Eye on the Watcher’s Council

As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.

The Glittering Eye, “Skies Darkening Over China”

In my submission for this week I return to a topic I’ve visited before: China’s longterm environmental problems. Unless things change very soon they will be a concern to all of us.

American Future, “Once Wrong Doesn’t Mean Always Wrong”

Marc considers David Halberstam’s changing views on the Vietnam War and relates that to the present day.

Eternity Road, “Peace Through Strength: Thoughts On American Military Preparedness”

One of these days I’m going to do a fullfledged forms analysis of the blogosphere. There are a number of different common sub-genres among posts. For example, there’s the news item, the analysis, and the rant.

Francis’s submission this week is a post of a form I’m very familiar with. I think of it as “reflection” or “musing”. Brainstorming. It’s a sort of thinking out loud and I do quite a bit of it myself. Francis is quite good with this form.

In his reflection today on the past and future of the American military there was one quickly passed-over item I wanted to dwell on a bit:

Americans being a peaceably inclined, don’t-trouble-me-and-I-won’t-trouble-you sort of people, we tend not to think much about military matters unless there’s a war in progress.

I certainly believe that’s true but it’s pretty obvious that much of the world doesn’t see us that way but, quite to the contrary, sees us as a bunch of war-crazed trigger happy yokels. Why?

I think there are any number of reasons. One is that they’ve been brainwashed into thinking so. Another is projection: they think what they would do with the sort of power America has.

Another possibility is that Americans who represent us overseas aren’t characteristic of Americans as a whole and are in some ways better and in many considerably worse.

Or, Francis and I may be wrong. I suspect that all of these things take part in the matter.

Done With Mirrors, “Why Is There Still a CIA?”

Callimachus wonders why, in the light of its many failures and inadequacies, the CIA continues to exist. I certainly agree with Pat Moynihan’s proposal that the bureau be disbanded and its functions subsumed under the Department of State and the Pentagon.  Never happen, of course.

In answer to the question, the CIA continues to exist because, once a bureacracy is established, it’s practically impossible to get rid of.

The Colossus of Rhodey, “American Fascists”

Rhodey’s submission for this week unites an NYT review of a book on the Christian Right, the Duke rape case, and student and faculty demonstrations in a rant against the Gramscian domination by leftists of the American news media and universities.

There are a couple of things I’d like to add to the rant. First, the mainstream American Left is pretty darned centrist by world standards and, second, as someone who sits a little more on the 50 yard line than Hube does and reads a lot of left-leaning blogs, the general complaint from that quarter is that the press isn’t nearly left-leaning enough.

Rhymes With Right, “Romney Watch”

Greg comments on Mitt Romney, his political future, his Mormonism and South Carolina Republican Cyndi Mosteller. Frankly, Greg, my gripe against the Republican Party for 30 years has been its acceptance of the Dixiecrats. These are the folks that you get when you make the tent that big. Now quite a few more libertarian-leaning Republicans are complaining that these are the folks who are running the Party.

Soccer Dad, “Uday and the Maiden”

Soccer Dad posts on soccer, Iraq, and Uday Hussein’s innovative incentive programs for soccer players. In my view the real soccer story in Iraq is the paradoxical expression of national unity in the midst of sectarian war at the successes of Iraq’s national team. A tiny, dim ray of hope in an otherwise pretty bleak landscape.

Right Wing Nut House, “Ellison and the Oath: A Matter of Faith”

Like his submission last week Rick’s submission this week is on the volatile combination of religion and politics, this time in the context of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U. S. Congress.

Joshuapundit, “Weekend Monkey: Let’s Play ‘You’re the Qadi’!”

Freedom Fighter presents ten cases that actually appeared before Islamic judges (at least one appears to be a case that might be brought). BTW the answers are here. I always like these “You be the umpire” kinds of things. I got 8 of 10 right.

In my view the real food for thought here is not the decisions themselves but that there’s not much in the way of quality control of either imams or qadis. As I understand it, it’s basically a repute system.

The Education Wonks, “A School Administrator’s Worst Nightmare?”

EdWonk reports the case of a 12 year old special education student accused of deliberately wetting her pants (and being arrested). This sounds to me to be a case of regular ed teachers and administrators confronted with special ed issues in a mainstreaming situation that they’re not prepared, either by temperament, training, or by virtue of support from the district, to deal with.

Andrew Olmsted, “It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math”

Andrew’s submission is a sensitive and intelligent discussion of a study of the racial implications of an employment interviewing study in New York City.

I wonder somewhat about the details of the study. I found no mention of the race of the interviewers, only the applicants. I also missed any discussion of the qualifications and background of those evaluating the applicants for the study. This stuff matters.

I can only speak for the conditions where and when I grew up but distinctive differences in the paralinguistic features of communication between native-born African Americans (the group that sociologist Charles Moskos referred to as “Afro Americans” and native-born white Americans were perceived differently by people in the two groups. For example, black Americans viewed direct eye contact as impolite; white Americans viewed lack of direct eye contact as shifty. The way one stands; comfortable communication distance; gesturing; eye contact; body movement. All of these things make a difference. Responses to these paralinguistic features may not be racist per se but they may have the same net effect.

The question then becomes is the proper course of action affirmative action programs or training in interviewing communications strategy for members of minorities?

Just for the record I favor preferential access to pre-natal and early childhood educational resources for “Afro Americans”, based on need. I’m not as enthusiastic about affirmative action in hiring.

The Sundries Shack, “Howard Fineman: Sooper Political Genius?”

Jimmie Bise’s fine rant on a column by Howard Fineman on the sort of leaders that Americans want is actually a study in stereotypes. Professional journalists have stereotypes about bloggers and vice versa. Howard Fineman clearly possesses some stereotypes about American voters and presidential candidates (particularly Republican presidential candidates).

There’s nothing wrong with generalities so long as they have genuine predictive power and we’re cautious about making the leap from the generality itself to the reasons behind the generality. It’s true, for example, that Americans have not elected intellectuals to the presidency (we’ve only elected two). Is that because Americans are ignorant, anti-intellectual yahoos or because Americans are hard-nosed pragmatists who mistrust ivory tower theoreticians?

Well, I’ve decided which posts I’ll vote for. Which would get your votes?

2 comments… add one
  • Damn, Dave…I’m impressed! 8 out of 10? The winner only got a score of five!

    I’m sorry you didn’t submit an entry during the contest…you would have definitely J won the prize, which I’m sure you would have enjoyed.

    Glad you enjoyed this one…


  • It seems queerly fashionable to speak of the CIA as a failure among the American right of late.

    I find the basis for this to be at best unconvincing. Disbanding and putting in your Dep of Defense and in your Diplo service?

    Profoundly stupid idea, really.

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