Why It’s Strange That Everybody in the United States Speaks English

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Imagine you’re a tourist planning on visiting India. Determined not to be seen as culturally ignorant, you’ve decided to learn Hindi, the official language. As the plane lands in Bangladore, you are confident that you can speak in the native language.

Except when you get out onto the street, the people aren’t speaking Hindi. They’re talking in a dialect of Kannada, and you can’t understand them.

Eventually, after several painstaking months, you learn Kannada as spoken in Bangladore. Now you’re really confident that you’ve got this thing down; you know both Hindi and a very local dialect. You fly to Mumbai.

Except in Mumbai the people on the street don’t speak Kannada, Hindi, or English. They speak Marathi. And a fair share of the elite speak English.

Might as well have stayed with English.

Or imagine you’re visiting China. Once again, as a culturally competent individual you’ve mastered Mandarin, and blast into Shanghai completely prepared.

In Shanghai, however, it turns out that the local language is Shanghainese. You didn’t even know that existed, but when local residents talk to each other you don’t understand any of it.

A local friend you’ve made later, born and bred in Shanghai, confides to you that he feels uncomfortable going to other provinces. In Guangdong locals speak in Cantonese; in Sichuan they speak in Sichuanese; in Tibet they speak in Tibetan; he can’t understand any of it. True, locals can switch to standard Mandarin when talking with non-locals, but he still feels like a foreigner outside Shanghai.

The next day you board a plane back to the United States, where everybody understands and speaks the same exact language. Every word that a person says in Seattle can be comprehended by a person in Houston; every word that a person says in Houston can be comprehended by a New Yorker. With the exception of the South and a few inner-city ghettos, there is even no difference in accent.

This achievement is frequently understated. Many Americans simply assume that things are like this in other countries – everybody in the Middle East speaks Arabic (true, but the regional dialects are mutually incomprehensible), everybody in Nigeria speaks “Nigerian” (definitely not true).

In truth, as the examples of China and India show, it is actually quite strange to think that in a continent-stretching nation with hundreds of millions (or billions) of people, it would be the case that the language would be so uniform. Few countries can claim to have done this. Brazil is one. Russia is another – but remember that Russia is the descendant of the Soviet Union, which tried and failed to impose a Russian common language upon the tens of millions of its non-Russian citizens.

Some conservatives complain that nowadays, there are too many Mexicans who don’t know English. Yet of the Hispanic immigrants who enter the United States, only 6% of their grandchildren will speak Spanish at home.

The extent to which the United States has succeeded in establishing a common language, across a continent and through three hundred million people, remains an amazing, if much-ignored, accomplishment.

 

 

A Reflection On Media Coverage Of Japan

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It is rare to see a country more advanced than the United States. Americans like to bemoan about how other countries always do things better, but in fact most of this is just talk. When it comes down to it, America is usually still ahead of a given country in most measurements of development.

Japan is one of the few exceptions to this pattern. In the media coverage of its earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters Japan has often been characterized as more advanced than the United States. Its buildings are built to higher standards against disasters such as earthquakes. It is far more successful in discouraging crime and looting. Its nuclear regulators are more accountable than those in the United States. In many ways life in Japan is nicer than life in the United States.

A generation ago such acknowledgments would have been tinted by a hint of fear. Japan was supposed to be the rival of the United States, an economic threat that warned of American decline. Today that role has been taken over by China, in the wake of Japan’s economic stagnation.

Thus coverage of Japan has been generally quite positive. Indeed, sometimes the tone of media coverage has verged upon awe. If a nation with as much technological prowess as Japan was so badly damaged by the tsunami, a reporter might write, what would a similar event do to the United States? The implication is that Japan’s technology is just plain better than America’s.

Interestingly, this type of coverage is reminiscent of the coverage America’s media gave to another (totally unrelated) event. This was the South Ossetia war in 2008. At that time America’s media adopted a similar tone of awe towards Russia’s military. Russia’s army, after all, is one of the few that can legitimately challenge America’s. It is one of a very few states – perhaps the only one – that might actually win a conventional war with the United States.

The American media’s awe of Japanese technology today sounds quite similar to its awe of Russian arms in 2008. Very few countries can arouse the wonder of the American media. It is refreshing to see it happen.

 

 

OMG, I Agree With Michele Bachmann!

In the midst of the crapstorm that has become life in these United States, I sometimes feel as if I’ve slipped into a parallel dimension populated exclusively by tea partiers, Glen Beck clones, Sarah Palin stand up comedians, and our reigning dizzy queen Michele Bachmann. That’s why when I agreed with one of her statements, I headed straight for the antipsychotics.

Please God, don’t let me die a “dittohead”!

The Maybe I’ll Certainly Run for President in 2012 Unless I Change My Mind Before Deciding to Redecide Again candidate laid into The Messiah™ for leading his uncoalesced coalition into Libya. Not surprisingly she’s against it, though I’m confident she would’ve been for it if Obama had decided against intervention. But this this time? I agree with her.

Doin’ the Tripoli Tango
Obama made a mistake in entering the fray. Michele and I agree there seems to be little compelling strategic US interest involved. As for the humanitarianism angle, there are places that DO involve strategic US interests AND plenty of poor wretches being ground under the jackboots of a dozen Col. Loony Toons and DickTaters. We aren’t feeling particularly humanitarian there, so WTF? The US simply cannot be the world’s cop. There’s an infinite supply of bad people and you can’t wipe them all out without weakening yourself. Even Bush the Lesser understood that, though he sometimes didn’t act that way.

I think Michele’s a little weak on the whole “al Qaeda” is afoot angle and by referring to the fiasco in the making as the “Obama Doctrine” she’s ignoring the fact that one decision does not a full doctrine make. These decisions should and are based on the conditions at the moment, whether they’re good or bad.

Now, we’re  seeing the ghosts of neo-conservatism on Obama. He’s apparently signed a “secret order” authorizing covert support for the Libyan rebels. We’re slow learners about this whole, “let’s have a big freedom party and call all the poor kids over for punch, cookies, and purple thumb votes” thing. See Exhibits A (Iraq), B (Afghanistan), C-Z (dozens of other places where we’ve intervened to no great or lasting effect).

In case you haven’t noticed, democracies ain’t easy. If they were, the US would be in a lot better shape than we are. Bringing freedom to people takes more than no-fly zones, 10+ year wars, or secret orders. It’s an illusive thing being imposed on countries that have no real government to begin with – much less a democratic one. It’s a step learning curve, particularly when you’re being shelled by heavy artillery.

What’s it All Not About?
The question here isn’t whether the Carebear acted too slow or too fast. The question isn’t that he pulled together a coalition – no matter how feeble it is. It’s not about using the UN for a fig leaf. It’s not about how or if he consulted Congress. It’s not about whether he’s more inconsistent than George, because they both were. It’s about why we went in and now that we’re there, how the hell we’re going to exit.

The secret order suggests he’s going down the same rabbit hole as our previous Emperor. We’re already hearing about how things are just going ducky and how we’ll be out of Gaddafistan within days or months. It all sounds distressingly like the nearly 8-years the Dub prattled on about how things would be over soon in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yeah, how’s that working out for us?

Never go into a battle unless you know what it means to win and how you will win the peace as well. If you’re stupid enough to go in and it becomes plain you had the intelligence of a donut to do it, figure out how you’re going to back out, gracefully or otherwise. The battlefield of statecraft is pock-marked by the bodies of countries that don’t learn those lessons. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the mood for contributing more cannon fodder for a questionable war.

So Michele, hat’s off to you!

Maybe there’s hope for you yet.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

A New Pledge of Allegiance for a New America

We’ve become a nation selfish to a fault.

We don’t want to pay taxes, but we want services.

We launch hate filled screeds about taxes as tyranny, yet don’t lift a finger to stop the steady erosion of real constitutional rights.

We rebel against the idea that health care is a right and then complain about how high the insurance rates of the insured explode from de facto coverage for those who have none.

Social Security is an unfair entitlement to those who don’t use it. It’s what keeps a loaf of bread in the house when they do.

If poor people need help, let them visit the local church. Of course, they’ll be taken care of… if they aren’t gay, or Muslim, or mentally unstable, or any of a thousand other reasons.

Unemployed people are a bunch of lazy goldbrickers living off the public dole. Unless, of course, we become them.

We want to cut taxes to cut a deficit, but want to give more tax revenue to businesses who pass it along to shareholders with nary a job created.

It’s only a matter of time…

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of Me, and to the republic which only I want, one person, among millions, and selfishly, with as little liberty and justice as possible for anyone who disagrees with me.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

The American Dilemma in Egypt

Should the people of a given country be allowed to vote in free and fair elections, even if the people they elect are fundamentally hostile to the United States?

That is the great question which is facing America today, as protests have toppled the leader of Tunisia and now threaten the presidency of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Almost everybody agrees that Mr. Mubarak is a dictator who does not respect human rights or promote democracy. He is a typical example of the authoritarian leader, whose values are fundamentally at odds with those of the United States. It is quite conceivable that the current protests will end in bloodshed, with the military firing upon civilians in a Bloody Sunday-style massacre.

In a perfect world, a peaceful revolution would topple Mr. Mubarak and install a new democratic government.  Said government would be moderate, friendly to the West, and firmly against Islamic extremism.

Unfortunately, the truth is that Mr. Mubarak’s strongest political opponents are the Muslim Brotherhood, a proudly Islamist movement with broad popular support. If the protests in Egypt succeed in toppling the dictator, the most likely situation is the formation (through free and fair elections) of an Islamist government hostile to the United States.

Therein lies America’s dilemma – betray its ideals and support an “ally,” or keep its ideals and allow an anti-American government to take power.

Historically, the United States has chosen the former option. During the Cold War, dictators were always perceived as better than popularly elected Communist governments. Today replace Communism with Islamism, and one gets the same idea.

Yet think about this: why do the people of Egypt so dislike the United States? Why would they most likely elect, if given a choice, an anti-American government?

The answer, of course, is because the United States keeps on supporting dictators like Mr. Mubarak! In fact, that is why Osama bin Laden attacked the United States – because it continues allying with dictators in the Middle East, in direct contradiction of its democratic values.

Why does the United States support these dictators? Because it knows free democratic elections will result in anti-American governments. Why would elections result in anti-American governments? Because the United States keeps on supporting dictators who oppress the people. And on and on the cycle goes.

The problem is that dictators may not stay in power forever. A U.S.-supported dictator, if unpopular enough, may fall. Iran and Vietnam are just two examples in which this happened. Today Iran is a determined foe of the United States. On the other hand, the communist government in Vietnam is quite friendly to America.

In the short term supporting friendly dictators might benefit American interests. In the long run, however, supporting those who oppress their people probably does more harm than good to America – and more importantly, to the cause of freedom and democracy.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

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