Up and down

Within the past year, the best thing ever to happen to be happened to me. So did the worst thing.

So it’s no surprise that my mood varies from pretty high to pretty low. From day to day, and even moment to moment.

There is all the normal stress and anxiety of the school year, but also real honest happiness and real honest sadness. There are so many times I keep thinking of my dad’s letters or are phone calls. There are so many times I am so happy to be with my wife.

Sometimes I have this driving energy to get things done (I woke up at 4:30 and started working this morning, before going back to sleep) and other times I find it hard to click continue on a web form.

I am introspective enough to recognize how time changes things. The only reason I finished the spring semester at all was that I had gotten nearly all work done before my dad’s heart attack. This summer I accomplished a lot, including work ahead in class, deforestation, a visit to China, and, of course getting married.

Take that trees!

So I’m feeling more down that I was, at any given time, a year ago. But I’m also feeling more up.

If living means feeling emotions, then boy, am I living now!

May the joy always increase, the sadness become less intense, and US CIS stop losing our paperwork!

Smart move by the PKK

Rasheed, A. (2007). Iraq says Iran continues shelling despite protest. Reuters. August 30, 2007. Available online: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070830/wl_nm/iraq_iran_shelling_dc_1.

A few weeks ago, chatter from Washington hinted at airstrikes against the PKK, an anti-Turkish Kurdish group on the terror watch list, but with close ties to our friends in Iraqi Kurdistan. This tactic was designed to force our friends, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, into either abandoning the fight for Turkish Kurdistan or destruction.

Instead, the PKK goes through the horns of the dilemma: last weekend, they attacked and destroyed an Iranian helicopter. This week, Iran’s been shelling Iraqi Kurdistan.

This is a smart move by the PKK, which positions itself as an anti-Iranian thug organization, and a bad move by Iran, which traditionally has good relations with its ethnic minorities (though this has frayed in recent years).

Lastly, this is also a sign of our missing diplomatic surge: Iran should be helping us battle al Qaeda and connect the Middle East. This proxy war between Washington and Tehran is unfortunate, to say the least.

Hong Kong now (almost) open to Chinese investment

You read the headline right.

In an effort to promote economic growth, Beijing has made it hard for Chinese to invest money oversees. (This policy also artificially strengthens the Chinese Yuan against other currencies, but that’s a post for another time.) However, as the urban component of China’s economy grows at about 10% a year, and bubbles pop up everywhere from the Shanghai stock market to the coastal realty market, something had to give.

Open to the world. Soon open to China?

As so often in China, what “gave” were government controls, and a number of stories (by Forbes, The Standard, and Simon World) discuss new rules that will allow Chinese to invest in the Hong Kong stock market. As Hong Kong is a global financial city, this means that Chinese dollars will be more open to investment around the world than ever before. While this is only on a trial basis, it’s enough to help the Hong Kong exchange rise 12.4% It’s also another step to China emerging as a “normal economy” whose currency floats freely.

First Day of Fall Semester

Well, not really. Actually today is the third day of class, but today I set up my corner of the new office and did the task which I expect will consume most days: research. After cannibalizing a flat-screen monitor to use as a second display with my laptop, I wrote a mini-litreview for research attitudes and half-of-one for research on creativity.

I also modified my daily routine a bit: after waking up and going through new messages in google mail and reader, I stop by the office on my way to get copies of New York Times and Lincoln Journal-Star and drop off my laptop. This forces me to get more done early in the morning, and allows me to focus on the papers after I get home.

From Iraq to Sudan

Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, written by Stephen DeAnglis and edited by Bradd Hayes, links to a recent article in The Economist thatlooks forward to New Sudan. Both The Economist and the ERMB articles are worth reading, but I want to use this opportunity to extend my comparison of Palestine to Iraq.

Another Trifurcation?

Within a decade of 9/11, the world may see the division of the Palestinian territories into Fatah and Hamas states, the division of Iraq into Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab regions, and the division of Sudan into “New Sudan” in the south, Darfur in the west, and a rump Khartoum government in the north.

This is exactly what is needed. 9/11 was a sympton of a malfunctioning Sunni Arab civilization combined with the Sunni Arab’s world to divert feedback from itself onto others. Our responses to 9/11 have served to redirect that feedback back to the source, destabilizing a Sunni Arab system already out of kilter instead of accepting a “stability” which generates violence for us.

That’s a good thing.

Update: Tom adds his thoughts.

Constiuent Services

Immigration is never easy, and my wife has run into delays in her legal ability to have an internship. At the suggestion of a cousin, who is a professor of law, we called the local congressional in South Dakota and Nebraska offices to see if they can help. The delay in processing is a minor headache that may cause my wife to lose a good opportunity and a great Lincoln company to lose an excellent opportunity. Yet she is a very smart woman and her permanent residency (presumably) processes in November, anyway.

We contacted the offices of Senator Hagel (R-NE), Senator Johnson (D-SD), Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Senator Thune (R-SD), Representative Fortenberry (R-NE), and Representative Herseth Sandlin (D-SD). We received polite treatment from everyone except Senator Nelson’s Lincoln office. My wife was hung up on, and when I called back factually incorrect information and curt treatment from April Dunning, who informed us that all requests for constituent services in Nebraska goes through her desk.

We next called Senator Nelson’s Washington Office (who Ms. Dunning had told us not to call, because they could not help us), and Christine, who answered the phone, was very patient and helpful. She gave me the phone number of Senator Nelson’s Omaha Office, as well as an email address that this blog post is being forwarded to.

Senator Nelson’s services link at this website returns a not found (404) error, as does the “contact me” link from his website. A different contact link at his page reveals an electronic mail form, which I will also use.

I assume that Christine is typical of the wonderful people on Senator Nelson’s staff, and April (who’s performance at an earlier job performance was criticized in a city council agenda (google cache, pdf) is an exception.

The Diplomatic Surge We Need

So it appears the military Surge is working. We also need a diplomatic “Surge.” In particular, the U.S. government should intensively pursue the following goals with respect to Iraq.

  • an emphasis on victory as a fait accompli. With respect to our primary enemies — supporters of al Qaeda and supporters of al Baath — the only question left is the nature and extent of their obliteration. With respect to our primary clients — al Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Kurdish Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — the only question left is the nature and extent of their triumph.
  • an emphasis on The 2K Solution. The war leaves us with two stable and friendly allies who enthusiastically wish us to remain and do not require counter-insurgency operations: Kuwait and Kurdistan. The American military presence should be accompanied by an increased American economic presence, focusing on the role of Kurdistan and Kuwait as developmental hubs for the region.
  • an emphasis on Iran. Like cancer, the Iraqi Baath Party and the Islamist Qaeda Movement are blight on everyone’s house. Now that the first disease has been cured and the second seemingly quarantined, enemies (Iran) as well as clients (Saudi Arabia) and friends (Israel) all benefit. A favorable regional balance of power can be sustained through military arms and materiel sells at favorable rates. American troops in Iraq are not needed. Similarly, the ruling parties of Iraq are naturally grateful to Iran for years of underground support. Iran’s help should be embraced.
  • an emphasis on feedback. The reality of the deed — the overthrow of one of the most prominent Sunni Arab states and its replacement by a Shia Arab regime — is matched by the propaganda of the deed — that partisans of Ali now control the ancient seat of the Caliphate that murdered their Imams. In every way, the greatness of the deed and the thunderousness of the propaganda should be emphasized. To the extent possible, both should be used to destabilize the broader Sunni Arab world.

I was skeptical of the Surge, but if our military progress is matched by an equal effort on the diplomatic effort, it will have been worth it.

Two eggs, one basket

Phil Jones doesn’t update it enough, but one of my favorite blogs is Platform Wars. Nowadays, two high profile platform wars are being fought in the living room:

  • Microsoft XBOX 360 v. Sony PlayStation 3
  • HD-DVD v. Sony BluRay

Sony’s PlayStation is behind the XBOX, partially because of the high price of inculding a BluRay disc palyer (the XBOX onl plays regular DVDs, though an HD-DVD add-in is available). However, the same thing that turns the PlayStation into an expensive game machine also means that, for those that buy it, it’s also a free BluRay machine: This has allowed Blu-Ray purchases double HD-DVD disc buys.

As The Economist says:

Why, then, have Blu-ray discs lately been outselling HD DVD versions by two to one? Because Sony cannily included a Blu-ray player in its latest video-game console, PlayStation 3. And while PS3 has not met expectations of selling 6m consoles in America, some 1.4m have nevertheless been snapped up since their launch last November. Market researchers reckon that most—90% by some reckoning—of Blu-ray discs are played on PS3 consoles.

If Sony’s big gamble pays off, including a BluRay player into the PlayStation will allow them to win the war against HD-DVD, and then (as all PlayStations will double as Blu-Ray players) allow them to seamlessly publish games in Blu-Ray format while Microsoft scrambles to think of something new. If it doesn’t work, however, Sony will be left with a uselessly expensive console on top of a re-run of the beta-max fiasco.

Interesting times!

The End of Private Insurance

Remember my praise of Rudy Giuliani’s federally-based health care plan, especially in contrast to John Edwards and Barack Obama’s backwords company-centered plan?

Giuliani is not just on the side of the angels, he’s on the side of history. At it becomes cheaper and cheaper to sequence a person’s genome, we will either face a situation where insurance companies only provide insurance to people they know will be healthy or, atlernatively, only people who believe they will be sick will buy insurance. (In other words, just like now, or worse.)

The solution, however it comes, will have to be risk-pooling at a national level. Giualini’s plan starts us down that road. Edwards and Obama, by contrast, offer only a tired repeat of the old industrial state.