Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 18th, 2012

Politically incorrect guide to US interests in the Middle East

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Interesting article by Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy magazine:

Foreign policy, including the use of military power, isn’t an end in itself. It consists of tools and instruments designed to achieve specific and hopefully well-thought-out ends. Those ends — let’s call them interests — are theoretically supposed to drive a country’s foreign-policy strategy. Sounds pretty simple, right?

So what are America’s interests in the Middle East? Are there core goals and priorities that are more important than others? Does the country pretend certain things are more important than they really are? And how do you think it is doing in protecting those interests?

These are really good questions, and they’re not asked nearly enough. One reason is that since 1945, when the United States began to get its feet wet in the region, largely as a consequence of oil, Israel, and the Russians — that complex triumvirate of things it was trying to either protect or guard against — its core interests have remained pretty much the same.

Today, if you take the Russian bogeyman out of the picture (sorry Mitt), add Islamists and counterterrorism, and subtract a few Arab dictators and authoritarians, U.S. interests remain pretty much the same.

And despite all the charges of bias, dysfunction, and incompetence leveled at the United States, the country has actually done a pretty good job at protecting those interests. The Soviets never really made inroads in the Middle East, and eventually collapsed. The oil kept flowing from the Persian Gulf. And there was even progress — under American auspices — on the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Granted, the United States had a couple of oil shocks (1973 and 1979) and a half dozen Arab-Israeli wars, and America’s Arab street cred is way down because the country has cut a devil’s bargain with more than a few authoritarian rulers and because it staunchly supports Israel.

But hey, you know what? It’s not so easy being a great power. And it’s really hard to keep everybody happy. If you want unconditional love and affection, get a puppy.

Indeed, had it not been for President George W. Bush’s trillion-dollar social science project in Iraq and President Barack Obama’s initial tendency to create inflated expectations on both the Israeli-Palestinian issue and what the United States could do to bring democracy to the region, America would even be in better shape.

So what are America’s vital national interests in the region today — the matters it considers the core of its relationship with the Middle East?

Listen to how Obama answers the question. In a major speech in May 2011 dealing with what was then a more hopeful unfolding of the Arab Spring, he said the following: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2012 at 3:16 pm

Journalism and political lies

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Excellent post by James Fallows on some columns recently that suggest that journalists should not report statements that are clearly false without some corrective comment to point out the facts being misrepresented—including this quotation from MacGillis (whose article is linked in Fallows’s post):

Ah yes. If only there was someone whose job and calling it was to ferret out the truth of such things, to provide some context for voters. Let me think, there must be someone we can think of, a profession of some kind perhaps, sort of like a researcher but also a communicator…

This part of the Fallows post I found particularly of interest:

Bob Lutz, a long-time titan of the auto industry, has in recent years devoted himself to the development of GM’s electric car, the Chevy Volt. This is what he says in an interview withCharged, a magazine covering the electric-vehicle business. For context it’s worth noting that Lutz, a former Marine Corps aviator, is on the right-wing side of the normal U.S. political scale (emphasis added).

The level of owner satisfaction is extremely high. Quality and reliability is extremely high. But the downside is that the political extreme right has been distorting the facts of the Volt.

The Volt passed the government crash tests with a five-star safety rating, and didn’t roll over. But the testing protocol requires that even if the vehicle doesn’t roll, it has to go through the rotisserie maneuver, which is five minutes on one side, five minutes on its back, five minutes on the other side, and then back on its wheels again. At some point during the rotisserie, some fluid leaked out, and three weeks later caused a short in the battery and the vehicle caught fire. I mean, how safe it that?Three weeks should give people adequate time to exit the vehicle. 

And what did all these right-wing commentators make of that? “Chevy Volts catch fire.” All of them were talking about “yeah, they all catch fire. GM’s gonna recall ’em. There’s just another Obama-inspired program – a misguided socialist automotive policy. And not only did they spend a lot of your hard-earned tax dollars creating this vehicle, but now they put a $7500 tax credit on it.”

Well, there are a couple of things wrong with all those statements. First of all, the Volt was my idea in 2006. We showed the first prototype at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007. Obama wasn’t elected until late 2008, so Obama could not be the progenitor of the Chevy Volt. And what they also conveniently forget is that the $7500 tax credit for electric vehicles was enacted under the Bush administration….

And these people are supposed to be for American jobs? They did such reputational damage to the Volt that the demand dipped to a very low level. So GM did the right thing, which was to idle production for 5 weeks and lay off workers. So here are these right-wing pundits who are always talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. Actually through their irresponsible reporting on the Chevrolet Volt they managed to put American workers out of their jobs for five weeks! It annoys me to no end. …

As a conservative myself politically, it annoys me no end to see deliberate lying and misinformation coming out where they will trash an outstanding American product and do damage to American employment just to get at Obama. That’s just plain unethical.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2012 at 1:54 pm

Reconsidering GOPM vs. Grub

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I actually did end up enjoying last night’s GOPM more than my initial impression would suggest: the chipotle was a saving grace. But as I ate it, I thought of all the vegetables and greens that I had omitted for space reasons that would have made it into the dish prepared as grub (in a bigger pot). I think today I’ll cook those, then add the remainder of the GOPM to the pot to make a more vegetable-heavy meal. One certainly does get good vegetables with GOPMs, but the ratio of vegetables to the protein and starch in a grub is higher.

So, although the grub is more work to cook, I think I like the proportions better for me—plus by cooking a larger quantity, I can get more meals from a single cooking session. But I don’t mind repeating a meal; some don’t even want to have something for dinner that they had for lunch. So this is YMMV.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2012 at 7:53 am

Posted in Food, GOPM, Grub

Otoko and the red-tipped Super Speed

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Otoko Organics continues to be a favorite shaving soap. I bought from Australia, but perhaps a US vendor will in time offer this soap. With the Whipped Dog silvertip, I instantly got a fine, thick, long-lasting lather, and the red-tipped Super Speed holding a Schick Plus Platinum blade provided an efficient, smooth shave. I think this may be my favorite of the Super Speeds: not so mild as the others. But I’ll give others another go while this experience is fresh.

A splash of Acqua di Parma, and back at the apartment, which seems to be an endless task.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2012 at 7:48 am

Posted in Shaving

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