Day By Day

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tunisia Trip -- Part Sixteen

This is Tozeur's central market. Once again we see the distinctive brickwork so characteristic of the city. Inside were the usual produce stalls, something similar to what you would see in a major American city -- like Pikes Place in Seattle, the Reading Terminal in Philly, Lexington Market in Baltimore, etc. There was one significant difference, though. At the back of the market building there were several butchers whose shops proudly displayed their offerings.

Gruesome, eh? This was only one of several instances in which we were reminded of the vast sensibility gulf between Arab and middle-class American cultures. In a way I think it is good to be reminded where those tasty lamb patties we had for dinner last night came from.

Then it was out into the open air market where more palatable goods were on display. Then a short walk down Habib Bourguiba Street, named in honor of the Tunisian Republic's first President for life, and back on the bus for a trip to the zoo.

The Good President [continued]

Steven Thomma, writing for the McClatchy Newspaper Group, asks:

WASHINGTON — Is George W. Bush about to start a political comeback?

Written off as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history when he left office, the 63-year-old Bush has been keeping a low profile, fading from view as the country turned its attention to his successor, President Barack Obama .

Now, some events might be turning in Bush's favor just as he and his family emerge to tell their side of the story, first with the release this week of Laura Bush's memoir, "Spoken From the Heart," then in November with the release of his book, "Decision Points."

"The rehab's well under way," said Mark McKinnon , a Bush confidant who still bikes with the former president in Texas .

Read it here.

I certainly hope so. The image of President Bush, promoted by the Democrats and assiduously spread by major news organizations, was largely false. A well-educated and intellectually formidable man was portrayed as a dunce; a man of integrity was portrayed as a liar and a schemer; a comparatively efficient and effective war effort was portrayed as a fiasco; blunders by State and local officials were portrayed as failures on the part of the Bush administration; the list goes on and on. Usually it takes several decades for such nonsense to be corrected. In this case I think it is only appropriate that the effort begin now, while the principals are still alive.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tunisia Trip -- Part Fifteen

After leaving the museum we headed out through the streets of Tozeur. Right outside we saw this remarkable piece of pottery.

And had our first up close and personal encounter with a camel (It would not be the last).

Then we headed for the medina [old town] section of the city. Our first stop there was at the home of the "crazy musician" [at least that's what our tour guide called him].

Here he is, not so crazy after all. He earned his living teaching children how to perform traditional Tunisian songs and dance and with us he faced a real challenge.

He handed each of us a drum and taught us a simple beat to accompany his singing, then he showed us a simple dance, dressed us in costumes and turned us loose. The result was almost, but not quite, chaos and a lot of fun.

After a while we left his house and proceeded out into the streets of the old city.

Tozeur is noted for its elaborate brickwork. The bricks are manufactured locally and give the city a very distinctive look.

Eventually we emerged from the medina and then it was off to market.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why the West?

David Landes is one of America's most distinguished economic historians. He has a nice piece in the latest Wilson Quarterly explaining his view on why some nations have gained in economic and political power over the past several centuries and others have not. His perspective, articulated in greater detail in his recent book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, emphasizes entrepreneurship as a crucial variable and is therefore highly controversial. I think he's onto something, but people on the Left would disagree.

Tunisia Trip -- Part Fourteen

Still at the Dar Chraiet museum. There was so much to see!

Not only guns and knives, but lots of exquisite jewelry was on display.

And an exhibit depicting boys being tutored.

And a well-stocked kitchen, complete with kitchen slave.

There were many more of these, including the interior of a men's bath, complete with bather and masseur. And then there was the art gallery, displaying interesting paintings and artifacts of the desert culture.

Then we emerged into another courtyard where again I got caught up in the architectural details.

And then we spilled out onto the streets of Tozeur.

Wasting Trillions

Well now, this is interesting.

A survey of top economists concludes that the Obama administration's "stimulus package" was a waste of money.

NEW YORK ( -- The recovery is picking up steam as employers boost payrolls, but economists think the government's stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound, according to a survey released Monday.

In latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics, the index that measures employment showed job growth for the first time in two years -- but a majority of respondents felt the fiscal stimulus had no impact.

Read the whole thing here.

Lies of the Left [continued] -- Green Myths

This appeared in the Washington Post, of all places.

Robert Bryce, Five Myths About Green Energy

Five false arguments made by the greens:
  1. Solar and wind power are the greenest of them all.
  2. Going green will reduce our dependence on imports from unsavory regimes.
  3. A green economy will produce green American jobs.
  4. Electric cars will substantially reduce demand for oil.
  5. The United States lags behind other rich countries in going green
Check it out, it's an eye-opener.


Peter Huber, writing in the City Journal, has a terrific article on the older generation of environmentalist leaders and how they are coming around to the realization that nuclear power is a viable solution to the nation's energy needs in the future. He quotes Stewart Brand, founder and editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, and a major figure in the environmentalist movement thusly:
“Fear of radiation is a far more important health threat than radiation itself.” “Reactor safety is a problem already solved,” and the new reactors are even safer than the old. Waste isn’t a problem; we need the $10 billion Yucca mountain disposal site “about as much as we need a facility for imprisoning dangerous extraterrestrials.” Nuclear power isn’t just the cheapest practical carbon-free option around, but the cheapest, period, when not snarled up in green tape. Scientists “invariably poll high in support of nuclear.”
At least in this moment, a consensus in favor of nuclear power seems to be emerging, but Huber is restrained in his optimism. He notes the intellectual history of the green movement, which jumps from fad to fad with undaunted enthusiasm based upon highly questionable information and questions the durability of their current interest in nuclear power, which he sees as merely a consequence of today's faddish carbon hysteria. They are, in his mind, untrustworthy allies. Maybe so, but I welcome the dawning of reason in the minds of some of the green leadership, even if it is just a transitory affectation.

Rewriting Cold War History

Jennifer Delton, Chair of the History Department at Skidmore College, has published an immensely important article on postwar liberalism and communism. In it she argues, as did Ronald Reagan, that the communist threat to American institutions was real, that communists subverted and sought to take over liberal organizations, that the communist influence short-circuited and blocked legitimate liberal reform, and that the anti-communist measures instituted by the Truman administration, far from being a paranoid response, were rational, reasonable, and fully justified by the communist threat.

The article, appearing in the Journal of the Historical Society, is not available online, but this review by Ronald Radosh is. Check it out.

The liberal/left hegemony that has dominated the upper reaches of the historical profession for the past half century is slowly, but surely, eroding and as it does a more reasonable and balanced view of our nation's past is gradually emerging.

Faster, faster!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tunisia Trip -- Part Thirteen

After leaving Dougga we embarked on a long bus ride through central Tunisia, heading for Tozeur. We arrived in the evening and checked into our hotel, then dinner and to bed. We arose early the next morning to explore one of the most interesting locations in North Africa.

Tozeur is built around an oasis, a huge oasis with hundreds of thousands of date palms. Naturally, dates have been an important local product for many centuries. The city has also been a tourist destination for wealthy Europeans for decades and the nearby desert and salt flats have been favored by film-makers.

Our first stop in Tozeur was the Dar Chraiet museum, an architectural wonder filled with exhibits and paintings illustrating the lives of wealthy Berber tribesmen in the past.

Here's a shot taken from the central courtyard looking into one of the exhibit rooms. I believe this one depicted a bride and her attendants preparing for her wedding [but my memory might be failing me].

Apparently rich Berbers were really into guns and swords. There were lots of them on display and their presentation showed that they were as much works of art as they were functional weapons.

And of course there were prosaic, non martial things on exhibit, like these lovely pieces of pottery and a nicely displayed sand crystal.

But I was more impressed with the architectural details. The place was lovely. I could have spent hours poking around taking pictures, but there was more, much more, to be seen.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Responding to one of the more idiotic pronouncements issuing from Islamic leadership -- specifically, the charge made by a Muslim cleric that unchaste women who show too much skin cause earthquakes [here], a Purdue University student [here] organized "Boobquake". She urged women all over the world to show their cleavage today to test the cleric's statement.

Well the results are in and the cleric seems to know what he's talking about. This just in:
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — An earthquake struck off the southeast coast of Taiwan on Monday, causing buildings to sway briefly but no casualties or damage. The temblor was felt at the site of a massive landslide in northern Taiwan but did not hamper rescue efforts.
Read it here.

Hey, you don't suppose that Pat Robertson....?


It turns out that there was global total of 45 quakes on Monday. Sounds like impressive testimony to the power of the breasts, but there were also 45 quakes on Sunday, 38 on Saturday, and 45 on Friday. Over the previous six days the number of quakes worldwide ranged from 41 to 48 [here]. Maybe the globe was quaking in anticipation, but is seems that 45 quakes on a single day is pretty much the norm.

Jeckyll -- The Opening

Really nice way to introduce the character -- of course it works because everyone knows the story.

I plan to check it out.

The End of the Concert Season

The Shriver Concert series has come to an end for this year, and what a season it has been! It started last October with the Belcea Quartet, included, among others, such luminaries as Midori, the Julliard String Quartet, Emanuel Ax, Magdalena Kozena [with Yefim Bronfman accompanying, Wow!], Piffaro [the Renaissance Band], and yesterday's performance by the Hagen Quartet. What an amazing lineup! Next year promises to be even better [if that is possible].

Ah, the joys of living in the city -- taken together they almost make up for the inconveniences.

Tunisia Trip -- Part Twelve

Our first stop on our journey into the interior was at the town of Sbeitla, where we spent some time visiting the ruins of the Roman city of Sufetula. This site had originated as a military camp, established by the Legio III Augusta in the first century AD. The legion had responsibility for providing security for Rome's Africa colonies and this was one of the key elements in that defensive chain of strongpoints.

The city prospered from the olive industry. Here is one of the original olive presses. It's prosperity is reflected in the architecture.

Broad streets and substantial homes -- only the outlines remain.

The Gate of Antoninus Pius, built in the mid-second century AD to honor the emperor and father [adopted] of Marcus Aurelius.

The Capitoline Temples, honoring Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Part of the extensive baths.

Sufetula declined somewhat in the fourth and fifth centuries, and was briefly part of the Vandal kingdom, but then it was reconquered by the Byzantines, who left their mark on the site. This is a Byzantine baptistry.

In the seventh century under the leadership of Prefect Gregory, a local Christian leader, Sufetula attempted to established its independence, but less than a year after escaping Byzantine domination the town was sacked by Arabs who then abandoned the site and left it to sink into ruin.

After spending some time poking around the ruins we again boarded the bus for a short trip down the road to the Kasserine Pass where we visited the memorial to American troops who died in that battle and were treated to an excellent impromptu lecture on the battle and its aftermath by famed military historian Harold Langley who was touring with our group.

Then it was back on the bus and on to our next destination.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day -- Is it a Good Idea

Responding to radical Islamist threats to kill people who portray the image of Mohammed Michael Moynihan writes:
Via Dan Savage's blog at The Stranger, some clever chappie (I don't know who) has declared May 20, 2010 "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day," in support of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and in opposition to religious thuggery.
Read the whole thing here.

Lots of people seem to think that it is an appropriate response to Islamist threats, but Ann Althouse disagrees. She writes:

I have endless contempt for the threats/warnings against various cartoonists who draw Muhammad (or a man in a bear suit who might be Muhammad, but is actually Santa Clause). But depictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats. In pushing back some people, you also hurt a lot of people who aren't doing anything (other than protecting their own interests by declining to pressure the extremists who are hurting the reputation of their religion).

Read it here.


Molly Norris, the Seattle-based cartoonist who came up with the idea, and Jon Wellington, a blogger who set up a central clearing-house to publicize the idea, have both backed off [here]. Is this a response to intimidation, or just good common sense? You make the call.

Ross Douthat writes:
This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that “bravely” trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn’t Weimar Germany, and Islam’s radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there’s enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down.

Read it here.

This is just about right, although I would note that our national institutions have a long history of caving in to radical demands. Think, for instance, about what feminism, gay activism, and the grand-daddy of them all, the civil rights movement, have done to our speech habits. Speech codes proliferated decades ago, "hate speech" has become a commonplace term, and most Americans living today have no experience of a society in which free speech prevailed. The rot set in long ago.


James Taranto has joined Ann Althouse in proclaiming that the "Draw Mohammed" kickback is a bad idea here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Carlin on Earth Day

George Carlin's tribute to Earth Day.

Iowahawk's News Nuggets

More from the funniest man on the internet:

Kids, Parents Celebrate 'Take Your Daughter to the Unemployment Office Day'

FLINT, MI -- Dressed in festive clown costumes, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Governor Jennifer Granholm joined job placement specialists and suicide counselors in passing out balloons and cupcakes to gleeful pre-teens at the Mid-Michigan Career Hope Center this morning. Similar celebrations occurred at thousands of Job Centers across the country as part of the first annual national Take Your Daughter to the Unemployment Office Day.

Funded by a federal ARRA stimulus grant, the program was proclaimed "a roaring success" by Stabenow.

"Too often society puts limits on the career aspirations of girls," said the Senator. "This program lets them know they just don't have to be mommies -- they can also go down to the job bank and argue for extended benefits like boys do. They learn important skills like taking numbers and filling forms and waiting in line. It's great preparation for the future, and really opens their eyes to the possibilities."

Read the whole thing here.

Tunisia Trip -- Part Eleven

Tunisia is a small country but its transportation infrastructure is poorly developed. That meant that we spent a lot of time on the road traveling from place to place. It wasn't too much of a problem, though. The bus trips afforded us an opportunity to rest between walks, and there were lots of interesting things to see along the roadside.

Lots of sheep and goats. They're everywhere, they're everywhere.

And donkey carts.

In the hot, arid climate cacti are used for fencing.

Donkey cart. Traffic really isn't much of a problem once you get away from the city. Of course, even major highways are two-lane roads, so there is a lot of passing of slow-moving vehicles and, if you are sitting near the driver, that can get a bit harrowing at times.

A dry river bed next to a small village. These fill up in certain seasons and I was told that flash floods are a problem.

More sheep. In the early stages of the trip I took a lot of pictures of sheep, goats, and donkeys. But that soon got old.

In the northern part of the country, the landscape was dry, but you could still see large patches of greenery.

Storks nesting. Maybe it was the season, but we saw a lot of storks, especially in the north.