Arrived last night in Beijing, China. I was picked up from the airport by two ladies who then drove me through the dense traffic to my downtown hotel. first impressions of Beijing- skyscrapers abound, so many bicycles, layer of smog, terrible traffic.
i basically crashed in the hotel…today, i’ve been meeting with my employers, the WITT company. they’ve been giving me a rundown on what i’ll be doing. tonight, i leave for lianyungang, my city.
that’s all for now!…
Flight today, San Francisco to Beijing, direct at 2pm! Next post will be from the land of pandas and rice!…
Steve Clemons relates this exchange between CNN’s Paula Zahn and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf:
ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: No. It’s more dangerous. It’s not safer, certainly not.
ZAHN: How so?
MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It’s aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.
As the secular military dictator of a state with strong Islamist ties, Musharraf is well-positioned to comment on this matter.…
Getting closer! Now in less than forty-eight hours I’ll be on my way to China. Today I went to the Chinese Consulate in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco to get my VISA. The process went far more smoothly than I expected. I had pictured a small waiting room teeming with frantic people. Instead, it was calm and orderly and I was out of there without much trouble.
In the meantime, my folks (keeping me company) and I bought some much needed supplies for the trip at shops around the city. There are now fewer and fewer things on the once-long list of things to buy.
While I’ve been home, I’m frantically ripping CDs onto my harddrive to load onto my brand new ipod. Figured it’d be the most space-efficient way to bring my volumes of music overseas.
Probably have a farewell post tomorrow- and then the content of this blog will almost surely shift as I get used to my new surroundings. Can’t wait to tell you about it!…
Scathing words about President Bush by novelist E.L. Doctorow:
I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.
But this president does not know what death is. He hasn’t the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can’t seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.
He does not mourn. He doesn’t understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.
(via Andrew Tobias)
Reading Doctorow’s words, I’m reminded of something President Bush said, unawares that he was on air, prior to beginning his Iraq war press conferene: “This feels GREAT”.
Now normally I’m not one to wager too much on a candidate’s biography, but here Bush’s utter lack of combat experience produces that sort of detached perspective. Frankly, if I were President, I’d probably be subject to similar criticisms.
John Kerry, for whatever it’s worth, would at least be a little bit more reticent to send young men and women off to die.…
Peter Bergen has penned a positive editorial on Afghanistan in The New York Times. Concluding paragraphs:
What we are seeing in Afghanistan is far from perfect, but it’s better than so-so. Disputes that would once have been settled with the barrel of a gun are now increasingly being dealt with politically. The remnants of the Taliban are doing what they can to disrupt the coming election, but their attacks, aimed at election officials, American forces and international aid workers, are sporadic and strategically ineffective.
If the elections are a success, it will send a powerful signal to neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, none of which can claim to be representative democracies. If so, the democratic domino effect, which was one of the Bush administration’s arguments for the Iraq war, may be more realistic in Central Asia than it has proved to be in the Middle East. (Emphasis added)
Screenwriter mystery novelist turned neo-con blogger Roger L. Simon linked to Bergen’s article and wrote the following:
And for those of you who are still wavering about how to vote, I suggest reading this article and considering whether this President is a force for good in the world.
Is this what Peter Bergen is implying? I don’t think so. Earlier this summer, in the July issue of Mother Jones, Bergen wrote:
This turn of events is a dramatic shift from the mood in the months following the 9/11 attacks. When the United States went to war against the Taliban, it was understood by many in the global community, including many Arabs and Muslims, as a just war. The war in Iraq not only drained that reservoir of goodwill; it also dragged the United States into what many see as a conflict with the Muslim world, or ummah, in general. Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, says the Iraq war has convinced “many Muslims around the world, perhaps a majority, that the war on terrorism is in fact a war against Islam.” Jason Burke, author of the authoritative 2003 book Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, adds that the Iraq war “appears to be clear evidence to many that the perception of the militants is in fact accurate and that the ummah is engaged in a war of self-defense. This has theological implications — jihad is compulsory for all Muslims if the ummah is under attack.” (emphasis added)
Such is the danger of conflating the war on terror with the war on Iraq. They are two very different things indeed, and John Kerry correctly identified Iraq as a diversion from our greater foreign policy struggle. Here Bergen supports that thesis- while overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan marked a clear strategic victory, we’ve taken several steps backward by invading and occupying Iraq.
Compare Bergen’s piece with Philip Robertson’s reporting on the current situation in Iraq in Salon. Therein lies the stark difference between our two Middle Eastern occupations.…
Philip Robertson covers Iraq for Salon, and today he conveys a fairly bleak portrait of our occupation. Here is the link (sorry, subscribers only…but subscribe! alon is great)…
Went to the Giants game tonight and saw them record a key, key win against the Houston Astros. With Schmidt going tomorrow, the Giants have a great chance to sweep the series.
Noah Lowry tossed a complete game, and his only blemish was a second inning home run to former Giant Jeff Kent. He worked expeditiously, needing only 101 pitches to dispatch of the powerful Astro lineup. Biggio, Beltran, Bagwell, and Berkman, the “Killer B’s”, went a combined 0 for 16 against Lowry.
Barry Bonds had an RBI triple in the first inning and then was intentionally walked an amazing four times. The Giants had a balanced attack today- Ray Durham knocked in two with a double in a three run fifth. Pedro Feliz and Deivi Cruz also had key hits. J.T. Snow possibly saved a run with a diving catch of a Craig Biggio foul pop.
Final score: 5-1
What’s more, the Padres beat the Dodgers 4-0 so now the Giants are only one half game back, tied in the win column. The Cubs beat the Pirates 1-0 so the Giants remain one half game ahead of them in the Wild Card hunt. Should be an exciting week and a half of baseball.
Due to my trip to China, this was my last ballgame of the season. The boys won all five games I saw- a new record! This marks the 19th consecutive season in which I’ve seen at least one game: I went to my first Giants game in 1986.
For perspective on Iraq, once again, look no further than Juan Cole…
Doesn’t it make everyone feel safer that the former Cat Stevens was detained on a terrorist “watch list”?…