aug 7 2007 test post

August 7, 2007 § Leave a comment



Lots of comparative history this time. My comments shift to indented.

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia


PART 1: Readiness for endless war

Not long ago, expectations that Europe might step up as a counterweight to US imperial policies focused on Germany, as a known moderating, non-military force in international politics. But now “Old Europe”, led by Germany with France close behind, is in a hurry to kiss and make up with Washington after their estrangement. There are “old hands” within the German establishment who are looking with dismay at this evolution of German policies. Their warning voices, though, are largely unheard amid the narrative of the terrorist menace, which serves to propel and legitimize Germany’s readiness for endless war. “Axel Brot” speaks for them.
Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times

Many commentators point to a failure of political and social institutions as the reason that poor countries remain poor. But the proposed medicine of institutional reform “has failed repeatedly to cure the patient,” Dr. Clark writes. He likens the “cult centers” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prescientific physicians who prescribed bloodletting for ailments they did not understand.

 Great metaphor!

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times
“Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

 I have lots of doubts here. Capitalism now narrows the top rather than spreads it. We are a the end of a phase, not riding an arrow.

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times

What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer. Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

 Need to compare this to Fromm and Maccoby, Social Character in a Mexican Village.

A break for..

No Comment (Harper’s Magazine)
In the end Pat Tillman was a real person. And by concocting a myth about his death, the Administration was not trying to honor his memory—it was attempting to substitute a forgery for a very real person. It was attempting to usurp his memory for its own political agenda. Pat Tillman, we now know, was a patriot. He didn’t think much of George W. Bush or his politics. He was openly critical of the way the war had been cast and peddled. Was the Bush Administration attempting to liquidate that Pat Tillman? That’s a conclusion that hangs close over this entire affair.
The Writer’s Almanac from American Public Media

It was on this day in 1912 that Teddy Roosevelt was nominated by the Progressive Party to run for President, an election that went on to define the Republican Party for the rest of the 20th Century.

Republicans had dominated politics ever since the Civil War. A Republican had been in the White House for 44 of the previous 52 years. They were the party of civil rights and, under the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party became the party of environmental conservation, antitrust laws, and consumer protection.

Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in history, the youngest too. He was 42 when he took office. He was the first president to ride in an automobile and in an airplane, and the first to visit a foreign country while in office. He was a naturalist. He was an author of history. He published almost 50 books (books by this author).

After he’d served two terms, he announced that he would not seek a third term. He handpicked his successor, William Howard Taft, and then went off on an African safari. But when he got back, Teddy Roosevelt found that Taft had moved away from progressive principles and aligned himself with the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Teddy Roosevelt ran against Taft in the primaries, won the primary in Taft’s home state of Ohio, but eventually it was party insiders who picked the nominee, and they gave it to Taft. And so Roosevelt called for the creation of a new progressive party and accepted its nomination on this day in 1912. It was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party because Roosevelt said, “I am as strong as a bull moose, and you can use me to the limit.”

He was in a three-way race with Taft and Woodrow Wilson, campaigning on a platform that called for income taxes, inheritance taxes, the eight-hour workday, and voting rights for women. He drew huge crowds wherever he went. In Milwaukee, October 14, 1912, on the way to give his speech, he was shot by a man six feet away, the bullet deflected by the speech in his pocket, along with a metal eyeglasses case. Roosevelt went on to give the speech, but Woodrow Wilson won the election. Despite Roosevelt making the best showing of any third party candidate in American history. He came in second.

And one of the results of his Progressive Party campaign was splitting the Republican Party between conservatives and progressives, and the progressives have never been in charge since.

“He deserves kudos for assembling all this data,” said Dr. Hoffman, the Caltech historian, “but I don’t agree with his underlying argument.”

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts.

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.
The basis of Dr. Clark’s work is his recovery of data from which he can reconstruct many features of the English economy from 1200 to 1800. From this data, he shows, far more clearly than has been possible before, that the economy was locked in a Malthusian trap _ — each time new technology increased the efficiency of production a little, the population grew, the extra mouths ate up the surplus, and average income fell back to its former level.

This income was pitifully low in terms of the amount of wheat it could buy. By 1790, the average person’s consumption in England was still just 2,322 calories a day, with the poor eating a mere 1,508. Living hunter-gatherer societies enjoy diets of 2,300 calories or more.

“Primitive man ate well compared with one of the richest societies in the world in 1800,” Dr. Clark observes.
Malthus’s book is well known because it gave Darwin the idea of natural selection. Reading of the struggle for existence that Malthus predicted, Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “It at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. … Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work.”
Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times
Dr. Clark started to wonder whether natural selection had indeed changed the nature of the population in some way and, if so, whether this might be the missing explanation for the Industrial Revolution.
In support of the disease-resistance idea, cities like London were so filthy and disease ridden that a third of their populations died off every generation, and the losses were restored by immigrants from the countryside. That suggested to Dr. Clark that the surviving population of England might be the descendants of peasants.

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.
Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

 I would add that China for example did not have land title separate from the ruling aristocracy. The European landholders had a kind of security that made families successful. In China i was constant warfare.


Asia Times Online :: The tortured world of US intelligence

June 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

 A few excerpts. I am not knowledgeable abot the details, but the general tone of cutting through the fog and the human realities of “enemies” feels right. Worth a reading, this first of a five part article.

With President George W Bush’s choice of ex-Central Intelligence Agency director Robert Gates to take over the Pentagon, this most uninformed of presidents unwittingly gave us back vital pages of our recent history. If Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the neo-conservative claque in the second echelon of the administration are all complicit in today’s misrule, Gates personifies older, equally serious, if less recognized, less remembered abuses. His laden resume offers needed evidence that Washington’s tortuous, torturing foreign policies did not begin with the Bush administration – and will not end with it.

In the late summer of 1918, US troops landed in north Russia and in Siberia, part of a joint military intervention with the French, British and Japanese to aid the monarchists and turn the tide against the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war; meanwhile, across America, an accompanying Great Red Scare loosed mass arrests, persecutions and deportations of foreign radicals of every stripe. It was “a moment of political repression”, wrote noted historian Howard Zinn, “unparalleled in United States history”. In a sweeping onslaught of reaction, all-American Wichita would, by 1919, imprison and try hundreds of its citizens, assumed seditious, if not terrorist, simply for having joined, or worked for, a union.

And what about Goldberg’s contention that charter schools also perform better? Well, Bush’s Education Department found that charter schools nationwide under-perform, with test scores showing “charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.” (The Bush administration responded to the report by announcing it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.)

What America’s analysts and policymakers lost in their stunted worldview was the sheer complexity, contradiction and paradox of the Soviet Union, all relevant to informed policy. Missing between myopia and phobia was the authentic alternative to the Baltic syndrome’s policy by caricature: an intellectual openness and seriousness, honesty and sensibility, that might have led to genuine insight, to actual “intelligence” that could have saved lives and fortunes, even moderated the Kremlin tyranny and hastened its end.

The postwar Soviet leaders were creatures of their preconceptions and preoccupations, and of their odious politics, as much as any ruling class in history. Yet to relegate them to caricature, to ignore the touchstones of their lives, was ultimate folly. What American specialists saw were not fearful, compromised “human beings like ourselves”, but monstrous, implacable, mythically evil enemies in ill-fitting suits, to be opposed at all costs, with the end – the “defeat” of Russia one way or another – justifying the means.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News – The tortured world of US intelligence

Judas, lost text and scholarship

April 6, 2006 § Leave a comment

We will keep having discoveries that are important in helping us understand how cultures morph and mature.


LOST GOSPEL REVEALED; SAYS JESUS ASKED JUDAS TO BETRAY HIM By Stefan Lovgren With Brian Handwerk National Geographic News April 6, 2006

Informed Comment

February 9, 2006 § Leave a comment

From Juan Cole’s Informed Comment
Muslim touchiness about Western insults to the prophet Mohammed must be understood in historical context. Most Muslim societies have spent the past two centuries either under European rule or heavy European influence, and most colonial masters and their helpmeets among the missionaries were not shy about letting local people know exactly how barbaric they thought the Muslim faith was. The colonized still smart from the notorious signs outside European clubs in the colonial era, such as the one in Calcutta that said, “Dogs and Indians not allowed.”

Indeed, the same themes of Aryan superiority and Semitic backwardness in the European “scientific racism” of the 19th and early 20th centuries that led to the Holocaust against the Jews also often colored the language of colonial administrators in places like Algeria about their subjects. A caricature of a Semitic prophet like Mohammed with a bomb in his turban replicates these racist themes of a century and a half ago, wherein Semites were depicted as violent and irrational and therefore as needing a firm white colonial master for their own good.

Understanding how religious imagery, history and future hopes and fears play into the way each person uses their mind is an approach that ought to be at the center of politics as management of the world toward peace and justice, and the fuller development of each person. the move against psychological understanding in the face of an expanding tech of electronic games, computers and the speed of social pressures is one of the main stories that needs to be told, and will. the world is real. Society is real, and so is the mind. To neglect any one is to be out of touch with the needs of governance.

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