Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Great Quote

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself"
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Good news too.. the Syrians have left Lebannon!

Monday, April 25, 2005

China & Japan

It's good to see that China & Japan have begun mending fences. Yet as other reports note, the problems are deep and are likely to resurface again. A conservative Japanese paper correctly noted that "China should halt its nationalistic and anti-Japanese education with action". The dispute shouldn't be solely blamed on Japan. After all, the Shrine contains 2.5 million soldiers so its understandable that visits are made. Joshua Fogel of the University of California at Santa Barbara disputes the characterization of Japan as extremist, saying the right-wing, racist element there was about as dominant as it is in the United States. To me, China just seems hypocritical. Considering their history (Tibet, Vietnam) they shouldn't be so confident people will believe they are on a 'peaceful rise'. And if anything, it is China who is 'unfit' to be on the Security Council.
Check out this editorial from Cox & Forukm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Dworkin v Rand & Update on China

The recent death of Radical Feminist Writer Andrea Dworkin has reminded me of the lunacy of many modern political thinkers. Reason Magazine brings up numerous examples demonstrating her deep hatred of men. This is perhaps the worst:
"What needs to be asked," she notoriously told a British writer on Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, "is, Was the cigar lit?"
Then again, she also wrote words like this:
"Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women"
And:
"Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership"
This woman obviously had some serious issues (she was drug-raped). Contrast this with a rational approach like that advocated by Ayn Rand:
"The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer—because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut.He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it."
"The most exclusive form - romantic love - is not an issue of competition. If two men are in love with the same woman, what she feels for either of them is not determined by what she feels for the other and is not taken away from him. If she chooses one of them, the 'loser' could not have had what the 'winner' has earned"
"It is one's own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one's own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony"
Words of wisdom. You have to wonder why people as obviously disturbed as Dworkin are treated with such respect. Meanwhile Ayn Rand still exists on the fringes of intellectual life.
Speaking of admirable individuals, I just read this speech by Rupert Murdoch. What a contrast to the last media king! Ted "Fox is Hitler" Turner

China Update: Larry Kudlow looks at the 'China Mess' and points out the obvious: that there is a real geopolitical and economic mess brewing in northeast Asia. This huge post is also worth a read.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More on China

I recently came across this lengthy post covering China. The author, like myself, is convinced that China cannot hold back political reform for much longer. He writes that "China’s democratization is an inevitability coinciding with its economic liberalization." Yet he worries that "with this kind of collapse around the corner, Taiwan could be a futile last grasp at maintaining authority." The recent case in China of anti-Japanese protests and the signing of an anti-secession law provide further evidence to back up the theory that Chinese nationalism has become core ideology of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Yong Cao, a phd student, documents the shift of the dominant ideology in China from communism to Party-led nationalism. Does this mean conflict is going to be inevitable? I doubt it. Is it likely? well I share the Economists belief that "the nationalist genie, once unbottled, could prove hard for China to restrain" but the main conclusion I draw is not that war is likely (it may be), but that political change is certain.

Friday, April 15, 2005

China

This NY Times report on how "Thousands of Chinese Villagers Protest Factory Pollution" is a good indication of the problems facing the Chinese government today. I'm currently doing a Directed Study on 'The Rise of China'. China's re-emergence (in 1820 it accounted for approx 35% of global output) as an economic power and its subsequent military modernization program is not unique, indeed, many Asian states are going through or have been through a similar process. What makes China special are two factors: it's huge population & territory size therefore its potential & the structure of its state. 'China Threat' theorists argue that unlike the Soviet Union, China will be a strong military founded on a credible economic base. They argue for containment in order to prevent China from changing the balance of power in the Taiwan strait. While having many concerns over China (how couldn't u?), I am already persuaded by the 'engagement' argument. This is because China has a "nonadaptive, brittle state that is unable to cope with an increasingly organized, complex, and robust society". The NY Times report is an example of how civil unrest is threatening the Chinese state. Engagement is causing this unrest, something we should welcome as it will likely lead to political reforms. I think it is important to remember this: Change WILL happen. Now having said that the recent anti-secession law doesn't look quite so menacing and the US hopes for "improved relations in religious freedom with the Catholic Church, with the Dalai Lama’s representatives" are only a matter of time.
This interview discusses the influence of Christianity on China and the author draws parallels between South Korea and China. Both are mainly Confucian cultures that are being 'christianized' (30% Christains in SK and 4% so far in China) and SK is now a democracy. This leads him to hope for similar change in China. There is also hope as many believe economic development leads to political reform. Ayn Rand, as usual, knew this when she wrote in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, that "the more complex an economy, the greater the number of choices and decisions that have to be made - and, therefore, the more blatantly impracticable it becomes for this process to be taken over by a central government authority. If there are degrees of irrationality, it would be more plausible to imagine that a primitive, pre-industrial economy could be managed, non-disastrously, by the state; but the notion of running a scientific, highly industrialized society with slave labor, is barbaric in the ignorance it reveals".

btw, I'm considering buying 'China, Inc' by Ted Fishman, anyone by chance read it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The American Empire

I have just finished reading Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. It is a very provocative book that challenges conventional thinking. For example, conventional thinking holds that America is not an imperalist power. Yet Ferguson demonostrates very convincingly that America is an imperalist power, after all, it consumes 40-45% of the world's defence spending, American troops are stationed all over the world, it has significant cultural power (Hollywood, Resturants like McD's etc), and its levels of wealth are higher than Britain ever was at the height of her power. Americans may have an anti-imperalist mindset, yet they are nevertheless imperalists themselves. Rather than ending their imperalism, Ferguson argues they should embrace it. As Max Boot says, "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of ernlightenend foreign administration once provided by self confident Englishment in jodhpurs and pith helmets". This is the sentiment of the book. Check out this good review titled 'Right Man's Burden' and this interview with Niall Ferguson. My main problem with the book is ethical. As an historian, he never addresses the morality of Empires. He writes about the obvious benefits that Empires can bring to less propserous & stable parts of the world (e.g. Africa) but he never talks about the great human sacrifices necessary to carry out such missions. For example, he talks about the spectacular success of Germany and Japan after World War Two and calls it good because on a utilitarian basis it is. Yet from the perspective of the US it was a complete failure. As Ayn Rand says, the US "was left with an enormous national debt, augmented by the grotesquely futile policy of supporting former allies and enemies to this day". His problem lies in the assumption that Americans have a duty. This is why he suggests the draft. That is something I cannot accept. As I wrote in a essay 4 years back, "Conscription is an unmitigated outrage that involves public enslavement, the prohibition of individuality, unconditional obedience, and self-sacrifice that inevitably leads to disastrous consequences. The draft is a relic of the past that can only suit a totalitarian society. The history of conscription is a testament to its undesirability and alone provides ample empirical evidence for its rejection". His acceptance of the morality of the draft clearly shows how far apart my thinking is from his. Chris Matthew Sciabarra has written a brillant article which deals with libertarian theory in relation to many ideas coming out of the American foreign policy establishment (e..g Neo-conservatism).

Btw, I realise I havent posted in a while. I moved houses (pictures to come for friends/family) and therefore the Internet was down. I'll try to catch up :)

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Incredibles / John Paul II Dies

I recently saw the Incredibles. What struck me most about the movie was the obvious attacks at egalitarianism and themes that appeared Randian. The New York Times review, among other reviews, also picked this up: "The intensity with which ''The Incredibles'' advances its central idea -- it suggests a thorough, feverish immersion in both the history of American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn Rand". Yet after a quick read it seems obvious that it was not inspired by Ayn Rand. There are numerous complaints one could make from an Objectivist perspective. David Kelly makes these quite well over at the Objectivist Center.

Most people will have heard by now of the death of John Paul II. As an atheist I have no time for someone who opposes Abortion, Birth Control. On top of that John Paul II has been menacing at times in his stance towards the War on Terrorism, and Iraq in particular. Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, has also added that the uncritical adulation for John Paul II “ignored the fact that he condemned millions of people for their sexual orientation; continued the church's policy of relegating women to second-class status; and failed to respect the American constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state by pressuring lawmakers and trying to influence our nation's political process.” Christopher Hitchens writes what no one else will say about John Paul II. Check out this '25 years of laughs' from The Onion. Classic. Meanwhile, friends of mine had thoughts like this on John's passing.