Daily Archives: 01/30/2011

One last thing on Google Reader

In addition to my posts on this blog, be sure to note my shared Google reader items.  They’re on the blog page one the left down from the top:


Tools to Blog by

I can think of about 3 or 4 things I’d really recommend to my fellow bloggers:

1. Google readers at:  https://www.google.com/reader

This is a great way to follow other blogs and interesting sites on the net in a small amount of time.  New entries in a blog are presented in lists of the titles that can be for many blog with entries in chronological order, or you can drill down to just one site or blog.  You can toggle between reading the whole articles or reading just the titles.  Using firefox and greasemonkey, you can tailor the look and feel with add-on scripts as well.

This where I read the post that inspired my pevious post here:


2. Live Writer:  http://explore.live.com/windows-live-writer?os=other

WordPress is a pretty powerful platform, even just using the free version as I do.  But especially writing in the free version is kind of hard.  Your text is embedded in a lot of distraction and doesn’t look it like it does when you post. 

Live writer gives more of a what you see is what get feel.  It also makes it easier to add videos, pictures and links.


I find it easier to format my text as well.  I suspect most of what I do with it can be done without it, but I think it’s easier.

3. Feed Demon:  http://www.feeddemon.com/

This one isn’t on a plane with the other two.  It kind of repackages Google reader results.  However, it does make it easier to go from Reader to Live Writer, and you may prefer its format to Google reader alone.


US Decline to Normalacy, and its need to accept being Ordinary

Good advice.  America has a proud history and has accomplished many great things.  Defeating fascism, ending slavery, creating a long lasting democracy.  But we need to face up to the fact that we’re only human just like every other damn nation.

From Crooked Timbers (edited and emphasis added)


There was another round of the more-or-less endless debate about the decline of the US …

As a public service, I’d like to bring an end to this tiresome debate by observing that the decline of the US from its 1945 position of global pre-eminence has already happened. The US is now a fairly typical advanced/developed country, distinguished primarily by its large population[1]. Precisely because the US is comparable to other advanced countries in many crucial respects, there is no reason to expect any further decline. [2]

In geopolitical terms, the US spends a lot more on its military than anyone else (in fact, more than everyone else put together) and (contrary to the beliefs of most Americans) hardly anything on development aid or other efforts at promoting global public goods. The amount of sustainable influence generated as a result appears pretty trivial. The number of places in the world where the US can directly determine, or even substantially influence, political outcomes is approximately zero…

On the other hand, it has to be conceded that the record of non-military aid and public good promotion is not exactly one of stellar success either. The fact is that the world is a complicated and intractable place, and running your own country is hard enough – the fact that international efforts work as well as they do is more surprising than the fact that so many fail…

The main implication of all this, for me, is that Americans should stop worrying about relative “decline”, “competitiveness” and so on, and start focusing on making the US a better place to live.

When we forget that and we become fixated with Amercian Exceptionalism, we do stupid things, such as:  trying to impose democracy at gun point.  We become drunk on the idea that we can always shape the world to our liking.  We feel we have the right to do so too.

We also become fearful about losing these powers we didn’t have, and shouldn’t want.  We can’t accept our ordinariness.  It’s a human failing I suppose, after all the Catholic church couldn’t accept that the Earth isn’t at the center of the solar system.  Science once believed that Earth was rarely struck by meteorites, that we were different than the Moon with its obvious evidence of impacts.

Accepting that we are ordinary doesn’t mean that we should never attempt the extraordinary sometimes.  But before we enter onto any extraordinary quest, we should think long and hard.  We’ve entered or slid into a lot of stupid quests since the end of the second world war. 

Vietnam was a war that if we had avoided, I don’t think you can argue anyone would have been worse off.   We’d have the same communist Vietnam and thousand would still be alive. 

Korea given the odious North may have been worth fighting, but if we hadn’t I wonder if a unified Korea wouldn’t include the nuclear capacity wielded by an insane family line as we do now. 

The first Gulf war was I think done right.  We worked with our allies.  We had a clear national interest at stake.  We had a clear and limited objective and a well though out plan to achieve it.

The Afghanistan war started well, but I think may have veered too much into nation building that may be beyond our grasp.

Iraq was and is a train wreak.  We had no clear interest.  We had no plan.  We have attempted something beyond our ability, and even if we could do it, its not clear we should.

What is Egypt like?

From:  http://healthcare-economist.com/

What is Egypt like?
Jason Shafrin
Sun, 30 Jan 2011 06:17:37 GMT

Egypt has taken over the news as protests have spread throughout the country.  One of Cairo main squares (Midan Tahrir) is the focal point where protesters have been expressing their discontent with current president (and dictator) Hosni Mubarak.

What is Egypt like?  Ironically, I just returned from a trip to Egypt less than a month ago. Today, I’ll give you my perspective.

Since I have only been to Cairo, I can only comment on that city.  Cairo is large, chaotic, poor and dirty city.    The city’s heart is the Nile, although Western hotels tend to dominate much of the riverfront property. There is a metro system, but it is somewhat limited for a city of Cairo’s size (8 million people).  The city is actually a good walking city, but you put your life at risk every time you cross the street (there are no crosswalks and I only saw two traffic lights the whole time I was in Cairo).  About ninety percent of the people walking around  the streets are men so Western women may feel somewhat uncomfortable.  Most–but not all–women wear headscarves. I found, however, that the people were very friendly and had a really great sense of humor.

Most Egyptians are Muslim, but about 10% of Egyptians are Coptic Christian.  The bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day brought some tensions to the forefront.  Many Coptic Christians claimed that they are discriminated against.  A Christian tour guide I met said that this is somewhat of a problem.  Most of the Muslims I talked to said that Egypt is tolerant of Copts, but how tolerant I am not sure.

To get an idea of the sentiments of the “common man” in Egypt, I recommend reading Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi.  The book is an entertaining, heart-wrenching, and funny account of taxi drivers in Cairo.  The drivers must deal with horrendous traffic, government corruption, and limited economic prospects.  The most famous Egyptian author, however, is Nobel prize winner Naguib Mahfouz.  I read Midaq Alley which was very good, but his masterpiece is the Cairo Trilogy (which I have not read).

Tyler Cowen lists his favorite things about Egypt.  Although he didn’t think the food was anything special, I though the food I had was generally very good.  Especially the mezze dishes.  I do have to agree, however, that “Intellectually and culturally, Cairo has been punching below its weight for a long time.”

This is a time for Egyptians to create their own democracy.  Let’s hope they are able to seize this opportunity.

What is Egypt like?
Jason Shafrin
Sun, 30 Jan 2011 06:17:37 GMT