Archive for September, 2011

Remiss

28 September 2011

As in, I’ve been. Remiss. Not posting. Short on creative juice.

I could blame the weather. It’s suddenly turned to a run of dismal weeks.

I have been dropping a comment in now and again on some of my favorite blogs, as well as one or two that aren’t favorites. I like to aim my comments at the blog author, but I do read other people’s comments, and man, that can be a drag. Are these commenters representative of the nation? Are they actually more intelligent than the national average? They seem to be highly literate, but not very thoughtful.

Maybe a lot of them aren’t for real. Some may be true trolls: just out to provoke a reaction. It’s been said a million times, “Don’t feed the trolls,” but lately I see an awful lot of maniacally extended exchanges where one guy who seems reasonable won’t stop responding to some buffoon’s flood of fact-free ideology and crude polemics.

These blogs, sheesh. It’s like a bar somewhere where you can’t ever go in sit down, have a drink, and talk with friends, there has to always be a guy coming in to start a fight and always a few jumping up to get their licks in, and every brawl goes on for twenty minutes.

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No 9/11 Post

12 September 2011

I do have something to say about the 9/11 tenth anniversary, and it is fitting that I did not say it on 9/11, because what I have to say is that there wasn’t much that needed to be said about it. Indeed, too much was said about it.

Of those who wanted to come together and share their continued grief at memorial ceremonies, God bless them. Everyone else talking about 9/11 on or around the anniversary was more or less angling to make some coin off it, or to use it to leverage some political point, or to emphasize their ability for remembering historical dates, or to get a dark thrill about having lived through that totally awesome deathfest.

I don’t necessarily knock people for suiting themselves in any of these ways, but my personal preference, which I do urge on others, is to respect the terrible loss of 9/11 by curbing my excitement about it. Many good ordinary Americans would just as soon let the horror of 2001 continue to fade, and that should be allowed.

Islam Is Not an Evil Empire

5 September 2011

A lot of Americans are eager to fight the whole of Islam, from its roots with Mohammed and the Koran to its vast reach in the world of today, and especially its involvement in various conflicts, great and small. Basically, the rhetoric is in the evil empire vein, which might be the simplest response, but it’s not very accurate.

It’s pretty weak to condemn modern-day Islam on the basis of its early history of expansion by warfare, or to make generalizations based on warmongering parts of the Koran written during those ancient conflicts. Judaism and Christianity have plenty of murderous aggression in their respective histories and scriptures. In more recent times, all these faiths have advanced to allow mutual respect and tolerance, and judging any of them by the actions of their radical elements is not fair.

The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, on the other hand, is a true hatefest, but it doesn’t stem from religious principles. It’s a war over territory. No appeals to holy scripture or tradition are necessary to fuel that fight.

Islam-bashers also justify themselves by pointing to the supremacy of autocrats over many Islamic countries and the institution of Islam as state religion in those countries.

If the status of Islam as a state religion worries you, consider that Christianity is the official religion of a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and Argentina; from this we can conclude—nothing. Those states aren’t acting in concert or as individuals to advance the cause of Christianity in other lands—but neither are the Islamic states.

Like Christianity, Islam is now long past its peak of consolidated political control; as a state religion in various lands today, Islam is no more coherent a global power than Christianity is.

What about those Islamic dictators? Well, most of the dictators are neither enemies of Western democracies nor friends of radical Islamists. The House of Saud, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak have all been hated enemies of Islamic extremists and brutal oppressors of Islamic radicals.

As both a practical and moral matter, Americans should continue to distinguish between the Islam we can get along with and the radicals we cannot.

Jobs Lost, Jobs Regained

2 September 2011

I found myself commenting at The Snark Who Hunts Back a few days ago that the economic stimulus enacted by the federal government worked! Just look at what happened with employment.

Things were going very badly before the stimulus took effect, and got much better while the stimulus was applied. My observation is that we went from losing 500,000 jobs a month to gaining 100,000 a month.

Here is a summary of the pace of job losses and job gains over the last three years. I derived these numbers from the archived employment reports at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Changes in total nonfarm employment 2008–2011
Data from US business establishments, seasonally adjusted

President

Period

Avg. mo. chg.

Notable events
G. W. Bush

Jan ’08–Jul ’08

–240,000

Recession begins
G. W. Bush Jul ’08–Jan ’09 –370,000

Lehman Brothers collapse
B. H. Obama

Jan ’09–Jul ’09

–490,000

ARRA signed
B. H. Obama Jul ’09–Jan ’10 –300,000

Recession ends
B. H. Obama Jan ’10–Jul ’10 80,000

B. H. Obama Jul ’10–Jan ’11 –3,000

Tax cuts extended
B. H. Obama Jan ’11–Jul ’11 140,000

Most of the spending programs and tax breaks of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were limited to 2009 and 2010. Some of its provisions are still in effect for 2011 and beyond, however.

There’s no way to be sure how many jobs would have been lost or gained without the stimulus. People who consider themselves economic experts will make all kinds of claims about whether there should have been more stimulus or a different kind of stimulus or none at all. I just can’t see how anyone looks at the facts and concludes that the stimulus didn’t work at all.