Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Riga!



I love Riga. It is one of the prettiest cities in Europe. This last weekend I went for a conference which was put on by a German political foundation. They paid for everything and it was a great conference. It was for young foreign policy analysts, so everyone there was either doing a PhD or had recently completed one. About 70% of the people were from Germany, with some others from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. One panel was on Baltic Energy Transit, I was the moderator for the panel. Friday we met in Riga and Saturday morning we went to an old manor home which was actually 90 km outside of Riga! It was really great. Sunday I got to go to church in Riga and see some old friends there. The only negative was that on the way back the Internet on the bus was not really working, so I didn't get to follow the 49ers game... but they lost on a late field goal like always so maybe that wasn't such a bad thing after all.
Today Mom and Dad are coming to visit! There was a Finnair strike but it ended last night! That means that Mom and Dad will be able to fly in ok.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book review

I just finished the book "A Little War that Shook the World" It was on the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. The author, Ronald Asmus, used to work in the Clinton administration and wrote the book from a pro-NATO pro West perspective. I thought the book was well written and added good insight why the conflict happened and why. This book reconfirmed my thoughts about US foreign policy. A point that I found most interesting is that Georgia could have done much better militarily in the conflict had it not been for their support of US policies. They had one of their brigades in Iraq at the time and could have used those forces in battle. Also to make NATO happy they changed their military doctrine to counter-insurgency, rather than defense against a possible Russian invasion. Had they had a military doctrine of countering a Russian invasion, and had they had their entire military in the country things may have not been so lopsided.

The whole conflict was in large part blow back from former US policy in the Balkans. NATO launched the campaign in Serbia without UN support, which infuriated Russia. Of course the Serbs were committing acts of genocide, but NATO did nothing to protect the Serbs from ethnic cleansing after the NATO campaign was over,also the targeting of non-military targets did not help Moscow "understand" the role of NATO in post-Cold War Europe. According to the author, the West did everything to involve Russia this was in large part to make himself look good. NATO-Russian cooperation was hollow, and meant nothing to Russia. The 1999 NATO conflict showed Russia that NATO didn't give a darn what Moscow thought. The West was not going to give Russia veto power in NATO, or decision making powers. Of course Moscow continued to see NATO as a threat and the West as a threat as well. Unilateral moves like the Iraq war and the West's support of Kosovo independence flustered Russia even more. To Russia the West was continuing to expand their global power at the expense of Russia. Of course the story in the US is totally different, and the thing is it is not important who is right, what is important is that we understand what the other people think and how they act. Well now we finally know what Russia thinks of us and what they are prepared to do to show us that. They used Georgia as a proxy to show the West that they had had enough.

Georgia was Bush's biggest fan doing anything to deepen US support for Georgia, despite this when the conflict broke out the US threw Georgia under the bus by letting the EU do the diplomatic work, which resulted in a flawed cease-fire agreement. They feared that if the US took the lead role it could lead to some US-Russian confrontation. I think we understood that the conflict was in large part a consequence of our actions so we offered them one billion USD to reconstruct their country. This is a classic example of blow back and why the US should reconsider its role in the World. We don't have the means, morals, or the smarts to be a world policeman. With the fiscal situation we find ourselves in we don't have the money to fight unnecessary wars, provoke aggressive world powers, or to throw billions of dollars at countries. This doesn't mean that we have to treat our enemies better than our Allies (I'm talking about Obama) It does mean that we need to understand the significance of our actions before we take them. So hopefully come 2012 we will have a smarter foreign policy for America. Here is a good article on a recommendation of foreign policy for the GOP. http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/43426

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What a great weekend

This has been a great weekend so far! The last three weekends were filled with church activities, conferences temple trip and so on. This week there is nothing! It is very nice to have a free Saturday. Last night we went to a children's musical Nukitsamees, which is translated as "Bumpy" It is about two kids who get lost in the woods, an old witch/ogre/troll/nasty lady with horns kidnaps them and takes them back to her witch/ogre/troll/nasty person home where they have to do slave labor and watch the witch/ogre/troll/nasty baby, also with horns. They finally are able to escape, but they decide to take the witch/ogre/troll/nasty baby with them. When they get home they are happy to be in their ideal family situation where they are loved, they then show that love to the witch/ogre/troll nasty baby and he turns into a real kid, losing his horns. It was a good message about love and families. The concert building was right by our house. Today I am getting caught up on school work and anxiously awaiting the 49er game tomorrow night. Some of you were wondering about the last blog entry, well they lost that game... and the next one. That means they have to win this week right??
Here is a youtube clip of one of the songs from the musical.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The state of the 49ers


This off season brought hope to 49er fans across the world, all the experts chose the 49ers to win the NFC West, we had continuity on offense, a stellar defense, in short nothing could stop us. Every other team in the division was in a rebuilding mode. Going 4-0 in the preseason only supported that hope.

Oh how long ago that was. The off season was also filled with doubt casting events that did not seem significant at the time. The GM left/was fired for personal reasons, he was replaced from within. This was before the draft and the draft went well, so no need to panic. A former first round pick who was buried on the depth chart stopped coming to practice and then was traded for next to nothing to a division rival. Then a 2nd year player retired due to religious convictions, interesting considering that we have the most religious head coach in football. Mike Singletary always wears a large wooden cross around his neck. The season started and we quickly went 0-3, getting blown out twice by crappy teams. The game plans were terrible, the execution just as bad. The offensive coordinator was fired. He was replaced by the QB coach. Now our starting strong safety is asking for his release. He is upset over the way the team has approached him about his role with the team. The plan was to slowly work some younger players into the lineup, he didn't like that and didn't like how the team approached him about it.

The team is now in Atlanta ready to play a very good team tomorrow in the most important game of the year. If the 49ers lose they will be more than just 0-4, they will have self imploded, lost their mojo, quit, tuned out from the coaching staff or however you want to call it. The players that have already quit will look like the smart ones and more may follow. However in sports nothing can compare to the miracle of winning. Winning can cure everything, any bad relationship, any confidence issue, anything can be cured, or at least put on the back burner. If the 49ers go and beat a better team on the road the new offensive coordinator will be a genius, Singletary will again be the great motivator and the 49ers will be contenders in a weak division.


If there ever was a make or break game this is it. Good luck 49ers, you will need it.