Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tidbits of deep wisdom

from a bizarrely ancient person:

1. Nature will kick your ass every single time. (If you don't believe me, consider, for example, the energy released in the Tunguska event relative to the largest-ever man-made detonation of about 60 megatons. Or just think about how much it takes to deal with one wildfire.)

2. The enemy of your enemy is not likely to be a very good friend.

3. People want revenge, and people will not lightly accept humiliation.

4. Hitting someone harder will probably not make him want revenge any less.

4.5. Conquered people almost never give in.

5. When you've run out of reasonable ideas, it's time to seriously consider the ridiculous ideas.

(For example, with regard to the Israel-Lebanon crisis, if diplomacy and conventional military action aren't going to work--the first because the sides aren't speaking, the second because you can't possibly achieve your objective--you have to look at other options. Say, spraying aerosol sedatives over southern Lebanon or something.)

6. If you assert God has agency in the same way that we do, you are making things up.

(I'm not talking about the Incarnation, which totally changes the question--which is kind of the point.)

7. If you assert that a non-human intelligence would be more or less like us, you are completely crazy. (Even O.S. Card didn't really live up to his premise.)

8. A person with a dark aspect should be portrayed differently from someone who doesn't.

(Angelina Jolie has a very pretty smile, but photographing her as if she were Jessica Simpson, with a big All-American smile, just looks like a comment on the desperation of existence--not ideal for the cover of People magazine.)

9. If people don't really believe you when you say you want to engage in diplomacy, you have done something ridiculously wrong.

10. If you have to announce the beginning of diplomatic engagement, you have already screwed up.

11. Withdrawing your diplomatic mission from a country you're upset with is obviously stupid and should never be done.

12. Things will work out better in the Middle east if official Europe can admit publicly that the Jewish state is where it is (i.e. not in Europe) partly because of anti-Semiticism continuing after the Holocaust.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

In other news

I have just discovered that one can obtain recordings of the Red Army Chorus singing White Christmas and O Tannenbaum.

On the colored races

As I often do, I listened to NPR news yesterday morning while puttering around in the general direction of taking shower and having a day. A big story, then, was the field trip of members of the US Senate to a border town in Texas, where they held hearings on the horrors of illegal immigration from the south. Thankfully, the Democrats tagging along were pretty handy about pointing out the craziness of the whole scene, but I wanted to point out something that I found especially disturbing.

One of the speakers at the hearing mentioned--in trying to justify the claim that illegal immigration and "global terrorism" are nontrivially linked--that Mexicans are regularly mistaken for Arabs (swarthy, you know), and therefore, Arab terrorists could infiltrate Mexico, learn Spanish and blend in with a cohort of people making their way north, carrying along whatever diabolical equipment may be needed for the mission. (Incidentally, the reporter found it necessary to say that border guards had found, at various times, most of the makings of a "dirty bomb." I don't know why she would make such a bizarre claim--or maybe she just didn't understand that "dirty" means radioactive in this context. Anyway, seemed irresponsible to me.) Now, how preposterous is this notion?--let me count the ways:

(0) Timothy McVeigh.

(1) I hear that many Arabic* people speak languages that are not much like Spanish. I also understand that people speak second languages with accents. The brilliant tactical response in this case might be: "Ask a native speaker, 'Is that person a native Spanish-speaker?'" This is why they pay me the big bucks.

(2) In my experience, two groups of people only look the same to other groups of people. For example, I'm taken for an Arab fairly often--but exactly one Arab has ever made this mistake in my case. (I have been taken as a Turk by several Arabic people at various times.) I think we have a solution in this case, too: "Ask a Latino person, 'Is that person Latino?'" I'm earning my money today.

(3) Oh screw it, this is dull.

Anyway, I bring this up because it seems to me that this would not even be a question if it occurred to the speaker, and the presiding Senators, that a white guy's inability to distinguish ethnicities among darker people or accents in Spanish
might be their own personal predicament. I, for one, could never pick out different accents among Russian speakers with any accuracy, and that was a language I half-way claimed to understand (at the time). I was going to say something like, "Nice to see that we're back to overt racism again," but I think this is more depressing than outrageous now.

*What is the correct term? Do you use Arab as an adjective? I'm just running with "English people speak English"->"Arabic people speak Arabic."