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Matt Warren

Watch America's looming age imbalance unfold in 4 seconds - 0 views

  • one such visualization shows the dreaded age distribution phenomenon that's projected to occur over the coming decades as Baby Boomers become the oldest generation. When charted with the oldest folks up top and the youngest people at the bottom, societies tend to have age distributions shaped like pyramids, like so:

  • But all those births a couple of generations ago threw the pyramid out of whack, which will have a lasting, noticeable impact. Here's a handy gif Pew made showing that problem playing out over a century:

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    "The Pew Research Center has an amazing new report about America's shifting demographics that shows how the country is getting older, less white, and more liberal. The entire report is worth your time, and it includes some beautiful animated visualizations to put the demographic changes in context."
Matt Warren

Sears is dying: What the ubiquitous store's death says about America - 1 views

  • In 1972, the year Sears began building the world’s tallest building in downtown Chicago, three out of every four Americans visited one of its locations every year — a larger proportion than have seen “The Wizard of Oz.” Half of all households held a Sears credit card — more than go to church on Christmas. Sears’s sales accounted for 1 percent of the Gross National Product.
  • In an internal merchandising plan written later that decade, a Sears executive identified the company’s audience, and its identity: “Sears is a family store for middle-class, home-owning America. We are not a fashion store. We are not a store for the whimsical, nor the affluent. We are not a discounter, nor an avant-garde department store…We reflect the world of Middle America, and all of its desires and concerns and problems and faults.”
  • Unfortunately, it’s been all downhill for middle-class, home-owning America since then, and it’s been all downhill for Sears, too.
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  • Sears is dying as a result of two not unrelated phenomena: the shrinking of the middle class and the atomization of American culture. It’s still an all-things-for-all-shoppers emporium that sells pool tables, gas grills, televisions, beds and power drills, then cleans your teeth, checks your eyes and fills out your taxes. But that niche is disappearing as customers hunt for bargains on the Internet and in specialty stores, and as the retail world is pulled apart into avant-garde department stores and discounters — exactly what Sears promised it would never be.
  • Maybe in 1975, a salesman and his boss both bought their shirts and ties at Sears, but now the boss shops at Barneys, and the salesman goes to Men’s Wearhouse. This divide is a result of the fact that, over the last two decades, the top 5 percent of earners have increased their share of consumption from 28 percent to 38 percent.
  • Sears has other problems. Image problems. As Ashanta Myers indicated, it’s still a place to go for durable items. You don’t want to cheap out on appliances, or on winter coats, especially in Chicago. But Sears’ clothing is both too expensive and too bland for modern shoppers. A generation used to working for dirt wages and expressing its individuality isn’t in sync with the mid-20th-century mass culture Sears still represents — a culture in which everyone dressed the same, lived in the same little bungalows and earned roughly the same amount of money.
  • It says a lot about America’s class stratification that Sears — which caters explicitly to the middle class — long ago lost its role as the nation’s number one retailer to Wal-Mart, which caters explicitly to the underclass.
  • It also says a lot that Sears’ decline in profitability began during the recession of 1974, the moment that America’s post-World War II economic boom finally hit a wall, as a result of inflation, the Arab Oil Embargo and competition from foreign manufacturers. The “real wage” had peaked the year before, at $341 a week, so Sears’ model customer — the blue-collar middle-class homeowner — never again had as much purchasing power.
  • Where does America shop now? In the country it shops at Wal-Mart, and in the cities, it shops places like Howard Street, a strip on the Far North Side of Chicago that has a liquor store, a pawn shop, a walk-in dental clinic, four sneaker boutiques, a Ready Refund tax service, a dollar store, a Bargain Paradise furniture emporium, a currency exchange and a cell phone store.
  • Pretty much everything Sears sells, at lower-class prices.
  • By throwing a going-out-of-business sale at its State Street store, and finally cutting its prices to a level everyone can afford, Sears accomplished something it hasn’t done since its heyday. The bargain hunters roaming the floors constituted one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen — African Americans from the South and West Sides, old ladies with perfume and purses, Asian immigrants, white college students, bearded Middle Easterners, Latinos, and middle-aged professional men in trench coats. Once again, America was shopping at Sears.
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    "The middle class shrunk, American culture became atomized and a nation's beloved department store was the casualty"
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    What's weird to me is that so many of the department store companies had catalog-company roots, so you'd think it'd be easy to transition to internet sales.
Matt Warren

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair - 1 views

  • There was a profoundly radical idea embedded in this line of thought. Wars between nations or dynastic powers had been a constant condition in Europe, and the rest of the world had been no less violent. Every century had had systemic wars in which the entire international system (increasingly dominated by Europe since the 16th century) had participated. In the 20th century, there were the two World Wars, in the 19th century the Napoleonic Wars, in the 18th century the Seven Years' War, and in the 17th century the Thirty Years' War.
  • Those who argued that U.S. defense policy had to shift its focus away from peer-to-peer and systemic conflict were in effect arguing that the world had entered a new era in which what had been previously commonplace would now be rare or nonexistent.
  • The radical nature of this argument was rarely recognized by those who made it, and the evolving American defense policy that followed this reasoning was rarely seen as inappropriate.
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  • There were two reasons for this argument.
  • Military planners are always obsessed with the war they are fighting. It is only human to see the immediate task as a permanent task.
  • That generals always fight the last war must be amended to say that generals always believe the war they are fighting is the permanent war.
  • The second reason was that no nation-state was in a position to challenge the United States militarily.
  • After the Cold War ended, the United States was in a singularly powerful position. The United States remains in a powerful position, but over time, other nations will increase their power, form alliances and coalitions and challenge the United States.
  • No matter how benign a leading power is -- and the United States is not uniquely benign -- other nations will fear it, resent it or want to shame it for its behavior.
  • The idea that other nation-states will not challenge the United States seemed plausible for the past 20 years, but the fact is that nations will pursue interests that are opposed to American interest and by definition, pose a peer-to-peer challenge. The United States is potentially overwhelmingly powerful, but that does not make it omnipotent. 
  • It must also be remembered that asymmetric warfare and operations other than war always existed between and during peer-to-peer wars and systemic wars.
  • Asymmetric wars and operations other than war are far more common than peer-to-peer and systemic wars.
  • They can appear overwhelmingly important at the time. But just as the defeat of Britain by the Americans did not destroy British power, the outcomes of asymmetric wars rarely define long-term national power and hardly ever define the international system.
  • Asymmetric warfare is not a new style of war; it is a permanent dimension of warfare.
  • Peer-to-peer and systemic wars are also constant features but are far less frequent. They are also far more important.
  • There are a lot more asymmetric wars, but a defeat does not shift national power. If you lose a systemic war, the outcome can be catastrophic. 
  • A military force can be shaped to fight frequent, less important engagements or rare but critical wars -- ideally, it should be able to do both. But in military planning, not all wars are equally important.
  • Military leaders and defense officials, obsessed with the moment, must bear in mind that the war currently being fought may be little remembered, the peace that is currently at hand is rarely permanent, and harboring the belief that any type of warfare has become obsolete is likely to be in error.
  • Ukraine drove this lesson home. There will be no war between the United States and Russia over Ukraine. The United States does not have interests there that justify a war, and neither country is in a position militarily to fight a war. The Americans are not deployed for war, and the Russians are not ready to fight the United States.
  • But the events in Ukraine point to some realities.
  • First, the power of countries shifts, and the Russians had substantially increased their military capabilities since the 1990s.
  • Second, the divergent interests between the two countries, which seemed to disappear in the 1990s, re-emerged.
  • Third, this episode will cause each side to reconsider its military strategy and capabilities, and future crises might well lead to conventional war, nuclear weapons notwithstanding.
  • Ukraine reminds us that peer-to-peer conflict is not inconceivable, and that a strategy and defense policy built on the assumption has little basis in reality. The human condition did not transform itself because of an interregnum in which the United States could not be challenged; the last two decades are an exception to the rule of global affairs defined by war.
  • U.S. national strategy must be founded on the control of the sea. The oceans protect the United States from everything but terrorism and nuclear missiles.
  • The greatest challenge to U.S. control of the sea is hostile fleets. The best way to defeat hostile fleets is to prevent them from being built. The best way to do that is to maintain the balance of power in Eurasia. The ideal path for this is to ensure continued tensions within Eurasia so that resources are spent defending against land threats rather than building fleets. Given the inherent tensions in Eurasia, the United States needs to do nothing in most cases. In some cases it must send military or economic aid to one side or both. In other cases, it advises. 
  • The main goal here is to avoid the emergence of a regional hegemon fully secure against land threats and with the economic power to challenge the United States at sea.
  • The U.S. strategy in World War I was to refuse to become involved until it appeared, with the abdication of the czar and increasing German aggression at sea, that the British and French might be defeated or the sea-lanes closed.
  • At that point, the United States intervened to block German hegemony. In World War II, the United States remained out of the war until after the French collapsed and it appeared the Soviet Union would collapse -- until it seemed something had to be done.
  • Even then, it was only after Hitler's declaration of war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that Congress approved Roosevelt's plan to intervene militarily in continental Europe.
  • And in spite of operations in the Mediterranean, the main U.S. thrust didn't occur until 1944 in Normandy, after the German army had been badly weakened.
  • In order for this strategy, which the U.S. inherited from the British, to work, the United States needs an effective and relevant alliance structure.
  • The balance-of-power strategy assumes that there are core allies who have an interest in aligning with the United States against regional enemies. When I say effective, I mean allies that are capable of defending themselves to a great extent. Allying with the impotent achieves little. By relevant, I mean allies that are geographically positioned to deal with particularly dangerous hegemons.
  • If we assume Russians to be dangerous hegemons, then the relevant allies are those on the periphery of Russia.
  • The American relationship in all alliances is that the outcome of conflicts must matter more to the ally than to the United States. 
  • The point here is that NATO, which was extremely valuable during the Cold War, may not be a relevant or effective instrument in a new confrontation with the Russians.
  • And since the goal of an effective balance-of-power strategy is the avoidance of war while containing a rising power, the lack of an effective deterrence matters a great deal.
  • It is not certain by any means that Russia is the main threat to American power.
  • In these and other potential cases, the ultimate problem for the United States is that its engagement in Eurasia is at distance. It takes a great deal of time to deploy a technology-heavy force there, and it must be technology-heavy because U.S. forces are always outnumbered when fighting in Eurasia.
  • In many cases, the United States is not choosing the point of intervention, but a potential enemy is creating a circumstance where intervention is necessary. Therefore, it is unknown to planners where a war might be fought, and it is unknown what kind of force they will be up against.
  • The only thing certain is that it will be far away and take a long time to build up a force. During Desert Storm, it took six months to go on the offensive.
  • American strategy requires a force that can project overwhelming power without massive delays.
  • In Ukraine, for example, had the United States chosen to try to defend eastern Ukraine from Russian attack, it would have been impossible to deploy that force before the Russians took over.
  • The United States will face peer-to-peer or even systemic conflicts in Eurasia. The earlier the United States brings in decisive force, the lower the cost to the United States.
  • Current conventional war-fighting strategy is not dissimilar from that of World War II: It is heavily dependent on equipment and the petroleum to power that equipment.
  • It also follows that the tempo of operations be reduced. The United States has been in constant warfare since 2001.
  • There need to be layers of options between threat and war. 
  • Defense policy must be built on three things: The United States does not know where it will fight. The United States must use war sparingly. The United States must have sufficient technology to compensate for the fact that Americans are always going to be outnumbered in Eurasia. The force that is delivered must overcome this, and it must get there fast.
  • Ranges of new technologies, from hypersonic missiles to electronically and mechanically enhanced infantryman, are available. But the mindset that peer-to-peer conflict has been abolished and that small unit operations in the Middle East are the permanent features of warfare prevent these new technologies from being considered.
  • Losing an asymmetric war is unfortunate but tolerable. Losing a systemic war could be catastrophic. Not having to fight a war would be best.
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    "Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and "the long war." Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete."
Matt Warren

America's Epidemic of Enlightened Racism - 0 views

  • the summary dismissal of the column – without substantive rebuttals to claims that are so racist as to seem to be beneath public discourse – means that he can play the role of victim of political correctness gone amok.
  • Derbyshire claims that his ideas are backed up by “methodological inquiries in the human sciences,” and includes links to sites that provide all the negative sociological data about black people you’d ever need to justify your fear of them, including the claim that “blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.”
  • So he can cast himself as someone who had the courage to tell it like it is – with all the sociological data backing him up – only to be punished for this by the reactionary hypocrites who control the public discourse.
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  • Once again, he can tell himself, those quick to cry “racism” have prevented an honest conversation about race.
  • If Derbyshire were a lone crank, none of it would matter much. But he’s not.
  • they see them selves as advocates of a sort of enlightened racism that doesn’t shrink from calling a spade a spade but isn’t inherently unjust.
  • Enlightened racism is meant to escape accusations of being racist in the pejorative sense via two avenues: the first is the appeal to data I have just described. The second is a loophole to the effect that exceptions are to be made for individuals.
  • They could care less about skin color, they say; it really is the content of people’s characters that concerns them, and that content really does suffer more in blacks than whites.
  • Because they are so widespread and aim to restore the respectability of interracial contempt, these attempts at an enlightened racism deserve a rebuttal. Especially in light of the fact that those who hold such views often see themselves as the champions of reasons over sentiment, when in fact their views are deeply irrational.
  • First, a history of slavery, segregation, and (yes) racism, means that African American communities suffer from some social problems at higher rates than whites.
  • But that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of black people – statistically, and not just based on politically correct fuzzy thinking – are employed, not on welfare, have no criminal record, and so on and so forth.
  • So the kind of thinking that enlightened racists see as their way of staring a hard reality right in the face turns out to be just a silly rationalization using weak statistical differences.
  • In other words, one’s chances of being a victim of violent crime is already so low, that even accounting  for higher crime rates among African Americans, one’s chance of being a victim of violent crime by an African American remains very low.
  • The argument that Derbyshire and those like him make is that we are justified in treating an entire population as a threat – in essentially shunning them in the most degrading way – because one’s chances of being harmed by any given member of that population, while very low, is not quite as low as one’s chances of being harmed by the general population.
  • It’s an argument that starts out with sociological data and quickly collapses to reveal the obvious underlying motivation: unenlightened racism of the coarsest variety.
  • Second, there is the issue of character: because this, after all, is what really motivates these attempts at establishing an enlightened racism that gives individuals the benefit of the doubt while acknowledging the truth about general cultural differences.
  • I think it suffices to respond in the following way: people tend to mistake their discomfort with the cultural differences of a group with that group’s inferiority. (They also tend to conflate their political and economic advantages with psychological superiority).
  • If they respond with sociological data about education and birth rates and all the rest, we only have to respond that like crime rates, they’re exactly the sort of consequences one would expect from a history of oppression and even then fail to justify racist stereotypes.
  • The fact is, that where we pick a white person or black person at random, the same truths hold: they very likely have a high school diploma, and probably do not have a bachelor’s degree. They’re probably employed and not on welfare. They’ve probably never been to prison, and they almost certainly are not going to harm you. These are the broad statistical truths that simply do not vary enough between races to justify the usual stereotypes.
  • So here is the hard truth that advocates of enlightened racism need to face: their sociological data and ideas about black character, intelligence and morality are post-hoc rationalizations of their discomfort with average cultural differences between whites and blacks.
  • The fact that they have black friends and political heroes, or give individuals the benefit of the doubt as long as they are “well-socialized” and “intelligent” just means that they can suppress that discomfort if the cultural differences are themselves lessened to a tolerable degree.
  • And so they need to disabuse themselves of the idea that true, unenlightened racism is a term very narrowly defined: that it requires a personal hatred of individual black people based on their skin color despite evidence of redeeming personal qualities.
  • What they think of as redeeming personal qualities are just qualities that tend to make them less uncomfortable. But the hatred of black culture and post-hoc rationalizations of this hatred using sociological data are just what racism is.
  • This is not to say that mere discomfort with cultural difference is the same thing as racism (or xenophobia). Such discomfort is unavoidable: You’d have this sort of discomfort if you tried live in a foreign country for a while, and you’d be tempted by the same sorts of ideas about how stupid and mean people are for not doing things the way you’re used to.
  • strange customs become “stupid” because they reflect less of ourselves back to us than we’re used to.
  • That lack of reflection is felt not only as a distressing deprivation of social oxygen, but as an affront, a positive discourtesy.
  • The mature way to deal with such discomfort is to treat it as of a kind with social anxiety in general: people are strange, when you’re a stranger. Give it some time, and that changes. But it won’t change if you develop hefty rationalizations about the inferiority and dangerousness of others and treat these rationalizations as good reasons for cultural paranoia.
  • Americans seem to have difficulty engaging in the required reflective empathy, and imagining how they would feel if they knew that every time they walked into a public space a large number of a dominant racial majority looked at them with fear and loathing. They might, under such circumstances, have a bad day.
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    From Nick Lalone in Buzz. "John Derbyshire has been fired from the National Review for an openly racist column on how white people should advise their children with respect to "blacks": for the most part, avoid them. Because on the whole, they are unintelligent, antisocial, hostile, and dangerous. Or as he puts it, avoid "concentrations of blacks" or places "swamped with blacks," and leave a place when "the number of blacks suddenly swells," and keep moving when "accosted by a strange black" in the street. The language is alarmingly dehumanizing: black people come in "swamps" and "concentrations" (and presumably also in hordes, swarms, and just plain gangs). And it's clearly meant to be a dismissal of the notion - much talked about recently in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting - that African Americans should be able to walk down the street without being shunned, much less attacked."
Matt Warren

From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine - 0 views

  • Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia.
  • At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia's power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians. 
  • A failure to engage at this point would cause countries around Russia's periphery, from Estonia to Azerbaijan, to conclude that with the United States withdrawn and Europe fragmented, they must reach an accommodation with Russia.
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  • This will expand Russian power and open the door to Russian influence spreading on the European Peninsula itself. The United States has fought three wars (World War I, World War II and the Cold War) to prevent hegemonic domination of the region. Failure to engage would be a reversal of a century-old strategy.
  • The American dilemma is how to address the strategic context in a global setting in which it is less involved in the Middle East and is continuing to work toward a "pivot to Asia."
  • Nor can the United States simply allow events to take their course. The United States needs a strategy that is economical and coherent militarily, politically and financially. It has two advantages.
  • Some of the countries on Russia's periphery do not want to be dominated by her. Russia, in spite of some strengths, is inherently weak and does not require U.S. exertion
  • Putin is now in a position where, in order to retain with confidence his domestic authority, he must act decisively to reverse the outcome. The problem is there is no single decisive action that would reverse events.
  • Whatever Putin does in Ukraine, he has two choices.
  • One is simply to accept the reversal, which I would argue that he cannot do. The second is to take action in places where he might achieve rapid diplomatic and political victories against the West -- the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus -- while encouraging Ukraine's government to collapse into gridlock and developing bilateral relations along the Estonia-Azerbaijan line.
  • The United States has been developing, almost by default, a strategy not of disengagement but of indirect engagement. Between 1989 and 2008, the U.S. strategy has been the use of U.S. troops as the default for dealing with foreign issues. From Panama to Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States followed a policy of direct and early involvement of U.S. military forces.
  • However, this was not the U.S. strategy from 1914 to 1989. Then, the strategy was to provide political support to allies, followed by economic and military aid, followed by advisers and limited forces, and in some cases pre-positioned forces.
  • Main force was the last resort. 
  • Because the current Russian Federation is much weaker than the Soviet Union was at its height and because the general geographic principle in the region remains the same, a somewhat analogous balance of power strategy is likely to emerge after the events in Ukraine.
  • The coalescence of this strategy is a development I forecast in two books, The Next Decade and The Next 100 Years, as a concept I called the Intermarium. The Intermarium was a plan pursued after World War I by Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski for a federation, under Poland's aegis, of Central and Eastern European countries. What is now emerging is not the Intermarium, but it is close. And it is now transforming from an abstract forecast to a concrete, if still emergent, reality.
  • A direct military intervention by the United States in Ukraine is not possible.
  • First, Ukraine is a large country, and the force required to protect it would outstrip U.S. capabilities.
  • Second, supplying such a force would require a logistics system that does not exist and would take a long time to build.
  • Finally, such an intervention would be inconceivable without a strong alliance system extending to the West and around the Black Sea.
  • If the United States chooses to confront Russia with a military component, it must be on a stable perimeter and on as broad a front as possible to extend Russian resources and decrease the probability of Russian attack at any one point out of fear of retaliation elsewhere.
  • The problem is that NATO is not a functional alliance. It was designed to fight the Cold War on a line far to the west of the current line. More important, there was unity on the principle that the Soviet Union represented an existential threat to Western Europe. 
  • That consensus is no longer there. Different countries have different perceptions of Russia and different concerns. For many, a replay of the Cold War, even in the face of Russian actions in Ukraine, is worse than accommodation.
  • The countries that were at risk from 1945 to 1989 are not the same as those at risk today. Many of these countries were part of the Soviet Union then, and the rest were Soviet satellites.
  • The rest of Europe is not in jeopardy, and these countries are not prepared to commit financial and military efforts to a problem they believe can be managed with little risk to them.
  • the Baltics, Moldova and the Caucasus are areas where the Russians could seek to compensate for their defeat. Because of this, and also because of their intrinsic importance, Poland, Romania and Azerbaijan must be the posts around which this alliance is built.
  • The Baltic salient, 145 kilometers (90 miles) from St. Petersburg in Estonia, would be a target for Russian destabilization. Poland borders the Baltics and is the leading figure in the Visegrad battlegroup
  • . Poland is eager for a closer military relationship with the United States, as its national strategy has long been based on third-power guarantees against aggressors.
  • The Dniester River is 80 kilometers from Odessa, the main port on the Black Sea for Ukraine and an important one for Russia. The Prut River is about 200 kilometers from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Moldova is between these two rivers.
  • In Western hands, Moldova threatens Odessa, Ukraine's major port also used by Russia on the Black Sea. In Russian hands, Moldova threatens Bucharest.
  • At the far end of the alliance structure I am envisioning is Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea bordering Russia and Iran.
  • Should Dagestan and Chechnya destabilize, Azerbaijan -- which is Islamic and majority Shiite but secular -- would become critical for limiting the regional spread of jihadists.
  • Azerbaijan also would support the alliance's position in the Black Sea by supporting Georgia
  • To the southwest, the very pro-Russian Armenia -- which has a Russian troop presence and a long-term treaty with Moscow -- could escalate tensions with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Previously, this was not a pressing issue for the United States. Now it is. The security of Georgia and its ports on the Black Sea requires Azerbaijan's inclusion in the alliance.
    • Matt Warren
       
      I hope I can remember to revisit this and check his assertions.
  • Azerbaijan serves a more strategic purpose. Most of the countries in the alliance are heavy importers of Russian energy
  • The key to the pipeline will be Turkey's willingness to permit transit. I have not included Turkey as a member of this alliance.
  • I view Turkey in this alliance structure as France in the Cold War. It was aligned yet independent, militarily self-sufficient yet dependent on the effective functioning of others.
  • Turkey, inside or outside of the formal structure, will play this role because the future of the Black Sea, the Caucasus and southeastern Europe is essential to Ankara. 
  • These countries, diverse as they are, share a desire not to be dominated by the Russians.
  • This is not an offensive force but a force designed to deter Russian expansion.
  • In each case, the willingness of the United States to supply these weapons, for cash or credit as the situation requires, will strengthen pro-U.S. political forces in each country and create a wall behind which Western investment can take place.
  • There are those who would criticize this alliance for including members who do not share all the democratic values of the U.S. State Department. This may be true. It is also true that during the Cold War the United States was allied with the Shah's Iran, Turkey and Greece under dictatorship and Mao's China after 1971.
  • The State Department must grapple with the harsh forces its own policies have unleashed. This suggests that the high-mindedness borne of benign assumptions now proven to be illusions must make way for realpolitik calculations.
  • The balance of power strategy allows the United States to use the natural inclination of allies to bolster its own position and take various steps, of which military intervention is the last, not the first.
  • It recognizes that the United States, as nearly 25 percent of the world's economy and the global maritime hegemon, cannot evade involvement. Its very size and existence involves it. 
  • Weak and insecure states with temporary advantages are dangerous. The United States has an interest in acting early because early action is cheaper than acting in the last extremity. This is a case of anti-air missiles, attack helicopters, communications systems and training, among other things.
  • These are things the United States has in abundance. It is not a case of deploying divisions, of which it has few.
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    "As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken. "
Matt Warren

Ukraine and the 'Little Cold War' - 0 views

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    "Editor's Note: In place of George Friedman's regular Geopolitical Weekly, this column is derived from two chapters of Friedman's 2009 book, The Next 100 Years. We are running this abstract of the chapters that focused on Eastern Europe and Russia because the forecast -- written in 2008 -- is prescient in its anticipation of events unfolding today in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea."
Matt Warren

Exclusive Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State - 0 views

  • The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal.
  • But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system.
  • the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected
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  • Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics.
  • This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
  • Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”).
  • Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions
  • These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise.
  • During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya
  • At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence.
  • Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined.
  • My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.”
  • That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched.
  • Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers.
  • A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time.
  • Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist.
  • The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department.
  • I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.
  • All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council.
  •  
    Bill Moyers: "There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power."
Matt Warren

The American Public's Indifference to Foreign Affairs - 0 views

  • At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans. This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs.
  • The United States was founded as a place where private affairs were intended to supersede public life.
  • Public service was intended less as a profession than as a burden to be assumed as a matter of duty -- hence the word "service."
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  • In many European countries, the state is at the center of many of the activities that shape private life, but that is less true in the United States.
  • The American public is often most active in public affairs when resisting the state's attempts to increase its presence, as we saw with health care reform. When such matters appear settled, Americans tend to focus their energy on their private lives, pleasures and pains. 
  • Of course, there are times when Americans are aroused not only to public affairs but also to foreign affairs. That is shaped by the degree to which these events are seen as affecting Americans' own lives.
  • There is nothing particularly American in this. People everywhere care more about things that affect them than things that don't.
  • People in European or Middle Eastern countries, where another country is just a two-hour drive away, are going to be more aware of foreign affairs. Still, they will be most concerned about the things that affect them.
  • The United States' geography, obviously, shapes American thinking about the world. The European Peninsula is crowded with peoples and nation-states. In a matter of hours you can find yourself in a country with a different language and religion and a history of recent war with your own. Americans can travel thousands of miles using their own language, experiencing the same culture and rarely a memory of war. Northwestern Europe is packed with countries. The northeastern United States is packed with states.
  • Passing from the Netherlands to Germany is a linguistic, cultural change with historical memories. Traveling from Connecticut to New York is not.
  • American interest is cyclical, heavily influenced by whether they are affected by what goes on. After 9/11, what happened in the Islamic world mattered a great deal. But even then, it went in cycles.
  • It's not that Americans are disinterested in foreign affairs, it's that their interest is finely calibrated. The issues must matter to Americans, so most issues must carry with them a potential threat.
  • The outcome must be uncertain, and the issues must have a sufficient degree of clarity so that they can be understood and dealt with. Americans may turn out to have been wrong about these things in the long run, but at the time, an issue must fit these criteria
  • Context is everything. During times of oil shortage, events in Venezuela might well have interested Americans much more than they did last week. During the Cold War, the left-wing government in Venezuela might have concerned Americans. But advancements in technology have increased oil and natural gas production in the United States. A left-wing government in Venezuela is simply another odd Latin government, and the events of last week are not worth worrying about. The context renders Venezuela a Venezuelan problem.
  • It is not that Americans are disengaged from the world, but rather that the world appears disengaged from them. At the heart of the matter is geography.
  • The American reality is that most important issues, aside from Canada and Mexico, take place across the ocean, and the ocean reasonably is seen as a barrier that renders these events part of a faraway realm.
  • During the Cold War, Americans had a different mindset. They saw themselves in an existential struggle for survival with the communists.
  • One thing that the end of the Cold War and the subsequent 20 years taught the United States was that the world mattered -- a mindset that was as habitual as it was reflective of new realities.
  • Starting in the late 1980s, the United States sent troops to Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait. The American public was engaged in all of these for a variety of reasons, some of them good, some bad. Whatever the reasoning, there was a sense of clarity that demanded that something be done.
  • After 9/11, the conviction that something be done turned into an obsession. But over the past 10 years, Americans' sense of clarity has become much more murky, and their appetite for involvement has declined accordingly.
  • More recently, the standards for justifying either type of intervention have become more exacting to policymakers. Syria was not a matter of indifference, but the situation lacked the clarity that justified intervention.
  • The United States seemed poised to intervene and then declined. The American public saw it as avoiding another overseas entanglement with an outcome that could not be shaped by American power.
  • We see the same thing in Ukraine. The United States cannot abide a single power like Russia dominating Eurasia. That would create a power that could challenge the United States. There were times that the Ukrainian crisis would have immediately piqued American interest. While some elements of the U.S. government, particularly in the State Department, did get deeply involved, the American public remained generally indifferent.
  • From a geopolitical point of view, the future of Ukraine as European or Russian helps shape the future of Eurasia. But from the standpoint of the American public, the future is far off and susceptible to interference.
  • (Americans have heard of many things that could have become a major threat -- a few did, most didn't.)
  • This is disconcerting from the standpoint of those who live outside the United States. They experienced the United States through the Cold War, the Clinton years and the post-9/11 era. The United States was deeply involved in everything. The world got used to that.
  • I spoke to a foreign diplomat who insisted the United States was weakening. I tried to explain that it is not weakness that dictates disengagement but indifference. He couldn't accept the idea that the United States has entered a period in which it really doesn't care what happens to his country.
  • The diplomat had lived in a time when everything mattered and all problems required an American position. American indifference is the most startling thing in the world for him.
  • This was the position of American isolationists of the early 20th century.
  • The isolationist period was followed, of course, by the war and the willingness of the United States to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," in the words of John F. Kennedy. Until very recently, that sweeping statement was emblematic of U.S. foreign policy since 1941.
  • The current public indifference to foreign policy reflects that shift. But Washington's emerging foreign policy is not the systematic foreign policy of the pre-World War II period. It is an instrumental position, which can adapt to new circumstances and will likely be changed not over the course of decades but over the course of years or months.
  • The sense that private life matters more than public is intense, and that means that Americans are concerned with things that are deemed frivolous by foreigners, academics and others who make their living in public and foreign policy.
  • They care about some things, but are not prepared to care about all things.
  • Whether this sentiment is good or bad is debatable. To me, it is simply becoming a fact to be borne in mind. I would argue that it is a luxury, albeit a temporary one, conferred on Americans by geography.
  • Americans might not be interested in the world, but the world is interested in Americans. Until this luxury comes to an end, the United States has ample assistant secretaries to give the impression that it cares.
  •  
    "Last week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains. "
Matt Warren

New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia - 0 views

  • This is a new twist not because it makes clear that the United States is not the only country intercepting phone calls, but because it puts U.S. policy in Ukraine in a new light and forces us to reconsider U.S. strategy toward Russia and Germany.
  • Nuland's cell phone conversation is hardly definitive, but it is an additional indicator of American strategic thinking.
  • Previously, the United States was focused heavily on the Islamic world and, more important, tended to regard the use of force as an early option in the execution of U.S. policy rather than as a last resort.
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  • The strategy was successful when its goal was to destroy an enemy military force. It proved far more difficult to use in occupying countries and shaping their internal and foreign policies. Military force has intrinsic limits.
  • The alternative has been a shift to a balance-of-power strategy in which the United States relies on the natural schisms that exist in every region to block the emergence of regional hegemons and contain unrest and groups that could threaten U.S. interests.
  • The new strategy can be seen in Syria, where rather than directly intervening the United States has stood back and allowed the warring factions to expend their energy on each other, preventing either side from diverting resources to activities that might challenge U.S. interests.
  • Behind this is a schism in U.S. foreign policy that has more to do with motivation than actual action.
  • On one side, there are those who consciously support the Syria model for the United States as not necessarily the best moral option but the only practical option there is.
  • On the other, there are those who argue on behalf of moral interventions, as we saw in Libya, and removing tyrants as an end in itself.
  • Given the outcome in Libya, this faction is on the defensive, as it must explain how an intervention will actually improve the moral situation.
  • for all the rhetoric, the United States is by default falling into a balance-of-power model.
  • Russia emerged as a problem for the United States after the Orange Revolution in 2004, when the United States, supporting anti-Russian factions in Ukraine, succeeded in crafting a relatively pro-Western, anti-Russian government.
  • The Russians read this as U.S. intelligence operations designed to create an anti-Russian Ukraine that, as we have written, would directly challenge Russian strategic and economic interests.
  • The Russian response was to use its own covert capabilities, in conjunction with economic pressure from natural gas cutoffs, to undermine Ukraine's government and to use its war with Georgia as a striking reminder of the resurrection of Russian military capabilities.
  • Washington had two options. One was to allow the balance of power to assert itself, in this case relying on the Europeans to contain the Russians. The other was to continue to follow the balance of power model but at a notch higher than pure passivity.
  • As Nuland's call shows, U.S. confidence in Europe's will for and interest in blocking the Russians was low; hence a purely passive model would not work.
  • The next step was the lowest possible level of involvement to contain the Russians and counter their moves in the Middle East.
  • The United States is not prepared to intervene in the former Soviet Union.
  • Russia is not a global power, and its military has many weaknesses, but it is by far the strongest in the region and is able to project power in the former Soviet periphery
  • At the moment, the U.S. military also has many weaknesses.
  •  A direct intervention, even were it contemplated (which it is not), is not an option.
  • The only correlation of forces that matters is what exists at a given point in time in a given place. In that sense, the closer U.S. forces get to the Russian homeland, the greater the advantage the Russians have.
  • Instead, the United States did the same thing that it did prior to the Orange Revolution: back the type of intervention that both the human rights advocates and the balance-of-power advocates could support.
  • it appeared that it was the Germans who were particularly pressing the issue, and that they were the ones virtually controlling one of the leaders of the protests, Vitali Klitschko.
  • Berlin's statements indicating that it is prepared to take a more assertive role in the world appeared to be a historic shift in German foreign policy.
  • Although Germany's move should not be dismissed, its meaning was not as clear as it seemed. In her cell phone call, Nuland is clearly dismissing the Germans, Klitschko and all their efforts in Ukraine.
  • This could mean that the strategy was too feeble for American tastes (Berlin cannot, after all, risk too big a confrontation with Moscow). Or it could mean that when the Germans said they were planning to be more assertive, their new boldness was meant to head off U.S. efforts. Looking at this week's events, it is not clear what the Germans meant.
  • What is clear is that the United States was not satisfied with Germany and the European Union.
  • This is a touchy issue for human rights advocates, or should be. Yanukovich is the elected president of Ukraine, winner of an election that is generally agreed to have been honest (even though his constitutional amendments and subsequent parliamentary elections may not have been). He was acting within his authority in rejecting the deal with the European Union. If demonstrators can unseat an elected president because they disagree with his actions, they have set a precedent that undermines constitutionalism. Even if he was rough in suppressing the demonstrators, it does not nullify his election.
  • From a balance of power strategy, however, it makes great sense.
  • A pro-Western, even ambiguous, Ukraine poses a profound strategic problem for Russia.
  • Using the demonstrations to create a massive problem for Russia does two things.
  • It creates a real strategic challenge for the Russians and forces them on the defensive. Second, it reminds Russia that Washington has capabilities and options that make challenging the United States difficult.
  • And it can be framed in a way that human rights advocates will applaud in spite of the constitutional issues, enemies of the Iranian talks will appreciate and Central Europeans from Poland to Romania will see as a sign of U.S. commitment to the region.
  • The United States will re-emerge as an alternative to Germany and Russia. It is a brilliant stroke.
  • Its one weakness, if we can call it that, is that it is hard to see how it can work.
  • Russia has significant economic leverage in Ukraine, it is not clear that pro-Western demonstrators are in the majority, and Russian covert capabilities in Ukraine outstrip American capabilities. The Federal Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service have been collecting files on Ukrainians for a long time. We would expect that after the Olympics in Sochi, the Russians could play their trump cards.
  • even if the play fails, the United States will have demonstrated that it is back in the game
    • Matt Warren
       
      Whoopie.
  • The mere willingness of the United States to engage will change the expectations of Central Europe, cause tensions between the Central Europeans and the Germans and create an opening for the United States.
  • Of course, the question is whether and where the Russians will answer the Americans, or even if they will consider the U.S. actions significant at all.
  • if the United States ups the ante in Central Europe, Russian inroads there will dissolve.
  • If the Russians are now an American problem, which they are, and if the United States is not going to revert to a direct intervention mode, which it cannot, then this strategy makes sense.
  • The public interception of Nuland's phone call was not all that embarrassing. It showed the world that the United States, not Germany, is leading the way in Ukraine. And it showed the Russians that the Americans care so little, they will express it on an open cell phone line. Nuland's obscene dismissal of the European Union and treatment of Russia as a problem to deal with confirms a U.S. policy: The United States is not going to war, but passivity is over.
  •  
    "The struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world -- a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cell phone conversation, declared her strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly and without the Europeans to piece together a specific opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action."
Matt Warren

Ukraine: On the Edge of Empires - 0 views

  • Uzhgorod today is on the Slovakian border, about 30 miles from Poland, 15 miles from Hungary and 50 miles from Romania. When my father was growing up, the borders moved constantly, and knowing these languages mattered. You were never sure what you'd be a citizen or subject of next or who would be aiming a rifle at you.
  • perhaps nowhere was there as much suffering from living on the edge than in Ukraine. Ukraine was caught between Stalin and Hitler, between planned famines and outright slaughter, to be relieved only by the grinding misery of post-Stalin communism. No European country suffered as much in the 20th century as Ukraine. From 1914 until 1945, Ukraine was as close to hell as one can reach in this life.
  • Ukraine was, oddly enough, shaped by Norsemen, who swept down and set up trading posts, eventually ruling over some local populations.
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  • they came as merchants rather than conquerors, creating a city, Kiev, at the point where the extraordinarily wide Dnieper River narrows.
  • The flat country is made for internal conflict and dissension, and the hunger for a foreigner to come and stabilize a rich land is not always far from Ukrainians' thoughts.
  • Ukraine created Russia or vice versa. Suffice it to say, they developed together. That is more important than who did what to whom.
  • Consider the way they are said to have chosen their religion. Volodymyr, a pagan ruler, decided that he needed a modern religion. He considered Islam and rejected it because he wanted to drink. He considered Catholicism and rejected it because he had lots of concubines he didn't want to give up. He finally decided on Orthodox Christianity, which struck him as both beautiful and flexible.
  • As Reid points out, there were profound consequences: "By choosing Christianity rather than Islam, Volodymyr cast Rus' ambitions forever in Europe rather than Asia, and by taking Christianity from Byzantium rather than Rome he bound the future Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians together in Orthodoxy, fatally dividing them from their Catholic neighbors the Poles."
  • I suspect that while Volodymyr liked his drink and his women, he was most concerned with finding a balance between powers and chose Byzantium to create space for Ukraine.
  • What makes this position unique is that Ukraine is independent and has been so for 18 years. This is the longest period of Ukrainian independence in centuries.
  • People in the west want to be part of the European Union. People in the east want to be closer to the Russians. The Ukrainians want to remain independent but not simply independent.
  • Ukraine is as important to Russian national security as Scotland is to England or Texas is to the United States.
  • In the hands of an enemy, these places would pose an existential threat to all three countries. Therefore, rumors to the contrary, neither Scotland nor Texas is going anywhere. Nor is Ukraine, if Russia has anything to do with it.
  • And this reality shapes the core of Ukrainian life. In a fundamental sense, geography has imposed limits on Ukrainian national sovereignty and therefore on the lives of Ukrainians.
  • From a purely strategic standpoint, Ukraine is Russia's soft underbelly.
  • Ukraine anchors Russian power in the Carpathians.
  • If Ukraine is under the influence or control of a Western power, Russia's (and Belarus') southern flank is wide open along an arc running from the Polish border east almost to Volgograd then south to the Sea of Azov, a distance of more than 1,000 miles, more than 700 of which lie along Russia proper. There are few natural barriers.
  • For Russia, Ukraine is a matter of fundamental national security. For a Western power, Ukraine is of value only if that power is planning to engage and defeat Russia
  • from the Russian point of view it is fundamental, regardless of what anyone is thinking of at the moment
  • Ukraine controls Russia's access to the Black Sea and therefore to the Mediterranean. The ports of Odessa and Sevastopol provide both military and commercial access for exports, particularly from southern Russia. It is also a critical pipeline route for sending energy to Europe, a commercial and a strategic requirement for Russia, since energy has become a primary lever for influencing and controlling other countries, including Ukraine.
  • This is why the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 was critical in transforming Russia's view of the West and its relationship to Ukraine.
  • Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had a series of governments that remained aligned with Russia. In the 2004 presidential election, the seemingly pro-Russian candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, emerged the winner in an election that many claimed was fraudulent. Crowds took to the streets and forced Yanukovich's resignation, and he was replaced by a pro-Western coalition.
  • The Russians charged that the peaceful uprising was engineered by Western intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and MI6, which funneled money into pro-Western NGOs and political parties.
  • Whether this was an intelligence operation or a fairly open activity, there is no question that American and European money poured into Ukraine. And whether it came from warm-hearted reformers or steely eyed CIA operatives didn't matter in the least to Vladimir Putin.
  • Putin spent the next six years working to reverse the outcome, operating both openly and covertly to split the coalition and to create a pro-Russian government.
  • On the day we arrived in Kiev, two things were going on.
  • First there were demonstrations under way protesting government tax policy. Second, Yanukovich was in Belgium for a summit with the European Union.
  • The demonstrations were linked to a shift in tax law that increased taxes on small-business owners.
  • I have not been to other Ukrainian demonstrations but have been present at various other demonstrations around the world, and most of those were what some people in Texas call a "goat rodeo." I have never seen one of those, either, but I gather they aren't well-organized. This demonstration did not strike me as a goat rodeo.
  • This actually matters.
  • It just didn't seem that way to me. There were ample police in the side streets, but they were relaxed and not in riot gear. I was told that the police with riot gear were hidden in courtyards and elsewhere. I couldn't prove otherwise. But the demonstration struck me as too well-organized.
  •  
    "The name "Ukraine" literally translates as "on the edge." It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was divided between Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it was divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. And in the 20th century, save for a short period of independence after World War I, it became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been on the edge of empires for centuries."
Matt Warren

Obama v. Reagan: Fun Comparison I Did To Piss Off Wingnuts on Reagan's B-day - 1 views

  • OBAMA:  
    Our troops were repeatedly attacked in Afghanistan, yet when Obama came into office, he increased troop strength by 68,000.  (Along with an actual plan, unlike his predecessor.)  His track record of killing terrorists far outweighs his predecessors.
  • REAGAN:  
    Reagan retreated from Lebanon immediately after the 1983 terror attack by Hezbollah that resulted in the murder of 243 Marines.  According to the 9/11 Commission Report (p. 68), Reagan's cut and run INSPIRED Bin Laden, who viewed the United States as a “paper tiger” because of its rapid withdrawal after the attack.
  • I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.
    -Ronald Reagan 10/28/1984
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  • No matter how  decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these law should be held accountable.
    -Barack Obama  July 2010
  • Obama has consistently CUT taxes, not raised them.  

    REAGAN:  
    He got through a big tax cut once he took office. But to hear conservatives talk, that's where the story ends. They forget he raised income taxes in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

  • REAGAN:  
    Whether you are looking at the economic policies of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, reigning in the deficit was clearly of no concern. Reagan tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. Ford and Carter in their combined terms could only double it. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight. Reagan soared the spending, Clinton brought in back down a bit, and W. took it way back up.  To be fair to the Gipper, NO ONE did deficit like W.  He spent the Clinton surplus like  a drunken sailor.  And by the way, Obama's spending initiatives were  less than half of his predecessor.  
  • OBAMA:  
    Even though Obama inherited a huge debt from W., and focused on a stimulus that benefited the people instead of Bush's stimulus for Wall Street, he still has a much better record on spending than the Gipper and much better than W.  Obama did not triple the gross federal debt like Reagan did.  Obama is following the Clinton model of spending up front and then focusing on deficit reduction.  I predict at the end of Obama's term in 2016, the deficit will be cut drastically--but it can't be anywhere close to what Reagan or Bush had at the end of their two terms.  Why?  Because the GOP loves to throw money at their base...tax cuts for Big Oil and the wealthiest amongst us which add hundreds of billions to the debt but create nothing.  That ain't happening--you are welcome teabaggers.
  • REAGAN:
    COMPLETELY supported the Brady Bill, the holy grail of gun control.  Reagan even wrote an op-ed piece for it in the evil NY Times.
  • OBAMA:
    The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence flunked Obama on every single gun control issue.  Proposed nothing for federal gun control laws when he had a super majority Dem Congress.  When he had that Dem majority, in fact, federal gun rights EXPANDED by allowing guns on trains and in our national parks.  Yet the NRA still told their idiot members that Obama was coming to take their guns.... and gun sales skyrocketed.
  • REAGAN:  
    Reagan APPEASED terrorists.   Here he is with the Taliban:

     photo reagan-appeasing-terrorists_zps2db014fa.jpg

  •  
    "Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan:  

    No Scalia, No Rumsfeld, No Cheney.  No Bushes and all of their appointments and disasters.  No funding of dictators like Saddam Hussein (Reagan propped him up big time) or psychopaths like Osama Bin Laden (that worked out well)."

    This is one hell of a rant.
Matt Warren

Why So Much Anarchy? - 0 views

  • Civil society in significant swaths of the earth is still the province of a relatively elite few in capital cities -- the very people Western journalists feel most comfortable befriending and interviewing, so that the size and influence of such a class is exaggerated by the media.
  • The End of Imperialism. That's right. Imperialism provided much of Africa, Asia and Latin America with security and administrative order. The Europeans divided the planet into a gridwork of entities -- both artificial and not -- and governed. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but it provided order. Imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.
  • The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism did not end completely with the departure of European colonialists. It continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists. Because these strongmen often saw themselves as anti-Western freedom fighters, they believed that they now had the moral justification to govern as they pleased.
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  • No Institutions. Here we come to the key element. The post-colonial Arab dictators ran moukhabarat states: states whose order depended on the secret police and the other, related security services. But beyond that, institutional and bureaucratic development was weak and unresponsive to the needs of the population -- a population that, because it was increasingly urbanized, required social services and complex infrastructure.
  • with insufficient institutional development, the chances for either dictatorship or anarchy proliferate. Civil society occupies the middle ground between those extremes, but it cannot prosper without the requisite institutions and bureaucracies.
  • Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities. If the state only means oppression, then its population consists of subjects, not citizens. Subjects of despotisms know only fear, not loyalty. If the state has only fear to offer, then, if the pillars of the dictatorship crumble
  • Doctrinal Battles. Religion occupies a place in daily life in the Islamic world that the West has not known since the days -- a millennium ago -- when the West was called "Christendom." Thus, non-state identity in the 21st-century Middle East generally means religious identity.
  • As the Roman Empire collapsed and Christianity rose as a replacement identity, the upshot was not tranquility but violent, doctrinal disputes between Donatists, Monotheletes and other Christian sects and heresies. So, too, in the Muslim world today, as state identities weaken and sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.
  • Information Technology. Various forms of electronic communication, often transmitted by smartphones, can empower the crowd against a hated regime, as protesters who do not know each other personally can find each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
  • while such technology can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards. This is how technology encourages anarchy.
  • The Industrial Age was about bigness: big tanks, aircraft carriers, railway networks and so forth, which magnified the power of big centralized states. But the post-industrial age is about smallness, which can empower small and oppressed groups, allowing them to challenge the state -- with anarchy sometimes the result.
  • Because we are talking here about long-term processes rather than specific events, anarchy in one form or another will be with us for some time, until new political formations arise that provide for the requisite order. And these new political formations need not be necessarily democratic.
  • When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies
  • But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void.
  • The real question marks are Russia and China.
  • The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.
  •  
    "Twenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, "The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet." I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms -- making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, such as the probable intensification of racial divisions in the United States; in fact, such divisions have been impressively ameliorated."
Matt Warren

Google Nexus 5 In Review: 5 Ways To Extend Battery Life On The Android 4.4 KitKat Flagship - 0 views

  • LG gave the Nexus 5 a 2,300 mAh battery, an increase of less than 10 percent over the Nexus 4. That has left some Nexus 5 owners complaining about middling to poor battery life. Luckily, there are several ways that you can enjoy the Android 4.4 KitKat release without worrying so much about battery life.
  • 1.) Lower the display brightness, turn off auto brightness
  • If you go into Settings and then navigate to Battery, Android 4.4 KitKat offers a list of apps and the percentage of battery that they use.
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  • the single most important thing you can do to improve the battery life on your Nexus 5 is to lower the brightness.
  • However, those who are interested in a better automatic brightness management than offered by default on the Nexus 5 should check out Lux, a third-party app that is well-reviewed by users and professional reviewers.
  • 2.) Turn off Wi-Fi scanning, in addition to Wi-Fi
  • Turn Off Scanning Always Available Nexus 5 Battery Tips Nexus 5 Battery Tips: How to turn off "Scanning Always Available" in the Nexus 5 (or any Android 4.4 KitKat device) settings menu.  Thomas Halleck / International Business Times
  • 3.) Turn off GPS location settings and Bluetooth
  • Unless you are using your Nexus 5 to drive to somewhere unfamiliar, or are using Waze in the car to avoid traffic, there is no need to keep GPS turned on. It draws a lot of power and offers little for the Nexus 5 experience.
  • Unless you are in range of a Wi-Fi signal that you will use, make sure that Wi-Fi is turned off on your smartphone.
  • Google included a feature in Android 4.3 that allowed apps and Google Play services to determine a user’s location using Wi-Fi, even when the phone’s Wi-Fi is turned off.
  • Please note that on the Nexus 5, Google will scan your location for several services, especially with Google Now. With this option unchecked, you will save battery life, but you may also not be able to enjoy the Nexus 5 to its fullest potential, since Google Now is such a prominent feature, located one swipe to the left of the home screen.
  • 4.) Use a standard wallpaper
  • Animated wallpapers drain battery a lot more than a still image, so if you are looking for the greatest power performance on the Nexus 5, the Rocky Mountains are a better choice than live wallpapers like Sun Beam.
  • 5.) Keep apps up-to-date, but turn off automatic updates
  • Make sure you have the most up-to-date software, including any Nexus 5 firmware, as well as all of your apps through Google Play. Apps that include battery-draining bugs or are poorly optimized will drain your battery unnecessarily.
  • Super-secret Nexus 5 battery life tip: Turn off vibration in the notification settings. It takes more power for a phone to vibrate than it does for it to ring.
  •  
    "The Nexus 5 has the largest screen of any of Google's Nexus devices so far, a full HD 1080p screen with lots of new software features. Unfortunately, most of those new features come at a cost, as larger, higher-resolution displays drain more battery life than their smaller, duller siblings."
Matt Warren

Congrats, Millennials. Now It's Your Turn to Be Vilified - 0 views

  • But then something funny happened. Gen X punditry died—very suddenly.
  • Check the data. If you plug “Generation X” into Google’s Ngram search engine—which tracks the occurrence of words and phrases in books—you find that the term exploded in use around 1989, climbing steeply throughout the ’90s. But in 2000 it peaked and began declining just as rapidly.
  • Despite constant handwringing over generational shifts, the basic personality metrics of Americans have remained remarkably stable for decades, says Kali Trzesniewski, a scholar of life-span changes.
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  • No, only one thing has changed. Generation X stopped being young.
  • The real pattern here isn’t any big cultural shift. It’s a much more venerable algo­rithm: How middle-aged folks freak out over niggling cultural differences between themselves and twentysomethings.
  • In the ’50s, senators fretted that comic books would “offer courses in murder, mayhem, [and] robbery” for youth. In the ’80s, parents worried that Dungeons and Dragons would “pollute and destroy our chil­dren’s minds”—and that the Walkman would turn them into antisocial drones. This pattern is as old as the hills. As Chaucer noted in The Canterbury Tales, “Youth and elde are often at debaat.”
  • I bring this up because it seems that we Gen Xers are now doing our part to perpetuate the cycle. We write many of today’s endless parade of op-eds snarking at “millennials,” intoning darkly about the perils of Snapchat and sighing nostalgically over the cultural glory of the mixtape.
  • Hold fast, millennials. This current wave of punditry will peak and then start declining six years from now. In 2020, about half of you will have turned 30. You’ll no longer be young—and therefore no longer scary—and today’s rhetoric about your entitlement and narcissism will evaporate. You’ll be in charge. I can’t imagine what you’re going to say about the kids being born today.
  •  
    "Back in the early '90s, boomer pundits across America declared Generation X a group of apathetic, coddled, entitled slackers. Born between roughly 1961 and 1981, they lacked any political idealism-"stuck in a terminal cynicism," as The Dallas Morning News observed. Gormless narcissists, their "intimacy and communication skills remain at a 12-year-old level," one expert wrote. Even Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons-one of Generation X's most influential masterworks-com­plained that "there's no intellectual pride or content to this generation. The domi­nant pop culture is MTV and the Walkman.""
Matt Warren

What This Guy Says about Inequality Will Make You Stand Up and Cheer (or Puke) - 1 views

  • Because many different combinations of causes can produce the same level of inequality, it’s not so clear that high inequality, as such, can reliably cause anything. The consequences of inequality depend on the mechanisms driving inequality. Nobody cares.
  • If the optimal tax had higher top rates, I’d want higher top rates. And I do like redistribution, but it’s got to be effective.
  • “Let’s raise taxes on rich people because that’s the most efficient and fair way to fund this very effective, humane, and fair transfer scheme” is a way better argument–like, unfathomably better–than “Let’s raise taxes on rich people because inequality is too high.”
    • Matt Warren
       
      He is correct that this is a distinction that would (in my guess) elicit blank stares from the bulk of the populace.
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  • Inequality caused states to cut education budgets! No, the recession did. But inequality caused the recession! No, an incomprehensible combination of housing policy, banking policy, financial regulation, normal cyclical adjustments, and yadda yadda caused the recession.
  • But inequality caused ALL THOSE THINGS. How so? It enabled rich people to co-opt every aspect of policymaking and bend it to their whims.
  •  
    "I'm tired of arguing about inequality. It's frustrating. It's unproductive. Nobody is really interested in the analytical arbitrariness and moral insidiousness of measuring intra-national economic inequality."
Matt Warren

Why Is the American Dream Dead in the South? - Atlantic Mobile - 0 views

  • We like to tell ourselves that America is the land of opportunity, but the reality doesn't match the rhetoric—and hasn't for awhile. We actually have less social mobility than countries like Denmark.
  • Think about it like this: Moving up matters more when there's a bigger gap between the rich and poor. So even though mobility hasn't gotten worse lately, it has worse consequences today because inequality is worse.
  • There isn't one or two or even three Americas. There are hundreds.
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  • The research team of Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Herndon, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez looked at each "commuting zone" (CZ) within the U.S., and found that the American Dream is still alive in some parts of the country.
  • Kids born into the bottom 20 percent of households, for example, have a 12.9 percent chance of reaching the top 20 percent if they live in San Jose. That's about as high as it is in the highest mobility countries. But kids born in Charlotte only have a 4.4 percent chance of moving from the bottom to the top 20 percent. That's worse than any developed country we have numbers for.
  • You can see what my colleague Derek Thompson calls the geography of the American Dream in the map below. It shows where kids have the best and worst chances of moving up from the bottom to the top quintile—and that the South looks more like a banana republic. (Note: darker colors mean there is less mobility, and lighter colors mean that there's more).

  • The researchers found that local tax and spending decisions explain some, but not too much, of this regional mobility gap. Neither does local school quality, at least judged by class size. Local area colleges and tuition were also non-factors. And so were local labor markets
  • But here's what we know does matter.
  • 1. Race. The researchers found that the larger the black population, the lower the upward mobility. But this isn't actually a black-white issue. It's a rich-poor one.
  • 2. Segregation. Something like the poor being isolated—isolated from good jobs and good schools. See, the more black people a place has, the more divided it tends to be along racial and economic lines.
  • That leaves the poor in the ghetto
  • So it should be no surprise that the researchers found that racial segregation, income segregation, and sprawl are all strongly negatively correlated with upward mobility.
  • 3. Social Capital. Living around the middle class doesn't just bring better jobs and schools (which help, but probably aren't enough). It brings better institutions too.
  • 4. Inequality. The 1 percent are different from you and me—they have so much more money that they live in a different world.
  • it doesn't hurt your chances of making it into the top 80 to 99 percent if the super-rich get even richer.
  • But inequality does matter within the bottom 99 percent.
  • It makes intuitive sense: it's easier to jump from the bottom near the top if you don't have to jump as far. The top 1 percent are just so high now that it doesn't matter how much higher they go; almost nobody can reach them.
  • 5. Family Structure. Forget race, forget jobs, forget schools, forget churches, forget neighborhoods, and forget the top 1—or maybe 10—percent. Nothing matters more for moving up than who raises you.
  • Or, in econospeak, nothing correlates with upward mobility more than the number of single parents, divorcees, and married couples. The cliché is true: Kids do best in stable, two-parent homes.
  • It's not clear what, if any, policy lessons we should take from this truism.
  • we don't really have any idea how to promote marriage.
  • Flat mobility is the defining Rorschach test of our time. Conservatives look at it, and say, see, we shouldn't worry about the top 1 percent, because they're not making the American Dream any harder to achieve. But liberals look at it, and say see, we should care about inequality, because it can make the American Dream harder to achieve—and it raises the stakes if you don't.
  • The American Dream is alive in Denmark and Finland and Sweden. And in San Jose and Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh.
  • But it's dead in Atlanta and Raleigh and Charlotte. And in Indianapolis and Detroit and Jacksonville.
  • Fixing that isn't just about redistribution. It's about building denser cities, so the poor aren't so segregated. About good schools that you don't have to live in the right (and expensive) neighborhood to attend. And about ending a destructive drug war that imprisons and blights the job prospects of far too many non-violent offenders—further shrinking the pool of "marriageable" men.
  •  
    "The top 1 percent aren't killing the American Dream. Something else is-if you live in the wrong place.

    Here's what we know. The rich are getting richer, but according to a blockbuster new study that hasn't made it harder for the poor to become rich. The good news is that people at the bottom are just as likely to move up the income ladder today as they were 50 years ago. But the bad news is that people at the bottom are just as likely to move up the income ladder today as they were 50 years ago."
Matt Warren

A New Thermodynamics Theory of the Origin of Life - 1 views

  • From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.
  • Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity.
  • “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.
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  • “I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”
  • The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.
  • His idea, detailed in a recent paper and further elaborated in a talk he is delivering at universities around the world, has sparked controversy among his colleagues, who see it as either tenuous or a potential breakthrough, or both.
  • Eugene Shakhnovich, a professor of chemistry, chemical biology and biophysics at Harvard University, are not convinced. “Jeremy’s ideas are interesting and potentially promising, but at this point are extremely speculative, especially as applied to life phenomena,” Shakhnovich said.
  • England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab.
  • “He’s trying something radically different,” said Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard who is contemplating such an experiment after learning about England’s work. “As an organizing lens, I think he has a fabulous idea. Right or wrong, it’s going to be very much worth the investigation.”
  • At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the “arrow of time.”
  • Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses.
  • It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated.
  • cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example. As long as the cup and the room are left alone, this process is irreversible. The coffee never spontaneously heats up again because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against so much of the room’s energy randomly concentrating in its atoms.
  • A plant, for example, absorbs extremely energetic sunlight, uses it to build sugars, and ejects infrared light, a much less concentrated form of energy. The overall entropy of the universe increases during photosynthesis as the sunlight dissipates, even as the plant prevents itself from decaying by maintaining an orderly internal structure.
  • Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place.
  • In Schrödinger’s day, they could solve the equations of thermodynamics only for closed systems in equilibrium.
  • Jarzynski and Crooks showed that the entropy produced by a thermodynamic process, such as the cooling of a cup of coffee, corresponds to a simple ratio: the probability that the atoms will undergo that process divided by their probability of undergoing the reverse process (that is, spontaneously interacting in such a way that the coffee warms up).
  • Using Jarzynski and Crooks’ formulation, he derived a generalization of the second law of thermodynamics that holds for systems of particles with certain characteristics: The systems are strongly driven by an external energy source such as an electromagnetic wave, and they can dump heat into a surrounding bath.
  • This class of systems includes all living things.
  • Having an overarching principle of life and evolution would give researchers a broader perspective on the emergence of structure and function in living things, many of the researchers said. “Natural selection doesn’t explain certain characteristics,” said Ard Louis, a biophysicist at Oxford University, in an email. These characteristics include a heritable change to gene expression called methylation, increases in complexity in the absence of natural selection, and certain molecular changes Louis has recently studied.
  • If England’s approach stands up to more testing, it could further liberate biologists from seeking a Darwinian explanation for every adaptation and allow them to think more generally in terms of dissipation-driven organization.
  • They might find, for example, that “the reason that an organism shows characteristic X rather than Y may not be because X is more fit than Y, but because physical constraints make it easier for X to evolve than for Y to evolve,” Louis said.
  •  
    Why does life exist?

    Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and "should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill."
Matt Warren

I Had a Middle Class Job and I Still Ended Up on Food Stamps at 60 - 1 views

  • Both my parents were children of the Great Depression, both knew hunger -- the real, not-having-food-for-several-days kind of hunger. Both knew disappointment. My father had to turn down a scholarship to Notre Dame to work alongside his father, delivering coal to the wealthy. Neither of my parents ever caught a break. Every time an illness or disaster would set them back, they would work that much harder to make my life and those of my four siblings better. We didn't have much, hand-me-downs and second-hand everything. But unlike our parents, we never went hungry. After all, this is America, they would tell us, and your life is not dictated by the circumstances of your birth.
  • Looking back I could have survived the stroke or the recession, but not both. Last summer the bank began foreclosure on my home of 30 years, forcing me to file chapter 13 bankruptcy to save it. After 44 years of working full-time as a contributing middle-class citizen, I find myself embarrassed and ashamed that I now earn well below the poverty line and that I am close to losing everything.
  • The thing is, I did everything right. I worked hard all my life. I saved when I could. I educated myself. I didn't live above my means. I started my business with enough capital, had a viable business model and planned for the unexpected. But I never considered a one-two punch of a medical crisis followed by a global financial collapse.

    As a result of the stroke, I have changed. I am angry at myself for not taking better care of my health. I am angry that I am dizzy and my balance is now a conscience act. I am angry that the side of my face always buzzes. And I am tired of being angry.

  •  
    Humbling.

    "On December 23, 2013 two days before my 60th birthday, I swallowed a stomach full of pride and walked into the Department of Social Services to ask for help. It is something I never imagined I would do. I am ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who thought it would always be someone else, someone worse off who just didn't or couldn't work hard enough, who would need that type of assistance. I was wrong, because I am the new working poor."
Matt Warren

Tech startups: A Cambrian moment | The Economist - 1 views

  • Digital startups are bubbling up in an astonishing variety of services and products, penetrating every nook and cranny of the economy. They are reshaping entire industries and even changing the very notion of the firm. “Software is eating the world,” says Marc Andreessen, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.
  • “Anyone who writes code can become an entrepreneur—anywhere in the world,” says Simon Levene, a venture capitalist in London.

    Here we go again, you may think: yet another dotcom bubble that is bound to pop. Indeed, the number of pure software startups may have peaked already. And many new offerings are simply iterations on existing ones.

  • The danger is that once again too much money is being pumped into startups, warns Mr Andreessen, who as co-founder of Netscape saw the bubble from close by: “When things popped last time it took ten years to reset the psychology.” And even without another internet bust, more than 90% of startups will crash and burn.
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  • But this time is also different, in an important way. Today’s entrepreneurial boom is based on more solid foundations than the 1990s internet bubble, which makes it more likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • One explanation for the Cambrian explosion of 540m years ago is that at that time the basic building blocks of life had just been perfected, allowing more complex organisms to be assembled more rapidly. Similarly, the basic building blocks for digital services and products—the “technologies of startup production”, in the words of Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School—have become so evolved, cheap and ubiquitous that they can be easily combined and recombined.
  • Some will work out, many will not. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, calls this “combinatorial innovation”. In a way, these startups are doing what humans have always done: apply known techniques to new problems.
  • Economic and social shifts have provided added momentum for startups. The prolonged economic crisis that began in 2008 has caused many millennials—people born since the early 1980s—to abandon hope of finding a conventional job, so it makes sense for them to strike out on their own or join a startup.
  • startups are a big part of a new movement back to the city.
  • In essence, software (which is at the heart of these startups) is eating away at the structures established in the analogue age. LinkedIn, a social network, for instance, has fundamentally changed the recruitment business. Airbnb, a website on which private owners offer rooms and flats for short-term rent, is disrupting the hotel industry. And Uber, a service that connects would-be passengers with drivers, is doing the same for the taxi business.
  • It is a story of technological change creating a set of new institutions which governments around the world are increasingly supporting.
  • Startups run on hype; things are always “awesome” and people “super-excited”. But this world has its dark side as well. Failure can be devastating. Being an entrepreneur often means having no private life, getting little sleep and living on noodles, which may be one reason why few women are interested. More ominously, startups may destroy more jobs than they create, at least in the shorter term.
  • Yet this report will argue that the world of startups today offers a preview of how large swathes of the economy will be organised tomorrow. The prevailing model will be platforms with small, innovative firms operating on top of them. This pattern is already emerging in such sectors as banking, telecommunications, electricity and even government. As Archimedes, the leading scientist of classical antiquity, once said: “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”
  •  
    "Cheap and ubiquitous building blocks for digital products and services have caused an explosion in startups. Ludwig Siegele weighs its significance"
Matt Warren

Technology and jobs: Coming to an office near you - 0 views

  •  
    "INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were."
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