Day By Day

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goldberg on Conservatism and American Exceptionalism

Jonah Goldberg recently published a short piece in which he criticized Western feminists for their apparent indifference to the plight of women in the Muslim world. It's an excellent and well-reasoned argument, but it has roused a storm of criticism from people on the Left. In today's NRO Corner he responds to his critics and in doing so makes some very perceptive observations regarding American conservatism and how it differs from European varieties.

America is ideologically and politically syncretic. What is fundamentally American is a mix of ideas that are both on the “right” and “left” in other countries. A French conservative might hold positions shared by an American leftist, and a French liberal certainly holds positions shared by American conservatives. To say that conservatism must, of necessity, reject anything, anywhere, solely because at a specific point in time it can be dubbed “leftist” is absolutely ridiculous. So many ideas born on the left have come to be embraced on the right and for good reason. We on the right now champion governmental colorblindness, for example.

Conservatism isn’t about teams and hoarding ideological chips. It is about figuring out what is right and wrong, discriminating between the enduring and the transitory. This means, as Lincoln said, that conservatism will tend toward adhering to the old and tried over the new and untried. But eventually the new and untried become the old and tried, and there’s no reason for conservatism to reject ideas proven by time simply because of their embarrassing leftist parentage.
As I’ve been writing here for years (with all credit due to Friedrich Hayek and Sam Huntington), American conservatives are the only self-described conservatives in the world who defend a classically liberal revolution. That means something very special, indeed it is a great wellspring of American exceptionalism. A conservative in America doesn’t conserve theocracy or monarchy. He conserves the institutions of liberty. Perhaps not solely, for there are other things worth conserving as well. But a conservatism that does not conserve those institutions is not worth conserving. And in that fight, foreign and domestic, the Right should look for allies wherever it can.


Liberal Paranoia and the Press

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti illuminates the latest of many conspiracy theories advanced by the political Left.

David Koch’s secretary told him the news. This was in February, during the rowdy standoff between Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and demonstrators backing 14 Democratic legislators who’d fled to Illinois rather than vote on a bill weakening public employee unions. Koch’s secretary said that an editor for a left-wing website, the Buffalo Beast, had telephoned the governor posing as David Koch and recorded the conversation. And Walker had fallen for it! He’d had a 20-minute conversation with this bozo, not once questioning the caller’s identity. But then how could Walker have known? Sure, David Koch was a billionaire whose company had donated to his campaign. But Koch (pronounced “Coke”) had never talked to Walker in his life. 

Yet here were the media reporting that he and his brother Charles were behind Walker’s push against public employees. Anger washed over David like a red tide. He’d been victimized by some punk with a political agenda.
Read the whole thing here.

Two obvious points to make -- First, this explains how Governor Walker could be so easily taken in by the hoaxer -- he has had no contact with his supposed co-conspirators. The Left's conspiracy theory makes no sense. Walker could not be hoaxed if he knew and had  dealt with David Koch in the past, and the success of the hoax therefore invalidates its premise. Second, despite this the Left's bizarre claims that the hoax proved conspiracy were widely accepted and disseminated by the mainstream media which then used the allegations to launch a deep and widespread investigation of the Koch brothers.

Faugh!

Continetti then goes on to detail the wild accusations launched against the Kochs.
Liberals in the media turned into Koch addicts. They ascribed every bad thing under the sun to the brothers and their checkbooks. Pollution, the Tea Party, global warming denial—the Kochs were responsible. The liberals kneaded the facts like clay until the Kochs resembled a Lovecraftian monster: the Kochtopus! Its tentacles stretched everywhere. “Their private agenda is really the eradication of the federal government in almost all of its forms, other than the parts of it that protect personal rights,” New Yorker writer Jane Mayer told NPR’s Terry Gross. Anonymous, the hackers’ collective, accused the Kochs of attempting to “usurp American Democracy.” The Koch brothers manipulated the Tea Partiers, according to Keith Olbermann, by “telling them what to say and which causes to take on and also giving them lots of money to do it with.”
And so it goes, and so it goes. Time and again liberals in the media construct and market insane conspiracy fantasies, and the bizarre nature of these efforts goes largely unnoticed. Liberals are widely portrayed as exponents of reasonable analysis while conservatives are associated with a "paranoid style" of political discourse. Such has been the case ever since half a century ago Columbia historian Richard Hofstader, in a deeply dishonest essay informed by warmed over Frankfort School nonsense,  identified the political right with conspiratorial thinking. Hofstader's essay has ever since been a staple of liberal thought and its application permeates the liberal media. Yet, as Continetti notes, expressions of the "paranoid style" on the Left are largely unremarked on and are even endorsed by the mainstream press. Such is the state of our current political discourse.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

At the Movies

"She Who Must Not Be Named" occasionally goes on a movie kick. This week, for instance, at her insistence we have seen three movies. The first was "The Lincoln Lawyer" starring Matthew McConaughey. It's a silly little trifle in which Matt plays a street smart lawyer who operates out of the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car [hence the title] who is challenged by a rich pretty-boy, played by Ryan Philippe, who likes to assault women. It is pitched at about the level of a weekly TV drama and never aspires to anything higher. Readers might be interested to know that Matt keeps his streak intact -- he takes his shirt off, just as he has done in every other of his films. Instantly forgettable, LL is a waste of both time and money.

The second film was truly atrocious. It was "Limitless" starring Bradley Cooper. It's about a non-productive writer who takes a pill that boosts his intelligence and makes him into a super-genius. Eventually things begin to go wrong and he starts to have problems..., big problems. At first I thought this might be an updated version of the Faust legend, but it soon became apparent that it was much less profound than that. Then I hoped that it might have some of the clout of Cliff Robertson's 1968 SF classic, "Charly", but by the end it had morphed into Charlie Sheen's fantasy world where appropriately administered medication can turn you into a "winner" rather than a corpse. Again, it is not worth your time or money. Skip it.

The third flick was a real winner. "Battle: Los Angeles" stars Aaron Eckhart and state of the art CGI in a SF tale pitting evil aliens against doughty American marines. On a technical level -- the use of sound, CGI, shakeycam, etc. it is as contemporary as you can get, but in terms of theme, characterization, and plotting it is a throwback to the military dramas of half a century ago. I loved it! The queasycam was a bit too much -- it always is -- and the sound effects were a bit annoying, but the story [essentially a love letter to the USMC] was a lot of fun. You had a small, ethnically mixed, squad of marines, led by a vet on the brink of retirement, who face danger and overcome their fears and limitations to [and I'm not spoiling anything here] fight on to victory. There's not much characterization and every cliche of the old battle stories is prominently and unapologetically portrayed. It was a relief to see a film that didn't wink at or parody the old conventions and for me the whole thing worked beautifully. It's my recommendation for this week -- check it out!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Michelle Malkin's Cousin is Missing


 If you live in or visit the Seattle area, here's the basic information. For more go here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What the West Looked Like



Check out this terrific collection of photographs taken along the western frontier between 1887 and 1892. The pictures really bring the past to life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rubbing It In

Instapundit links to this, calling it the blog comment of the week. It's devastating.


What I like about Obama
Obviously, the biggest problem with Bush was sending the military into an Arab Muslim country that hadn't even attacked us. Among the several things that made that offensive were
* the rush to war - it was only several months after the possibility of military involvement was raised that combat operations began
* lack of United Nations sanction - only 17 relevant resolutions were ever passed before they were enforced
* lack of Congressional oversight - the President authorized the use of military force based on the flimsy pretext of a bill passed by Congress titled "Authorization of the Use of Military Force", rather than seeking a document that had the words "declaration of war" in it; that's every bit as bad as getting no Congressional approval at all
* obvious financial motives - clearly no one approved of the murderous dictator or sought a normal working relationship with him besides the French; at the same time, one couldn't help but be suspicious of the fact that the population we were ostensibly protecting was located conveniently near the oil fields
* stretching our military - we were overburdened as it was, and our brave military despite its courage lacked the resources for yet another operation
* inflating our military - the only way to keep the bloodthirsty Pentagon beast fed was to give it the hordes of jobless young men who had no prospects in an economy that saw unemployment skyrocket above 4% in most states
* ignoring our generals - the decision to go to war was made by political hacks who had never worn a uniform
* inflaming the Arab Street - despite some touchy-feely talk about Islam, it was impossible for the Muslim world not to notice how the President made repeated, insistent proclamations of his Christianity, how he only ever used the military against Muslim targets, and how at the time the war started he'd kept the concentration camp at Guantanamo open for over a year
* wasting money - it was completely irresponsible to commit the military to an expensive mission when the President's fiscal mismanagement had resulted in a budget deficit of over $150 billion in 2002
But anyway, what I really like about Obama is that he's gone 29-3 in his bracket picks over the first two days. You have to spend a lot of time watching college basketball to be that good.
Wow, just wow! The snark doesn't get any more vicious than that. I have to admit that I'm really, really enjoying this.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pretending to be President

Jim Geraghty writes:

It's also worth recalling that [George W. Bush] was demonized endlessly, for A) continuing to listen to a teacher read My Pet Goat after being informed of the 9/11 attacks, refraining from causing a panic among children before him; B) holding a guitar, somehow showing he ignored Hurricane Katrina C) saying "now watch this drive," supposedly showing he was lazily golfing while the War on Terror raged. In other words, our friends on the left already established the standard that a president dare not be seen doing anything less than fully appropriate focus while a crisis is occurring, anywhere in the world.

 
In the past week, as the budget negotiations, the deteriorating situation in Libya and the Japan crisis have been big issues one, two, and three, the president has found time for not just bracket picks and a DNC fundraiser but the bullying summit, a ceremony with the Chicago Blackhawks, a round of golf, the Gridiron dinner, a meeting with "student finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search 2011 competition", a speech at a school in Arlington, a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark in the Oval Office, discussing "the close ties between the United States and Denmark," and a weekly presidential address focusing on "Women's History Month." Wednesday, he's got another fundraiser.

It's almost as if he's looking for things to do other than deal with these big pressing issues.
Indeed!

How to Live on 10 Billion Dollars a Day

Iowahawk's latest, and as usual hilarious, commentary.


Seems like these days I hear a lot of whiney whiners whining about "out of control government spending" and "insane deficits" and such, trying to make hay out of a bunch of pointy-head boring finance hooey. Sure, $3.7 trillion  of spending sounds like a big number. "Oh, boo-hoo, how are we going to get $3.7 trillion dollars? We're broke, boo-hoo-hoo," whine the whiners.  What these skinflint crybabies fail to realize is that $3.7 trillion is for an entire year - which translates into only a measly $10 billion per day!

Mister, I call that a bargain. Especially since it pays for all of us - you and me, the whole American family. Like all families, we Americas have to pay for things - health, food, safety, uncle Dave America with his drinking problem. And when little Billy America wants that new quad runner they promised, do Mom and Dad America deny him? No, they get a second job at Circle K, because they know little Billy might have one of his episodes and burn down the house.

So let's all sit down together as an American family with a calendar and make a yearly budget. First, let's lock in the $3.7 trillion of critical family spending priorities; now let's get to work on collecting the pay-as-we-go $10 billion daily cash flow we need.

12:01 AM, January 1
Let's start the year out right by going after some evil corporations and their obscene profits. And who is more evil than those twin spawns of Lucifer himself, Exxon Mobil and Walmart? Together these two largest American industrial behemoths raked in, between them, $34 billion in 2010 global profits. Let's teach 'em both a lesson and confiscate it for the public good. This will get us through...

9:52 AM January 4
Okay, maybe I underestimated our take. But we shouldn't let Exxon and Walmart distract us from all those other corporate profiteers out there worth shaking down. In fact, why don't we grab every cent of 2010 profit made by the other 498 members of the Fortune 500? That will net us another, let's see, $357 billion! Enough to get us to...

2:00 AM February 9....

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who Is Obama Most Like?

Obama likes to compare himself to Lincoln. Republicans look at him and see Jimmy Carter. Don Surber thinks he is most like Richard Nixon.

Maybe it is the fund-raising.
Maybe it is the enemies list.
Maybe it is the many wars on Fox News.
Maybe it is his friends, although Bebe Rebozo never said “God Damn America” or tried to blow up the Pentagon.
But there is something about Barack Obama that reminds me of Richard Nixon.

He notes that public confidence in the government is at the lowest point since the Nixon administration and ties that to the fecklessness of our commander in chief.

Read it here.

As for me -- I think he's most like Obama. Each president is unique.

Beware


Don't forget -- Brutus, Cassius and the crowd were all Republicans.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Danger of Liberalism

The Christian Science Monitor recently published a piece on the repressive nature of modern liberalism that contains one of my favorite quotes from one of the great liberal icons of the Twentieth Century -- Lionel Trilling.

"Some paradox of our nature leads us," Trilling wrote in "The Liberal Imagination," "when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion."

Trilling's observation succinctly outlines the process by which liberal reform rapidly degenerates into tyranny. The article goes on to outline a number of areas in which liberal policies serve to radically restrict the freedom of individuals and it contains links to a number of other sources on the subject. It's worth spending a little time on. Check it out here.


Ignoring the Elephant

Tom Friedman wrote another of his supremely silly columns the other day in which he listed what he considered to be the non-obvious factors that underlay the revolutionary impulse in the Arab world. They included:
The fact that Obama is now President of the United States has inspired Muslim youth to think that they can achieve anything.


Google Earth has revealed to urban proles the vast inequalities in land distribution throughout much of the Arab world.


Israel has shown that democracies can punish politicians who violate the public trust.


China's success stands in sharp contrast to Egypt's failure to compete in the modern world.


The new Palestinian leadership has promised to be more accountable than in the past.
I'll say! They really are non-obvious, even to the point of being totally implausible. He does make passing mention to the obvious, and far more plausible, factors underlying Arab discontent: tyranny, youth unemployment, rising food prices, and social media. What I find interesting, though, is the fact that he did not see fit to include President Bush's liberation of Iraq which created a functioning Arab democracy. But then, that's not surprising. He works for the New York Times.

Read the article here.

As a counterpoint to Friedman's nonsense, Charles Krauthammer notes the immense importance of Bush's accomplishments in Iraq:


Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect - last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services - but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.
Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? In fact, notes Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, the United States has been "conspicuously absent from the sloganeering." 

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans - remember "No blood for oil"? - of the American left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq's purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region. 
 Read the column here.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

David Broder Is Gone

He was, until quite recently, an  important figure in the beltway commentariat and could usually be relied upon to provide sober and thoughtful, if often conventional, perspectives on national political silliness. I always enjoyed reading his columns and will miss him.

Read the WaPo obit here.

Will's Wisdom

I haven't been paying much attention to George Will lately. Maybe I should. He has some questions that should be considered by the administration before they decide if and how to react to the ongoing crisis in Libya. To wit:

  • The world would be better without Gaddafi. But is that a vital U.S. national interest? If it is, when did it become so? A month ago, no one thought it was.
  • How much of Gaddafi's violence is coming from the air? Even if his aircraft are swept from his skies, would that be decisive?
  • What lesson should be learned from the fact that Europe's worst atrocity since the Second World War - the massacre by Serbs of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica - occurred beneath a no-fly zone?
  • Sen. John Kerry says: "The last thing we want to think about is any kind of military intervention. And I don't consider the fly zone stepping over that line." But how is imposing a no-fly zone - the use of military force to further military and political objectives - not military intervention?
  • U.S. forces might ground Gaddafi's fixed-wing aircraft by destroying runways at his 13 air bases, but to keep helicopter gunships grounded would require continuing air patrols, which would require the destruction of Libya's radar and anti-aircraft installations. If collateral damage from such destruction included civilian deaths - remember those nine Afghan boys recently killed by mistake when they were gathering firewood - are we prepared for the televised pictures?
  • The Economist reports Gaddafi has "a huge arsenal of Russian surface-to-air missiles" and that some experts think Libya has SAMs that could threaten U.S. or allies' aircraft. If a pilot is downed and captured, are we ready for the hostage drama?
  • If we decide to give war supplies to the anti-Gaddafi fighters, how do we get them there?
  • Presumably we would coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Who are they?
  • Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?
  • Because of what seems to have been the controlling goal of avoiding U.S. and NATO casualties, the humanitarian intervention - 79 days of bombing - against Serbia in Kosovo was conducted from 15,000 feet. This marked the intervention as a project worth killing for but not worth dying for. Would intervention in Libya be similar? Are such interventions morally dubious?
  • Could intervention avoid "mission creep"? If grounding Gaddafi's aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn't protecting his enemies from ground attacks?
  • In Tunisia and then in Egypt, regimes were toppled by protests. Libya is convulsed not by protests but by war. Not a war of aggression, not a war with armies violating national borders and thereby implicating the basic tenets of agreed-upon elements of international law, but a civil war. How often has intervention by nation A in nation B's civil war enlarged the welfare of nation A?
  • Before we intervene in Libya, do we ask the United Nations for permission? If it is refused, do we proceed anyway? If so, why ask? If we are refused permission and recede from intervention, have we not made U.S. foreign policy hostage to a hostile institution?
  • Secretary of State Hilary Clinton fears Libya becoming a failed state - "a giant Somalia." Speaking of which, have we not seen a cautionary movie - "Black Hawk Down" - about how humanitarian military interventions can take nasty turns?
  • The Egyptian crowds watched and learned from the Tunisian crowds. But the Libyan government watched and learned from the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. It has decided to fight. Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance?
  • Would it be wise for U.S. military force to be engaged simultaneously in three Muslim nations?
Read the whole thing here. Given all these unknowns it is easy to understand the confusion and hesitancy of the One and his advisers as the situation in North Africa seems to be changing hourly, What is sickening is watching them treat the whole thing as a PR problem as they try to catch up to and exploit the latest journalistic postings from the region while at the same time trying to pretend that they have a coherent policy. The irony, of course, is that the harder they try to pretend that they are competent and on top of things, the more they reveal their incompetence and ignorance.

Faugh!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Street Work


Getting ready for the race. On Labor Day Baltimore will be hosting a formula one event at the Inner Harbor so crews have been busy for the past several months resurfacing and grading all the streets downtown. At times it makes driving near the harbor a nightmare, but since they are also upgrading and repairing water and sewage facilities at the same time, it is for the long-term benefit of those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the neighborhood. As it turns out I will be able to watch the race from my living room. How cool is that?

Responding to the Prophets of Doom

For as long as I can remember commentators on America's future have been spewing an endless stream of doom and gloom. We were always on the verge of being buried by the Soviet Union, or a resurgent Europe, or Japan, or somebody. Today the somebodies are China and India and, in the midst of the current economic crisis, the doom mongers are out in full force.

So far the doomsters have been wrong every time, and there is good reason to expect that they will be wrong again. Shika Dalmia, writing in Reason, explains why. She argues that, although China, and to a lesser extent India, have made extraordinary strides, the benefits of economic growth are largely concentrated within a relatively small stratum of their societies. In both countries hundreds of millions of people still live in abject poverty and the great mass of the population is afforded few of the opportunities produced by economic growth. Because of the narrow and shallow nature of Asian economic growth America is still far and away the land of opportunity.

America maximizes the talents of its population to a much greater extent than does either India or China.

Americans of all classes also have access to vast amounts of "intangible wealth" in the form of good roads, clean water, efficient sewage removal and a variety of social services that are not available to most of the population in Asian countries.

The American education system, if considered in toto, is superior to those of Asian countries. It seeks to serve the entire population whereas in Asian countries good education is available only to the elites.

Because of the depth and breadth of its prosperity America still offers immigrants from Asia far better opportunities than they could find in their home countries.

Americans, unlike Asians, have a profoundly critical perspective on their own country, a point of view that is reflected in the constant, but never realized, assertions of imminent collapse. This pessimism means that in America social and economic problems are more quickly identified, recognized and addressed than in China and India. Moreover, and this is important, when faced with problems Americans still tend to look for solutions outside the government rather than waiting for authorities to address them.

It's an interesting argument and it does contain certain truths. Studies of American and Asian economies we are often comparing apples and oranges in ways that mask the deep strengths of the American society and economy. Still, there is no reason to indulge in complacency. As Asian economies mature the benefits they generate will begin to reach more of their populations, creating opportunities comparable to those Americans have long enjoyed. And, in America, there has been in recent decades a very disturbing development -- the emergence of a relatively closed pseudo-meritocratic credentialized elite that perpetuates itself from generation to generation. In the future disparities between American and Asian societies may diminish, but for now Shika Dalmia is right -- the American advantage is not likely to disappear for a long time.

Read the article here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Spring Is Coming

The Snowdrops are up! Spring is on the way. Every year these are the first of my wife's flowers to bloom.


But the bulbs are not far behind. Already the leaves are poking up through the soil. Soon come the flowers. Soon, soon, soon. I can hardly wait.


Lies of the Left -- Student Achievement and Unions

Iowahawk demolishes the argument, advanced by liberals, that students in unionized States get better instruction than those who attend school in non-unionized ones. Yes, Wisconsin ranks near the top on national surveys of student achievement, as do several other unionized States in the Midwest and Northeast, while non-unionized states in the South. But, as Iowahawk points out when standardized by ethnic group, the discrepancies disappear and are even reversed. When compared to students in the same ethnic category, the scores of students from non-unionized States are actually higher than they are in the high-ranking unionized States. It's a brilliant, straightforward, and devastating rebuttal to liberal sophistry.

Read it here.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Collapse of "Realism"

Leon Wieseltier writes in the New Republic:
As the dictators fall, the clichés fall, too. Cairo and Tunis and Tripoli are littered with the shards of platitudes about what is possible and what is impossible in Arab societies, in closed societies. Civilizational analysis lies in ruins. Idealism, always cheaply mocked, turns out to be a powerful form of historical causation, as disruptive of the established order as any economic or technological change, and even more beneficent. Stability, the false god of hard hearts, has been revealed to be temporary, chimerical, provisional, hollow, where the social arrangements are not decent or fair: the stability of injustice, though it may last a long time, is essentially unstable.
It certainly is, as Weiseltier puts it, "delicious" to watch hard-headed foreign policy "realists" have to swallow their previous positions on the Middle East, but it is far too early for such triumphalism. Yes, President Bush and the much-reviled "Neo-Cons" were right to assert that the brutal dictatorships, which realists held to be the natural, if not exactly proper, state of affairs in the region, were in fact unstable and thin reeds upon which to base our diplomacy, but the consequences of the latest round of revolutions to sweep through the region have yet to be established and may [as turned out in Lebanon and Gaza] be extremely problematic.

Weiseltier is right to assert that the current administration is operating on assumptions and ideas that are hopelessly out of date, but that is not to say that the Neo-cons were right in all things. It does, however, support the idea that the much-reviled President Bush and his advisors had a far better, and more sophisticated, grasp on the dynamics of Middle East affairs than their successors have so far displayed.

The Best Of Times

You would never know it by listening to the news, but we are living in the Best Decade Ever. Sure there are a lot of problems, but as Charles Kenny notes in the latest edition of Foreign Policy:
For all its problems, the first 10 years of the 21st century were in fact humanity's finest, a time when more people lived better, longer, more peaceful, and more prosperous lives than ever before.
Global per-capita income is today at the highest level in history and has risen quickly in the past decade. The global middle class is expanding rapidly. The proportion of the world's population that is undernourished has been halved since the 1970's and every day, even despite recent rises in food prices, more and more people have access to adequate nutrition. Major infectious diseases are on the wane. Between 2000 and 2008 infant mortality mortality around the globe dropped 17 percent and life expectancy increased by two years. Literacy levels, especially for women, are at all time highs and women are better represented today in government positions than at any time in the past.

We are also living in a time of unprecedented peace. Between 2000 and 2008 the death toll from conflicts worldwide dropped by 40 percent and since 1990 the amount spent on military budgets has been cut in half. This past decade has been the most peaceful in the past century and it is quite possibly the most peaceful ever.

Put it all together and you realize that we are living in the best time ever. As Kenny writes, in the past decade: More people lived lives of greater freedom, security, longevity, and wealth than ever before.

And that is certainly something to be proud of. 


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Boids

For the past few weeks "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I have been traveling along the East Coast, and everywhere we have gone it has felt as if we were trapped inside a Hitchcock movie.


A lonely red tail keeps watch along the roadside.


Migrating Canada geese, just one of dozens of flocks that overflew us that afternoon.


Another, much smaller, flock overflew the parking lot. Noisy critters, they are.


A couple flocks of Canada geese circled over this field, but the Snow Geese had already taken possession of it.


An immature snowy egret takes wing right in front of us.


A pair of pelicans cruising by.


A snakebird dries its wings after a quick dip.


Here we are really in Hitchcock territory. At sundown flocks of crows fight for the best perches.


The winnahs!!!!