David Brooks provides some interesting comments regarding the deficiet in recently in the New York Times. He makes a salient point that to put our economic house in order we are all going to have to give up some of our cherished federal programs. He makes the point it is going to be difficult and gut wrenching. He also highlights the bi-partisan effort in the Senate to implement the Bowles-Simpson recommendations; recommendations which look at every aspect of the federal budget both discretionary and non-discretionary. The Bowles-Simpson recommendations are realistic, prudent, and practical and more palatable than some of the noise coming from the radicals in the House of Representatives. This will be an interesting year in Congress.

Speaking of Congress, it would appear that the poster Congressman for the House freshmen class is Allen West. West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel who was relieved of Battalion Command for firing a round near the head of an Iraqi prisoner in 2003. He should have been court-martialed and be serving a sentence in Leavenworth rather than sitting in the House of Representatives.

The Obama administration has been criticized for fumbling Egypt. I demure, no one really expected turmoil in Tunisia to spawn the events in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. This points out a continued failing of American foreign policy which is to look only on the surface and not to understand the dynamics of a country’s culture. I suspect that Bush 43 would have stumbled even more than Obama.

Algeria will be the next to erupt, and there is a good chance that the government will be replaced by an Islamic government dominated by the GSPC. The GSPC is nominally associated with AQ. this will not effect the US directly in the short term, but will have a devastating impact on Europe and in particular France. My fear is any revolution in Algeria could spread into sub-Saharan Africa and lead to tensions between Islamists and non-Islamists like what we have seen in the Sudan. In short struggles between Arab and Black Africa.  The democratic eruption has spread to Bahrain and Libya.  Bahrain offers an interesting problem for the US; it is a very friendly government, however the ruling elite are dominated by Sunni Arabs whereas the majority of the population is Sh’it.  There is a fear in Washington if the ruling elite are replaced by Sh’it they will be loyal to Iran.  Legitimate fear but also fails to account for the fact that the Sh’it in Bahrain are Arab and Iran is Persian.  There is historically bad blood between the Arabs and Persian regardless of which form of Islam they believe.  Can the Colonel survive in Libya, we will see, remember he overthrew the Government forty years ago.  While everyone waxes eloquent regarding the birth of democracy in the Middle East we should temper our enthusiasm that somehow the Middle East will look like Western democracies.  They shan’t, as they are not as influenced by Western political though and will reflect the uniqueness of their individual cultures.  We too often look at events related to democracy through rose colored glasses and forget our own Anglo-American history.  Neither the US nor the UK democratic institutions resemble the first meeting of the House of Burgesses in 1619 or England when John signed the Magna Charta.

The National Journal has an interesting article on how historians rate American Presidents.  While I understand the ranking which were compiled by Siena College, I think the constant ranking misses an important point, which is each President must be judged by their times and not by contemporary standards.  I would use a much different approach.  I would categorize by the centuries they lived e.g. 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st.  I would also categorize by those having the greatest impact on American History.  I would also categorize by those who failed to lead and those who lead but failed.  While we all like to have a firm list, I think trying to rate the 44 Presidents of the United States is at best an exercise in mental masturbation and at worst tends to reflect judgments based on early 21st Century standards.  So how would I rate the Presidents:

  • 18th Century:  Washington (1); Adams (2)
  • 19th Century: Lincoln (1); Jackson (2); Jefferson (3); Monore (4)
  • 20th Century: Franklin Roosevelt (1); Ronald Reagan (1); Theodore Roosevelt (2); Dwight Eisenhower (3).
  • 21st Century:  Too early to tell, Obama can not be rated because he is currently serving.
  • Having the greatest impact on our history:  Washington (1); Lincoln (2); FDR (3).
  • Failed to lead:  Madison (1); Buchanan (2); Hoover (3).
  • Lead but failed: Andrew Johnson (1); Woodrow Wilson (2); Lyndon Johnson (3); Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter (4).
  • Best at Communicating to the American People:  Lincoln (1); FDR and Theodore Roosevelt (2); Ronald Reagan (3); Bill Clinton (4).
  • Most overrated Presidents:  John Kennedy (1); John Quincy Adams (2); Woodrow Wilson (3).
  • Presidents I would most like to have dinner with:  Madison (1); Lincoln (2); Harry Truman (3); Bill Clinton (4) and Ronald Reagan (5).

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