Jul. 9th, 2018 04:37 pm
warriorsavant: (Signpost Ft. Benning)
Am reading a history called The Devil Soldier by Caleb Carr. Carr is best known for his excellent novel The Alienist, but he writes history too. The book is about Frederick Townsend Ward, who was an American mercenary commander in the Taiping Rebellion in China in the 1850-1864. It’s a period of time and a history that I knew nothing about. The Taiping were sort-of Christian converts (really had their own religion that was a mix of Christianity and their own thing) fighting the Imperial Manchu government. Seems the Manchus, although we think of them as the ancient line of Chinese Emperors, were essentially new-comers, being Tartars who conquered the place in 1600-something. For the Chinese, they were the interloping new-comers, since 200 years in China is like 15 years here. The Manchus were also corrupt, oppressive, and incompetent. Unfortunately, the Taipings weren’t any better. Ward was a soldier of fortunate who ended up forming a western-style organized and equipped, mercenary combat force that was apparently decisive in that civil war. The Imperial Government, since they had the Mandate of Heaven, were reluctant to hire lowly foreign barbarians to do their fighting for them. They also, despite having gotten their butts kicked in the Opium War (and repeatedly afterwards), saw no reason to change how they did business, organized, fought, or in any way changed their views that they were the center of the earth and everything they did was right. They would rather suffer 100 defeats than admit that any other way could be right, regarded any backing down as massive and unthinkable humiliation, and were masters of bureaucratic obfuscation. Much like their view that China was the center of the universe, it is a mindset I think the Chinese government still has, something to remember for anyone dealing with China today.
warriorsavant: (Cafe)
Easy to say, "I'm a dual citizen," but what does that mean? Some Gentle Readers commented about that on my last post, so I think some follow-up is in order. I'm not going to answer the question, but more discuss why can't be answered simply.

There are three perspectives to consider: that of the individual person, and that legally of each of the two countries involved. The individual perspective is a mindset or self-image. Interesting to the person involved, but only relevant to that person. The legal issue is more relevant to the two great certainties in life: death and taxes. Or more specifically, being drafted into the military and taxes.

In general terms, a country may not recognize dual citizenship at all, completely recognize it, or in between accept that you think you have a relationship with another country but basically ignore the issue. Citizenship can be from birth, or granted later. If from birth, can be either territorial (born in the jurisdiction) or ancestral (born from citizens/ethnics) or a mix. Granting citizenship later is quite variable, although almost all countries have some sort of process. Giving up citizenship can be automatic if you take another country's citizenship and your first country refuses to accept such a thing, or has to be formally relinquished, or can be impossible (eg: you and your descendants are citizens of our country not matter what you and another country think).

If you are born out of your own country, it varies what has to be done to affirm citizenship. It is rarely an issue (especially if you do it before turning 18), but sometimes there are sticking points. Sometimes best just to ignore it if no one makes a fuss, but as can be seen in the current Windrush kerfuffle in the UK, can raise its ugly head years or even generations later. Passports are generally issued only to citizens (dual or otherwise). Sometimes extraordinarily granted.

For taxes, a country may: tax its citizens' world-wide income, tax its citizens' income from within the boundaries of its own country, tax the income of all residents (citizen or not) from within the boundaries of its own country. Frequently there are tax treaties. For example, I pay the US taxes on my US-earned income, pay Canada taxes on my Canadian-earned income, then declare my world-wide income to both countries, with each country giving me tax credits for what I paid to the other country. (Sounds complicated? It is. That's why I have a very good accountant.)

For military conscription, again, depends on how a country recognizes citizenship. Although the US doesn't formally recognize dual citizenship, and can in fact revoke your citizenship if you serve in a foreign military (including of the other nation that you/they think you are a citizen of), frequently the US makes exceptions/turns a blind eye: Jews who serve in the Israeli military or Korean-Americans who serve in the (South) Korean military. The latter can be important, because the Koreans grant citizenship ethnically, and if you don't go back to do your military service at 18, then you go back to visit grandma at 30, you might be arrested for draft-dodging. (Frequently those young Korean-Americans serve as liaisons with the US forces, called KATUSAs - Koreans Assigned To US Army.)

Like serving in a foreign military, being in a foreign government can be grounds for the US to revoke your citizenship. There were a few high-profile cases where retired US senior officers/government officials went back to serve at high level (I think even president in one case) in their newly non-communist homelands. I think there was some fuss made, than they were quietly given a waiver. They really only care about the national-level government, not local, a fact I'd checked out with the State Department when I was considering running for city council here.
warriorsavant: (Composite)
I've been following the health care circus debate in the US.

Three facts and let you draw your own conclusion:
1. As you may know, I practice medicine in Canada, under one of those "horribly flawed, make you wait endlessly, crappy socialist medical systems."
2. I'm a physician, have my own practice which also makes me a small business owner, retired military including many years as a Commander. Bottom line of this pount is that I'm very much a bottom line kind of guy, both by nature and by experience/training
3. The average Canadian lives 3-1/2 years longer than the average American. Pre-Medicare, the difference was only 3-4 months.

Bottom line: who wants to live over 3 years longer?
warriorsavant: (Default)

Henceforth, I can be found at (Yeah, keeping the 'warriorsavant' moniker. Partly because that's me, even if haven't been a warrior lately (and questionably if a savant), and partly because too busy to think of another clever name.) For the meanwhile, will crosspost to LJ, but comments only on DW.

Why am I moving? Mostly (as we say in the vernacular) Imma follow my peeps.

Why is everyone moving? If I understand correctly, LJ is owned by a Russian company, and has been for a number of years. Last December they finally moved the last of the servers to Russia, which means they are now obligated to follow Russian censorship laws. Russia is cracking down on political blogs, but also have pretty restrictive laws on LGBTQ content, etc. Technically anyone using LJ is bound by those Russian laws. For the new TOS (terms of service), the English translation is not legally binding but the Russian one is, which means non-Russian speakers (eg me and most people I know) accepted a TOS that we cannot read, which was the last straw for many. Let me point out that it is not unreasonable for a Russian site to say that the Russian-language TOS (which is a contract) is the legally binding one. I'm in Quebec, where the French language version of a law is what is legally binding. That is, if I thought I was following the law because I read a bad English translation (even if it was the official governement translation), and the original French language version was different, well, that's my problem. Same for any country. The "World" Wide Web isn't. A site hosted in a country, even a repressive one, has to follow the laws of that country.

Would that really effect LGBTQ posting on LJ? Probably not. However people are moving because everyone on various websites are up in arms about LJ is now a tool of the evil, anti-LGBTQ Russian gov’t or something. No, I don’t support that, but (a) this is not verified, (b) I have larger reasons to detest the Russian govt (conquering part of Ukraine; fomenting armed rebellion in other parts of Ukraine; supporting Assad and Kim, the two current world chaps for massacring their own people, one of who is using chemical warfare on them), (c) if I got righteously and wrathfully indignant over everything that every website insists I should be righteously and wrathfully indignant over, I’d have to clone myself 100 times and still not have enough hours in the day. So why am I considering moving? Partly because might be true (and all the other reasons to detest the Czarist Govt), plus everyone I know on LJ seems to be moving, so I don’t want to lose my vast, dedicated cadre of followers (either of you).

See you on Dreamwidth.

warriorsavant: (McGill)
The other day I was on both ends of CME.

In the morning was our Montreal Derm Society meeting (have 6-8 per year). Since I don't like to be on the road these days, I'm getting my CME meetings close to home. I don't miss the bigger meetings. They are chaotic and with too many people (I'm not a social butterfly). There are some wonderful speakers, but we get just as good speakers to our local meetings. Mostly they're the same people; if you want to be an international level expert, part of the price is running around the world speaking at meetings. Often someone local who attended an international meeting recommends bringing in someone they'd heard speak, and we arrange to do so. Montreal being the city it is, we get people from across Canada, the US, and Europe, especially France & UK.

This time we'd brought in Richard Weller from Edinburgh. (Apparently, he has a great TED talk that you can find on line.) He was an awesome speaker. His first talk was on whether we should be so rigidly anti-UV as we are. For a Derm, that is practically apostasy. I've been known to threaten patients with death and/or rotting in hell for tanning. His point was that it might prevent skin cancer, but looking at all-cause deaths, it might lower it. UV seems to lower blood pressure, which is the number one killer disease (in terms of total years of lost life) worldwide. I'm still digesting what he had to say, so not making any changes in my recommendations at this point, but he made a powerful point.

Afterwards, we took him out to lunch. Be "we," I mean two of us from the Board of Mtl Derm. It's a matter of courtesy and protocol that if you bring someone in from another country, the least you can do is entertain them a bit, not to mention get to-and-from their hotel and such. At the beginning of the year, when we set the schedule, the Board divies up who takes out the speakers. I'm used to this from the military, where a visiting dignitary is assigned an escort officer. The other doctor (who is female) and I were teasing each other about our new sideline as Escorts, as that was a non-medicare service, and we could charge what we wanted. Anyhow, had lunch with him, then took him sight-seeing a bit before dropping him at the train station. (No silly, there's no train back to the UK, he was going to Quebec City to give a talk the next day.) Weller is a fascinating person: clinician & researcher; grew up as a Army brat; was a rower in University, mountain climber as a hobby; trained in UK, US, Germany, and Australia; voluable and knowledgable on almost any subject. A true internationalist. Even I enjoyed his company.

That night, I was on the other end of CME. McGill has various series of this. Some, like evening one I did, are principally geared to Family Doctors. Although given in a lecture hall, there are only a dozen or so physically in attendance, with most people getting it as a Webinar. I was asked almost a year ago - long enough in advance, that doing it was a commitment at a misty future date that I could put out of my mind and delude myself I wouldn't be as busy then. Wrong. But did manage to put the talks together (I did two back-to-back, both on papulosquamous disease). Parts were recycled from the medical student series that I'd already written, but I ramped up the level and focused more on practicalities. That is, I limited it to three common diseases, for each one I focused on "how do you know it's this thing and not another," and "how do you as a Family Doctor treat it." I also left lots of time for questions. The initial feedback was that it was very well received; that I geared it exactly at the right level. I really would like to see the official feedback, but at worst it's going to be good. 
warriorsavant: (Books (Trinity College Library))
Just finished a couple. Usually I read for pleasure voraciously. I'm so busy these days, that it takes me weeks to finish a book. (Besides the 139th reading of My Pretty Ballerina, etc.) I also read slower if the book isn't all that interesting (just interesting enough to keep me reading, but not steadily).
          Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson. (Mentioned back Oct 11th that had started it. Told you not reading very fast these days.) Tries to steer a middle course between the opposing common views on T.E. Lawrence (a.k.a. "Lawrence of Arabia") that he was (a) a great hero versus (b) heavily over-rated. Anderson succeeds in that. He gives good background into the world in which Lawrence lived and fought, which is to say the Arabian penisula and environs during WW I. Anderson also touches on the lives of some contemporaries who were involved in that world, but otherwise unrelated, which makes more for the book being disjointed and less for its being multi-faceted. All this assumes his sources and his interpretations of them are any better than those of the 100's of books that have gone before, which he derides. He also spends lots of time making fun of the military, governments, diplomatic services, all of which are presented as totally hidebound and idiotic, unlike, of course, the brilliantly-insightful author.
          Panzer Leader by Heinz Guderian. Guderian was one of the apostles of mobile armored warfare, which we have come to refer to as blitzkreig. Others were the British J. F. C. Fuller and Basile Liddell-Hart, and the Frenchman Charles DeGaulle (yes, that DeGaulle). However, these gentleman had the misfortune to be in the service of the powers that had won WW I, and so said powers didn't feel the need to really learn how to fight any differently than they had. Guderian had been on the losing side, so they decided they needed to learn to fight differently. At the beginning of the war, the British and French had more tanks, and better tanks than the Germans (as did the Russians), but didn't use them properly. It is not rare in military history that the edge goes to the first side to learn to properly use new technology, not just to deploy it. Much of the work is tedious "the XXX Division attacked along the left flank…" Great source material, but boring to read. A part that I did find striking is just how big the militaries were at that time. Each of the major combantants probably had more men under arms than the five largest modern militaries combined. The interesting parts are his insights into mobile warfare, and insights into the Nazi German war machine. Despite usual beliefs about the hyper-efficient and adaptable German military, he presents the higher commands as quite hidebound (there's that word again) and too far removed from the action (literally and metaphorically) to understand and adapt. Some of this might be the tendancy in memoires of people near, but not at the pinnacle of power, to generally describe everyone as being an idiot except them. Hitler is presented as a very hypnotic individual, megalomaniac, with great plans, but gets too timid in carrying them out, and also too far removed form the front to understand the situation. Guderian acknowledges the evil of Naziism, but that isn't is focus or his point. He is describing events from a purely military consideration. Overall, a slow read, but a good one.
warriorsavant: (Time)
Trump winning the presidency would be a disaster, but his losing would not be good either.
His supporters are mostly the same people who oppose globalization and were pro-Brexit. The issues aren't 100% aligned, but close enough that we can discuss pro- and anti-globalization.

It's fashionable amoung the pro-globalization folks to dismiss Trump supporters (and Brexiteers, and anti-globalization forces everywhere) as racists. They couldn't possibly have good reason for their opinoins. After all, they disagree with enlightened people like us, so they must be mistaken if not downright evil. There, there, now. Does that make you sleep better at night, dismissing people who disagree with you as a bunch of nasty, knuckle-dragging racists?

So who are "us," the enlightened, pro-globalization people? Generally better educated, younger, living in bigger, globally-connected cities. Y'know, the people who actually benefit from globalization. (Yeah, I know, not every last one of these people individually benefitted at all times, but statistically, as a group, they did.) And who are "them," the people opposed to globalization? Generally less educated, older, and rural/small town. Y'know, the people who have been hurt by globalization. What! They are actually against something that is hurting them? How unenlightened.

In this way, Trump is right. No one has been speaking to, or for, these people. Not that he'd do anything for them either if he were elected, but he is channeling their anger, their justifable anger. Consider a older, white couple living in a small city. He's a blue collar worker, she's a hairdresser. The Republicans don't care about them because they are neither big business owners nor evangelicals. The Democrats don't care abou them because they are not visible-minoritiy-lesbian-single-parents. There are no government programs helping them, as they are told they are "privileged," while they watch their purchasing power erode, their dreams evaporate, and their town die. Globalization may be helping those educated, young big city folks, it's helping manufacturing workers in China and call center workers in Bangladesh, but it's hurting them. We are not talking about a small fringe of the population, we are looking at 25%? 40%? of the country. (If you look at the Brexit vote, we're looking at >50%.) In Germany, these people are less anti-globalization, because the system is set up to help them adjust and adapt. Here, they get nothing. They are told that they are priviliged and unenlightened, and to stop whining.

Yup, great moral and tactical political leadership to ignore that big a percentage of the population who is actually hurting, and being hurt, by the current policies of both major parties. That's why they are supporting Trump. He's at least pretending to talk to them and their issues. And when Trump loses, the political elites will dust off their hands, pat each other on the backs on how they staved off disaster, and continue to ignore those folks who voices will be silenced. Until the next time.
warriorsavant: (Meh)
Nothing specifically wrong, just a case of the blahs. It is a holiday here, la fête de st-jean baptiste. We taught the kids to sing Gens du pays* and went to the festivities in the local park, which were unremarkable, but HF likes going to the park.

I even got enough sleep last night, which is rare.

Not sure if just cumulative stress, or paradoxically antsy because things are finally moving on the house renovations, or the Brexit is bothering me.

Brexit. I know it was a bout of colossal stupidity,** but unless that triggers more stupidity in Quebec (never far from the surface... maybe I should teach the kids the words to Gens du pays), it doesn't much actually effect me. However, emotionally, it seems to be doing so.

*Not really, but if you care the words are:
Lyrics )

**Among other scary facts, afterwards, the most-googled search in the UK was "What is the EU?" Uh, maybe you should have done that little bit of research before the vote?
warriorsavant: (White Lion - Jabulani)
Pseudo-intellectuals, pseudo-radicals, pseudo-heroic. All using the language of human oppression, human rights, heroic resistance and struggle, about… well, nothing. All you swine, I've always been contemptuous of; now I have one more reason to detest you.

Am reading Andrew Solomon's Far and Away, which is a collection of his travel writings. In the first chapters, he chronicles the struggles of artists in the then-Soviet Union. Not the state sanctioned official artists, but the barely tolerated avant-garde artists. These were men and women whose art was deliberately opaque as a means to criticise the system without getting arrested. They veiwed their art as resistance and a force to keep the flame alive. During the attempted coup in 1991, whose failure led to the downfall of the Soviet Union, they manned the barricades around the Parliement, feeling that like their art, it was a chance to save the soul of a nation. They were heros… and I have trouble caring. Why? Because the langauge to describe them was co-opted constantly by the whiny privileged children of a privileged society. For over half a century, I've listen to their pathetic snivels and claims to being artistic and intellectual and revolutionary and heroic, none of which they are. The most recent example was 2 years ago here in Quebec, when the students took to the streets, repeatedly shutting down parts of the city. They were in a desparate struggle against a monsterous oppressive system that was brutally stomping on universal human rights. Which is to say that the province wanted to raise university tuition slightly. (It's the lowest in North America, and still would have been if it had been raised, but a change of government cancelled the trivial increase.)

Of course they didn't want higher fees, nobody does, but these self-absorbed students were really using that sort of language. Hearing it constantly from such twits has completely desensitized me to these words, and when I read about true artists, revolutionaries, heros, truly fighting for human rights, I have to force myself to take them seriously.

Damn you pseudos, go back to your kindergarten and video game life, and leave that language to those who have earned the right.
warriorsavant: (Composite)
Do I miss it? The Army, I mean. I get asked that a lot. Short answer is yes. Have no plans on going back; have found something better, but the one doesn't negate the other. When the next full-on war happens, I will cry for my brothers & sisters who go; and I will cry for myself for not going. Every time I read about things going on in the world, I keep thinking "that's where I belong." Maybe I do, maybe I don't, but it's someone else's job now. Mine is my family. We were Soldiers once, and young. Is changing diapers more fun than fighting a war? Well, either way, I'm cleaning up s***. :-)

"Soldier" will always be a big part of my identity, but now so will "Daddy."
warriorsavant: (Me-cafe)
The following is partly from a conversation with Gentle Reader [ profile] ecosopher: (Hey, if I'm gonna quote someone, might as well quote the best, a concept I get from Ben Franklin*.) Anyhow, ecosopher was slightly concerned about her contribution to world overpopulation by having had 4 kids. The replacement rate for the developed world is 2.3 children per couple. Therefore, to achieve steady-state, we have to require all people to couple up, and have 2.3 children each. Okay, that's not quite it; actually it's that regardless of marital arrangements (traditional, gay, poly, or non), each woman needs to have 2.3 children on the average. A key phrase is "on the average," and [ profile] ecosopher & her monsieur are making up for slackers like me & Nom who only have 1. Also, we need to consider that in the developed world, where we can most afford to have and raise children, the population growth rate is low to negative, and some of the countries with positive rates (eg US, Canada, & Australia) much of the growth is from immigration. Actually, even in the developing world, the rate of increase is slowing. I sometimes think there is a subconscious knowledge of how many kids are needed to sustain society: in poor societies, population is your only resource/source of strength; in rich ones, a smaller number of better-educated and higher-performing people are a greater resource/source of strength. Despite islands of darkness and despair, most of the world is having an increasing standard of living, and not just the BRIC countries.

*Such always reminds me of a scene from the play 1776. Benjamin Franklin is being witty and annoying John Adams. "Damn it, Ben, I have better things to do that stand here and listen to you quote yourself all day."
warriorsavant: (Quebec sait faire)
The Chinese government news agencies publish/broadcast every story they can that makes other countries, especially Western nations, look bad. They are having a field day over the U.S. Government shutdown. Even Canada, nay, even Quebec, does not escape their scorn. A patient of mine just returned from a business trip to China, they were having dinner, and they offered him pasta "because we know you are not allowed to eat that back home in Quebec." (As they say in the news biz "see related story.")
warriorsavant: (HHG-Throne of fruit)
Recently posted about ethnicity, which generated some discussion. The response from [ profile] ecosopher was long enough to warrant a separate post, rather than just a response there.

Read more... )
warriorsavant: (Space-horsehead nebula)
Monday, as alluded to briefly, was a talk by Ari Sacher on Missile Defense. He’s an Israeli scientist who worked (works?) on the Iron Dome, which is the low-level anti-missile system that the Israelis have fielded. It works quite well, although he doesn’t claim it’s perfect, it did intercept 499 out of 500 missiles fired in one month. It is the first of what will be 4 systems, each covering longer-ranged (and therefore higher-arcing) missiles. He’s very informative and passionate. He’s also biased politically, in that he is clear in his mind who the good guys and bad guys are. If I were on the receiving end of that much incoming, I would feel the same way, but the issue is more complex than that. That having been said, his piece of the issue is how to stop incoming missiles, and he knows his stuff and presents it well. Glad I went; Nom enjoyed it also. Although she herself has no military or militant leanings, on her father’s side, there were many who served in the South Vietnamese Army, and so she has an emotional affinity for military service (good thing for me).

Tonight was an exhibit on cartography at the Stewart Museum. Very nice exhibit, as are most of theirs. They had maps, and cartographic instruments, dating from early 1500’s. Maps have to relate what they are portraying to the mind of the viewer, which is why early maps had all those cool decorations. One progression I found interesting was how much of the Americas, especially N. America, was known (by Europeans) and mapped at any given era. The earliest ones just vaguely indicated some landmass across the ocean. Then the Caribbean basin and surrounding lands were put in. S. America was defined early, with N. America just being some islands past Cuba. Slowly the east coast of N. America was filled in, then the interior, then the west coast. For the longest time, California was shown as an island off the west coast. Much later they figured out it was part of the mainland with the long peninsula extending southward. There was supposed to be a large bay or small ocean in the northwest of N. America, and a very large island off the northwest coast - not sure if that was Vancouver Island or Alaska. Not until late 1700’s or early 1800’s did they have a decent grasp on what the northwest looked like. In the later part of the exhibit, they superimposed early maps of London and Montreal with the current Underground/Metro maps. I’ve always liked maps and globes, and have a few of my own, including a couple of two antique ones, one of which a curator at the Stewart Museum helped me research and authenticate.
warriorsavant: (Time)

Keep reading about how the US is in danger of “going over the fiscal cliff.” A combination of tax “increases” (actually foolish tax cuts that are due to expire) and automatic spending cuts. If this happens, “the US might slip back into recession.”

Okay, let’s look at each part of this. Firstly, “slip back into recession? We never got out of the recession. It has been going on since 2008. The only people who think we’ve had a real recovery are politicians and economists. The rest of us look at high unemployment, a stagnant economy, and massive deficits, and realize we never got out of the “recession.” I put that in quote marks, because when a recession has been going on this long, by definition it’s a depression.

Both automatic expiration of tax cuts and the automatic spending cuts are examples of traditional political kicking the can down the road. Don’t want to actually have to take real action, so we’ll put in how we’re going to take action at some unspecified time in the future. Since that formula was wearing a little thin, they put in rulings that if we didn’t take action “now,” automatic action would happen “later.” Well, it’s “later.” These are actions that have to be taken (raising taxes and decreasing spending). Everyone knows that; no one wants to do it.

Both Liberals and Conservatives do deficit financing while claiming they don’t believe in it. Liberals believe in increasing spending without increasing taxes, which gives you a deficit. Conservatives believe in decreasing taxes without decreasing spending, which gives you a deficit. Both like to do the things that are simple and easy and give you credit for the comfortable parts (more spending or lower taxes) without seeming to have to deal with the uncomfortable parts (deficits eventually bite you in the ass). Finance is very simple: you have the gozintas and the gozoutas. The gozintas are what “goes into” your bank account/treasury; the gozoutas are what “goes out.” Everything else is lying to yourself (or to someone else).

It is argued that we are in financial trouble, so we have to spend our way out. Nice thought, but forty years of deficit financing is how we got into this mess. We have to clean up our finances (or we all have to learn Chinese, since they have sound finances and are therefore rapidly overtaking us). Yes, it will be painful, but only in the short term. The faster the finances get fixed, the less pain. Greece has been dragging its feet cleaning up their finances, and is still mired in the slough. Ireland initially dragged its feet, then got down to it, and their economy is growing again. Estonia bit the bullet right away, had considerable pain the first year then rebounded and their economy has been growing on a par with Germany.

We have to eliminate the deficit and buy down the debt. The alternative? 汉语

warriorsavant: (Time)

This post has been kicking around mentally for a couple of weeks, perhaps fueled by one too many beers. The melancholy, the emotional side of this, has passed, but the intellectual side remains. What are your thoughts, Gentle Readers?

The background (besides the beer) was my reading the latest Jason Goodwin novel about Yashim the detective. The action takes place in the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800’s. There are still riches and glory, but the Ottomans are past their greatness and beginning the long, slow decline.

I look at the state of the US today. (Okay, this is a bit Americo-centric; analyzing the entire developed world is a bit much for one post.) A dysfunctional political system (thank you single-issue nutjobs for stifling compromise and even discussion), where only the richest can play (thank you Supreme Court for shooting down any effective campaign financing limits), in hock up to our eyebrows (thank you everyone for living past our means and insisting the government do so also).

Back in the ‘80s, when everyone was worried about the rise of Japanese power, I was already more worried about China. Japan had that great Confucian work ethic, but only 40% of our population, minimal land mass, no natural resources, and at least were an open society (free economically and politically). China traditionally had the same work ethic, but 4 times our population, large land mass, goodly natural resources, no pretense about burying a militaristic nature, and a closed society inimical to ours. I worried what would happen if they ever unleashed their economic potential. Guess what? They did.

When I was growing up, Third World nations were contrasted to us (US/Western). We worked hard, produced stuff and thereby had a vibrant, growing economy that fueled our favorable position in the world. Third World countries produced nothing, didn’t have a hard-working population, sold their natural resources, and borrowed money from the developed world to make up for their massive deficits. Look around. We’ve lost huge amounts of our industrial sector, have an entitlement mentality, and are living beyond our means, funding our massive deficits by borrowing form the Chinese.

About a year and a half ago might have been our last chance to recover financially. The US was going through one of our periodic budget crises. The Democrats wanted to raise taxes (or at least let tax cuts expire) and raise spending. The Republicans wanted to lower taxes (continue tax cuts) and hold spending down (let the stimulus packages peter out). They compromised by keeping taxes low and spending high – the worst of both worlds. (By the way, it doesn’t actually make any difference if you increase spending without increasing taxes, or decrease taxes without decreasing spending – both are deficit financing, whatever lies you tell yourself about the difference.)

The Chinese seem to be faltering a bit now too. (Acemoglu and Robinson wrote in their excellent book Why Nations Fail that ultimately a closed, top-down-driven system can never be flexible enough to keep up in the long run.) Either that, or the whole world is going down the tubes financially. Not sure whether to be happy or sad if China is slowing. On the one hand, don’t want a closed, repressive system being dominant.  On the other hand, prefer that some place is keeping the world economy running.

I suppose part of whether I’m feeling optimistic or pessimistic depends on how much beer I’ve had, and part depends on how hard I think it would be to learn Chinese.


Jun. 8th, 2012 04:50 pm
warriorsavant: (Space-horsehead nebula)
1. Was going to take a bike ride, but storming like heck out there, so napped instead. I'm sure you can all see the equivalence.

2. Students here in Quebec are protesting tuition hikes. Tuition in US has gotten obscenely high, but here it is ridiculously low. Even if the full hikes (which are slated to be over 5 years) went into effect today, they would still pay less tuition than anywhere else in N. America. They want either a freeze on tuition, or even free higher ed. Besides my general distaste for whiny, self-indulgent, self-entitled people (who are, sadly, everywhere these days), I am especially incensed that they are complaining about government repression of them in their fight for fundamental human rights. Listen up a**holes. There are people being slaughtered in places like Syria for trying to get fundamental rights. You dishonor them by claiming the same.

3. On the more amusing side of the protests, some of the protesters have somehow decided nudity is an effective protest weapon. Admittedly, I would pay some people (frankly, most people) to put their clothes back on, but a group of nubile female college students? "We're gonna walk around naked until you give in to our demands." Uh, okay, I'm thinking gonna be very, very, VERY  long negotiations ahead. Am also thinking that they are, in effect, stripping for money. Lots of places here you can get a job doing that, and you don't need a college degree.

4. Other than that, it's been a really long week. Good, but busy. I saw about 25% more patients than usual. Feel good about it, because felt that although was flying back and forth, was giving good service (I might actually be developing a good beside manner!). Had a couple of off-beat problems and was able to deal with all of them. I do a type of allergy testing called a "patch test." Many of these are done "just in case," but had a couple of positive ones that were actually relevant to the patient's problem (and therefore super useful for them). Oddly enough, Tuesday had had Evil Secretary run the stats for how fast I see patients. If there are no procedures I book 8/hr (Derm doesn't take as long as Psych or even Family Medicine), but since there are always procedures booked, I average a little over 6/hr. Wednesday morning I ended up seeing almost 10/hr. Again, felt good because felt was giving good service even at that speed.

5. Not all good news on the medical practice front in our family. WWC is giving up her last ER and just do Family Medicine/walk-in clinics. It's about time she did, but there is always a sense of loss of identity in giving up something you are well-trained for.

6. Speaking of which, although out of the Army, will be coming back, much like an opera diva (divo?) for one last bow. There is a Change of Command at my old unit, and I will be attending as distinguished visitor. Will also be receiving my retirement award (it hadn't made it through all the bureaucracy before I had actually retired). It's a Legion of Merit, which is 2nd highest of the 6 possible awards for Service (yes, I have the other 4 below that too). Oddly enough, I'll be receiving a Navy award at the same time. During my last deployment, there was a Navy Forward Surgical Team, and I was able to help them quite a bit. They put me in for a Navy service award. A low level one (didn't rate more than that), but ironically during my time in the Navy, I'd never gotten a service (a.k.a. "done good") award, and now, at the end of my Army career, I do get one.

warriorsavant: (Default)
Went to an interesting talk last night by Roy Doliner, co-author of The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. The talk was about his discoveries as noted in that book. (Despite my resolution not to buy any more books until I get through the ones already stacked up in the nightstand and on the iPad, I couldn't resist ordering a copy. I'm not very good a resisting temptation, especially books or food.)

The background is that Michelangelo was raised and educated (under Lorenzo the Magnificent) in Florence, which was the well-spring of the the Italian Renaissance, and very enlighten about tolerance (e.g. to Jewish and other minorities) and interested in ancient wisdom. Since they were a bit short on ancient Babylonians, they studied Jewish learning. They, including Michelangelo, were not Jewish and didn't want to be, but searched out all sources of knowledge. Michelangelo became a sculptor, and only reluctantly painted. He got drafted by Pope Julius Second to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (BTW, so named because it was started by Pope Sistus IV. Coincidently started in the year of Michelangelo's birth.) Roman was a very intolerant city at the time, and Michelangelo hated painting and loathed Pope Julius. He got his revenge by painting any number of subtle insults to that Pope into the work, and only painting Old Testament iconography (and that following Jewish versions of the work, not Christian).

Sounds rather Dan Brown-ish, but this was real. Interesting information, and very well-presented.
warriorsavant: (Time)

Warning: serious post ahead.

Recently read Why Nations Fail by Acemoglu & Robinson. Some of this post is from that, some from emails with [ profile] ravensron and other people, some thoughts/musings of my own.

Read more... )

warriorsavant: (Signpost Ft. Benning)
No, this is not a post about gaming. It's a serious observation about systems in countries/societies. Was talking to my friend who'd moved to Norway (she was back in town for a visit). She had been having eye troubles, and needed to see an Ophthalmologic sub-specialist. Apparently, there just aren't any in Norway. Norway is a highly advanced country, but it's a small one - total population about the same as Metro-Montreal. They have "stuff:" technology, highly-trained people, etc, but the population base simply is not enough to justify every possible medical sub- or sub-sub-specialist.


warriorsavant: (Default)

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