Week of April 11th

I have fallen behind so some of this is not from the week of April 11th. Amongst the things that I found interesting: 

  • Official languages
  • Fossil fuels and strange trading partners
  • The western democracy bubble & the Ukraine

Language Squabbles at ASEAN 

The Association of South East Asian Nations (“ASEAN”) has an aggregate population of about 661.5 million people. The bloc’s ten members have eleven official languages but  in 1967 settled on English as its official working language. Now Malaysia would like to make Malay the association’s second language. This leaves the other countries asking “Why Malay?”. Why the interest?

Perhaps because I live in Canada where we have two official languages, English and French. Or maybe because I live in the province of Québec where provincial politicians keep attacking English language rights. Proposed amendments to the existing language law will limit the access to English CEGEPs (a useful step between high school and University) for French speaking students. Who will this harm most? The vast majority of students that have little access to  an English education until university. How are they meant to work on a continent and in a world where English is the lingua franca. Bills 101 and 96 will not change this fact. 

Drone Pilots – The Unseen Scars

Between 2013 and 2018, US Air Force Captain Kevin Larson:

  • Flew 650 combat missions
  • Launched over 188 airstrikes
  • Earned 20 medals of achievement

All from the comfort of Creech Airforce Base, Indian Springs, Nevada. You see, he flew the MQW-9 Reaper, a heavily armed drone. This New York Times article traces Larson’s career as a drone to pilot to his death by suicide in 2020. He was 33 years old. Unfortunately, this article is behind a pay wall but it is worth reading. Unlike field combatants, drone pilots frequently follow their targets for weeks. They see them with their families living ordinary daily lives. And then the kill order is given!

The drone program had strict limits at its outset. The Obama administration loosened limitations in December 2016. In the fall of 2017, the Trump administration followed suit with even looser limitations.

We got the wrong guy. I had just killed someone’s dad, I had watched his kids pick up the body parts. Then I had gone home and hugged my own kids. What we had done was murder, and no one seemed to notice. We just were told to move on.

Bennett Miller, a former technical sergeant – USAF, saw civilian casualties regularly on MQW-9 Reapers’ video feeds

How the Word Sees the War in Ukraine!

Unfortunately, not all countries are!

Surprisingly to me, most of the world’s countries are not shipping aid to Ukraine! Nor do they support he sweeping sanctions on Russia! A few countries support Russia but most waffle, hoping to appear neutral. India and Israel waffle. While dependent on the US for security, India and Israel also depend on Russia. India buys Russian arms and Israel collaborates with Russia on Syria and Iran.

This little story comes from Linda Chavez, a former director of the Office for Public Liaison under Ronal Reagan. It was published in Monocle, Issue 150, February 2022. Meant to be a joke about domestic politics it applies doubly to countries waffling on the Ukraine and international politics:

My old boss, Ronald Reagan was fond of saying that politics was said to be the second oldest profession in the world. “What I’ve learned”, he’d add without skipping a beat, “is how closely it resembles the oldest.”

Linda Chavez, currently Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity

Quotation of the week:

Language squabbles led to the selection of this week’s quotation:

A man who knows two languages is worth two men.

French Proverb

That’s it for the week of April 11th. 

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