Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apostate President?

I haven't seen anybody raising this issue, so I will. Barack Hussein Obama was raised as a Muslim for some portion of his life. We are told he had a Muslim father and later a Muslim step-father. Today as he runs for president he claims membership in a Christian church. Whether he would therefore be considered a former Muslim by other Muslims is the question.

The answer to this question becomes fascinating because in parts of the Islamic world leaving the faith for another religion is an offense punishable by death. There was a rather famous case of this in Afghanistan a year or two ago.

Now suppose we elect Mr. Obama President and no leader of any Islamic country can meet with him because he is an apostate. Suppose radical Muslim clerics around the world issue fatwas demanding the death of an elected U.S. President on religious grounds.

I don't claim to be an expert on Islam. I would be interested in hearing the opinions of any who do have a sense of how this would play out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Preview of a Post-U.S. World

Fareed Zakaria, writing in the International Edition of Newsweek, has a spooky perspective about a future world without superpowers. With the U.S. becoming more isolationist and less involved in the world, it could happen.

Zakaria's last paragraph, based on a Foreign Policy article by British historian Niall Ferguson, is particularly of note. Ferguson's future isn't pretty but it is interesting reading, take a look.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend....

Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, has a very interesting perspective on what is happening today in our Cold War ally, Turkey. In essence, it is the sad story of a secular, westernized country slowly slipping into Islamic feudalism and chaos. I suspect that Peters has analyzed it correctly, give it a look.

Where Are the Giants?

The other DrC, who is my lady wife, was commenting last night that our nation doesn't seem to be producing the political "giants" it once produced. Where, she wondered, are this generation's Adamses, Washingtons, Jeffersons, Lincolns, Hamiltons, Roosevelts (either one), or Reagans? Our nation faces perilous times yet we have presented to us a group of probably talented but certainly flawed individuals from which to choose our leaders.

My reaction was a puzzled look, followed by "You're right." So I ask you, gentle readers, to nominate any current political figures who potentially are of the stature of those listed above.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I watched the State of the Union speech last evening. As one blogger said, it was really two speeches: the domestic speech, followed by the foreign policy speech. The foreign policy speech was right on target, even if it wasn't what most listeners wanted to hear.

The domestic speech was an odd mixture of same old-same old and odd new ideas. Unfortunately, it is likely that the only part of it that has much chance of being enacted is the immigration part. The President's views on illegal immigration are much closer to those of the Democrats than to the views of his own party.

His ideas about tax breaks for health insurance and a civilian reserve corps were both so poorly explained that it is difficult to know exactly what he intended. Neither sounded like something a self-respecting Republican would propose.

If this President doesn't figure out how to turn our Iraq involvement into a success, I fear he will be grouped by historians with Jimmah Carter and Herbert Hoover as one of our failed Presidents.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Political Musings

I'm a politics junkie, I follow politics even when there are no elections in the immediate future. So it amazes me that there are people announcing for President of whom I've never heard. What can such people be thinking?

The lack of realism on the part of dark horse candidates in the major parties is amazing. I suppose their hope is that lightening will strike, somehow. Does anybody else find this behavior inexplicable?

I'm even having trouble imagining any of the front-runners as president. Maybe that explains the motivation of these 'fringe' candidates, perhaps they can't either. I begin to suspect that there is something about the modern political process in the U.S. that drives talented people away while attracting supreme egotists.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Playing Off Shia Against Sunni

Writing in the Wall Street Journal's online OpinionJournal, Edward Luttwak has an interesting view of the unrest in Iraq. He believes the U.S. unwittingly has executed the first half of the old "divide and conquer" strategy. That is, Shia and Sunni are well and truly divided; killing each other in wholesale numbers.

Now the trick will be to play off one side against the other so they continue to fight each other instead of the U.S. The British were very good at this tactic in the 19th century when they were the world's only superpower.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Raiding for Brides, Anyone?

The BBC reports on the gender imbalance among children in China. Something like 118 boys are born for every 100 girls. A similar situation has developed in India.

In both of these huge countries, albeit for somewhat different reasons in each, many couples prefer having sons. As a result, many female infants are aborted or abandoned.

A few years from now, 1 out of 6 Chinese men of marriageable age will not be able to find a wife. The geopolitical implications of this imbalance are disquieting. We may see social unrest or invasions of neighboring countries to steal 'brides.'

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What to Do About Iraq, Another View

Tom Bevan, Executive Editor of Real Clear Politics, has an interesting take on the President's new Iraq policy. He isn't optimistic about its success; I suppose most of us would reluctantly agree. Bevan does make a valid point: whoever has an alternate solution to the problem of Iraq needs to demonstrate that it will produce a medium-to-long term outcome for the United States better than the President's plan. The bottom line is that all likely outcomes look relatively bleak.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Know Thy Enemy....

In the same way that Communism was the enemy of the United States in the last half of the 20th century, it seems that radical Islam will be our enemy in the first half of the 21st century. Following the precept of "know thy enemy," most of us could stand to know more about the roots of radical Islam. The Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal has an article that lays out a lot of the relevant information.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Management 101

Managers praise outstanding work, and criticize awful work. In between "outstanding" and "awful" is a range where most people's work falls. That middle range can be divided into good work (the upper half) and mediocre (the lower half). Typically this mid-range work tends not to be commented upon at all. Managers are too often busy to let everybody know how their work is evaluated.

Ask managers, as I have when consulting, whether they praise people who are doing good work and they reply "No, that's what I pay them for." To which I respond, "So what do you tell the people doing mediocre work?" Often managers claim to indicate their lack of enthusiasm for this ho-hum output. The truth is that much too often both good and mediocre work is left with neither praise nor criticism.

In most organizations it is sufficiently difficult to fire someone that only the truly terrible get fired. Those doing a mediocre job are tolerated because bosses don't have the time to go through all the steps necessary to let them go. Nevertheless, managers need to let the good workers know that they are appreciated, that the difference between their output and that of the also-rans is noted and appreciated.

Business Ethics

People make business ethics more complicated than it needs to be. Most ethical issues in business can be resolved by asking the question "Would I be comfortable for my actions in this matter to become public knowledge? Would I be proud to have what I've done widely known?"

If you would be happy for your actions or decisions to become public, then it is likely you have made the ethical decision. If you think you'd need to explain why what superficially looks bad was really the right decision, you are probably cutting corners and being less than ethical.

Run your business, or your life, such that if Mike Wallace and his "60 Minutes" camera crew shows up on your doorstep, you can honestly say "Come on in, talk to anybody you like, we are proud of everything we've done." If you can honestly say that, he will get back in his limousine and drive away without a story as you have nothing shameful to expose.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Old Professors Never Die....

Gina Kolata writing in the New York Times reports interesting health findings. People who stay in school longer live longer. If this is true, since professors stay in school longer than almost anybody, they should be incredibly long lived. In general they probably are just that. What a happy prospect!

Another View of Iraq

Mark Bowden has an interesting column about our difficulties in creating a democratic society in Iraq. He believes rather special circumstances have to be present for a nation made up of peoples from different races, cultures, religions, etc. to develop a shared sense of "nationhood."

This is sometimes called "American exceptionalism," the idea that what we have in the United States is relatively unique and not typical of nations generally. I'm not sure I agree with him, but his point of view is worth considering.