Tag Archives: United States

Backing into World War III

By Robert Kagan – Think of two significant trend lines in the world today. One is the increasing ambition and activism of the two great revisionist powers, Russia and China.

The other is the declining confidence, capacity, and will of the democratic world, and especially of the United States, to maintain the dominant position it has held in the international system since 1945. As those two lines move closer, as the declining will and capacity of the United States and its allies to maintain the present world order meet the increasing desire and capacity of the revisionist powers to change it, we will reach the moment at which the existing order collapses and the world descends into a phase of brutal anarchy, as it has three times in the past two centuries.

The cost of that descent, in lives and treasure, in lost freedoms and lost hope, will be staggering. History shows that world orders do collapse, however, and when they do it is often unexpected, rapid, and violent.

The late 18th century was the high point of the Enlightenment in Europe, before the continent fell suddenly into the abyss of the Napoleonic Wars. In the first decade of the 20th century, the world’s smartest minds predicted an end to great-power conflict as revolutions in communication and transportation knit economies and people closer together. The most devastating war in history came four years later. The apparent calm of the postwar 1920s became the crisis-ridden 1930s and then another world war.

Where exactly we are in this classic scenario today, how close the trend lines are to that intersection point is, as always, impossible to know. Are we three years away from a global crisis, or 15?

That we are somewhere on that path, however, is unmistakable.

And while it is too soon to know what effect Donald Trump’s presidency will have on these trends, early signs suggest that the new administration is more likely to hasten us toward crisis than slow or reverse these trends.

It will be more than a shame if Americans were to destroy what they created—and not because it was no longer possible to sustain but simply because they chose to stop trying. more> https://goo.gl/cGZ3En

Updates from GE

By Samantha Shaddock – GE’s Slide Rule Sisters — Loren Ingraham, Betty Lou Bailey, Eleanor Semple and Janet Neely — worked closely with jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann and used their mathematics and physics expertise to advance jet-engine design in the aftermath of World War II.

“When I started going to technical engineering meetings … men just stared — a woman engineer!” Loren Ingraham told the Post in 1956. “Now when I walk in, they just sort of glance over their shoulders.”

The second world war was pivotal for the women who took the place of male engineers who’d been called to the armed forces. In 1940, fewer than 800 female engineers were working in the U.S., according to the Post’s profile. By the time the story ran 16 years later, their ranks had grown to 4,000.

Today’s numbers are better, but they’re nowhere near what they could be. Women account for 14 percent of all engineers in the U.S. and only 25 percent of information technology professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the aerospace and mechanical engineering fields, women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce.

GE currently employs 14,700 women in engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management, which represents 18 percent of the company’s technical workforce. GE is aggressively pursuing a plan to grow their numbers even further by setting goals of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all its technical entry-level programs. more> https://goo.gl/DQWP5K

A New Reason for Foreigners to Avoid Google and Facebook

By Leonid Bershidsky – A Philadelphia court has made the unfortunate decision to reopen the legal debate on whether the U.S. has the right to access e-mails stored on foreign servers if they belong to U.S. companies.

That’s a dangerous approach that hurts the international expansion of U.S. tech companies. Privacy-minded customers in Europe are already suspicious of the U.S. government’s cooperation with the tech giants, revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Nationalist politicians in some countries — for example, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front — want to ban cross-border personal data transfers, arguing that such data must be stored on servers inside the internet user’s country. That, however, does not appear to guarantee that the U.S. won’t get at it, either.

Those who are uneasy about the degree of the U.S. government’s reach into their private files and communications need to start thinking about alternatives, no matter how hard it may be to replace Google, Microsoft or Facebook. more> https://goo.gl/a1hqfP

Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

By Klaus Brinkbäumer – There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person’s character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes.

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That’s difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization — and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That’s how demagogues work and it is how they become effective.

The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for “America first” and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world’s most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him. more> https://goo.gl/PwClWJ

Liberals Will Not Like How This Revenge Plot Ends

By Megan McArdle – I thought Republicans should have confirmed Garland, and I’ve written before that the arms race to procedurally hack the U.S. government — via controlling the Supreme Court, or dreaming up ever-more-arcane uses of the parliamentary rules — is bad for the country and needs to stop. That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to.

The escalating tit-for-tat game over the Supreme Court has been going on at least since the 1980s, and arguably long before that, in the post-New-Deal era when courts began tilting noticeably leftwards.

Under Reagan, conservatives sought to reverse that by grooming conservative justices for all levels of the courts. Democrats tried to keep them from doing so, culminating in the disgraceful treatment of Robert Bork. Ever since, we’ve been locked in a spiraling cycle of payback.

Everyone understands that this is destructive; everyone wishes it to stop. The catch is, they also believe that it needs to stop after they themselves get last licks in. And so it continues. more> https://goo.gl/ZY6FYW

How to Build an Autocracy

By David Frum – No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

Yet the American system is also perforated by vulnerabilities no less dangerous for being so familiar. Supreme among those vulnerabilities is reliance on the personal qualities of the man or woman who wields the awesome powers of the presidency.

A British prime minister can lose power in minutes if he or she forfeits the confidence of the majority in Parliament. The president of the United States, on the other hand, is restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit.

What happens if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities? more> https://goo.gl/IjMqiK

The US has been downgraded to a “flawed democracy,” but not just because of Trump

By Eshe Nelson – The US has been “teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy” for years, the report says. Regardless of the result of the 2016 presidential election, the US was due a downgrade.

Trust has been declining in the US for decades, leaving the country’s institutions battling a “legitimacy crisis” and struggling to sustain representative democracy in its current form, the report says.

The decline began in the late 1960s with the Vietnam war, civil rights movement, assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and the Watergate scandal. Over the past decade, it got worse following wars in the Middle East, a financial crisis, and persistent gridlock in Washington. And along came Trump:

By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation.

In total, democracy, as measured by the EIU, declined in 72 countries and increased in 38 countries last year. more> https://goo.gl/4DCag4

The Curse of Econ 101

BOOK REVIEW

Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality, Author: James Kwak.

By James Kwak – In a rich, post-industrial society, where most people walk around with supercomputers in their pockets and a person can have virtually anything delivered to his or her doorstep overnight, it seems wrong that people who work should have to live in poverty.

Yet in America, there are more than ten million members of the working poor: people in the workforce whose household income is below the poverty line.

Looking around, it isn’t hard to understand why.

The idea that a higher minimum wage might not increase unemployment runs directly counter to the lessons of Economics 101. According to the textbook, if labor becomes more expensive, companies buy less of it. But there are several reasons why the real world does not behave so predictably.

A higher minimum wage motivates more people to enter the labor force, raising both employment and output. Finally, higher pay increases workers’ buying power. Because poor people spend a relatively large proportion of their income, a higher minimum wage can boost overall economic activity and stimulate economic growth, creating more jobs. more> https://goo.gl/tZkyjV

Updates from GE

Is Health Care Too Big To Fail? Or Is Failure Exactly What We Need?
By Sam Glick – There is a looming challenge facing U.S. hospitals, which are being forced either to reduce costs at the expense of creating potentially devastating impacts on their local communities, or take less aggressive cost-cutting measures and risk going broke.

The backdrop to this veritable Sophie’s Choice has developed through a series of public policy and market moves to shift financial risk onto local health systems that have little experience in such areas. When the hospital is the largest employer in many towns, with financing coming from insurance companies and mutual funds, we have the makings of 2008-financial-crisis-style systemic risk.

This year, nearly one in five dollars in the U.S. will be spent on health care. As a percentage of GDP, this is nearly twice the global average, yet we receive no clear benefit from a significant portion of this spending. The U.S. ranks first in per capita health care spending, but last in the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment of health system performance in 11 major developed countries. As a society, we have a health care return-on-investment problem. more> https://goo.gl/oedfxf

Seven Trump foreign policy assumptions

By Daniel L. Byman – Let’s consider some of the assumptions Trump and his team appear to bring to the table as they enter office. Some are about how the world works, while others concern the best way to design and implement U.S. foreign policy.

  • Assumption #1: Calling it “Radical Islam” Makes a Difference
  • Assumption #2: Foreign Public Opinion Doesn’t Matter
  • Assumption #3: Allies are Overrated
  • Assumption #4: Russia Is America’s Natural Partner
  • Assumption #5: Israel Can Do What it Wants
  • Assumption #6: The Rough Stuff Works
  • Assumption #7: Tough Policymakers Make for Tough Policy

In short: Trump’s foreign policy assumptions fly in the face of many traditional U.S. policy approaches and the preferences of powerful bureaucracies. We should expect international realities and bureaucratic obstacles to obstruct, or at least water down, some initiatives, while those that get through might not just fail but may leave the United States worse off for pursuing them.

As a candidate, Trump excelled at destroying truisms about how politics works; over the coming years, we will find out if this holds true for foreign policy as well. more> https://goo.gl/PVWnOe

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