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Javier E

His Children Called Him the Duke of Villanova. But Who Really Was He? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • “The Beneficiary” describes the making and spending of “a moderately sized American fortune” that lasted from one Gilded Age to another. It is often very funny, with some moments paced like a drawing room comedy.
  • Yet the duke inherited something more (or other) than money, and what comes to dominate his daughter’s narrative is her sense of wealth’s “misfortune.”
  • money is always being made and somewhere another such “‘place’ is being born,” in the Bay Area or China or Mumbai. “Maybe it’s fueled by a fortune reaped in private equity or online shopping or social media,” but wherever it is and by whomever it’s made that money will hire the day’s most fashionable architects, it will buy yachts and throw big parties, for “the signifiers of arrival are remarkably unchanged.”
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  • do the founders of those new fortunes “ever wonder how it will all play out, 100 years hence?” Because somewhere another beneficiary will choke down his gilded spoon, and tell himself he likes it.
Javier E

Cri de Cœur - Talking Points Memo - 0 views

  • The words of Bill O’Reilly from 2007 echo in my memory: “But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you’re a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have.” Is that what this is all about?
Javier E

Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that mad... - 0 views

  • In places such as Silicon Valley, the slopes of Davos, Switzerland, and the halls of Harvard Business School, there is a sense that the kind of capitalism that once made America an economic envy is responsible for the growing inequality and anger that is tearing the country apart.
  • Americans still loved technology, Khanna said, but too many of them felt locked out of the country’s economic future and were looking for someone to blame.
  • Without an intervention, he worried that wealth would continue to pile up in Silicon Valley and anger in the country would continue to grow. “It seems like every company in the world has to be here,” Larsen said. “It’s just painfully obvious that the blob is getting bigger.
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  • in some of capitalism’s most rarefied circles including Harvard Business School, where last fall Seth Klarman, a highly influential billionaire investor, delivered what he described as a “plaintive wail” to the business community to fix capitalism before it was too late.
  • “It’s a choice to maintain pleasant working conditions . . . or harsh ones; to offer good benefits or paltry ones.” If business leaders didn’t “ask hard questions about capitalism,” he warned that they would be asked by “ideologues seeking to point fingers, assign blame and make reckless changes to the system.
  • Leading politicians, such as Trump, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), were advocating positions on tariffs, wealth taxes and changes in corporate governance that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
  • One of the most popular classes at Harvard Business School, home to the next generation of Fortune 500 executives, was a class on “reimagining capitalism.” Seven years ago, the elective started with 28 students. Now there were nearly 300 taking it
  • “Winners Take All,” a book by Anand Giridharadas, a journalist and former McKinsey consultant, that had hit the bestseller list and was provoking heated arguments in places like Silicon Valley, Davos and Harvard Business School. Giridharadas’s book was a withering attack on America’s billionaire class and the notion that America’s iconic capitalists could use their wealth and creativity to solve big social and economic problems that have eluded a plodding and divided government.
  • For many of the students, schooled in the notion that business could make a profit while making the world a better place, Giridharadas’s ideas were both energizing and disorienting. Erika Uyterhoeven, a second-year student, recalled one of her fellow classmates turning to her when Giridharadas was finished. “So, what should we do?” her colleague asked. “Is he saying we shouldn’t go into banking or consulting?
  • Added another student: “There was a palpable sense of personal desperation.”
  • “The best thing that happened to me was that I lost my 2014 election,” he said. “Had I won . . . maybe I would’ve been a traditional neoliberal. It really forced my self-reflection and it pointed out every weakness I ever had.”
  • Mixed in with the valley’s usual frothy optimism about disruption and inventing the future was a growing sense that the tech economy had somehow broken capitalism. The digital revolution had allowed tech entrepreneurs to build massive global companies without the big job-producing factories or large workforces of the industrial era. The result was more and more wealth concentrated in fewer hands.
  • some feared things were only going to get worse. Robots were eliminating much factory work; online commerce was decimating retail; and self-driving cars were on the verge of phasing out truck drivers. The next step was computers that could learn and think.
  • thinking computers might be able to diagnose diseases better than doctors by drawing on superhuman amounts of clinical research, said Brockman, 30. They could displace a large number of office jobs. Eventually, he said, the job shortages would force the government to pay people to pursue their passions or simply live
  • To Brockman, a future without work seemed just as likely as one without meat, a possibility that many in the valley viewed as a near certainty. “Once we have meat substitutes as good as the real thing, my expectation is that we’re going to look back at eating meat as this terrible, immoral thing,”
  • The same could be true of work in a future in an era of advanced artificial intelligence. “We’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was so crazy and almost immoral that people were forced to go and labor in order to be able to survive,’ ” he said
  • Khanna had a different view. He saw the country’s problems primarily as the product of growing income inequality and a lack of opportunity.
Javier E

I visit the world's wonders with my young son. All is ephemeral. Even Notre Dame. - The... - 0 views

  • whenever I can, I take the boy along with me. He is excellent company and possesses the key virtue of any co-traveler — the ability to roll with the punches.
  • I’ve taken him to Central America and the Middle East and Africa and Europe, and everywhere it is the same, an inspection of ephemerality. “Look at that bird,” I say, pointing to a white cotinga in Costa Rica. “Look before it goes.”
  • It is a fleet thing coursing through the mangrove forest, soaring over the black branches, out of view. I hold back a word. I do not say, “Look before it goes extinct.” But that is what I mean.
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  • “The coral! The coral!” I mouth underwater, snorkeling at a reef, splashing my gestures. I do not say: “Look carefully. Look. Remember it. It will soon be only in your memory.”
  • We live in an age of ephemerality, and the devastation of a building that had survived the Middle Ages, the French Revolution and the Second World War comes barely as a surprise. We expect such events now. Our children expect them.
  • Once-stable institutions, impregnable towers, burn and topple everywhere.
  • The art we cherish is the art of addictive consumability rather than a celebration of the eternal.
  • And our time will leave no Notre Dame as a memento for the future. The present’s contribution to posterity will be the 620,000 square miles of disposable floating plastic trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, with a half-life of between 450 and 800 years
  • In such conditions, the desire to see the world can only ever be the desire to see the world falling apart.
Javier E

Our leaders are ignoring global warming to the point of criminal negligence. It's unfor... - 0 views

  • humans are not yet beyond saving themselves from the worst ravages of global warming. There’s fight in us yet, even if it’s a bit shapeless.
  • The problem – and it’s an existential threat both profound and perverse – is that those who lead us and have power over our shared destiny are ignoring global warming to the point of criminal negligence
  • Worse than that, their policies, language, patronal obligations and acts of bad faith are poisoning us, training citizens to accept the prospect of inexorable loss, unstoppable chaos, certain doom.
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  • Business as usual is robbing people of hope, white-anting the promise of change
  • The message implicit in our governments’ refusal to act is that we should all just suck it up – as in “climate change is bullshit, and even if it’s not there’s nothing you can do about it”
  • It’s a licence for nihilism, a ticket to hell in a handbasket
  • the cohort responsible for this mixture of denial and fatalism is far removed from the daily experience of the ordinary citizen, especially the youngest and poorest of us. They have become a threat to our shared future and we must hold them to account, immediately and without reservation.
  • I’ve noticed a bruised attitude of beleaguerment in individuals and within groups that’s increasingly hard to ignore, a mounting grimness in the faces and language of people barely holding on in the face of steady, cumulative and unrelenting losses
  • some are clinging to the last tendrils of hope, others are falling into despair. And that worries me.
  • It’s expressed as grief, and the most palpable, widespread and immediate expression of it is now brewing over climate change. Beneath that grief there’s rage.
  • I worry that this widely-shared grief and unfocussed rage may become the signal human disposition of our time, that the Anthropocene will be marked by fury and hopelessness
  • Younger people in particular have begun to feel abandoned by their leaders and elders. They suspect they’ll be left without food or ammunition to stage a fighting retreat in which every battle is a defeat foreseen and every bit of territory was surrendered in advance by politicians and CEOs who deserted them long ago to hide in their privileged bunkers and silos
  • the reason humanity survived the cold war is because world leaders paid attention. They took emergent crises seriously. And in each instance of utmost danger, arguments of ideology and nationalism eventually fell away before the sacred importance of life itself
  • the four great capacities of humanity to solve a crisis – ingenuity, discipline, courage and sacrifice – these seem to be reserved for more important enterprises
  • Our governments and corporations are ensnared in a feedback loop of “common sense” and mutual self-preservation that’s little more than a bespoke form of nihilism. Ideology, prestige, assets and territory are now tacitly understood to be worth more than all life, human or otherwise
  • We can no longer wait patiently for our leaders to catch up. We cannot allow ourselves to be trained to accept hopelessness. Not by business, nor by governments. Both have subjected us to a steady diet of loss and depletion. It’s sapped us and left us mourning a future we can see fading before it even arrives
  • There’s no good reason to submit to this. No sane purpose in putting up with it. Because grief will paralyse us, and despair renders doom inevitable. We can afford neither.
  • we’ll need to get our house in order – and fast. That means calling bullshit on what’s been happening in our name for the past 15 years.
  • Life. It’s worth the fight. But, by God, after decades of appeasement, defeatism and denialism, it’s going to take a fight. Time’s short. So, let’s give our grief and fury some shape and purpose and reclaim our future together. Enough cowardice. Enough bullshit. Time for action.
Javier E

Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash. - The... - 0 views

  • “In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,” South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.
Javier E

David Brooks on emerging from loneliness to find 'moral renewal' | PBS NewsHour - 0 views

  • we have slipped into some bad values. We're too individualistic, when we should be a little more communal. We're too cognitive, up in our head, and analytical, when we should be more emotional and relational. We steer our kids toward career success, and not toward moral joy.
  • But joy is when the self disappears, when you transcend yourself. There's a woman in the book who I interviewed in Ohio who the worst thing happened to her that could happen. She came home one Sunday, and her husband had killed their kids and himself.
  • I found people who realized the core truth, you can't solve your problems on the level of consciousness at which you created them. They went deeper into themselves. And they discovered a level of ability for care. And they lead marvelous lives.
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  • I was down in the valley. And I went through that period. And I discovered you can either be broken or you can be broken open. And some people get broken. They turn fearful in their bad moments, and they lash out. They turn hostile and violent and tribal. And they're full of resentments.
  • But some people get broken open. You just realize the depths of yourself, and you realize that only spiritual and emotional food is going to fill those depths. So, you think, I got to change my world view.
  • it's useful to make a distinction between happiness and joy.
  • We spend a lot of time thinking about happiness. And happiness is when you win your victory, when something goes well, you got a promotion. And happiness is an expansion of self.
  • And when you have bad values, you steer — you end up in a bad place
  • And now she leads a life of pure service, pure gift. She has a free pharmacy. She teaches at Ohio University. She helps women who've suffered violence. And she said: "I did it partly out of anger. I wanted to show, whatever that guy tried to do to me, he didn't do it. I was going to make a difference in the world."
  • I think it works for everybody.I have been with rich people and poor people, and everybody needs spiritual growth. Everybody has a soul. It gives us infinite value and dignity. And what the soul does is, it yearns for righteousness.
  • at bottom, the Trump moment is a spiritual and moral crisis. We just treat each other badly. We're not compassionate towards one another. We stereotype, rather than see the dignity of each human person.
  • it flows out of loneliness and disconnection. A lot of people who voted for him, their communities are falling apart. And they needed something new.
  • And then we're in a tribal warfare where we don't communicate with each other well, we don't see deeply into each other's souls, we don't befriend one another. And so we get this volleys of hatred.
  • to me, our problems are, we have political problems, we have economic problems, but we also have spiritual and moral problems. And we have become not great about talking about them, because it always seems like, oh, you're the problem. We don't live for relationship. And that's the change that has to happen.
  • I started something called — at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. And I meet weavers wherever you go. And these are people who are weaving relationship. They are weaving community.
Javier E

Opinion | It's Not the Collusion, It's the Corruption - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The Mueller report is like a legal version of a thriller movie in which three malevolent forces are attacking a city all at once. Everybody’s wondering if the three attackers are working together. The report concludes that they weren't, but that doesn’t make the situation any less scary or the threat any less real
  • The first force is Donald Trump, who represents a threat to the American systems of governance
  • I don’t know if his actions meet the legal standard of obstruction of justice, but they certainly meet the common-sense standard of interference with justice.
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  • The second force is Russia. If Trump is a threat to the institutional infrastructure, the Russians are a threat to our informational infrastructure.
  • The third force is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They are a threat to our deliberative infrastructure. Any organization needs to be able to hold private conversations in order to deliberate
  • it shows that many of the Trumpists, the Russians and the WikiLeaks crowd all understood that they were somehow adjacent actors in the same project.
  • The Mueller report indicates that Trump was not colluding with Russia. But it also shows that working relationships were beginning to be built
  • that’s the report’s central importance. We are being threatened in a very distinct way. The infrastructure of the society is under threat — the procedures that shape government, the credibility of information, the privacy rules that make deliberation possible.
  • These forces are motivated by self-interest, but their common feature is an operational nihilism. They are trying to sow disorder at the foundation of society. The goal is not really to convert anybody to a cause; it is to create cynicism and disruption that will open up the space to grab what you want to grab.
  • They rig the system and then tell everybody, “The system is rigged!” And therefore, all values are suspended. Everything is permitted.
  • today, across society, two things are happening: Referees are being undermined, and many are abandoning their own impartiality. (Think of the Wall Street regulators, the Supreme Court, the Senate committee chairmen, even many of us in the blessed media.)
  • It’s easy to recognize when you are attacked head-on. But the U.S. is being attacked from below, at the level of the foundations we take for granted.
Javier E

Opinion | How Climate Became Germany's New Culture War - The New York Times - 0 views

  • populist parties in Germany and Europe are increasingly campaigning against environmental rules. Such opposition perfectly fits into populist narratives and patterns: skepticism about science, anger over “political correctness” and a libertarian reflex against government regulations in general
  • The mainstream right is following suit, claiming to try to cut off the far right but in reality taking advantage of a suddenly attractive political target.
  • Environmental issues produce the same fundamental cleavages as migration. Both migration and environmental policies are aiming at global and moral goals that citizens profit from only in the abstract, while the costs are immediate.
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  • Whether you drive a car or ride a bike has become a symbol for embracing or rejecting a whole set of values connected to the notion of global responsibility.
  • onservatives and traditionalists feel they are being pressured by the cultural imperialism of urban liberal elites who can afford not to have a car.
  • It’s 2015 all over again: Back then, it was the naïve open-border idealists against the xenophobes. This time it’s the sentimental urban tree-hugger ideologues against ignorant Joe Diesel.
  • the stakes this time — namely, the future of the planet — are higher. How do we avoid making the same mistakes?
  • The obvious first step is to lower the temperature, and for each side to concede a few painful truths
  • environmental policies do come with costs, and that they need to find ways to ameliorate their immediate pain for everyday Germans
  • conservatives must resist the lure of securing votes by exploiting resentment against the boogeyman of cultural imperialism
Javier E

Facebook Targeted Marketing Perpetuates Discrimination - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • today, digital platforms—which deliver exponentially more ads than their newsprint predecessors—are making these core civil-rights laws increasingly challenging to enforce. The opacity of the digital-ad ecosystem is a major barrier to ensuring justice and equal opportunity.
  • The study’s results show digital advertising working exactly as designed—and exactly in ways that can perpetuate the types of harms that civil-rights laws are meant to address. Simply put, ad platforms such as Facebook make money when people click on ads. But an individual’s tendency to click on certain types of ads (and not others) often reflects deep-seated social inequities: the neighborhood they live in, where they went to school, how much money they have. An ad system that is designed to maximize clicks, and to maximize profits for Facebook, will naturally reinforce these social inequities and so serve as a barrier to equal opportunity.
  • These dynamics are a perfect illustration of why the “disparate impact” doctrine—a bedrock principle of civil-rights law—is such an important tool in the era of algorithms. Under disparate impact, even unintentional actions can amount to illegal discrimination if they have an adverse impact on protected groups.
Javier E

Opinion | How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy - The New York Times - 0 views

  • For much of human history, what we now call “privacy” was better known as being rich
  • depended on another, even more impressive achievement: the creation of a middle class
  • The historical link between privacy and the forces of wealth creation helps explain why privacy is under siege today. It reminds us, first, that mass privacy is not a basic feature of human existence but a byproduct of a specific economic arrangemen
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  • in a capitalist country, our baseline of privacy depends on where the money is. And today that has changed.
  • The forces of wealth creation no longer favor the expansion of privacy but work to undermine it
  • We have witnessed the rise of what I call “attention merchants” and what the sociologist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — the commodification of our personal data by tech giants like Facebook a
  • We face a future in which active surveillance is such a routine part of business that for most people it is nearly inescapable
  • we are on the road back to serfdom.
  • stronger privacy protections. But that will require laws that do not merely tinker with but fundamentally alter the economics of privacy.
  • In the United States, it is safe to say, privacy “won” the 20th century. Its crowning triumph was the Supreme Court’s recognition in 1965 of a constitutional right to privacy
  • By the 1960s the rise of a propertied middle class had put each man in his “castle,”
  • new technologies coupled with new theories of value have transformed the economics of privacy. A drastic decrease in the cost of mass surveillance (thanks to the internet) has increased the value of two types of asset: our data and our attention.
  • The race to maximize those assets by companies big and small has made surveillance a growth industry. It is in this sense that capitalism has begun to change sides.
  • the richest companies in the world now generate wealth by putting as many trackers, devices and screens inside our homes and as close to our bodies as possible
  • money can be made by consolidating everything that is known about an individual.
  • There is good reason to believe that, if nothing is done, gratuitous surveillance will be built into nearly every business and business model.
  • Some have argued that there’s no need to be concerned
  • The end result is selling people stuff, not sending them to Siberia.
  • data and surveillance networks created for one purpose can and will be used for others. You must assume that any personal data that Facebook or Android keeps are data that governments around the world will try to get o
  • once you realize you’re being watched, it is a tough sensation to shake. As our experiences with social media have made all too clear, we act differently when we know we are “on the record.”
  • Mass privacy is the freedom to act without being watched and thus, in a sense, to be who we really are — not who we want others to think we are. At stake, then, is something akin to the soul.
  • To be truly effective, privacy laws must seek to change the incentives that foster gratuitous surveillance and the reckless accumulation of personalized data. We need strong bans, including those that prohibit companies from sharing their customers’ personal information
  • companies that repeatedly fail to protect sensitive data need to face dire consequences.
Javier E

Amazon Workers Are Listening In on Amazon Echo Users - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Hundreds of human reviewers across the globe, from Romania to Venezuela, listen to audio clips recorded from Amazon Echo speakers, usually without owners’ knowledge
  • This global review team fine-tunes the Amazon Echo’s software by listening to clips of users asking Alexa questions or issuing commands, and then verifying whether Alexa responded appropriately.
  • Amazon says these recordings are anonymized, with any identifying information removed, and that each of these recorded exchanges came only after users engaged with the device by uttering the “wake word.”
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  • in the examples in Bloomberg’s report—a woman overheard singing in the shower, a child screaming for help—the users seem unaware of the device.
  • Alexa-enabled speakers can and do interpret speech, but Amazon relies on human guidance to make Alexa, well, more human—to help the software understand different accents, recognize celebrity names, and respond to more complex commands.
  • Advancements in AI, the researchers write, create temporary jobs such as tagging images or annotating clips, even as the technology is meant to supplant human labor
  • In all cases, Silicon Valley would have us believe that AI is smart enough to replace humans, when in reality it only works because of the role of hidden human labor in creating and maintaining these loops. AI is always a human-machine collaboration. It can accomplish incredible feats, but rarely alone.
Javier E

The Theory Behind My Disinvitation - WSJ - 0 views

  • the notion that free speech is an expression of one’s power rather than a contribution to truth or toward a reasonable settlement. In this notion, speech is more determined by one’s desire to get the better of an opponent or to defeat an enemy than offered as persuasion to an audience.
  • Speech is like a gesture or wail of defiance, a rallying cry, or shout of triumph. It is defined as coming from within oneself against the hostility awaiting from others in the outside world; it is not defined by the need to address them, their needs and their opinions. Speech is irrational rather than rational, for this view regards reason as nothing but an instrument of power with no power of its own.
  • Thus understood, free speech is no longer possible or desirable. It is diminished by the view that seizes on the power of speech to manipulate and denies its power to enlighten
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  • The university cannot be an ivory tower, a force for good above partisanship. It must be what it has allegedly always been, either a battleground fought over or a redoubt of the winner
  • A professor like me might trick gullible students and lure them to the wrong side. So it is quite acceptable to exclude speakers from the other side. Supremacy of the wrong side must be prevented by supremacy of the right side.
  • Speech is not an alternative to power but a form of power, political power, and political power is nothing but the power to oppress
  • What had taken place, I learned but not from him, was a faculty meeting prompted by a letter from 12 alumni that demanded a reversal of the committee’s invitation because my “scholarly and public corpus . . . heavily traffics in damaging and discredited philosophies of gender and culture.” Promoting “the primacy of masculinity,” apparently a reference to my book “Manliness,” attracted their ire
Javier E

'Game of Thrones': Jon Snow Finally Learns the Truth - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • The show, after all, is airing in an environment—its audiences’ own version of the Known World—that is itself being steadily shaped by lies. The leader who misleads with impunity, weaponizing lies as an easy means to uneasy ends. The system that allows him to do it, because the illusions often suit the purposes of the powerful. The wheel that, refusing to break, spins on through the dullness of inertia. The looming threat, totalizing and existential, dismissed as a fantasy; the war against it that will be fought with too few resources and insufficient conviction; the world that will be knocked off its axis by untruths molded into myths.
Javier E

Central American Farmers Head to the U.S., Fleeing Climate Change - The New York Times - 2 views

  • farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change.
  • Gradually rising temperatures, more extreme weather events and increasingly unpredictable patterns — like rain not falling when it should, or pouring when it shouldn’t — have disrupted growing cycles and promoted the relentless spread of pests.
  • Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force — about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank — the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.
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  • Last year, the bank reported that climate change could lead at least 1.4 million people to flee their homes in Mexico and Central America and migrate during the next three decades.
  • “If Donald Trump withdraws all the funds for Honduras, it’s going to generate more unemployment, and that’s going to generate more migration
  • The number of coffee producers in the area where Mr. Vicen lives has dropped by a quarter in the past decade — to about 9,000 from about 12,000
  • That has forced some farmers to search for land at higher altitudes, switch to other crops, change professions — or migrate.
  • Average temperatures have risen by about two degrees Fahrenheit in Central America over the past several decades, making the cultivation of coffee difficult, if not untenable, at lower altitudes that were once suitable.
  • By some predictions, the amount of land suitable for growing coffee in Central America could drop by more than 40 percent by 2050.
  • “It’s becoming so unusual, it’s almost certainly climate change,”
  • When he was younger, harvest time “was like a party,” he recalled. Now, “there are only losses, no profits.”
  • Fifteen producers from the Vicens’ coffee cooperative — more than 10 percent of its members — have migrated to the United States in the past year
  • t government statistics on apprehension of migrants at the southwest border of the United States in recent years reflect a sharp increase in people from western Honduras.
  • After large caravans of migrants arrived last fall in Tijuana, Mexico, a United Nations survey found that 72 percent of those surveyed were from Honduras — and 28 percent of the respondents had worked in the agricultural sector.
Javier E

Opinion | Is America Becoming an Oligarchy? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • There is, or should be, a democratic element to capitalism — and an economic element to how we define democracy.
  • After all, oligarchy does have an economic element to it; in fact, it is explicitly economic. Oligarchy is the rule of the few, and these few have been understood since Aristotle’s time to be men of wealth, property, nobility, what have you.
  • But somehow, as the definition of democracy has been handed down to us over the years, the word has come to mean the existence and exercise of a few basic rights and principles. The people — the “demos” — are imbued with no particular economic characteristic. This is wrong. Our definition of democracy needs to change
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  • Jefferson for a reason. Everyone knows how he was occupying his time in the summer of 1776; he was writing the Declaration of Independence. But what was he up to that fall?
  • he was taking the lead in writing and sponsoring legislation to abolish the commonwealth’s laws upholding “entail” (which kept large estates within families across generations) and primogeniture.
  • He believed, as the founders did generally, that excess inherited wealth was fundamentally incompatible with democracy.
  • hey were most concerned with inherited wealth, as was the Scottish economist Adam Smith, whom conservatives invoke constantly today but who would in fact be appalled by the propagandistic phrase “death tax” — in their time, inherited wealth was the oppressive economic problem.
  • John Adams, not exactly Jefferson’s best friend: All elements of society, he once wrote, must “cooperate in this one democratical principle, that the end of all government is the happiness of the People: and in this other, that the greatest happiness of the greatest Number is the point to be obtained.”
  • this, as Mr. Buttigieg’s words suggest, is how Democratic candidates should answer the socialism question (with the apparent exception of the socialist Mr. Sanders). No, I’m a capitalist. And that’s why I want capitalism to change.
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