The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: October 2023 Page 1 of 4

Notes On The Structure Of American Imperial Collapse (State of the World 2023, #1)

The American empire is now in essentially unstoppable decline. Certainly there are things that could be done to stop it, but they will not be done, much as the British had to avoid WWI and not take profits by sending industry to the US.

(This is the first article on the state of the world, as promised in last year’s fundraiser.)

Everyone knows about comparative advantage, but what doesn’t get talked about is absolute advantage. In absolute advantage you have something people need that they can only get from you.

This can be weapons. It can be jets. It can be advanced computers. It can be the capital equipment (like lithography machines used to create semiconductors) used to make other things. Sometimes it can be a resource, like oil.

The USSR was competitive with the America and its satrapies when it could still offer most of what other nations wanted. They could shop at the West store or the USSR store and get jets and weapons and dams and electrical networks and so on. By the 70s this had started to come apart, and in the 80s their failure at microcomputers was starting to really hurt, plus their domestic economy was in serious trouble.

So from somewhere in the late 70s to early 80s, and certainly after the collapse of the USSR, if you wanted jets, good weapons, computers, internet and so on, you had to go to the US and its allies: or rather, its satraps. There were American jets, or there were European (Airbus) jets, and so on.

Starting in the 80s, but really taking off in the 90s, China began to really industrialize in the standard way: start at the bottom of the chain and sell to the West. They moved up the chain very fast.

For example:

Huawei and ZTE are both Chinese.

The numbers above are worse than they look, because Huawei 5G is banned in much of the West. So really, Huawei is dominant in much of the developing world (the South.)

China now has a domestic jet industry. It isn’t quite up to snuff, but within ten years it will be. The latest Huawei phone, post sanctions, was made with domestic chips and outperforms Apple and Samsung on some important metrics.

So, let’s move to the important charts. The world in 1990, right after the collapse of the USSR.

The world in 2020:

China is more dominant than the US was in its prime. (Well maybe not in 1946.)

Now this sort of thing is a leading indicator. Countries who were dominant are able to control more of the world’s resources than they deserve for some time after they lose their dominance.

Be clear, the US has LOST its dominance already. It’s all over except for the shooting. It doesn’t look or feel like that because of generations of accumulation and because the dollar is used for most world trade.

But those are lagging indicators. Britain’s pound was the main instrument of trade for decades after the US had overtaken it industrially.

This time it’s going to happen faster, because the US has abused its central position in financial networks in ways other countries, like Russia and China won’t tolerate.

Now, understand clearly, Western prosperity is based on commanding more of the world’s resources because everyone had to get what they needed from the US and its satrap (well, and the whole imperialism and military thing, but that’s another article.)

Since China now offers almost everything the West does, at better terms, they will come to command those resources. It’s that simple, though that doesn’t mean the road will be smooth. This will be an Age of War and Revolution, and civilization collapse, especially as this isn’t a normal changeover because of climate change and ecological collapse.

Within the West we are already seeing the US cannibalizing its satrapies. Germany had to have cheap oil and natural gas to run its industry and European patents are lagging, badly. Europe’s garden will go, and go relatively quickly. The Chinese will dominate the EV market, eat Airbus and Boeing alive and bypass European control of the machines which make semiconductors.

The main industry the West seems to still have a dominant lead in is biotech, but the Chinese will get there.

Japan and South Korea will do better because both are keeping up in scientific innovation, but my bet is that South Korea will peel off into the Chinese sphere at some point, economically they already have. I’m less sure about Japan, but they’d be wise to do so.

As for Europe, well, for twenty years I’ve been warning them they had to regain their independence and forge their own path. Most of Eastern Europe should never have been allowed into the EU or NATO. The EU should have built its own army and left NATO. And yeah, they should have done everything necessary to keep good ties with Russia, which would have been easy, because until fairly recently Russia wanted to be a European nation.

They did none of this, their rate of scientific advancement is abysmal outside of a few areas and they’re toast.

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Why Economists Are Wrong About How Good The Economy Is, And Regular People Are Right

Practically every day I read an economist like Paul Krugman or Brad DeLong talking about how the economy is the best ever, but ordinary people just don’t get it, and must be idiots influenced by propaganda.

Someone’s an idiot on this subject, but it’s not ordinary people.

Mish Shedlock had a good article on medical inflation. Here’s two charts from his article. First, costs:

Second, CPI for medical:

You might be noticing a—slight disconnect. The cost of medical care services (which is what you care about as a patient) are dropping, according to the Bureau Of Labor Services (BLS).

Mish has the extended explanation, and you should read his whole post.

Now, back in 2010 I wrote an article on how inflation statistics are bullshit. One example was automobile costs. Here’s the chart from that.

Yeah. right.

The inflation statistics, at the this point, are complete bullshit. Absolutely worthless in entire categories.

When it comes to how good people feel two things matter: how many people have a job, and how much money they’re making. When economists look at wages, they look at “inflation adjusted wages.”

How much your money buys. So, since the inflation numbers are garbage, the inflation adjusted wages are garbage.

A long time ago Stirling Newberry gave me a rule of thumb, which is that people are fooled in generalities but not in specifics. Which is to say, people know what hurts or feels good in their own lives, though may be completely clueless about the generalities. But when you take a survey asking people how the economy is doing, what you’re really asking is “how does it feel for you and people you know.” The answer is “shitty.”

I’ve personally seen, in Toronto, Canada, foodprices increase at least two-thirds. If I buy the shopping basket I bought for $30 in 2020, it now costs me about $50. A lot of things have doubled in price. Rent is way up for most people.

And when I talk to other people, no matter where in the US or Canada they’re from, I hear the same thing. So I’ve never believed the BS talk about the “best economy ever.”

Back in the 90s, there was a rather good book titled, “Economists are bad for your health.” Economists are clueless. North of 99% of them missed the 2000’s housing and financial bubble, for example. The advice they give on how to run economies is almost always not just bad, but terrible, at least for 96% or so of the population.

The most important requirement to understanding the world is accurate perception. Truth, if you will. If you don’t know the truth, you’re going to draw the wrong conclusions. Economists believe BLS stats, so they’re full of it. Add to that the fact that Economics as a discipline is mostly wrong about almost everything macro, and economists are out to lunch in a very dangerous way.

(Note that I predicted the financial crisis, publicly, in advance and spent years before that writing about the bubbles. All the necessary information was available, if you didn’t think nonsense like markets being self-regulating and housing prices always going up. A correspondent once did a search to find out how many people predicted the crash in advance. He found 39. Where were all the economists, who are supposed to understand the, well, economy?)

Anyway, ordinary people are right. Their wages haven’t increased enough to make up for the increases in key prices. You can skip on a lot of things, but not food and shelter, and skipping on medical services is bad too. As for autos, well, most people need them or they can’t get to work or go shopping.

We have late imperial disconnect: the elites live in a world where everything is great, while ordinary people live in the real world, and it sucks.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 29, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Is There a New Left Stirring Within The New Right?

John Judis [The Liberal Patriot, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-24-2023]

“[T]here is a segment of recent politics that is sometimes identified with the ‘new right’ but in reality offers a much more heterodox—and interesting—approach to politics and policy, one that’s well worth considering by liberals and left-wingers alike. This new tendency can be found in the policy group, American Compass, the online magazine Compact, and the journal American Affairs. Its leading intellectuals are Oren Cass of American Compass, Julius Krein of American Affairs, Sohrab Ahmari of Compact, and author Michael Lind. What distinguishes these thinkers from others is their engagement with what used to be called ‘the labor question’ namely, how America can fulfill its original promise of political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics. These thinkers consider questions that were once confined to the left: how to revive the American labor movement and now to tame the power of multinational corporations and global banks. They often cite left-wing and liberal writers like John Kenneth Galbraith and Karl Polanyi. The most recent and noteworthy examples are Lind’s Hell to Pay, Ahmari’s Tyranny, Inc., and Oren Cass and American Compass’s Rebuilding American Capitalism.”


33 States Sue Meta and Instagram Over Harms to Teen Mental Health

October 24, 2023 [Mother Jones]

On Tuesday, 33 states filed a 233-page complaint against Meta and Instagram. The bipartisan lawsuit, in federal district court in California, alleges that Meta knew more about the mental health impacts of Instagram on teenagers—including addiction—than it had publicly acknowledged.

According to the complaint, Meta—which owns Instagram, Facebook, and now Threads—”created a business model focused on maximizing young users’ time and attention.”

Meta “has ignored the sweeping damage these Platforms have caused to the mental and physical health of our nation’s youth,” the complaint reads. “In doing so, Meta engaged in, and continues to engage in, deceptive and unlawful conduct in violation of state and federal law.”


Behind the Curtain: Rattled U.S. government fears wars could spread 

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2023]

“Not one of the crises can be solved and checked off. All five could spiral into something much bigger.” Not a good time for a collapse of executive function in our governing class.

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

China Is Transitioning Economically, And So Far Successfully

China from Deng (82) on, had two main plays.

The first play was a standard mercantalist export driven developing state. Low costs were used to create low cost goods primarily for overseas consumption. Foreign currency was plowed back into capital machinery acquisition. Foreign partners were given good deals and the decision makers become rich, but to play one had to give up intellectual property.

This is the standard industrialization sequences, followed by almost everyone, including Britain, Germany, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

It generally requires an already industrialized sponsor (Britain was an obvious exception to this, but the Dutch provided a similar service pre-industrialization.) For China that sponsor, from Deng on, was the United States: the US took the goods, sold the capital machinery, made profits and was generally pretty happy about the deal (just as Britain was while it sold its patrimony to the US for temporary profits.)

The second play was the housing driven internal capitalization market to make people at home feel good and fund local governments. Local governments (who control about 70% of the Chinese budget, far higher than any other major nation) oversaw massive development deals. Housing values rose, the governments made lots of money as they kept rising for decades. Similar to how for a long time now betting on rising real-estate prices in the US or Canada or the UK was a sure thing.

This synergized with moving peasants off the land and into factory and service jobs, which allowed for large commercial farms, seen as far more effective than small farms, let alone collectivized farms. (No one has been able to make collectivized farms work so far.)

This is standard, again, to industrialize you need a labor pool, and peasants tied to the land and ancestral villages aren’t free labor.

One problem with this play is that it is a “virtuous” or self-reinforcing cycle and it can get completely out of control (see above.) The second is that it makes local governments very dependent: they don’t want it to end, even though it leads to massive inequality and mal-distribution of resources.

But that chart shouldn’t be seen as entirely a bad thing: note that US housing prices are ludicrously high by restriction of supply. The Chinese ARE and did supply a lot of new housing. The problem is it now isn’t getting to people who need it.

The above chart is pathological, and notice that it only goes to 2018. Anecdotally, young people in China, like in the US or Canada or the UK just can’t afford to buy a home unless their parents pay.

The second play, by the way, is often used independently. Turkey, for example, got about a decade and a half of prosperity out of it, but without the underlying “real” economy to support it, all it lead to in the end was inflation and economic weakness, because gains are always very unevenly distributed.

The problem with these two plays is that they are time bounded and lead to the middle income trap. They don’t develop a consumer economy, and income stagnates: far above undeveloped, but much lower than high income nations like the US, Japan and so on.

Likewise, these plays lead to extreme levels of inequality, as they did in the US during the gilded Age.

So, China had/has problems: high inequality; a gilded Age; housing which isn’t getting to those who need it. The social contract of “if you work and get a degree and so on, you’ll do well, is on the edge of breaking.”

But they’re working on it. Some parts they’ve already somewhat solved.


The first is poverty. The extreme poverty metric is garbage, but the chart still indicates that there’s a hell of a lot less poverty than there was even twenty years ago.

The second is what is called “moving up the value chain.” Countries which industrialize tend to recapitulate history, starting with textiles (the first industrialized goods.) But if you want to become a high income nation, you need to produce the highest value-add goods. China now does, and has even deliberately been moving out low value industry to other countries.

For a long time, if you wanted to buy advanced goods you had to go to the West, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. That was it, and all of those are firm members of the “rules based order” or, really, of the US. Now you don’t, and China is absolutely eating the West’s lunch. France’s exports to its ex-African colonies, to name just one, have absolutely collapsed. China offers better deals with less political and military interference, and now that those nations don’t “need” France, they’re kicking France out.

But if the rest of the world doesn’t need to buy from the West, in the medium to long term, they aren’t going to sell to us, because we have so little they want. This where we move into Western collapse mode and is a large part of why, ex-climate change and environmental collapse, China would have already one, except perhaps for some shooting along the way. (Much like America’s ascendence was already baked in by 1900.)

Moving to a high income, goes in two phases: first you increase manufacturing, then you increase services. (Manufacturing is secondary industry, services are tertiary, and primary is resource extraction in the chart below.) Again, you can see China is making this transition, and blazingly fast, too.

Key to being a high income nation is a consumer economy. While you want to create as much of the goods and services as you can domestically, there is always a transition from “living with what you have” and “spending almost all your foreign money on capital goods” to “we can now import stuff.” China is well on its way.

But China’s main issue now is the real-estate market. Prices are too high; it’s an investment and speculation vehicle; the people who need housing aren’t able to afford it, and since China has enough housing now, further investment is a mis-allocation of resources.

Which leads us to—

Boom. China is crashing the real-estate market. In the western press this is viewed as bad, an economic crisis, but it is necessary. Housing needs to become a commodity good, so that everyone can afford it and so that resources go to more needed areas.

And while making it to high income includes a lot of consumption, China has challenges which can only be met thru manufacturing, engineer and science. It needs to leap past the final western barriers in industries like semiconductors, biotech and aircraft. It has to transition to a clean electrified economy and prepare for climate change. (Really, to avoid a collapse, they have to build a massive sea wall along the northern coast, otherwise the northern breadbasket will wind up under water.)

From where I sit, China is doing most of its major economic policy correctly. Transitions are painful, and it is possible they’ll botch their transition, but these changes are necessary. Indeed, if the West is serious about re-industrializing, we need to do the same thing, with certain differences. We need to build more housing and collapse pricing, where they need to build less housing and collapse prices.

There’s more to write on China, in particular about climate change, demographics, Covid, Chinese dependencies and so on, and we’ll return. But for now, this is the big picture.

About two-thirds of these charts are from Albert Pinto’s twitter account. Worth following.

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The Lost Chance For Peace In Ukraine & What It Will Cost

The great devastation of World War I for the combatants was a lost generation. A massive chunk of the fighting age men died. The established figure for France is somewhere around 1.5 million (the official figure is 1.3 million, but it is generally agreed that’s too low.)

Let’s take a look at what that meant. First the population pyramid in 1914.

Next, the population pyramid in 1920 (Both from Wikipedia.)


Similar charts for France before and after the Napoleonic wars would be even worse. Or Russia before and after WWII.

Anyway, at the beginning of the war and even before, I called for peace on the Austrian model. Well, it turns out that almost happened.

Gerhard Shroeder, the former chancellor of Germany, confirms.

At the peace negotiations in Istanbul in March 2022 with Rustem Umerov, the Ukrainians did not agree on peace because they were not allowed to. For everything they discussed, they first had to ask the Americans. I had two talks with Umerov, then a one-on-one meeting with Putin, and then with Putin’s envoy. Umerov opened the conversation with greetings from Zelensky. As a compromise for Ukraine’s security guarantees, the Austrian model or the 5+1 model was proposed. Umerow thought that was a good thing. He also showed willingness on the other points. He also said that Ukraine does not want NATO membership. He also said that Ukraine wants to reintroduce Russian in the Donbass. But in the end, nothing happened. My impression was that nothing could happen, because everything else was decided in Washington. That was fatal. Because the result will now be that Russia will be tied more closely to China, which the West should not want.

And the Europeans? They have failed. There would have been a window in March 2022. The Ukrainians were ready to talk about Crimea. This was even confirmed by the Bild newspaper at the time.

No NATO, Austrian style peace, they give up their claims on Crimea.

Instead what has happened is the loss of a generation of Ukrainian men. I suspect the overall population will turn out to be even worse than the French in WWI, especially since 6.2 million fled Ukraine out of a population of 43.79 million before the war. That’s about 14%. I’m guessing most of them won’t want to return, though some will be forced to by their host countries.

Ukraine will take generations to recover from this war. Eighty years from now it and climate change will be the major factors.

Ukraine is going to wind up without Crimea, Donbass, Luhansk, the Crimean land bridge and possibly a chunk more. It could even lose its entire coast.

The war is being determined on the battlefield. Russia is now, as best I can tell, actually taking ground faster than before. In the battle for Avdiivka the Russians have taken the local hill with the commanding view over the entire region, allowing them to interdict reinforcements and hit anything they want.

They did this quickly.

Ukraine is losing, the speed of its loss will increase, and they will wind up with less population and land than if they had just made peace two months into the war.

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British Intelligence Says Russian Casualties Up 90% + Palestine Update

I love this sort of thing.

Russian offensive military campaigns in eastern Ukraine have been partly behind a 90% increase in Russian casualties recorded by Ukraine, according to an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence.

Russia has been carrying out offensive operations in the area of Avdiivka, a small city just to the north of Donetsk.

We’ll note first that UK intelligence has been just a wee bit biased. So if they say 90%, well, take it with a tablespoon of salt.

But let’s assume this is true. What that means is that on shifting to offense from defense, while attacking one of the most heavily fortified areas in Ukraine, Russian casualties have slightly less than doubled.

Which is dog bites man. It’s what you’d expect.

The question is advancement. Maps are quite different from different sources and so are casualty lists but it’s clear that this is slow work.

The bottom line is that Avdiivka is more heavily fortified than Bakhmut. Russia isn’t going to take it easily or quickly unless there is a Ukrainian collapse. Understand clearly that the US and NATO are running out of arms to send to Ukraine, and that artillery shells and missiles intended for Ukraine are now being sent to Israel.

The Palestinian/Israeli war is turning out to be a big plus for Russia and if the war expands, especially if the US becomes more directly involved, Ukraine may find itself out of equipment and ammunition. America is particularly like to go to war if Iran declares.

Without equipment, even the best fortifications won’t stand.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, the 17 trucks of relief were not, in the end, let in. Most Palestinians are down to about a liter of water a day, and not clean water either. Food is running out. The Israeli army has still not invaded Gaza. I would guess they are waiting for deprivation to do its work, and reluctant to allow any aid in because some of it would be used by Hamas fighters.

Israeli morale appears to be shaky, and they are very wary of invading a built up urban area with 40K entrenched fighters. Since they don’t feel they can win that battle as it stands (at least without shattering casualties) they are engaging in siege warfare. Unfortunately, there are 2 million civilians.

All hospitals in Gaza have been told they must evacuate, and are refusing. Anaesthetics are almost entirely out, so operations are being carried out without anaesthesia. Vinegar is being used as a disinfectant in some cases.

To call this a humanitarian disaster is to understate the case, but at least the Israelis have managed to make Russia look civilized.

I would expect massive breakouts of disease given the water and sanitation issues, especially if this goes on for weeks to months, as seems likely.

The Israeli end game appears to be genocide or full ethnic cleansing. We’ll see if they stick it out and if other forces allow it. Even US friendly states like Qatar and Jordan are becoming restive: Jordan’s King straight up refused to meet with Biden, which is amazing.

At least one Iraqi militia is moving to the border with Israel, and I expect many are. Hezbollah is being held back, I suspect, by a reluctance to have Lebanon subject to full bombing again, but have forced Israel to create a five mile DMZ on their border and to evacuate settlers.

I still think an OPEC embargo would be the simplest way to force an end to this, but if a military solution is desired, I’m sure Hezbollah and other potential antagonists want a simultaneous declaration of war.

The joker remains Israel’s nuclear weapons, with threats to glass Iran, and so on. The simplest solution would be to get a nuclear umbrella from Pakistan or Russia, but even that might not work if Israel thinks it is about to lose. To avoid that, a reciprocal threat would have to be made: a promise to not kill Israeli civilians unless nukes are used. Ugly, but Israel is, at least, acting like a mad dog.

This seems likely to drag out for quite some time, which is very bad for the civilians in Gaza.

If you ever wondered what you would do if a genocide was likely or occurring, you now know.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 22, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Deb Chachra’s ‘How Infrastructure Works’ 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2023]

“Infrastructure isn’t merely a way to deliver life’s necessities – mobility, energy, sanitation, water, and so on – it’s a shared way of delivering those necessities. It’s not just that economies of scale and network effects don’t merely make it more efficient and cheaper to provide these necessities to whole populations. It’s also that the lack of these network and scale effects make it unimaginable that these necessities could be provided to all of us without being part of a collective, public project. The dream of declaring independence from society, of going ‘off-grid,’ of rejecting any system of mutual obligation and reliance isn’t merely an infantile fantasy – it also doesn’t scale, which is ironic, given how scale-obsessed its foremost proponents are in their other passions. Replicating sanitation, water, rubbish disposal, etc to create individual systems is wildly inefficient. Creating per-person communications systems makes no sense – by definition, communications involves at least two people. So infrastructure, Chachra reminds us, is a form of mutual aid. It’s a gift we give to ourselves, to each other, and to the people who come after us. Any rugged individualism is but a thin raft, floating on an ocean of mutual obligation, mutual aid, care and maintenance. Infrastructure is vital and difficult. Its amortization schedule is so long that in most cases, it won’t pay for itself until long after the politicians who shepherded it into being are out of office (or dead). Its duty cycle is so long that it can be easy to forget it even exists – especially since the only time most of us notice infrastructure is when it stops working.”

In the Nineteenth Century, Scientists Set Out to Solve the “Problem of American Storms” 

[Humanities, via The Big Picture 10-21-2023]

[In the 1830s, telegraph] operators had discovered something both interesting and paradoxical, the writer Andrew Blum observes in his book The Weather Machine. The telegraph had collapsed time but, in doing so, it had somehow simultaneously created more of it. Now people could see what the future held before it happened; they could know that a storm was on its way hours before the rain started falling or the clouds appeared in the sky. This new, real-time information also did something else, Blum points out. It allowed weather to be visualized as a system, transforming static, localized pieces of data into one large and ever-shifting whole….

Morse’s invention promised to finally help shed light on what Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the newly founded Smithsonian Institution, called in the 1847 annual report the “problem of American Storms.” Henry was referring to an ongoing scientific spat known as the “storm controversy,” which had been raging in the pages of journals for nearly two decades….

The Smithsonian’s weather “crusade” would become the institution’s first major scientific undertaking, and it consisted of two parts. The first involved recruiting the telegraph companies to provide daily, nationwide weather updates. Starting in 1849, instruments were sent out to several offices around the country with a request that operators pause traffic on the lines in the morning to submit brief descriptions of local conditions. A few years later, Henry installed a map in the lobby of the Smithsonian Castle, where the collected information was displayed using a series of color-coded cards and arrows. Any time after 10:00 a.m., members of the public could stroll in and see for the first time “one view of the meteorological condition of the atmosphere over the whole country.”  ….
The Smithsonian’s volunteer weather project would not officially end until 1874, but after the war, Henry continued to face significant funding constraints, as well as larger questions about who should be tracking weather in the United States and how they should be doing it. Science was shifting toward professionalization in the post–Civil War era, and an era of amateur meteorologists—of statesmen tinkering with hygrometers in the fields of their plantations, of businessmen arguing about the atmosphere in scientific journals—was coming to an end.
The country did need weathermen, however. That much was now apparent. And those weathermen had to come from someplace. Congressman Halbert E. Paine, a Republican from Wisconsin’s first district, thought that place should be the War Department. In 1869, he introduced a piece of legislation to that effect. “Military discipline,” he wrote, “would probably help secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations.”  ….

As the Signal Corps grew, the focus on tracking storms expanded to incorporate forecasts (which were referred to as “probabilities.”) Daily weather maps and bulletins produced by the Signal Office were displayed in post offices and observer-sergeants submitted their information to local newspapers. The work of the Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce was no longer benefiting just commercial interests—ranchers and sailors and farmers—but the public at large. At least one-third of households in the United States, Myer estimated at one point, were receiving weather information from the Signal Corps in one form or another.

By 1880, the Army’s weather service was “flourishing,” writes Raines. The state of the country’s military communications systems, however, was another story. The man-hours and money being siphoned away from the Army’s signaling work and into its storm intelligence efforts only continued following Myer’s death from nephritis in August of that year. The new chief signal officer, Colonel William B. Hazen, would go on to pour more of his office’s resources into weather-related research, rolling out new scientific projects—the development of a meteorology textbook, “aerial investigations” conducted in hot-air balloons, studies of atmospheric electricity—taking the Signal Corps’s meteorological work to new heights, literally, while the Division of Military Signaling tried and failed to catch up with the technological advances being made by its European counterparts.

In 1887, writes Raines, “the question of the status of the Signal Corps . . . finally came to a head” when Secretary of War William C. Endicott “stated in his annual report that because of its concentration on weather duties the Signal Corps could no longer be relied upon for military signaling.”….

Young Morality and Old Morality

Hamilton Nolan [How Things Work, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2023]

“Who is being childish here? Is it the young college students, appalled at genocide looming in front of their eyes, possessed with the overwhelming urge to do something, who—despite not possessing a PhD in global affairs—flood into the streets and rage against the atrocity? Or is it the well educated and highly placed and influential adults, granted positions of great importance, who, as a crisis unfolds, as civilians are murdered, as neighborhoods are bombed, as oppression and religion collide in war, use their time griping about the hotheadedness of the young people protesting in the streets? Which of these groups has more accurately identified what should be our current topic of attention—the young people whose focus is on the governments that possess militaries and missiles and are poised to cause thousands of deaths, or the adults whose focus is on how some college kid said something annoying at a DSA rally? Wake the f*ck up. The adults in the room are everywhere proving the kids’ critique to be true.”

Samuel Huntington’s Great Idea Was Totally Wrong

Jordan Michael Smith, October 19, 2023 [The New Republic]

His “Clash of Civilizations” essay in Foreign Affairs turned 30 this year. It was provocative, influential, manna for the modern right—and completely and utterly not true….

…Huntington’s argument is so antiquated that it has already gone through several afterlives and been resurrected, like a horror movie villain. As the twentieth century ended and liberal capitalist democracy seemed unrivaled, it appeared as though The Clash of Civilizations was unduly pessimistic and perhaps irrelevant to the international arena. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Huntington’s book became a bestseller for a second time, as conservatives across the United States and Europe cited its arguments for why Islam was fundamentally incompatible with Western society. When refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East attempted to find stability in white-majority countries, Huntington’s ideas were invoked as a reason for opposing such ventures. Right-wingers like Steve Bannon have utilized the Clash of Civilizations thesis to reject immigration to the United States. Perhaps most surprisingly, thinkers around Russian leader Vladimir Putin have argued that their country is the leading defender of a Christian civilization that the rest of Europe has largely abandoned, providing yet another lifeline to a 30-year-old essay….

How a Maneuver in Puerto Rico Led to a $29 Billion Tax Bill for Microsoft

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 10-16-2023]

In the largest audit in U.S. history, the IRS rejected Microsoft’s attempts to channel profits to a small factory in Puerto Rico that burned Windows software onto CDs

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