Ordinary Syrians Know the Terrible Problems They Face

Posted by Chris van Avery on 23Mar11.
 

Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma has a post on his blog from a Syrian friend that summarizes nicely the situation faced not only by Syrians, but most of the populations in authoritarian states in the Middle East. Here are the key points Dr. Landis’ friend makes:

– Syrians need to “proceed with caution because Syria is not ready for democracy”.
– Syria is a very weak country with many enemies.
– [T]he current regime does have considerable legitimacy with the millions of ignorant citizens who are scraping by and the dependent class of citizenry.
– [O]ne cannot rush into fast and radical reforms in a society that is so illiberal…. We suffer from a profound lack of mutual trust, without which civil society cannot take root.
– [I]f Syria is to implement a solution for its shocking economical problems today, it will be too late. A solution to have any affect today should have been implemented 20 years ago.
– Syria’s political system under the Ba’ath is of a piece and hopelessly unable to reform itself. It is not the top guy, it is not the middle guy, and it is not the bottom guy that needs to go. They all, collectively and individually, must depart.

Read the whole thing, then keep the points in the back of your mind when evaluating the simple solutions offered by pundits and policy makers when speaking on Libya, Egypt, Yemen and other centers of unrest in the region.

 Politics & Culture News Today – 9/24/10

Posted by Chris van Avery on 27Sep10.
 

Top 12 terrible signs that the recession isn’t actually over
NBER recently announced that the recession ended in June, 2009. Here are 12 counter-arguments.

John Maynard Keynes, R.I.P.
The basic Keynesian stimulus argument goes something like this: If the federal government engages in deficit spending during a recession, the added government expenditures (unaccompanied by tax increases) will boost “aggregate demand.” Greater federal spending on a road, for instance, will create jobs for construction workers, who can then spend their additional income on, say, bread. Bakers now will have more to spend on, say, cars and so on, says Richard B. McKenzie, a professor in the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.

More Proof We Can’t Stop Poverty by Making It More Comfortable
On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson delivered a State of the Union address to Congress in which he declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Then, the poverty rate in America was around 19 percent and falling rapidly. Last week, it was reported that the poverty rate this year is expected to be roughly 15 percent, and is climbing, says Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute.

Read the rest of this entry »

 WH Insider: The President Is Disinterested

Posted by Chris van Avery on 17Sep10.
 

My gut told me early on that there were things President Obama cared about and things he didn’t care about. It seemed to me foreign and defense policies were not being given adequate attention, but with all going on in the world and at home, I resisted the temptation to condemn his priorities. The man’s got a lot on his plate.

Gen. McChrystal’s comments about the president’s disinterest was an important, but inconclusive data point. Now, the evidence is building and the problem looks bigger than I thought. Consider these quotes:

But after Obama was sworn in, things began to change?

Almost immediately. Obama loved to campaign. He clearly didn’t like the work of being President though, and that attitude was felt by the entire White House staff within weeks after the inauguration.

So if Obama doesn’t appear interested in the job of president, what does he do day after day?

Well, he takes his meetings just like any other president would, though even then, he seems to lack a certain focus and on a few occasions, actually leaves with the directive that be given a summary of the meeting at a later date. I hear he plays a lot of golf, and watches a lot of television – ESPN mainly. I’ll tell you this – if you want to see President Obama get excited about a conversation, turn it to sports. That gets him interested. You start talking about Congress, or some policy, and he just kinda turns off.

[W]ould another four years of an Obama presidency be the best thing for America?

(Long pause) Now that is a much more interesting question right there, and a question I think more and more Democrat Party insiders are asking themselves these days, myself included. I am going to come right out and say it – No. Obama is not up to the job of being president. He simply doesn’t seem to care about the work involved.

Just so we all know the context, this is a conversation posted by a person under an alias with an anonymous confidant. A smoking gun it is not.

More smoke, however, it certainly is.

 Dangerous Times For Aid Workers

Posted by Yankee Sailor on 10Apr09.
 

The New York Times today notes a chilling study:

Soaring violence in Somalia and Afghanistan helped make 2008 the most dangerous year on record for aid workers, with 122 killed while carrying out their work, a report showed on Monday. Altogether, 260 humanitarian workers were attacked in 155 serious episodes in 2008 — compared with 27 instances in 1998….

Don’t let the word get out too widely, though, otherwise the administration won’t be able to find recruits for it’s soft power plans.


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