Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2009 January 8

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January 8[edit]

US Cabinet confirmation process[edit]

I saw this on MSNBC.com:

"If approved by the panel, Clinton could be confirmed by the full Senate before Obama takes office on Jan. 20. "

But don't cabinet secretaries need to be nominated by the President before they can be confirmed by the Senate? And Obama can't do that if he's not yet president. Or will the incumbent nominate the President-elect's choices as a courtesy? Sam 01:23, 8 January 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by SamUK (talkcontribs)

It looks like a case of poor reporting. Only a president can nominate a cabinet official, so unless Dubious is going to nominate Sen. Clinton, there is no way she could become Secretary of State before Sen. Obama becomes President. DOR (HK) (talk) 05:38, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Who occupies this position when Obama becomes president? Does the previous cabinet member stay on until there's a replacement? Or does the position unfilled? 216.239.234.196 (talk) 18:40, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

It is my perception that all the ground work for Congressional hearings is occurring now. I've read about Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton's hearings going ahead. Is this accurate? I don't see a committee report can be issued, however, without a formal nomination. It is also important to remember that there is a powerful bureaucracy sitting in place. There is some minor trouble surrounding transition. Lately, the party that is leaving trashes the offices. 75Janice (talk) 01:48, 9 January 2009 (UTC)75Janice

There's usually one of two things which happen, either the person from the previous administration stays on until the replacement is confirmed, or there may be a temporary replacement until the permanent one is confirmed. The current United States Deputy Secretary of State, or someone lower on the totem pole, could become Acting Secretary of State until Hillary arrives. If Obama doesn't like anyone who is currently working at the Secretary of State's office, he can consider Hillary to be his Acting Secretary of State, at least as far as offering him advice and representing the US abroad. Her salary and formal powers (such as her position in the United States presidential line of succession) would have to wait until she's confirmed, however. StuRat (talk) 21:57, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Saraiki Sikhs[edit]

Is this true that in Pakistan, some Sikhs speak Saraiki? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.64.128.143 (talk) 02:26, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

It is likely true that "some" of any group speak just about any language. "Some" Japanese speak Korean; "some" Mexicans speak German, . . . DOR (HK) (talk) 05:39, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
In addition to DOR's correct answer, most Indian Sikhs live in Punjab state, which is in the north-west, which is where most of India's 70,000+ Saraiki speakers live, so there's more overlap than the German-speaking Mexicans have. If you're asking whether there is a large population of Saraiki-speaking Sikhs, I don't know. --Sean 12:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
According to our article Saraiki people, some Saraiki, who typically speak Saraiki, are in fact Sikhs. According to our article on Sikhs, some 20,000 Sikhs live in Pakistan. No doubt some of these speak Saraiki. Marco polo (talk) 19:41, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

literary insight[edit]

I've seen the term "literary insight" in several places (examples: J. Michael Eakin, Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Samuel Johnson). What is a good definition of "literary insight"? --68.109.175.242 (talk) 02:33, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

I think that "insight" was the wrong word in the first instance you link to, where I'd like to see "flair". "Literary insight" would be, I guess, an ability to perceive hidden meanings and subtleties and references and mechanics in writing. --Milkbreath (talk) 02:48, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Is Pakistan doing enough to combat terrorism?[edit]

Sometimes I hear people (especially from India, but also from the US) say that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight terrorists in Pakistan. What exactly is Pakistan doing wrong? They seem to be doing as much as they can. ExitRight (talk) 13:15, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

We have a decent starting point (poor style, but well-referenced) at War on Terrorism in Pakistan. In short, there have been numerous allegations in the past few years that Pakistan is actively aiding terrorist activities. "Doing enough", though, is and will remain a value judgment, and the reference desk can offer no firm answer. — Lomn 13:56, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
1) The ISI played a strong role in the rise of the Taliban, and has never been thoroughly purged of those with strong connections to radical extremist groups. It's widely suspected that influential figures within the ISI continue to support the Taliban in its war to regain power in Afghanistan, and maintain close relations with groups involved in terrorist attacks in Indian Kashmir and elsewhere. Not very long ago, Taliban leaders were reported to be moving openly and freely around the city of Quetta.
2) Pakistan has never properly controlled or administered the North-West Frontier etc., or provided government services there -- allowing it to remain a lawless tribal zone which has become a center of al-Qa`eda and Taliban support.
3) The Pakistani government has taken no meaningful measures to significantly reform extremist madrassas (including some from which many recruits for the Taliban have come).
In general, since about the mid-70's, the Pakistani political/military elites have followed an overall strategy of tacitly encouraging Islamic religious extremists in order to put pressure on India with respect to Kashmir and other issues. This strategy has failed to win Pakistan a single inch of land in Kashmir, but it has greatly contributed to prolonging misery in Afghanistan, made the lives of many women and non-Muslims in Pakistan wretched and miserable (see Zia ul-Haq's Islamization, Hudood Ordinance, Blasphemy law in Pakistan, Human rights in Pakistan etc.), led Pakistan to the brink of war with India several times, and effectively distracted attention away from other critical issues and vitally-needed reforms in Pakistan (which is considered by some commentators not very far from being a failed state...). AnonMoos (talk) 14:03, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
While I don't disagree with anything that AnonMoos has said, a problem from the Pakistani perspective is that the Pakistani state does not really enjoy legitimacy in its own right in the North-West Frontier, much of Balochistan, or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which despite their name are largely outside the control of the Pakistani federal government. These are primarily the parts of Pakistan where the Taliban and other Islamist insurgent groups are based. (Whether these groups should be called "terrorists", a term that is difficult to define objectively, is a matter of perspective.) Attacks on Islamist insurgents in these regions, who enjoy the backing of a substantial part of the populace, further erodes Pakistani legitimacy in these regions and tends to reduce Pakistan's chances of ever freeing these regions of Islamist insurgent domination. It is a Catch-22 situation, not helped by the steady weakening of the Pakistani state even in its heartlands of Punjab and Sindh. (This weakness is due partly to misrule, as AnonMoos suggests, but also to extreme poverty, birth rates that are too high, a lack of resources, and a related lack of economic development, which are themselves partly but not entirely the result of the dysfunctional political system.) So I think that, notwithstanding all of the grave errors of Pakistan's political and military elites in the past, they face a difficult task in making headway against the Taliban and their like in the present. Perhaps their only hope would be to recognize the country's desperate need for good government and economic development, to concentrate the country's limited resources on education and economic development, and then gradually be in a position to offer the people of the North-West Frontier, Balochistan, and Tribal Areas a prospect of peace and prosperity in return for turning away from the Taliban and their like. However, that would require a shifting of resources away from military operations along the country's western frontier, which would bring Pakistan criticism and perhaps penalties from Western countries wanting Pakistan to stop terrorism. Yet another Catch-22 for Pakistan. Marco polo (talk) 21:26, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
If Pakistani elites had spent a lot less resources trying to rival and strategically threaten India (something which Pakistan's general geopolitical situation does not allow it to easily do) and a lot more resources on real internal development and reform of Pakistan's rotten "feudal" system, then Pakistan would certainly be a lot better off than it actually is now. By the way, the article War on Terrorism in Pakistan doesn't have anything remotely resembling a proper Wikipedia article introductory paragraph (and never has had one, as far as I can tell...). AnonMoos (talk) 23:56, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
It's quite possible that Pakistan may "do all they can", but that this still may not be enough to stop Pakistan from becoming a terrorist-controlled state (with nuclear weapons). Here are some additional things Pakistan could try:
4) Don't ever sign peace treaties with al Queada or the Taliban and give them money, as they have done in the past. This gives those groups legitimacy, resources, and time to build up their armies.
5) Train their military in anti-insurgency tactics. They currently seem to be trained for a war with India, which is foolishness, as that's a far smaller threat than the insurgents are.
6) If they can't manage to control the frontier areas, they should allow others to do so. If they have no presence there, it shouldn't even be considered part of Pakistan. Allow those states that can't be controlled to secede. StuRat (talk) 21:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Stu I agree with most of your given suggestions but the last one (6) is completly foolish. No goverment and state of this planet is going to surrender any piece of land whatsoever without a extremely powerful reason. All countries/national goverments are very interrested in keeping the unity of their entire territory and in surpressing movements of secession, peacefully if possible, and by force if neccessary.
Even if the central goverment is unable to control effectivly a "renegade/secceding province" for whatever reason (usually political, economic, and military weakness) it will not easily recognize a de facto independence. It will simply wait, gather its strength, and hope for the right opportunity. With a bit of luck the seccesionists will kill each other and/or the national military will eventually crush them. Exactly this seems to be happening recently in Sri Lanka. Better to fight through years and entire decades if neccessary in order to mantain national unity.
At the first glance it might seem a bit ilogical ("What would be the big diff of accepting a de facto independence?" and "Better peace than war") but it is completly logical. If you allow one province to seccede, other provinces - encouraged by success of the first - will also try to seccede. Exactly that's why the Chinese goverment is not going to accept an official independence of Taiwan any time soon.
It's not because they hate the Taiwanese, its democracy, or something like that (despite what the American media likes to proclaim). It's because if China lets Taiwan, it's going to have an exploding powder-keg with Tibet, the western province with the muslim majority, Manchuria (Manchus are not Han Chinese), the special northern Mongol area, and God knows what else in their hands.
And what will happen if a province seccedes? Foolish and arrogant local politicians/fools (mostly of the new nation, but also from neighboring countries) are going to demand a "redrawing of the borders" with the age-old argument that in the past "our" nation was bigger. And this usually leads to war.
Study history, this happenend nearly all the time. The few occasions in which this didn't happen (e.g.: the Velvet divorce of Chekoslovakia) are simply the exceptions that prove the rule.
If Pakistan gives up the the northern provinces, others will also demand their own independence. In the bitter end a lot of ppl will have to die and for what? So that in the end some politician proclaims that they are all so free? They still are going to pay taxes. It simply isn't worth it, UNLESS the central goverment starts a ethnic genocide against a ethnic/cultural/religious minority (like Serbia was doing in Kosovo). In such cases all bets are off. Flamarande (talk) 01:05, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
At this point, the negatives from trying to retain the tribal areas seem to far outweigh any benefits to Pakistan. It was likely groups operating out of the tribal territories which both assassinated Benazir Bhutto and attacked India, actions which tend to destablize the Pakistan government. I also doubt if being granted independence from Pakistan would be much of a victory for the Taliban or al Queda, as the US and others would then be free to hunt them down there. It might be a victory for the tribal leaders, however, as they could re-establish control after those groups were eliminated. StuRat (talk) 08:54, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

the amateur detective who didn't move much.[edit]

Hi everybody. I have the vague memory of an amateur detective stories where the heroe never moves from his home and solves the cases remotely. Do such stories ever existed ? I'd be glad to get help on that. Gino. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.72.115.193 (talk) 23:12, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Nero Wolfe stories by Rex Stout. Good times. —Kevin Myers 23:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Mycroft Holmes is kind of like that (though he's not the protagonist...). -- AnonMoos (talk) 23:44, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
And of course some detecive fiction fans have enjoyed speculating that Wolfe is the son or nephew of Mycroft Holmes. —Kevin Myers 23:53, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Thank You ! Gino. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.72.115.193 (talk) 00:21, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Though it sounds like it's Nero Wolfe you're looking for, there is of course also L.B. Jeffries. Grutness...wha? 00:39, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
They don't move much less than the Dead Man in Glen Cook's series Garrett P.I.. --—— Gadget850 (Ed) talk - 00:51, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Mycroft Holmes is the protagonist in a series of books by "Quinn Fawcett". —Preceding unsigned comment added by AnyPerson (talkcontribs) 03:55, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

I once read a funny article where someone argued that Mycroft Holmes was an early digital computer. The Doyle stories actually referred to Mycroft's "digits" and to the glowing of his "eyes" (displays?). Digital computers I have interacted with tended not to move around much. Edison (talk) 05:45, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Interesting theory - and, of course, there's a well-known fictional computer named after him in Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Grutness...wha? 07:30, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

There's also the Hercule Poirot story The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim (1923), in which Poirot wins a bet with Japp that he can solve the case within a week without leaving his apartment. Xn4 (talk) 12:19, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

i've heard that americans are lazy but this question takes the cake!! 86.217.98.213 (talk) 20:36, 9 January 2009 (UTC) (sorry!)

From my recollection, Poirot was Belgian, Mycroft Homes was English, and Nero Wolfe was Basque. ៛ Bielle (talk) 22:06, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
I resent the implication that Americans are lazy, and would disprove this statement with numerous facts and studies, but I'm feeling in need of a nap just now. StuRat (talk) 01:04, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
Wolfe was from Montenegro, actually, in all but one of the accounts, as the Nero Wolfe article explains. Well, he was from Montenegro as much as any fictional character is from anywhere... --- OtherDave (talk) 03:04, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
OtherDave is quite correct, and I apologise for my faulty memory. There is something to be said for checking the facts before saving the text. :-) ៛ Bielle (talk) 03:33, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
It should also be noted that there was NO attempt made to create any sort of logical chronology or backstory between the MANY Nero Wolfe stories. The author intentionally did not try to create one, and intended each to be a stand-alone story. The characters do have consistant personalities and there are some vague commonalities, but there is no consistant "Nero Wolfe" universe that can be reasonably created... --Jayron32.talk.contribs 04:04, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
I've noticed the same lack of consistent back story in a very popular ongoing series of detective/adventure novels which are reportedly ghostwritten. Apparently the newest writer did not bother to read all the earlier novels. Edison (talk) 05:30, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
This subgenre is known as "armchair detection", and the oldest example of it is Edgar Allan Poe's tale of The Mystery of Marie Roget.Rhinoracer (talk) 13:36, 10 January 2009 (UTC)