A melange of items, starting with the New Orleans tragedy. I have called NoLa the “anti-9/11” becuase these two tragedies illustrate diametrically opposite sides of the same lesson. When resilient citizens feel empowered, they can be prodigious assets in a crisis. When resilient, self-organized action by citizens is actively quashed, a crisis will deepen and the professionals will make their jobs easier. Instead, by patronizing and restricting citizens, they will find their burdens will get far worse.
With the observation in mind, look at the chilling next stage in this process. Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are (apparently) openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Read the whole article. More evidence that the distinction is no longer between state and private authority. It is between authority and “little people.”
General: Guard Deployment in Iraq Hurt Katrina Response Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.
See a review of a fascinating book about the globalization of brain power or The Flight of the Creative Class. All our lives, the US has benefited from having 900 of the world’s 1,000 quality universities. It was a total win-win scenario. All the world PAID us for the privilege of sending their best and brightest here, to learn and train. We would then skim off the top 20% by offering them American Citizenship, and send the rest home infected with Enlightenment values. And they paid for this! What a deal.
Today, 38% of the PhDs trained in our magnificent universities are foreign-origin... only now the best no longer stay to join this nation’s melting pot, enriching it. Instead, the best take their new-forged expertise and flood homeward. And yet, the author contends that America’s continuing advantages will help to keep it even in overall creativity. What advantages? Freedom and cultural excitement, which are called prime requisites of true originality.
Here is where I think this book misses a key point. The author and I agree that freedom and cultural excitement (if they really do endure here) are helpful in generating creativity. But they are not the only requisites. China and India will keep attracting these brainy ones home, even despite lower levels of those two traits, for one simple reason. Because these countries are the new, wild economic frontier where it is possible to make a whole LOT of money, especially if you are smart, well-connected, and don’t offend anybody powerful.
At a time when America has turned anti-science, anti-innovation and anti-modernity, it may be altogether too blithe to expect brash freedom and cultural excitement -- alone -- to save our hash. Those traits certainly can stimulate certain types of of creativity all by themselves -- but only in stylish arts, like advertising and entertainment. New technologies, goods and services? Sorry. You need to train and graduate enough nerds. And make them feel appraciated.
From the same online magazine, a cogent little tutorial on global warming that takes no sides, but helps provide some scientific background. http://www.theglobalist.com/DBWeb/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=4767
(Note that The Globalist is NOT, by nature, a lefty sheet. Its pro-trade and pro-globalization stance is akin to Thomas Freidman’s new book The World is Flat and the studies of the Progressive Policy Institute that I sometimes cite. In other words, “liberal” in the original meaning of the word (see next time). A meaning that shares a few, but not all, traits in common with what “liberalism” is perceived to be, by so many Americans.)
And with that, I’ll leave the rest of the miscellany for tomorrow.