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Javier E

Netherlands PM uses Britain's Brexit 'chaos' as cautionary tale | World news | The Guar... - 0 views

  • In a full-page advert in the Algemeen Dagblad, Rutte said he saw the Netherlands, “a country that isn’t perfect but where we do make progress”, as a “precious possession” that belonged to everyone but “was brittle … and can easily break”
  • He compared the country to “a fragile vase” held by its 17 million “ordinary and exceptional” citizens who “do not only want a good life for themselves and those around them, but also want to contribute to the happiness of others”.
  • Making sure the vase stays in one piece often requires “compromises … in which difficult problems are solved in a sensible way,” he said: “I almost never get my way. I water down my demands because I have a responsibility to keep that vase intact.”
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  • People who refuse to compromise and work together are “gripping the vase so tightly that it breaks”, Rutte, who has been prime minister since 2010, continued. There were examples of societies that have collectively “dropped the vase”, he said. “Look at Britain. There, the country’s politicians and people have forgotten what they have achieved together. And now they are caught up in chaos,” Rutte wrote.
  • Analysts have calculated a no-deal Brexit would knock 4.25% off Dutch GDP.
  • “If anyone in the Netherlands thinks Nexit is a good idea,” he said, “just look at England and see the enormous damage it does.”
  • he compared those stirring up division in the Netherlands to “screaming sideline football dads”. There were plenty in politics, he said, “shouting stuff into microphones because they know there will never be a majority for it, so they need never be responsible for the consequences”.
Javier E

'Vice' Review: Dick Cheney and the Negative Great Man Theory of History - The New York ... - 0 views

  • McKay, staying close to the historical record (and drawing on books by the journalists Jane Mayer and Barton Gellman), propounds a negative great man theory of history, telling the story of an individual who was able, through a unique combination of discipline, guile and luck, to bend reality to his will
  • The story of his rise, roller-coastering through four decades of American history, is a hectic blend of psychohistory, domestic drama and sketch-comedy satire bound together by McKay’s ingenuity and indignation. Like “The Big Short,” his rollicking explication of the financial crisis of 2008, this movie transforms gaudy pop-cultural toys into tools of polemic and explanation. The pace is jaunty, the scenes crackle with gleeful, giddy incredulity, and the dry business of statecraft attains the velocity of farce
  • “What do we believe in?” Dick asks his Yoda at one point, provoking a gale of laughter in response. The more substantive answers are torture, deceit and the all-but-unchecked power of the American presidency
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  • To the question “How did he do it?” McKay offers a fairly coherent answer, one grounded in Bale’s canny and sensitive performance. As biography, in other words, the movie works pretty well. As history, though, it’s another story — at once tendentious and undercooked, proposing a reductive, essentially conspiratorial account of recent events.
  • The motley pageantry of our politics — the endless arguments about race, class, religion, ideology, sex, region and heritage that have defined the republic since the beginning — boils down to a single personality. All you really need to know about the world today is that everything wrong with it is Dick Cheney’s fault.
  • How did he get away with it, though? The answer McKay supplies is that he was smart and the rest of us were too dumb and too distracted to stop him
Javier E

Opinion | Is There Such a Thing as an Authoritarian Voter? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Allen Strouse is not the archetypal Trump voter whom journalists discover in Rust Belt diners. He is a queer Catholic poet and scholar of medieval literature who teaches at the New School in New York City. He voted for Mr. Trump “as a protest against the Democrats’ failures on economic issues,” but the psychological dimensions of his vote intrigue him. “Having studied Freudian analysis, and being in therapy for 10 years, I couldn’t not reflexively ask myself, ‘How does this decision have to do with my psychology?’” he told me.
  • their preoccupation with childhood and “primitive and irrational wishes and fears” have influenced the study of authoritarianism ever since.
Javier E

GE Powered the American Century-Then It Burned Out - WSJ - 0 views

  • General Electric Co. GE -1.39% helped invent the world as we know it: wired up, plugged in and switched on. Born of Thomas Alva Edison’s ingenuity and John Pierpont Morgan’s audacity, GE built the dynamos that generated the electricity, the wires that carried it and the lightbulbs that burned it.
  • To keep the power and profits flowing day and night, GE connected neighborhoods with streetcars and cities with locomotives. It soon filled kitchens with ovens and toasters, living rooms with radios and TVs, bathrooms with curling irons and toothbrushes, and laundry rooms with washers and dryers.
  • He eliminated some 100,000 jobs in his early years as CEO and insisted that managers fire the bottom 10% of performers each year who failed to improve, in a process that became known as “rank and yank.” GE’s financial results were so eye-popping that the strategy was imitated throughout American business.
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  • The modern GE was built by Jack Welch, the youngest CEO and chairman in company history when he took over in 1981. He ran it for 20 years, becoming the rare CEO who was also a household name, praised for his strategic and operational mastery.
  • their most obvious problem. GE couldn’t live without GE Capital, still so big it was essentially the nation’s seventh largest bank. But investors couldn’t live with GE Capital and its unshakable shadow of risk, either.
  • it worked more like a collection of businesses under the protection of a giant bank. As the financial sector came to drive more of the U.S. economy, GE Capital, the company’s finance arm, powered more of the company’s growth. At its height, Capital accounted for more than half of GE’s profits. It rivaled the biggest banks in the country, competed with Wall Street for the brightest M.B.A.s and employed hundreds of bankers.
  • The industrial spine of the company gave GE a AAA credit rating that allowed it to borrow money inexpensively, giving it an advantage over banks, which relied on deposits. The cash flowed up to headquarters where it powered the development of new jet engines and dividends for shareholders.
  • Capital also gave General Electric’s chief executives a handy, deep bucket of financial spackle with which to smooth over the cracks in quarterly earnings reports and keep Wall Street happy
  • GE shares were trading at 40 times its earnings when Welch retired in 2001, more than double where it had historically. And much of those profits were coming from deep within Capital, not the company’s factories.
  • When the financial crisis hit, Capital fell back to earth, taking GE’s share price and Immelt with it. The stock closed as low as $6.66 in March 2009. General Electric was on the brink of collapse. The market for short-term loans, the lifeblood of GE Capital, had frozen, and there was little in the way of deposits to fall back on. The Federal Reserve stepped in to save it after an emergency plea from Immelt.
  • the near-death experience taught investors to think of GE like a bank, a stock always vulnerable to another financial collapse
  • At its peak, General Electric was the most valuable company in the U.S., worth nearly $600 billion in August 2000. That year, GE’s third of a million employees operated 150 factories in the U.S., and another 176 in 34 other countries. Its pension plan covered 485,000 people.
  • What if the GE Jack Welch built didn’t work any more?
  • Cracks in the performance of the company’s industrial lines—its power turbines, jet engines, locomotives and MRI machines—would now be plain to see, some executives worried, without Capital’s cash to help cover the weak quarters and pay the sacrosanct dividend
  • Most of the shortfall came from its service contracts, which should have been the source of the easiest profits. Instead, the heart of the industrial business was hollow. And its failure was about to tip the entire company into crisis.
  • Former colleagues compared him to Bill Clinton because of his magnetic ability to hold the focus of a room. He sounded like a leader. He was a natural salesman.
  • Immelt was so confident in GE’s managerial excellence that he projected a sunny vision for the company’s future that didn’t always match reality. He was aware of the challenges, but he wanted his people to feel like they were playing for a winning team. That often left Immelt, in the words of one GE insider, trying to market himself out of a math problem.
  • Alstom’s problems hadn’t gone away, but now its stock was cheaper, and Immelt saw the makings of a deal that fit perfectly with his vision for reshaping his company. GE would essentially swap Capital, the cash engine that no longer made sense, for a new one that could churn out profits each quarter in the reliable way that industrial companies were supposed to.
  • To the dismay of some involved, GE’s bid crept upward, from the €30 a share that the power division’s deal team already believed was too high, to roughly €34, or almost $47. Immelt and Kron met one-on-one, and the deal team realized the game was over. The principals had shaken hands.
  • The visions for the present and the future were both fundamentally flawed. As GE’s research department was preparing white papers heralding “The Age of Gas,” the world was entering a multiyear decline in the demand for new gas power plants and for the electricity that made them profitable.
  • When advisers determined that the concessions to get the deal approved might have grown costly enough to trigger a provision allowing GE to back out, some in the Power business quietly celebrated, confiding in one another that they assumed management would abandon the deal. But Immelt and his circle of closest advisers wanted it done. That included Steve Bolze, the man who ran it and hoped someday to run all of General Electric.
  • “Steve’s our guy,” McElhinney said in one meeting. If Bolze was elevated to CEO, those behind him in Power would rise too. “Get on board,” he said. “We have to make the numbers.”
  • Immelt, trapped in Welch’s long shadow, craved a bold move to shock his company out of the doldrums that had plagued his tenure. It was time for GE to be reinvented again.
  • In the dry language of accounting in which he was so fluent, Flannery was declaring a pillar of Immelt’s pivot had failed: GE had been sending money out the door to repurchase its stock and pay dividends but wasn’t bringing in enough from its regular operations to cover them. It wasn’t sustainable. Buybacks and dividends are generally paid out of leftover funds.
  • when GE spun off Genworth, there was a chunk of the business, long-term-care insurance, that lingered. Policies designed to cover expenses like nursing homes and assisted living had proved to be a disaster for insurers who had drastically underestimated the costs
  • The bankers didn’t think the long-term-care business could be part of the Genworth spinoff. To make the deal more attractive, GE agreed to cover any losses. This insurance for insurers covered about 300,000 policies by early 2018, about 4% of all such policies written in the country. Incoming premiums weren’t covering payouts.
  • Two months after Miller flagged the $3 billion, it was clear the problem was a great deal larger. GE was preparing for it to be more than $6 billion and needed to come up with $15 billion in reserves regulators required it to have to cover possible costs in the future. The figure was gigantic. By comparison, even after the recent cut, GE’s annual dividend cost $4 billion.
  • JP Morgan analyst Steve Tusa, who led the pack in arguing that GE was harboring serious problems, removed his sell rating on the stock this week. GE’s biggest skeptic still thinks the businesses are broken but the risks are now known. The stock climbed back above $7 on Thursday, but is down more than 50% for the year and nearly 90% from its 2000 zenith.
Javier E

Amazon Targets Unprofitable Items, With a Sharper Focus on the Bottom Line - WSJ - 0 views

  • it is having second thoughts about some of those sales because they don’t make money—and is pushing big brands to change how they use its site.
  • Inside Amazon, the items are known as CRaP, short for “Can’t Realize a Profit.” Think bottled beverages or snack foods
  • The products tend to be priced at $15 or less, are sold directly by Amazon, and are heavy or bulky and therefore costly to ship—characteristics that make for thin or nonexistent margins
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  • it has been eliminating unprofitable items and pressing manufacturers to change their packaging to better sell online
  • One example: bottled water from Coca-Cola Co. Amazon used to have a $6.99 six-pack of Smartwater as the default order
  • after working with Coca-Cola to change how it ships and sells the water, Amazon notified Dash customers it was changing that default item to a 24-pack for $37.20.
  • Amazon can get away with it because manufacturers of food and household products are hooked on the online retailer’s size—it accounts for a majority of total e-commerce revenue growth
  • For big consumer brands, not being on Amazon “is not an option anymore,”
  • Amazon also has greater leeway to curb CRaP items because of the rise of independent sellers on its site. They have added hundreds of millions of items, helping ensure that Amazon’s virtual shelves are stocked with the variety shoppers expect
  • those sales tend to be more profitable for Amazon, which typically collects a 15% cut plus fees for warehousing.
  • Amazon is trying to boost profitability in its core retail business after years of focusing on growth
  • That has meant selling smaller, lighter laundry products like detergent pods and skipping cheaper paper towels. Instead of promoting a three-pack of dish soap, Seventh Generation recently started advertising a 6-pack for $17.70, and it created a larger, 504-count package of baby wipes for $19.91 for sale on Amazon and elsewhere
Javier E

Opinion | Who Killed The Weekly Standard? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The closing of The Weekly Standard is being told as a Trump story, as all stories must be these days. The magazine has been critical of Trump, and so this is another example of the gradual hegemony of Trumpism over the conservative world. That is indeed the backdrop to what happened here.
  • But that’s not the whole story. In reality, this is what happens when corporate drones take over an opinion magazine, try to drag it down to their level and then grow angry and resentful when the people at the magazine try to maintain some sense of intellectual standards. This is what happens when people with a populist mind-set decide that an uneducated opinion is of the same value as an educated opinion, that ignorance sells better than learning.
  • In that sense, the closing of The Standard resembles Chris Hughes’s destruction of the old New Republic. This is what happens when the commercial forces trying to dumb down the American media run into a pocket of people trying to resist those forces
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  • The staff was never unanimous about anything. The many flavors of conservatism were hashed out in its pages. If it stood for anything, I would say it stood for this: that the good life consists of being an active citizen and caring passionately about politics; that it also consists of knowing something about Latin American fiction, ancient Greek culture and social impact of modern genetics; that it also consists of delighting in the latest good movies and TV shows, the best new cocktails and the casual pleasures of life.
Javier E

How Did the Republican Party Get So Corrupt? - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt? The reason is historical—it goes back many decades—and, in a way, philosophical. The party is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.
  • I don’t mean the kind of corruption that regularly sends lowlifes like Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic former governor of Illinois, to prison
  • And I don’t just mean that the Republican Party is led by the boss of a kleptocratic family business who presides over a scandal-ridden administration
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  • Richard Nixon’s administration was also riddled with criminality—but in 1973, the Republican Party of Hugh Scott, the Senate minority leader, and John Rhodes, the House minority leader, was still a normal organization. It played by the rules.
  • The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means.
  • Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.
  • Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results.
  • Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin, a purple state, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.
  • The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.
  • there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing
  • During this first insurgency, the abiding contours of the movement took shape.
  • The Republican Party we know is a product of the modern conservative movement, and that movement is a series of insurgencies against the established order.
  • The first insurgency was the nomination of Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. He campaigned as a rebel against the postwar American consensus and the soft middle of his own party’s leadership. Goldwater didn’t use the standard, reassuring lexicon of the big tent and the mainstream. At the San Francisco convention, he embraced extremism and denounced the Republican establishment, whose “moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
  • the political opposition wasn’t just wrong—it was a sinister conspiracy with totalitarian goals.
  • Republicans have chosen contraction and authoritarianism because, unlike the Democrats, their party isn’t a coalition of interests in search of a majority. Its character is ideological.
  • conservatives nursed a victim’s sense of grievance—the system was stacked against them, cabals of the powerful were determined to lock them out—and they showed more energetic interest than their opponents in the means of gaining power: mass media, new techniques of organizing, rhetoric, ideas.
  • The new leader is like his authoritarian counterparts abroad: illiberal, demagogic, hostile to institutional checks, demanding and receiving complete acquiescence from the party, and enmeshed in the financial corruption that is integral to the political corruption of these regimes.
  • modern conservatism would never stop flirting with hostility toward whole groups of Americans. And from the start this stance opened the movement to extreme, sometimes violent fellow travelers.
  • It took only 16 years, with the election of Ronald Reagan, for the movement and party to merge. During those years, conservatives hammered away at institutional structures, denouncing the established ones for their treacherous liberalism, and building alternatives, in the form of well-funded right-wing foundations, think tanks, business lobbies, legal groups, magazines, publishers, professorships. When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the products of this “counter-establishment” (from the title of Sidney Blumenthal’s book on the subject) were ready to take power.
  • But conservatism remained an insurgent politics during the 1980s and ’90s, and the more power it amassed—in government, business, law, media—the more it set itself against the fragile web of established norms and delighted in breaking them.
  • The second insurgency was led by Newt Gingrich
  • Gingrich liked to quote Mao’s definition of politics as “war without blood.” He made audiotapes that taught Republican candidates how to demonize the opposition with labels such as “disgrace,” “betray,” and  “traitors.” When he became speaker of the House, at the head of yet another revolution, Gingrich announced, “There will be no compromise.” How could there be, when he was leading a crusade to save American civilization from its liberal enemies?
  • Unlike Goldwater and Reagan, Gingrich never had any deeply felt ideology. It was hard to say exactly what “American civilization” meant to him. What he wanted was power, and what he most obviously enjoyed was smashing things to pieces in its pursuit. His insurgency started the conservative movement on the path to nihilism.
  • The party purged itself of most remaining moderates, growing ever-more shallow as it grew ever-more conservative
  • Jeff Flake, the outgoing senator from Arizona (whose conservative views come with a democratic temperament), describes this deterioration as “a race to the bottom to see who can be meaner and madder and crazier. It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.”
  • The viciousness doesn’t necessarily reside in the individual souls of Republican leaders. It flows from the party’s politics, which seeks to delegitimize opponents and institutions, purify the ranks through purges and coups, and agitate followers with visions of apocalypse—all in the name of an ideological cause that every year loses integrity as it becomes indistinguishable from power itself.
  • The third insurgency came in reaction to the election of Barack Obama—it was the Tea Party.
  • In the third insurgency, the features of the original movement surfaced again, more grotesque than ever: paranoia and conspiracy thinking; racism and other types of hostility toward entire groups; innuendos and incidents of violence.
  • Finally, the movement was founded in the politics of racism. Goldwater’s strongest support came from white southerners reacting against civil rights.
  • In fact, it took more than a half century to reach the point where faced with a choice between democracy and power, the party chose the latter.
  • Its leaders don’t see a dilemma—democratic principles turn out to be disposable tools, sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient. The higher cause is conservatism, but the highest is power. After Wisconsin Democrats swept statewide offices last month, Robin Vos, speaker of the assembly, explained why Republicans would have to get rid of the old rules: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”
  • As Bertolt Brecht wrote of East Germany’s ruling party: Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another?
Javier E

The Hard Truths of Trying to 'Save' the Rural Economy - The New York Times - 0 views

  • One thing seems clear to me: nobody — not experts or policymakers or people in these communities — seems to know quite how to pick rural America up.
  • States, municipalities and the federal government have spent billions to draw jobs and prosperity to stagnant rural areas. But they haven’t yet figured out how to hitch this vast swath of the country to the tech-heavy economy that is flourishing in America’s cities.
  • There are 1,888 counties in America in which more than half the population is rural, according to the Census Bureau, and they stretch from coast to coast.
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  • That’s more than agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining combined and second only to education, health care and social assistance, which includes teachers, doctors, nurses and social service counselors. Most of those jobs are government funded.
  • Overall, manufacturing employs about one in eight workers in the country’s 704 entirely rural counties.
  • After World War II, small town prosperity relied on its contribution to the industrial economy.
  • agglomeration, one of the most powerful forces shaping the American economy over the last three decades. Innovative companies choose to locate where other successful, innovative companies are.
  • Robots and workers in China put together most of the manufactured goods that Americans buy
  • and the high-tech industries powering the economy today don’t have much need for the cheap labor that rural communities contributed to America’s industrial past. They mostly need highly educated workers. They find those most easily in big cities, not in small towns.
  • In a report published in November, Mark Muro, William Galston and Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution laid out a portfolio of ideas to rescue the substantial swath of the country that they identify as “left behind.”
  • They identify critical shortages bedeviling declining communities: workers with digital skills, broadband connections, capital. And they have plans to address them: I.T. training and education initiatives, regulatory changes to boost lending to small businesses, incentives to invest in broadband.
  • even the authors concede that they may not be up to the task. “I don’t know if these ideas are going to work,” Mr. Galston acknowledged when I pressed him on the issue. “But it is worth making the effort.”
  • But factory jobs can no longer keep small-town America afloat. Even after a robust eight-year growth spell, there are fewer than 13 million workers in manufacturing across the entire economy
  • That’s where they can find lots of highly skilled workers. The more densely packed these pools of talent are, the more workers can learn from each other and the more productive they become. This dynamic feeds on itself,
  • “We have a spatial reorganization of the economy,” said Mr. Muro. “We have an archipelago of superstars in an ocean of low-productivity sectors.”
  • what are the odds that, say, a small town like Amory, Miss., where 14 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree and a quarter of its 2,500 workers work in small-scale manufacturing, have a chance to attract well-paid tech jobs?
  • Consider a recent Brookings Institution study by Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser and Lawrence Summers
  • After examining a range of potential policy interventions, they conclude that a targeted employment subsidy, such as the earned-income tax credit, is probably the most powerful tool available to revive employment. But they, too, are not sure it will work. “Our call for a wage subsidy is us saying, ‘We can’t figure this out, and we hope the private sector will,’ ”
  • Excluding these places, the United States is still left with 50 to 55 million people living in rural communities that no longer have much to offer them economically.
  • Instead of so-called place-based policies to revitalize small towns, why not help their residents take advantage of opportunities where the opportunities are
  • Geographic mobility hit a historical low in 2017, when only 11 percent of Americans picked up shop and moved — half the rate of 1951. One of the key reasons is that housing in the prosperous cities that offer the most opportunities has become too expensive.
  • Even if moving people might prove more efficient on paper than restoring places, many people — especially older people and the family members who care for them — may choose to remain in rural area
  • What’s more, the costs of rural poverty are looming over American society. Think of the opioid addiction taking over rural America, of the spike in crime, of the wasted human resources in places where only a third of adults hold a job.
  • if today’s polarized politics are noxious, what might they look like in a country perpetually divided between diverse, prosperous liberal cities and a largely white rural America in decline? As Mr. Galston warned: “Think through the political consequences of saying to a substantial portion of Americans, which is even more substantial in political terms, ‘We think you’re toast.’ ”
Javier E

Americans Believe in Climate Change, But Not Climate Action - 0 views

  • Last month, scientists warned that we had only about 12 years to cut global emissions in half and that doing so would require a worldwide mobilization on the scale of that for World War II.
  • perhaps it should not be surprising that, even in many of the world’s most progressive places, even in the moment of acknowledged environmental crisis, a sort of climate NIMBYism prevails. The cost of inaction is sort of unthinkable — annual deadly heat waves and widespread famine, tens of millions of climate refugees, global coastal flooding, and disasters that will cost double the world’s present-day wealth. And so we choose, most of the time, not to think about it
  • This is denial, too, whatever you check on a survey about whether you “believe” the climate is changing.
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  • hard-core, bought-and-paid-for denialism is pernicious for many reasons — in fact, it may help explain why so few Americans believe “most scientists think global warming is happening.” According to the most recent Yale Climate Opinion Survey, just 49 percent do.
  • what is perhaps most remarkable about that same study is that many more Americans believe climate change is happening than believe scientists believe it: 70 percent say global warming is real, and ongoing, versus just 14 percent who say it isn’t.
  • One way of looking at that data is to say that we are, despite what we hear in the media, overwhelmingly a nation of climate-change believers, not deniers — and, in fact, a nation genuinely concerned about it
  • “denial is mostly a distraction at this point.” (“Those still unconvinced mostly cannot or do not want to be convinced,” he added, meaning, “It’s time to stop framing persuasion as the primary task here.”)
  • Another is that even those of us who believe in warming, and believe it is a problem, do not believe enough in it
  • the rest of us are only moderately worried, perhaps in part because we imagine the worst impacts of climate change will hit elsewhere. Forty-one percent of Americans believe climate change “will harm me personally” — actually quite a high number, in absolute terms, but considerably lower than the 62 percent who believe it will harm those in the developing world or the 70 percent who believe it will harm future generations
  • What are those coping mechanisms? Why can’t we see the threat right in front of us?
  • It’s fucking scary. For years now, researchers have known that “unrealistic optimism is a pervasive human trait,” one that, whatever you know about how social-media addicts get used to bad news, leads us to discount scary information and embrace the sunnier stuff
  • the generation of economists and behavioral psychologists who’ve spent the last few decades enumerating all of our cognitive biases have compiled a whole literature of problems with how we process the world, almost every single example of which distorts and distends our perception of a changing climate, typically by making us discount the threat.
  • anchoring, which explains how we build mental models around as few as one or two initial examples, no matter how unrepresentative — in the case of global warming, the world we know today, which is reassuringly temperate
  • the ambiguity effect, which suggests that most people are so uncomfortable contemplating uncertainty they will accept lesser outcomes in a bargain to avoid dealing with it
  • In theory, with climate, uncertainty should be an argument for action — much of the ambiguity arises from the range of possible human inputs, a quite concrete prompt we choose to process instead as a riddle, which discourages us
  • anthropocentric thinking, by which we build our view of the universe outward from our own experience, a reflexive tendency that some especially ruthless environmentalists have derided as “human supremacy” and that surely shapes our ability to apprehend genuinely existential threats to the species — a shortcoming that many climate scientists have mocked. “The planet will survive,” they say. “It’s the humans that may not.”
  • Among the most destructive effects that appear later in the library are these:
  • the bystander effect, or our tendency to wait for others to act rather than acting ourselves;
  • confirmation bias, by which we seek evidence for what we already understand to be true rather than endure the cognitive pain of reconceptualizing our world
  • the default effect, or tendency to choose the present option over alternatives, which is related to the status quo bias, or preference for things as they are, however bad that is
  • the endowment effect, or the instinct to demand more to give up something we have — more than we actually value it (or had paid to acquire or establish it)
  • We have an illusion of control, the behavioral economists tell us, and also suffer from overconfidence. We can’t see anything but through cataracts of self-deception.
  • Already, Yale says, 70 percent of Americans believe “environmental protection is more important than economic growth.” Nudging that number up to 75 percent isn’t the important thing; what’s important is getting those 70 percent to feel their conviction fiercely, to elevate action on climate change to a first-order political priority by speaking loudly about it and to disempower, however we can, those forces conspiring to silence us.
  • Even the ones in our own heads.
Javier E

The Weekly Standard's Closing Should be Mourned - Talking Points Memo - 0 views

  • The Weekly Standard was part of a tradition of principled political opinion magazines that have been above party and commercial interest
  • I didn’t want to write about The Weekly Standard’s closing until it was official.
  • You ask: Why should I – whose disagreements with the Standard’s editorial stances would fill a short book – care?  It has to do with the valuable role that opinion magazines like The Weekly Standard have played in American politics.
Javier E

Pelosi puts an ignorant, irrational president in his place - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • it was Pelosi who did what the media has not done — interject, fact-check to his face and refuse to allow him to operate in a parallel reality. It’s not just that Trump has blurred the difference between facts and lies, but that so few have stood up to him in the moment for all the public to see.
  • She managed to get under Trump’s skin. Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times later reported, "It sort of spiraled out of control, and when the President left the Oval Office after Pelosi and Schumer left, a number of people saw him, he stormed out of the Oval, walked into an anteroom just off the Oval Office, and had in his hand a folder of briefing papers, and he just scattered them out of frustration, threw them across the room and expressed frustration to the people who were present.”
  • Pelosi came out triumphant. As my Post colleague Colby Itkowitz wrote, “Pelosi emerged from the meeting not some wilted flower, but a symbol of a woman who doesn’t have time for male posturing. ... Pelosi kept her composure throughout the charade, continually trying to bring the conversation back to a place where actual dialogue could occur.”
Javier E

The bright side of Britain's Brexit chaos - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • One month ago, before British politics turned upside down, the country faced three possible futures. Prime Minister Theresa May was negotiating a compromise Brexit from the European Union, and her odds of prevailing appeared around 50 percent. A group of hard-liners in May’s Conservative Party wanted to crash out of the E.U. without a deal, and the odds of that costly result were around 30 percent. Finally, moderates wanted some way of postponing Brexit, or putting it to a second referendum. Their chances probably stood at around 20 percent
  • With today’s triggering of a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, Britain has descended into maximum “Game of Thrones” chaos. Yet the odds of a stabilizing outcome have brightened. Of course, all statements about British politics should be assumed to include the word “probably” at least twice. But a fair guess would be that the odds of a delay or a revote on Brexit stand at around 60 percent. The odds of some sort of compromise stand at 30 percent. The odds of crashing out are down around 10 percent.
  • If May won the no confidence vote comfortably but still failed to get her compromise through, what would happen? May would not want Britain to crash out, and neither does the majority in Parliament. So the alternative to getting her deal through would be to consider other deals.
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  • But there aren’t any compelling ones
  • In short, if May wins the no-confidence vote by a comfortable margin, and if she nonetheless fails to get her compromise through, Brexit will probably be postponed or put to a new vote. Britain might exercise its right to freeze the exit process and then never return to the negotiating table. Or it could freeze and hold a new referendum.
  • The third possibility is that May wins today’s vote, but only by a narrow margin. This seems quite likely: Let’s give it 50 percent. This outcome would deprive May of any hope that she had the political strength to get her compromise deal through Parliament. This would force a consideration of the alternatives laid out in option two: Norway, Canada, and so on. The outcome would be the same: Either an indefinite postponement or a referendum. So all 50 percentage points in option three flow into the postpone or revote bucket, bringing the cumulative total to 60 percent.
Javier E

Probe of U.S.-funded news network that called George Soros a 'Jew of flexible morals' f... - 0 views

  • For nearly three decades, Martí has broadcast news and other programs promoting U.S. interests to audiences in communist Cuba, seeking to circumvent state-controlled media. Martí spent nearly $29 million in 2017 on its mission to provide “accurate, balanced and complete information” to the island’s residents.
  • on Oct. 26, a U.S. researcher blogged about a nearly 15-minute “Special Report” on Soros that he spotted on Martí. The May report made sweeping and unfounded claims, including that Soros was secretly funding violent leftist uprisings to topple governments from Romania to Colombia. The report also falsely described Soros as “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.”
  • USAGM chief executive John F. Lansing, a former head of Scripps Networks, faulted the report’s “weak sourcing” and suggested that Judicial Watch may have been the only source.
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  • The video report, which aired in several installments, credited the U.S. conservative group Judicial Watch with “keeping an eye” on Soros.
  • Judicial Watch also appears to have served as the foundation for the earlier Martí report on Soros, which was unknown to Soros’s organization until The Post shared a link to the story last week. The existence of the Martí article was first reported in El Nuevo Herald, a sister publication of the Miami Herald.
  • Silber, the spokeswoman for Soros’s organization, said that the apology ­USAGM offered for the one, previously known broadcast is no longer sufficient.
  • “We are deeply concerned to learn about additional content with the same nefarious, anti-Semitic undertones. USAGM needs to be much more forthcoming and Congress needs to conduct more vigorous oversight. In the end we want to know how this content got made, who made it, and who’s been held accountable so that it will not happen again.”
Javier E

Southern Baptist Convention's flagship seminary details its racist, slave-owning past i... - 0 views

  • More than two decades after the Southern Baptist Convention — the country’s second-largest faith group — apologized to African Americans for its active defense of slavery in the 1800s, its flagship seminary on Wednesday released a stark report further delineating its ties to institutionalized racism.
  • The year-long study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary found that all four founding faculty members owned slaves and “were deeply complicit in the defense of slavery,
  • The report also noted that the seminary’s most important donor and chairman of its Board of Trustees in the late 1800s, Joseph E. Brown, “earned much of his fortune by the exploitation of mostly black convict lease laborers,” employing in his coal mines and iron furnaces "the same brutal punishments and tortures formerly employed by slave drivers.”
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  • Many of the founding faculty members' "throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the twentieth century, advocated segregation, the inferiority of African-Americans, and openly embraced the ideology of the Lost Cause of southern slavery,” that recast the South as an idyllic place for both slaves and masters and the Civil War as a battle fought over Southern honor, not slavery
  • The faculty opposed racial equality after Emancipation and advocated for the maintenance of white political control and against extending suffrage to African Americans, the report said
  • In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the seminary faculty relied on pseudoscience to justify its white supremacist positions, concluding that "supposed black moral inferiority was connected to biological inferiority,
  • “It is past time that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the first and oldest institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, must face a reckoning of our own,” Mohler wrote.
  • a spokesman for Mohler, said the theologian launched the historical investigation because people asked him specific questions “he didn’t know the answer to. We knew there was involvement. We didn’t know the full history.
  • What does matter, the experts said, are the actions the seminary takes from here and whether it makes reparations.
  • The school’s leadership needs to sit down with racial and ethnic minorities and “let themselves be led” to racial reconciliation, Tisby said. “They are at the very beginning of the journey,”
  • Jemar Tisby, a historian who writes about race and Christianity, said he expects many white Evangelicals will push back on the report by saying the seminary is being divisive and re-litigating its past
  • Critics and other observers said the Southern Baptist Convention for too long has been hesitant to take full ownership of its past, for decades framing its split with northern Baptists as one over theological differences, not slavery
  • “I think that what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to force the Convention to have a conversation on race and racism that the Convention has really not wanted to have,
  • while the report is “a step in the right direction,” some sections seem to soften the severity of the seminary’s racist actions. He called the report’s description of faculty’s mixed record on the civil rights movement “double-handed”
  • In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution stating its explicit connection to slavery: “Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery; and in later years Southern Baptists failed, in many cases, to support, and in some cases opposed, legitimate initiatives to secure the civil rights of African-Americans.”
  • Mohler wrote in the report. “At that time, I think it is safe to say that most Southern Baptists, having made this painful acknowledgment and lamenting this history, hoped to dwell no longer on the painful aspects of our legacy. That is not possible, nor is it right,” he wrote. “We have been guilty of a sinful absence of historical curiosity. We knew, and we could not fail to know, that slavery and deep racism were in the story."
  • “[T]he moral burden of history requires a more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism and even the avowal of white racial supremacy,” Mohler wrote in the report. “The fact that these horrors of history are shared with the region, the nation, and with so many prominent institutions does not excuse our failure to expose our own history, our own story, our own cherished heroes, to an honest accounting — to ourselves and to the watching world.”
  • There have also been notable stumbles. The group voted at its annual meeting in 2017 to condemn the white nationalist movement known as the alt-right — but only after it faced backlash to an earlier decision not to vote on the issue.
Javier E

Mexican President Seeks to Revoke Education System Overhaul - WSJ - 0 views

  • He said that because of the 2013 overhaul, 150,000 teachers requested retirement or early retirement in the past three years, and the number of applicants to teacher colleges fell by 23%
  • “It was undoubtedly unfair to have blamed teachers alone for the problems in public education,” he said. “Teachers aren’t against evaluations, but they are against this evaluation, which they say is punitive, tied to the labor aspects.” He said that an estimated 1,000 teachers who were fired for refusing to take the performance tests would be reinstated.
  • Average student scores in Mexico rank among the lowest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Pisa test, which measures performance in mathematics, science and reading. Mexico’s own student performance tests showed little change on average between 2015 and 2017, with less than 10% of ninth-grade students achieving outstanding levels in language and communication and just 5.1% in mathematics.
Javier E

Opinion | The G.O.P. Goes Full Authoritarian - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Donald Trump, it turns out, may have been the best thing that could have happened to American democracy.
  • since the threat to democracy is much broader and deeper than one man, we’re actually fortunate that the forces menacing America have such a ludicrous person as their public face.
  • “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. As the authors — professors of government at Harvard — point out, in recent decades a number of nominally democratic nations have become de facto authoritarian, one-party states. Yet none of them have had classic military coups, with tanks in the street.
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  • What we’ve seen instead are coups of a subtler form: takeovers or intimidation of the news media, rigged elections that disenfranchise opposing voters, new rules of the game that give the ruling party overwhelming control even if it loses the popular vote, corrupted courts.
  • The classic example is Hungary, where Fidesz, the white nationalist governing party, has effectively taken over the bulk of the media; destroyed the independence of the judiciary; rigged voting to enfranchise supporters and disenfranchise opponents; gerrymandered electoral districts in its favor; and altered the rules so that a minority in the popular vote translates into a supermajority in the legislature.
  • Does a lot of this sound familiar? It should. You see, Republicans have been adopting similar tactics — not at the federal level (yet), but in states they control.
  • There has been a fair amount of reporting on the power grab currently underway in Madison. Having lost every statewide office in Wisconsin last month, Republicans are using the lame-duck legislative session to drastically curtail these offices’ power, effectively keeping rule over the state in the hands of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature. What has gotten less emphasis is the fact that G.O.P. legislative control is also undemocratic. Last month Democratic candidates received 54 percent of the votes in State Assembly elections — but they ended up with only 37 percent of the seats.
  • elections don’t matter, because the ruling party retains control no matter what voters do.
  • not a single prominent Republican in Washington has condemned the power grab in Wisconsin, the similar grab in Michigan, or even what looks like outright electoral fraud in North Carolina
  • Elected Republicans don’t just increasingly share the values of white nationalist parties like Fidesz or Poland’s Law and Justice; they also share those parties’ contempt for democracy. The G.O.P. is an authoritarian party in waiting.
  • whatever may happen to Donald Trump, his party has turned its back on democracy. And that should terrify you.
  • the G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America.
Javier E

IMF's Departing Chief Economist Issues a Rare Warning on U.S. Growth - WSJ - 0 views

  • Mr. Obstfeld spoke often of the risks to the economy, especially from a trade war. Under his watch, IMF economists published research arguing higher tariffs lead to slower growth, more unemployment, higher inequality, exchange rate appreciation—and no improvement in the trade balance.
  • Mr. Obstfeld highlighted a few of those challenges: How should economies respond to climate change and increasing severe weather events, or the little understood economic risks from a major cyber event? How do central banks re-establish trust?
  • “As a matter of algebra, if China keeps growing at close to its current rate and the U.S. keeps growing close to its current rate, we can figure out how many years it will take for China to reach the size of the U.S.,” he said. The IMF’s October estimates put China’s economy at 62% the size of the U.S. last year, but project it will reach 79% by 2023.
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  • “It’s really important that this not play out in a conflictual way, because that will be destabilizing for the entire global economy,” he said. “It’s going to be important to try to entice China into the global framework that countries agree on…in which China changes some of its trading practices and there’s also accommodation to some of its legitimate economic goals.”
Javier E

Orbiting, Another Thing for Online Daters to Worry About - The New York Times - 0 views

  • chances are you’ve been watched, liked and followed by a crush, a lover or an ex.
  • Prying eyes on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter can be exciting when they come from a prospective romantic partner, confusing when unrequited and infuriating when the looker is an ex
  • this 21st-century phenomenon, which has joined ghosting, Netflix and chill, breadcrumbing and other recent entries to the dating lexicon.
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  • It’s called orbiting.
  • ghosting, which is a fancy word for disappearing from a lover’s life without notice
  • When you’re interested in the satellite entity watching your social media activity, orbiting brings an endorphin rush, the feeling of being circled by someone you want to get closer to.
  • orbiting has become a form of flirting for many people.
  • “The bold ones will go far and like things from way back, which is definitely saying something,” she said, referencing posts on her Instagram account. “Or they are just clumsy and accidentally showed they stalked.”
  • She said that orbiters avoid liking family photos or scenic pictures. Liking selfies, on the other hand, is an optimal way to orbit someone without acknowledging their existence offline.
  • orbiting isn’t always intentional. Instagram Stories stream seamlessly into one another (and ads), so it’s possible to view someone’s day-to-day updates by accident, without ever digging deeper into their posting history.
  • it’s a fact that dating is confusing, and orbiting can make that worse. Small online behaviors are infinitely interpretable, making it impossible to understand where you and another person stand
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