Monday, June 28, 2010
Bite me. When the powerful seek to work their will upon us and demand that we be nice about it, that's the right response: Bite me. Even if he were the one being nice about it, we shouldn't have to put up with it without complaint.
Read it here.
Way to go girl. Arbitrary authority must always be strenuously resisted. Biden is not the boss of us.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
So it has been in the case of the industrial revolution. It is one of those big things, possibly the biggest thing, that was not anticipated and which has ever since produced endless controversy among intellectuals. Historians, sociologists, economists and the like still argue as to why the industrial revolution took off and why it did so in England of all places.
Explanations have been many and varied. They have included the availability of natural resources, quirks of political and economic organization, geographical determinism, the Protestant revolution, obscure technological innovations such as eyeglasses, military necessity, even genetic predispositions within specific population groups. Recently non-Western scholars have been suggesting that it was just a matter of pure luck and not all that important, essentially granting the West a temporary advantage over other regions of the globe, an advantage that is rapidly disappearing as Asia resumes is customary position in the forefront of human development.
The latest major scholar to address the question has been Joel Moykr. In the latest of his impressive series of economic studies, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850, he at last answers the intellectuals' intense desire to place themselves in the vanguard of history. His central conclusion, among many fascinating and perceptive arguments, is that the men whose activities sparked the industrial revolution were themselves inspired by the contemporary efforts of..., wait for it, enlightenment intellectuals. Moykr is a superb economic historian, one whose previous work I have found immensely useful in my own investigations. I have no doubt that his most recent book, will find a wide and enthusiastic academic audience -- after all, he's telling them just what they want to hear.
Read Edward Glazer's review here.
Read David Greasley's review here.
Moykr summarizes his argument here.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Bush was under far greater pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq than Obama is facing with Afghanistan. At the time, Iraq was dominating the political conversation and was perceived as doing great harm to the GOP. The nation was bone-weary of the war, Democrats were in open rebellion (unlike Republicans with Obama on Afghanistan), and GOP leaders were unnerved.Read the whole thing here.
But Bush didn’t care. He made the right and wise decision – and he had the guts and the nerve to stick with it. It was not only his finest hour; it was one of the most impressive and consequential presidential decisions in modern times. Bush and Petraeus are the two individuals most responsible for keeping Iraq from descending into chaos and civil war. They turned the war around.
Responding to Wenher's post, Jennifer Rubin adds:
[T]here are many reasons to miss George Bush. There is no greater and more tragic contrast between Obama and his predecessor than in the human-rights field. This eloquent piece should be read in full, but Bush’s moral clarity on the subject and his determination to name names bear repeating:
People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten. North Koreans live in a closed society where dissent is brutally suppressed, and they are cut off from their brothers and sisters to the south. The Iranians are a great people who deserve to chart their own future, but they are denied their liberty by a handful of extremists whose pursuit of nuclear weapons prevents their country from taking its rightful place amongst the thriving. The Cubans are desperate for freedom — and as that nation enters a period of transition, we must insist on free elections and free speech and free assembly. (Applause.) And in Sudan, freedom is denied and basic human rights are violated by a government that pursues genocide against its own citizens. My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom. (Applause.)Read it here.
There has been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.For decades this orthodoxy was rigorously enforced, not just in political and educational institutions and in popular culture, but also in the scientific community although evidence kept accumulating in medical research suggesting that population groups exhibited significant inherited physiological differences. It is only in recent years, as the political and cultural potency of the anti-racism imperative has begun to wane, that a new generation of evolutionary scientists, armed with the technology of "genomics", has been able to effectively challenge this consensus, arguing that evolution is ongoing [and may well be accelerating], that genetically-determined differences among human populations are more than superficial, and that they may well have cognitive dimensions. Needless to say, these contentions are highly controversial.
The process has now gone so far as to be the subject of discussion in middle-brow culture, witness this new offering from the PBS series, NOVA. The program is pretty much standard PBS fare -- it presents the orthodox position and cites scientist who support it; In passing it notes the social and professional penalties faced by individuals who have challenged the orthodoxy and how these have stifled research into human differences; it interviews some of the dissenters and explains their views; and it concludes with a mushy statement suggesting that there is probably a bit of truth on all sides of the controversy.
What is significant here, at least to my mind, is that for half a century and more political and intellectual orthodoxy was able to place major constraints on scientific inquiry and the fact that dissenting position are now able to be entertained and broadcast, even in the intensely politically correct context of PBS programming, strongly suggests that the orthodox position is rapidly crumbling. I don't know if that is a good thing or bad [I strongly suspect the former, mostly because I am biased in favor of free inquiry], but it is only a matter of time before these highly-charged debates make their way into discussions of public policy. That will produce, I imagine, a raucous and highly entertaining argument. I can hardly wait.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
This time of year the tiger lilies are in full bloom. They grow wild all over the place and the landscape is dotted with thick patches of them. Here are some cultivated fields near our place where the lilies grow all along the edges. Kinda neat, no?
Here's a closer look at the border lilies.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The more we learn about Al Gore, the more despicable he becomes. There is the lying, the naked ambition, the profiteering, and now the sex scandal. KGW News in Portland reports:
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Vice President Al Gore was the subject of a criminal investigation into alleged sexual assault of a Portland licensed massage therapist in a Portland hotel room in 2006.
An article in the NATIONAL ENQUIRER was the first to report the incident Wednesday.Read the whole thing here.
No criminal charges were brought against Gore.The woman told police she was "repeatedly subjected to unwanted sexual touching" in Gore's hotel room at the Hotel Lucia, according to the police report.
Gore was in town to campaign for Governor Ted Kulongoski in October, 2006. Neither Gore nor his representatives could be reached for comment Wednesday. He and his wife Tipper recently announced plans to divorce.
The masseuse was interviewed by investigators, telling them about an evening massage session in where Gore allegedly became enraged at times and tried to gain sexual favors from the woman.
Once more the tabloid press has scooped the MSM on a major story involving a liberal icon. The tendency of the establishment press to protect their favorites is getting ridiculous, and dangerous because people they are covering for are in a position to affect the lives and fortunes of millions.
Yep, you didn't hear much about the Bush administration's highly successful efforts to reduce homelessness back when he was in office. That's because it didn't fit with the MSM's favored narrative of harsh, heartless Republicans sticking it to the poor. Now that it no longer matters the truth can be told, if only to provide a springboard from which to heap praises on Obama.
Obama builds on Bush success to help the homeless
The Bush administration focused mainly on the chronically homeless, whose numbers have dropped 30 percent since 2006. An Obama plan wisely builds on that foundation to help more of the homeless, such as families and veterans.
Read the whole thing here.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
No episode in our nation's existence has occasioned more serious historical inquiry than the Civil War and successive generations of scholars, influenced by their contemporary concerns, have understood it in differing ways. For most of the lifetimes of people currently alive perspectives on the great crisis have been shaped and, it must be admitted, distorted by the moral and political imperatives associated with the Civil Rights movement. Official understanding was that the war was all about the institution and practice of slavery and that it pitted the forces of social justice against defenders of a corrupt, immoral, social order the defeat of which represented a great advance not just for the nation as a whole but for all mankind. Certainly, there were dissenting voices, but so strong was the moral imperative associated with the official interpretation that they were easily marginalized and ignored.
Well, now the dissenters are not being ignored and revisionism is again emerging. We can see some of the contours of the new understanding of the significance of the mid-nineteenth century crisis in a fascinating article by Christopher Clausen in the latest issue of the Wilson Quarterly.
Clausen notes that interpretations of what was at at stake in the Civil War have changed radically in the past and the struggle to control that meaning commenced even before the conflict ended.
One area currently open for reinterpretation is the constitutional context of the war. Southern sympathizers have long insisted that the broad nationalist agenda of the Republican Party was nothing less than a revolutionary reinterpretation of the constitution. From this point of view secession, far from being an illegal act, was a "preemptive counterrevolution against the Republicans' revolution." This understanding, once dismissed out of hand, has been endorsed by no less than Pulitzer prize-winning historian James M. McPherson.
Clausen also suggests that, while the "all about slavery" interpretation has a certain amount of validity when applied to the original seven secessionist States, it is far more problematic when applied to the border States and to southern sympathizers in the North.
He also argues that while the "Jeffersonian" doctrine of State sovereignty was brandished in defense of slavery, this was an "accident of history" and implies "no logical connection" between States rights and slavery. Moreover, moral condemnation of States rights ignores many positive and admirable aspects of the principle -- "the federal system, limited government, the defense of one’s homeland against long odds."
Clausen also points out that the strong moral context in which the sectional crisis has been interpreted stands in the way of deeper understanding. Necessarily the Civil War is reduced to a confrontation between good against evil that overshadows all other considerations. In this context he points to the incongruity of modern academics who strenuously demand that governments compromise and negotiate contemporary disputes rather than aggressively employing military force while simultaneously applauding Abraham Lincoln's uncompromising martial response to secession.
Finally, Clausen reminds us of some the negative consequences of treating the Civil War as a morality tale. Emphasizing slavery over all other factors has had the effect of solidifying in the minds of many people around the world a unique identification of , more so than any other people, with a universally condemned institution. Not only is this identification a distortion of the historical record, it has been readily picked up and used by America's enemies around the world.
Our unfortunate tendency to cast the past in stark moral tones has also precluded any resolution of the issues involved in the great American struggle. In a commentary on his article, Clausen notes to the shallow perspectives of recent pundits and politicians who have invoked the struggle and suggests a more reasonable approach, one that realizes that:
The participants lived in a different time, thought in different ways from us, and cannot reasonably be praised or blamed for not holding the attitudes of 2010. Nobody today doubts that slavery was an evil. The fate of that institution was settled in 1865, and nothing is gained by pretending that any controversy still exists on the subject.Whether or not you agree with Clausen, the arguments he puts forth are significant, for they have become matters of discussion within the community of professional historians, and that signals an impending shift in perspectives on the American past. The ideological hegemony of the civil rights era is beginning to fall apart. New questions are being asked and old ones revived. Slowly, but surely, a new synthesis will emerge and Clausen's article helps to illuminate, however dimly, the contours of a new understanding of our nation and its peoples.
The Civil War was tragic for many reasons, but one is that by almost any standard there were such large wrongs and large rights on both sides. Both sides fought bravely for freedom as they defined it; in hindsight, both sides had huge blind spots....
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Here he argues that using so-called "renewable" energy resources like ethanol, wind power and solar are far more destructive of the environment than burning fossil fuels. He writes:
If you remove the argument over climate change from the equation (as even European governments are starting to do), one thing becomes incandescently clear: Fossil fuels have been one of the great boons both to humanity and the environment, allowing forests to regrow (now that we don't use wood for heating fuel or grow fuel for horses anymore) and liberating billions from backbreaking toil. The great and permanent shortage is usable surface land and fresh water. The more land we use to produce energy, the less we have for vulnerable species, watersheds, agriculture, recreation, etc.Then on the Enterprise blog [here] he writes to "extend and revise" his article, noting the vast benefits that have accrued to mankind and to the environment due to the use of fossil fuels, the only reasonable partial alternative to which, he notes, is nuclear power.
Then he takes on the holy cow of scientific authority, wielded so promiscuously and recklessly by Democrats. He writes:
Scientists are technicians, not moral philosophers. While they can provide facts that inform good decision-making, they can't distill morality in a test tube. Politicians shouldn't abdicate to the guys in white coats their responsibilities to answer moral questions the white coats can't answer.Read the whole article here.
Precisely what I have been arguing here for several years. I don't always agree with Jonah, but on these subjects he is spot on and one of the few voices of reason in this season of hysterical discourse that the Obama campaign unleashed.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Up bright and early on our final day in Tunisia. Many members of our group took a trip up to Monastir and to the medina of Sousse. Some of us, though, elected to stay behind to enjoy the resort at which we were staying.
I mean, who wouldn't want to bask in all this luxury? Soon, however, my camera was begging to be taken out for a walk, so we headed down to the beach.
Even at mid-morning the beaches were crowded, mostly with tourists from Germany and France.
Not all that impressive for a kid who grew up in Florida, but the Mediterranean was very, very nice for a March day.
After lunch we headed down to the port of Sousse which was filled with luxury boats and yachts. Americans may not have discovered the charms of Tunisia, but wealthy Europeans flock here in large numbers.
A grebe was fishing in the middle of the harbor.
And creating quite a fuss. Naturally, I took pictures.
I wasn't the only one obsessively snapping away. Here's a group of kids from Hong Kong. When I pointed my camera their way, they decided to show off.
As we headed back to our bus for the final trip to the hotel we passed through a small amusement park/zoo. Here's a shot of one of the exhibits -- a fearsome wild beast from Mexico [or possibly Beverly Hills].
Today, when so much of our public discourse is carried on by true believers, both secular and religious, Trevor-Roper's skepticism is refreshing. He thought much of Christian ritual and dogma silly, but still respected the importance of Christianity and accepted Gibbon's assessment of anti-religious zealots like Voltaire as "intolerable bigots". He frequently invoked Marxist categories of analysis, but never accepted Marxist ideological imperatives. He, like his models Gibbon and Hume, understood that human affairs, which after all is what history is about, cannot be reduced to teleological schemes.
Several of Trevor-Roper's essays have recently been collected and republished under the title "History and the Enlightenment". Their value, as Jonathan Ree notes in an excellent review, is to place the Enlightenment -- which all to often is treated as a miraculous elevation in human consciousness, a banishing of superstition and cant -- within its historical context and to consider it as an historical phenomenon. In doing so, Professor Trevor-Roper has done us all a great service. Check the book out here. It is well worth your time.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
This woman was giving demonstrations on rug making technique. Interesting -- some of the women in our group gave it a try.
Ho hum, another spectacular ceiling.
Our guide told us that the rug merchant was a very "stout" fellow. He wasn't kidding.
Then it was out into the Sousse medina for some more shopping. There seemed to be a lot of rug merchants around.
That evening we were taken to a residential neighborhood where we had dinner with a local family in their residence.
Here they are. Both parents were athletes -- he played on the national soccer team until injuries forced his retirement; she ran in the Olympics.
We had a delightful time. The food was good; so was the company. The only exception was the grandmother. It seems our visit interfered with one of her favorite TV shows.
Eventually we returned to our hotel and got some much-needed rest.
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.Read it here.
The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
It will be interesting to see how this plays into the continuing debate over the war in Afghanistan.
The conspiracy theories practically write themselves. Bush caused 9/11 in order to have an excuse to invade Afghanistan because he was in the pocket of the military/mining industrial complex. Look for some version of this sort of thing to hit MSNBC soon.
Blake Hounshell, writing in Foreign Policy, is skeptical. He notes that this information has been available for several years and that the trillion dollar figure is quite probably inflated. He wonders why such a sensational story should appear now and suggests that it is an attempt on the part of the administration to offset a series of recent negative stories that were undermining American efforts in Afghanistan.
Read his article here.
Spencer Ackerman calls the announcement "vast fodder for conspiracy theorists" here.
If I might venture one small prediction -- this development will be of great interest to China and will present Afghan President Hamid Karzai with ample opportunities to play off great power interests against each other. Our relationship with him, already troubled, has just gotten a lot more complicated. One probable outcome will be that the U.S. will start to nurture relations with local leaders in the mineral-rich areas, bypassing the central government.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Two points are of special significance -- birthrates are rising again inside Europe while declining rapidly both in the Muslim world and among Europe's immigrant populations. As a result, the picture of a future Europe inundated by vast Muslim hordes seems far less likely than it did just a few years ago.
The second major trend is the expansion of monotheistic religions in sub-Saharan Africa. Both Islam and Christianity are spreading rapidly there and it is likely that in the future the demographic center of both religions will be in that region.
Some other interesting points: At current birthrates India's population will soon surpass that of China and, taken overall, the world's population is rapidly aging, coming more and more to resemble that of the developed nations.
What it all suggests is that the world of tomorrow will not look like the picture currently being assumed by policymakers and, given the nature of current futurist scenarios, that is both a hopeful and a frightening conclusion.
Read the whole thing here.
Friday, June 11, 2010
The U. S. Treasury reports on the success of the TARP program:
Read the press release here. Follow the links to the full report.
WASHINGTON – Today, in its May monthly Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) report to Congress, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that TARP repayments to taxpayers have, for the first time, surpassed the total amount of TARP funds outstanding.
Treasury’s report showed that, through the end of the May, TARP repayments had reached a total of $194 billion, which exceeded the total amount of TARP funds outstanding ($190 billion) by $4 billion.
“TARP repayments have continued to exceed expectations, substantially reducing the projected cost of this program to taxpayers,” said Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Herb Allison. “This milestone is further evidence that TARP is achieving its intended objectives: stabilizing our financial system and laying the groundwork for economic recovery.”
So, while leading economists are in agreement that President Obama's stimulus program has been an abject failure -- at best having a positive effect far short of what the administration projected and quite possibly having had no positive effect at all -- the TARP program, initiated by President Bush, has been a rousing success.
Most political commentators are not sophisticated enough to distinguish between the two, characterizing both as "bailouts", but the differential success of the two programs says something important about the two administrations -- something not favorable to the current one. Bush understood business and took positive steps to repair the damage caused by widespread credit defaults. Obama simply saw an opportunity to expand regulation and to bash capitalism.
I miss Bush.
While at the mosque we encountered these women. The one on the right is carrying an infant in her arms. We were told that they had come there to have the child circumcised. I don't know if that's true, but the women certainly seemed happy about something.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
LANCASTER, Pa. — With simplicity as their credo, Amish farmers consume so little that some might consider them model environmental citizens.Read it here.
“We are supposed to be stewards of the land,” said Matthew Stoltzfus, a 34-year-old dairy farmer and father of seven whose family, like many other Amish, shuns cars in favor of horse and buggy and lives without electricity. “It is our Christian duty.”
But farmers like Mr. Stoltzfus are facing growing scrutiny for agricultural practices that the federal government sees as environmentally destructive. Their cows generate heaps of manure that easily washes into streams and flows onward into the Chesapeake Bay.
The idea is to use the same old bribes and compulsion tactics that the EPA uses on all businesses. Offer government subsidies for change and then levy fines on those who don't comply with the new regs. That's not going to work very well, though, with the plain sects. They don't like government involvement of any kind in their affairs and are highly resistant to change. As the article notes, resistance is growing.
The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,’ the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years. Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it. As a result, tens of millions died. Unless this kind of thinking is exposed and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the 21st.It's an interesting perspective, with which I am not completely unsympathetic. Read the whole thing here.
Another lovely little essay by "Theodore Dalrymple" -- it begins:
To sympathize with those who are less fortunate is honorable and decent. A man able to commiserate only with himself would surely be neither admirable nor attractive. But every virtue can become deformed by excess, insincerity, or loose thinking into an opposing vice. Sympathy, when excessive, moves toward sentimental condescension and eventually disdain; when insincere, it becomes unctuously hypocritical; and when associated with loose thinking, it is a bad guide to policy and frequently has disastrous results. It is possible, of course, to combine all three errors.And that is precisely what modern socialist programs aimed at alleviating poverty do. He knows whereof he speaks, and draws from personal experience in the Pacific islands, in Africa, and in the British welfare system to make his points.
Read the whole thing here.
A cross examination of global warming science conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics has concluded that virtually every claim advanced by global warming proponents fails to stand up to scrutiny.
The cross-examination, carried out by Jason Scott Johnston, Professor and Director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, found that “on virtually every major issue in climate change science, the [reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and other summarizing work by leading climate establishment scientists have adopted various rhetorical strategies that seem to systematically conceal or minimize what appear to be fundamental scientific uncertainties or even disagreements.”
Read the whole thing here.
What makes this interesting is the fact that it originated in the Penn Law School -- a hotbed of leftist cant. If climate skepticism has infiltrated that bastion of political correctness the worm has truly turned.
The Republican Party is cleaning house and women are leading the way. Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, Nikki Haley, etc. are kicking ass. And on the other side Blanche Lincoln's victory in Arkansas is a repudiation of the lefty Obamaphile wing of the Democratic Party. And let's not forget that moderate Democrat Jane Harman fended off an attack from the Left.
The times, they are a changin'. Republican women, not the Won, are emerging as the real agents of change in America.
And let us not forget that Sarah Palin, the Big Mama Grizzly, had a great night too. Nearly all of her endorsed candidates, the "Palinistas", won. The exception seems to be Cecile Bledsoe who narrowly lost in Arkansas's Third District Republican primary.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
A local vendor -- one of many.
The central courtyard.
An open well.
The Three-tiered Minaret
The entrance to the Prayer Hall
The Prayer Hall interior with the mihrab and minbar in the background.