Showing posts with label Moon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moon. Show all posts

Friday, January 28, 2022

January 28: Slavery, Polarization, Moon, Pakistan, Putin

Democrats Moved the Filibuster Overton Window Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema may be the last in their party to support maintaining the procedure. .......... for activists, the long battle over voter protections hasn’t been entirely in vain: It’s fundamentally changed the center of gravity in the Democratic Party to the point where those two holdouts are likely to be the last Democrats ever elected to the Senate who support maintaining the filibuster, at least for voting rights. ............ The leading Democratic Senate challengers for 2022, even in tough swing states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, have already indicated support for changing the rules. ......... Key party constituencies are pledging to withhold support for Democrats who do not back filibuster reform. The movement has been as striking among incumbents, including those from tough swing states. ......... If Democrats lose unified control of Congress in November, it’s not clear when they will regain it and the power to implement their new consensus on retrenching the filibuster. But it is clear that Manchin and Sinema are holding to a position that leaves them almost completely isolated in the party. “I think it is very likely they are the last two elected Democrats who support the filibuster,” Eli Zupnick, the spokesperson for Fix Our Senate, a group advocating for filibuster reform, told me. “It is no longer a tenable position to defend the broken status quo.” ........... All of this may be cold comfort to advocates smarting from last night’s defeat—and facing the prospect that

red states could have almost unfettered freedom to restrict voting rights over the next few years if Republicans regain one or both Congressional chambers this fall

. ............. by forcing the voting-rights fight to a climactic, if doomed, vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has accelerated the development of a new consensus position in the party. ......... EMILY’s List, the fundraising behemoth that supports female Democratic candidates who endorse abortion rights, said in an unusually pointed statement that it would no longer support Sinema if she maintained her opposition to changing the filibuster. ......... “Sen. Sinema’s decision to reject the voices of allies, partners and constituents who believe the importance of voting rights outweighs that of an arcane process means she will find herself standing alone in the next election,” the group wrote. ........... “If the Senate cannot even begin to debate and vote on something as foundational as voting rights, we must reform Senate rules” ........

Sinema’s Arizona colleague, Senator Mark Kelly, announced that he would support changing Senate rules for voting-rights issues “to pass them with a majority vote.”

.......... It’s easy to lose sight of how big a change this represents for Democrats. Zupnick said that when the party won the Senate majority last January, “we had a list of 10 Democratic senators who were reluctant or flat-out opposed” to changing the filibuster, or who would not commit to any position on the issue. At that time, another prominent former senator, the newly elected President Joe Biden, was openly resistant to changing the rules too. ...... “This is no longer just a progressive issue—it is a consensus Democratic position” ....... solidified the Democratic consensus on changing the filibuster by demonstrating how completely the congressional GOP has turned against virtually any federal role in protecting voters ........ The League of Conservation Voters alone spent about $52 million supporting Democratic Senate candidates over the past three elections, including nearly $4 million for Sinema in 2018. EMILY’s List recorded nearly $46 million in direct contributions and outside spending for Democrats in the 2020 election cycle and, two years earlier, was among Sinema’s biggest donors ......

Republicans need a net gain of only five seats to win back the House majority in November’s election and the party out of the White House has won at least that many in all but four midterm elections since the Civil War.

...... November, Republicans could post considerable gains in both chambers ......... by blocking any federal response to the voter-suppression legislation advancing across so many red states, the two Democratic holdouts are increasing the chances that it will be Republicans who next seize unified control of Washington.

We Still Can’t See American Slavery for What It Was . An estimated 12.5 million people endured some version of this journey, captured and shipped mainly from the western coast of Africa to the Western Hemisphere during the four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Of that number, about 10.7 million survived to reach the shores of the so-called New World. ......... “After every deduction, the trade retains its gigantic character of crime.” ....... A large majority of people taken from Africa were sold to enslavers in either South America or the Caribbean. British, Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese traders brought their captives to, among other places, modern-day Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Haiti, as well as Argentina, Antigua and the Bahamas. A little over 3.5 percent of the total, about 389,000 people, arrived on the shores of British North America and the Gulf Coast during those centuries when slave ships could find port. ..........

by 1787, most of the states of the newly independent United States had banned the importation of slaves, although slavery itself continued to thrive in the southeastern part of the country.

........ Slavery remained a big and booming business, driven by demand for tobacco, rice, indigo and increasingly cotton, which was already on its path to dominance as the principal cash crop of the slaveholding South. .......... Within a decade of the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, annual cotton production had grown twentyfold to 35 million pounds in 1800. By 1810, production had risen to roughly 85 million pounds per year, accounting for more than 20 percent of the nation’s export revenue. By 1820, the United States was producing something in the area of 160 million pounds of cotton a year. .......... spectacularly violated, objectified, disposable, hypersexualized, and silenced ........ information about the people, the humans, who actually bore the brunt of this violence. And that’s important. It is important to humanize this history, to understand that this happened to African human beings.” .........

a young man sold for the purpose of “breeding” more people.

........... to have this visual in your head of these young people, chained on a boat, not really knowing where they were going.” ..... “I actually want to understand tiny moments of violence, because that’s what I see as adding up to a kind of numbness — a numbness of empathy, a numbness to human interconnection.” .......... W.E.B. Du Bois once called the trans-Atlantic slave trade “the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history”; a tragedy that involved “the transportation of 10 million human beings out of the dark beauty of their mother continent into the newfound Eldorado of the West” where they “descended into Hell”; and an “upheaval of humanity like the Reformation and the French Revolution.”

America Has Split, and It’s Now in ‘Very Dangerous Territory’ . Polarization has become a force that feeds on itself, gaining strength from the hostility it generates, finding sustenance on both the left and the right. A series of recent analyses reveals the destructive power of polarization across the American political system. ......... None of the wealthy, consolidated democracies of East Asia, Oceania or Western Europe, for example, have faced similar levels of polarization for such an extended period. ......... “the United States is the only advanced Western democracy to have faced such intense polarization for such an extended period. The United States is in uncharted and very dangerous territory.” ......... there are “a number of features that make the United States both especially susceptible to polarization and especially impervious to efforts to reduce it.” .............

The United States is perhaps alone in experiencing a demographic shift that poses a threat to the white population that has historically been the dominant group in all arenas of power, allowing political leaders to exploit insecurities surrounding this loss of status.

........... “The Senate is highly disproportionate in its representation,” they add, “with two senators per state regardless of population, from Wyoming’s 580,000 to California’s 39,500,000 persons,” which, in turn, “translates to disproportionality in the Electoral College — whose indirect election of the president is again exceptional among presidential democracies.” .......... aggressive redistribution policies designed to lessen inequality must be initiated before polarization becomes further entrenched. The fear is that polarization now runs so deep in the United States that we can’t do the things that would help us be less polarized. ......... a deeply polarized electorate is highly unlikely to support redistribution that would benefit their adversaries as well as themselves. ......... Interactions with more diverse out-group members pool greater knowledge, applicable to a wider variety of situations. These interactions, when successful, generate better solutions and greater benefits. However, we also assume that the risk of failure is higher for out-group interactions, because of a weaker capacity to coordinate among individuals, compared to more familiar in-group interactions. ..........

after Levi Strauss & Co. pledged over $1 million to support ending gun violence and strengthening gun control laws, the jean company became progressively aligned with liberals while conservatives aligned themselves more with Wrangler

........... the stereotypes of “Tesla liberals” and “bird hunting conservatives” ........... “cultural products are four times more polarized than any other segment.” .......... greater levels of prejudice among conservatives .......... “people high in cognitive ability are prejudiced against more conservative and conventional groups,” while “people low in cognitive ability are prejudiced against more liberal and unconventional groups.” ........ those on the extreme right and extreme left exhibited cognitive rigidity on neuropsychological tasks, in comparison to moderates. .........

the electorate as a whole is moving farther and farther apart into two mutually loathing camps.

.......... By the 2000s, party explained about 80 percent of the variance in senators’ racial conservatism and nearly 100 percent of the variance in the mass public. ......... Today, across all offices, conservative states are largely dominated by Republicans, whereas the opposite is true of liberal states.

The ideological nationalization of the party system thus seems to have undermined party competition at the state level.

................ the pool of people that run for office is increasingly extreme. ........... only 16 of the 52 countries that reached levels of pernicious polarization succeeded in achieving depolarization and in “a significant number of instances later repolarized to pernicious levels. The progress toward depolarization in seven of 16 episodes was later undone.”

Joe Manchin Thinks James Madison Is on His Side. Nope. . .

Why is Ukraine such an economic failure? . Ukraine is a middle-income country. Its GDP per capita (PPP) is somewhere around $13000, which is similar to Libya or Paraguay. That’s not terrible, but what is terrible is how Ukraine has stagnated since the fall of the Soviet Union. By the World Bank’s reckoning, Ukraine is about 20% poorer now than it was in 1990! ......... If Ukraine had experienced growth similar to that of Poland or Romania since the fall of communism, it would now have a GDP in the $30,000-$35,000 range, and would essentially be a developed country. ......... Putin’s portrayal of Ukraine as a basket case has been a key part of his justification for aggression. ........ In general, the rule for countries is that they’re poor until something happens to make them rich. Thus, many disappointing growth stories (e.g. Pakistan) can be explained simply by a lack of pro-development policy. ......... Ukraine proceeded with shock therapy, and in proportional terms it had the most to shock. ........ exporting manufactured goods is the best way to boost a country out of poverty ....... Countries that specialize in resource extraction or agriculture, or which fail to make their products competitive in global markets, tend to fall behind in the development race. ........ Poland, Romania, or Turkey — three countries that have enjoyed rapid growth and are now on the cusp of developed-country status — and you’ll see that they all export a lot of cars car parts and some electronics, with Germany and the other rich countries of Europe as their biggest markets. ....... they’ve become a sort of Tennessee/Kentucky for Europe — a cheap zone for high-value manufacturing. ........ Ukraine, and we see that it mostly exports very basic, simple, low-value stuff — food, metals, and minerals. ........ in the 2000s, Ukrainian policy tended to reserve manufacturing industries for domestic oligarchs — most of whom had gotten rich by owning Ukraine’s old inefficient Soviet-era manufacturing industries. It thus tried to discourage foreign investment in the manufacturing sector — a huge, tragic mistake. The oligarchs didn’t do much with Ukraine’s manufacturing sector; they just kept collecting their checks and allowed the sector to slowly decline. Meanwhile, the country’s leaders encouraged foreign investment in sectors like finance and real estate. .......... But Ukraine also hit another big shock right around this same time: The end of cheap Russian gas. In Soviet times Russia had piped cheap gas to Ukraine to subsidize the area’s inefficient heavy industry, and this policy basically continued after 1991. But from 2007 through 2009, Russia mostly ended this sweetheart deal, raising the prices Ukraine would have to pay for gas. This dealt a blow to Ukraine’s inefficient, oligarch-controlled manufacturing sector. In 2010 the cheap gas subsidy was partly restored when Ukraine elected a pro-Russian president (Yanukovych) who negotiated a new discount. But of course that ended in 2014 when Yanukovych was ousted and the war began. ...........

So Ukraine made a big mistake in its FDI policy, which left it vulnerable to the twin shocks of the global financial crisis and the end of cheap Russian gas.

....... it makes it hard to raise tax revenue, which forces tax rates to be higher, which forces much of the economy off the books. In 2014, Ukraine’s shadow economy was estimated to comprise a whopping 50% of the total. That in turn encourages a pervasive culture of bribe-taking and extralegal means of property protection and contract enforcement (i.e. organized crime), which exacts its own toll on the economy in myriad ways. ......... What’s good for enriching the country is not always the same as what’s good for enriching oligarchs. ....... Official corruption also inhibits good governance. The Yanukovych administration is thought to have been especially corrupt, with tens of billions vanishing from government coffers during his rule. Those kinds of “rents” reduce the leadership’s incentive to invest in public goods; why build roads and schools and export industries to make your country rich, when you can just raid its treasury to enrich your own family and depend on Russia for protection? .......... Becoming a rich country like Poland is Ukraine’s best chance for standing up to a domineering neighbor three times its size. External military threat has been a catalyst for development for countries throughout the ages, most notably Japan and South Korea. Hopefully it will do the same for Ukraine now.

Why would Pakistan grow? Bangladesh’s startling and encouraging economic growth......... countries are poor until they get rich. India and Bangladesh have been doing things that have made them grow steadily richer; Pakistan, in general, has not. ........ The average Pakistani household consumes as much as the average Indian household, and more than the average Bangladeshi household. ........ Pakistan is eating its proverbial seed corn instead of planting it in the ground. Bangladesh and India, in contrast, are planting their seed corn — foregoing current consumption in order to build productive capital and be richer tomorrow. ........ Pakistan is behaving like a lot of natural resource exporters behave — but without the natural resources. Instead of a middle-income or high-income consumption society, it’s a low-income consumption society — keeping its people barely treading water, with lots of help from external largesse. That largesse is doubtless partly motivated by Pakistan’s strategic importance; it sits at the confluence of the War on Terror and Asian geopolitics, and it has nuclear weapons that no one wants to see fall into the wrong hands. ....... the “selectorate” — is some elite subset of the populace, rather than the whole populace at large ....... If Pakistan’s leaders chose to do what Bangladesh does, and divert another 16% of its GDP to building capital instead of giving people the necessities of life, they might be kicked right out of power by a disgruntled populace. Bangladesh, with its greater political stability, is able to make the far-sighted choice instead. ......... Push-button superweapons greatly reduce the need for a state to be rich and effective — or even particularly stable — in order to maintain security from external threats. Perhaps we can see this with North Korea as well, or possibly even Russia...... the right political incentives for growth-oriented policy are not in place yet. Perhaps a long period of stable civilian rule, or nationalistic envy of Bangladesh’s success, can change the calculus.

Bangladesh is the new Asian Tiger . It's succeeding using the classic formula, and defying the skeptics. ......... Bangladesh has now surpassed both India and Pakistan in terms of GDP per capita. That’s an astonishing milestone. ........ Bangladeshi growth is accelerating, from around 5% in previous years to 7% in 2019 .......... Pakistan is mostly stagnant, languishing in poverty ........ it’s doing the very same thing that Britain did when it became the first country to industrialize, over two centuries ago.

It’s making and selling a bunch of clothes.

.......... Bangladesh has become known as a hub of the world’s garment industry. ........ This transformation through garment exports did not occur in a vacuum: the government decided very early on to promote the sector and to provide incentives to get it where it needed to be. As in many countries, an important part of that strategy entailed designing special economic zones, areas in which regulations, incentives, and basic infrastructure could be provided to ensure conditions for success. This also made it easier for FDI to engage in production… .......... Bangladesh picked a traditional labor-intensive light manufacturing industry, laid out plans for promoting that industry, and successfully built a dominant position in that industry. ............. Bangladesh ignored the dire warnings that labor-intensive manufacturing was about to be automated away, and ignored the skepticism about whether a country outside Europe or East Asia could pull off manufacturing-led industrialization, and simply powered ahead with a traditional development strategy. And dammit, it’s working. .......... Bangladesh needs to diversify into other light manfuacturing industries like toys and furniture, etc. And to really climb up the value chain, Bangladesh needs to start making electronics. ........ growth seems to have taken on something of a life of its own ......... this is still a very poor country, with a per capita GDP (PPP) of only around $5800, similar to that of Ghana or Honduras. It’s going to be many decades yet before Bangladesh can reach developed-country status ........ Bangladesh’s growth should remind us that globalization is still an incredibly powerful force for good. Access to European and U.S. export markets has been crucial. ......... far away from our bickering culture wars and policy debates, the lifting of the world’s indigent masses to the safety and comfort of material plenty is still the biggest and most important story in the world.

Republicans Think There Is a ‘Takeover’ Happening. They Have Some Reading to Do. . Congress has absolute, unbending power to regulate federal elections as it sees fit. ...... it has been strange to see Republican politicians — including some self-described “constitutional conservatives” — denounce the Democrats’ proposed new voting rights legislation as an illegitimate “federal takeover” of federal elections. ......... overall voter turnout has increased significantly since the Supreme Court undermined the Voting Rights Act in 2013. ........ There are times when the federal government needs to take election rules out of the hands of the states. Looking at the restrictions and power grabs passed by state Republican lawmakers in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat, I’d say now is one of those times.

It’s 2086. This Is What American History Could Look Like. . President Andrew Jackson’s dueling pistols — once proof of the aggressive populism of a fighter honored in Democratic banquets and the names of generations of boys — now could not be displayed without mention of the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans for which he often fought. ........ The elections in 2022 and 2024 will help determine whether the big lie becomes the official truth. ...... more than 30 percent of respondents said they do not accept the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 victory, and 25 percent opposed investigating those who sought to overturn the election. .........

As curators, as historians, as citizens, we are frequently reminded that the past is a foreign country. But so is the future.

Putin Is Caught in a Trap of His Own Making . The question is on everyone’s lips. Will President Vladimir Putin go to war against Ukraine? To judge by Russia’s propaganda machine, where media moguls are predicting a victory “in 48 hours,” the answer is an emphatic yes. ........ While Mr. Putin undoubtedly regards Ukraine as little more than a Russian province, as he argued in a lengthy pseudo-historical treatise in July, it’s far from clear his aim was war. Outright conflict — as opposed to sudden swoops, covert operations or hybrid warfare — isn’t really Mr. Putin’s style. ....... It’s probable that the troop buildup in November was an attempt to force the West to relinquish any claims over Ukraine. That would be a great P.R. victory at minimal cost. ......... Instead of trapping the United States, Mr. Putin has trapped himself. Caught between armed conflict and a humiliating retreat, he is now seeing his room for maneuver dwindling to nothing. He could invade and risk defeat, or he could pull back and have nothing to show for his brinkmanship. What happens next is unknown. But one thing is clear: Mr. Putin’s gamble has failed. ....... Mr. Putin — whose instinctive cautiousness I’ve observed at close quarters for two decades — has a record of withdrawing at the first sign of real conflict. When Russian mercenaries were killed by U.S. troops in Syria in 2018, for example, he had the perfect opportunity to retaliate. Instead, Russia denied the slaughter ever took place. .......... Tellingly, Russia’s major successful military operations under Mr. Putin — the defeat of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 — happened when the West was looking the other way. In both cases, the world was caught unawares and Russia could complete its designs without the threat of armed international opposition. That is not the case now. ....... What’s more, there are no internal reasons for pursuing a war. Yes, Mr. Putin’s ratings are down and prices are up, but there’s no major domestic unrest and elections are two years away. ........ Russia would not be assured of victory. The Ukrainian Army is much improved, having upscaled its equipment and preparations for a ground invasion, and the Russian troops deployed near the border are most likely insufficient to conquer the country. ........... Without the usual bargaining chips — no sound economy, no superior weapons, no fanatical followers — he fell back on unpredictability. The more irrational his behavior, went the thinking, the more likely the United States would accept his demands. ....... Those demands, published in mock-treaty form in December, were in many cases absurd. ......... The core request — that NATO deny membership to Ukraine — was silly in a different way. There was no chance of Ukraine becoming a member any time soon, ultimatum or not. But that was Mr. Putin’s point: By demanding something that was already happening, Mr. Putin aimed to claim a victory over the West. ............ he could test the waters with a deniable provocation undertaken by supposedly private Russian citizens, those Mr. Putin once called “coal miners and tractor drivers.” That may be a small way to save face, but it could easily spill out of control. The risk of outright war is enormous. ...... one certainty to hold on to: Mr. Putin will never start a war he’s likely to lose.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Could The Two Koreas Go Solo?

The message from Messrs. Moon and Kim .. was: “Why do we need the U.S. doing anything if Trump is going to oscillate between ‘fire and fury’ and sharing a hamburger with Kim? Maybe we should move things forward by ourselves.”

I don't see why not. The Paris Climate Accord is still in place with many US states vying to meet its standards. The Trans Pacific Partnership went on. The Iran nuclear deal is still holding. I think Trump reads his electoral mandate to mean that the US finds it too expensive to continue leading like it has for decades. It would like to step down a little. Others should fill that void together.

The two Korean leaders can make peace and unification happen. They can make the Trump-Kim summit happen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Barack Obama's Missed Trip To The Moon

MoonImage by penguinbush via FlickrJFK famously sent a man to the moon. When George W Bush became president he imitated JFK. He said he wanted to send a man to Mars. Like Texas were the earth, the moon was Louisiana, and Mars perhaps was Alabama. Not so.

Barack Obama ratcheted it down a little. He said maybe not Mars, maybe an asteroid.

That was a mistake. In an era when countries are struggling to even occupy the space between the moon and the earth, a manned mission to Mars is an out of place metaphor.

The mission to the Moon was less about the mission to the moon. It was more about the technological fallouts that benefitted the population at large.

The mission to the moon today would be to take gigabit broadband to every human being on earth. That goal should have been the centerpiece of the stimulus bill of 2009. And it is still not too late. Maybe there will be a push for it in 2013.

Be it global finance, or global warming, or global poverty, or lifelong education or universal health, or global terrorism, universal gigabit broadband touches them all.

America, Europe and Japan might have to pitch in 100 billion dollars each. And that is money that will get paid back in spades. So this is not a foreign aid concept. This is an investment with great returns.
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