Cheery News of the Day

by Dave Schuler on August 29, 2014

Well, here’s your cheery news of the day, courtesy of the World Health Organization:

  • The total number of probable and confirmed cases in the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the four affected countries as reported by the respective Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone is 3069, with 1552 deaths.
  • The outbreak continues to accelerate. More than 40% of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities.
  • The overall case fatality rate is 52%. It ranges from 42% in Sierra Leone to 66% in Guinea.
  • A separate outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which is not related to the outbreak in West Africa, was laboratory-confirmed on 26 August by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is detailed in a separate edition of the Disease Outbreak News.

I think there is some point at which the world should become genuinely concerned. I don’t know that we’re there yet but unless the outbreak(s) begin to subside that point looms nearer.

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There Is No Progress in Progressivism

by Dave Schuler on August 29, 2014

In Dennis Safran’s remarks at City Journal on contemporary progressivism, I have finally read something written by somebody who gets the remarkable absurdities of contemporary political nomenclature:

As Fred Siegel has noted, contemporary progressivism is an upper-middle-class movement that caters to the social libertarianism of coastal elites, while paying lip service to left-wing economic concerns. Even when modern progressives do support economic development, they often do so in ways that stand traditional progressivism on its head—redistributing wealth upward to favored industries.

We subsidize physicians, lawyers, college professors, bankers, financiers, and a few other rarified professions at the expense of everybody else. There is no progress in that sort of progressivism but it does provide nice incomes to its beneficiaries.

That reminds me of the old Soviet-era wisecrack “There is no truth in Pravda [ed. the Russian word for truth] and no news in Izvyestiya [ed. the Russian word for news]“. You sometimes hear it the other way around but I think it makes much more sense this way. Sounds better, too.

There is no conservation in today’s conservatism and no progress in progressivism. It’s a pretty state of affairs.

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Why Now?

by Dave Schuler on August 29, 2014

In looking at the BEA’s latest GDP figures for the second quarter of 2014, one thing that leapt out at me was something I’ve been waiting for a long time:

Real nonresidential fixed investment increased 8.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent in the first. Investment in nonresidential structures increased 9.4 percent, compared with an increase of 2.9 percent. Investment in equipment increased 10.7 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 1.0 percent. Investment in intellectual property products increased 4.4 percent, compared with an increase of 4.6 percent. Real residential fixed investment increased 7.2 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 5.3 percent.

That is a whopping increase, a long time in coming. Note especially the 11% increase in equipment investment and the 9% increase in nonresidential structures. That’s exactly what we need to get the economy moving again.

Other portions of the economy are less spectactular. Our trade picture is actually worsening which, in a weird way is kind of encouraging. Our balance of payments almost always worsens when the economy is improving. But government spending, PCE, and so on are nothing to write home about. It’s the BI that’s booming.

The question on my mind is why now? Are they expecting a shoe to drop?

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Preserving Disorder

by Dave Schuler on August 29, 2014

You know, when I read about this Pew study, characterized as “As New Dangers Loom, More Think the U.S. Does ‘Too Little’ to Solve World Problems”, it reminded me of the late Mayor Daley’s response to a newspaper reporter following the civil disorder that accompanied the Democratic Convention of 1968 and claims that it was “a police riot”, to the effect that

The Chicago Police were not there to create disorder. The Chicago Police were there to preserve disorder

We’re preserving the world’s problems. That is the nature of a status quo-ist country.

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Realism Was Never Like This

by Dave Schuler on August 26, 2014

There’s an article at The National Interest discussing an interesting question. Is Barack Obama a foreign policy realist?

If we take President Obama at his word that he is not a realist—and there are good reasons to do so—his administration’s long flirtation with foreign-policy realism and especially with the Left’s “progressive realists” raises two important questions. First, why were the president and his advisers comfortable with longtime and widely held perceptions that he was a realist? Second, what changed their minds?

Answering these questions with any certainty would require a front-row seat in the White House Emergency Public Relations Bunker that one can too easily imagine the administration building immediately beneath the Situation Room for its most important decision making. Still, it is not difficult to see how the image of foreign-policy realism could appeal to the president and his communications team—it has provided superficial intellectual and political legitimacy to Obama’s frequently expressed desire to concentrate on “nation building at home.” It likewise helped the administration to justify avoiding undue involvement in complex and time-consuming international problems, especially those inherited from former president George W. Bush, whose legacy the White House has publicly repudiated but quietly continued in many respects.

Want to get out of Iraq? Pivot to Asia instead—it’s more strategically important. Need to withdraw from Afghanistan? We’ve done all we can there. Hope to stay out of further wars in the Middle East? Negotiate with Iran and use Congress as an excuse to stay out of Syria. Americans frustrated with Bush’s expensive choices were understandably tempted.

I think it’s helpful to keep in mind that in international relations “realism” is a term of art that doesn’t mean what you might think it does if you don’t run in international relations circles—something along the lines of “not ideological”. I honestly don’t think we’ve had a foreign policy realist with major influence in policy-making here since Kissinger.

I’d certainly be interested in hearing the argument pro and con in comments.

Just for the record I do not consider myself a foreign policy realist. Pessimistic idealist.

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The Sacrifice

by Dave Schuler on August 26, 2014

In one of the most outspoken arguments in favor substantial intervention by the U. S. in Iraq and Syria I’ve read to date, Richard Cohen writes:

I used to not believe in evil. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” I thought it was a dandy phrase but also a confession of ignorance. The word itself connotes something or someone diabolical — bad for the sake of bad. The Soviet Union was bad, I conceded, but not for no reason. It was bad because it was insecure, occupying the flat, inviting, Eurasian plain, and because it had a different system of government that it dearly wanted to protect. Reagan had it right, though. The Soviet Union was evil.

Now we are facing a different type of evil. The Islamic State, in whose name Foley was beheaded, murders with abandon. It seems to love death the way the fascists once did. It is Sunni, so it massacres Shiites. It is radical Sunni, so it eliminates apostates. It is Muslim, so it kills Yazidis, a minority with a religion of its own, and takes as plunder their women as concubines. Men are shot in graves of their own making.

The Nazis are back — differently dressed, speaking a different language and murdering ostensibly for different reasons but actually for the same: intolerance, hatred, excitement and just because they can. The Islamic State’s behavior is beyond explication, not reacting as some suggest to the war in Iraq — although in time it will try to settle some scores with the United States — but murdering and torturing and enslaving because this is what it wants to do. It is both futile and tasteless to lay off blame on others — the West, the colonialists of old or the persistent Zionists — or to somehow find guilt in the actions of the rich or powerful because they are rich or powerful. You can blame the victim. You can even kill him.

If you follow and agree with his argument, I honestly don’t see how you could support half measures that failed to eliminate ISIS like modest bombings that just induce them to disperse and wait it out. I also don’t remember anyone ever having said, in reference to the Nazis in the 1940s, “The real solution is for the French to get their act together and oppose them.”

On the other hand even in the face of the atrocities that ISIS has committed, atrocities almost certain to be repeated in the near future and over and over again, I just can’t see Americans willing to accept the dreaded “boots on the ground” and, frankly, I honestly see no other way of assuring that ISIS is eliminated. And then what?

If I have a fundamental principle in areas of military intervention, it was Napoleon’s dictum: “If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”

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The Cab Ride

by Dave Schuler on August 26, 2014

After a rather slapdash morning which I may tell you about in full some other time I finally caught a cab to the client’s premises. It was a harrowing 45 minutes ride along tiny one lane roads with hedges on each side.

That gave me plenty of time to chat with the cab driver. He was an Englishman and had a running string of complaints very much along the lines of the complaints you might hear in the U. S., substituting Eastern Europeans and Asians for the low wage workers that are showing up here from other countries.

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Bath Views

by Dave Schuler on August 26, 2014

This is a view looking down the street of the main shopping area. I caught it at just the right time—everybody is having dinner.

This is a picture of the brasserie where I had dinner tonight. I gather it’s part of a small but rather ritzy chain owned by a chap named Blanc. I had a sort of reimagining of classic fish and chips. It was a grilled halibut filet on a bad of mashed green peas with a few french fries and a remoulade sauce on the side. It was tasty but, honestly, nothing special.

It did, however, hit the spot. I found myself better able to form thoughts than since I’d arrived in the country. For reasons of time and energy nearly the only meal I’ve been eating is breakfast. It comes with my room and I do love full English breakfast.

Later.

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Speaking His Mind

August 24, 2014

While I making my way from Heathrow to Bath, my driver, an absolutely charming chap about whom I’ll write more later, blurted out his opinion of the murder of James Foley. His views were harsher than anything I’ve heard from Americans so far although, I suspect, not harsher than a lot of Americans are thinking […]

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Sunday Night Bath

August 24, 2014

That’s pretty much the view looking out the door of my hotel in Bath, England. It’s the Francis Hotel if you’re interested. My new gig has taken me to Bath where I’m planning on meeting with their customer and, perhaps, doing a bit of training. I will be here for a bit and while I […]

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