Friends of Barack Obama Never Lose Money

From Drudge Report:

BP America President and Chairman Lamar McKay: “BP supports an economy-wide price for carbon based on fair and equitable application across all sectors and believes that market based solutions, like a cap and trade or linked-fee, are the best solutions to manage GHG emissions.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

Shell President Marvin E. Odum: “That is why Shell supports legislating a solution to energy and climate issues as a means to create a secure U.S. energy future, reduce dependence on foreign oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This requires setting a price for carbon, and we recommend cap and trade.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

ConocoPhillips CEO James J. Mulva: “Another key element of a comprehensive energy policy should be federal action to address global climate change. As you are aware, ConocoPhillips supports passage of a comprehensive federal law establishing a clear and transparent price for carbon.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

From the New York Times:

For much of the last two months, the focus of the response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion has been a mile underwater, 50 miles from shore, where successive efforts involving containment domes, “top kills” and “junk shots” have failed, and a “spillcam” shows tens of thousands of barrels of oil hemorrhaging into the gulf each day.

Closer to shore, the efforts to keep the oil away from land have not fared much better, despite a response effort involving thousands of boats, tens of thousands of workers and millions of feet of containment boom.

From Rolling Stone:

Even worse, the “moratorium” on drilling announced by the president does little to prevent future disasters. The ban halts exploratory drilling at only 33 deepwater operations, shutting down less than one percent of the total wells in the Gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Cabinet-level official appointed by Obama to rein in the oil industry, boasts that “the moratorium is not a moratorium that will affect production” – which continues at 5,106 wells in the Gulf, including 591 in deep water.

Review of “Sun Yatsen” by Marie Claire Bergere, translated by Janet Lloyd

To this day, the ideology of the Republic of China on Taiwan, and the Chinese KMT, is derived from the Gettysburg address

That a government
of the people,
by the people, and
for the people,
shall be established in China.

This ideology, known as the Three Principles of the People (三民主义), was first promulgated by Sun Yatsen. Sun is recognized as the the first President of China by both the Communist and KMT governments. His wife, Song Qingling, would become the honorary President of the People’s Republic of China. One of his sister-in law, Song Ailing, would marry H.H. Kung, the richest man in China at the time. His other sister-in-law would marry Chiang Kaishek. Sun’s most trusted deputy, Wang Jingwei, was the president of the Republic of China (Collaborationist) government under the Japanese. Born in China, holding a fake Hawaiian birth certificate, and arrested by the Manchus in Britain, Sun was the most fascinating person who I knew the least about.

Unfortunately, Sun Yatsen by by Marie Claire Bergere does not spend much time on these most fascinating aspects of his life. Rather, this biography is told through the stages of Sun’s political career, focusing primary on how the ideology of the Three Principles of the People developed, and how his specific conception of those principles changed over time. Primarily, the main division of Sun’s life is before and after became President (for only three weeks) of the Republic of China.

Before the Presidency, Sun was a revolutionary against the Manchu-dominated Qing dynasty, born near Hong Kong in a city that now bears his name. Anti-manchu/Anti-Qing was widespread in the area then, as it is now, and the intellectuals of the population felt that the Han Chinese were a subjected people under the Empire of the Great Qing, which is now referred to by mainland Chinese historians as the “Multi-National Empire.” While a sympathetic history of the founding of the Great Qing Empire can be read in Perdue’s China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Asia, Zhongshan and many others who were alive during the decline of the Qing compared the foreign (Manchu), corrupt, and incompetent government of Canton Province against the foreign (British), law-abiding, and efficient government of Hong Kong, and saw potential friends.

Sun’s early history is complicated. He was educated in Hawaii and Hong Kong, visited Britain and France, and raised money for several revolts. All of these involved a hoped-for “united front” of intellectuals, secret societies, and foreign powers, with the primary goal being the expulsion. Predictably, intellectuals were poor soldiers, and the mafia was self-interested. So were foreign powers. Their willingness to support terrorism against the Great Qing were inversely proportional to their power in the region. So the British were disinterested, the French were curious but unreliable, but the Americans would be a source of income for the Christian progressive, and the Japanese, they would be good friends.

Interestingly, Sun became an enemy of a man he once tried to ally himself with — Kang Youwei. Kang was a classically educated reformer who had been central to the Western Affairs Movement and the Hundred Days of the Guangxu Emperor. These reforms centered around creating a National Exam with a math and sceince component, eliminating sinecures, creating modern schools, establishing a Constitutional monarchy, encourage western investment, modernize the military, and support a network of Chambers of Commerce. The Guangxu Reform would have made the Meiji Restoration look pale in comparison, if it had not been aborted by that Mao Zedong in a skirt, Cixi. The reformers were scattered, Guangxu was murdered, and Chinese politics radicalized. While Sun’s solution to this problem was revolution, Kang (even in exile) warned against radical change. China would not become a modern country for a hundred years anyway, he wrote, so there was no need (or point) to create chaos to hurry the process along. While its tempting to fault Sun for his radicalism and naivte — Sun felt that because the Chinese people had enjoyed centuries of stable government, they would never participate in a radical revolution — Kang’s attacks on Christianity as a ‘dog religion’ doubtless did not help matters. I can’t help but think that history would have been kinder to the Chinese people if Kang’s Society to Protect the Emperor would have been successful.

It was in Japan, that Sun — by this time a generation older than the Chinese students who looked up to him — was permanently residing in as the Cixi (the female version of Mao Zedong who had launched the First Cultural Revolution, which was fortunately put down through multilateral intervention). The Qing reformers who Cixi had opposed during her lifetime recognized the situation, and even while in exile warned against violent revolution. (One wrote that, if the Qing were violently overthrown, it would not be until the year 200 that China could be considered a major power.) Their policies included ending what remained of feudalism, trying to establish a modern army under the military reformer Yuan Shikai, abolishing the outmoded National Exam (which had been a test of poetry, philosophy and rhetoric, instead of science or useful knowledge), and so on. The speed at which the reformers now tried to make up for lost time, however may have bene their undoing. Influential families who had invested heavily in preparing their sons for the national exams now had limited futures, local boards set up to implement reforms proved mutinous and after fighting broke out, it was Yuan Shikai who negotiated the fall of the regime.

Yuan Shikai, however, was the Putin of his time. His tactical brilliance was matched only by his strategic idiocy. His reaction to having China handed to him on a silver platter (with Sun Yatsen happily demoted to Minister of Railroads and Song Jiaren, his main opponent, believing that establishing a peaceful political system was more important than actually defeating any of Yuan’s proposals)… was to kill Song. Yuan’s assassination of Song on March 20, 1913 was followed by Yuan declaring himself Emperor, a long and pointless series of “Revolutions” and “Expeditions,” and general chaos in the country that would proceed until Deng Xiaopeng became supreme leader nearly seven decades later.

The lesson that Sun drew from this was that it is best to be Emperor. He forced his followers to pledge loyalty personally to him, and proceeded to overthrow progressive leaders who stood in his way. Sun’s “emotional” understanding of statistics and numbers foreshadowed similar run-away enthusiasm by Mao Zedong. Sun also organized the destruction of the mercantile district of Cangon, through his aide Chiang Kaishek, when they did not pay him protection money. In his period Sun is almost perfectly an 1970s-era African despot, not even in charge of his own capital and primarily concerned with surrounding himself in a cocoon of a cult of personality.

Unfortunately, this late Sun Yatsen–one more disconnected from the world than at any previous age–was also the one who would more get to decide its future. The First National Congress of the Chinese KMT, sometimes called the “Reorganization Congress,”in 1924. This established a new party, seperate from the KMT which had been active during the anti-Qing Revolution, which include members who were both KMT and Communist. Indeed, it is not a coincidence that the first KMT congress occurred after the third Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress. Sun entered into a relationship with the Soviet Union, and its emissary to him Mikhail Borodin, in order to give him a Leninist party structure and a national academy for training an elite military class. He got both — the Chinese KMT and the Whampoa Military Academy. While conventional histories record that at this time the Communists infiltrated the KMT, it is more accurate to say the Chinese KMT was born as a parasite on the husks of the dead KMT and the still embryonic CPP.

With this done, Sun died of Stomach Cancer at the Rockefeller Foundation Hospital in Beijing, an inexplicable turn of events that left the future of China to four men: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai of the CCP, and Chiang Kaishek and Wang Jingwei of the Chinese KMT. Fortunately for China, Deng Xiaoping and Chiang Chingkuo would be successfully in making revolutions from above and laying the foundations for the China of the future.

Sun Yaten’s Three Principles of the People provide the intellectual framework for the modern cooperation of the CCP and the Chinese KMT. In their public statements, the Chinese governments on the Mainland and on Taiwan assert that each has only incompletely realized Sun’s vision. Beijing now declares that a government ‘for the people’ can only truly be that when it is ‘of the people’ as well. For its part, Taiwan recognizes that it has only established a government of, for, and by the people in one part of China (Taiwan). Hopefully we will see the day when the Three Principles of the People are fully established, and east Asia can live in peace and democracy.

The Life of the World to Come

The Big 12 Conference (which was the Big 8 Conference before we let Texas in, and before that the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association) is dying. Colorado has already left, and the Texans will leave within days, but the fatal blow was our own: Nebraska has petitioned, and been accepted, for membership in the Big Ten Conference.

This is a big day. This is a sad day, as we have a long history playing against local teams such as Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas, and Missouri. We do not know what will happen to these Big 12 orphans. It is heartbreaking to read headlines like, “Is this the worst day in Kansas City sports history?”

A history of the last century of conference switches is available online, though this particular one relies on behind-the-scene moves by Rupert Murdoch, Missouri, and the Texans. Murdoch, in his effort to fight ESPN, has used his “Fox Sports Network” to create a series of affiliated regional networks. The most successful of these is the Big 10 Network, which brings Cable TV money to college sports. In part because of the Big 10 Network, the yearly pay-out in the Big 10 is about $20 million, instead of around $10 million for teams in the Big 12. (For their part, the Texas are arrogant jerks, and Missouri is in purgatory for ironically sparking this destruction by attempting to join the Big 10 itself.)

Academically, the big news is that Nebraska is also slated to join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic arm of the Big Ten. Here are the press release’s bullet points:

  • Big Ten universities attract 12 percent of all federal research funding annually. They grant 14.5 percent of all doctoral degrees conferred in the U.S. each year and 25 percent of all agricultural doctorates each year.
  • UNL would be considered for membership in the prestigious Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago. The CIC leverages faculty, funding, facilities, investments and ideas to help the collective whole compete and succeed. Among its core projects are library collections and access; technology collaborations to build capacity at reduced costs; leveraging purchasing and licensing through economies of scale; leadership and development programs for faculty and staff; course-sharing mechanisms by which students may take courses at other consortium institutions; and study-abroad collaborations.
  • The Big Ten is the only NCAA Division I conference whose members all belong to the Association of American Universities, as does Nebraska.
  • Of UNL’s 10 peer institutions (by which it compares itself), five are Big Ten members (University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University and Purdue University).
  • The ability to recruit faculty would be enhanced. UNL already competes with Big Ten and other institutions to attract high-quality faculty; UNL would be able to offer access to CIC and other opportunities afforded by Big Ten affiliation. Similarly, new Ph.D.s and other graduates from Nebraska would find their opportunities widened through Big Ten collaborations.
  • Research collaborations with faculty at other institutions, already important and under way, would increase.
  • UNL’s alignment with the Big Ten will open doors to new investors, entrepreneurs and others interested in expanding regional and national markets through opportunities presented by Nebraska Innovation Campus, Perlman said.

Goodbye Big 12. Hello Big Ten.

The Future

The purpose of this blog is to understand the flaws in my thinking. As part of that, I encourage criticism of my ideas, as well as the ideas of others. While this blog started before I began as a student at Nebraska, I have been very fortunate that this habit of criticism has been reinforced. My adviser once said, “It may be a Midwest thing, but people here would rather help make something better, rather than just write and be read.” Both online and offline, I am happiest when dealing with serious people who want things to be better. (I am also temperamentally unsuited to being a yes-man, especially when it comes to stroking someone’s ego over getting to the truth.)

So it was that, after repeatedly complaining about a ‘feature’ in Microsoft Office, a friend who worked there came to be, and suggested that if I was so sure I was right, I should actually bother to demonstrate how Microsoft could be wrong. Using information available from official Microsoft sources, such as Channel 9, Microsoft Research, and MSDN Blogs, I did exactly that. Specifically, I conducted a simulation study to show how Microsoft could be getting the positive results from its statistical tests, while in fact the most reliable users of the product where the most hurt. I was able to meet with a PhD working for Microsoft who had one of those titles that just sound cool.

Given my upcoming graduation, I was of course nervous. Was my friend correct, that Microsoft (like my blog and University friends) was interested in doing things better? Or would I be told that there is crazy in your own house and then there’s crazy on my front lawn, and asked to leave?

The meeting went very well.

I was given the name of a more senior researcher at Microsoft. I searched online, and found his program of research at the company. As much as I want an exciting workplace, I do not want to waste my time with vain people who cannot take friendly criticism, so I tried the same trick again. Another simulation study, another finding which was the opposite of the ‘right answer.’ I sent it in.

30 minutes later, I receive an email. We need to talk.

Long story short, the folks at Microsoft I have talked to seem to be my type of people. I will begin working at the newest wing of the campus in Redmond next month.

Before then I am having the time of my life. I have already added Wyoming and Montana, Idaho, and Oregon to my list of visited states. I am going to a Major League Baseball game in a few minutes. I will fly to China tomorrow. I will get to act as tour guide to other Nebraska who are working in Beijing this summer, attend a wedding in Taiwan (“The Free Zone of the Republic of China”) and visit a friend in Singapore, traveling across the Strait to Malaysia, and visiting his family in Thailand.

I am really excited to be working with this collection of very sharp and bright individuals. I am looking forward to the rest of this ‘summer vacation’ before work officially begins  — and I could not leave out my brother’s wedding in Niagara Falls.

This is going to be a great summer!