Tyrants In The Palm Of Your Hand & Links to Links to Links

Theodore Dalrymple at Takimag.com: ‘From Sir, With Love.’

‘I have always liked banknotes as physical artefacts, and have kept one or two from the foreign countries that I have visited (I am not so much a collector as an accumulator). There was displayed in the window what was called “The Tyrant Collection”: six colorful banknotes marked with the portraits of various tyrants’

A surprising amount can be contained in a banknote collection.

‘Among the other lessons I learnt from banknotes is that, in modern times, only communist countries count in threes. Thus I have a Cuban three peso note (with the ghastly Che Guevara on it) and an Albenian three lek note. This in turn demonstrates that the spread of communism was also the spread of Russian cultural influence, for while the Soviet Union printed 3 Ruble notes, this was a continuation of Tsarist practice.’
Tyler Cowen has some links on Gary Becker’s passing, including this quote from Kieran Healy on Foucault on Becker:
The shifts in focus Foucault picks out here, and the concepts and methods that accompanied them, are why Becker’s influence has been so enormous, why his work has been the straw man in so many social science articles, why his methods allow for such broad application, why the imagery of choice and responsibility that so often accompanies them has proved so politically attractive, why the world is now full of economists who feel empowered to dispense advice on everything from childrearing to global climate change, and why the audience for this advice is so large.’
A final note:  I’ve got a title worked-out for an upcoming Dan Brown-esque Vatican City intrigue Catho-holic mystery/thriller for any takers:  “The Bergoglio Imbroglio:  Papal Fire
I’d like to see it in airport bookstores by the end of the year.
Another Addition: That’s a joke.
Also, check out Les Gelb at the American Interests on what Obama needs to change (note: he’s ideologically rather rigid and rather thin-skinned when it comes to genuine challenges and contrary points of view):
‘To his credit, he questions his subordinates with great intellectual ferocity and skill. Rarely, however, does he allow his own thinking or policies, some already packaged for public consumption, to be rigorously scrutinized beforehand. Even after a productive meeting of top senior officials in the Situation Room, President Obama is said to repair to the Oval Office with a limited group of personal advisers’

Two Thursday Links

Mark Steyn takes a look at the kind of society he thinks progressive Left-liberalism creates (perhaps more like California with a lot of green laws, high taxes and untenable public pensions if it has more cash, trade, tech and human capital, or perhaps more like Detroit if there’s no industry left and terrible management):

‘In reality, it would be neo-feudal, but with fatter, sicker peasants. It wouldn’t just be “economic inequality,” but a far more profound kind, and seething with resentments.’

Do you have confidence in either political party to address the jobs issue?  Are you addressing the issue on your own?

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at Maryland’s new green policies:

‘Maryland is funding green boondoggles on the backs of the poor. At NRO, Jillian Kay Melchior details how Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has put in place green policies that have drastically raised energy prices across the state—especially for low-income residents’

Some Monday Links-Syria, California & Iran

Tom Switzer At The American Conservative: ‘Three Realist Lessons From Obama’s Syria Missteps:’

‘As realists from George Kennan to Henry Kissinger have argued, Americans do not have the understanding of other societies and people, the attention span or staying power, to engage in an active, interventionist policy of nation-building and democracy-promotion on a large scale.’

What are our objectives in fighting terrorism, and how do we best achieve them?

We can’t necessarily lash out in full-scale WWII conflict, nor engage in a Cold-War style chess games against a single player, so how do we best fight our enemies and secure our interests?


Carson Bruno & Jeremy Carl At The Hoover Institution ‘What California Comeback?:’

‘So while the media may call it a comeback, our poll suggests that Californians aren’t feeling the love as far as their pocketbooks, job prospects, and retirement plans are concerned.’

I suppose we’ll see.

Victor Davis Hanson tries to recover ‘California’s Promethean Past‘ and get back to non-governmental big public works projects.  The conservative Democrat position in California is a minority one.  Public sentiment is much more gathered around green, multicultural, and mildly collectivist thinking, which generally lead to the bureaucratic state of mind and the regulatory state.


From The Economist on Iran Negotiations: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm

‘If Iran resists such a deal, it would be further evidence that it is still trying to follow the North Korean route, as the Israelis keep insisting it is. If Iran however seems serious, then America is right to engage in negotiations at the highest level. The questions are when and how fast to lift sanctions.’

So, are they as bad as North Korea, back when George Bush lumped them together in the Axis Of Evil?

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, goes the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

I can’t help but think of all the bumbling and lack of strategy that brought us here isn’t a good sign.

Some Saturday Benghazi Links

So what happened at Benghazi that night, and more importantly, what happened in the months leading up to the attack, and what happened after the attack?  Here are some links I’ve rounded up after watching the State Department testimony.

It’s worthy of mention that State Department officials feel it necessary to speak out against the chain of command.

Eli Lake At The Daily BeastIn Benghazi, CIA Trusted Local Militia That Melted Away.  I think the State Department testimony showed that most people knew how sketchy the hired help was.  Benghazi was a mission designed to establish an eventual embassy there.  It was very dangerous, and getting more so.  Pushing ahead with the embassy, despite increasing security threats, lines up with the political goal of succeeding in Libya, and being seen as having succeeded in Libya in the run-up to the presidential election.  Signs of terrorism and a direct attack would compromise the leadership.

It was a judgment call, and the response to that judgment call is pretty political.

Also from LakeThey Knew It Was Terrorism-One would hope (such is politics) that the loyalty of the State Department employees would be met with similar loyalty from our political leaders when the shit hit the fan.  A decision was made to stand down (which gets at the heart of morale and why people serve, and the ethos of those who do).  Then, the video narrative took over, and it seems pretty clear the administration was happy to leave it at that, and try and keep it as quiet as possible, even making life uncomfortable for Hicks.  There was a lengthy, none-too-impressive, highly compromised FBI investigation.

They just wanted it to go away. How far did they go?  How much did they whitewash?

Peggy Noonan At The Wall Street JournalThe Inconvenient Truth About Benghazi-CYA and rather petty politicking probably took precedence over a more responsible leadership.

Adam Garfinkle At The American InterestBenghazigate, Republicans Missing The Point-For Garfinkle, the point is that the Libyan war was a mistake in the first place, not the Bush-lite, masterfully played pivot off of Obama’s Cairo speech.  It’s spilling out all over the place.   It’s not meeting its objectives.  Regardless, politics does have its uses, and the main one is to hold our leaders accountable, regardless of party affiliation.

We’ve got to get the incentives right.

Addition: Conditions on the ground in Tripoli are unstable.

Related On This Site:  Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘U.S. Officials Knew Libya Attacks Were Work of Al Qaeda Affiliates’ From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Remember Libya?’A Few Thoughts On Watching Operations In Libya

For Russia With Love-A Few Links On Low Birthrates And Putin’s Plans For The Future

The love-doctor is in!

Russia is really paranoid about its borders.  Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its sphere of influence has been greatly reduced.  Many of its satellites fell from the sky and most satellites still look towards Moscow with a wary eye, its culture and language still infused as part their culture, their economies still dependent upon Russian leadership.  Other satellites turned their backs resolutely, and ran toward Europe and the West, as did the Baltic states and Poland.  Tension hangs in the air.

In the meantime, Chechnya keeps flaring up into terrorist violence which can go all the way back to Moscow.  The Ukraine is trying to look and move Westward.  China is coming into its own.  All along its Southern front are millions of Muslims.

In addition, any advantage against the good old U.S. of A. must be exploited, for Moscow will dominate once again.  Strongarming Europe with gas wars and imprisoning its own oligarchs and girl-punk bands may be necessary.   Withholding orphans to make a political point is fair game, as Russian love affairs are often stormy.

So what is Putin doing to jack-up the low birthrate and restore Russian strength?

-He’s giving people money to have babies (which has had some success), and hiring Boyz II Men to woo couples into procreative acts. Via Gizmodo:

‘The band’s February 6th performance is part of a world tour, but specifically requested by Putin to help with Valentine’s Day-related romance. So basically, expect Moscow’s population to double some time around the middle of November.’

-He’s sponsoring love revivals.  From The Daily Mail (the most trusted source in news):

‘Obediently, couples move to a special section of dormitory tents arranged in a heart-shape and called the Love Oasis, where they can start procreating for the motherland.

With its relentlessly upbeat tone, bizarre ideas and tight control, it sounds like a weird indoctrination session for a phoney religious cult.

But this organisation – known as “Nashi”, meaning “Ours” – is youth movement run by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin that has become a central part of Russian political life.’

So crazy it just might work!

-Naturally, he still offers photo-ops of himself bare-chested:  embodying the virility, strength, and charisma that the Russian people will need going forward to conquer nature and vanquish all enemies.

***Bonus-1980’s tourist Putin meeting Ronald Reagan as a KGB member in Red Square.

***Double Bonus-Putin and Bush’s love affair in a GAZ M-21 Volga caught on tape.  Putin sends Medvedev out to keep the flame alive with Obama on missile defense.

To put it crudely as possible:  This guy knows more about love than a fate-tossed Ukranian mail-order bride.  You can’t entirely blame him either, as some of its working.


Autocracy?  Kleptocracy?  Developing Democracy?

Addition: I’ve already gotten some flak for the mail-order bride comment.  I think it’s most important to recognize what we’re dealing with, if we’re going to deal successfully.

See Also:  …Francis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So Far

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy


St Basils domes Red square Moscow Russia

by Ipomoea310

A Few Health Care Links-03/18/2010

From Keith Hennessey, Understanding The New Health Care Reconciliation Bill.  A good site to get caught up.

Megan McArdle sounds dejected: First Thoughts On The CBO Score.  Some interesting comments.

Paul Krugman back in 2006 at the NYT:  The Health-Care Crisis And What To Do About It.  Krugman offers his vision of what to do to contain rising costs due to vast inefficiencies, and what has caused the inefficiencies:

“First is the increasingly rapid unraveling of employer- based health insurance. Second is the plight of Medicaid, an increasingly crucial program that is under both fiscal and political attack. Third is the long-term problem of the federal government’s solvency, which is, as we’ll explain, largely a problem of health care costs.”

Of course, “free market ideology” and politics are getting in the way of what Krugman argues is the only effective solution:  these separate problems need comprehensive reform, and the government is the only entity capable of delivering it.

Of course, we’ll still have poor people without much/any access, a need for rationing (never enough money, always too much need), waste, inefficient spending due to self-interest etc as well as what I think Krugman underestimates as the potential for simple corruption, government inefficiency, and the dangers of tying political interests to so much money and human need (the innovation that will be lost).  He doesn’t spend much time discussing the downsides.

But, where is there a counter-vision by a fiscal conservative?

Link:  Reihan Salam at Bloggingheads states it simply:  Forget all this compromise talk and smoke and mirrors.  The left is this close to winning a philosophical victory, and this is the first step toward what the progressive left really wants, which is government controlled health-care.

Update:  A reader sent this link to the Heritage Foundation.  It’s a start.  If you have other links, fell free to send them in.

Also On This Site:  From Youtube Via Althouse-’Paul Ryan: Hiding Spending Doesn’t Reduce Spending’

The most knowledgable articles I’ve read that make the case for some government involvement are here:

Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘The Cost Conundrum Persists’

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Some Links For Afghanistan-January 20th, 2010

Dexter Filkins at the NY Times on the Taliban attack in Kabul on Jan 18th here.

‘A team of militants launched a spectacular assault at the heart of the Afghan government on Monday, with two men detonating suicide bombs and the rest fighting to the death only 50 yards from the gates of the presidential palace.’

The Christian Science Monitor provides details on the military aid effort.  The problems not solved by the Afghan government are being picked up by the military…but how well?  How much can they do?:

‘Amid this backdrop, the US military is working to implement its own development projects. In an area like restive Paktika Province, however, they’re confronted with a layered set of problems.’

As  nearly always, Informed Comment is worth reading on the subject.

Sent in by a reader: Blogs-The Voice Of AfghanistanAbu Muqawama

How do you balance the threat and consequences of a terrorist attack on American soil with limited miiltary resources (after years of a piecemeal, ineffective strategy)…while also dealing with a somewhat weak coalition of interested parties and always limited additional resources…

…while in a foreign land, battling hostile forces and supporting (carefully) a weak and corrupt central government sitting atop a war torn infrastructure and a fairly tribal society…which is tired of war?

Also On This Site:  From Newsweek: ‘Meeting Of The Diplomats’

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Health Care Reform-A Few Links 01/05/10

Keith Hennessey is following the bill closely.

Bloggingheads with a libertarian (Megan McArdle claims against the odds that the health care bill could be dead) here.

Who will enforce the new health insurance requirements…the IRS?  Reason has more here. (Private insurers are protecting their interests).

James Surowiecki at the New Yorker asks the question why do we need private health insurers in the first place?  Full post here.

Well, to more effectively control costs and manage risk (especially as regards fraud)…I’d say yes.

On This Site:  The political system is, in my opinion, neither the best nor most efficient way of addressing the jerry-rigged health-care delivery system we have…and its rapidly rising costs.  Atul Gawande, however, makes a decent, evolving, pragmatic case for some government involvement:

Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘Testing, Testing’From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”

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