

OK.  So again... has it gone off the rails due to institutional design or normatively?  If it is the design, what portion? 

It was a utopian concept that was flawed from the beginning and just went south from there. It assumed that every nation would rationally decide issues rather than break into voting blocs. It treats every nation as equally rational and decent.  rolleyes
1702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 04:25:32 PM
Again, I am not necessarily unopposed to the snark.  The role of the UN in the attempted prevention of small arms and the related limits to the 2nd Amendment spring to mind here.  I just want to understand HOW, or perhaps WHY, the UN now how this reputation.  Is it because of a failed, or flawed, design or it the "derailment" more of a normative sense from those of you how feel this way.




BD:

I have next to zero respect for the legitamacy or competence of the UN towards those ends, nor am I sure that I even agree with all of them.  (Whatever the hell "social progress" is according to the General Assembly of the UN, I suspect I rather strongly disagree.

This might explain the generally snarky tone of this thread towards the UN.  grin

To the extent the UN succeeds in claiming power, US sovereignty is diminished.

1703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 04:22:39 PM
BD,

When an institution goes off the rails as the UN has, I think it does matter.

OK.  So again... has it gone off the rails due to institutional design or normatively?  If it is the design, what portion? 
1704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 03:49:03 PM
GM, I am not sure.  And I am not sure that it should matter. 

Guro, isn't the purpose of the UN to serve as a moral arbitrator?

"The principles of the UN as explained in the Charter are to save future generations from war, reaffirm human rights, and establish equal rights for all persons. In addition it also aims to promote justice, freedom, and social progress for the peoples of all of its member states."  http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/unitednations.htm



1705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 03:05:53 PM
OK, so this is not really an instituional question, but rather a normative one of what constitutes the "good" of the country? 

(Incidentally, I am not trying to argue with any of you, Guro, GM, DougMacG, PC.  I literally study institutions, so this is my mindset here.  I really am just seeking clarification about an institution I know comparatively little about.  And, thank you to all of you addressing this line of questioning, by the way.)
1706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: October 27, 2011, 05:33:16 AM
Moving here due to Guro's request. 

I may not have been clear with my request.  I understand that China, Cuba, etc. are in the UN.  I even understand that they are commissions that seem to run counter to their history.  I don't understand the institutional design that leads to the conclusion that having those countries on these commissions will allow they to dictate the outcome.  First, they aren't a majority, even when taken together, on the commission.  Second, there are at least three nations, all with veto power, who are permanent members of the Security Council.  These three are the US, the UK, and France, the later two of which are also members of the EU. 

I don't see, then, given the institutional design of the UN (or at least my understanding of the design) allows the opportunity for the UN to act in a manner against the US and the EU.


"I have this feeling someone may come to regret encouraging GM to provide links and articles that show the UN to be a group running in a direction counter to US interests. 

It was not just Cuba, but Libya and Syria were on the human rights commission.  And the Obama administration was 'self-reporting' Arizona for checking IDs with cause.

What was the agenda of the UN Oil for Food scandal?

Our pathological science thread chronicles quite a duplicitous agenda coming out of the UN IPCC on manipulated climate data and studies.  It wasn't 1 or 2 scientists.  It was a movement with an agenda and money, within the UN bureaucracy.  Yes the UN would like to have more power and bigger budgets.  Yes, they want global taxes and global regulations.  I know that sounds like I have a conspiracy problem, but I would only count what they say in their own words.  I will put few links down but these are easy to find.  I would be far more interested in seeing links that indicate otherwise.

http://www.aim.org/aim-column/obamas-global-tax-proposal-up-for-senate-vote/
http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/freedomline/un_monitor/in_our_opinion/global_taxes.htm

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17102
 July [2004], Inter Presse news service reported that a top U.N. official was preparing a new study that will outline numerous global tax proposals to be considered by the General Assembly at its September meeting. The proposals will likely include everything from global taxes on e-mails and Internet use to a global gas tax and levies on airline travel. If adopted, American taxpayers could wind up paying hundreds of billions of dollars each year to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is among those leading the charge, having stated that he "strongly supports finding new sources of funding" for the U.N. through global taxes, according to Inter Presse. In fact, Annan made very clear his support for the imposition of global taxes in a 2001 Technical Note that he authored for a U.N. conference. "The need to finance the provision of global public goods in an increasingly globalized world also adds new urgency to the need for innovative new sources of financing," Annan wrote. The Note goes on to describe and evaluate the merits of several global tax proposals.
-----

Snopes took on the veracity of a pass around email that says a list of countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia vote against us 70% of the time and found out the truth was they were voting against us closer to 90% of the time: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/outrage/unvote.asp

Yet we host and we pay..."
 
1707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: October 26, 2011, 10:34:41 PM
I guess I don't understand, still, how this can be the case.  I fail to see the opportunities that would allow the UN to act outside the will of the US and two key EU nations.  Any chance there is a reference?  A how to manual?
1708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: October 26, 2011, 04:55:43 PM
Woof,
 I'm talking about the UN BEING FRIENDLY TO THE IDEA OF A ISLAMIC CALIPHATE just to gather up all these independent Arab states in a neat little package, much like the European Union. Good for UN's ambitions, not so good for the EU or us.
                                        P.C.

I see that you are trying to distinguish.  Could you you do me a favor and tell me what the UN's ambitions are, without the US or the EU?  (This is a serious question.  Since the US, UK and France are all permanent SC members with veto power, I am not sure what you mean.)
1709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: October 26, 2011, 01:13:54 PM
The enemy, of my enemy, is my friend.
                  P.C.

That'll get you another OBL. 
1710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 21, 2011, 11:20:48 AM
Nevermind.  I stand corrected.


http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-10-20/obama-foreign-policy-gadhafi/50845858/1

On Iran: Perhaps, but Stuxnet was a US decision.  I say that because it is possible (and I mean only possible), that Obama's use of intel, spec ops, and the like are being put to task in less obvious ways in Iran.  I will confess to not enjoying the "wait and see" on this particular possibility.

On McCain:  grin indeed! 

Really? Then why did Buraq say almost nothing when there was a real chance at a "Persian Spring" in 2009 while he instead focused on underming Israel's security at that time?
We spent more than a billion dollars on the Libya op. Aside from Ka-daffy's head, we shall see what spins out of it. Somehow I'm not expecting flowers and rainbows.
1711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Super PACs on: October 21, 2011, 11:18:25 AM
http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2011-10-20/presidential-candidates-donors-give-to-superpacs/50847148/1
1712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 21, 2011, 08:10:12 AM
On Iran: Perhaps, but Stuxnet was a US decision.  I say that because it is possible (and I mean only possible), that Obama's use of intel, spec ops, and the like are being put to task in less obvious ways in Iran.  I will confess to not enjoying the "wait and see" on this particular possibility.

On McCain:  grin indeed! 
1713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 21, 2011, 06:22:20 AM
Ditching the 2 term presidency?

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/first_times_a_charm
1714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / America's Pacific Century on: October 21, 2011, 06:20:43 AM
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/americas_pacific_century
1715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, (and Resurrection?) of America on: October 21, 2011, 06:14:37 AM
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/america_really_was_that_great?page=full

versus

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/the_myth_of_american_exceptionalism?page=full

versus

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/napoleons_curse
1716  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: This is worse than the Kitty Genovese case on: October 21, 2011, 05:22:02 AM
http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/20/world/asia/china-toddler-dead/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

 cry cry cry

1717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Impact of Gadhafi's death on 2012 Presidential on: October 21, 2011, 04:52:17 AM
http://news.yahoo.com/qadhafi-death-blunts-gops-critique-133500278.html

Thoughts?
1718  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: FMA Strategies for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Workshop w/ Guide Dog on: October 20, 2011, 02:49:59 PM
I am glad I did my part for thread coherence.  Sorry about that, GD!  I hope your event goes well!

And that book looks, well, "useful."
1719  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / reference book? on: October 20, 2011, 11:07:25 AM
http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htm
1720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: October 20, 2011, 09:04:39 AM
Reports that Gadhafi is dead: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/20/libyan-fighters-say-they-have-captured-gadhafi/?iref=BN1&hpt=hp_t1
1721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 11:06:01 PM
We've done this before.  I was merely addressing what I was asked. 


But, he won an award from the ACLU, GM.  I was asked about this: "any examples of the ACLU or Senators," and found both. 

Hitler liked animals and was a vegitarian, doesn't make him not Hitler. If the ACLU is actually ever on the right side of something, it's either an accident or part of their pose to convince the uninformed into thinking that they actually are something else than a Stalinist group designed to damage America from within.
1722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 10:38:11 PM
But, he won an award from the ACLU, GM.  I was asked about this: "any examples of the ACLU or Senators," and found both. 
1723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 09:08:06 PM
I am not sure that you will accept him as a "liberal" since that may be up to you, and not me to define.  Here is a Democrat, who has sponsored bills"reforming procedures for providing court-appointed defense counsel to indigent defendants, and carried DNA legislation that has resulted in freeing many wrongly convicted citizens."  Moreover, he was NOW's "Legislator of the Year." In 2005, he "received the John Henry Faulk award from the [A]merican Civil Liberties Union." Damn near a hippy protesting at OWS!!!!!

BUT, he has also "worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to allocate more than $120 million on training and technology for border security."


I give you: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members/dist20/dist20.htm, a liberal senator who is also pro-border security. 



I highlighted the "every liberal portion" of your assertion.  I am liberal, at least compared to the average forum participant, and I think that defending the borders is of paramount importance. 

" I am liberal, at least compared to the average forum participant, and I think that defending the borders is of paramount importance."

Fair enough. In regard to those that aren't members of this forum, can you speak to any examples of the ACLU or Senators and Representatives that actively engage in securing the borders without trying to pass inclusive legislation that makes it possible for those that are here illegally, "citizens?"

It's a fair question.
1724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 08:47:02 PM
And as I've told you, sir, your regard is much appreciated. 

"I am liberal, at least compared to the average forum participant, and I think that defending the borders is of paramount importance." 

That may be, but given how hard-core right most of us are that could be a true statement of someone who is center or even right of center. cheesy

As I previously bantered with you in a sidebar, I consider you a Democrat back from when mainstream Democrats were patriotic, reasonable, and rational people i.e. NOT a liberal  evil cheesy
1725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 19, 2011, 08:44:30 PM
DF,
     Forgive me, but I've not heard the definition of republic that you offer below.  May I ask for the dictionary, or other source, where you found it?  Thank you.

For everyone's benefit:

In a Democracy, The individual, and any group of individuals composing any minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The majority. It is a case of majority over man.


A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The individualís God given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general.

The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment, with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
1726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 05:09:29 PM
I highlighted the "every liberal portion" of your assertion.  I am liberal, at least compared to the average forum participant, and I think that defending the borders is of paramount importance. 
1727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 01:08:41 PM
"...we have groups (the ACLU and every Liberal in the country), that actively speak out against the United States being able to secure her borders."

The problem with broad, sweeping absolute claims like this one is that it is easy to disprove. 


Yet another attempt by the Left Wing press to divert attention from the need to patrol and secure the border with Mexico.

To GM's point, they are back as soon as they are released from custody.

Additionally, there are many articles by the Leftist press showing the "plight" of these poor, downtrodden illegals and their "need" to come to the United States by any means necessary. Ironically, Mexico is lacking an ACLU of its own that demonizes Mexico and her citizens.
I have seen first hand, people in Mexico helping illegal immigrants in their country with gifts of food and water, yet it is commonly known that illegal immigrants are not welcome in Mexico and nearly every woman that crosses Mexico illegally is raped before they reach the United States (which is the reason that many Guatemalans and El Salvadorans do not like Mexicans), yet it is odd to me that Mexico, her politicians, or anyone else for that matter, would have anything to say about United States defending her borders by any means that we feel prudent as was witnessed by everyone a few days ago when Mexican politicians spoke out against Cain's joke about making an electric fence on the border with a sign on the other side stating that the fence could kill you.

To GC's point, the United States isn't Russia, nor should it be, but to GM's point, we have groups (the ACLU and every Liberal in the country), that actively speak out against the United States being able to secure her borders. Their allegiance to the principles within the constitution are questionable to say the least. I'm not sure what should be done about that. We have enough enemies from within to deal with, let alone allowing people to come here that have no intention of embracing America's founding ideologies. Patrolling the border with soldiers is the least that we should be doing.
1728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 05:38:42 AM
Deportations at an all time high:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/18/us/immigrant-deportations/index.html?hpt=hp_c2
1729  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: FMA Strategies for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Workshop w/ Guide Dog on: October 17, 2011, 08:41:09 PM
Woof Guide Dog...
     I wish I lived closer, for I would finally be able to answer that burning question that was asked of me by a student a few years ago after his second lesson.  He didn't come back after I couldn't assure him that FMA was the best system for surviving the ZA.  I wish I was joking.  Good luck, and have fun!

1730  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Steven Seagal keeps America safe!!!!!!! on: October 14, 2011, 11:39:47 AM
Um...


 Steven Seagal hired to control U.S.-Mexico border
Steven Seagal has once again been hired to serve and protect, except it doesn't sound like there will be any reality show cameras following him around this time.

The "Above the Law" actor was sworn in this week as a deputy with the sheriff's office in Hudspeth County, Texas. The 59-year-old, who's no stranger to law enforcement and is also trained in Aikido, will help control the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the San Antonio Express.

The paper reports that Seagal reached out to the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office himself about two months ago, seeking employment. Says Sheriff Arvin West, "Seagal is not in this for celebrity or publicity. He's like the rest of us that live down here; he has a sincere passion for his country and he wants to do more to help."


Although cameras captured Seagal's work as a reserve deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana for A&E's "Steven Seagal: Lawman," it doesn't appear his full-time work with Hudspeth County's department will eventually serve as fodder for TV.

The San Antonio Express reports that a spokesman for the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office says Seagal's employment with them isn't part of the A&E show. (Production was also halted on "Steven Seagal: Lawman" in 2010 when a former model alleged that Seagal used her as a "sex toy" after she was hired to be his assistant.)

"The television aspect of what we're doing here is the last priority," the spokesman said. "The man has a pure motive in doing this. He knows what we're up against and wants to help."

Seagal is scheduled to start his new gig early next year. While it's unknown if he'll be paid, the spokesman for the sheriff's department says deputies are typically paid about $15 an hour.

http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/14/steven-seagal-hired-to-control-u-s-mexico-border/?hpt=hp_c2
1731  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 12, 2011, 07:01:23 AM
He also was the GM of Joe San-do.  Really.

Forgive me if this is not the proper place for this, but wasn't this the guy who trained Kimo and then danced in the octagon with him when Royce Gracie decided not to continue after his fight with Kimo in UFC III?

I also seem to remember this guy being involved in a UFC fight before groin shots were illegal during which someone was repeatedly punched in the groin. I can't remember if this guy was on the receiving end or the giving end, so to speak.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44867359?GT1=43001#.TpUcIxx8SzY
1732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 12, 2011, 05:33:21 AM
When you focus on a small portion of the entire crowd to make a (snarky) point, you do the same thing that liberals do with the Tea Party when they only take pictures of the signs with misssspelinggs.  I think that both the Tea Party and the OWS have beefs, that if others managed to actually listen to what they are saying, there might (shock!) be a lesson in it. 
1733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: October 11, 2011, 09:49:57 PM
"Lured by cheap drugs and free food, creepy thugs have infiltrated the crowd of protesters camped"

Well, what were drugs doing there to start with?  Who is giving the "free" food.  Nothing is free.  Who is paying for this?

As though the people who began this noble, just, righteous, cause were all just a bunch of saints and then some bad elements just happen to show up later.  Oh I get it.

As usual the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for this mess and not to say anything about the overtime for city employees.

I assume the ones who can ring the register up top increase their pay just before they retire.

Drugs must be a gateway to generators! 

http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/advisor/start-ups-fund-wall-st-150000747.html
1734  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mumia Abu-Jamal off death row? on: October 11, 2011, 06:28:08 PM
Not sure this is an "interaction," per se

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/11/justice/scotus-officer-killing/index.html?hpt=hp_c2
1735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: October 11, 2011, 06:25:54 PM
Woof,
 This could have came out of my book as well. grin
                                       P.C.

If the three of us agree, it must make sense! 
1736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: October 11, 2011, 03:35:21 PM
That makes two of us, GM. 
1737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / drones infected by virus on: October 11, 2011, 05:50:06 AM
It appears that military drones have been infected with a virus that the Air Force is unable to cleanse:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/virus-hits-drone-fleet/#more-59492
1738  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA School Program on: October 01, 2011, 04:52:53 AM
Excellent news.  The good doctor Dog is an great choice.  Good luck, Rick. 
1739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 25, 2011, 07:46:38 AM
I will confess that I don't understand what you mean here, Guro.  Women deploy with men in great quantities.  If you are even close to right about the percentage of hetros, then the "orifice of choice" has been available for years.  I don't think the remaining 3% should matter that much. 

We interrupt this vignette for a reality check.   One of the points about DADT was that NO ONE "had to lie about who he was".  cheesy 

Personally it makes perfect sense to me to acknowledge that healthy young humans have strong sexual drives.  As I understand it the logic is that given that most people (95-98% IMHO) are heterosexual, having sexually homogenous units keeps sexual shenanigans and the attendant disruptions to military discipline out of play.  This makes perfect sense to me.

OTOH if the environment is a "target rich environment" of the orifice of choice, then by golly fcuking within the unit is going to happen.  We don't even allow this in the corporate world (not that I agree, but that is a separate matter), but, speaking only as a humble civilian, it makes sense to me that this has a high potential for poor morale and poor discipline with attendant consequences for unit cohesion and performance.


1740  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 20, 2011, 09:56:10 PM
This is good news.  Props to Kaju and Dog Rick in setting him up on site. 
1741  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 19, 2011, 06:54:59 AM
A WOOF to all the fighters yesterday.  The fights were awesome, and it was a real pleasure to commune with all of you.  A special thanks to Rick, Guide Dog and Poi Dog for the fights, Dog Terry for helping me prepare, and the Crafty Dog for continuing to plan the events.  I can't thank you all enough for a truly transformative experience.  
1742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 16, 2011, 08:52:41 AM
Good stuff, GM.  And thanks for not killing the messenger.   wink
1743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Suadi prince on the US veto in UN on: September 16, 2011, 04:21:49 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/opinion/veto-a-state-lose-an-ally.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share
1744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Washington: Never despair 1777 on: September 14, 2011, 01:10:03 PM
I would not have guessed that the three of us have the same , , , avatar.  cheesy

===================

I am honered to be in such distinguished company.
1745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 14, 2011, 08:20:42 AM
James Madison

Me too.  Great minds, sir. 
1746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 14, 2011, 05:49:12 AM
Which founding father are you?

http://www.constitutioncenter.org/FoundersQuiz/
1747  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guide Dog Opening Martial Arts School in Pomona, California on: September 08, 2011, 06:46:25 AM
That was an awesome video, Guide Dog.  Good luck and continued well wishes for the new school.  Keep us posted!
1748  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 08, 2011, 06:43:26 AM
My condolences for your loss.  My heart goes out to you and yours.   cry
1749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, (and Resurrection?) of America on: September 02, 2011, 11:39:14 AM
Bigdog, Good read.
Does Diamond extrapolate his research findings to America of today?
So what is his prognosis for us and what direction should be take? 



I haven't read the book yet.  I liked the article, and I think it raises many important questions and points. 
1750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, (and Resurrection?) of America on: September 02, 2011, 08:05:42 AM
http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/08/25/what_i_learned_from_jared_diamond

Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading -- if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and you'll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined.   

The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia's environmental problems in light of these earlier examples.

I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to "cut their losses" and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond's work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?

So what lessons does Diamond draw from his case studies, and what insights might we glean for the conduct of foreign policy? Here are a few thoughts that occurred to me as I finished the book.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand. Primitive societies may not have recognized the danger of soil depletion, for example, because they lacked an adequate understanding of basic soil chemistry. A society may also fail to spot trouble if the main problem it is facing recurs only infrequently, because the knowledge of how to detect or deal with the problem may have been forgotten. As he emphasizes, this is especially problematic for primitive societies that lack written records, but historical amnesia can also occur even in highly literate societies like our own. 

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn't know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam's regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble. Diamond refers to this as the problem of "distant managers," and it may explain why U.S. policymakers often make decisions that seem foolish in hindsight. As I've noted here before, one problem facing U.S. foreign policymakers is the sheer number and scope of the problems they are trying to address, which inevitably forces them to rely on reports from distant subordinates and to address issues that they cannot be expected to understand very well. Barack Obama doesn't get to spend the next few years learning Pashto and immersing himself in the details of Afghan history and culture; instead, he has to make decisions based on what he is being told by people on the ground (who may or may not know more than he does). Unfortunately, the latter have obvious reasons to tell an upbeat story, if only to make their own efforts look good. If things are going badly, therefore, the people at the top back in Washington may be the last to know. 


Third, serious problems may go undetected when a long-term negative trend is masked by large short-term fluctuations. Climate change is the classic illustration here: there are lots of short-term fluctuations in atmospheric temperature (daily, seasonally, annually and over eons), which allows climate change skeptics to seize upon any unusual cold snap as "evidence" that greenhouse gases are of no concern. 

Similarly, it's easy to find short-term signs of American primacy that may be masking adverse long-term trends. Optimists can point to U.S. military predominance and the fact that the American economy is still the world's largest, or to the number of patents and Nobel Prizes that U.S. scientists continue to win. But just as the British Empire reached its greatest territorial expanse after World War I (when its actual power was decidedly on the wane), these positive features may be largely a product of past investments (and good fortune) and focusing on them could lead us to miss the eroding foundations of American power.

A fourth source of foolish decisions is the well-known tendency for individuals to act in ways that are in their own selfish interest but not in the interest of the society as a whole. The "tragedy of the commons" is a classic illustration of this problem, but one sees the same basic dynamic whenever a narrow interest group's preferences are allowed to trump the broader national interest. Tariffs to protect particular industries or foreign policies designed to appease a particular domestic constituency are obvious cases in point.

Ironically, these problems may be especially acute in today's market-oriented democracies. We like to think that open societies foster a well-functioning "marketplace of ideas," and that the clash of different views will weed out foolish notions and ensure that problems get identified and addressed in a timely fashion. Sometimes that's probably true, but when well-funded special interests can readily pollute the national mind, intellectual market failure is the more likely result. After all, it is often easier and cheaper to invent self-serving lies and distortions than it is to ferret out the truth, and there are plenty of people (and organizations) for whom truth-telling is anathema and self-serving political propaganda is the norm. When professional falsifiers are more numerous, better-funded, and louder than truth-tellers, society will get dumber over time and will end up repeating the same blunders.

Fifth, even when a state or society recognizes that it is in trouble, Diamond identifies a number of pathologies that make it harder for them to adapt and survive. Political divisions may make it impossible to take timely action even when everyone realizes that something ought to be done (think gridlock in Congress), and key leaders may be prone to either "groupthink" or various forms of psychological denial. And the bad news here is that no one has ever devised an effective and universally reliable antidote to these problems.

Moreover, if a group's identity is based on certain cherished values or beliefs, it may be hard to abandon them even when survival is at stake. Diamond suggests that the Norse colonies in Greenland may have disappeared because the Norse were unwilling to abandon certain traditional practices and imitate the local Inuits (e.g., by adopting seal hunting via kayaks), and it is easy to think of contemporary analogues to this sort of cultural rigidity. Military organizations often find it hard to abandon familiar doctrines and procedures, and states that are strongly committed to particular territorial objectives often find it nearly impossible to rethink these commitments. Look how long it took the French to leave Algeria, or consider the attachment to Kosovo that is central to Serbian nationalist thinking, and how it led them into a costly (and probably unnecessary) war in 1999.

To sum up (in Diamond's words):

Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it."

That last point is worth highlighting too. Even when states do figure out that they're in trouble and get serious about trying to address the problem, they may still fail because a ready and affordable fix is not available. Given their remarkably fortunate history, Americans tend to think that any problem can be fixed if we just try hard enough. That was never true in the past and it isn't true today, and the real challenge remains learning how to distinguish between those situations where extra effort is likely to pay off and those where cutting one's losses makes a lot more sense.

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