Day By Day

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Best Apology of the Year!

Andy Levy conducts a lesson on how to apologize.

Andy is one of the reasons I sometimes stay up late to watch "Red Eye".

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Richard Miniter on the "Arab Spring"

Richard Miniter writes that the American public has been badly misinformed regarding the wave of insurrections that the press has labled the "Arab Spring". The result has been a far more optimistic take on the situation than is warranted. He writes:

“Arab Spring,” as it has been portrayed by the Western media, is an illusion.

Virtually every element of the media narrative — it is a spontaneous revolt, that it is Internet-driven, that it seeks democracy or income equality — is wrong or misleading.

After extensive interviews across the region and two visits to North Africa in July, it is clear that Western media and intelligence services have played a “Jedi Mind Trick” on themselves and us.

They have produced a number of myths that cloud our understanding.
More specifically:

1) The Western media have presented the disturbances that have swept through the Arab world as spontaneous uprisings, but there is reason to believe that Iran, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been instigating subversion in many of the Arab states. Miniter writes:
The role of Iran and other nations in fomenting “Arab Spring” is not fully known. But we know enough to say that the revolts are not the spontaneous mass uprisings that the media imagines.
2) Contrary to press reports and commentary it is quite clear that while the internet has been important to revolutionary elites, allowing them to coordinate their activities, it has had little impact on the Arab masses, most of whom are illiterate and who get their information from Al Jazeera. It is old media, not the new, that is driving the protests.

3) The uprisings are not primarily, nor possibly even tangentially, about democracy. He writes:

So far, the Arab revolutions have not produced a single democracy. In Tunisia and in Egypt, there is the hope that transitions will produce democracies in the coming months. But a new oligarchy of military and intelligence officers, tycoons and technocrats seems more likely.

In Algeria, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen the strongmen may survive or be replaced by other dictators. Democracy is not a foregone conclusion.

In all cases the Arab revolutions were unified in demanding the ouster of the current leaders and either confused or conflicted about what form of government should follow.

What unites revolutionaries across the Arab world is a loathing of their centralized, all-powerful states.

Such states, because they have the ability to dispense so many benefits, soon become completely corrupted. When a citizen has to rely on the state for every life-sustaining thing from housing to schooling, its officials do not have to ask for bribes. They know that desperate citizens will volunteer to pay them. Thus are a people made to grovel, beg and proffer gifts to the very officials who should be serving them, a condition that produces humiliation and disgust on one side and greed and entitlement on the other. When this indignation coats a country, it is as if every city has been soaked in petrol and awaits only a single spark to explode.
So it is dignity, not democracy that the revolutionaries are seeking.

4) It is far too soon to tell whether the Muslim Brotherhood or other extremist organizations will be able to control the revolutionary states that emerge from the current situation. At this point it is clear that they are not in control, and may never be.

5) Comparing the Arab revolts to the 1989 collapse of Communism is misleading.

6) Finally, not all Arab regimes are equally susceptible to revolution. Morocco, for instance, is doing just fine.

So what we have is a wave up uprisings that are not really spontaneous, are imperfectly controlled by their instigators, that are unlikely to produce democratic regimes, and the outcome of which cannot at present be determined. It is only on this last point that Miniter and the MSM are in agreement. We don't know what will come next, but if we are to be adequately prepared to face it, we must come to terms with what is happening now, and that is something the MSM has not done.

As Miniter writes, It is vital that we see “Arab Spring” for what it is, not what we want it to be.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Now This Is Just Plain Embarrassing

NASA-affiliated "scientists" at Penn State have seriously beclowned themselves on the subject of global warming.

They speculate that extraterrestrial environmentalists could be so appalled by our planet-polluting ways that they view us as a threat to the intergalactic ecosystem and decide to destroy us.

The thought-provoking scenario is one of many envisaged in a joint study by Penn State and the NASA Planetary Science Division, entitled "Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis."
It speculates that aliens, worried we might inflict the damage done to our own planet on others, might "seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us."

"Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth's atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth," the study says.

"While it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of this scenario, it should at a minimum give us pause as we evaluate our expansive tendencies."
Read more here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sarah's Iowa Video

Does this mean that Sarah is running? Sure looks like it.


Karl Rove thinks she's running too. Read about it here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

History Notes -- George Will on JFK

George Will makes the case for John F. Kennedy being considered the most incompetent president of all, at least in his first year in office. Read it here.

Tom Sowell on Race and Inequality

Tom Sowell tells an uncomfortable truth about race and inequality in America:

The prevailing social dogma is that disparities in outcomes between races can only be due to disparities in how these races are treated. In other words, there cannot possibly be any differences in behavior.
But if black and white Americans had exactly the same behavior patterns, they would be the only two groups on this planet that are the same.

The Chinese minority in Malaysia has long been more successful and more prosperous than the Malay majority, just as the Indians in Fiji have long been more successful and more prosperous than the indigenous Fijians. At various places and times throughout history, the same could be said of the Armenians in Turkey, the Lebanese in Sierra Leone, the Parsees in India, the Japanese in Brazil, and numerous others.

There are similar disparities within particular racial or ethnic groups. Even this late in history, I have had northern Italians explain to me why they are not like southern Italians. In Australia, Jewish leaders in both Sydney and Melbourne went to great lengths to tell me why and how the Jews are different in these two cities.

In the United States, despite the higher poverty level among blacks than among whites, the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994. The disparities within the black community are huge, both in behavior and in outcomes.

Nevertheless, the dogma persists that differences between groups can only be due to the way others treat them or to differences in the way others perceive them in "stereotypes."

All around the country, people in politics and the media have been tip-toeing around the fact that violent attacks by blacks on whites in public places are racially motivated, even when the attackers themselves use anti-white invective and mock the victims they leave lying on the streets bleeding.

This is not something to ignore or excuse. It is something to be stopped.
And regarding the role of our national leaders and opinion makers he writes:
[T]here has been -- for decades -- a steady drumbeat of media and political hype about differences in income, education and other outcomes, blaming these differences on oppression against those with fewer achievements or lesser prosperity.

Moreover, there has been a growing tolerance of lawlessness and a growing intolerance toward the idea that people who are lagging need to take steps to raise themselves up, instead of trying to pull others down.

All this exalts those who talk such lofty talk. But others pay the price -- and ultimately that includes even those who take the road toward barbarism.
Well said!

Read the rest of his commentary here and here.

History Notes -- A New Biography of Ethan Allen

Francois Furstenberg has a nice review in Slate of Willard Sterne Randall's new biography, Ethan Allen: His Life and Times. Allen is a problematic hero because many of his patriotic exploits were clearly motivated at least in part by calculations of personal gain. Furstenberg takes the opportunity to point out that much the same could be said of other prominent figures in the revolutionary conflict and raises once again the old "progressive" view of the revolution as a clash of class and economic interests. This is a familiar argument to professional historians, but general readers, for whom this book is intended, might find it interesting. Check it out, check it outers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

Actually, two pictures. Erika Johnsen points out a devastating contrast here.

The New York Times as a Struggling New Media Entity

Mickey Kaus thinks that the New York Times is coming to be more and more like MSNBC. He attributes this to the need to lock in an audience in an increasingly competitive media environment.

Read it here.


Kenny Drew, Jr., Mike Formanek, and Clarence Penn are just amazing in this cover of the Ellington classic, Caravan.

A More Peaceful World

Josh Goldstein has an excellent piece in Foreign Policy dispelling many popular perceptions regarding the incidence and character of war in the modern world.

The first of these is a point I have frequently made -- that contrary to popular perception war is becoming far less common in recent decades.

Moreover not only the incidence, but also the lethality of wars has been declining over time. Goldstein writes:
[T]he last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace. 
And as for the idea that America has been becoming more warlike as the rest of the world is becoming more peaceful, he writes:
America's decade of war since 2001 has killed about 6,000 U.S. service members, compared with 58,000 in Vietnam and 300,000 in World War II. Every life lost to war is one too many, but these deaths have to be seen in context: Last year more Americans died from falling out of bed than in all U.S. wars combined.
Moreover warfare, contrary to the assertion of some peace activists, is not becoming more lethal to civilians. The ratio of civilian to military casualties has not changed over time despite significant changes in the technology and tactics of war.

So far, so good. I find nothing with which to disagree in Goldstein's account, but now he turns to more theoretical concerns.

First, he disputes the argument that the collapse of American and Soviet hegemony will lead to greater regional conflicts as rising powers jostle for influence. So far, that has been true -- but there are disturbing trends in a number of areas. The rise of belligerent powers such as Iraq [under Hussein], Iran, and China, could easily provoke regional conflicts. 

And, as Goldstein admits, there is little reason to suppose that democratization will produce a more peaceful world in the future. While it is true that historically full-fledged democracies have never engaged in full-scale war with each other, it is also true that democratic movements are often more belligerent than the authoritarian regimes they displace.

And, Goldstein places, in my opinion, far too much trust in the efficacy of international organizations and their peacekeeping efforts. He notes that such efforts were as likely to fail as succeed in the 1990's, but that their record in the new century has been much better. However, I would point out that there is simply not enough information available to sustain that argument and that the relative success of peacekeeping efforts in recent years could easily be attributed to the broader decline in conflict rather than to the international organizations themselves.

Goldstein also asserts that many longstanding conflicts that have previously been thought to be intractable have now settled into relatively stable, if uneasy, truces that might in the future become durable peace arrangements. We shall see..., we shall see. In some cases, like Northern Ireland, that is certainly possible, even likely, but I am not so optimistic regarding such places as Kashmir and Israel.

Finally, he argues that the major reason for the decline in violence is a shift in public attitudes similar to the one that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries regarding slavery, or regarding colonialism in the past century. War, once viewed as a glorious or necessary undertaking is increasingly seen as a disreputable, even disgraceful one by many people.

This, to my mind, is nonsense. The de-legitimization of slavery and colonialism are both complex subjects that are very much a product of profound conflict. International opinion is far more a reaction to than a shaper of historical developments.

Whatever you think of the arguments the article is interesting and well worth the time to read. Check it out here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Return to China -- Part 43, Shanghai by Night

Descending to earth we then spent some time wandering around in a subterranean museum illustrating aspects of Shanghai's past. There were several antique autos that I found interesting.

And I was particularly taken by this panorama of Shanghai's "Bund" -- a group of commercial buildings lining the west bank of the Huangpu River. The Bund was once the commercial center of Shanghai and the old buildings have been carefully preserved.

Emerging from the museum we had some time to wait for the group to reassemble.

Some took advantage of this to engage in yet another shopping opportunity.

I just wandered around taking pictures.

Then it was on to Nanjing Road, Shanghai's high-end shopping district. We arrived in late afternoon and immediately dispersed for yet more shopping. I had been here before, at night, when the place to my mind is much more impressive.

It was still pretty impressive by day, though.

Then as night fell, we headed back to the river for a nighttime view of the city.

Here is a view of the tower we had ascended earlier in the day.

The Pudong skyline from the west bank of the river.

There, at last... the Bund. It had been closed to pedestrian traffic the last time I was here so I had no pictures of it. This time, though, I expected to see and photograph the area in its full glory.

The Oriental Pearl Tower again.

Getting closer to the Bund.

And still closer...

Then we got the word -- time to go back to the bus. Regretfully I turned back, taking one last shot of the Pudong skyline. It's an amazing sight, especially if you remember that twenty years ago none of these buildings existed.

Then we boarded the bus and traveled back to the hotel to rest up and prepare for our departure from China the next day.

So ends our return to China. I suspect it will not be our last visit there.

Getting to Know Rick Perry

Garnet92 Over at Pesky Truth has assembled a list of the seventeen major criticisms that have been leveled against Rick Perry and explains the context in which they have been set. It's a good introduction to the man and his thinking as well as that of his critics.

Read it here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Addicted to the Indigenous

A wonderful poem about political correctness:

        Go, Ghost, Go

At this university upon a hill,
         I meet a tenured professor
                 Who's strangely thrilled
         To list all of the oppressors --
Past, present, and future -- who have killed.
Are killing, and will kill the indigenous.
         O, he names the standard suspects --
                 Rich, white, and unjust --
         And I, a red man, think he's correct,
But why does he have to be so humorless?

And how can he, a white man, fondly speak
         Of the Ghost Dance, the strange and cruel
         That, if performed well, would have doomed
All white men to hell, destroyed their colonies,
And brought back every dead Indian to life?
         The professor says, "Brown people
                 From all brown tribes
         Will burn skyscrapers and steeples.
They'll speak Spanish and carry guns and knives.
Sherman, can't you see that immigration
         Is the new and improved Ghost Dance?"
         All I can do is laugh and laugh
And say, "Damn, you've got some imagination.
You should write a screenplay about this shit --
         About some fictional city,
         Grown fat and pale and pretty,
That's destroyed by a Chicano apocalypse."
The professor doesn't speak. He shakes his head
         And assaults me with his pity.
         I wonder how he can believe
In a ceremony that requires his death.
I think that he thinks he's the new Jesus.
         He's eager to get on that cross
         And pay the ultimate cost
Because he's addicted to the indigenous.

By Sherman Alexie -- a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, poet and screenwriter. This poem is from his book War Dances.

HT: Things White People Like

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Return to China -- Part 42, Pearl of the Orient

Our first stop after lunch was at a "silk factory" where we had yet another shopping opportunity. It wasn't much -- a large set of showrooms with a small demonstration area attached where an extremely enthusiastic young woman gave us a short talk about silk harvesting. Fortunately, there was a small coffee shop attached to the showrooms where I and some of the other members of the party sat comfortably while others shopped.

Then it was on to our primary destination -- the Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the most striking features of Shanghai's Pudong skyline [more about that later].

Here's a picture of the tower taken at its base. 

And turning around we got a nice view of the Pudong skyline. 

We entered the tower at its base and got in line waiting for an elevator to take us to the viewing platform.

And this is the elevator.

And this is the view from the main observation platform -- more than 850 feet up. As with all Chinese cities downtown Shangai [here we are looking west toward Puxi] is in a constant state of reconstruction. 

This is the Huangpu river -- a tremendously busy traffic artery. 

And this is Shanghai's famous Bund -- the low buildings along the river's edge. Prior to the 1990's it was the center of commercial life in the city.  My how things have changed!

The tall building in the center of the picture is the Shanghai World Finance Center. When it was completed in 2007 it was either the tallest or the second tallest building in the world [depending on how that was measured]. It has since been topped by a new building in Dubai and that is scheduled to be topped this year by a building under construction in Abu Dhabi. The Chinese and the Emirates seem to have quite a competition going -- similar to that between the United States and France a century ago that produced the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower. Next to it is the Jin Mao Tower, prior to 2007 the tallest building in China. 

Looking west beyond the commercial buildings we see both lowrise and highrise apartment buildings, home to some of Shanghai's more than 23 million residents. 

Casting a giant shadow. 

Downtown Shanghai has a fascinating mix of pedestrian and motorized pathways such as these that facilitate travel through the central business areas. 

Looking straight down and not getting dizzy.

The sun is setting over Shanghai and we have much more to see.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

An Argument for Fracking

From ExxonMobil:
It’s nothing short of revolutionary that our industry has recently unlocked more than a 100 years’ worth of natural gas right here in the United States. And at some of the world’s lowest prices – last month natural gas was selling for 40 percent less in the U.S. than in Europe.

Think of the advantages this is already providing – in the form of power generation and fuel for manufacturing and other industries, not to mention the jobs and taxes natural gas production creates.
But there are concerns that political overreaction to a small number of isolated environmental issues could jeopardize this emerging industry and the benefits it provides.

Government policies did not cause the shale gas revolution in this country – but they could stop it in its tracks.

Policymakers need to look carefully at the facts and avoid a bias against natural gas and fossil fuel development in favor of far more costly energy sources that are already receiving massive subsidies.
In fact, we’ve already spent more on alternative energy subsidies than we did on the Manhattan and Apollo projects combined.  And what do we have to show for it? Unreliable and uneconomic energy sources that still can’t compete – even at today’s prices.

On the other hand, natural gas is affordable, available – and doesn’t need taxpayer subsidies.
The technologies and industrial processes involved in developing shale gas are proven – the industry has successfully fracked more than a million wells over the last 60 years. There are thousands of feet of rock between the natural gas deposit where the fracking takes place and the water table.
Risk to water supplies and air quality can be and are being mitigated by using proper well design, operating with care and following industry best practices and procedures that are all subject to regulation and government oversight.

When these technologies are applied properly and the industry remains focused on operational integrity, we can protect our environment and public health and enjoy this unprecedented economic advantage. 
Read it here.
The advantages of natural gas production are many, especially when compared to oil and alternative energy sources. It would be a terrible mistake to block domestic exploitation of this immensely valuable energy resource.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Return to China -- Part 41, The Yuyuan Garden

After a brief shopping opportunity in Old Town Shanghai we assembled and we proceeded to the Yu Garden, one of several private gardens assembled by high ranking officials for their personal enjoyment. This is one of the best -- constructed back in the sixteenth century for one of the officials of the Ming Dynasty.

Look Ma! Fish!

We walked through a maze of walkways and pavilions that were impressively picturesque.

I was particularly interested in the numerous roof and wall decorations.

These are three-toed dragons. The owner, Pan En, may have been a high ranking official, but he was not the emperor, and only the emperor was allowed to display four-toed dragons.

And of course there was yet another shopping opportunity.

Then it was back out into the narrow passages and shops of Old Town Shanghai.

More Drudge Headline Narratives

Matt Drudge, or someone on his staff, has perfected the art of telling stories with sequential headlines. Here's an example from today's Report:


...the underclass lashes out

Violence continues...

Rioting spreads beyond capital...

DAY 3...


Police arrest over 160...

Cameron Returns From Vacation...

Then, having established the outlines of London's continuing civil unrest, Drudge immediately follows with this:

Philadelphia Implements Strict Curfew To Combat Violent Mobs...

thus drawing an implicit link between Britain's class war and the emergence of racial violence in American cities.

Interesting, but a bit misleading.

Or is it?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Good President (continued) -- Inheritance

Tweets from the Iowahawk Blog [!/iowahawkblog]:

You know who else inherited an economy from George Bush? Rick Perry.

You know what else Obama inherited from Bush? a AAA credit rating.

Return to China -- Part 40, Shanghaied Again

Our last stop on the tour was Shanghai, my favorite city in China. We had been there before and visited some of the same places we had seen then, but there is always something new and entrancing to experience in this, one of the most modern cities in the world. This time we were going to see a different side of the city.

Shots from the bus:

Our first stop was at the Shanghai History Museum. We welcomed this opportunity to see things we had missed last time we were here.

Statues of mythological beasts flank the entrance to the building.

Last time I had not had an opportunity to spend much time in the furnishings section, much of which consisted of magnificent reconstructions of traditional rooms. 

Or beautiful cabinets, tables and chairs.

This is for my friend Ann who insisted that I had to take a picture of it.

In the ethnic cultures section they were featuring a display of traditional Tibetan ritual masks..

Then it was back outside onto the streets of Shanghai and on to our next destination.