Quick Takes

* Trita Parsi has a fascinating take on the rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

History teaches us that it is not rising states that tend to be reckless, but declining powers. Rising states have time on their side. They can afford to be patient: They know that they will be stronger tomorrow and, as a result, will be better off postponing any potential confrontation with rivals.

Declining states suffer from the opposite condition: Growing weaker over time, they know that time is not on their side; their power and influence is slipping out of their hands…

Saudi Arabia is exhibiting the psychology of a state that risks losing its dominant position and whose losing hand is growing weaker and weaker…

Iran, on the other hand, is by all accounts a rising power. Ironically, much of Iran’s rise is not due to its own actions, but must be credited to the reckless mistakes of its adversaries.

* If you are one of those people who isn’t buying the Republican fear mongering about how this country is going to hell in a hand basket and the world is on fire, you’ll want to read Michael Grunwald’s piece titled: Everything Is (Even More) Awesome!

A year after I wrote an article only somewhat ironically titled Everything Is Awesome, cable news is an endless Debbie Downer loop of terrorism fears and market jitters, periodically interrupted by a weirdly coifed nativist blowhard promising to Make America Great Again.

Ignore that guy. Ignore cable, too. America is already great, and it’s getting greater. Not everything is awesome, but in general, things are even more awesome than they were a year ago. The rest of the world can only wish it had our problems.

* Speaking of the “weirdly coifed nativist blowhard,” I found what Eric Levitz wrote about him to be fascinating. How often have we heard Trump supporters defend him by saying that regardless of how offensive he is, “at least we know where he stands.” What Levitz documents is that over and over again, what Trump has promised is exactly the opposite…that he will be “unpredictable.”

* As I write, the House is voting on the bill that means President Obama will finally have to veto a repeal of Obamacare. I guess a symbolic vote to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance is what passes for success among Republicans these days.

* Finally, how about some good news from Buffalo, New York, one of America’s poorest cities?

Advocates in Buffalo, New York, working to end homelessness in their city are crowing about an exciting new number: 22. That’s how many chronically homeless people are living on the streets as of early January, and the number is still falling, according to Dale Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York. That figure is down from the roughly 400 chronically homeless people living without shelter four years ago—and the success is largely thanks to a simple idea.

It’s a philosophy called Housing First, and Buffalo is the latest city to sing its praises. While researchers have studied homelessness for decades, advocates and governments were working on getting homeless people the services they needed until they were deemed stable enough to manage caring for their own home. But an almost embarrassingly obvious conclusion has emerged in recent years and changed the way some cities are helping people find permanent shelter: It’s hard to lead a stable life when you don’t have anywhere to live. Homeless people need homes…

By getting people into permanent, subsidized housing as quickly as possible with the help of grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Zuchlewski and other advocates have found that people are more likely to stay off the streets than if they are made to wait while resolving other issues.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.