Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

My daughter sent me this link to watch 1000 years of European borders change and I've been mesmerized by it ever since. I have had to watch it several times just to focus on one part of the map.
Already if it were updated today, we could see the borders of Ukraine change before our eyes. Depressing, but it certainly gives a sense of the scope of history and what a short period of time we're really concerned with at any one time.

As Ukraine's situation tops the news these days, it is a good time to remember the Holodomor, the genocidal famine that Stalin deliberately inflicted on the Ukraine in the 1930s in order to establish control of that region with numbers of deaths estimated between 2.4 and 7.5 million. George Will reminds us of this horrific episode in European history, an episode that the New York Times' Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Walter Duranty, continually denied. George Will concludes,
U.S. policymakers, having allowed their wishes to father their thoughts, find Putin incomprehensible. He is a barbarian but not a monster, and hence no Stalin. But he has been coarsened, in ways difficult for civilized people to understand, by certain continuities, institutional and emotional, with an almost unimaginably vicious past. And as Ukraine, a bubbling stew of tensions and hatreds, struggles with its identity and aspirations, Americans should warily remember William Faulkner’s aphorism: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Bret Stephens describes how Obama 'get things done.' There are his celebrity appearances with Zach Galifianakis, Ryan Seacrest, and Justin Bieber at the same time as he's dealing with a crisis in Ukraine. Yesterday he imposed sanctions on a total of seven Russians and four Ukrainians. And he delayed doing this long enough to have withdrawn as many assets as they could have from the U.S. Obama's sanctions left out some of the more nefarious of Putin's henchmen. In fact his sanctions were so light that Moscow's stock exchange rose after Obama announced them. Putin responds today by announcing that Russia has annexed the Crimea.
ven now the unanswered question about Mr. Obama's personality is whether his insouciance is a mask for ideology, ignorance, or simple indifference. When the president goes before the cameras to announce tough sanctions, and the sanctions are not only not tough but laughably weak, what's going through his head?

Should he be wearing loose jeans more often so he can feel less confined geopolitically?

Alternatively, the president might consider rearranging his work schedule. Last year came the news that Mr. Obama was unaware of the problems plaguing his health-care website until after its rollout and that he never once had a private meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius between July 2010 and November 2013. How does something like that happen?

An answer of sorts comes in an article by Sean Blanda on "How Barack Obama Gets Things Done" on the 99U website. The president, Mr. Blanda reports, wakes up at seven o'clock. He works out 45 minutes a day every day, not including his regular basketball games. He watches a lot of "SportsCenter." Dinner each night with his family. To limit "decision fatigue," he likes to set policy via memos where he can check the box on "agree," "disagree," or "let's discuss."

What do I take away from all this?

The obvious: A cavalier foreign policy by an inattentive president that elicits the contempt of the people it intends to punish ultimately encourages their aggression as well.

The less obvious: We need a fat president. Or at least one who rarely thinks and never speaks about how he looks in jeans. And one who doesn't spend his day testing his wits against a Hollywood stoner or bantering with Ryan Seacrest while a European ally is being pummeled by Russia. And one who would rather spend his time working than working out, even if it means putting on a few pounds. And one who can pitch from the mound and reach home plate. However confined.

Barack Obama is probably the coolest president this country will ever have. But with Vladimir Putin trying to step on the West's throat, I'll take President Mom Jeans any day.
James Taranto has a lot of fun eviscerating Dana Milbank's whining that all those young voters who swept Barack Obama into office in 2008 are now "abandoning him in his hour of need" by not buying the health insurance that Obama is peddling to them. Taranto writes,
One point that doesn't seem to occur to him is that time marches on, and most people are older today than they were six years ago. In fact, the oldest of the "under 30" voters who supported Obama in 2008 are no longer young enough (under 35) to be considered "young adults" for the purpose of propping up ObamaCare. A good many of today's 18- to 34-year-old cohort were minors as young as 12 in 2008. The youngest of whom had yet to attain majority even in 2012.

A more important rejoinder is that Milbank has an odd idea of what constitutes a "cause." You don't need to invoke generational fickleness to explain the disconnect between voting for Obama in 2008 and declining to purchase ObamaCare insurance in 2014. The two actions are so vastly different that the disconnect is inherent in them.

Obama's 2008 campaign scarcely deserves to be called a "cause." It was more a cult of personality. "His entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind," observed Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi in 2007. "As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to appear as a sort of ideological Universalist, one who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing that he recognizes the validity of all points of view."

His slogans were vapid even by the standards of political sloganeering: "Yes, we can." "Hope and change." "We are the ones we've been waiting for." He was often called a "rock star"--a celeb, not a cause. It's as if the Beatles came to America in 1964 to run for president rather than to sell records, and got elected on slogans like "Let it be," "Please please me" and "I want to hold your hand." Half a century later, the Beatles' tunes have an enduring appeal to their once-youthful, now-elderly fans. Had they been forced to face the exigencies of governing, it's unlikely a Lennon-McCartney administration would be remembered much more fondly than Johnson-Humphrey is.

Gregg Easterbrook wonders about something my husband and I have been wondering - why are pilots still able to turn over transponders on airplanes?

Jason Riley contrasts Obama's rhetoric on charter schools and his actual policies and his lack of support for charter schools when they're under attack from Democrats like Mayor de Blasio and his own administration.
Ultimately, the top priority of the mayor and the president is not the education of the children but the employment security of the adults. Liberalism views public education as a jobs program, first and foremost. If charter schools were to unionize en masse—some 90 percent of New York City charter schools are not organized—they would cease to be controversial. Whether they would continue to be effective options for the poor is not something that overly concerns Mr. Obama, Mr. de Blasio and the teachers unions.
Governor Bobby Jindal who knows first-hand how the Obama administration has tried to shut down Louisiana's charter schools writes today of how de Blasio and Obama are actually furthering poverty by trying to deny poor minority children a helping hand to a better education.
Lost in all the outrage manufactured by Mayor de Blasio is one simple fact: School choice works.

In New York, four in five charters outperformed comparable public schools in recent state tests; Moskowitz’s schools scored in the top 1 percent in math, and top 7 percent in English. In the president’s hometown of Chicago, one network of charter schools boasts a college graduation rate three times the average of Chicago Public Schools.

Yet these achievements are no matter to the left, which still clings to the shibboleths of a one-size-fits-all, industrial-revolution-era education agenda dictated by government and teachers unions.

In his 2009 inaugural address, President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” Yet the sound science of numerous studies confirming the positive effects of school choice on student achievement matters far less to Democrat politicians than the nearly $100 million in contributions they’ve received over the last 25 years just from the two largest teachers unions.

Worst of all, the left and teachers unions aren’t just denying the clear facts — they’re denying millions of low-income students the opportunity for a better future.

As long as they stand on the side of the unions, it seems, President Obama and Mayor de Blasio don’t mind standing between children and the opportunity for a great education. But it’s clear to me, and it’s clear to thousands of parents from the Lower Ninth Ward to the Lower East Side, that their misguided and immoral policies will limit the futures of yet another generation of African-American youths.