Monday, February 25, 2008

Some Thoughts on Kosovo

The former Yugoslavia is a mess. It has been so since before the Ottomans ruled that part of the world, and judging from recent events, it will continue to be so long into the future. CW is fond on quoting from Dame West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon”, because the pre-war Balkan region she describes is remarkably similar to the situation today.

In “What Went Wrong”, Bernard Lewis noted the stark cultural difference between Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world in the period from roughly 1880 to 1922. When confronted with the reality of European dominance and success, the Turks asked themselves “What did we do wrong?”. The Arabs asked themselves “What did they just do to us?”. Turkey flourished, relatively speaking, and the Middle East today would be right where it was in 1922 if it were not for oil. In fact, it is pretty much where it was in 1922, just with more automobiles and guns.

The culture of the Balkans blames everyone else for their troubles: their neighbors, the UN, the EU, and most of all the US. After nearly 3 decades of murdering each other, here’s what the Serbs have to say:

"The whole nation is angry," said Sinisa Tasic, one of the organizers. "We are furious with the Americans. Wherever they go they create problems."

As intellectual rationalizations for bad behavior go, blaming the US is a pretty convenient one, but the leaders of the Balkans have always been pretty good at rationalizing their actions in the absence of foreign interference. P.J. O’Rourke noted that same thing when writing about the Bosnian situation in All the Trouble in the World:

Yugoslavia’s ethnic wounds are also, unfortunately, infected with idealism. There’s a surplus of intellectuals in the regions. Yugoslavia, like the rest of Eastern Europe, has more artists, writers and teachers than it has art, literature, or schools. In the resultant mental unemployment, idealism flourishes.

The regional sport of the Balkans is arguing, especially arguing over wrongs that date back to the 14th Century. Most of the debates between nations in the region show many of Jim’s 10 characteristics, here. It’s as if the Balkans are an entire subcontinent populated largely by Internet trolls.

What puzzles me about the current situation is the sheer ineptitude of the Bush Administration. Over 90% of the troops on the ground in Kosovo are European nationals, not US. I’m pretty sure that nothing happens to or in Kosovo that is not vetted by Brussels. The Economist has a pretty good review of the situation here:

Besides, the “independent” Kosovo will for a long while in effect become a protectorate of the European Union, which is sending a large mission to take over from the UN.

The three big dogs of the EU are thrilled to confront Russia here, on a battleground no one really cares about. Once again the Balkans are the setting for a proxy fight between the great powers. Many of the new member states or candidates for membership to the EU were long under the thumb of the USSR, and many have ties to Russian as part of a vague but very real larger Slavic culture. In order to prevent Russia from influencing EU affairs and to preserve their dominance, France, Germany and the UK are delighted to have a current example of old Russian habits to remind the new member states why they turned to the West in the first place. A regional power play explains why the French and German contingents in KFOR outnumber the US by a factor of 2:1 each.

Forcing the Russian eminence grise out into the open in fact stabilizes the rest of Western and Central Europe at the expense of the Balkans. Since the Balkans are already torn by war and occupied by foreign troops, destabilization there will not significantly affect the rest of Europe. In time, Kosovo will become Europe’s Afghanistan, a forgotten conflict uncovered by the press save for a few pathetic casualty reports.

American interests probably receive a few collateral boosts as well. The major effect, and the only real reason I can see for the US rush to recognize Kosovo, is to focus the attention of the “Stans” on Russian activities there. As a great power, Russia can keep its eye on many problems simultaneously, but it can not run multiple strategies at once. The Russian military has been leaning on the Stans to roll back their cooperation with the US. The new bases in the Stans will be vital if the situation in Pakistan goes South, so this is an excellent opportunity to show Russian chauvinism in a pro-Slavic, pro-Orthodox, and anti-Muslim situation. I’m sure the Uzbekhs and Kazakhs are watching closely.

However, by putting the US at the forefront of recognition and by ignoring International Law, the Bush Administration has once again taken a correct strategy and so mishandled the tactical execution that the objectives that would have been served by the strategy are completely lost. I find it supremely ironic that the US is supporting the construction of a Muslim state in a region whose religion-tainted wars in the 1990s trained many of the Al Quaeda operatives our forces have faced in Iraq.

The Russians are of course concerned about contested regions such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Pridnestrov. As one Russian headline proclaims: “The Americans Have not Yet Realized the Full “Uniqueness” of Kosovo”. The Bush Administration claims the action does not legitimize self-rule movements in places such as Chechnya, but the Russians are rightfully suspicious of the precedent.

The best course of action would have been to let the EU take the lead in recognition and follow with official notice from Washington once EU troops were firmly manning the barricades. If the US is taking one for the team by focusing ire on Americans so that EU troops in Kosovo are not unduly targeted, the risk to American interests is far too great in proportion to the level of support the EU provides to the US efforts in the Middle East (with the obvious exception of the UK). Whatever small gains the US takes away, the dominant powers in the EU gain more, and should take a more proportionate share of the risk.

The Russian press in fact recognizes the game. (All translations below are mine, but I am including the Russian text, for reasons that will become clear below).

Представители косовских сербов неоднократно высказывались против присутствия новой миссии европейцев в крае. Такого же мнения придерживается и Белград. Несмотря на эти возражения, Евросоюз в минувшую субботу дал зеленый свет развертыванию EULEX. В нее войдут около 2 тыс. человек, в том числе 1500 полицейских. В декабре прошлого года отправку миссии одобрили лидеры ЕС. Сейчас в Косове присутствуют гражданская миссия ООН (UNMIK) и силы миротворцев KFOR.

На первом этапе существование самопровозглашенной республики будет контролировать EULEX. Миссия ООН UNMIK не может в полной мере взять на себя эту функцию, так как решение по косовскому вопросу было заблокировано в Совбезе ООН.


The representatives of the Kosovo Serbs immediately registered their opposition to a new EU mission to the region. Belgrade shares their views. Disregarding these protests, last Saturday the EU gave the green light to the augmentation of EULEX. Nearly 2000 new members, including 1500 police officers, will be added. The addition was approved by the leaders of the EU last December. Currently, both a humanitarian mission from the UN (UNMIK) and the KFOR peacekeepers are operating in Kosovo.

Initially, the existence of the self-proclaimed republic will be controlled by EULEX. The UN mission UNMIK could fully not take on that responsibility, as a decision about the Kosovo situation was blocked in the UN.

Russia is of course protesting the move to recognize Kosovo. The EU and US have been making Russia out to be the bad guys. In many senses, the Russians are behaving reasonably, although it is obvious that Moscow would like to pull the Serbs firmly into Russian orbit.

The MSM seems to be rushing to judgment as well. I’m not sure if the distortions are intentional or due to ineptitude, but the Russians position is not well represented in the Western press. Take, for example, this CNN quote:

"If the EU works out a single position or if NATO steps beyond its mandate in Kosovo, these organizations will be in conflict with the U.N., and then I think we will also begin operating under the assumption that in order to be respected, one needs to use force," Moscow's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said, in comments carried by Russia's Interfax news agency.

I went to the Interfax files and pulled up the original Russian story. The actual text is:

Москва. 22 февраля. ИНТЕРФАКС - Постпред РФ в НАТО Дмитрий Рогозин не исключает, что после косовского прецедента государственные интересы в мире можно будет защитить только с помощью военной силы.

"В случае если Европейский Союз и Организация Североатлантического договора выйдут за пределы мандата, который определен им Организацией Объединенных Наций, то это означает, что они вступают в каком-то смысле в конфликт с самой ООН. Это будет означать, что мир в будущем будет строиться не на международном праве, а на грубой силе - читай вооруженной силе", -подчеркнул он в пятницу в ходе телемоста Москва - Брюссель.

My translation:

Russian Federation Emissary to NATO Dmitri Rogozin does not discount that after the Kosovo precedent that in the future national interests may be defensible only with the aid of military force.

“If the EU and NATO overstep the bounds of the mandate that has been given to them by the UN, then that means that they are heading in some sense into conflict with the UN. That means that peace in the future will be constructed out of International Law, but by the basest of pressure - military force” – he emphasized on Friday in a teleconference between Moscow and Brussels.

The original text contains no reference to “respect”, and it’s inclusion is a clear bias in the CNN reports attitude towards Russian loss of influence in the post-Soviet era. The Russian text is much less threatening, and clearly, in my mind, aimed at maintaining the Russian moral authority to use force in Chechnya and other break-away regions within its territory.

The original mis-quote was used to support a headline of “Russia does not rule out force in Kosovo”. It’s interesting to note that the original article was taken down and replaced with another, but Google does have a cache of it here.

Unfortunately, in the brief time that misinformation graced the Web, it was picked up by other clueless Western reporters.

From what I’ve read in the Russian press, the concern about Kosovo is mainly over the violation of UN resolutions and what that may mean for Russia in the future. Take, for example, the Argumenty and Fakty opinion poll on Kosovo:

Парламент Косова проголосовал за принятие декларации о независимости края. Как вы относитесь к образованию нового государства?

39% Отрицательно. США и Европа не посчитались с мнением Сербии

44% Отрицательно. Теперь любая спорная территория может провозгласить себя отдельным государством

10% Положительно. Этнические меньшинства получат самостоятельность и свободу

4% Мне все равно

3% Другое


The Kosovar Parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence for the region. How do you feel about this new country?

39% Negative. The US and EU did not consult the Serbs.

44% Negative. Now every contested region may vote to make itself a separate country.

10% Positive. Ethnic minorities are achieving self-rule and freedom.

4% Don’t care.

3% Other

The Russians in fact do seem to be somewhat reasonable in this instance.

Возможен фактический раздел Косово на две части, считают в МИД РФ Москва. 22 февраля. ИНТЕРФАКС - В Москве не исключают раздела Косово на сербскую и албанскую части.

"Складывается ситуация, имеющая перспективы к самоизоляции косовских сербов, не согласных или не принимающих одностороннее провозглашение Приштиной независимости Косово", - сказал "Интерфаксу" в пятницу заместитель директора четвертого европейского департамента МИД РФ, курирующего Балканы, Александр Боцан-Харченко.

"Это вполне может привести к фактическому разделу Косово", - сказал собеседник агентства.


It is in fact possible to divide Kosovo into two partitions, claims the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation

Moscow does not exclude the possibility of dividing Kosovo into Serbian and Albaninan regions.

“This situation may lead to the self-segregation of the Kosovo Serbs who do not agree to or do not accept the one-sided declaration of independence for Kosovo by Pristina” –Deputy Director of the 4th European Department of the FM of the RF with responsibility for the Balkans Aleksander Botsan-Kharchenko told Interfax.

This indeed could lead to the de facto partition of Kosovo”, - he told the agency.

So, fears of a new cold war are quite unfounded. The Russian know the game they are playing for in the EU. They will, of course, jockey for as much position as they can by taking Serbia’s side in the forced succession of a large chunk of formerly Serbian territory, for which I can not blame the Serbs for protesting. However, P.J. O’Rourke also once again summarizes my attitude towards everyone who is squabbling in the region:

The Serbs, of course, have as many excuses and grievances as anybody does in Yugoslavia, which s to say a lot. And they are just as much in the right as everybody else, which is to say they’re shits.

Friday, February 22, 2008

America, Anti-intellectualism and Me

Jim has a post where the Whateveresque Refugee Community is discussing (in passing) intellectual elitism. I saved the posts from the old blog, so I'm going to repost this one:

Since when hasn’t America been anti-intellectual? We have been a Nation of doers, not thinkers. There’s a reason America produced Edison and Germany produced Einstein. I’m oversimplifying here, but didn’t all you native intellectuals get a healthy dose of “if you’re so smart why ain’t you rich?” when you were a kid? I know I did.

I used to think I was an intellectual. So when I started studying Russian, I naturally gravitated towards this idea of an intelligentsia. People reading Anna Akhmatova while listening to Vladimir Vysotsky and praising Andrei Sakharov. Yeah, that’s the ticket. But then my love of history rubbed my nose in some ugly truths once again. This class of intellectuals didn’t begin to turn its sardonic wit against the regime until the regime began treating them just as it treated anyone else. In fact, an awful lot of them, from Gogol to Sholokhov on down, glorified some pretty heinous stuff. Some dissidents continued to lick the occasional boot in order to remain in public life. Even my hero Bulgakov was in the process of selling out with a piece written for Stalin’s 60th birthday (it was rejected) when he died.

Then I started to think a little harder about intellectuals. And I came to some realizations. For every horror of the 20th century there have been intellectual defenders. At best, being intellectual does not seem to provide a defense against horrible political judgment, at worst, a slight-to-large majority of intellectuals have been on the wrong side of pretty much every issue I care to contemplate in the past 3 centuries.

So it seems that intellectuals, like everyone else, need a person or group to tell them when they are full of shit. Intellectuals more than most, because they are so effective at making rationalizations for their behavior. The effects of the absence of such a person or group can been seen in every totalitarian state and an awful lot of failed businesses. As a consultant, I’ve seen businesses where the CEO and his cronies have no one to tell them to consult reality before making policy. Those businesses are doomed to eventual failure unless the culture changes. When the CEO has a few trusted people around him who can tell him to shut his yap once in a while, the business is much healthier. Everyone needs that. Every writer needs an editor. Look at the turgid prose of those who are so famous they can eschew editing, if you don’t believe me. America serves that function for the world’s intellectuals (including our homegrown ones). A nation of people who became successful, by and large, without leadership from intellectuals. So we say to Europe: “shut yer yap and do something”. Oh yes, I forgot, during the Tsunami aftermath, you didn’t have enough things (like ships and planes) to do much of anything without our help. So if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich like us?

So the next logical question people ask me when this subject comes up is: how can you be a scientist and feel this way? Aren’t scientists intellectuals? Well, yes and no. Unlike most other intellectual endeavors, science has a built in mechanism for destroying stupid theories. It’s called experimentation. It drags scientists back again and again to the reality-based world, back from the world of thought. Most scientists agree that America is the best place to study science. Why is America so good to science if there are so many anti-intellectuals? Because science proves its utility over and over again. And Americans are always friendly to useful people. Our literature and art is strewn with heroes who didn’t fit into society until they proved their worth with a skill or piece of knowledge.

I’ll give you a real-life example of this difference in attitude towards scientists and other intellectuals. My Tae Kwon Do instructor in high school was, well not really a redneck, but a pretty unsophisticated and practical kind of guy. So when his niece went off to get a Ph.D. in English, he was less than impressed. She could read poetry without a degree, he said. What was she going to do as a professor except create more people with no skills and no job prospects? I kind of calmed him down with the normal liberal arts spiel of English developing critical thought and communications skills, all being part of a balanced education.** When I told him I was getting a Ph.D. in Chemistry, his reaction was electric (to me). “Come on back when you’re done. I never knew a scientist before.” Anti-intellectual? No, not really. Mistrustful of people who said they knew what was good for him better than he did? Absolutely.

The difference in outcomes between the French and American revolutions also gives ample evidence of American anti-intellectualism, or at least indifference to intellectuals. Take an issue near and dear to my heart, the metric system. Certainly several of the more scientific-minded founding fathers preferred this system, but it was never enforced by fiat. As a scientist, I’d prefer its use, and in fact I do use it. But the kind of minds that would enforce this in the 18th century were not the kind of minds that would have stepped down from power voluntarily after two terms, setting an example for generations to come. Thanks, George. But the proof in the pudding is the intellectual attitude of the French Revolution: this is how men are supposed to be, so Liberty, Fraternity and Equality (and the metric system) for all, want it or not. The Americans said: you should stop at Liberty and the rest will take care of itself: if an idea is good for society people will eventually adopt it. If not, sometimes a little inequality is a good thing. Not before the law, but everywhere else in life, different gifts and different effort deserve different rewards. And one of those rewards is not the Guillotine.

So I take this opportunityto recognize what America has given me: the opportunity to get an education and make a better life for myself than my parents or grandparents. Freedom from the political turmoil of 19th and 20th Century Europe. The freedom to think and say what I will, and learn from others as a consequence of this freedom. We owe a lot to those practical patriots of the Revolution. Long may we continue to doubt the wisdom of the elite.

**I don’t know if she was a Postmodernist, if she was I take it all back.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Bristol "Brabazon"

The Brabazon was another one of those impressive but unsuccessful British airliner designs.

After WWII, it was clear to nearly everyone that the future was land planes, not flying boats (despite the recent introduction of the Saunders-Roe "Princess"). The Bristol Brabazon was the British airliner industry's best guess at what a new, long-range luxury airliner should look like.

It was innovative and ground-breaking in many ways, but ultimately it failed to anticipate the requirements of the postwar airline industry. Specifically, it was WAY too luxurious.

The aircraft was the size of a 747, but carried only 100 passengers, each in spaces about the size of small ocean liner cabins, plus a galley, salon, and theater.
Only one prototype was built, and the British airlines, primarily BOAC (British Overseas Airline Company) and BEA (British European Airways) were already looking for smaller aircraft with lots more seats - the incipient trend towards adoption of "tourist class"... another Pan Am innovation.

So only one Brabazon was built, but it paved the way for many very successful subsequent designs, including the Bristol Brittania turboprop - considered by many to be the best turboprop civil airliner of all time, and the deHavilland Comet, the world's first operational jet airliner.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Adventures in Bilingualism

My SIL got the wife one of these for Christmas. Now, most people would not detect any accent in my wife, but over the years I’ve become attuned to where she is not quite native in her pronunciation. The machine, however, picked up on that right away, although my wife claims that the extreme variance between what she says and what the machine records means that the thing is having fun at her expense. Examples?

Wife: band aids

Machine: tennis balls

Wife: Moron!

Machine: apples

Wife: I’ve been trying to get it to say apples for five minutes!

Wife: bananas

Machine: pine nuts

Me: You’ve been at that a while, wouldn’t it be easier to just write it down?

Wife: But then I would not have won.

Not that I’m immune from this, either. Chinese is a tonal language. That means that the using normal rhythm of an English sentence in a Chinese one will change the tone, and hence the meaning of the final word. If you want to say: “you’re so good” and emphasize the “good”, you’ll likely wind up changing the flat-toned 乖 “guai” (good) to falling tone 怪 “guai” (weird, strange).

Once a recalcitrant child was refusing to take her glass (杯子 bei tz, flat tone) , to her mother at the sink. She dawdled. Her father sharply told her to take the bei tz to her mother. Except using sharp English intonation shifts the tone from first (flat) the fourth (falling). A few minutes later the child is seen struggling with a huge Chinese blanket that weighs as much as she does and is many times larger. “Why are you dragging that thing out?” asks her mother. “Father told me to bring the (fourth tone) bei tz (被子).” Fourth tone bei tz , or 被子, means “quilt” in Chinese. That was years ago, and I still haven’t lived that one down. “You speak Chinese like a deaf person” says my wife.

Goin' South

Previosuly I have stated that I would vote for Obama before I'd vote for Huckabee. They are now neck-and-neck in my book after the Che flags were seen in two Obama offices. He's going to have to do more than this to earn my trust - announcing that the offending parties have been given the boot from the campagn is the only way to convince me he's not playing both sides of the fence. Me and mine have directly suffered from Commie bastards such as Che.

He's also going to have to explain this one to prove to me he's not another socialist in the vein of Jimmah Carter.

As a thinking man, I am also deeply suspicious of people who manipulate and ride on emotion, so this upsets me a bit, too.

As a wise man once said, politics is deciding which bucket of buzzard puke to drink from.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Bilingual Cultures

Jim has some commentary on the neo-con position on multi-culturalism. A lot of that commentary is aimed at bilinguals – and there is no disguising its racist undercurrent. But I’m reminded of something John Wayne once said – “some of the people who agree with me … are jerks”.

Before you make assumptions about my attitudes beyond the words that I actually write here, please take a look at this post of mine from the ChicagoBoyz, explaining why I fight pretty hard to maintain a bilingual household, especially since I’m a native English speaker.

America has always been a de-facto polyglot nation. It has never been a polyglot political entity. This is an important distinction. Up until this century, the expectation has been that if you have dealings with the Federal Government as a private citizen within this country, that those dealings would be in English. One of my most prized possessions is my great-grandfather’s circa-1880 German / English Dictionary. He emigrated in his mid-twenties, and never expected America to conform to his culture or his language. He adapted, and adapted well.

Of course, my great-grandfather lived in Brooklyn with a lot of other German-speaking immigrants (including, I’m sure, a lot more Jews than he was used to dealing with back home). Many of the Chinese immigrants I know stick to Chinatowns. This is an expected human behavior. But it is not good for the body politic. It separates the immigrant from American society, and re-enforces some of the very negative cultural practices that in part led to the immigration in the first place. No one who is completely satisfied with things back home emigrates, but fear pushes some immigrants back into a cloister that mimics the bad old days in the old country. A good example would be the Tong / Triad control of much of Chinatown. People who live in these areas are more likely to be exploited, and less likely to understand the practical compromises that make the Constitution work on a day-to-day basis. In that respect, they are dangerous voters. In the great melting pot of America, they are the lumps of sugar that did not dissolve.

Even the lumps that do largely dissolve still have a core of foreignness that will never fit in. Sometimes that’s a good thing to bring new perspectives. Usually it’s neutral or negative. My wife has a lot of attitudes left over from growing up in a Taiwan that was still under martial law. Her reading of the Constitution is a bit … interesting. I interviewed once with a German VP at a major company. He was very entrepreneurial, and told me he considered himself 100% American because he differed so much in outlook form the average German. My wife snorted when I told her that. I asked why – I still do believe the old American propaganda of the melting pot to some degree. But my wife brought up some of her more Chinese attitudes, and then noted that the German had emigrated even later in life than she had – so he was bound to be less American than he thought. As a nation we can absorb and Americanize only so much foreignness in each generation – hence the whole concept of immigration quotas in the first place (leaving aside the drain on the social welfare system of immigrants who can’t adjust).

When my wife took a look at the recent immigration protests, she got angry. Her words were something along the lines of “you won’t see any Chinese people at those rallies, they are too busy working, and they know their place in this country”. She is extremely grateful for the amnesty of 1986. Without that, the US would have lost a Ph.D. chemist in trade for a cashier at a Chinese restaurant. What a waste. But there is an element of demanding rather than asking to these recent protests, and it rubs me the wrong way, too, especially since many of these immigrants are positing some bizarre claims.

The big issue for me is the children if illegal immigrants, or those of the proposed “guest worker” class. Those born here are citizens. I know one family with a citizen daughter and illegal immigrant mother. If the mother had been deported when the kid was in high school, what would have happened? The kid would have followed the mother until majority, then come back here sans HS diploma. What a huge waste of resources. Or what of those like my wife who came here in grade school illegally? With a US high school diploma she was unemployable in Taiwan, yet unable to matriculate in a US college until the amnesty. Do we throw such people away? Again, what a waste. But with our open borders we have created an attractive nuisance where such stories abound. It’s time to get serious about border control.

Back to the bi-lingual issue, I don’t consider myself a racist, but I am a culturalist. Some cultures are better than others. Full stop. The more I study and visit some cultures, the more I’m glad I was not born into them. I share the skepticism of the neo-cons about America embracing Spanish culture in a large way, although for different reasons. This quote from Indian book reviewer A.G. Noorani gives you a good idea why:

British rule in India was doomed when the rulers introduced their language in India. You cannot talk a people into slavery in the English language. “An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery,” Burke reminded the House ofCommons on March 22, 1775. The effect is the same if “the natives” are taught English. It brings in its train British history - the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, Parliament versus the Crown, habeas corpus and the rest, as also concepts like the rule of law. Those who framed our Constitution were familiar with all this.

Most former colonies of Britain stand out as significantly better off than their neighbors. I’m not defending colonialism, just noting the strength of English-speaking culture in breaking the bonds of Ralph Peters’ Seven Signs of a non-competing culture:

Restrictions on the free flow of information.

The subjugation of women.

Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.

The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.

Domination by a restrictive religion.

A low valuation of education.

Low prestige assigned to work.

Most countries colonized by the Spanish are either third-world shitholes or just in the process of dragging themselves out of that state. After visiting Spain, I’m not surprised. The ancient “manana” culture hasn’t done the Mother Country a whole lot of good, and the former colonies aren’t even at the low level of the Mother – that’s why their people are pushing to get into the US. They exhibit most of the signs of a failed culture because Spain itself still exhibits at least four of those signs, and bits of the rest – hence the immigration patterns to English-speaking countries. One of the quickest ways to break those bonds is to start communicating in English, breaking habits of thought that are ingrained in the Spanish language.

Of course, it may sound strange for someone who’s taking a great deal of effort to communicate in a foreign language with his own children to express these ideas. But that’s a personal decision. Families with strong ties to their own heritage will carry on their own traditions for the good of the children, and the rest, who inhabit a lower energy state, will be absorbed into the dominant culture, as have all previous waves of immigrants. I bear a Prussian surname, but speak next to no German. No big loss – I picked the foreign languages I wanted to speak, and I speak them. I’m no big fan of Prussian culture, believe you me.

It is the American ideal itself that drives me to reject the widespread acceptance of Spanish, especially in the form of school curricula. My concern with bi-lingualism is not so much the speaking of a foreign language (my kids’ first language is not English) as it is the concern that this will open the door for Nanny Staters to create another political dependency. The history of bilingual education as advocated by Academic multi-culturalists is a case history in the soft bigotry of low expectations.

I expect, no I demand, as a native of the US, that immigrants who become citizens stand with me as equals. Bi-lingulaism as practiced by the government looks suspiciously to me like “separate but equal” with about the same “equality” of results.

As far as the destruction of American postulated by Lamm- give me a break. True, there have been no largely bilingual or poly-lingual nations that have survived when the demographics were nearly even – Austria-Hungary was constantly at war with itself until it split apart. I did a whole post on the ChicagoBoyz on the linguistic problems of China and how they help drive the splintering and regrouping cyclic history of that sad nation. But in general, when the majority is large, there is no problem. On the other hand, those who have not been in the halls of Academia recently may underestimate the self-hatred of many of the Marxist or other leftist professors in the humanities and socail sciences (and their ex-students now occupying government positions) have for the culture which spawned them. Stupidities such as the Akaka bill have the potential to set precedent for the Southwest. Neo-cons are absolutely correct to fear the self-loathing Academics who see the US as the root of the all the world’s evils.

The Hispanic immigrants of today will become part of the patchwork of America, unless leftist Academics and politicians are allowed to create a permanent underclass of guest workers with citizen children who do not speak the de facto official language of their own. If the Constitution is not changed, and the children of “guest workers” are in fact citizens, this will become a serious issue.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Darwin Uber Alles

I was going to post on this nonsense, but my excellent co-blogger beat me to it. Shannon's critique is superbly done, and he is one of the reasons I'm happy to be numbered among the contributors to the ChicagoBoyz.

Dr. Campolo was Clinton's former "spiritual advisor", proving that ahistorical, anti-scientific nonsense can come from either the right or the left. Way to go, "Dr." Campolo - you're helping the religious right make an excellent case to the rest of the country that religious types really don't belong in the arena of political discourse, because we don't do our homework. One question - did you ever make it past the prologue to "On the Origin of Species"? A word to the wise - making book reports based on reading the dust jacket and a few Cliff's notes might suffice for high school and whatever podunk religious college you attended, but on these-hyar Intarweebs, actual experts who, you know, actually have read and internalized the subject matter, are going to read your blatherings. And rip you a new one.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The DH.86 "Dragon Express"

For the first new post of 4706 I thought I'd inaugurate a new series: interesting airplanes of the past.

I looked at a couple of candidates for the first post, including the Bristol Brabazon (which will probably be the next one), the ATL-98 "Carvair", or the DH.89 "Dragon Rapide". I was leaning towards the Dragon Rapide, but decided that it was too successful and not that unusual, even though it first flew in 1934. (Notice a trend? All Brit aircraft so far.)

The Express, however, is much more rare (I'm not sure any still exist), and has a much more interesting story.

The DH.86, not officially called the "Express" or "Express Air Liner", was designed and built by deHavilland in only slightly over four months in 1933, to fill a requirement for an airmail carrier and air liner in Australia and New Zealand. The first one flew in January 1934, and was operating with Quantas and Holyman Airlines in Australia by October 1934.

It was powered by four deHavilland "Gipsy Six" engines, producing only 200 HP each - although the Gipsy Six was the most powerful engine produced by deHavilland at the time. Construction was plywood and fabric - like most British airplanes at that time, although the US airline industry was already producing vastly superior stressed-aluminum designs. It was also unique in having a single-pilot cockpit in the original design. The British built many aircraft, both commercial and military, designed to be operated by a single pilot, which was unusual, except for fighter aircraft, in the US. The Express carried 17 passengers - a lot for only 800 horsepower.

The Express was rushed into production too quickly, and had serious handling deficiencies. It lacked much of anything in the way of lateral stability, and had bad center-of-gravity issues. The first one flying for Holyman Airlines lasted about two weeks before a fatal crash, killing Holyman's founder Victor Holyman. In 1936 the Express had its Airworthiness Certificate revoked. The famous British Airplane and Armament Experimental Establishment evaluated the Express and found it to be very dangerous.

The problems were eventually fixed, and the type went on to fly into World War II. 62 were eventually produced, compared to 731 of the smaller and vastly safer Dragon Rapide. I tried to figure out if there are any DH.86s still extant, and can find no evidence that there are. There might be one in a British Air Museum, but I doubt it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008