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06 July, 2010

Notes From All Over (05/7/2010).

A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit.

THE REPUBLIC

David Autor. Center for American Progress. April 2010.

Catherine Rampell. New York Times. 21 June 2010.

Open Secrets. 3 June 2010.

Placed together these three reports tell the troubling story of America's elite. Dr. Autor reports that shifts in labor demand have led to polarization of job opportunities, with employment growth concentrated in high-skill, high-wage occupations and in low-skill, low-wage jobs. All of this comes at the expense of “middleskill jobs".

As middle class employment opportunities disappear the scramble for the top seat at the table becomes all the more furious. Every American is told from the time they are little that education and hard work bring prosperity; the immediate bestowal of both is expected by today's graduates. Universities, like any institution intent on keeping its donors, have labored to meet these impossible expectations. The result is groundless grade inflation with the hope that higher GPAs will provide the new graduates with the employment opportunities they desire.

This process can only succeed on the short term. Once a large enough number of universities have jumped on the inflation band wagon the credibility of higher institutions as whole is damaged. Diplomas and high GPAs will matter very little when they are so easy to obtain. America's meritocracy will be gone. Connections will remain the one viable path to success.



INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

William Darmyple. The Guardian. 1 July 2010.

A superb article by Mr. Darmyple - easily one of the best editorials I have read on the subject this year. (An extended version can be found in The New Statesman.) I recommend reading it; Mr. Darmyple's conclusion has profoundly changed how I plan to approach the upcoming Chicago Boyz Afghanistan 2050 roundtable.

H/T Kikobar

Jay Bahadu. Financial Times Online. 23 June 2010.

Piracy off of the Horn is one of the least understood issues in national security today. This article is the best primer you can get short of jargon-stuffed, book-length policy briefs.


Patricia Lee Sharpe. Whirled View. 5 July 2010.



ENVIRONMENT & ECOLOGY


Yale Environment 360. 1 June 2010.

I have argued before that any projection aiming to chart a direct relationship between climate change on the global scale and climate change and ecological transitions on the regional scale are models of fantasy. There are simply too many variables for any one model to take into account. This is a prime example.

"Fabius Maximus". Fabius Maximus. 22 June 2010.



INDIA

Nitin Pai. The Acorn. 11 Apr 2010.

Srinath Raghavan. Telegraph India. 17 June 2010.

My fellow Americans often worry about civil-military relations. Our problems pale in comparison to India's.


Nandini Sundar. Outlook India. July 5th 2010 issue.
While rape is often described as a weapon of war, it is not uniformly practised, and indeed nothing distinguishes the two parties in a guerrilla war more than their attitude to rape. In her careful analysis of sexual violence during civil war, the political scientist Elizabeth Woods points out that while it was common in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, sexual assault was less frequent in El Salvador, Sri Lanka and Peru. In the latter cases, the vast majority of rapes were committed by the government or paramilitaries, this also being a primary reason why women were motivated to join the insurgents. The rebel armies—who carried out other violent acts, including the killing of civilians—almost never committed sexual violence, including against female combatants in their own ranks. In Mizoram, women recalling the regrouping and search operations of the 1960s described only rapes by Indian soldiers and none by the Mizo National Front. One said to me, “It is as if the vai (outsider) army was hungry for women.” Today, despite government claims that the Maoists sexually exploit young women, the distinction between insurgent and counter-insurgent is clear for the women of Dantewada. They are safe from one army (the PLGA) but not from the other (the Indian paramilitary and SPOs/police). And in any war to win hearts and minds (‘WHAM’), surely this is not an unimportant distinction.

As an aside, 'WHAM' goes near the top of the list of best pseudo-military acronyms ever conceived in the mind of an English speaking person.

CULTURE

Robin Lakoff. Huffington Post. 10 June 2010.

Reflecting on the success of Mrs. Palin, Clinton, Haley, et. all Robin Lakoff proposes an intriguing (and utterly non-pc) point:
If politics works like other once-prestigious fields, then the increasing success of women in it is not altogether an encouraging sign -- it may be a symptom of the culture's doubts about politics and its players. And while I am inclined to applaud the success of so many women today in a field formerly all but closed to them, the correlation between women's presence in a field and its fall in prestige is still worth contemplating. At the very least, today's results should be a wake-up call: what must we do to restore political service to a place of honor, so that the people who enter it will continue to be the best and the brightest?
Take his words with a grain of salt, however. Teasing out the independent variable is difficult in this case. The higher percentage of women involved in national politics could very well be the reason the electorate no longer respects the political class, not the other way around.

Data from countries with a higher percentage of women politicians would be worth investigating. This would make an interesting research project.


DOMESTIC POLITICS

ED Klein. League of Ordinary Gentlemen. 23 June 2010.

The title is only loosely related to the post's actual content. I link to it here because it provides a concise summary of my own problems with America's conservative movement. To quote:
So I become frustrated that so many pundits and politicians on the right seem so hell-bent on painting themselves as incompetent or uninterested in the hard business of governance. I’ve said before that I think limited government is a much more difficult thing to implement than big government.

When the option of throwing money at a problem is off the table, actual solutions become necessary. We need to be able to trust that the people we put in control of limiting government aren’t hacks or impostors doing it more out of an obligation to special interests than out of a real desire to make government more responsive and limited. Right now, much of the right’s leadership does not inspire trust. From Sarah Palin to Glenn Beck, the vanguard of the conservative movement is riddled with hacks and charlatans.

TREATS

Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

An interactive atlas of North America that can display population density, watersheds, major railroads and highways, topography, and precipitation across the North American continent. Very cool.


Prepared under the Director of Strategic Services. Office of Strategic Services. 17 January 1944.

A PDF of an OSS manual detailing ways in which field operatives working in occupied Europe could turn docile populaces into active citizen-saboteurs. Some of the more interesting tips include:
  • The saboteur may have to reverse his thinking, and he should be told this in so many words. Where he formerly thought of keeping his tools sharp, he should now let them grow dull; surfaces that formerly were lubricated now should be sanded; normally diligent, he should now be lazy and careless; and so on. Once he is encouraged to think backwards about himself and the objects of his everyday life, the saboteur will see many opportunities in his immediate environment which cannot possibly be seen from a distance. A state of mind should be encouraged that anything can be sabotaged. (p. 8)
  • put tightly rolled paper, hair, and other obstructions in the W. C. Saturate a sponge with a thick starch or sugar solution. Squeeze it tightly into a ball, wrap it with string, and dry. Remove the string when fully dried. The sponge will be in the form of a tight hard ball. Flush down a W. C. or otherwise introduce into a sewer line. The sponge will gradually expand to its normal size and plug the sewage system. (p. 14)
  • Fuel lines to gasoline and oil engines frequently pass over the exhaust pipe. When the machine is at rest, you can stab a small hole in the fuel line and plug the hole with wax. As the engine runs and the exhaust tube becomes hot, the wax will be melted; fuel will drip onto the exhaust and a blaze will start. (p. 18)
  • General rules for disruption:
    1. Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
    2. Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate "patriotic" comments.
    3. When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
    4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
    5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
    6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
    7. Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
    8. Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon. (p. 32)

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