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Javier E

Britain needs a day of reckoning. Brexit will provide it | Nesrine Malik | Opinion | Th... - 0 views

  • Brexit has revealed an unaddressed xenophobia – and the immigration system that stoked it – on the right and the left
  • It has laid bare our political class, squirming pathetically and uselessly under the micro-scrutiny of Brexit. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos, Brexit rolled over the log and we saw what crawled ou
  • The referendum aftermath has exposed an exceptionalism verging on delusion. It is no coincidence that Churchill’s legacy has become a matter of public debate. It is an argument that reflects Britain’s inner turmoil on whether it is uniquely apart from the rest of the world, or cannot thrive on its own. It is a soul-searching, long-overdue questioning of the conventional account of Britain’s history. Is the country especially endowed with that historical grit and determination that helped to vanquish its enemies in two world wars and run an empire; or is it a country that ran that empire by means of brutality, and only won those wars as part of an alliance
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  • Can we go it alone? Did we ever? Are we, as the heavily memed That Mitchell and Webb Look quote goes, the baddies?
  • it is, ironically, Britain’s global profile that has diminished its ability to focus on internal nation-building. “The British state is a machine for running and exploring the world,” he said. “It doesn’t work very well when it comes to the business of the modern nation.”
  • inally exposed is the unbridgeable gap, both economic and cultural, between centre and peripheries, between the winners and the losers. There is a double nihilism about Brexit. There are many who feel like they have nothing to lose from a no-deal scenario, while also savouring the prospect of trouble ahead. This is what happens when a country is fed a diet of crisis as glamorous film reel. You cannot fight this appetite for martyrdom with technical arguments about processing times at Dover: these perverse fantasies can only be vanquished by an actual crisis
  • From the beginning, Brexit created its own momentum. Once the question was asked – in or out? – all the grievances, justified or not, could be projected on it, with “in” being widely seen as a vote for the status quo. Within this frame, nothing else matters – not economic predictions, not warnings about medicines running out, nor threats of the need to stockpile foods. The remain campaign could not have done anything differently: it lost the moment the question was asked.
  • maybe, in the end, we will finally believe that immigration is necessary for an economy and an NHS to function, that the inequality between the south-east and the rest of Britain is unsustainable, that our political class is over-pedigreed and under-principled. We might even believe that other crises, such as climate change, are real, too.
  • Maybe, in the end, the country outside Europe will find its stride by confronting its issues rather than blaming them on others, and forging its own way. But there is only one way to find out. What a shame Brexit is that path
Javier E

The Tiny Swiss Company That Thinks It Can Help Stop Climate Change - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The scientist and historian Vaclav Smil called Haber-Bosch “the most important technical invention of the 20th century.” Bosch had effectively removed the historical bounds on crop yields, so much so that he was widely credited with making “bread from air.” By some estimates, Bosch’s work made possible the lives of more than two billion human beings over the last 100 years.
  • They depend on electric fans to pull air into the ducts and over a special material, known as a sorbent, laced with granules that chemically bind with CO₂; periodic blasts of heat then release the captured gas from the sorbent, with customized software managing the whole catch-and-release cycle.
  • “The first thing they said was: ‘This will never work technically.’ And finally in 2017 we convinced them it works technically, since we built the big plant in Hinwil. But once we convinced them that it works technically, they would say, ‘Well, it will never work economically.’ ”For the moment, skeptics of Climeworks’s business plan are correct: The company is not turning a profit.
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  • it faces the same daunting task that confronted Carl Bosch a century ago: How much can it bring costs down? And how fast can it scale up
  • They believe that over the next seven years they can bring expenses down to a level that would enable them to sell CO₂ into more lucrative markets. Air-captured CO₂ can be combined with hydrogen and then fashioned into any kind of fossil-fuel substitute you want. Instead of making bread from air, you can make fuels from air.
  • What Gebald and Wurzbacher really want to do is to pull vast amounts of CO₂ out of the atmosphere and bury it, forever, deep underground, and sell that service as an offset
  • companies like Climeworks face a quandary: How do you sell something that never existed before, something that may never be cheap, into a market that is not yet real?
  • It’s arguably the case, in fact, that when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions, direct air capture will be seen as an option that’s too expensive and too modest in impact. “The only way that direct air capture becomes meaningful is if we do all the other things we need to do promptly,” Hal Harvey, a California energy analyst who studies climate-friendly technologies and policies, told me
  • In short, the best way to start making progress toward a decarbonized world is not to rev up millions of air capture machines right now. It’s to stop putting CO₂ in the atmosphere in the first place.
  • If the nations of the world were to continue on the current track, it would be impossible to meet the objectives of the 2016 Paris Agreement, which set a goal limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius or, ideally, 1.5 degrees. And it would usher in a world of misery and economic hardship. Already, temperatures in some regions have climbed more than 1 degree Celsius, as a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted last October. These temperature increases have led to an increase in droughts, heat waves, floods and biodiversity losses and make the chaos of 2 or 3 degrees’ additional warming seem inconceivable
  • A further problem is that maintaining today’s emissions path for too long runs the risk of doing irreparable damage to the earth’s ecosystems — causing harm that no amount of technological innovation can make right. “There is no reverse gear for natural systems,” Harvey says. “If they go, they go. If we defrost the tundra, it’s game over.” The same might be said for the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, or our coral reefs. Such resources have an asymmetry in their natural architectures: They can take thousands or millions of years to form, but could reach conditions of catastrophic decline in just a few decades.
  • To have a shot at maintaining a climate suitable for humans, the world’s nations most likely have to reduce CO₂ emissions drastically from the current level — to perhaps 15 billion or 20 billion metric tons per year by 2030; then, through some kind of unprecedented political and industrial effort, we need to bring carbon emissions to zero by around 2050
  • To preserve a livable environment we may also need to extract CO₂ from the atmosphere. As Wurzbacher put it, “if you take all these numbers from the I.P.C.C., you end up with something like eight to 10 billion tons — gigatons — of CO₂ that need to be removed from the air every year, if we are serious about 1.5 or 2 degrees.
  • Through photosynthesis, our forests take extraordinary amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and if we were to magnify efforts to reforest clear-cut areas — or plant new groves, a process known as afforestation — we could absorb billions more metric tons of carbon in future years.
  • we could grow crops specifically to absorb CO₂ and then burn them for power generation, with the intention of capturing the power-plant emissions and pumping them underground, a process known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS
  • Ever since the Industrial Revolution, human societies have produced an excess of CO₂, by taking carbon stores from deep inside the earth — in the form of coal, oil and gas — and from stores aboveground (mostly wood), then putting it into the atmosphere by burning it. It has become imperative to reverse the process — that is, take CO₂ out of the air and either restore it deep inside the earth or contain it within new surface ecosystems.
  • “It’s not about saying, ‘I want to plant a tree.’ It’s about saying, ‘We want to plant a billion trees.’
  • “We have to come to grips with the fact that we waited too long and that we took some options off the table,” Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton scientist who studies climate and policy, told me. As a result, NETs no longer seem to be just interesting ideas; they look like necessities. And as it happens, the Climeworks machines on the rooftop do the work each year of about 36,000 trees.
  • air capture could likewise help counter the impact of several vital industries. “There are process emissions that come from producing iron and steel, cement and glass,” she says, “and any time you make these materials, there’s a chemical reaction that emits CO₂.” Direct air capture could even lessen the impacts of the Haber-Bosch processes for making fertilizer; by some estimates, that industry now accounts for 3 percent of all CO₂ emissions.
  • Wind and solar are now the cheapest forms of energy in the right locations,” Pacala says. “The return on those investments, if you calculated it, would blow the doors off anything in your portfolio. It’s like investing in early Apple. So it’s a spectacular story of success. And direct air capture is precisely the same kind of problem, in which the only barrier is that it’s too costly.”
  • what all the founders have in common is a belief that the cost of capturing a ton of carbon will soon drop sharply.
  • M.I.T.’s Howard Herzog, for instance, an engineer who has spent years looking at the potential for these machines, told me that he thinks the costs will remain between $600 and $1,000 per metric ton
  • He points out that because direct-air-capture machines have to move tremendous amounts of air through a filter or solution to glean a ton of CO₂ — the gas, for all its global impact, makes up only about 0.04 percent of our atmosphere — the process necessitates large expenditures for energy and big equipment. What he has likewise observed, in analyzing similar industries that separate gases, suggests that translating spreadsheet projections for capturing CO₂ into real-world applications will reveal hidden costs. “I think there has been a lot of hype about this, and it’s not going to revolutionize anything,
  • Climeworks’s current goal is to remove 1 percent of the world’s annual CO₂ emissions by the mid 2020s.
  • “Basically, we have a road map — $600, down to $400, down to $300 and $200 a ton,” Wurzbacher said. “This is over the next five years. Down to $200 we know quite well what we’re doing.” And beyond $200, Wurzbacher suggested, things get murkier.
  • To actually capture 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions by 2025 would, by Gebald’s calculations, require that Climeworks build 250,000 carbon-capture plants like the ones on the roof at Hinwil. That adds up to about 4.5 million carbon collectors
  • The Climeworks founders therefore try to think of their product as the automotive industry might — a piece of mass-produced technology and metal, not the carbon they hope to sequester.
  • “Every CO₂ collector has about the same weight and dimensions of a car — roughly two tons, and roughly 2 meters by 2 meters by 2 meters,” Gebald said. “And all the methods used to produce the CO₂ collectors could be well automated. So we have the automotive industry as a model for how to produce things in large quantities for low cost.
  • n 1954, the economist Paul Samuelson put forward a theory that made a distinction between “private-consumption goods” — bread, cars, houses and the like — and commodities that existed apart from the usual laws of supply and demand.
  • the other type of commodity Samuelson was describing is something now known as a “public good,” which benefits everyone but is not bought, sold or consumed the same way
  • direct air capture’s success would be limited to the size of the market for private goods — soda fizz, greenhouse gas — unless governments decided to intervene and help fund the equivalent of several million (or more) lighthouses.
  • An intervention could take a variety of forms. It could be large grants for research to find better sorbent materials, for instance, which would be similar to government investments that long ago helped nurture the solar- and wind-power industries. But help could also come by expanding regulations that already exist.
  • The Climeworks founders told me they don’t believe their company will succeed on what they call “climate impact” scales unless the world puts significant prices on emissions, in the form of a carbon tax or carbon fee.
  • “Our goal is to make it possible to capture CO₂ from the air for below $100 per ton,” Wurzbacher says. “No one owns a crystal ball, but we think — and we’re quite confident — that by something like 2030 we’ll have a global average price on carbon in the range of $100 to $150 a ton.” There is optimism in this thinking
  • A company that sells a product or uses a process that creates high emissions — an airline, for instance, or a steel maker — could be required to pay carbon-removal companies $100 per metric ton or more to offset their CO₂ output. Or a government might use carbon-tax proceeds to directly pay businesses to collect and bury CO₂.
  • “It doesn’t cost too much to pump CO₂ underground,” Stanford’s Sally Benson says. Companies already sequester about 34 million metric tons of CO₂ in the ground every year, at a number of sites around the world, usually to enhance the oil-drilling process. “The costs range from $2 to $15 per ton. So the bigger cost in all of this is the cost of carbon capture.”
  • The weekend before, Gutknecht told me, he received 900 unsolicited inquiries by email. Many were from potential customers who wanted to know how soon Climeworks could bury their CO₂ emissions, or how much a machine might cost them.
  • A Climeworks app could be installed on my smartphone, he explained. It could then be activated by my handset’s location services. “You fly over here to Europe,” he explained, “and the app tells you that you have just burned 1.7 tons of CO₂. Do you want to remove that? Well, Climeworks can remove it for you. Click here. We’ll charge your credit card.
  • The vast and constant market demand for fuel is why Carbon Engineering has staked its future on synthetics. The world currently burns about 100 million barrels of oil a day.
  • “So let’s say you’d have to supply something like 50 million barrels a day in 2050 of fuels,” he said. “That’s still a monster market.”
  • Carbon Engineering’s chief executive, added that direct-air-capture synthetics have an advantage over traditional fossil fuels: They won’t have to spend a dime on exploration
  • our plants, you can build it right in the middle of California, wherever you have air and water.” He told me that the company’s first large-scale facility should be up and running by 2022, and will turn out at least 500 barrels a day of fuel feedstock — the raw material sent to refineries.
  • Climeworks recently joined a consortium of European countries to produce synthetic methane that will be used by a local trucking fleet. With different tweaks and refinements, the process could be adapted for diesel, gasoline, jet fuel — or it could be piped directly to local neighborhoods as fuel for home furnaces.
  • the new fuels are not necessarily cheaper. Carbon Engineering aspires to deliver its product at an ultimate retail price of about $1 per liter, or $3.75 per gallon. What would make the product competitive are regulations in California that now require fuel sellers to produce fuels of lower “carbon intensity.” To date this has meant blending gas and diesel with biofuels like ethanol, but it could soon mean carbon-capture synthetics too.
  • Since they’re made from airborne CO₂ and hydrogen and could be manufactured just about anywhere, they could rearrange the geopolitical order — tempering the power of a handful of countries that now control natural-gas and oil markets.
  • From an environmental standpoint, air-capture fuels are not a utopian solution. Such fuels are carbon neutral, not carbon negative. They can’t take CO₂ from our industrial past and put it back into the earth
  • Even so, these fuels could present an enormous improvement. Transportation — currently the most significant source of emissions by sector in the United States — could cease to be a net emitter of CO₂
  • “If you can do one carbon-capture facility, where Carbon Engineering or Climeworks can build a big plant, great. You need to do that 5,000 times. And to capture a million tons of CO₂ with direct air capture, you need a small power plant just to run that facility. So if you’re going to build one direct-air-capture facility every day for the next 30 years to get to some of these scenarios, then in addition, we have to build a new mini power plant every day as well.
  • It’s also the case that you have to address two extraordinary problems at the same time, Peters added. “To reach 1.5 degrees, we need to halve emissions every decade,” he said. That would mean persuading entire nations, like China and the United States, to switch from burning coal to using renewables at precisely the same time that we make immense investments in negative-emission technologies.
  • this would need to be done even as governments choose among competing priorities:
  • “The idea of bringing direct air capture up to 10 billion tons by the middle or later part of the century is such a herculean task it would require an industrial scale-up the likes of which the world has never seen,”
  • Pacala wasn’t pessimistic about making a start. He seemed to think it was necessary for the federal government to begin with significant research and investments in the technology — to see how far and fast it could move forward, so that it’s ready as soon as possible
  • Gebald and Wurzbacher seemed to regard the climate challenge in mathematical terms. How many gigatons needed to be removed? How much would it cost per ton? How many Climeworks machines were required? Even if the figures were enormous, even if they appeared impossible, to see the future their way was to redefine the problem, to move away from the narrative of loss, to forget the multiplying stories of dying reefs and threatened coastlines — and to begin to imagine other possibilities.
Javier E

The Churchill row is part of the glib approach to history that gave us Brexit | Simon J... - 0 views

  • As history is raided, indeed raped, by identitarians and populists, glib judgments on the past become fodder for every tribal grievance.
  • I have come away from working on a history of Europe convinced that it is senseless to pass moral judgment on men and women of past times and past cultures.
  • Fake history may be a clever way to engage the empathy of the young with otherwise difficult material. But if the purpose of history is to offer lessons for the future, distorting it is fraught with danger.
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  • The current cult of identity politics is to rifle through the past careers of great men and women, not to ascertain accuracy but to sort them into friends or foes.
  • The idea of history as composed of heroes and villains is infantile. Inside every hero lurks an opposite. The best answer to a stupid question is no answer
  • Awarding long-dead people berths in some transient heaven or hell is merely to conscript them to some current grievance.
  • I am convinced a historic British aversion to the Germans, rehearsed annually on Remembrance Day and in movies and bestseller lists, underpins much current Brexit sentiment. So does ancient antagonism towards the French.
  • Fake history is worse than no history. It is better to forget than partially to remember. We should live for today and move on.
Javier E

Should Democrats take the Green New Deal literally or seriously? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Turning very ambitious goals into precise mandates is fraught with political peril and altogether unnecessary. Take away the 10-year mandate and set out reasonable goals, for example, to “reduce greenhouse emissions by X percent.” Then you can lay out some concrete ways to get there (e.g., spend X on public transit, set fuel efficiency standards at Y, eliminate subsidies to fossil-fuel producers). That’s how legislating and governing actually work
  • It’s frankly dishonest to pledge to achieve nirvana in 10 years, falsely telling voters they can have the moon and the stars without much difficulty. It’s only one step removed from “I alone can fix it” and from the nonsensical claim that the solutions are easy and all agreed upon, just the will is missing.
Javier E

Does Marie Kondo's Method Really Work? - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective,” Kondo writes. “It is life transforming. I mean it.” Language like this makes her book veer into self-help territory, but based on the experiences of the people I talked to, Kondo wasn’t overpromising. Whether a matter of causation or just correlation, many of the people I spoke to also said that their cleanouts coincided with pivotal moments in their lives.
  • “I wish I had encountered the book when I was 30,” Bate told me. He reflected on his career as a “good American consumer” and concluded that the majority of what he’d bought over the course of his life wouldn’t meet his new KonMari-calibrated standard. “If I had done it back when I was 30,” he says, “I just would have saved myself a lot of hassle by not buying and having to dispose of endless piles of crap.”
Javier E

Opinion | The Myths of Voter ID - The New York Times - 0 views

  • a new study, one of the largest to date, from the economists Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, which assessed the impact of voter ID laws between 2008 and 2016 using a nationwide voter file. The study finds that requiring voter identification has no effect on turnout — not overall, and not on “any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.”
  • a literature review in 2017 that filtered out studies with obvious design flaws reported “modest, if any, turnout effects of voter identification laws” in the best research on the subject. So a voter ID requirement might possibly affect the closest of close races, based on what we’ve learned up till now — but if the Cantoni and Pons results hold up, the real effect is basically nil.
  • But before conservatives claim vindication, the new paper also casts doubt on the argument for voter ID laws, finding no effect on fraud itself, nor even any effect on public confidence in the integrity of the ballot.
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  • No matter where you stand on the voter fraud-voter suppression controversies, these findings strengthen the case for dialing down outrage, reducing anxiety and generally recognizing that if we stopped pushing for these laws and stopped freaking out about how they supposedly doom democracy, voting in America would rattle along basically unchanged
  • since it’s conservatives and Republicans who are the prime mover here, because they’re generally the ones pushing legal changes, they also have the primary obligation to step back and stand down.
  • At the same time there’s also no question that a lot of Republican operatives pushing voter ID laws are cynics who expect their party to benefit from lower minority turnout, and a number of professional right-wing partisans — including our president — see an upside in frightening their voters or viewers with the racialized threat of “urban” ballot-stuffing.
  • Which, again, is what makes the evidence from this study so helpful: It offers reasons for both the conservative sincerely worried about voter fraud and the operative cynically hoping for lower Democratic turnout to let this issue slide.
Javier E

Opinion | What Does Tucker Carlson Know That the Republican Party Doesn't? - The New Yo... - 0 views

  • In addition to the discrete conservative factions Cass and Carlson represent, there is another dissident wing of conservatism, represented by the Niskanen Center, which attempts to appeal to moderates and centrists of both parties.
  • indsey, in contrast to Cass, is far more critical of the contemporary right than of the left.Over the course of the 21st century, the conservative movement, and with it the Republican Party, has fallen ever more deeply under the sway of an illiberal and nihilistic populism — illiberal in its crude exploitation of religious, racial, and cultural divisions; nihilistic in its blithe indifference to governance and the established norms and institutions of representative self-government. This malignant development made possible the nomination and election of Donald Trump, whose two years in power have only accelerated conservatism’s and the GOP’s descent into the intellectual and moral gutter.
  • Wilkinson explains:The project of fashioning an ethnoreligious American identity has always been in conflict with a dominant and defining American impulse: to get rich. The United States has always been a distinctly commercial republic with expansionary, imperial impulses. High demand for workers and settlers led early on to a variegated population that encouraged the idea, largely traceable to Tom Paine, that American national identity is civic and ideological rather than racial and ethnic.
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  • godless capitalism that Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center, described in “How Godless Capitalism Made America Multicultural” — a problem that Wilkinson correctly points out affects “all wealthy, liberal-democratic countries.”
  • It is our goal to make the case for a principled center-right in American politics today that is distinctly different from either movement conservatism or its degenerate, populist offshoot.
  • Assimilation is an issue not because it isn’t happening, but because it is. The issue is that the post-1968 immigrants and their progeny are here at all. And their successful assimilation means that American culture, and American national identity, has already been updated and transformed.
  • Swift and dramatic cultural changes can leave us with the baffled feeling that the soil in which we laid down roots has somehow become foreign. Older people who have largely lost the capacity to easily assimilate to a new culture can feel that the rug has been pulled out from under them.
  • The result, according to Wilkinson, to whom I will give the last word, is thatrapid cultural change can make a truly common national identity hard to come by, if not impossible. It’s not clear to me how important it is to have one. But it does seem that a badly bifurcated cultural self-understanding can have very dramatic and potentially dangerous political consequences
Javier E

Trump's war on socialism will fail - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • “We socialists are trying to save capitalism, and the damned capitalists won’t let us.” Political scientist Mason B. Williams cited this cheeky but accurate comment by New Deal lawyer Jerome Frank to make a point easily lost in the new war on socialism that President Trump has launched: Socialism goes back a long way in the United States, and it has taken doses of it to keep the market system alive.
  • there would be no social reform, ever, if those seeking change were too timid to go big and allowed cries of “socialism” to intimidate them.
  • Young Americans especially are far more likely to associate “socialism” with generous social insurance states than with jackboots and gulags. Sweden, Norway and Denmark are anything but frightening places.
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  • The 2018 PRRI American Values Survey offered respondents two definitions of socialism. One described it as “a system of government that provides citizens with health insurance, retirement support and access to free higher education,” essentially a description of social democracy. The other was the full Soviet dose: “a system where the government controls key parts of the economy, such as utilities, transportation and communications industries.”
  • You might say that socialism is winning the branding war: Fifty-four percent said socialism was about those public benefits, while just 43 percent picked the version that stressed government domination. Americans ages 18 to 29, for whom Cold War memories are dim to nonexistent, were even more inclined to define socialism as social democracy: Fifty-eight percent of them picked the soft option, 38 percent the hard one.
Javier E

Fighting Brexit, One Caller and 100,000 YouTube Clicks at a Time - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The irrelevance of facts is a topic that has consumed political thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. O’Brien pins the problem on a phenomenon he has named the “footballification of politics.”“In football, or soccer as you call it, you have these utterly blind tribal loyalties,” he said. “You put on your red scarf, I put on my blue scarf, and that means we will always be mortal enemies. We have no common ground. My team is incapable of committing a foul, and your team is incapable of playing fair.”
  • The larger question, in both Britain and the United States, is why politics have recently devolved into tribes. To William Davies, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of the coming “Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World,” the answer is not that every side believes it has a monopoly on reason
Javier E

Tech Is Splitting the U.S. Work Force in Two - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Phoenix cannot escape the uncomfortable pattern taking shape across the American economy: Despite all its shiny new high-tech businesses, the vast majority of new jobs are in workaday service industries, like health care, hospitality, retail and building services, where pay is mediocre.
  • automation is changing the nature of work, flushing workers without a college degree out of productive industries, like manufacturing and high-tech services, and into tasks with meager wages and no prospect for advancement.
  • Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low.
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  • economists are reassessing their belief that technological progress lifts all boats, and are beginning to worry about the new configuration of work.
  • “We automate the pieces that can be automated,” said Paul Hart, a senior vice president running the radio-frequency power business at NXP’s plant in Chandler. “The work force grows but we need A.I. and automation to increase the throughput.”
  • “The view that we should not worry about any of these things and follow technology to wherever it will go is insane,”
  • But the industry doesn’t generate that many jobs
  • Because it pushes workers to the less productive parts of the economy, automation also helps explain one of the economy’s thorniest paradoxes: Despite the spread of information technology, robots and artificial intelligence breakthroughs, overall productivity growth remains sluggish.
  • Axon, which makes the Taser as well as body cameras used by police forces, is also automating whatever it can. Today, robots make four times as many Taser cartridges as 80 workers once did less than 10 years ago
  • The same is true across the high-tech landscape. Aircraft manufacturing employed 4,234 people in 2017, compared to 4,028 in 2010. Computer systems design services employed 11,000 people in 2017, up from 7,000 in 2010.
  • To find the bulk of jobs in Phoenix, you have to look on the other side of the economy: where productivity is low. Building services, like janitors and gardeners, employed nearly 35,000 people in the area in 2017, and health care and social services accounted for 254,000 workers. Restaurants and other eateries employed 136,000 workers, 24,000 more than at the trough of the recession in 2010. They made less than $450 a week.
  • While Banner invests heavily in technology, the machines do not generally reduce demand for workers. “There are not huge opportunities to increase productivity, but technology has a significant impact on quality,” said Banner’s chief operating officer, Becky Kuhn
  • The 58 most productive industries in Phoenix — where productivity ranges from $210,000 to $30 million per worker, according to Mr. Muro’s and Mr. Whiton’s analysis — employed only 162,000 people in 2017, 14,000 more than in 2010
  • Employment in the 58 industries with the lowest productivity, where it tops out at $65,000 per worker, grew 10 times as much over the period, to 673,000.
  • The same is true across the national economy. Jobs grow in health care, social assistance, accommodation, food services, building administration and waste services
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the employment footprint of highly productive industries, like finance, manufacturing, information services and wholesale trade, has shrunk over the last 30 years
  • “In the standard economic canon, the proposition that you can increase productivity and harm labor is bunkum,” Mr. Acemoglu said
  • By reducing prices and improving quality, technology was expected to raise demand, which would require more jobs. What’s more, economists thought, more productive workers would have higher incomes. This would create demand for new, unheard-of things that somebody would have to make
  • To prove their case, economists pointed confidently to one of the greatest technological leaps of the last few hundred years, when the rural economy gave way to the industrial era.
  • In 1900, agriculture employed 12 million Americans. By 2014, tractors, combines and other equipment had flushed 10 million people out of the sector. But as farm labor declined, the industrial economy added jobs even faster. What happened? As the new farm machines boosted food production and made produce cheaper, demand for agricultural products grew. And farmers used their higher incomes to purchase newfangled industrial goods.
  • The new industries were highly productive and also subject to furious technological advancement. Weavers lost their jobs to automated looms; secretaries lost their jobs to Microsoft Windows. But each new spin of the technological wheel, from plastic toys to televisions to computers, yielded higher incomes for workers and more sophisticated products and services for them to buy.
  • In a new study, David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Anna Salomons of Utrecht University found that over the last 40 years, jobs have fallen in every single industry that introduced technologies to enhance productivity.
  • The only reason employment didn’t fall across the entire economy is that other industries, with less productivity growth, picked up the slack. “The challenge is not the quantity of jobs,” they wrote. “The challenge is the quality of jobs available to low- and medium-skill workers.”
  • the economy today resembles what would have happened if farmers had spent their extra income from the use of tractors and combines on domestic servants. Productivity in domestic work doesn’t grow quickly. As more and more workers were bumped out of agriculture into servitude, productivity growth across the economy would have stagnated.
  • The growing awareness of robots’ impact on the working class raises anew a very old question: Could automation go too far? Mr. Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University argue that businesses are not even reaping large rewards for the money they are spending to replace their workers with machines.
  • the cost of automation to workers and society could be substantial. “It may well be that,” Mr. Summers said, “some categories of labor will not be able to earn a subsistence income.” And this could exacerbate social ills, from workers dropping out of jobs and getting hooked on painkillers, to mass incarceration and families falling apart.
  • Silicon Valley’s dream of an economy without workers may be implausible. But an economy where most people toil exclusively in the lowliest of jobs might be little better.
Javier E

AOC's Green New Deal: A New Millennial Climate Politics - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Al Gore made a prediction.When Americans understood what climate change would mean for their children and grandchildren, the former vice president warned, “they will demand that whoever is running for office, whoever is elected to serve, will have to respond.”
  • “Millennials have been hearing for 20 years” that climate change would be an issue for their generation to deal with, he told me. “And I would say, thanks, we’re here now. This is us taking over the issue that, decades ago, people said would be ours to deal with. This is what the next generation of the issue looks like.”
  • it has become the biggest idea in U.S. climate policy, and four Democratic presidential contenders have spoken in support of it (if tepidly). In practical terms, today’s plan matters most for the 2020 election. It shows that the broad left is on board with a policy; activist groups can now send detailed questionnaires to candidates and prepare report cards on the depth of their Green New Deal support.
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  • Even in its vague and broad language, it remains the most detailed guide to a Green New Deal yet. It is the first such plan endorsed by environmental organizations across the left, from the old-guard Sierra Club to the upstart Sunrise Movement, a youth-led activism corps that brought national notoriety to the Green New Deal plan last November.
  • “This is an investment,” she said. “For every dollar we spend on infrastructure, we get more than a dollar back for that investment. For every dollar we collect in taxes, we get less than a dollar back.”
  • Many progressives would consider themselves lucky if they ever get to talk seriously about carbon-capture policy. For now, they have the same goal: making its mix of climate and labor policy as much a part of the mainstream Democratic agenda as health care is.
Javier E

Ralph Northam and Virginia's 400-year history of slavery, segregation and racial oppres... - 0 views

  • Although slavery and then racism were eventually widespread across what became the United States, it was in Virginia where the so-called peculiar institution was born, where it was codified in law, and where the most famous slave-led rebellion in America, the Nat Turner uprising of 1831, occurred.
  • There, too, reverence for slavery’s defenders and monuments to its military heroes still haunt public spaces and dialogue, and memorialize a time when the country was ripped in two
  • In 1860, more slaves lived in Virginia — 490,000 — than in any other state in the Union, according to census data. The year before, in what was then Harpers Ferry, Va., the white abolitionist, John Brown, headed the doomed slave insurrection that helped spark the Civil War
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  • - 1705: The Virginia General Assembly passes a law that made it a crime, punishable by imprisonment, for a free white person to marry a black person — to prevent “that abominable mixture and spurious issue.” The law went on to state that if a slave happened to be killed while being punished, no crime would be attached, and the murder would be viewed “as if such incident had never happened.”
  • - 1877 to 1950: An estimated 76 lynchings of African Americans take place in Virginia. This is far fewer than the 500-plus in both Georgia and Mississippi, according to Encyclopedia Virginia, but equally as brutal
  • - 1956: Segregationist Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. of Virginia heads what comes to be called the “Massive Resistance” movement to block court-ordered integration of Virginia’s public schools. Across the state, schools shut down rather than integrate and instead set up private schools for whites.
  • - 1959: Virginia’s Prince Edward County closes its school system rather than integrate. The county’s schools remained closed until forced by the Supreme Court to reopen in 1964. But many students had already been denied education for five years, and many never recovered from the loss.
Javier E

Liberal Democrats Formally Call for a 'Green New Deal,' Giving Substance to a Rallying ... - 0 views

  • Liberal Democrats put flesh on their “Green New Deal” slogan on Thursday with a sweeping resolution intended to redefine the national debate on climate change by calling for the United States to eliminate additional emissions of carbon by 2030.
  • The measure, drafted by freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, is intended to answer the demand, by the party’s restive base, for a grand strategy that combats climate change, creates jobs and offers an affirmative response to the challenge to core party values posed by President Trump.
  • as a blueprint for liberal ambition, it was breathtaking. It includes a 10-year commitment to convert “100 percent of the power demand in the United States” to “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” to upgrade “all existing buildings” to meet energy efficiency requirements, and to expand high-speed rail so broadly that most air travel would be rendered obsolete.
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  • The initiative, introduced as nonbinding resolutions in the House and Senate, is tethered to an infrastructure program that its authors say could create millions of new “green jobs,” while guaranteeing health care, “a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security” to every American.
  • “Climate change and our environmental challenges are the biggest existential threats to our way of life,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on Thursday. “We must be as ambitious and innovative in our solutions as possible.”Mr. Markey added, “We will save all of creation by engaging in massive job creation.”
Javier E

Why Won't Blackface Go Away? It's Part of America's Troubled Cultural Legacy - The New ... - 0 views

  • the persistence of blackface is unsurprising. It has been a part of American popular culture since what we recognize as popular culture emerged — roughly round 1832, when Thomas Dartmouth Rice, in blackface, performed his song “Jump Jim Crow” to thunderous applause at the Bowery Theatre in New York.
  • minstrel shows and blackface performances, both reinforced and popularized the “stereotype of the dimwitted slave who was happy to be in the South.”
  • “Its longevity is because it’s been institutionalized into every aspect of American life,” Dr. Barnes said. “People have perpetuated blackface because we don’t teach minstrel history. If these people had ever been exposed to it in a safe classroom environment, they would know better.”
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  • A partial list of people who have appeared in blackface on screen and stage in the 186 years since Rice’s performance on the Bowery includes: Desi Arnaz, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (from “Amos ‘n’ Andy”), Ethel Barrymore, Milton Berle, Jimmy Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Billy Crystal, Ted Danson, Marion Davies, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Benny Hill, Bob Hope, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Hedy Lamarr, Janet Leigh, Harold Lloyd, Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy, the Marx Brothers, David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Will Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Grace Slick, Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Mae West, Gene Wilder and the Three Stooges.
  • For showbusiness impresarios, there was money to be made in perpetuating such stereotypes.
  • blackface was such an ingrained part of popular American culture — enacted so widely across entertainment media — that it had passed from the stage and screen to everyday life for many. A joke that could be made, a costume that could be worn.
  • If one were looking for a historical case study in celebrating blackface, well, one could proceed straight to the White House of Woodrow Wilson
  • President Wilson showed the movie at the White House; it may have been the first movie ever screened there. “It is like writing history with lightning,” Wilson was quoted as saying about the film. “And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”
  • The popularity of blackface was at its height in the early 20th century and has waned sharply since the ’50s, but it certainly hasn’t disappeared. Rather, it has taken on different forms, perhaps more palatable to modern audiences.
  • As the 19th century wore on, the country swooned over minstrel and vaudeville productions, which often used burnt cork or shoe polish to darken performers’ faces. And over Al Jolson, in particular. It was around 1904 when Jolson, a Jewish man born in what is now Lithuania, began performing in blackface.
Javier E

How Ralph Northam and others can repent of America's original sin - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • as angry as I can become at those who mock black people and culture to justify their own sense of superiority, I also know that mockery, fear and hatred of black people are the result of a racial caste system, not its causes.
  • White supremacy did not emerge in the United States because of some innate human understanding that black people are inferior to white people. It was an economic choice that Americans of European descent then created an ideology to explain.
  • Whether we are talking about Northam or President Trump — Democrats or Republicans — restitution that addresses systemic harm must be the fruit of true repentance.
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  • If Northam, or any politician who has worn blackface, used the n-word or voted for the agenda of white supremacy, wants to repent, the first question they must ask is “How are the people who have been harmed by my actions asking to change the policies and practices of our society?”
  • In political life, this means committing to expand voting rights, stand with immigrant neighbors, and provide health care and living wages for all people
  • Scapegoating politicians who are caught in the act of interpersonal racism will not address the fundamental issue of systemic racism
  • We have to talk about policy
  • we also have to talk about trust and power
  • If white people in political leadership are truly repentant, they will listen to black and other marginalized people in our society
  • They will confess that they have sinned and demonstrate their willingness to listen and learn by following and supporting the leadership of others. To confess past mistakes while continuing to insist that you are still best suited to lead because of your experience is itself a subtle form of white supremacy.
  • At the same time, we cannot allow political enemies of Virginia’s governor to call for his resignation over a photo when they continue themselves to vote for the policies of white supremacy. If anyone wants to call for the governor’s resignation, they should also call for the resignation of anyone who has supported racist voter suppression or policies that have a disparate impact on communities of color.
  • Whenever we ask what repentance means, we don’t have to start from scratch. We have a long tradition to draw on, full of examples of what true repentance must look like.
  • In his 20s and 30s, Democrat Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia was a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the exalted cyclops of his local chapter. He continued to support the Klan into the 1940s, but Byrd later said joining the Klan was his greatest mistake. He demonstrated what repentance can look like by working with colleagues in Congress to extend the Voting Rights Act in 2006 and backing Barack Obama as his party’s candidate for president in 2008
  • In our present moral crisis, we must remember that real repentance is possible — and it looks like working together to build the multiethnic democracy we’ve never yet been.
Javier E

James Comey: Take down the Confederate statues now - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • White people designed blackface to keep black people down, to intimidate, mock and stereotype. It began during the 19th century and wasn’t about white people honoring the talent of black people by dressing up to look like them. It was about mocking them and depicting them as lazy, stupid and less than fully human. It was a tool of oppression. As a college kid in Virginia during the 1980s, I knew that and so did my classmates. But a whole lot of white people seem to not know that history or understand why blackface is so offensive, whether it’s practiced by a college student or a new doctor
  • The turmoil in Virginia — where I have lived most of my adult life, including nine years in Richmond — may do some good if it reminds white people that a river of oppression runs through U.S. history, deep and wide, down to today.
  • There is no doubt that Virginia’s leaders need to be held accountable for their personal history, but every Virginia leader is responsible for the racist symbols that still loom over our lives.
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  • The towering likenesses of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson weren’t put up to celebrate history or heritage; they were put up as a message: The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution aren’t going to help you black folks because the South has risen from that humiliation. Jim Crow — a name rooted in blackface mockery — is king.
  • No, the statues were put up by white people, beginning in the 1890s, to remind black people that, despite all that nonsense of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, as well as the so-called Reconstruction, we are back, and you are back down.
  • The Confederate statues of Richmond’s Monument Avenue weren’t erected to honor the service of brave warriors. Those soldiers had been dead for decades before the statues went up
  • If you doubt that well-documented history — if you are tempted to buy the “heritage, not hate” rhetoric — ask yourself this question: “Where are the statues of James Longstreet?
  • Longstreet committed two unforgivable sins in the eyes of white supremacists: He criticized Lee’s war leadership, and he led an African American militia to put down an 1874 white rebellion in Louisiana. That’s why this central figure in Civil War history is not depicted among the other Confederate statues in Richmond.
  • The statues were about only a certain kind of heritage, just as blackface was about a certain kind of storytelling. It was about hate, not history or art.
  • If Virginia’s leaders want to atone for a troubling legacy, changing state law so Richmond’s statues no longer taunt the progress of our country would be a good place to start
Javier E

Why it's shocking to look back at med school yearbooks from decades ago - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • Yearbooks provide a window into how students created professional identities as they moved from school to work. For decades in medical schools, this creative process emboldened pervasive misogyny and racism. In turn, this shaped the treatment of patients, namely systemic pain bias against women, especially African American women.
  • Apologists too often resort to bad cliches to explain these examples away: They can be a case of “a few bad apples” or “boys being boys” or the byproduct of “a different time.”
  • But these excuses minimize the significance of the hostility that women and people of color navigated every day in these student cultures. Editors’ commemorative work on yearbooks was part of a system that subordinated women and people of color within the highly stratified and hierarchical structures of universities and hospitals that promoted discrimination and harassment
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