Barack Obama and the Surge

Barack Obama eloquently and persuasively makes the case that Barack Obama has no idea what he’s talking about.

My favorite part is about 3:30 in, where Obama calls for full withdrawal in 16 months, and then denies he ever advocated withdrawing troops.

It’s not a sin to be wrong on the surge. I was.

It is wrong to deny you were. It makes people think you’re a liar.

And it’s dangerous to elect someone President who’s still learning about the COIN cycle. There’s advantages to electing a naif as President. Winning wars and keeping soldiers alive aren’t included in that list.

Iranian-American Normalization?

Good news, if true. The real attack on Iran is coming from our decapitation of Persian society, where around a 10th of the Iranian population (typically the most ambitious and education) has left the Islamic Republic.

The Weekly Standard
The sourcing on the story is thin, but it feels like a trial balloon. The story does note that William Burns, announced yesterday as the man Condoleezza Rice is sending to meet directly with Iran on nuclear matters, “said in testimony to Congress last week the United States was looking to opening up an interest section in Tehran but had not made a decision yet.”

Those comments came in an exchange with Congresswoman Diane Watson from California. She said: “I understand that Secretary Rice said about the possible opening of a U.S. interests section in Iran and I’d like you to comment on that.”

Burns responded that the U.S. was looking to “increase” its interactions with the Iranian people: “The idea of the intersection, as Secretary Rice suggested, is an interesting one. And it’s one that’s worth looking at carefully. I can’t go beyond that in terms of, you know, talking about our internal deliberations.”

Still, Tom has good reason to be skeptical.

The Wenchuan Earthquake and Chinese Police Response

From what I gather, police actions in China go through three stages.

1. An officer will attempt to persuade the subjects to cease their behavior. For instance, there is a Youtube video of a pro-Tibet protestor outside Carrefour in Beijing. The officer attempts to convince the protester that he could protest equally effectively — but not block sidewalk traffic — if he did so on a blog.

2. The government sends in a team in that is able to dispense favors and rewards. This may be removing perceived trouble-makers from an area, or giving hush money.

3. The police start clubbing people.

Given that, I would not be surprised if the next we hear about the Wenchuan Earthquake Parents is that their heads were busted in:

Grieving Chinese Parents Protest School Collapse – NYTimes.com
Hundreds of parents protesting shoddy school construction that they said led to the deaths of their children in the May earthquake were harassed by riot police officers on Tuesday and criticized by local government officials, the parents said Wednesday.

Local officials were also trying to buy the silence of the parents by offering them about $8,800 if they signed a contract agreeing not to raise the school construction issue again, several parents said.

The confrontation between the parents and the police officers erupted on Tuesday morning as 200 parents protested outside government offices in Mianzhu, a city in the earthquake-ravaged Sichuan Province, said Liu Guangyuan, a protester who lost a son when a school collapsed.

As Tom says, the Wenchuan Earthquake has the potential to be a systems pertubation. Let’s hope so. The victims and their families are immensely sympathetic throughout China. If they are clubbed by police, this is something that will be bitterly remembered in 20 years by even non-political Chinese.

WALL-E, Christianity, and Kubrick

Have been watching Stanley Kubrick films recently, adding Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Full Metal Jacket to our joint list of Eyes Wide Shut and A Clockwork Orange. We also enjoyed WALL-E. So I was delighted by Adam’s excellent analysis of WALL-E, in light of both Kubrick and Christianity:

The Metropolis Times: WALL-E: A Christian Dystopia
“We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.”
– WALL-E director Andrew Stanton

WALL-E’s parallels with 2001: A Space Odyssey go beyond the blinking red light and ‘Also sprach Zarathustra.’ It shares its visual and geographic structure and its central, somewhat Nietzschian, theme with Kubrick’s masterpiece. However, it goes to a place where Kubrick never could – by featuring the most touching love story captured on film in many, many years.

Read the whole thing.