Bob Herbert: Bush is a miserable failure

Hold on a second, I wanna write that down!

Failure Upon Failure
Published: July 27, 2006

Imagine a pilot who is equally incompetent.

Now imagine a president.

The Middle East is in flames. Iraq has become a charnel house, a crucible of horror with no end to the agony in sight. Lebanon is in danger of going down for the count. And the crazies in Iran, empowered by the actions of their enemies, are salivating like vultures. They can’t wait to feast on the remains of U.S. policies and tactics spawned by a sophomoric neoconservative fantasy – that democracy imposed at gunpoint in Iraq would spread peace and freedom, like the flowers of spring, throughout the Middle East.



Thomas E. Rick’s Fiasco

Quite simply, the most devastating, upsetting book review I have ever read. Period.


Shanghai Taxi Drivers

This is a surprising story. Now we all know why they have that little plastic wall keeping the driver out of reach of the customer.


Each of us pays for services “rendered”

Renditions. That’s another word that’s slipped into the American vernacular in the Age of Bush, along with dimpled chads, IEDs and “internets.” Previously a rendition referred to works of art, or to the act of surrender. Now it’s a euphemism for one of America’s most unpardonable sins, something that would be literally inconceivable under any other administration at any time in our history. Try to imagine the furor in normal times if a president were to sign orders for the kidnapping of suspected terrorists, with no charges filed against them and no one to whom they can plead their case. They are then packed off to countries where torture is acceptable, where they are treated with brutality beyond description. Imagine the scandal. Yet now, nary a soul does anything more than shrug his shoulders; what was unthinkable is now the everyday.

Joseph Bosco, like so many of us, is suitably outraged a the practice.

Only a little more than half a century ago–within the lifetime of almost half of all American citizens–we denied the “Good German” the excuse of saying: “But we did not know,” or, “We were only following orders.” We put many of them on trial for war crimes and hung and imprisoned a bunch because they did know and did nothing or helped only a little bit out of a sense of duty. We did the same to Japanese who also denied complicity in crimes against humanity.

We are reading the TRUTH every day in our newspapers. We know. And we do NOTHING. Or even help a little bit out of a sense of ‘duty’ to the ‘war on terror.’ How about the men and women who fly the “rendition” planes? The men and women who type the paper work? The men and women who render food and supplies to these “know nothing” functionaries? What about you? What about that man over there waiting for a bus? What about me? You know. He knows. I know. Goddamn us one and all.

Who is going to put us and our leaders on trial and punish us for this barbarity? We have sunk to the level of those who hate and attack us. Where, when and how did we stop being that so special breed of people–Americans?

That’s for starters. Take a look at the article Joseph links to, and see if you, too, don’t share Joseph’s sense of shame. I know I certainly do.

[EDITED, 15.06 Taiwan time.]


Maureen Dowd: Bush, the immutable president

Worst. President. Ever.

The Immutable President
Published: July 26, 2006

It’s too bad President Bush spurns evolution – both in his view of the universe and his view of himself.

Scientists see more and more evidence that human evolution not only exists but is ongoing, as people adapt to changing circumstances with shifts in everything from skin color to the protein structure of sperm.

But with W., it’s more a matter of survival of the stubbornist.



India vs. China

Many thanks to the reader who alerted me to this gem of a story (three days old, I’m afraid). A BBC reporter compares his personal experience as a visitor to Beijing and to New Delhi, and his conclusions are exactly the same as those of my personal friends and blog buddies who have spent time in both cities. The bottom line: China has its negatives, but compared to India it is nothing short of paradise.

Every time you turn on the television or pick up a magazine, it is no longer the rise of China, it is now the rise of China and India. The desire to make comparisons is understandable. Both have more than a billion people. Both are growing at 10% a year.

There are, I suspect, many who are hoping that India, with its freedom and democracy, will win this new race to become the next economic super power. I am not so sure. I have spent the last eight years living in Beijing, and only four days in Delhi, so comparisons are difficult. But the few days I recently spent in India made me look at China in a new light.

Delhi is an overwhelming experience. It is as if all of humanity has been squeezed into one city. The streets groan under the weight of people. The air is filled with deafening noise and sumptuous smells.

Switch on the television and it is the same. Between channels blasting out voluptuous Bollywood love stories and pop videos, an endless stream of news channels dissect the latest political scandals, and debauched lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Coming from China it is an almost shocking experience. But after the initial delight at being in an open society, I started to notice other things.

The hotel was expensive and bad. In my room I searched for a high speed internet connection, a standard feature in any hotel in China. There was not one. Then with the night-time temperature still well above 30C (86F) the power went out.

I lay for hours soaked in sweat trying, and failing, to get back to sleep and wishing I was back in Beijing where the lights never go out.

It gets funnier (in a painful kind of way), so check it out. The reporter concludes, “China is not a free society, and it has immense problems. But its successes should not be underestimated. They are ones that India, even with its open and democratic society, is still far from matching.”

I have never been to India, and I have to admit it is one of the few places on earth I have next to zero interest in visiting. This is the effect of word-of-mouth; everyone I talk to about India tells me the same thing. Absolutely everyone. Distilled version: “No matter how bad China may be in terms of services, you haven’t seen anything like the sheer anarchy you’ll find in Bangalore or New Delhi. The word ‘shithole’ comes inevitably to mind.” When I hear this from so many people I know and trust, I suspect there has to be something to it. Read this delightful post for verification – when these guys say India makes them love China, you know India’s got an image issue.


CDT interviews John Pomfret

Well worth a read. John talks about his new book, Chinese Lessons, and about his own experiences as a student in Nanjing University.


Philip Cunningham – Again??

Danwei has opened the door for Philip Cunningham to reply to commenters who responded to news of his banishment from Chinapol. [If you plan to go there to comment that’s your choice, but I urge you to avoid insults and snark, and keep the conversation relevant to the topic. Ad hominems and anonymous emotional outbursts only give Philip ammunition to position himself as a martyr, and to point to obnoxious commenters as haters.]

In his reply, Cunningham plays tribute to his host, and explains, to his own satisfaction at least, why so many commenters react to him with hostility.

Danwei is not stuck in the old paradigm, it’s open to the public, savvy, self-knowing. But individuals who post on Danwei frequently sound old paradigm in their shouts and screeds. As Philip Roth has noted in his biographical writing, it was his identity as a Jew writing critically and candidly about Jews that invited, mostly from other Jews, fiece and irrational criticism I find that as an American, trying to write critically and candidly about my own kind, at a time when America is riddled with insecurities, with real and percieved, a similar pattern emerges.

Why is this so? Well, Americans have a deep investment in the American identity as it has been constructed over the years and any truthful comment, or attempt at unearthing certain unpalatable truths about America is not just an intellectual exercise, it touches on identity issues. All the more so if you have been “in government” as many Chinapolers have.

For those Americans whose innate sense of pride and comfort is couched in the terms that US president Bush bandies about with such abandon; freedom-loving, democracy-supporting, generous and benevolent in helping foreigners to a fault, what I have to say is going to shake some deeply-held convictions, convictions so deeply-held that the unreflective are not entirely sure what makes them upset; thus the rants, the lame insults, the flames, in and out of Chinapol. Internet discourse is overloaded and burdened by such hate speech, and I credit Danwei’s Jeremy Goldkorn for trying to combat this quietly in his own way.

Cunningham has drawn a line: on the one side are those who criticize him, flame him and rant against him, and do so because they harbor a deep-seeded belief in the myth of a magnanimous America; on the other side are the open-minded, non-hating truth-seekers like himself. The implication is that those who take issue with Cunningham are, in effect, victims of brainwashing from the American government – the exact same argument made by one Jessica Copeland. Never mind that if Cunningham were to do some research on many of the commenters (and it’s not that hard to do) he’d see that many, perhaps most, have a track record of standing up to the Bush doctrine, of rejecting it, and of criticizing America in no uncertain terms. Philip doesn’t get this: that it is possible to be enraged by the CCP without having been hypnotized by US propaganda. (Maybe he should talk to Hao Wu’s sister Nina; maybe she can help explain why everyday people uninfluenced by American propganda can hate the CCP.)

I made my first observation of Cunningham nearly three



Test post

Having coding headaches today – bear with me while i try to fix things.


Nicholas Kristof: In Lebanion, echoes of Iraq

In Lebanon, Echoes of Iraq?
Published: July 25, 2006

The U.S. position on the fighting in the Middle East is essentially: “Stop the killing. But not yet.”

Washington is resisting an immediate cease-fire so as to give Israeli forces more of a chance to destroy Hezbollah. But more time isn’t likely to accomplish much militarily, while every day of grisly photos on Arab television strengthens hard-liners – and Iranian and Shiite influence – throughout the region.

The Israeli offensive and the American support for it seem to reflect the same misguided thinking that led to our Iraq war. It’s a utopian notion that every outrage must have a solution, and that armed intervention is a useful way to reshuffle the Arab political stage.