"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Market System and Shifting Alliances
President Bush, who was well-known for not travelling outside the country much at all, spoke a great deal in his state of the union on America's need to globalize and mix it up with the rest of the world. In fact, in his opinion it's America's duty to lead all other nations.

I haven't seen the film Syriana but from what I hear it portrays the US government's foreign policy as highly cynical and mercantilist, the very opposite of what a global leader should be. Or does it?

The plot involves an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation whose leader has made contracts with China to sell its oil at much higher prices than the US is currently paying. This leader is a genuine reformer who wants to use the increase in government revenue to benefit his citizens. The market system at work, in a sense. The CIA assassinates this leader so that his pro-American brother can assume power and continue the preferential treatment of America.

So, yes the Americans behave badly on the international stage. But what about the Chinese? In the real world, they back the genocidal regime of Sudan because of oil. They back the klepto-theocratic rogue regime of Iran because of oil. And they keep the American government and economy afloat via massive loans. But they need the American consumer to keep their economy growing.

I'm in the middle of reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars which is partly about the CIA's support of the Afghan rebels in their war with the Soviet Union's invading force. Most of the weapons the CIA initially supplied to the rebels came from Communist China, a mortal enemy of the Soviet Union.

So, first the US formed an alliance with the Soviet Union against fascist Germany. Then it allied with radical Islam, a defeated Germany and Communist China against the Soviet Union. Now it's allied with Germany, Russia and China against radical Islam.
"Gameness" (or man's best friend)

Malcolm Gladwell, about whom I know nothing, writes:

Pit bulls, descendants of the bulldogs used in the nineteenth century for bull baiting and dogfighting, have been bred for “gameness,” and thus a lowered inhibition to aggression. Most dogs fight as a last resort, when staring and growling fail. A pit bull is willing to fight with little or no provocation. Pit bulls seem to have a high tolerance for pain, making it possible for them to fight to the point of exhaustion. Whereas guard dogs like German shepherds usually attempt to restrain those they perceive to be threats by biting and holding, pit bulls try to inflict the maximum amount of damage on an opponent. They bite, hold, shake, and tear. They don’t growl or assume an aggressive facial expression as warning. They just attack. “They are often insensitive to behaviors that usually stop aggression,” one scientific review of the breed states. “For example, dogs not bred for fighting usually display defeat in combat by rolling over and exposing a light underside. On several occasions, pit bulls have been reported to disembowel dogs offering this signal of submission.” In epidemiological studies of dog bites, the pit bull is overrepresented among dogs known to have seriously injured or killed human beings, and, as a result, pit bulls have been banned or restricted in several Western European countries, China, and numerous cities and municipalities across North America. Pit bulls are dangerous.