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Matt Warren

Coming to Terms With the American Empire | Stratfor - 1 views

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    ""Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences."
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    We are always the underdogs and greatest.
Matt Warren

Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal - 0 views

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    "When a group of weary diplomats announced a framework for an Iranian nuclear accord last week in Lausanne, there was one diplomat in the mix whose feigned enthusiasm was hard to miss. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left the talks at their most critical point March 30, much to the annoyance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who apparently had to call him personally to persuade him to return. Even as Lavrov spoke positively to journalists about the negotiations throughout the week, he still seemed to have better things to do than pull all-nighters for a deal that effectively gives the United States one less problem to worry about in the Middle East and a greater capacity to focus on the Russian periphery."
Matt Warren

The Paradox of America's Electoral Reform - 0 views

  • This election process matters to the world for two reasons.
  • First, the world's only global power will be increasingly self-absorbed
  • The United States sees itself as the City on the Hill, an example to the world. But along with any redemptive sensibility comes its counterpart: the apocalyptic.
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  • Likely an archaic institution, the Electoral College still represents the founders' fear of the passions of the people — both the intensity of some, and the indifference of others.
  • They had two visions: that representatives would make the law, and that these representatives would not have politics as a profession.
  • The founders saw civil society — business, farms, churches and so on — as ultimately more important than the state, and they saw excessive political passion as misplaced.
  • First, it took away from the private pursuits they so valued, and it tended to make political life more important than it should be.
  • Second, they feared that ordinary men (women were excluded) might be elected as representatives at various levels.
  • They tried to shape representative democracy with standards they considered prudent — paralleling the values of their own social class, where private pursuits predominated and public affairs were a burdensome duty.
  • Of course it was the founders who created political parties soon after the founding. The property requirements dissolved fairly quickly, the idea that state houses would elect senators went away, and the ideological passions and love of scandal emerged. 
  • Political parties were organized state by state, and within state by counties and cities. These parties emerged with two roles.
  • The first was to generate and offer potential leaders for election at all levels.
  • The second was to serve as a means of mediation between the public — for multiple classes, from the wealthy to the poor — and the state.
  • The party bosses did not have visions of redemption or apocalypse. They were what the founders didn't want: professional politicians, not necessarily holding office themselves but overseeing the selection of those who would.
  • This was a system made for corruption, of course, and it violated the founders' vision, but it also fulfilled that vision in a way. The party bosses' power resided in building coalitions that they could serve.
  • The system was corrupt, but it produced leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as some less illustrious people.
  • Starting in 1972, following Richard Nixon's presidency, the United States shifted away from a system of political bosses. This was achieved by broadly expanding primaries at all levels. Rather than bosses selecting candidates and controlling them, direct democratic elections were used for candidate selection. Since the bosses didn't select candidates, the candidates were beholden to the voters rather than the bosses. Each election year, the voters would select the candidates and then select the officeholder. Over time, the power of the political machine was broken and replaced by a series of elections. The founders did not want this level of democracy, but neither did they explicitly want the party boss.
  • This change had two unanticipated consequences.
  • The first was that the importance of money in the political process surged.
  • Corruption moved from favors for bosses to special treatment of fundraisers, but it was still there.
  • Reformers tried to limit the amount of money that could be contributed, but they ignored two facts.
  • First, a primary system for the presidency is fiendishly expensive simply because delivering the message to the public in 50 states costs a fortune. Second, given the stakes, the desire to influence government is difficult to curb.
  • The second unintended consequence was that it institutionalized political polarization.
  • The founders designed politics to be less important than private life, and in the competition on Election Tuesday, private life tends to win, particularly in off-year elections and primaries.
  • in the primaries, only two types of candidates win. One is the extremely well funded — and the passion of the wings make funding for them even more important. The other is the ideologically committed.
  • All of this applies equally to elections to the House and Senate. It has been said that there has never been less bipartisanship than there is now. I don't know if that is true, but it is certainly the case that the penalties for collaboration with the other party, or for moving to the center, are extremely high.
  • This is not meant to romanticize the bosses. We are, on the whole, better off without them, and we can't resurrect them. I am trying to explain why our elections have become so long, why they cost so much money, and why the wings of the parties get to define agendas and legislative and executive behavior.
  • Geopolitics, as Stratfor uses the concept, argues that the wishes and idiosyncrasies of individual leaders make little difference in the long run. This is because leaders are constrained by global realities. It is also because internal political processes define what must be done to take and hold power. Those internal political processes have their own origins in impersonal forces.
  • There has been a long struggle between the founders' vision of how politics should work and the reality of the process.
  • The American Republic was invented and it is continually being reinvented on the same basic theme. Each reform creates a new form of corruption and a new challenge for governance. In the end, everyone is trapped by reality, but it is taking longer and longer to enter that trap.
  • The political parties emerged against the founders' intentions, because political organization beyond the elite followed from the logic of the government. The rise of political bosses followed from the system, and simultaneously stabilized and corrupted it. The post-Watergate reforms changed the nature of the corruption but also changed the texture of political life. The latter is the issue with which the United States is now struggling.
  • The problem endemic in American culture is the will to reform. It is both the virtue and vice of the U.S. government. It has geopolitical consequences.
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    "We are now in the early phases of selecting the president of the United States. Vast amounts of money are being raised, plans are being laid, opposition research is underway and the first significant scandal has broken with the discovery that Hillary Clinton used a non-government email account for government business. Ahead of us is an extended series of primaries, followed by an election and perhaps a dispute over some aspect of the election. In the United States, the presidential election process takes about two years, particularly when the sitting president cannot run for re-election."
Matt Warren

The Top Five Events in 2014 - 0 views

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    "'Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014."
Matt Warren

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East - 0 views

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    "Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can't be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue."
Matt Warren

Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas - 0 views

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    "The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll - of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived."
Matt Warren

Seeking the Future of Europe in the Ancient Hanseatic League - 0 views

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    "A bargain, forged in the fires of 2012's economic emergency, has defined the European Union for the past two years. It was an agreement made between two sides that can be defined in several terms - the center and the periphery, the north and the south, the producers and the consumers - but essentially one side, led by Germany, provided finance, while the other, fronted by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, promised change. In order to gauge this arrangement's chances of ultimately succeeding, it is important to understand what Germany was hoping to achieve with its conditional financing. The answer to that question lies in Germany's own history. "
Matt Warren

Judgment and decision-making: brain activity indicates there is more than meets the eye - 0 views

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    "People make immediate judgments about images they are shown, which could impact on their decisions, even before their brains have had time to consciously process the information, a study of brainwaves led by The University Of Melbourne has found."
Matt Warren

What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change - 0 views

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    "Twenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany's partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix."
Matt Warren

Traveling Through Multiple Europes - 0 views

  • The crisis is having an uneven effect on EU member states because the eurozone locks countries with different levels of economic development into the same currency union.
  • Europe's geography helps explain these differences: Countries in the south have traditionally dealt with high capital costs and low capital-generation capacity, while countries in the north have seen the opposite.
  • Merely moving people and goods from point to point on the Iberian Peninsula has always posed formidable challenges for governments and traders.
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  • In contrast, most of Germany is flat.
  • The lack of any real physical borders to the east and west also helps explain Germany's historical conflict with its neighbors.
  • The same geography that made Germany a place of conflict also explains its economic power: Germany is the center of Europe from almost every possible point of view.
  • Greece is a rugged country with narrow coastal plains that swiftly give way to mountains.
  • Greece's extremely fragmented geography and its strategic position on the eastern Mediterranean helps explain why it has struggled throughout history to get anything done.
  • Whenever I'm in a foreign country, I make an effort to visit bookstores because the books people read and write offer insights into the social mood.
  • In an Oporto bookstore, among the bestsellers was a book called We Are Not Germans, while a Rome bookstore had a book called It's Not Worth a Lira, a plea to leave the euro and return to Italy's old currency, that appeared to be quite popular.
  • Germany is seen as a country where everything works and governments are efficient. On the other hand, it is also seen as a hegemon that doesn't understand or care about the situation in the nations it is trying to lead.
  • While conservative forces are moving to the right and nationalist forces are gaining strength, the center-left is going through an identity crisis that is generating frictions within the parties and confusing their traditional voters
  • The irony is that the same process that is creating political and social tensions in Europe's core is helping to mitigate the negative effects of a demographic change.
  • Poland was a country confident about its economic strength but worried about its future. History has given the Poles a deep understanding of geopolitics and too many reasons to be worried about the events beyond their borders.
  • The Poles are proud of being members of the European Union, but they are not completely confident that Brussels will come to their rescue should the crisis with Russia escalate.
  • . The crisis has now reached a point where its two main players are under extreme pressure. Germany joined the eurozone under the assumption that no bailouts would be given to nations in distress and no monetization of debt would take place. France joined the eurozone under the assumption that it would remain the political leader of Europe. The crisis has put all the promises and agreements that supported the Franco-German unity in doubt.
  • Europeanists believe that things would be much better if the European Union became a true federation. They are probably right. The question is how to accomplish this.
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    "Europe is overcrowded with people and with nations. Six decades ago, the need to suppress the dangerous forces of nationalism led to the unprecedented political, economic and social experiment now known as the European Union."
Matt Warren

Soda May Age You as Much as Smoking, Study Says | TIME - 0 views

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    "Nobody would mistake sugary soda for a health food, but a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health just found that a daily soda habit can age your immune cells almost two years."
Matt Warren

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State - 0 views

  • This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements -- from Spain's Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq's ethnic Kurds -- are working in different directions.
  • in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity -- the status of Tibet -- is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment.
  • More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.
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  • The very existence of the Tibetan issue bespeaks several overlapping themes of Chinese geopolitics. Most fundamentally, it must be understood in the context of China's struggle to integrate and extend control over the often impassable but strategically significant borderlands militarily and demographically.
  • Perhaps no borderland is as fraught with as much consequence as Tibet under China's contemporary geopolitical circumstances. The Tibetan Plateau and its environs constitute roughly one-quarter of the Chinese landmass and are a major source of freshwater for China, the Indian subcontinent and mainland Southeast Asia.
  • Starting in the 7th century, China made sporadic attempts to extend its reach into the Tibetan Plateau, but it wasn't until the Qing dynasty that the empire made a substantial effort to gain authority over Tibetan cultural and social structures through control of Tibetan Buddhist institutions.
  • It is the Dalai Lama who represents the Tibetan identity in foreign capitals and holds a fractious Tibetan movement together, holding sway over both indigenous Tibetans in the homeland and the old and new generations of Tibetan exiles.
  • Under the People's Republic, China has some of the clearest physical control and central authority over one of the largest and most secure states in China's dynastic history.
  • Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama's international prestige exposed the central power in Beijing to numerous international critics. Moreover, it offered New Delhi an opportunity to exploit Beijing's concerns by hosting the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
  • Beijing's strategy has been to try to undermine the Dalai Lama's international prestige, constrain interaction between the exile community and Tibetans at home and hope that when the spiritual leader dies, the absence of his strong personality will leave the Tibetan movement without a center and without someone who can draw the international attention the Dalai Lama does.
  • Central to Beijing's calculation is interference in the succession process whereby Beijing claims the right to designate the Dalai Lama's religious successor and, in doing so, exploit sectarian and factional divisions within Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Beijing insists the reincarnation process must follow the Tibetan religious tradition since the Qing dynasty, meaning that it must occur within Tibetan territory and with the central government's endorsement, a process that highlights Tibet's position as a part of China, not an independent entity.
    • Matt Warren
       
      The devil in the details.
  • the Dalai Lama has discussed the potential for succession through emanation rather than reincarnation. This would place his knowledge and authority in several individuals, each with a part of his spiritual legacy, but none as the single heir.
  • More concretely, the Dalai Lama has split the role of spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetan movement, nominally giving up the latter while retaining the former.
  • In doing so, he is attempting to create a sense of continuity to the Tibetan movement even though his spiritual successor has not been identified. However, it also separates the Dalai Lama from any Tibetan political movement, theoretically making it easier for the spiritual leader and Beijing to come to an accord about his possible return as a spiritual -- but not political -- leader.
  • But the maneuvering by the Dalai Lama reflects a deeper reality. The Tibetan movement is not homogenous. Tibetan Buddhism has several schools that remain in fragile coordination out of respect for the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan political movement is also fragmented, with the younger foreign-born Tibetans often more strongly pressing for independence for Tibet, while the older exiles take a more moderate tone and call for more autonomy. The peaceful path promoted by the Dalai Lama is respected, but not guaranteed forever, by the younger and more radical elements of the Tibetan movement, which have only temporarily renounced the use of violence to achieve their political goals.
  • At a minimum, the spiritual leader's fame means no successor will be able to exercise the same degree of influence or maintain internal coherence as he has done.
  • both Beijing and the Dalai Lama -- and by extension his mainstream followers -- understand how little time they have and how, without a resolution, the uncertainties surrounding the Tibet issue could become permanent after the spiritual leader's death.
  • Of course, many uncertainties surround the return of the Dalai Lama; it is even uncertain whether it could happen at all. Indeed, overcoming 55 years of hostile relations takes enormous effort, and even if the Dalai Lama is allowed to return to Tibet, it is only one of several steps in much broader negotiations between Beijing and the Tibetan exile community over how to reach a resolution, including the possible resettlement of 200,000 Tibetans in exile, the status of the government-in-exile, the authority of the Dalai Lama and, ultimately, the succession process for the spiritual leader.
  • Perhaps more important, even if there were signs of a resolution developing, the succession issue is likely to be a roadblock. Beijing is unlikely to give any concession in its authority to appoint a reincarnated spiritual leader, and the Dalai Lama shows little intention of allowing Beijing's unilateral move.
  • Again illustrating how an individual can play a role in geopolitics, the potential for reconciliation between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could affect the balance between China and India.
  • China has long viewed India's decision to host the Tibetan government-in-exile as a hostile gesture. However, India's ability to exploit China's concerns about Tibet has diminished along with the government-in-exile's influence and claim to represent Tibet as a legitimate entity.
  • a settlement would not eliminate the underlying geopolitical rivalry between India and China on other fronts -- from their 4,000-kilometer land border to the maritime competitions in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea and their competition for energy and other resources.
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    ""Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China's classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China's would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history -- but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity."
Matt Warren

Turkey Must Tread Carefully Against Islamic State - 0 views

  • Rumors have long circulated that Turkey has been aiding Islamic State fighters.
  • Turkey's dealings with the Islamic State are much more nuanced than has generally been understood. Last year in July, Stratfor shed light on this dynamic, analyzing how the Turks were caught between two very threatening realities — both demanding simultaneous management — on their southern flank: jihadists of various stripes and Syrian Kurdish separatists.
  • Turkey is all too aware of how Pakistan even today, nearly two generations after it agreed to serve as the staging ground for the U.S.-led effort to counter Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, continues to deal with the fallout of that war, which has not yet ended.
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  • From the Turks' viewpoint, the Americans and their Western and regional allies (with the exception of Jordan) all have the option of walking away from the conflict in Syria.

  • Not only does Turkey feel that it will have to deal with the mess in Syria long after other stakeholders have moved on, it also knows that the United States expects Turkey to manage the Syrians as well as other regional matters.
  • Turkey has not forgotten how, during the days of President Turgut Ozal, Ankara cut Iraq's export pipeline in 1990 at the behest of the United States in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War but was later left with the aftermath as promises of aid disappeared with the subsequent change of U.S. administrations.
  • This bitter experience informed Turkey's 2003 decision to refuse Washington access to Turkish territory for a northern invasion of Iraq. At the same time Turkey is deeply worried about being caught between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are engaged in a vicious proxy sectarian war.
  • But in the real world, not only does the Islamic State exist, it is actually in competition with Turkey for influence among the Sunni Arabs to the south of the Turkish Republic.
  • Al-Hashimi is also very close to Turkey's main Arab partner, Qatar. Al-Hashimi periodically frequents Doha, which has significant influence among a range of jihadist groups and very likely played a key role in the release of the diplomats, which happened just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Qatar.
  • Clearly Erdogan is not worried about any fallout from a prisoner exchange, especially since the United States recently released five high-profile Afghan Taliban detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for an American soldier, a deal also mediated by Qatar.
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    "As the United States begins its full assault against the Islamic State in Syria, backed by Arab allies, the absence of NATO ally Turkey is drawing attention and comment. Just days before the Sept. 22 beginning of U.S. airstrikes, Turkey managed to broker a deal with the Islamic State to return 49 diplomats held in Iraq for 101 days. Contrary to diplomatic and media speculation, however, Turkey is not supporting the transnational, Syria- and Iraq-based jihadist movement known as the Islamic State."
Matt Warren

The atheist libertarian lie: Ayn Rand, income inequality and the fantasy of the "free m... - 0 views

  • To believe that markets operate and exist in a state of nature is, in itself, to believe in the supernatural.
  • According to the American Values Survey, a mere 7 percent of Americans identify as “consistently libertarian.” Compared to the general population, libertarians are significantly more likely to be white (94 percent), young (62 percent under 50) and male (68 percent). You know, almost identical to the demographic makeup of atheists – white (95 percent), young (65 percent under 50) and male (67 percent). So there’s your first clue.
  • Your second clue is that atheist libertarians are skeptical of government authority in the same way they’re skeptical of religion.
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  • In their mind, the state and the pope are interchangeable, which partly explains the libertarian atheist’s guttural gag reflex to what they perceive as government interference with the natural order of things, especially “free markets.”
  • Robert Reich says that one of the most deceptive ideas embraced by the Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian movement is that the free market is natural, and exists outside and beyond government. In other words, the “free market” is a constructed supernatural myth.
  • “Statutes, passed by the government, allow for the creation of corporations, and anyone wishing to form one must fill out the necessary government paperwork and utilize the apparatus of the state in numerous ways. Thus, the corporate entity is by definition a government-created obstruction to the free marketplace, so the entire concept should be appalling to libertarians,”
  • Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them.
  • “In reality, the ‘free market’ is a bunch of rules about 1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); 2) on what terms (equal access to the Internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections?); 3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?); 4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); 5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.”
  • Atheists are skeptics, but atheist libertarians evidently check their skepticism at the door when it comes to corporate power and the self-regulatory willingness of corporations to act in the interests of the common good.
  • Corporations pollute, lie, steal, oppress, manipulate and deceive, all in the name of maximizing profit. Corporations have no interest for the common good.
  • In the 1970s, consumer protection advocate Ralph Nader became famous for helping protect car owners from the unsafe practices of the auto industry. Corporate America, in turn, went out of its way in a coordinated effort, led by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, to destroy Nader.
  • The documentary “Unreasonable Man” demonstrates how corporate CEOs of America’s biggest corporations had Nader followed in an attempt to discredit and blackmail him. General Motors went so far as to send an attractive lady to his local supermarket in an effort to meet him, and seduce him. That’s how much corporate America was fearful of having to implement pesky and costly measures designed to protect the well-being of their customers.
  • Today America is the most income unequal among all developed nations, and we find ourselves here today not because of government regulation or interference, but a lack thereof.
  • The unilateral control that Wall Street and mega-corporations have over economic policy is now extreme, and our corporate overlords have seen to the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich in U.S. history, while corporations contribute their lowest share of total federal tax revenue ever.
  • By every measure, Australians, Scandinavians, Canadians, Germans and the Dutch are happier and more economically secure. The U.N. World Development Fund, the U.N. World Happiness Index and the Social Progress Index contain the empirical evidence atheist libertarians  should seek, and the results are conclusive: People are happier, healthier and more socially mobile where the size of the state is bigger, and taxes and regulations on corporations are greater. You know, the opposite of the libertarian dream that would turn America into a deeper nightmare.
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    "Atheist libertarians pose as skeptics -- except when it comes to free markets and the nature of corporate power"
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    If Ayn Rand hadn't existed, the corporations would have found it necessary to invent her...
Matt Warren

Scotland's Independence Vote Shows a Global Crisis of the Elites - 0 views

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    "It is a crisis of the elites. Scotland's push for independence is driven by a conviction - one not ungrounded in reality - that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time."
Matt Warren

The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum - 0 views

  • the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability.
  • In many ways, this union was a pivot of world history. To realize it might be dissolved is startling and reveals important things about the direction of the world.
  • Scotland and England are historical enemies. Their sense of competing nationhoods stretches back centuries, and their occupation of the same island has caused them to fight many wars. Historically they have distrusted each other, and each has given the other good reason for the distrust.
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  • The British were deeply concerned that foreign powers, particularly France, would use Scotland as a base for attacking England. The Scots were afraid that the English desire to prevent this would result in the exploitation of Scotland by England, and perhaps the extinction of the Scottish nation.
  • From an outsider's perspective, Scotland and England were charming variations on a single national theme -- the British -- and it was not necessary to consider them as two nations.
  • We need a deeper intellectual framework for understanding why Scottish nationalism has persisted.
  • The French Enlightenment and subsequent revolution had elevated the nation to the moral center of the world. It was a rebellion against the transnational dynasties and fragments of nations that had governed much of Europe.
  • After the French Revolution, some nations, such as Germany and Italy, united into nation-states.
  • After World War I, when the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanov and Ottoman empires all collapsed
  • A second major wave of devolution occurred in 1992, when the Soviet Union collapsed
  • The doctrine of the right to national self-determination drove the first wave of revolts against European imperialism in the Western Hemisphere, creating republics in the Americas.
  • The second wave of colonial rising and European withdrawal occurred after World War II.
  • the entire world could not resist the compulsion to embrace the principles of national self-determination through republican democracy. This effectively was codified as the global gold standard of national morality in the charters of the League of Nations and then the United Nations.
  • The incredible power of the nation-state as a moral principle and right could be only imperfectly imposed. No nation was pure. Each had fragments and minorities of other nations. In many cases, they lived with each other. In other cases, the majority tried to expel or even destroy the minority nation. In yet other cases, the minority demanded independence and the right to form its own nation-state. These conflicts were not only internal; they also caused external conflict over the right of a particular nation to exist or over the precise borders separating the nations.
  • After the war, a principle emerged in Europe that the borders as they stood, however imperfect, were not to be challenged. The goal was to abolish one of the primary causes of war in Europe.
  • The point of all this is to understand that the right to national self-determination comes from deep within European principles and that it has been pursued with an intensity and even viciousness that has torn Europe apart and redrawn its borders.
  • One of the reasons that the European Union exists is to formally abolish these wars of national self-determination by attempting to create a framework that both protects and trivializes the nation-state.
  • The possibility of Scottish independence must be understood in this context.
  • Nationalism, the remembrance and love of history and culture, is not a trivial thing. It has driven Europe and even the world for more than two centuries in ever-increasing waves. The upcoming Scottish election, whichever way it goes, demonstrates the enormous power of the desire for national self-determination. If it can corrode the British union, it can corrode anything.
  • There are those who argue that Scottish independence could lead to economic problems or complicate the management of national defense. These are not trivial questions, but they are not what is at stake here.
  • At best, the economic benefits are uncertain. But this is why any theory of human behavior that assumes that the singular purpose of humans is to maximize economic benefits is wrong.
  • Humans have other motivations that are incomprehensible to the economic model but can be empirically demonstrated to be powerful.
  • If this referendum succeeds, it will still show that after more than 300 years, almost half of Scots prefer economic uncertainty to union with a foreign nation.
  • This is something that must be considered carefully in a continent that is prone to extreme conflicts and still full of borders that do not map to nations as they are understood historically.
  • The right to national self-determination is not simply about the nation governing itself but also about the right of the nation to occupy its traditional geography. And since historical memories of geography vary, the possibility of conflict grows.
  • Consider Ireland: After its fight for independence from England and then Britain, the right to Northern Ireland, whose national identity depended on whose memory was viewing it, resulted in bloody warfare for decades.
  • England will be vulnerable in ways that it hasn't been for three centuries.
  • This is not an argument for or against Scottish nationhood. It is simply drawing attention to the enormous power of nationalism in Europe in particular, and in countries colonized by Europeans.
  • the idea that Scotland recalls its past and wants to resurrect it is a stunning testimony less to Scottish history than to the Enlightenment's turning national rights into a moral imperative that cannot be suppressed.
  • At a time when the European Union's economic crisis is intense, challenging European institutions and principles, the dissolution of the British union would legitimize national claims that have been buried for decades.
  • But then we have to remember that Scotland was buried in Britain for centuries and has resurrected itself. This raises the question of how confident any of us can be that national claims buried for only decades are settled.
  • For centuries, nationalism has trumped economic issues. The model of economic man may be an ideal to some, but it is empirically false.
  • I think that however the vote goes, unless the nationalists are surprised by an overwhelming defeat, the genie is out of the bottle, and not merely in Britain. The referendum will re-legitimize questions that have caused much strife throughout the European continent for centuries, including the 31-year war of the 20th century that left 80 million dead.
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    "The idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability."
Matt Warren

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State - 0 views

  • It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted.
  • A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.
  • Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen.
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  • Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy.
  • The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.
  • A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him.
  • The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible.
  • For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.
  • This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power.
  • For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.
  • The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.
  • There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.
  • the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.
  • Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack.
  • In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.
  • Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power.
  • There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways.
  • In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges.
  • The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.
  • The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara.
  • The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.
  • It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins.
  • The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance.
  • The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.
  • It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue.
  • U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed.
  • In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.
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    "U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it."
Matt Warren

Urbanization and Demographics Could Skew China's Economic Rebalancing - 0 views

  • The added burdens facing small- and medium-sized cities, especially those located deep inside China that are sequestered from mainstream global trade, will be substantial and perhaps socially and politically destabilizing. 
  • In July, the Chinese government announced that a revision to the one-child policy had been implemented throughout the country's provinces and regions. The announcement of the revision, which allows couples in which either partner is an only child to have up to two children, heralded the end of the controversial policy.
  • Two decades ago, China's fertility rate fell below 2.1, the generally accepted population replacement rate. Since then, it has dropped to roughly 1.5 or, by some measures, as low as 1.4. These are comparable to fertility rates in Russia and Italy but well below those of the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and many other more advanced economies.
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  • The urbanization of the past two decades has altered the country's demographic balance rapidly and profoundly. The change has hastened the decline in fertility and population growth rates, particularly those of China's working-age population, as the size of the country's elderly population has risen.
  • If the government achieves its target, China's urban population will grow by more than 230 million between now and 2030, reaching approximately 975 million.
  • For China's leaders, further urbanization on a significant scale is not optional: It is imperative. China is in the early stages of an effort to rebalance toward an economic model grounded in robust domestic consumption and characterized by greater economic integration between, and equality across, its diverse regions.
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    "China's urban population may grow by as many as 230 million people in the next 15 years. But most growth will take place not in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing but in the myriad small- and medium-sized satellite cities around them. And as residents flock to these cities, China's working-age population will begin to decline, and its elderly population will grow dramatically."
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